Set This Circus Down

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It’s hard to know where to start when trying to sum up 10 years of marriage, not to mention the six years of togetherness prior to marriage. Husband and I just celebrated 10 years of marriage a week and a half ago, and our wedding day seems like yesterday.

May 16, 2003. Bliss.

May 16, 2003. Bliss.

Until I actually flipped through all of our photo albums since we were married … and then it seemed like a lifetime ago.

Ten years. Our wedding day, up to that point, was the happiest day of our lives.

Everyone who came talked about what a fun party it was, and at the gift opening the next day, Husband and I promised that we would renew our vows and have a big anniversary party for our 10th anniversary.

And then our reality happened.

So much for a special "family" celebration on our 10-year anniversary - crabby, hungry kids and screaming baby.

So much for a special “family” celebration on our 10-year anniversary – crabby, hungry kids and screaming baby.

So I guess our vow renewal and super awesome anniversary party will have to wait a few more years.

For our one-year anniversary, the traditional gift is paper, and I had the brilliant idea that Husband and I should forego an actual gift in favor of each writing down our memories of our wedding day (on paper — get it?). So naturally, I wrote down TWENTY-FIVE PAGES of memories — bulleted, single-spaced, 12-point font. And I wrote down my memories not just from the wedding day, but the five days before it and one day after it. Husband wrote down 11 pages worth of memories, double-spaced, 18-point font. I’d say that’s quite an achievement for a guy who doesn’t like to write!

Jen and Eric First Anniversary-3

Reading memories of our wedding day on our first anniversary.

Jen and Eric First Anniversary-1

Going back to the church we were married at on our first anniversary.

First anniversary dinner.

First anniversary dinner. We look like little kids!

A couple of highlights:

  • When I woke up in the morning I said to my cousin (who’s like my sister), “I don’t want the day to start because I know it’s going to be over before I know it.”
  • Making the very short drive to church from my parents’ house felt like forever. There was such anticipation. When we were driving up the big hill into the parking lot and I saw all the cars, I got nervous for the first time and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! People actually came!” I don’t know why, but I genuinely was surprised that there were people there. It finally started to feel real, and not just like a dress-up game.
  • My mom saying, “Well, Jen, I have to tell you — I take back that you’re going to be late for your own wedding, because you’re early!”
  • When we said our vows. We both had memorized them and we were both so confident. I thought I would cry, but I was just so happy.
  • The same cousin (whom I dubbed the “Cousin of Honor” for the wedding) was dying of starvation by the time we made it to dinner. During the entire meal she made food noises, and said things like “Oh, this is so good. Oh yum. Yum, yum, yum. This is sooooo good.” (this still cracks me up)
  • All day long I said to my BRAND NEW HUSBAND, “We have so much to look forward to.” And I wasn’t just excited about continuing our wedding experience by going on a fabulous honeymoon/vacation. I was talking about all the years we would spend together, having kids, watching them grow up, going on adventures, living our lives together forever.
  • My BFF and maid of honor ended her speech by saying, “May your dreams of today be your realities of tomorrow.” This has always stuck with me (and as far as google can tell me, she made that up all on her own).
My grandma made this cake with her own two hands. It's so lovely. I still love this cake.

My grandma made this cake with her own two hands. It’s so lovely. I still love this cake.

What we felt that day is almost indescribable. We felt SO INCREDIBLY LOVED. It was like nothing we had ever experienced before. Every single person who was there, was there for us. We both felt completely honored that people would come and be there just for us.

We had people warn us about how expensive weddings are and how afterward we would wish that we hadn’t “wasted” all that money on a wedding, and instead used it for a down payment on a house. They told us that we would wish we had eloped.

For us at least? Never, ever, ever, ever in a million billion years. We wouldn’t have given up that wedding day or how we felt on that day, for anything in the world. It was exactly what we wanted, and the feeling was more than we could have imagined.

***

Husband and I got engaged in August 2001, and a few months before that, Tim McGraw released his album, “Set This Circus Down.”

Tim and his wife Faith Hill (I like to think we’re personal friends) have always been two of our favorite artists. For our wedding slideshow, I chose Faith’s song “She’s a Wild One” (one of my faves) to go along with the photos of me, and Husband chose “Indian Outlaw” for the photos of him. For the photos of us together, we chose “Set This Circus Down.”

The song has such a literal and figurative meaning for us:

Sometimes this road it just keeps winding, round and round and back again
But you’ve always kept me smiling
Over every hill round every bend

Baby you’re the one smilin’ with me
When the sun comes up
I got the wheel,
You got the map and that’s enough

Chorus:
And we go rollin’ down this highway
Chasin’ all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

Sometimes I lie awake just thinking
Of all the horizons we have seen
And as another day is sinking
I thank God you’re here with me

‘Cause baby you’re the one laughing with me
When the sun goes down
Livin’ on faith and holding on tight
To the love we’ve found

And we go rollin’ down this highway
Chasin’ all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

And set this circus down
Baby, one of these days
Gonna set this circus down
Set this circus down
Baby, one of these days

Two days after we got engaged, Husband and I embarked on this crazy adventure where he literally had the wheel and I had the map. We packed up a tiny U-Haul truck with all our crap and moved to North Carolina for me. He left a secure job, a home and all of his family and friends, for me and my dream.

EXHAUSTED after driving across the country for about 16 hours straight.

EXHAUSTED after driving across the country for about 16 hours straight.

Looking back, I’m not surprised he did it. But I am surprised at how easily he made that decision. It really wasn’t a decision — we were young, we were in love, the world was our oyster and we had no real responsibilities at that time that were holding us to Wisconsin. He came with me and chased my crazy dream, and we always knew that we would come back home eventually to be with our family and friends.

When “eventually” turned out to be six months later, because we (mostly me) was so homesick and my dream job was not all that it was cracked up to be, we packed up and came home — despite the fact that he had just gotten a new job in North Carolina.

On our wedding day, when I kept telling him over and over again, “We have so much to look forward to,” I didn’t really have any specific ideas of what that would look like — what our home would look like, what our kids would look like, or how many of them we would have. I don’t know that I could have imagined anything anyway.

Marriage has been both infinitely better than I thought it would be, and also infinitely harder than I ever imagined. Before you get married you think you know that you’ll have your ups and downs; that you’ll have battles; that you might go through a rough patch or have a crisis or two. But here’s the thing — you don’t really know. You’ve heard all those cliché pieces of marriage advice like compromising and fighting fair and trying not to go to bed angry and yada, yada yada. You don’t really know. You think you know what it means to make a lifelong commitment to someone in good times and in bad. But you just don’t really know until you’re in the trenches, making that decision to be in it, in good times and in bad, every day.

But, like I said, marriage also has been infinitely better than what I imagined, because we have built a life together. I have a partner — in life and in everything — and he is a kind, warm, generous, strong, gentle, funny and selfless man. And despite how very hard it is on some days, we have love, respect, faith, laughter, and this:

What 10 years will bring you. This is our circus.

What 10 years will bring you. This is our circus.

We set our circus down, literally in a sleepy little town just liked I’d always hoped, and my dreams of yesterday have most definitely surpassed my realities of today. I couldn’t have dreamt this. I feel so lucky and so blessed. And while I can’t even fully dream tomorrow, I feel certain that my reality will surpass my dreams.

Husband, like I’ve told you countless times before, as we travel this crazy journey, there’s no one I’d rather be traveling with than you. Thank you for our circus, and thank you for being my partner. I thank God you’re here with me.

10 years later, at the church where we got married.

10 years later, at the church where we got married.

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10-year anniversary dinner.

10-year anniversary dinner.

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