Friday, May 28, 2010

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends"

The Gospel of John puts what is on my heart really beautifully. It makes me think of the million little ways that friends over the years have, in some way or another, given a part of their day, their evening, their heart, their life for me. I can only attribute the richness of these blessings to God's overwhelming and incomprehensible love for me.

This love has been poured out mostly in the form of some really amazing women, giving me a deep appreciation for the value of women friendships. Any blog of mine would be remiss without some form of social commentary and I definitely have some on this topic. Few things make me more sad than hearing a teenage girl say "I am better friends with guys," or an adult say "there's too much drama with girls, I have more male friends." Lord knows there can be plenty of drama amongst us girls, but what makes me sad is what these gals who say these things are missing.

They are missing the chance to go through those sometimes awful high school years with people who truly get it. I don't know what dance this was, maybe the Daddy-Daughter dance? I see these girls and I think of so many memories- from how we managed to get beer in Isle of Hope (okay so we weren't always the best influences on each other), to riding around in Elizabeth's big buick, to sleepovers at Rozie's house, to the ebb and flow of relationships to 10 pm trips for ice cream on school nights. Had I not had these girls, I would have missed so much.

And these girls- these ladies...

I was introduced to each of these girls by Father Tim, a dear friend and someone who has come to my rescue too many times with his prayers, words of encouragement and spiritual presence. Over many years of bible studies at UGA, we cemented ourselves in each others hearts and have been there for one another through so much. We spent so many mornings at Five Points Deli, no doubt getting approving glances at our open Bibles on the tables. The irony is that half that time we were talking about boys. And Jesus too though. He is a boy :) Just the other evening I spent 2 hours drinking sweet tea (looking on longingly as they drank margaritas- see empty pitcher above) and every minute of my baby's caffeinated legs kicking me until 3 am was worth that fellowship. We each have very different lives now but the willingness to drop everything, to lay aside our own lives to help each other remains. My heart aches for the pains they have endured and continue to endure and it rejoices in their promotions, new adventures and exciting changes. What would I have missed, had I been spending all that precious time with "guy friends?"

I would have missed the chance to celebrate big life transitions with the ones I love most. Watching your friends become mamas might be one of the greatest joys in life. In the first photo above, two of us are pregnant and Natalie is holding that amazing baby boy. I think of the times in my life where these girls have dropped their lives to come be beside me in mine. They have time and time and time again, laid down their lives for mine??!!   I don't pretend to get that. The middle photo could be of any number of trips to Shirley Ridge, this HAVEN we have been gifted to use by the Shirleys. I think that trip was my first time introducing Ross to these girls who he, too, would come to love. And the last photo, well, I need to find a way to edit it and grasp what is really happening. And it is signficant (otherwise I would not be posting a picture where my backside is in focus). At the beginning of my rehearsal dinner, a few things had gone wrong. And any bride knows that no matter how inconsequential, those things going wrong can make your head spin. I don't know if I let a tear escape or if I cussed too loudly or what happened. But before I knew it, I was being whisked away by these ladies to the side of the building to pray. We held hands and they, one by one, prayed for my peace, for my calm, that I would not kill any person that day? Okay, maybe that was a stretch but the point was, they prayed for me. And after, I smiled, knowing that nothing that went wrong mattered. The only thing that mattered was what went right- which was preparing to marry my husband. I enjoyed the rest of my evening so much because of that perspective and it will remain one of my most treasured wedding memories.

I look back at my shutterfly albums and see these faces. We are celebrating finding our Mr. Right's,

and here, spending time with a best friend, just a year before, grieving the loss of Mr. not so right

and here, celebrating our alma mater, SVA, where many of us learned just how vital, how integral, these girlfriends would be.

To such sweet friends, thank you for every, single time you have laid down whatever was going on in your life for me. Thank you for answering the phone instead of letting it go to voice mail. Thank you for sharing your advice on how to get through a pregnancy. Thank you for pouring that next glass of wine and offering me your prayers. Thank you for trusting me with your heart and needing me, sometimes as much as I need you. If little Ninness is a girl, you can bet she will have many aunties to complain about her mama to and she will grow up knowing the gift that is a good girlfriend. And if little Ninness is a boy, he will be taught to be cautious about a girl who doesn't have these kinds of friendships and will be taught to make sure that if she does have these friends, he is always in their good graces!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Celebrate the sameness, appreciate the differences

Last night two of my favorite old Bible Study friends and I went to see "Babies", the new documentary.

Y'all, it was precious. It was a short film but had me thinking long after I left. First, I was glad I went with the girls. There were a whole lotta bubbies in that movie. Secondly, I thought, I American babies should not wear diapers like Namibian babies because those little behinds are so flipping cute.

Really though, I have spent some time thinking about color/culture blindness and whether or not it is even a good idea to 'not see' color. In graduate school, I had to argue for or against inter-racial adoption and was surprised to find I had feelings for both arguments. In the end, I came to realize that color/culture has nothing to do with how a child feels love or nurturing, but should not be ignored. There is a lot that is beautiful about how different we are.

From this movie, I celebrated the differences in how other cultures nurse their children so much longer, out of necessity for nutrition and as a cultural norm. Ross- no worries babe, I don't plan to breastfeed until he/she is in preschool, but I won't say other cultures have it wrong here either. I can also appreciate the work ethic that children in Mongolia and agricultural areas have from the youngest of ages. Those sweet babies do not have music class Monday, swim lessons Wednesday and Mothers Morning out on Fridays (not knocking it at all, esp MMO :)) but think there's something to be said for children learning to entertain themselves and for being a part of the family work from babies.

I also marveled at the sameness of God's creations. Each of these babies was most quickly soothed by their mama's skin. Each was made to laugh most easily by their mother's kisses on their tiny necks. Each had the same adorable waddle as they learned how to walk. Each learned to hit another child to get what they wanted and to cry for attention. And each one of their smiles made me so happy that God made me a woman. To be a part of creating one of those little beings is a miracle I cannot comprehend.

After watching that movie, I feel like the world is a little smaller. As mamas, we each have the difficult tasks of feeding our children, educating them, cuddling them when they need it and knowing when to let them learn on their own without the safety of our arms. I am humbled by the task and today, I am 101% giddy that this most difficult job soon gets to be mine!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Love me, anyway

Dear Little one,

I wrote you a letter a little while back, around 20 weeks, and while I thought about blogging it, I kept it to myself. It was pretty raw and really not for the world wide web. But I haven't written directly to you since then and wanted to do so. This coincided with your dad encouraging me to not be afraid of writing about heavier, more substantive topics. So, here's the down and dirty. I have wanted to have a baby for a thousand years. Years of medical issues had me convinced this wouldn't happen biologically. The blessing there is that over the years I came to adore the idea of fostering and adopting and am very open to that happening for our family one day. But I didn't need to be afraid. God decided I needed you, and maybe, you needed me.

So, here we are, 31 weeks into sharing a body space, and I am supposed to be 100% giddy, grateful, zen, peaceful, humble, gracious, fill in the blank. And since the reality is that some days I am 90% those things, and other days 50% those things, I feel a little guilty. But one day you may become a parent. And whether you are the incubator like me or the man supporting the incubator like dad, I think it's okay to be real here. So, without further ado, a list of the reasons I love you anyway.

Even though every day of the last 31 weeks I have felt like acid is being poured into my esophagas for most of the day, I love you anyway.

Even though I got a buy one get one free deal, a bump on the front and a bump on the back, I love you anyway.

Even though I have researched horse tranquilizers to quell the raging hormones that have put your dad on his knees, I love you anyway

Even though I haven't slept through the night since November, I love you anyway.

Even though I pee 426 times a day and 720 times a night, I love you anyway.

Even though you have discovered my ribcage and use it to a) prevent me from taking deep breaths b) stop me from eating the last 12 bites of cheesecake and c) practice your kickboxing skills, I love you anyway.

Even though my face looks like I swallowed a basketball, I love you anyway.

Even though my previously rock hard  lower abs (if I do say so myself) were very strong and now they stretch, cramp, pull, stab, and twist trying to hold you up, I love you anyway.

Even though I have not felt the energy (will power??) to step foot in a gym since we found out about you, I love you anyway.

Now, little person, to be fair, I hope that you will forgive me the following, and maybe love me anyway too.

Even though I may have given you my sugar addiction by feeding you too much junk, I hope you will love me anyway.

Even though I am awwwful about giving you enough water each day (does the water in sweet tea count?) I hope you will love me anyway.

Even though you have already heard me wail and cry and yell at poor dad in hormonal craziness, I hope you will love me anyway.

Even though I have spent hours in target bemoaning sizes and shapes and cost of dressing this bump and have sometimes lost sight of the fact that this bump is actually YOU living and breathing inside of me, I hope you love me anyway.

Even though it may take us a minute to get to know one another once you are born and the connection might not be instantaneous, I hope you love me anyway.

Even though the connection may be immediate and I may refuse to let anyone else hold you, I hope you love me anyway.

Even though I am a bazillion times less adventurous and energetic than your dad, I hope you will love me anyway.

Even though I have not read one pregnancy book cover to cover and have skipped over all scary parts in the ones I have perused, I hope you will love me anyway.

Even though I don't think I can do natural childbirth and am using disposable diapers, I hope you will love me anyway.

Even though childbirth class stressed me out and I am a little afraid of being physically connected at all times with breastfeeding, I hope you will love me anyway.

Even though I don't pray often enough, eat healthy enough, exercise diligently enough, tell your dad I love him enough, pet Monty enough, dust, sweep and vacuum enough, I hope you will love me anyway.

You precious little person, I hope that now begins a lifetime of us showing each other grace, forgiving each other's weaknesses, and loving each other to absolute pieces.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

T-9 weeks

Today we are 9 weeks (give or take a week if a) Grady sends me into early labor or b) baby is stubborn like her daddy ) from meeting our little gremlin. Excited is not the word! So in celebration of our countdown, some random goings on in these last weeks as a family of 3 (must count Monty).

First, let's all sing happy birthday to the greatest brother. in the universe. no contest.

This photo was actually taken early 2009 just before Patrick's deployment. We were celebrating his 25th birthday a little early. I am so grateful to God that we are celebrating his big 26 in the United States, with him home healthy and safe. I used to laugh because in high school I dated a big, burly, line backer. Patrick, always hovering (to this day) at around 120 lbs, would offer to break his knees if he ever hurt me. Sweet guy couldn't have broken that linebacker's thumb, though I might bet on him if anyone did try to hurt his sisters. He is my little brother but has always acted as the protective, older brother. I cannot tell you how much I love this guy!

Next, let's talk about mother's day. I was at the beach with my college girlfriends and  came home to these.  My sweet dad, serving in the Middle East, sent me my first mother's day gift. Tears definitely fell.

Thank you dad, for making me feel like the most special mother to be in the world. I love you!

And in honor of mother's day, I got to practice on one of the most precious baby boys I have ever put my lips on. My great friend Natalie allowed me to steal her child at my every whim for three solid days. Holding baby T and feeling every ounce of my being love this little person who does not even belong to me was very reassuring. I know the months ahead will be challenging, but through Nat's precious boy, God affirmed that I have everything I need to be a good mother- His grace, a great example in my own mom and grandmas, a doting husband and fantastic friends who have walked this road of motherhood before me.

Speaking of doting husband! I so love these boys, bedhead and all (this pic was taken at 6:30 am before we left for the beach). I cannot wait for those arms to be holding our own child and to see Ross as a daddy. I also cannot wait to see that baby's massive smile again very soon!

Also in honor of mother's day, a great friend just gave birth to a beautiful girl! Congrats to Lisa and Scott on a gorgeous little lady. I am impatiently waiting to snuggle her and see you guys!

And lastly, just for giggles, let's compare, shall we? Exhibit A is from September 29th, in the Rum bar in St. Lucia. While the dress wouldn't pass Sister Helen's fingertip test, I was not channeling Brit Brit.  Exhibit B is from May 12th, 2010, a mere 8 months later. That dress now makes a great maternity shirt.
                                        Exhibit A                                                                                      
                                                        Exhibit B
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited about seeing it as a dress again (with flats this time- since we're not on honeymoon anymore!) And yes, my face is cut off purposefully. Belly is not the only thing growing around here!!

So, Dr. Julia is pleased as punch with baby's progress. Mama is pleased as punch with this last weigh-in and we are excited about the coming weeks. This weekend and next we'll celebrate Patrick and Vanessa with wedding showers. Baby's Bupke (grandpa Ninness) is coming into town to continue Ross's home improvement madness. Daddy is definitely doing more nesting than mama. But that is verrry typical. Anyway- wonderful things to come! Bring on the summertime!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

National Day of Prayer

Today is National Day of Prayer. You can google it for its origins and to be honest, I have a little of Fr. Jack's cynicism on this kind of declaration, but we are channeling 'positive peggy' instead of 'negative nancy', remember?? So, I decided that to combat my sleep-deprivation, job stupidity induced bad mood, I'd make my list of prayer requests for the day.  We'll see how I feel at the end of this. Here's hoping...

  • for  a young mom with cancer. To be given the gift of beautiful babies and not be allowed to see them grow. Rip my heart out. Please Lord, heal this sweet lady.
  • for an understanding of why having children is so easy for some, and so brutal for others. It makes no sense. Please Lord, guide us each through our journeys to having a family.
  • for our military. Please Lord, comfort those who have lost, protect the ones we haven't lost, and lead the ones who make it home back into successful and positive lives. Specifically, I pray for my little brother Patrick, my friend Joey Byerly, my friend Jon Rue, my friend Katrina's close friends.
  • for this babe in my belly. I pray that the next ten weeks are marked by health and growth and a newborn capacity for bestowing grace on its very flawed mama.
  • I pray that the large sweet tea that is becoming a daily occurance doesn't produce a 10 lb baby, necessitating a c-section. Is it psychological that I think it relieves the heartburn?
  • I pray for all mothers, all ladies who want to be mothers, all mothers who have lost their children, all women who have mothered in love, that they feel affirmed, validated and at peace in their lives.
  • I pray for my weekend away with some great friends, that our time is filled with endless laughter.
  • I pray for my outlook at work, that I re-focus on my patients, on their needs, and filter out the other junk.
  • I pray for my husband, for continued patience with his wife, for success in his career, for a further deepening of his faith and for joy in his journey to becoming a dad.
  • I pray for an increase in vocations- that young men and women would hear and accept a call to service to God. I pray that today, my MC and Sisters of Mercy friends, and priests Fr. Tim, Fr. Tom, Fr. Fallon, Fr. Jack and Fr. McCarthy feel complete joy in their vocations.
  • For all the people for whom I promise to pray...and then forget to pray for. May God envelop them with love and the assurance that their prayers are heard.

I could go on, and may add them as the day continues. It feels good, to step out of myself and pray for others. If you have anything I can add to the list in my heart, feel free to say so. I'd really be happy to stop griping about dumb, little things and put a little heart into the universe!

Monday, May 3, 2010

A work in progress

As life would have it, I have gotten much practice at implementing the ideas on my last post. There were a few more mentioned in my ethics workshop, related to distorted workplace thinking. My favorites included :

~the idea that you must always enjoy the favor of your supervisor
~the idea that your unhappiness is caused by patients or "the system" and that you have little or no ability to control your emotional reactions

Through the weekend I was able to start changing how I think. I know that only through repetition and re-conditioning my stubborn brain, will I be able to change the patterns that simply don't work.

So thus far, I have remembered that whether or not my mom over-extends herself as she goes back to work post-surgery is NOT in my control. Must move on from it. I know that my mom's decisions regarding my siblings are NOT in my control (also not my business), so I must move on from it. I cannot change the unkindness of a family member, so I will whisper a prayer for them and move on. I have been on the receiving end of workplace lashing out and today, it is okay that I am not in her favor. I will do my job and not depend on accolades to do good work. I know that only I control how I feel at the end of this day and am committed to my husband seeing a new wife when I pick him up today.

I know this sounds like a bunch of psych-mumbo-jumbo but I'm sooo over being negative Nancy. I realize how ingrained our responses become, how automatic. I know that through lots of repetition and practice, I can change how I respond to people, how affected I become by their decisions and their issues.

And just because it makes me smile, some perspective from our Sunday friends...

In the most difficult of situations, these ladies smile, thank God for their blessings, and endure any hardships they face with gratitude and grace. I am so appreciative of our weekly reminder to hug a friend, offer a kind word, and take our needs straight to God.