Friday, February 26, 2010

"Somebody's got a case of the Mondays" ... on Friday.

Vent session. Watch out. But thanks to the blog world, I am now not sending a few strongly worded emails that could get me fired. And without further ado, the top 8 reasons I need a cell with padded walls today...

1. there is a bison on the interstate that I need to drive on this afternoon. The bison has been hit and all lanes of traffic are shut down. p.s. this happened last week with a zebra. The zebra didn't get hit but same scenario. Think-2 hour commute and really really annoyed non-animal lover. Is this the twilight zone?

2. our hospital commited to a little $$$ as incentive to get social worker's clinically licensed. I put down a lot of cash in fees and study materials, passed the test and now, drumroll please, they 'can't find' the emails detailing the agreement and HR says no way.

3. not to seem cheap, but after working almost 4 years and NEVER using a sick day, the same said hospital will only pay me for 6.5 weeks of maternity leave. That's 5.5 weeks left for me to test ramen noodles as nutrition to keep up a milk supply.

4. I overscheduled my weekend. By a lot. My husband expressed his worry for me and my energy levels and finally got to the point. Apparently I'm kind of a lion/bear/horse's rear when I'm tired. And sometimes that gets taken out on him. But how do you say no to celebrating a friend's baby, meeting old friends for lunch (even if that requires a 40 mile drive), babysitting two little girls (see numbers 2 and 3) and taking two young cousins for a date you've been promising for months? This might be a lot easier in a smaller city but we are talking an easy 100 + miles on the honda this weekend, esp when we factor in our commute to Mass.

5. This baby is hurting me today. Or I guess, my body's changes to carry the baby are hurting me. Think charlie horse in the abdomen. This has caused me to cuss more than any of the above today. Sorry little one- next year mama's going to give up cussing for Lent.

6. I decided to wear a wool sweater on the day my normally very cold natured body realized I was pregnant and needed to sweat all day. Note to self, burn all wool clothing.

7. Despite having some QT  in scripture with my husband last night and a restful morning with him today, I am cranky about not seeing him the next few nights. As much as I love him, I'm pretty sure this is my inner 4-year-old again just wanting what I can't have.

8. My new book is not very good. But I can't give up on cutie pie Nicholas Sparks yet and force myself to keep going. It isn't helping that Miley Cyrus plays the lead in the upcoming movie. Gross.

Okay- and so I don't seem like a total raging horse's rear, I should say that there a few major praises going on too.

1. For two nights in a row I have slept relatively soundly, with just my 2-4 bathroom breaks. I have literally prayed for restful sleep and God has had mercy on my husband and given me a break from the dreams and discomfort. Plus, who knew that an extra pillow could do such wonders.

2. My dad is safe and happy in Qatar (near Iraq). He has email and we talk more on email than we did when he was here. It's fun and I love to email with him.

3. My husband and I have had some peaceful discussions about topics that are not typically peaceful. Very cool to see growth in our marriage.

4. I have an overscheduled weekend, meaning I have too many people to love and who love me and chances to bring in some income in a way that fills my heart.  Cry me a river :)

5. I get to have a baby.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A perfect little profile

I am looking at easily the most beautiful work of photographic art I have ever seen. It's a little smudgy and the lines aren't all clear, but the image, well, it's breathtaking. Today we saw our baby for the first time (okay it's the second time but the first time it looked like a blob). Today we saw a little face that, Lord willing, will look back at us for the next 80 years. It was perfect and awe-inspiring and it was a nice change to a rough morning. I woke up in a funk. Well, we'll use the words 'woke-up' loosely since I didn't sleep much at all. Convinced that my restlessness was due to an impending problem with little babe, I had successfully driven baby's dad crazy by 7:30 am. I said, "I will take this baby any way, any how, I just really really really want to have him."  R gave me obligatory snuggle and rattled off all the things you are supposed to say to an insane mother. I told him this is just the beginning of my worrying about this little person.

I did, however, say some semblances of prayers for a healthy baby and for protection along the way. God smiled down at his neurotic daughter and we were on en route to see our baby. And it was...unbelievable. I can't think of another word. I was looking at our child. Little baby's first introduction included crossing her arms to cover her face, putting both arms above his head, fist pumping the air. (obviously we are using gender interchangably here). Little baby has 4 ventricles to her heart and a precious little tailbone. The doctor gave us two thumbs up on all the baby's parts. The only person to get a thumbs down was mama and her weight gain but that's not for the world wide web :)

Anyway, this is one of those posts that's more for memory and less for artistic expression, but I can't let too many days go by without putting the words down. We are half-way there. In the coming months, we get to welcome Patrick home, go on a baby-moon to a beautiful island, take a cooking class, celebrate Easter and mom's 50th!  birthday, snuggle two friends' new babies, go to the beach with girl friends, and grow bigger and bigger with the beautiful spring weather. I could not be more happy to have a little partner along for the ride, with me every step of the way. Thank you God for such an undeserved and amazing blessing!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just a tiny bite

February 22, 2010

Right now, many folks of many denominations are in this season of Lent. Regardless of faith tradition, people are drawn to the idea of less self-indulgence and more self-improvement. I am no different. There are areas of my life that need work, and like any 4-year-old child, I am not going to address them until someone's foot is on my rear end. So, here we are in Lent and it's time to get moving. I made a few commitments for Lent, one of the standard 'no chocolate' variety (I did not, however, go crazy and give up chocolate. I have a baby to feed after all). But the other two are more of the "I am an adult now and it's time to go a smidge deeper" variety. After the holy spirit spoke straight through the words of a cyber-friend, I made a commitment to stop discussing a personal problem I have. I realized the trickle-down effect of my "venting" about a situation and realized it needs no more conversation for 40 days. God is the only person who can fix it, so He's really the only person I need to be "venting" to.

So, almost immediately, my commitment was tested. First test, I'd say I got an A-. It helped that it was the end of the day and I wanted to go to sleep. It's easier not to mouth off when you are exhausted. The next test came recently and it was much more difficult. I felt myself rationalizing 'well I'll just say this' 'and, that's all I can say' 'no, now I'm really finished.' I thought about these interactions as the day went on and realized that I was feeling a lot like a certain main character from the Garden of Eden. I won't say I fully bit into the apple of temptation, but I definitely tasted the skin. And oh how I understand how quickly you can go from smelling the apple, to tasting just a tiny bite, to knawing into it like an animal and throwing the core away. It's a slippery little slope we play on in the battle against wrong. Because, no matter how nicely or politically correct I put it, I was still wrong- still taking tiny bite after tiny tiny bite of that golden delicious.

Last night, as I was listening to the thunderstorms, wondering if I will ever sleep through the night again, I started thinking. I feel like we are in an era where self-acceptance and 'doing the best we can' are replacing the strive for excellence and victory. And while I am grateful for the seasons of life where I have learned to accept my limitations and my efforts, I also think we take it a little too far sometimes. We have yoga and mindfulness techniques and self-help aisles three miles long. We have friends who (very sweetly) justify our dumb mistakes and make us feel okay about being ridiculous. Again, I'm grateful for that and there is a time and a place for that. But under that mindset, my actions recently would be filed under 'good effort.' And you know what, I am 28-years-old and am a mama to an eight ounce heirloom tomato. Shouldn't I be striving for more than 'good effort?' I should not be afraid to call myself an ass and not settle for mediocrity. I have every tool necessary to achieve this pretty worthy Lenten goal. As my dad would have said growing up, if you can get a B-, you can get an A. The only thing stopping me is selfishness.

Again, there have been seasons and situations in my life when I have been waaay too hard on myself. I have denied myself grace and forgiveness, both freely and lovingly given by the person I believe most in. But I have to wonder if there is a time and place for grace, and a time and a place for discipline. (I imagine a crash course on this during the next 25 years of child-rearing.) I deserved a kick in the rear this weekend for going near the stinkin apple. I know the results. And while I will dust myself off and get back on track, I think it's okay to say to myself that that was a load of crap. I know better. I have the ability to do better. And even if I accept myself for my shortcomings, it doesn't mean I shouldn't be really trying to be better.

Just some lenten thoughts :)


"Jesus, Here I am. It's Keri"

February 11, 2010

I am in the midst of slowly reading and re-reading this gem of a book called 5 Loaves and Two Fish. The book is about Cardinal Francis Nguyen Van Thuan of Vietnam. He was arrested by the Communist government in the 70's and was in solitary confinement for 9 years, imprisoned for 13. His book is about giving your all to God, no matter who much it is, basing his efforts on the scripture where the young boy gives Jesus his 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. It was all the boy had. It was everything.

Anyway- I am sure I'll be back with another post about this book but something I was re-reading this morning struck me. The now Cardinal tells a story of a man who used to come into the Church, kneel, and leave quickly. One day someone asked him what he prayed so quickly. He said that he was an "old, ignorant" man and he walked in each day and said "Jesus, Here I am. It's Jim." It was all the prayer the man knew how to pray. And it was everything.

Later in life, this man was in a nursing home. He spread so much joy to people that people asked about where he found such joy. He never had a visitor or anyone inquire about him. He stated that when he entered the nursing home, he asked for 2 chairs to be placed by his bed. One for the priest, and one for Jesus. And he said, with full conviction, that Jesus does come to visit him. And to this sweet, old man, Jesus says "Jim, Here I am, It's Jesus." And that was all the man needed. And it was everything.

I love the simplicity of this. How complicated we like to make faith! Do we know spiritual laws? Do we know the catechism front to back? Do we get to Mass every single day? How often is your prayer time?? And not to diminish the healing power these things can have in our lives, but sometimes, it's no so complicated. Sometimes, as another old man from St. Vincent's used to say "Keep it Simple, Stupid." Now, we need not be as harsh as the crazy Chemistry professor, but really, it is pretty simple.

There are days when we can't muster the Rosary or an in-depth prayer. There are days when pain and angst is so deep that we can't utter the words. Then there are days where our gratitude is so big and our hearts so full, that we can't utter the words. So be it. All He really wants is us- to say hello, to be in his presence, without the clutter of all those words.

How I wish I had read this book so many years ago. It's so much more simple than we make it.

"Jesus, Here I am, It's Keri."


It's coming....

February 9, 2010

A week from tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and today I got a little, tiny knock on the door of my heart. Truthfully, I am not sure I will listen. I am pretty sure I know what I am doing for Lent, giving up something that is not good for me but more along the lines of superficial and adding something that I know will grow my heart and my marriage. Any hoo, today I was reading a few (okay a lot) of blogs. I don't know if it's the social worker in me or just the nosy woman in me, but reading about people's lives is fascinating to me. On the good side, I feel related to and in solidarity with some amazing women. I have a chance to pray for someone else every morning and, from knowing bits of their stories, feel authentic in my prayer. And let's face it, seeing pictures of cute kids brightens up any Grady day. But then the bad is there too. Recently a post by a certain blog-celebrity in Alabama revealed her concern that blogging has a negative side as well. And for me and most of the female gender, the negative side is the tendency to COMPARE. We compare our homes to the blogs we read. We compare our talents and gifts. We even (okay I) compare the size of of our pregnant bellies. I mean, seriously, the size of another woman's bump. Get a grip. But in all honesty, I have never felt inadequate while reading a blog until today. I won't get into the details or reveal the blog because that only feeds it for the rest of us. But, suffice it to say, I now need to learn how to sew, embroider, paint furniture, redecorate my home, coupon, cook, bake, and come up with cool art projects to do with my kid. I also need to birth this baby and be a size 2 in 6 weeks and to have an hour of devotional time a day. And maybe even mop the floors more.

So, today I am humbled. And a part of me needs to pray about whether or not I should give up reading blogs for the 40 days ahead of me. Really, God knows that I don't need an extra reason to feel inadequate. I am really not sure I could do it, esp with my desire to get all the latest information on baby. I mean, it's 2010 folks. "What to Expect" just isn't sufficient anymore!

I wouldn't go betting on me. I think my mind is set about Lent. But it can't hurt to take it down a notch. I'm pretty sure the Lord is okay with who I am, where I am.


"Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds. " Jo Jo Jensen

February 8, 2010

So the topic de jour is SLEEP. I have a feeling this will not be the last blog about sleep that I do in the coming months, but today, it's on the brain. I have often said that I can be hungry, cold, hot, thirsty, in pain, frustrated (insert whatever condition you like) and it is never as bad as when I am sleepy. I'm just a girl who absolutely thrives on a good night's rest and who is a terror with a bad night's rest. And lately, well, be glad you are night a fly on my wall.

The problem is, I am a ridiculously light sleeper. The other problem is, my husband can be a light sleeper at times too. Ergo, if one of us is tossing and turning, the other one is too. Now we have two sleep-deprived Ninnesses (soon to be 3). Throw in a baby who sleeps on my bladder and lower back pain and we have very inconsistent sleep in Casa Ninness. This weekend may or may not have also included my husband protecting our family from non-existent intruders by JUMPING up in the middle of the night, taking out shotgun and walking throughout the house (while his wife sort of smiled because she is the lighter sleeper out of the bunch and would have easily heard an intruder- but is nonetheless thankful for a brave husband.)

I am not so narcissistic as to think anyone cares about our sleep patterns but it is becoming comical-so comical that when recently given the chance to sleep in separate double beds in a hotel room we both giggled in delight and slept like ROCKS! Anyway- yesterday was kind of a blah day for me. Like Blah as in I layed my head on my husband's chest in Target and warned him that a big, ugly, 'cry for no apparent reason' event was on the horizon. The big, ugly cry never happened but a little 'for no apparent reason' one did happen as he was leaving for a fun super bowl party and I was partying with my stupid DSM and study guides. My sweet husband knows what he's doing and rushed out of the house with his crock-pot filling his hands so I couldn't cling on to him and start the real big ugly cry. He called about 8:30 and suggested I go to bed and catch up on sleep (you know from the night before when I was awakened by the cocking of the shotgun :) I thought about this and realized he was pretty wise. I knew I'd wake up when he got home from the party so I took advantage of the few hours of uninterrupted sleep. I was able to have some prayer time without the movie theater noise in my living room and drifted off so peacefully. And while I did wake up when he came home, I was happy to know that he'd had a few beers watching the game. Apparently a few beers equals soundly sleeping husband. Costco here I come.

So, today I feel like a new woman. I feel motivated to get some things accomplished and have no need to give my baby coke/baby crack to get the day started. I am feeling very positive about the day ahead. And all it took was a decent night's sleep. Thanks husband for the suggestion to get to bed early. Thanks to husband's best friend for hosting the super-bowl party where he got to have some beverages to make him sleep so soundly. And thanks husband even for the drama in the middle of the previous night. I was obviously so exhausted that I could sleep soundly last night :)

The precious pic below is of my cousin Alyse- who just celebrated her 4th birthday. I took this picture when she was a just a few days old. Here's hoping baby Ninness sleeps so soundly!


"Holiness, Holiness is What I Long For"

February 2, 2010

Holiness, holiness is what I long for.
Holiness is what I need.
Holiness, holiness is what You
want from me.

These are some of the words to Sonicflood's song "Holiness." These words have been on my heart the past few days. I am coming off of two weekends straight of being fed and nourished in my faith. Last weekend, I travelled to Macon to hear a blogger ( turned friendly acquaintance speak. Because the world is so small, I had been reading this blog for some time, commented on it to my friend, Fr. Tim, only to find out he is the godfather to one of her 5 sons. LOVE how the Holy Spirit works sometimes. Anyway, the thing that struck me the most from this pregnant mama of 5 is her belief that more than a perfectly clean home and gourmet meals, more than organized bedrooms and mopped floors, her children need a holy mother. They need a mother who is striving for holiness, an example of what Christian womanhood looks like. I felt the lump around my midsection and felt a deep, deep desire to be a holy mama for my little one. (my poor husband is now worried that he will have a holy wife and a dirty home but I tried to reassure him :)

This past weekend, Ross and I attended the Savannah diocese intercollegiate retreat. And while I don't always see eye to eye with the 20-year-olds I know (Katie), I was excited for a weekend retreat and time in prayer. I am now convinced that Fr. Tim got us down there under the guise of having us speak. He knew good and well that the weekend would provide the two of us, and consequently our marriage, with some refreshing new life. And ohmygoshgoodgracious did it. And because I can't put it into any kind of coherant paragraph form, we'll do this one wedding blog style again. Some of the more heart-piercing moments from the weekend:

watching one of the praise and worship leaders sing, eyes closed, mouth smiling so big as she and her amazing voice praised God. I want to smile more, in all things, but especially in worship. I don't think I'll ever forget the look on her face, the tranquility mixed with pure passion. You could see straight into heart. I want to worship like that.

hearing a talk on spiritual warfare by a great, great priest. Having the lightbulb go off as he tells us that Satan knows our unique weaknesses and uses those to pour salt into our deepest wounds. Being more aware of him makes me want to fight against him much harder.

taking a walk with Fr. Tim and Ross and being so grateful for the priesthood- knowing that there is wisdom in not having our priests marry. Our priests pour so much into us, into their spiritual children. I am beyond blessed to call some of these men friends.

Giving a talk to 30 college age women and wanting to hug each one of them, remembering the specific struggles of that age. I would not go back.

Not necessarily "feeling" like the talk went one way or the other, feeling a little insecure in what I said, but trusting that the Holy Spirit would do what was needed, only to have a few sweet girls come up and say they felt I related well to them and spoke to their hearts. 2 points for Holy Spirit.

Hearing my husband give a testimony of his faith walk. Seeing pure sincerity on his face and feeling thankful that I get to call him mine

Talking with Fr. Justin, another young, amazing priest. He told me about a woman who is a big deal in the Catholic church, and her struggle with body image post three c-sections. Hearing this both validated me and made me feel less guilty for missing my pre-baby thighs.

A presentation by the Mercer University kids. It would take too long to describe it but they did a stunning portrayal of how we ignore Christ everyday when we ignore the suffering of others (they depicted a homeless man but there are dozens of other people I ignore each day too). I literally shed tears at my own blindness to suffering and vowed to look more, to see more people.

A college guy from Valdosta in my break-out group. He reminded me of the very popular few guys, the "chosen ones" from our college bible study days. He is obviously a leader in his school but his humility and kindness stunned me. I'm sure I would have had a crush on him if I were 20 and a student in south Georgia.

Hearing the testimonies of students and after 7 years of child abuse, domestic violence, family dysfunction work, still being broken by what people will inflict upon each other, especially children. Looking at those folks and being proud of their resilience.

Talking to a newly engaged 19-year-old who has doubts about her fiance, after my talk about not ignoring doubt. Feeling like she might consider waiting and praying more before she makes a decision her parents (and I) feel is pretty bad. Praying she does wait.

Talking to a young engaged couple with Ross and loving that despite a gap in age, the boys were still talking about jobs and schools and the girls were still giggling about wedding dresses and babies. I love the predictability of some things.

Looking at my husband and thinking, I think I love him more today than I did on our wedding day. Knowing that as we individually worshipped and praised God side by side, our love for each other was simultaneously growing.

And while there were more, there's one event, one part of this weekend that will stay with me forever. A beautiful part of the Catholic tradition is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. As we believe that Christ truly is present in the Eucharist, a priest will often expose the Blessed Sacrament for quiet, reflective prayer. In many churches, there is perpetual adoration, meaning that in some small chapel, Jesus is exposed in the blessed Sacrament 24/7 and people sign up to pray before him and spend time with him at all of those hours. I have experienced great grace in those quiet hours before Jesus in the past and was happy to have some time before Him on this retreat. During the exposition, three priests heard confessions while everyone spent personal time in prayer. During that time, I watched a young girl (who was sweet enough to tell me of her story from wild freshman to searching Sophomore), go to confession and then spend the better part of an hour, maybe more, kneeling, ON CONCRETE, in prayer. She didn't sway or adjust to be more comfortable. I don't know what was on her heart, but to have spent that much time without moving her knees off the floor, she had to be deep in prayer. During that time I watched people come out of confession with tears falling down their faces, knowing all too well the pain and redemption involved in that Sacrament. I watched my husband kneel before Jesus and pray, so passionately. He held my hand as I prayed a rosary for a friend who in those hours was dying in Atlanta. He dried my tears as I struggled with not doing enough for that patient and encouraged me to pray. I prayed with all my heart, convicted again of the call I felt during Rachel's talk last week to be a holy mother for this person in me. I wanted more than anything on God's green earth, at that moment, to be a good, loving, holy wife and mother. It was almost a tangible need to be such. I watched 80 people, most of them students, pray so passionately, so fervently. I knew, with all my being, that Jesus was truly, actually, in reality, in that room. It was eerie and amazing and not even funny. He was there. And if I needed further proof, the little person inhabiting my belly moved throughout this retreat and throughout adoration. He is only just beginning to move, and hasn't done so (that I can feel) since I left Lake Ocmulgee, but he was active as all get out during adoration. Like John the Baptist in Elizabeth's womb, I think he knew Jesus was there :)

I am not doing justice to this retreat at all. It was one of those spiritual highs that we crave during our walks of faith. And, like all highs, we come down from them pretty fast and hit the world hard. But a wise oooollllld priest once said to me that when you pray and get the warm fuzzy feelings, it's God's gift to you. When you pray and receive (seemingly) nothing in return, it's your gift to God. So, as me and my many new Facebook friends from around the diocese start to feel the weight of the world start creeping back in, I hope we will go back to where our hearts were most full. I hope we go BACK to Mass. I hope we let ourselves receive the graces of reconciliation. I hope we calm our souls with Eucharistic adoration. Because if we do so, we many not feel on top of the moutain like we did this weekend, but we will feel the peace of Christ in our hearts- which is it's own kind of beautiful high.

And as I long for holiness, as I beg for the grace to be a holier woman, a holier mother and wife and friend and daughter, I will smile and think of this weekend, and know that I am loved by God on every step of that journey.

My baby's heart beats

January 25, 2010

This one is more for my own memory, so that I don't forget how I feel at this moment. This morning R and I heard our baby's heart beat. As in, the baby's heart does indeed beat. It was literally music to my ears and I wish I would have brought a tape recorder. The baby's heart beats beautifully at 140-150. When I worried that all my sugar eating may be making the heart rate go too high (normal is 120-160), she smiled and said that the only thing this heart rate told us is that the old wives of the world would say it is a girl. We will not find out the sex but it was cute to speculate based on what old ladies have been saying for generations. We'll see if they are right.

I cannot explain the peace in my heart right now. I have had bad dreams about getting in there and the doctor not being able to find the heartbeat. I ask Ross to pray at random times during the day, including this morning, that the baby would be okay. As I grow more in love with this gremlin, I grow a little more nervous. But today, all signs point to having a healthy baby in July. I have the same tears in my eyes as I did when she was rolling that ball over my belly. Our baby's heart beats. It beats. It beats beautifully and regularly and strong. What a miracle life is!

So little one of my soft belly, keep growing, keep that heart beating, and know that you are loved beyond understanding already. I still cannot believe I get to have you. I cannot believe that my dreams are coming true and that I did not have to carry the tortuous cross of infertility. I cannot believe that I love you so much at 4 months old. I cannot believe that WE get YOU! Please please please please don't do anything crazy like get sick or decide that living with Jesus is better than living with us (i mean, it would be but don't even think about it). Please decide that with all our flaws, your dad and I are the best people to raise you. And if you don't believe I am the best mama for you, base it on the dad in this deal. Because let me assure you, little person, that never will you find a more loving, giving, adventurous, vivacious, energetic person to be your dad. You will learn and grow and explore every day of your life with him as the dad. Trust me. Stay put in there. You won't regret it (at least with him :)

She said it best

January 20, 2010

My early mornings at work consist of blog stalking over breakfast. There. I said it. It's my release before I start out into the big crazy hospital. Me, my fiber one bar (or powdered donuts) and my blogs. Most of them are young women, using their blogs to vent, tell a story or minister to others. Very often, they minister to me. This one, today, makes my top 5 blogs ever list. Click over to hear a woman who admits discontentment but has the insight to know that life is usually better lived in the now.

I like this blog for so many reasons. Abby talks about her desire for finally having sufficient income. (Her husband is medical resident and they have two little girls). She dreams of the day when she can 'do this...or have that.' But the beautiful part of her heart is that she knows that more paycheck isn't the answer to the discontentment she sometimes feels. She knows that when we lack money, we usually abound in creativity. It makes me thing of a post I did awhile back about my little cousins. In an effort not to take the girls into the mall, we explored the Chattahoochee river trails. Long after they are grown, I will remember that day. Had I had a lot of extra money, we might have withered our brains in the suction cup that is the American doll store!

My pride makes me want to write that I do not covet money, that I have experienced an abundance of joy in life without it. But then I remember that 2 weeks ago I wrote about humility. Humble Keri needs to admit that I wish we had a garage, and a basement/attic to put my husband and his movie room toys. Humble Keri needs to say that I wish I could buy the $300 baby bedding I found for Little Ninness instead of the sweet hand-me-downs we've been offered or an SUV to fit the carseat that will be very snug in the Honda. Humble Keri needs to say I wish I had the money to send gifts to friends 'just because' and to fly to see those friends every few months.

But, like Abby, I realize that in the place of the money to do these things, I have so much. Without a garage, I do not have much (too much) junk. I am more aware of what we bring into our home knowing there isn't much space. And if I got a basement or a bonus room to "put my husband and his toys in" I would miss my husband. I would watch my reality soul shrinking shows at night and he would watch his movies in another part of the house. I would miss him sitting at my feet, keeping them warm. With more money, I could buy that baby bedding but then I would obsess over what good I could do for another child if I saved that money. And we all know I don't need more to obsess about. I could buy that SUV but then I wouldn't have the ability to gloat that my car is paid off like I do now (see we have a ways to go with the humility). I would then also have to budget for the gasoline that would surely take away from other luxuries. I could send gifts to friends 'just because' but then I might stop writing notes. And it really is special to get a note in the mail. I might be able to see them more often via my jet plane, but then I might not pray for them quite as much. And the Lord knows they can use my prayers more than they can use seeing this old face :)

I do have to admit, especially since my husband works extraordinarily hard for our family, that I had a hard time coming up with anything more that I really really want in the material sense. There truly isn't much more I'd do with much more money except maybe a teeny tiny shopping spree to TJ Maxx or a trip back to St. Lucia :) Regardless though, we all have our discontentment somewhere. We are discontent that we are single when we want to be married, instead of treasuring the time with our girlfriends and the ability to drink wine and eat cheese for dinner. We are discontent that we have this job when we want the other job, instead of looking for the ways in which God wants to use us in THIS job. We are discontent that we got a degree in social work instead of taking the stupid organic chem with Weschler and Space and becoming a PA, instead of thanking God for the chance to be in the lives of the strong people with HIV. We are discontent with our commute and the conditions of Atlanta roads, instead of praying for the Haitians who have no roads.

I could go on and on, as I usually do, but the message is clear. The grass is not always greener on the other side. It's usually greener on the side we're on right now. So I'll treasure my little car and my cozy home. I'll treasure my time with my husband in our living room/movie theater. I'll treasure my job, even though had I been a P.A. I could buy my SUV! I'll treasure my life, because it's the one God desires for me right now. And typically, He is a wee bit smarter than me!


Solidarity with the Poor

January 16, 2010

This week, we have all been discussing the tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti. People young and old are talking about it. Radio stations from Boortz to the Fish to country are raising money. Children are collecting coins. I have not grown tired of it and have not yet turned off the radio during the commute. Hearing it makes me proud and a little in awe at human beings.

It is not every day that I am encouraged by humanity, by the ways in which we treat one another. But when tragedy hits, I am always taken aback by the expressions of resilience, compassion, advocacy, action.

I graduated from a wonderful program called JustFaith last year. We studied Catholic social teaching and one of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching is Solidarity with the Poor. Pope John Paul described this idea in many ways, but I liked this one best. "Solidarity... is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all" (Solicitudo Rei Socialis #39)

I had the blessing of the true sense of solidarity with the poor at a young age. One of my first experiences was at St. Vincent's Academy. Our high school was asked to create a team to raise money in the fight against cancer. A few months of some very motivated teenage gals yielded over $10,000 for Relay for Life. I can almost touch that feeling of knowing what people with good hearts and a willingness to ACTION can do.

A few years later, our country experienced one of it's greatest tragedies. Like many others, September 11th, 2001 remains etched in my brain. I remember almost every second of the day. But one memory stands out and remains of my most treasured memories from college. I was living in the sorority house, and as most students did that day, we left class and went home. As I returned to the Alpha Delta Pi house, girls were scrambling to DO something. Within minutes of coming home from Spanish class, the cars were filing out of the driveway. Our house emptied and we all gathered at the American Red Cross. We stood in line for hours to give blood. I also remember this day because my great friend Scott, who lived in the neighboring fraternity house, was doing the same thing with his guys. The newspaper snapped a photo of Scott and I hugging outside the donation center. Again, I can feel that sense of ability and power in actually doing something concrete to help.

Sadly, we have had reasons since to collaborate and work. Hurricane Katrina wrecked hundreds of thousands of lives. But again, people loaded up their trucks with lumber and tools and WENT. Students raised money. Friends of mine walked along the coast in Mobile picking up debris. People prayed and fasted and sent checks. Others drove and built and fed and clothed. To me, these are all ACTION words. They are verbs. They are not good intentions. They are decisions. I am amazed at people who put their money where their mouths are.

So, unfortunately, here we are again. We have a neighboring country experiencing pure and total devastation. And again, amidst the devastation, people are ACTING. I spend a lot of time wondering where generosity is, where community has gone, where advocacy has gone. And times like these, the most horrible of times, I am reminded that it still exists. People are jolted and horrified into providing for others. I am horrified and jolted into providing for others. Comfort zones be gone. So while this neighboring country, this island whose extreme poverty I have seen with my own eyes, suffers and struggles, people everywhere have been lifted out of their own lives and are compelled to insert their hands, hearts, prayers, money, talents and resources into anothers. I hurt for the Haitian people. But I smile at the hardened hearts softened on their behalf.

Humility and docility? Um. Really??

January 8, 2010

New Year's Day, we attended Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenville, SC. I have been to this church many times, as it's where my in-laws attend. Their priest, Father Doc, is a precious man and always gives me something to think about. This year, he spoke of his challenges for us for the new year. He first challenged us to read more scripture, to spend more time reading God's word. Okay, I think to myself, this is a great one that I've been meaning to get to anyway. Check. The next challenge was to pray the rosary. This is something Ross and I have done in sweet moments during hikes, on moutaintops, on the rocks of the Atlantic in St. Lucia. It's special to us and we plan to continue it. Check 2. His last challenge was to heed Pope Benedict's call in his Christmas eve homily- to be humble and docile. Um....humble and docile. I nearly laughed outloud. Really almost laughed. I am not humble. I am not docile. Just when I thought I had the new year spiritual challenges on a manageable level, here comes the call to be DOCILE?

Webster says to be docile is to be "easily taught" or "easily led." Yeah, that's notsomuch written next to my name in the dictionary. So after asking God about 10 times if he was sure that this is what He wanted me to work on for the new year, I conceded. And I prepared myself for the marathon of listening and learning and being receptive to God's desires for me. The following week Ross and I were at Fellini's for dinner. I told him I really felt God asking me to forgive someone in my life. We'll call him Joe. I told Ross that I wanted let God teach me and lead me, but this was the first time in my life I had to exercise the difficulty in forgiveness. I said that Joe has never asked for my forgiveness, never admitted any wrong doing. Ross smiled at his dumb wife and said, "babe, the people who ask for forgiveness are the easiest to forgive." It's the ones who don't acknowledge they have hurt you who are the ones we really have to forgive. I stuck out my bottom lip and resisted, unsure if I could really forgive Joe. And then I heard Fr. Doc, in his kind Vietnamese accent, call me to docility, call me to be taught.

The next day I woke up and snuggled on the sofa for my quiet time. I am doing a fabulous devotional called the Miracle Hour and one part for the morning was scripture reflections. I did the old "open the Bible to some random page and see what God wants to tell you," and whoa!

This is what I found You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye. (matthew chapter 7).

I have used this scripture many times to reprimand others for their judgement (see, humility- not my strong suit). I realized that my behavior probably did not encourage kindness on Joe's part. And admittedly, I am older, more in touch with a spiritual life, and a social worker. I know better. Maybe Joe doesn't. And maybe Joe does. But the bottom line is, I must do what I am told (again not my strong suit).

Pope Benedict's homily from Christmas eve is a great template for how and why to be humble. (thanks Fr. Tim for the copy). The Pope talks about how Christ came humbly into the world. He came small, as a child. He came in a manger stall. He comes "asking for our love." I mean, hello?? The savior of the world comes asking for our love?? If Jesus starts His life like this, can I not ask for Joe's love and treat him like I desire his love? Christ's first moments on the earth teach us to be small. Maybe I need to stop acting like big, bad older, wiser, Keri and, like Christ asked for ours, ask for Joe's love?

Now, I won't say that I've had much luck the rest of the week. But I know that for anyone's peace (mine and my husband's especially) I will have to learn to be docile. I'll have let myself be led, by Ross, by teachers, by friends. And oooh how spot on my gut reaction was in Mass on New Years Day. Keri being led- um... it's going to be a bumpy ride. But I'm willing to try...check back with me in a year :)

A thank you note from the alien

December 31, 2009

To Aunt Katie from the alien,

Since my mom has discovered that I am living in her womb, she's been on a roller coaster. She has felt a little (okay a lot) crazy. And even though I know I'm the greatest thing that has ever happened to her, she is still a little scared about all the changes. She's scared she needs more time with my dad without a wailing gremlin. She's scared that she'll give birth as Patrick gets married. She's scared that what's she's always wanted will turn out to be a mess and she'll be a bad mom. But then you come to the rescue.
YOU, Aunt Katie, remind her to take her vitamins and tell her how big I am. You tell her to take a picture of me in her belly so you can document this pregnancy. You are excited when mom feels like throwing up. You are making plans when mom is sucking down ginger ale. And this makes me happy. Because I want someone to be really excited about me. And don't get me wrong. My dad is pumped I'm coming. But right now, he's focusing on mom and helping her get through all the crazy stuff her body is doing to help me grow. And I know the grandparents are ga-ga over me but with you it's different. You're extra. And I am wiggling around inside mom right now in pure excitement that you get to be my aunt.

Thank you for my Christmas presents. Babycenter says that you can't even tell if I'll wear the blue bubble with the train emroidery or the white smocked dress but I love them both. And they were mom's favorite Christmas presents. Even more than her uggs- which is a lot. Thanks for the UGA bottle and the gamecocks bib. I'm sure peas will look GREAT all over the chicken bib. But more than the gifts, thanks for making me a part of the family already. I love my "my auntie loves me" onesies in blue and pink. I'll probably use both, no matter what color I like best. Everyone says I will go through a million onesies. Thanks for acknowledging that I already exist and that I'm already loved. I think God is a funny guy for choosing to put me with you crazies, but I already know that you guys are the best family for me.

And since this will be one of many thank you notes my mom makes me write (you know she is obsessed with thank you notes), I might as well say thanks for being so excited about me. When mom has been so sick and can't really focus on how happy she is, you have been the one cheering me on. You were my first cheerleader and you have made mom feel like I am getting the joy she thinks I deserve.

I am so happy you are going to come help fix up my room (mom has no taste) and that you will help pick out the things I need (for all her babysitting, mom's not as smart as she thought she was). I can't wait to spend time with you and to nuzzle into your neck. I can't wait for you to dress me up and take me out to lunch with you and Brad.

Thanks for praying for me in those first few weeks when mom was praying I'd actually stay put. I know I'll give you plenty more to pray for over the years as I stretch my wings (and mom's patience). I am so happy you are my aunt. And I'm so happy you are my mama's sister. You make her happy and excited- and you know the saying, "if mama's happy, everybody's happy".

Happy new year to my auntie who loves me. 2010 will be a great year. The first year of the decade, the year I am born, the year Patrick and Vanessa get married in the church. I love you tons and tons. Thanks for loving me already.


the alien

The love languages of Christmas

December 31, 2009

As I get older, and especially now that I will be responsible for a little babe's Christmas experience, I think more and more of how I want to experience it. What traditions do I love? Which ones can go? What do I want to do more of, less of? Each Christmas, my parents go COO COO at Christmas. Our small living room is transformed by a crazy amount of gifts. Christmas at our house as children guaranteed 10-20 gifts, many significant in value. As we've gotten older, and our family has nearly doubled in size, nothing has changed. My parents have not scaled back at all. And I'll admit, I've spent many a Christmas in self-righteous mode, criticizing the extravagence. Some of it has been because as an adult now, I (we) have felt the need to reciprocate in a similar manner and as a social worker, there's no comparing. I just can't do it.

Over the years, I have grumbled to mom about the amount of gifts and she always says the same thing, "Don't take this away from your dad and I." I can get mom to bend on a lot of things, but this one has remained the same. They love it.

This year I was on the phone with Katie who was talking about all the baking she had to do. I reminded her that her niece or nephew cannot live on sugar alone (despite the fact that she/he kinda has been) and not to worry about all the baking. But like my parents' compulsive need to revive the economy, Katie was firm. And I began to think.

Like the popular Christian relationship book, the Five Love languages, we all have our own distinct Christmas love languages as well. Dad is the only man in America who enjoys the Christmas eve rush to Sams or Walmart or Bass Pro. He is thinking of each of us individually and something we might love. He takes joy in finding just the right thing (usually electronic). And the cost isn't what's on his mind. The recipient of the gift is- the person who will enjoy a wonderful gift thanks to dad's 15 hour work days. And while I'd take every bit of it back for him to work 8 hour days sans back pain, he wouldn't. I don't get him. I don't speak his love language. But out of love for him (and our new blue ray player), I will hear his love language.

Mom is no different. I guess it's fitting since they have played Mr. and Mrs. Claus all these years. She loves to cross off our Christmas lists and then to buy things here and there that add to the bulk around the tree. This year was probably my biggest year of surprises, mostly because the growing babe prevents all the cute new clothes I'd love. I feel terribly guilty for asking for my $$ dansko's when I didn't know that mom had already bought the one gift I didn't ask for but had been really wanting- new UGG boots. Those ugly ole things are such an extravagant purchase that I was determined to keep my old ones for another 4 years, even if all the wool was gross and sticky. Mom bought me the one thing I wouldn't have dared let myself ask for but will keep me warm and cozy for years to come. So out of one corner of my mouth, I berate her for so much spending. Out of the other corner, I exclaim the warmth and comfort of my ugly ole Uggs. I don't understand her love langugage either, but oh do I enjoy it.

And Katie bake (this nick name is so fitting). I made (attempted to make) Christmas cookies for our neighbors. It didn't help that I don't own any kind of electrical mixer (thanks Dad for changing that) but those cookies were awful. And they had 3 ingredients. 3 people. Monty turned his nose up at them. Ross, to his sweet credit, tried them and said they were "just a little too hard." yes honey. and gross. So I can appreciate a 20-year-old gal who can make the perfect divinity and creme brulee. But here's the thing. Whilst in the kitchen, sweet little ole Katie bake can sort of become a monster. She wants her craft to be perfect and any number of factors, from the Savannah humidity to old appliances to family who eat them faster than she can bake them, can make her a crazy (ier) woman. So even though I told her not to do all that cotton-picking baking, I knew she would. Because it's her love language. And even though I don't understand it or relate to it, my hips are very happy this week.

And oh the husband. While I threaten to call him scrooge after my favorite uncle, He doesn't try to be a scrooge. He balks at the materialism of Christmas and would be so much happier watching Charlie Brown's Christmas, with a fire cackling and a dark beer in hand. I don't mind it much at all. He keeps me from going too crazy at Christmas and is definitely the yin to my yang. Plus, he's not all scrooge. I am loving the heater at my feet and the long johns (though someone ought tell a man that no pregnant woman wears a small- and if they do, I don't want to know about it!) Anyway, his love language is definitely the ability to put the brakes on, make a girl slow down and focus on Jesus.

So all in all, this Christmas was wonderful. My precious mother-in-law surprised me with a beautiful pocketbook that I would have never, ever considered buying for myself, let alone a loud-mouthed daughter-in-law. My sister boughts gifts for my baby (a UGA baby bottle and a USC gamecocks bib for, and I quote, "when the baby throws up") You know in Judaism how the baby follows the religion of the mother, well, football is the same way. So GO DAWGS baby Ninness. There was more sweetness to the babe but that is coming in another post.

And lest you think I am basking in all this material kindness, you should know that my favorite moments of the weekend were Christmas eve Mass with my grandma and family (during which my sister and I laughed and giggled and cut up like 8-year-olds. I don't think Father Ben minded since it was his crack on college kids only going to Mass when forced by family at Christmas (dubbing them poinsettas) and at Easter (dubbing them lilies) that got us laughing so hard. And my Christmas day hike with the husband. Admittedly I didn't want to go as it was sprinkling and cold, but as soon as that puppy got off his leash and running and as soon as my legs realized that, yes, they are getting exercised at last, it was a beautiful afternoon. (that being outdoors and praising God in nature- yeah- that's my husband's love language too.) And seeing E and A- hugging on those girls I love and seeing that distance hasn't made them forget their friend Keri, that was a Christmas gift as well. What a piece of my heart those gremlins will always have!!

So the last Christmas of the decade was beautiful. I missed my brother in more ways than I can say but am grateful for the answered prayer in his safety. Each and every part of my heart was full. And while I look forward to a smaller Christmas with my new little family next year, I can appreciate that everyone spreads the spirit of Christmas in their own way.

this is last year but the scene is the same. Chi Chi is 5 lbs bigger but wore the same santa outfit that her aunt Keri got her. And Ross is tired, not drunk here...

By KeriS4 at 9:23am

First comes love, then comes marriage...

December 29, 2009

and quicker than one might have ever dreamed...then comes the baby carriage!

The delay in posts here has mostly been because I haven't wanted to tell the world wide web about our newest news. And I couldn't think of anything else to say. But as we are ending our first trimester, I guess (pray) it's as safe as it can be to tell the cyberworld that baby makes 3.

After years of believing that conception would be difficult, I can't tell you the joy I felt at seeing those two little lines. I prayed and prayed that whichever number of lines were on it, that I'd feel God's peace and know He has a great plan for the husband and I. And then I saw two lines. Two very pink lines. I about lost my mind and haven't found it since!

So, while I plan to keep a separate, private little blog to record the things none of you care a thing about, the bigger stuff I am still happy to report.

Sometime around July 14, 2010, baby Ninness will enter the world, God willing. I have run the gamet of emotions, from anxiety about having been married such a short amount of time before we got pregnant, to guilt at not feeling 100% elated 100% of the time, to disbelief that there is indeed something floating around inside me, to awe that God would entrust one of his most precious ones to R and I. Despite the near constant morning sickness, heartburn and raging hormonal emotions, you couldn't get me to trade this. My lifelong desire to be a mama, to raise a child, to hold a baby, has come true. Really, God, are you sure?? I think of the joy the kids I have loved have brought to my life. I think of watching Annie's first steps and serving Eason wine at her first communion. I think of holding Ashley just days after her birth and of rocking sweet Addie to sleep. I even think of my little sister, how during Mass as a little girl, I would take off my jewelry and let her pretend to keep her quiet (If only that worked now!) I think of the joy I felt when one of them chose me over someone else. I think of taking Annie to Mass as a toddler and having her content to sit on my lap and nuzzle into my neck (Lord, I'd like to order that kind of toddler please- you know, the one who behaves in Mass.) I think of watching my little cousin Alexandra explore her new country and her new home and of tickling my nephews. I have selectively chosen to forget about Eason's wretched post-nap diapers, arguing over doing homework or the sassy-ness that comes with kindergarten. I can only think of how with each one of these kids, I felt affirmed that THIS is what I am supposed to do.

So in my hormone-induced (I hope) moments of fear that I will be somebody's mama, I think of these moments and I know that despite how hard it will be, despite how half crazy I will feel sometimes, it's what HIS purpose is for ME. And I am at peace that for now, I am exactly where I should be.

Christmas post to follow...

simple pleasures

November 18, 2009

I feel like I write the same blog over and over, soapbox after soapbox, to the point where I grow tired of my own words. But since the major reason for the blog is to hold tight to memories, I'll suffer through myself again. Anyone else reading is just a glutton for punishment. But again, for record keeping purposes~

Every few months, I take my cousin Ashley on a 'date.' We go to the bookstore or to a movie, or to her most favorite and my least favorite, the mall. She loves these dates, as do I. We've been doing them for a few years and she finds something cool about riding in my car and spending the day with someone so cool :) Well, for about a year now, I've been saying that we needed to start including her little sister, now 3, in the shenanigans. As hesitant as I was about wrangling two little gremlins, I couldn't resist the pouty face she makes when left out of the fun.

So this Sunday, we met for lunch after church and did the carseat exchange. After scouring the newspaper for recession style fun things for kids and coming up empty, I decided to take them on a "nature walk" at the Chattahoochee River. R and I love this place and have spent many a Sunday here. We changed into "hiking" clothes (my little kitty rain boots for Alyse and Mary Jane crocs for Ashley), put the puppy on a leash, and headed to the river. And it was a hit. The girls loved it. We looked at leaves and threw rocks in the river. We headed onto a trail and hiked further up than I would have ever imagined a 22lb 3-year-old could do. Monty led the way and the girls followed. After realizing that the leaves we were going to use for our "art" project were too wet, I remembered something from the early days at BSS. I quickly called the domestic one, little sis Katie, and she refreshed my memory on pine cone bird seeders. OH the excitement from the kids. We packed up 30 of the driest, best shaped pine cones, some acorns for decoration and a few oddly shaped rocks. Only when we got to the top of this first section of gorge did I realize that going down that steep hill with said 3-year-old, bouncing puppy and 7-year-old may be tough. So before any meltdowns had time to ensue, we headed south. The girls were ecstatic. We sang Christmas carols in the woods and talked about what we were thankful to the Lord for (dogs and owls and sisters, to be exact). I walked along and thought, if this is motherhood, sign me up. It was lovely.

On the way out, Ashley stopped and said, "cousin-aunt Keri, I wish we had a camera. This is a beautiful picture." So I grabbed the cell phone and took a photo. My tech-savvy husband managed to send it in an email.

I think Ashley was right. It was a beautiful picture. It was a beautiful day with my little 'cousin-nieces' and I'm so grateful for them. After ending the day rolling those pine cones in peanut butter and coating them with birdseed, they even had bird feeders as souveneirs! I'm almost out of peanut butter at home now, but the smile on their faces and the look of their sticky little hands was worth every bit!

Prior to picking the kids up that morning, R and I started Sunday at Mass. Fr. Fallon talked about the current day "anti christ" (past "AntiChrists have been communism, nazism) as being secularism and materialism. He talked about our need for things and our deviation away from things that matter.

I thought about this whilst in the woods with the little gremlins. If the economy were thriving and social workers at Grady had gotten a raise this year, I may have been sucked into the materialism and taken the kids to the mall. And they would have liked it 1/10 as much as they liked the woods. As Ashley said "this is the best date we ever had." I'm glad I was forced to look at the beauty of what God made for us, a big, beautiful, free playground. Here's hoping that I find ways to turn my back on materialism and open my eyes to the natural beauties around me.


Becoming a saint -

November 2, 2009

Yesterday was All Saints Day, a day in which our church commemorates those who have died and been honored as Saints. Some of my favorites growing up were St. Elizabeth, whose name I have and who was Mary's sweet cousin and confidant. I loved St. Francis of Assisi, mostly because I adored his Prayer for peace, not because I share his love of animals! I loved St. Kateri, because I was fascinated by the Indians and their contributions and plights. I loved Saints Anne and Joachim because they were Jesus's grandparents. I loved Mary, because she got to give birth to baby Jesus. As an adult, I came to love St. Joseph, because the man I love so honors him for watching over families. I love St. Cecilia, after learning about her and seeing her tomb in Italy with Fr. Tim, despite my inability to hold any sort of tune. I love Therese of Liseiux, because her autobiography, Story of a Soul, inspired me to deepen my faith in so many ways. I love St. Michael, because his efforts at keeping the devil away have protected me countless times and because he is a patron saint of soldiers. I love St. Agnes for being such a sweet little child of a martyr. I love Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, for her work for the poor and for the love I feel from her community. I could go on and on and on about the lives of the Saints who have inspired me over the years. They did big things for Jesus, in both big and small ways.

But during Mass yesterday, our friend Fr. Fallon, didn't preach about these saints. He preached about the saints of our time now, and of how each of us can be saints, how we are saints sometimes (and big fat sinners other times). He said that the smallest of things makes us a saint, the smallest of kindnesses, acts of service and charity. I thought of the people in my life who are saints to me. Last week I watched as a patient at the Gift of Grace who is very confused and altered, helped a blind patient into her coat. It was the sweetest moment of lucidity and helpfulness. With all her confusion, Miss D was a saint that day. On the same day, I had brought our french-speaking student intern to the House to talk with a new patient, a scared 28-year-old, only french speaking patient. I watched as the fear left her eyes as she understood that these nuns and these people truly cared for her and she would not be harmed again. That student intern, who is a Muslim, came into this very Catholic home and spoke of God's love for this young woman and how He would care for her through the sisters. She is a saint. I thought of my friend Audrey, a foster care supervisor in Athens, who bears the weight of the world on her shoulders to care for children (and for me). She is a saint. My mom, praying for her son in war, preparing to live in a house totally alone for the first time in her life when her husband leaves soon- a saint. My friend Father Tim, who prays for me and says Masses for my patients, a saint. My friend Shannon, who sends a birthday card to just about everyone she knows, a saint. My sister, asking me to donate to PETA (only for her!), a saint. My husband, endlessly forgiving, always calling me to prayer when I am angry or sad- a saint. My dad-answering his cell phone every time I call, even if he is 10 feet under a fire truck, a saint. My friend, Space, ready to give up everything to accept God's call to go to Africa- a saint. My father-in-law, loving me with such tenderness, a saint. The GSU student, whose meeting I was a half an hour late for last week, who let me have a diet coke and a slice of pizza before I talked about social work to her class, even though I was late, a saint. My co-worker who brought in milk duds today, a day when I need the sweets, a saint.

And while I didn't start today off like a saint, letting fear and lack of faith, and pouting put me in a mood that milk duds can barely touch, I will spend the rest of the day with my eyes wide open, looking for areas that, like a saint, I can show Jesus' love in some small way. Because, isn't that what saints were/are, just normal people who are willing to let Christ's light shine through them, people who set aside their own needs, wants, insecurities, frustrations, neuroses, and allow God to work through them? God knows it's not easy, but nothing is more important.

While today is the feast of All Souls,; it so happens that tomorrow is the feast of another great Saint, Saint Martin de Poors, patron saint of African Americans, social justice and barbers ;) :)

"In 1962, Pope John XXIII remarked at the canonization of Martin: "He excused the faults of others. He forgave the bitterest injuries, convinced that he deserved much severer punishments on account of his own sins. He tried with all his might to redeem the guilty; lovingly he comforted the sick; he provided food, clothing and medicine for the poor; he helped, as best he could, farm laborers and Negroes, as well as mulattoes, who were looked upon at that time as akin to slaves: thus he deserved to be called by the name the people gave him: 'Martin of Charity.'"


A look how things have changed

October 19, 2009

The below post was written in August 2007. I had just broken up with a long time boyfriend and was really struggling to stand firm in what I knew was the right decision, despite how hard it was. So I transplanted this post and it makes me smile. How fast life can change!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Piccadilly Perspective

So life is a little difficult right now. Not child with cancer difficult. Not hurricane destruction difficult. Not even sick with the flu difficult. Just making good but painful decisions difficult. Anyway,life is just requiring a little extra energy to do the things I'm supposed to do. Like get my oil changed...

So to save a few bucks, I took my Precision tune online coupon 15 miles out of my way for the oil change. Rather than sit inside (afterbusiness hours with hungry looking albeit nice boys), I walk half a block where there are about 12 fast food restaurants and, whoa, a Piccadilly.

I don't really love Piccadilly. My mom LOVES Piccadilly. I'm feeling a little sad so I think, in honor of mom, I will go to Piccadilly and do as she does. I'll order my starch filled plate, sweet tea and sit down with a book. Today, Pearl, about a college student who chains herself in Ireland at the U.S.Embassy on a hunger strike. So, kind of down in the dumps but proud to spend the afternoon as my sweet ma would do, I read my book and chow down on my 12 (overly) fried shrimp for 7.99. It doesn't seem to be having the same effect it has on my mom. I feel lonely and grumpy.

And then I see two sweet men, had to be at least 80 years old each. I decide they are old WWII buddies. I decide they go to church each week and go to Sunday school together and weekly have a Piccadilly night. Senior discount. Since they have been friends for 60 years, they don't even have to chat. Just eat their fried fish and country fried steak and enjoy having a friend.

I'm going to the NC Mountains this weekend with my college girlfriends. They are fantastic women. And since I've chosen to make my life difficult right now, these ladies will remind me of the wonderful joys in my life. And in 60 years, we'll sit at a cafeteria (maybe not Piccadilly, I wouldn't recommend it. Sorry mom!) and we'll eat fried something, and unlike the man friends here tonight, we'll probably have cake too. And unlike the men, we will need to chat. Probably about our trip to the mountains in 2007.

While the fried shrimp was not quite what you get from crab shack in Savannah and while the sweet tea could send a diabetic to the ER, I am glad I thought of my great mom and went to Piccadilly. Cause I got to see the two best man friends from WWII and think of my best lady friends who will sustain and laugh with me when we are 80.

To my own little support group, I cannot wait to see your faces in 3 days, finish off absurd amounts of cheap wine and play Outburst from dusk till dawn. And to my ma, who taught me that dinner with a book by yourself can be just the ticket, thanks man! You all are the sunshine creeping throught the clouds

this is a photo of Chrissie, Space, Weschler and I the weekend I referred to in that post. I did not tell the girls that I had broken up with the boy but just let myself be with them. It was the most healing thing in the world.
And this is us, plus a few other amazing ladies, September 12, 2009, just at 2 years later, at my bachelorette party, celebrating my upcoming marriage.
Who knew, sitting in Piccadilly, that two short (sometimes long) years later, I'd end up here...

Who are WE that WE get THEM? -

October 14, 2009

So, our Missionaries of Charity friends could not be at our wedding. Despite many requests by the ladies in their home for a "ROAD TRRRIP!!!" the ladies and the nunlets stayed at home and gifted us with their prayers. However, they did request that we come to a special Mass in our honor when we returned home.

And a special Mass it was. Monday morning, 7am, in the pouring rain, Ross and I trekked down 75 to the Gift of Grace house. In the tiny convent chapel that holds their daily masses, we walked in surprised to see the ladies (patients) from the house awake, dressed, and waiting for us. I hugged their shoulders and thanked them for getting up in the dark and walking over to the convent in the rain just for us. Even our V, who no longer lives at the house but spent Sunday night there just to be there for our Mass.

On the chalkboard where the readings and music selections are written were the beautifully written words, "Congratulations Ross and Keri." Our sweet Irish priest friend said a Mass, encouraging us in our walk as man and wife, using Holy Scripture to guide us. During the prayers of the faithful, the sisters prayed aloud for us, for our marriage and our love. I slid my arm into Ross's, leaned my head on his shoulder, and wondered how in the Lord's name I got so lucky.

After Mass the sisters and the ladies huddled in the teeny tiny entryway as the rain poured outside. They gave us 2 rosaries that their friend Fr. Tim brought back from Calcutta, beautiful MC blue rosaries that had touched the tomb of Mother Teresa while he was there. They wrote a gorgeous card, with a prayer for families written by Mother Teresa herself, a beautiful prayer, written so simply and so honestly. Ross received a St. Joseph medal, one of his favorite saints for his devotion to family and I received a Miraculous Medal, blessed by Mother Teresa when she came to the house in 1995. Sweet Sister Brunetta, knowing my great desire for children (and admitted fear that medical issues will prevent them) gave me this medal that she believes helps women conceive. Then the ladies happily presented their gift from Kirklands home store. The sweet ladies picked out a candle holder of Mary holding baby Jesus. It is slightly large :) but precious, the way Jesus has his little hand cupping the side of Mary's face so gently. When I asked who picked it up, our smart aleck friend A, who is blind, joked, "I picked it out!!" We all laughed and hugged. And for the rest of the day, R and I remarked on how humbled we felt. Who are we that WE get THEM?

I think I have mentioned this before on here and poor R has heard it many times, but one of his many times of wisdom came many months ago when we were discussing where our church home would be. We had slightly different wish lists for our church family and couldn't find the best fit for both of us. And while I think we all get waay too caught up in trying to make church "fit us" instead of going, investing in the service, receiving the sacraments and letting grace do the work, we all want to feel at home at Church. So, I digress. Anyway, one day Ross said casually, "why don't we just stay at the Gift of Grace?" So stay we did. The ladies are no longer AIDS patients to us, they are our friends. The sisters are no longer just mysterious women of God, they are human beings, flawed and grace filled and lovely. And they are our friends as well.

And while our congregation on Sunday rarely exceeds 8 people, "where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20). Where these women, and these holy sisters and that husband are gathered, I feel so incredibly at home. Where the priest knows our name and gives us a large, beautiful Bible commentary as a wedding gift and a CD of his favorite Irish hymns (hymns he frequently breaks into during his homilies!!), we feel known and humbled and so at peace. We are truly at home.


with their permission...

moments from a wedding

October 8, 2009

Despite attempts to write a new entry, the hospital computer system had other ideas and I haven't been able to update. A good friend informed me that my last post was titled "Damn it" and we all agreed something more positive was needed. So, no diagnosis of the computer problem but it's tempermental self agreed to let me write something new today.

How do you sum up one of the most significant of your life events? How do you put into words a lifetime of hopes and dreams. Usually what I will write comes into my mind during a workout or during Mass or throughout the day. But I have yet to figure out how to articulate all that has transpired in the 40 days since I wrote about my friend in the "damn it" post. So, this post may not be organized or edited because I will only know what to write once it is on the screen.

When I think of the last five weeks, I see a slideshow of moments in my mind. Brief, yet significant memories of these amazing weeks. The short version is that September 26, 2009, I married my best friend. And during that celebration, the moments that I hope I remember forever...

getting my hair washed the morning of our rehearsal dinner, completely alone, head being massaged, thinking that I needed to be more diligent about finding moments of solitude

the week prior, constantly praying a part of a prayer we say at Gift of Grace "shine through us and be so in us...that every sould we come in contact with may feel your presence in our soul. Easily prayed this 200 times over the week (in attempts not to strangle mom or get anxious)

rehearsal dinner and my first of a few anxious moments, can't remember why, but a bridesmaid/forever friend came up and said "do we need to pray?" My college girlfriends and I went to the side of the building, held hands and they each prayed for me, for me not to feel like I had to make anyone happy or entertain anyone, for me to feel peace. Ross later said he asked if I was okay and my dad said " I think so, she's smiling." I was smiling.

the sweet toasts given to us at our rehearsal dinner, my best friends recounting memories of our years together, Ross's sister's toast about "being done" with Ross if he didn't marry me ;)

the morning of our wedding, pouring rain, anxiety welling up in me as I sat outside the bridal store waiting on the rain to stop so I could go inside and pick up my dress. I called the Gift of Grace house. Nearing tears, Sister Brunetta, Sister Sylvia, Sister Maria Jose and each of the ladies got on the phone with sisterly excitement and joy and then sang "Happy Wedding Day to you." Tears ceased, peace filling my heart as those ladies I love re-inserted perspective

the moment I realized the rainstorm was not going to pass and near tears again (a chaotic friend coming in the room didn't help). Then comes my lifelong best friend and she begins running the show. She found passage ways under the church so noone had to walk in the rain. She found a place for the guys to stay out of the rain (no groom's room at the Cathedral). She walked/ran 5 miles in heels to and from the top of the church to the bottom. She knew the church, knew the layout, knew the crazy bride. She was perfect.

taking individual pictures with bridesmaids in the basement chapel of the Cathedral, where we had all of our high school Masses. Thinking I would HAVE to send in a picture to our high school newsletter, despite the great need for some interior decorating.

posing with each friend and then my childhood BFF comes up and we can't pose. We immediately cry/laugh, forehead to forehead, smiling. I pray the photographer captured the moment well.

moments before we walked into the church, my bridesmaids, the women in my family and my dear priest friend Fr. Tim prayed in the foyer. Precious memory

Shortly after, again, little butterflies coming on, and my Uncle Philip puts his hands on my shoulders and tells me how much I am loved. Butterflies be gone. Peace again.

Standing in the back of the Cathedral I saw my Sister-in-law, this precious older sister for whom I prayed for as a child. She burst into tears and hugged me tight. One cannot have too many sisters.

Standing alone in a corner at the back of the church, praying, again realizing the great benefits of some quiet moments alone.

breaking up a fight between the three flower girls and asking the ring bearers to not sword fight with their roses. Then thinking that I hope I will be blessed enough to break up the fights of a house full of babies like these.

looking at my dad as we stood in the back of the church. Deep breath- the moment you've dreamt of forever- walking arm in arm with your daddy. Priceless. Priceless.

Seeing Ross at the end of the aisle- with a large, fixed grin- knowing it wasn't his normal smile, seeing a slight flicker of nervousness.

Remembering someone telling me to look at everyone twice as I walked down the aisle- seeing Sister Helen, our high school principal, Mrs. Garvin, our church organist, The Dempsey's, my pseudo grandparents from the days of daily Mass in Athens, my boss, my sister Katie at the end of the aisle looking stunning, and husband.

Realizing that as we finally met each other, the nerves for both of us were gone. We were where we belonged, on the altar.

Standing on the altar trying to "pretty smile" (versus my big, no holds bar smile in which one eye closes and my teeth buck out like a horse) but then convincing myself to smile naturally, buck teeth and all.

Hearing the same organ that I sang with for years of christmas Candelight concerts at SVA play my favorite hyms. Walking over to the blessed Mother's altar with Gentle Woman in the background. I was as excited to hear that beautiful song as I was to pray in thankgiving for her blessings.

trying to get my sister's attention to straighten out my train and veil as we kneeled. She never got my drift but I'm sure the video will make me laugh.

Hearing Fr.Tim's perfect homily about marriage and holiness and being a "Power couple" for Christ. Hearing him mention my brother's attendance from Afghanistan and that my grandmother married here in 1946. Looking over to see my grandmother beaming and looking around to make sure everyone saw her. I half expected her to do the Queen of England wave she was so proud and happy.

Realizing that a fear I always had that my elderly grandmother would not be there and thanking God that this woman I adore watched me get married.

Listening to the prayers of the faithful that we wrote and realizing how personal they were and how happy I was that our hearts were shown through those words.

Thinking that noone could have read the words more perfectly than our dear friend Streppa.

Wanting to run out of the church at the end to Joyful Joyful we Adore thee I was so happy.

Drinking a cold beer as friends tried unsuccessfully to bustle my dress in front of the church. Realizing that I was not being a very good example of the Christian bride as I had a beer on the steps of the church with friends under the back of my dress.

Riding on the trolley with our closest friends and family and thinking that the trolley was one of Ross's great suggestions.

Walking into the reception and wondering how my mom and sister pulled off such a beautiful party. I never, in my wildest, wildest, craziest dreams, thought we could have such a nice wedding period, much less on a reasonable budget (yes it was a reasonable budget dad and I'm VERY glad we didn't go across the river to get married!!)

Seeing the room FULL of people, realizing I was crazy to think that I'd walk in and no one would have shown up.

Dancing with my dad. Precious, precious memory.

Walking around talking to guests. Thinking that this is what I dreaded most- small talk but realizing that I LOVED it. It donned on me that I LOVED the people in that room- all the people I loved most in the world were there. I wanted to talk to them all- to look in their eyes and pray that they could see my gratitude and humility that they were there for us.

Holding my friend's baby, something I'd dreamt of doing since she found out she was pregnant and I got engaged.

making a Cory sandwich with my friend and her sweet husband. His face in the picture is hilarious.

Wondering why all of a sudden I was handed a cow bell and making a mental note to tell Ross I didn't approve- but never remembering to tell him! Then thinking that my friend's husband Stu and pediatrician extraordinaire was made to play the cowbell.

Seeing that there was not a square inch on the dance floor where someone wasn't dancing. Realizing that Ross's one big request was worth every penny. And dad, the human checkbook, agreed!

Seeing my reserved, quiet, wallflower sister boogie dance with my mother. Realizing it was funny and disturbing at the same time.

Watching my father-in-law dance like absolute crazy and feeling so happy that he was celebrating so hard with us.

Tasting my sister's cake and making another mental note to have her bake it for me every year on my birthday. Lemon cake with lemon curd- whatever curd is, I like it. alot.

Seeing my brother, so handsome in a tux, so thankful he was there.

Watching my grandmother tap her foot from the safety of her chair, just smiling at her family.

Receiving communion with my husband for the first time. Also dropping tears for the first time, my lifelong dream of taking communion with my husband fulfilled.

Letting my sweet, crazy Annie drag me to the cake table to see two chuck-e-cheese ice cream cakes. Half appaled, half laughing hysterically at my parent's fulfilling my childhood desire to have a chuck-e-cheese ice cream cake at my wedding. Hilarious that they remembered, though the plastic Chuck-E face kind of gives me nightmares.

Seeing my mom and dad, so sweet and in love with each other, feeling like our wedding was my favorite party in the world and thanking them for sacrificing so much to throw an amazing wedding.

Hearing older couples tell us how beautiful the ceremony was- being so happy to hear that because the ceremony was so prayerfully planned and so important to us. Happy that our desire for our faith and our hearts to shine through was honored.

Getting the hotel and realizing that my sister and Kat struck again, packing us food and champagne. DEVOURED the lukewarm mac-n-cheese that I had to have there as my brother's favorite food just in case he was able to come (back when we didn't think he would be there). p.s. ungrateful little butt still said Grandma's was better. Even if he was right.

Dancing, for the first time as a wife, wrapped so safely in those arms and thinking that life doesn't get any better.

Okay there are sure to be more and I will add them as we go. I just wanted to get these memories down on paper. We are now safely home from a honeymoon that was perfection. Oh my gosh it was amazing. Sorry if I bored you to tears but like the engagement post, this one is for my kids one day!

Damn it.

August 31, 2009

It can happen so fast. You can wake up feeling amazing, confident in your day, grateful for your many, many blessings, ready to take the world head on. A full night’s sleep, a good workout, hearing someone say ‘I love you’ and you are out the door.

And then the world can slap you in the face. My heart is so heavy right now. Talking with a patient, a doctor friend came into the room and asked me to step out. “have you heard about patient x?” (Patient X being someone I’ve blogged about, someone who can simultaneously make me pull my hair out strand by strand and hug her sweet neck, someone who I wanted so, so, so badly to make it in the world.)

Patient X just came into the ICU and died. She is 30 years old. I worked with her family when I was in Athens. With her many, many admissions to the hospital, I have often reflected on how different our lives were. Her mother drank when she was pregnant with her. My mother ate loads of watermelon. Her mother hit. Mine didn’t. Her mother sent her into foster care. My mother sent me to cheerleading camp. Her neighbors pimped her out in elementary school. My neighbor let me help her plant those elephant ear plants. Her high school boyfriend gave her HIV. Mine gave me flowers. Her late twenties have been spent on a dialysis machine while spending the night on the street. Mine have been spent planning a wedding and taking trips with friends.

See, to the outside world, she is a crackhead. She is one of those who “abuse the system.” To me, she is a little girl whose mother I met in a former job and with whom one meeting 5 years ago explained the girl I came to meet at this hospital. To the outside world, she is someone who makes us roll up our windows and lock our doors in downtown Atlanta. To me, she is vulnerable and scared and has been victimized from the minute she could breathe. Everyone has a story. Every "bum," every "welfare case" has a story.

No one gets where they are on their own. I’ll let someone else write a post about personal responsibility. And then my rebuttal will be about how you have to have been taught morals, values and good decision making skills to be ABLE to be responsible. This kid didn’t stand a chance in the world. And my heart breaks today. Because she died alone, with a nice black and blue bruise on her face from the boyfriend I’ve tried for years to get her to leave. Because not a freaking person in her massive family an hour away will even come to get her death certificate. Because instead of being buried with ‘On Eagles’ Wings,’ she gets a county burial. I’ll spare you what a county burial is. Just buy life insurance. Trust me.

I am sad because I tried so so so so so hard to help her. Somedays I got angry with her. One doctor even told me I was getting callous toward her. I told her it was tough love. And it was, truly. "I am NOT trying to have you die on me, T" was a phrase I uttered over and over again. She didn't listen. She couldn't listen. And I am sad. I am sad she died alone. I am sad for what I'm sure transpired before she died. And I'm sad that my big ole social working 'self couldn't fix her. I wanted to really really really really badly. Like stamping my feet, fit pitching badly. It plain and simple sucks that people have to grow up and live like she did. It's not fair that I got ballet classes when she got beatings. And I got family birthday dinners when she got weekly visits from her family in foster care. Good God what I'd give to hug her neck just one more time and beg, albeit futilly, for her to let me help. After my tempter tantrum I plan to sit down and let myself absorb that hopefully she is now in a place where she doesn't need drugs to suppress memories and where she can be the beautiful woman that she is.

Big news. Huge. Big.

August 26, 2009

1. Today marks one month from the Sullivan-Ninness nuptials. While I should be getting crazy busy and nervous, I'm not. For the reason, See number 2.

2. Patrick called Monday and if all goes according to plan (p.s. not much goes according to plan with the Army but we're hopeful and prayerful), he will BE HERE FOR THE WEDDING!!!! I don't so much care about any other detail. He'll be here. Who the heck cares how many slow songs the band plays.

3. God is good. SO DANGED FLIPPING GOOD. Thank you, sweet, sweet Jesus for hearing so many prayers and letting our family be together. Guess you got tired of listening to me yap about it :)

4. I have nothing eloquent to say so here are loads of pictures from the last few weeks of fun!

The old lady in the house, Holly with dad's father's day gift, Radar. and YES. the sullivan's needed another cotton pickin' animal.

Elizabeth, baby K (yes there is only one baby in there), Chrissie, Nat (baby S) and Weschler. 4 beautiful bridesmaids.

my moms and sisters

the whole gang

The big bad soldier getting beaten up by a bunch of girls.

                   big bad soldier boy with his mama and daddy

the little cousins and big cousins