Learning to Long: A Letter to My Fiancé



Dear Fiancé,

Today we spent the day together, and it was perfect. And at the end of the day we had to say goodbye again. We went home to separate houses and will wake up to separate worlds. Today is Sunday, and the next time I see you it will be Friday.

Right now, that feels like four days that serve no purpose. Four days to get through, to endure. Four days I don't really need.

I'm ready to be coming home to you. I'm ready to not say goodbye anymore. To spend a day that doesn't end with our going separate ways, followed by days and days apart.

Tonight, since you left, I've been really miserable. I've been angry. I've sat at my computer with a scowl on my face and frustration in my heart. I've thought about how much it hurts not to be married yet, and how long we still have to go.

I'm telling you this because it's important. It’s important that my letters to you reflect not just the joys of our engagement – tasting wedding cake samples, finding out which bridal expos have the best free hors d'oeuvres, replicating every wedding related DIY craft on Pinterest – but also the struggles, the harsh realities, and the challenges we’ve endured as a team.

The truth is that a lot of couples don't put themselves through this. Our culture has found a streamlined approach to gratification, and what that means is that couples never have to experience the pain and loneliness and frustration that comes with saying goodbye to the person you love every night until marriage. They've eliminated that, and they see it as a good thing.

I can kind of understand why they think that. It's easier. It's less painful.

The culture will often choose what is easy and painless. And on the other end of the spectrum, you and I get to learn what it feels like to long.

I get to spend the next eighteen months frustrated to not wake up with you. I get to go to bed angry on Sunday nights after you've left, knowing I don't get to be with you again for another week. I get to dwell in the pain and sadness that comes with waiting for the appropriate time to share all that I want to share with you: to live with you, to love you in the little moments every day, to fall asleep and wake up next to my best friend.

And because I've learned how to long, because I've learned what it feels like to be without you, I know I will never take our marriage for granted.

I can't wait for the way it will feel on our wedding day, knowing there is no such thing as going home to separate houses ever again. There will be no more goodbyes, no more living in different worlds during the week, no more waiting days between seeing each other. We will never take those things for granted, because we had to go so long without them. We had to struggle through not having those things, even when we felt ready for them.

Sometimes I feel defeated. Sometimes I get angry. Sometimes I cry because I can't help it and it all just feels like more than I can handle.

But when I finally manage to pull myself together, I remember we are going to have something incredibly strong and beautiful. Part of the reason it's going to be so strong and so beautiful is because our right now is as difficult as it is.

This is not the easy way. But we're doing what we know is right, what we believe in and what our faith asks of us. We are doing what we know builds strong, beautiful relationships and marriages. I want nothing less with you.

About the Author: Alexa is a 2013 graduate of The Catholic University of America, where she earned her B.S. in Biology with a minor in Psychology. Since 2014, she has served as the Assistant Coordinator for Youth, Young Adult and Family Ministry for the Diocese of Allentown. Alexa and her fiancé Patrick got engaged in December 2016, and are excitedly planning and preparing for a June 2018 marriage. Together they enjoy Cracker Barrel breakfasts, long walks around Barnes & Noble, and deciding which bridal expos have the best cake samples. Alexa's hobbies include writing, photography, and drinking coffee. 


Putting Aside the Details: My Engaged Encounter Experience



The day after my fiancé and I got engaged, we sat down and wrote a prayer to say together every night of our engagement in preparation for marriage. It’s a practice we began over two years ago when we started the long distance portion of our relationship, adjusting the prayer to whatever circumstances we were in at that time to bring us together spiritually even when we were physically apart.

In our engagement prayer, we were intentional in including the invocation to help us “not let the details get the way.” I was happy to include it, but thought it was a little unnecessary – I of all people certainly was not going to be a bridezilla. My fiancé and I are both devout Catholics, so I recognized that the wedding Mass was far more important than the rest of the day. Dozens of brides had warned me not to let the wedding take over my life, and after working for a church for seven years, I’d seen plenty of brides who didn’t have the joy I hoped to feel on my wedding day, since their minds were too preoccupied by details to be truly present in the day. Thus, I vowed to never let the wedding take precedence over my marriage.

Through the first five months of our engagement, I naively thought I'd kept my promise. I picked my wedding dress in less than an hour (it was the first one I tried on), I hired the first and only DJ I ever talked to, I spent hours perusing the internet to find the best deals on everything because I was determined not to go over our budget, and I hardly delegated tasks to anyone, even my fiancé. I was an easy bride…or so I thought.

The last few weeks have been jammed. As we quickly approach our June wedding, I’ve been trying to cram everything going on in my life into whatever spare hours I have, including the brilliant idea of spending the two hours we had between work and our pre-Cana program printing our DIY invitations. After an hour of trying unsuccessfully (they printed out, but were navy, not teal, and would clash with our motif), I finally barked to forget it, and we went off on our weekend. It wasn’t until I was having a complete meltdown on the way to marriage prep that I realized my priorities were way off-track. 

Oddly enough, one of the parts I was dreading most in the wedding preparations was pre-Cana. As part of our engagement present, my future in-laws had sponsored my fiancé and me to attend an Engaged Encounter weekend, a retreat-based marriage preparation program that fulfills pre-Cana requirements. I was extremely grateful for this gift, but the thought of spending an entire weekend away from our hectic lives of work, grad school, volunteering, and wedding planning was daunting.

The closer we got to the weekend, the more apprehensive I became. I knew the basic format of the weekend – someone would discuss a trigger topic of marriage (ie. money, intimacy, NFP, communication, etc.) and then we would have time to write about our responses and share them with each other. We’d also been told that it would be a working weekend and to come well rested (ha!). I imagined my sleep-deprived fiancé and myself attempting to have meaningful conversations and ending up just arguing the entire weekend. After a long week at work, the last thing I felt like doing was losing out on more sleep and fighting battles we had already settled long before.

So here we were, two devout Catholics sitting in a conference room on a Friday night dreading our pre-Cana weekend and cockily thinking that we had nothing to gain from it. I’ve planned dozens of retreats before and knew that attitude was everything, but here I was falling into the same trap as so many others before me. I was totally not present, sullenly calculating how many hours it was until we would be released, and wrapped up in worrying about how to get the invitations done on time.

At the beginning of the weekend, the moderators stressed that we were going to get out of the weekend whatever we put into it. I was cynical, but as I listened to the two moderating couples – one married for twelve years, the other for sixty – I began to realize that we have a lot to learn. These two couples opened up to us about what they’d been through in marriage: the highs, the lows, and everything in between. They were so brutally honest and open that it caused us to want to be brutally honest and open with each other as well. Their love was infectious, and I found myself slowly letting go of all of the stresses and taking the time to really look at the man I was marrying, who I realized I’d been looking past in all of my planning. Despite my valiant attempts, I’d made him just another piece in the puzzle of my dream day, instead of letting him make my day a dream.

Throughout the weekend, we slowly let our guards down and fell in love again on a deeper level through our intimate conversations. We went from being business partners, tasked with accomplishing the task of merging our lives with at times unemotional precision, to being carefree lovebirds again, totally in awe of each other and the great gift of love that we've been given by God.

What Engaged Encounter gave us was the opportunity to take intentional time to turn off every distraction and just focus on us. We talked about subjects we’d evaded in the past, or hadn't had time to fully discuss in a relaxed and loving setting. Conversations I’d never imagined bringing up that weekend came up naturally, free of tension and full of honest, thoughtful dialogue. Even more importantly, the retreat encouraged us to reground our relationship with each other in our relationship with God, and to recognize that the closer we become to Him, the closer we will be to each other.

The turning point came for me on Saturday night when we all gathered in the chapel for a special blessing. Part of the blessing involved us taking each other’s hands in the manner that we will on our wedding day. As we stood looking in each other’s eyes, I felt an overwhelming desire to marry my fiance right then and there. And suddenly, I realized it didn’t matter if the bridesmaids’ flowers were ivory or blush or if the wedding programs were printed on the same paper as the invitations; my dream wedding is going to be a dream because I’m marrying the love of my life, my best friend, the man who draws me closer to God on a daily basis, who makes me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world, and who practices selfless, sacrificial love every day.

Before our Engaged Encounter weekend, I was excited for my marriage, but I was focused on the wedding, letting the details and the pressures of hosting a Pinterest-perfect party get in the way of continuing to feed and develop my relationship with my beloved. After Engaged Encounter, I am still excited for my “fairytale” wedding, but have become focused on my upcoming marriage and the excitement and humility I have in joining my life with the person I love most, second only to Jesus.

Did our engagement become perfect after our weekend? Not at all. On Monday morning, I still had to handle the invitation fiasco and hunt down the florist for a price on the flowers, and even now I still have to remind myself to not get so wrapped up in the details. But from the moment we left the retreat, I noticed that we were much more intentional in making sure that the other felt loved and appreciated and did our best to retain the joy in each other’s presence that was so prevalent that weekend.

On June 16th, I will once again stand opposite the man of my dreams, holding his hands and taking the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever taken. I can’t say that I’m confident the invitations will perfectly match the bridesmaid dresses or that my floating candles will last the entire night, but thanks to Engaged Encounter, I now feel more confident than ever in the most important part of the day – that I am marrying the most amazing man in the world, and that I am the most blessed girl in the world to be able to do so.

If you’d like to learn more about Engaged Encounter, please visit their website.

About the Author: Emily DiBiase is marrying the love of her life on June 16, 2017. She now works in the Marketing Department at the same college where she and her fiancé Aaron met as high school students at an accepted students day. She is currently studying for her master’s in theology through the Augustine Institute, and when she’s not wedding planning, you can probably find her teaching religious education, running the parish youth group, spending time with family, or starting her Catholic marketing company, Gloriam Marketing. She loves biblical studies, especially typology, and has strong feelings about God, Jane Austen, and the Oxford comma. She blogs about Catholic young adult life at www.catholickidproblems.wordpress.com

Chelsea + Nick | Pittsburgh Black Tie Wedding

Nick and Chelsea first met at an interview for a college ambassador program. He was asking the questions, and she a freshman and the interviewee. Nick had been prompted to prepare two "creative" questions to ask Chelsea in the presence of an academic judging panel. First, he asked, if you could bring one person to a party, who would it be and why? Chelsea answered Mother Teresa, a woman who was never afraid to be vulnerable and act courageously; the perfect wingwoman. Second, Nick asked what Chelsea would name her ship if she were a pirate captain. Her response was, "Discovery. Because I hope never to cease my love for life's adventures. You either learn or succeed; you never fail."

Later that school year, Chelsea and Nick talked again, and never stopped. He’d never fail to walk her back to her dorm after spending time together. Their first official date was at a beautiful, tiny Italian restaurant with only six tables! Chelsea spent the entire day with her friends, getting ready, wondering if all the effort was too much. But when Nick walked in from the rain to pick her up, flowers in hand, she took notice of the effort he’d put in to look and be his best for her, in turn. He was constant in those efforts, even running across campus on his way to ROTC lab to visit Chelsea for just a few minutes at the program she ran for special needs students, a cause precious and fulfilling to her heart.

Chelsea met Nick’s seasoned Army family only a month after they began dating, on Valentine’s Day weekend. Prior to the visit, the two had spent significant time discussing religious faith. Chelsea had a strong spiritual life and made it clear from the start that God meant everything to her. Nick’s father was baptized Catholic and his mother was Christian, but they didn’t practice their faith much. Her nerves evaporated when Nick’s parents welcomed her like family.

To their surprise, when Chelsea and Nick sat down with his family to eat, his parents led them in grace. Chelsea knew right then that the Father was with them, and that this relationship was possible.

From the Bride: I remember telling Nick that whoever I marry must understand that the main purpose of marriage is to get each other to heaven. At the wedding, our priest and dear friend Father Mac said this exactly: "It is your responsibility to get each other to the kingdom of God. " Nick and I want to build a life centered around God. This will take unconditional love, a strong commitment to one another, our children, our families, and our faith, and a true understanding that challenges must be looked at as learning experiences, moving us closer to the glory he has in store.

I never knew how to witness to my faith until Nick told me that through faith in action--Mass, daily prayers, and serving the communities around us in need--I had been evangelizing all along. We went to Mass together every week. On Pentecost during my freshmen year, I remember Nick just staring in the eyes of God at the altar. I didn’t know if he was bored or zoned out, but then he told me how incredible the feeling of the Mass and God's love felt around him, like nothing he had ever experienced. This was monumental in our journey of faith, and Nick ultimately made the decision to enter the Catholic Church.

Through Nick’s ROTC and military training, it was extremely trying to attempt going through RCIA. We tried for years, and it was frustrating. Finally, things just truly fell into place, and with an exception granted from the typical RCIA schedule, Nick received all of his sacraments over Labor Day weekend, 2015. We felt sure we were called to marriage, but Nick knew I couldn't get married until he had become Catholic--not for my sake, but for his own, because he loved his faith so much and so fully desired to be married as Catholics.

Growing up, I honestly thought I would marry someone who was already Catholic. My, did God have great plans for me! I thank him every day for the gift of journeying towards faith with Nick. I have learned so much about myself and my own faith in this process. My newfound appreciation for who I am allows me to proclaim my faith as my own, not merely a result of my upbringing; a bond that ties Nick and I together under a truly sacred bond. A sacrament. Nick thanks me for giving him his faith, but I thank him for giving me mine.

We both knew we wouldn’t be truly happy on our wedding day unless our guests were happy, too. We planned a weekend around our favorite things in our city to give people the feeling of a vacation, hoping they’d return home rejuvenated in faith and love. We held our rehearsal dinner at a Pittsburgh Pirates game and our Mass and reception as black-tie affairs.

During our wedding Mass, Nick held the rosary I gave him on his first ROTC training in college. I held the one he made for me at that training out of army string and military beads. I also held scapulars from my dad's dad. It meant the world to me hold a piece of my grandfather, my father, and my husband as we entered into the sacrament.

Everyone deserves love. Nick and I set out to make that truth known through the atmosphere of our big day. We prayed, first, to make everyone feel as beautiful outside as they are inside, and second, to remind our guests through the simple emotions between friends, family members, and spouses that all deserved to feel loved and worthy. Nick and I savored every moment. The images of how our loved ones looked at and admired each other that day is something that will inspire my love for Nick for years to come.

Photography : Levana Melamed Photography | Church: SS john and Paul Roman Catholic Parish  | Wedding Reception Venue : Le Mont Pittsburgh  | Second Photographer: Kristen Vota Photography | Flowers: Gida’s Flowers  | DJ: Andy Booth  | Bride’s Dress: Hayley Paige  | Bride’s Shoes: Nina’s Shoes  | Bridesmaids Dresses: Nordstrom designed by Adrianna Papell  | Groom’s tuxes: Men’s Wearhouse

4 Ways Your Wedding Website Can Be a Means of Evangelization



Aside from details like the who, the where, and the RSVPs, directing guests to your wedding website offers a unique occasion to share your faith with your family and friends. If you and your fiancé have chosen to create one, it's certain nearly everyone invited to your big day will visit your site as soon as they see the address online or in their Save the Date. So, consider your website your letter to family and friends--a large, and possibly varied, audience. Pray together about what message you hope to convey as you introduce your guests to who you are as a couple and to what your wedding day will be all about.

Stating why you believe what you do, in your own words and in a way that's truthful, casual, and aimed at the heart, can go a long way in making your Catholic wedding an invitation to deeper understanding and a witness to the beauty of marriage in the Church. You might consider adding any or all of these elements to your site:

Tell the story of a saint who's had a hand in your relationship.

If the Father and the communion of saints have written your love story, consider saying so. True stories of virtue and holiness speak for themselves, and they also provide an opportunity to break down why and how Catholics call upon the saints' intercession.

Include explanations of parts of the Mass, like communion and the Rite of Marriage, for guests who might be unfamiliar.

Briefly and charitably discussing modest dress in the chapel, guidelines for who can receive communion and why, and reasons the Rite of Marriage matters for the sacrament can all go a long way in making your guests--particularly non-Catholics or those who've been away from the faith--feel at ease and not experience surprises that could be misperceived as exclusive or judgmental, like a non-Catholic not being permitted to receive the Eucharist.

Host an open-invitation holy hour after your rehearsal.

One of the most treasured moments of my life was praying with my college best friend moments before her wedding rehearsal, in the chapel on our campus where we'd both, at some point, alternately smiled and wept thinking about our future husbands, babies, and marriages over the years. The tears poured down as we knelt shoulder to shoulder and as I marveled at how the Father had answered each of our hopes and prayers so specifically and abundantly in the men he gave to us.

At another wedding I was invited to, the bride and groom had their priest and a few friends help lead an hour of Adoration, confession, and Praise and Worship the night before the wedding for any guests who wished to attend. Heaven touches earth during those moments of hope and anticipation. Following suit, by planning a holy hour and sharing the details with your guests via your wedding site, is amazing for both you and your beloved and for friends and family who will share in your joy and intercede for your marriage.

Invite guests to leave their intentions on your wedding site, and pray for them.

Online guestbooks and song requests are fun, standard fare, but have you considered additionally including an Intention Box on your website for your guests? Create a page for family and friends to privately submit their prayer requests to you and your fiancé. Prayer for those you've invited to share in your day, whether they're attending or not attending, is a lovingly specific act of generosity. 

I hope these ways of evangelizing to your guests sincerely call your family and friends into communion with you and express what you stand for in a loving way, particularly if there are sensitivities among them where faith is concerned.

Above all, though, I truly think the best, most important witness of all is one that doesn't even need to be typed and posted--quite simply, the joy of entering into marriage with a pure heart, radiant, evident joy, and desire for complete self-gift is impossible to ignore.

Don't worry about it being your personal responsibility to change anyone's mind about the Church. Pray for each of your guests as you address their invitations or plan your reception seating, and place them in the hands of Our Lady and her son. Be yourselves--the selves who so clearly wear their love for all to see--knowing your love flows from Love himself, and what you value and what sets your marriage apart will be crystal clear. I promise!

About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more




Vendor Spotlight | Telos Design, LLC

Telos is a term from classical philosophy meaning “end” or “purpose.” And what, in our humanity, is our telos? To return to the Father, the source of all truth, goodness, beauty, and love.

Jessica Connolly, a wife, mother, and Catholic convert, brings our ultimate purpose into her business, striving to “[serve] others through design” and to reflect the maker’s beauty and perfect design for all creation.

A graduate of Kansas State University’s School of Architecture with seven years in the architecture field and five years of design school under her belt, Jessica founded Telos Design in 2011, shortly after entering the Church and sensing a call to pursue work that would allow more freedom and flexibility in motherhood. Her professional experience is evident in the clean-lined, geometric sensibility of her distinctive liturgical calendars that bypass pure function in favor of modern type and fine art. We can hardly think of a more original wedding gift for couples striving to live liturgically.

Unless it’s a custom gift--an offering even more original. Jessica finds herself most inspired by the natural beauty of creation; in addition to digital design, she’s also a gifted painter who specializes in personally commissioned works of art featuring brides’ own bouquets and images of the saints. Using acrylics and gold and silver leaf on wood to capture a precious memento from your big day or the spirit of a favorite intercessor, Jessica’s vivid, organic works remind us something else about God: he is almighty and the source of all, yes, but also a father who loves and knows each of us by name. Personally, unrepeatably. Eternally.

Along with calendars and custom work, Telos Design, LLC also offers beautiful prayer art prints and stationary. Jessica's passion for architecture and design extends beyond her business, too--her blog, A to Z Modern, invites you on her family's journey to renovate and furnish their gorgeous midcentury modern home in Arizona.

From Jessica, on her client experience when creating custom art: After working with high-end design clients, nonprofit organizations and surviving five years in design school, I'm used to harsh critics. And I actually work best with an outside editorial eye. So, I appreciate clients who voice their opinions while also supporting a little freedom in design.



How He Asked | Brooke + Tim


Note: A version of this story was previously published on For Your Marriage

Brooke and Tim met in 8th grade and became fast friends, but didn't begin dating until their junior year of high school. Unbeknownst to Brooke, Tim had liked her since their first meeting in middle school, but Brooke was hesitant to start a relationship and ruin the friendship.  "While that fear weighed on one part of my heart," Brooke recalls, "another, and stronger, part of my heart told me that if Timmy and I ever started dating, we'd never stop. That would be it, we would spend the rest of our lives together. As amazing and accurate as that intuition was, it scared 16-year-old me. Was I ready to start my journey with the person I would spend the rest of my life with? Then, one night we were talking about our futures and the kind of people we thought we'd eventually marry, and it suddenly dawned on me that Timmy was that person that I saw by my side at every stage of my life. We had our first date a week later, and the rest is history. "

In Brooke's words: We knew by our one year anniversary that God was undoubtedly calling us to marry one another. The next four years though consisted of us going to different colleges, learning how cultivate our relationship even though we saw each other only once or twice a month, and allowing God to shape us into radically different people than we were when we became best friends at 13. Over those years, even as God worked in our hearts to make us more into the man and woman He has destined us to be, we grew closer and deeper in love. Developing a shared spiritual and prayer life was a major area of growth during this time, though the distance made it hard - a major focus of our prayer life has always been the love Christ showed for His Bride on the Cross. It is that sacrificial, self-denying, and painful yet beautiful love that carried our relationship through its college years. 

It was so fitting, then, that it was the Good Friday (which was also the Feast of the Annunciation!) of our senior year when Timmy dropped to one knee and asked me to be his bride. We started off Good Friday with a tradition that we've been doing for a number of years now - praying the Stations of the Cross for Married Couples and Families. While we obviously knew that we were neither of those things, that is the vocation we were preparing our hearts for, and so the prayers were helpful to us in understanding what the true call of the cross is. After praying the stations we went to Good Friday Liturgy, followed by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

As we were walking back to my Residence Hall Timmy asked if I wanted to go pray in our favorite chapel in The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception- the Mary, Queen of All Hearts Chapel, which is dedicated to St. Louis de Montfort and his Marian Consecration. We've prayed here many times throughout our years in college and Marian Consecration has played a huge role in our relationship- and so, I thought, what a perfect spot that would be for him to ask me to marry him...after getting my hopes up I came to realize that I was wrong, and Timmy would not be proposing there.

We walked out of the Basilica and I was almost in tears when Timmy said, "Hey you wanted to see the Cherry Blossoms right? Lets go say a Rosary in Mary's Garden later." We ended up going at sunset and as we walked into Mary's Garden I saw framed pictures of us from every year that we have been in each other's lives set up all around the garden, each with a rose in front of it. At the far end, in front of the statue of Mary, was an empty picture frame with a bouquet of roses before it.

Timmy led me to the statue of Mary, turned me to face him, smiled, and said "Brooke Alexis Paris, you've been the perfect sister to me, will you be my bride?" The sweetest nod there ever was to the Song of Songs, which we've prayed over many, many times throughout our relationship. He then got down on one knee and presented me with a ring. I kissed him, said yes and then shouted "We're engaged!" 

One of my best friends, a few of his, and his sister, who had been hiding in the bushes appeared at that point, as well as two professional photographers who had stumbled upon Timmy's friends setting up the photos and asked if they could shoot our proposal (for free!). God's providence is amazing, y'all. Looking back on it, his proposal was perfect. We spent the whole day in prayer, engaging in spiritual traditions that we're so important to our relationship, and turning our hearts towards the sacrificial love of Christ that we have now promised to embody for each other for the rest of our lives. We set our wedding date for June 30, 2017 and cannot wait to enter into the Sacrament!

A bit about our engagement photos: We did our engagement session in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Even though I live in DC right now, we're both born and bred Virginians and so we had to cross over into VA territory to capture these beautiful photos. We absolutely adore Old Town and have celebrated many anniversaries and other occasions in the heart of the Old Town cobblestone streets. 

The session felt like taking a casual stroll in Old Town while taking in the gorgeous fall weather that we were blessed with that day. Before the session we sat down in a gelato shop to talk about some of the things we're looking forward to and what matters most to us about our wedding day. It was such a great opportunity to let our photographers know where our hearts were at and to communicate to them how strongly we feel about our Wedding Liturgy being the highlight of our day. We were also able to brainstorm some ways to make our wedding day timeline the best for us as the bride and groom but also the best for all of our guests, who we are so excited to spend the most time possible with!

Brooke's advice for engaged couples: Balancing planning a wedding with preparing for marriage is no easy task! It is so easy to get caught up in tablecloths, center pieces and cake flavors (or in our case, pie!). For us, spreading out planning our wedding liturgy and our marriage prep sessions over the course of our engagement has helped us balance the wedding details with readying our hearts for the sacrament. One week we'll be focused on place-card settings and then the next we're focused on choosing a prayer for a particular part of the Mass. It has been so fun jumping back and forth!