Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Gives?

My friend Elizabeth has been sending me posts by Betty for awhile now. I usually read them, smile, think 'that's awesome!' and go on my merry way. Tonight I sat with glass of wine in hand, turned off the trainwreck that is Skating with the Stars tv, and read back through some of Betty's posts. Betty is a former advertising ex whose husband is the president of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. At a crossroads in her life and with a recent inheritance in her hand, she decided to give away a $100 a day for 365 days. She has clearly done her homework and has a great blend of local, grass roots organizations and international large scale philanthropies. As a disclaimer, I wouldn't choose every organization she chose and don't agree with everything she says. But the idea?  In the words of my high school pal Amy, me loves.

And folks, that got me thinking (go ahead and fall off of your chair in surprise.) With the budget tightening, today I found myself getting creative with the term "tithe" as I took one of my young Gift of Grace buddies to lunch. I told Ross that when he saw our lunch on the card to classify it as our tithe for the month. (p.s. Betty is a member of my 2nd all time favorite place to attend Mass on the planet and gives a tweet-like blurb about it and her tithing to it here). Anywho, I realized that when I made the family budget for the holidays, everyone, including 5 month old baby who needs all of nada, got a column. The poor, the needy, yep- you guessed it, bleeding heart social worker left em' out. I feel like a word that starts with Jack and ends with ass. But thanks to my little outing with Marita today and reading over this blog, I'm getting to it. While I won't divulge how much we'll give (because it's pitiful), I did think about who would be getting the newest line in the budget after I return some the of the crap said 5 month old does not need).

And in no particular order~

Obviously these folks, the Missionaries of Charity. They live in my 1st most favorite place to worship and love my daughter like their own (and clearly embarrass and aggravate her as their own too). But more than that, they care for women dying of HIV/AIDS. Their love, compassion, and commitment to prayer and service is unmatched as far as I have ever seen.

Next, I am going to dig out the card I threw in the recycle bin from the humane society of cobb county. I am not an animal lover. But I gave my child a name that honors St. Francis of Assisi and my little sister is an avid animal lover whose first inclinations toward service were toward 4 legged creatures. Per my mom's request, I ensured that this is a "no-kill" shelter and will consider this my gift to the Monster (since as a bad animal mother, there are no bones under the tree for him).

My next meager check goes to Operation Hungry Child. This is a fab grass roots organization started by friends from Savannah. They use one of my most favorite hobbies, reading, to help my most favorite people, lil' babes. This is also special to me because my child is clearly in a month long growth spurt and is alwaaaaays wanting to eat. While I am most happy to oblige her, I ache thinking of the kids whose cries for hunger go unheeded.

This next one is kind of already accounted for but is something Ross and I are excited about. For years, students of many faith traditions have had awesome ministries to nurture and grow them during college. Young Life, Campus Crusade For Christ, Hillel, and others have given college students a place to worship and pray, hang out and play.  While I wouldn't ever trade what I gained from those ministries in college, I am pumped to say that the Catholics are jumping on board! Fellowship of Catholic University Students has been around for a few years but is really taking off and we are so excited to attend their conference this year to learn more about how to support the great work they are doing. This guy below has brought FOCUS to Georgia for the 1st time and tons of Georgia Southern students are blessed because of Him. (photo posted without permission :)

And lastly, because my husband is running out of money, I am giving money to my friend Audrey. I met Audrey when I worked at the Department of Family and Children Services in Athens. My job was to investigate child abuse and, in the worst cases, remove children from their homes, leaving them in a foster home. This was heart-wrenching in every case and made more awful by knowing that this happened to my own mom time and again. Audrey was a foster care worker whose job it was to ensure those kids were safe in the foster homes and to work for permanent families, either their own (ideally) rehabiliated or adoptive homes. Long after I ran like hell left that job, she is still there, still working her crazy butt off. And since I am not comfortable sending a random check to the state office, I am officially giving Audrey an I.O.U. for a check to go toward some project or need Athens' foster kids may have. I trust her not to buy wine with it.

So, I guess that's as good a Christmas post as you're gonna get. I love to hear about organizations or causes that folks love so if you feel so inclined, tell me where you'd send your check if you knew how to forge your husband's signature on his checkbook like I do :)

Merry Christmas !

Thursday, December 16, 2010

graceful and grateful

Tonight (the same night as I wrote the previous post begging my child to cut me some slack), I was nursing our girl. Each evening I do this, I think of a post Rachel wrote when her girl was young. She said she used the constant nursing as time to pray. Some nights I do, as well, other nights I play word mole on R's phone. But tonight he was gone and I was feeling reflective. See, my husband is sitting in a Minneapolis airport waiting to come home, after arriving there at 3 am today. He called tonight and I gave him the low-down of our fussy afternoon. I wasn't complaining (like most days), just talking. But as I fed MK, I thought of the last few months. We all know how unexpectedly challenging they were for me. I recently wrote a post on marriage but it remains in the draft box thinking it may be too personal, even for me. A small bit of it was about needing my husband to understand just how hard this new 'job' is. I have been concerned, sometimes justifiably, sometimes not, that R sees this job as a woman's dream, the biggest blessing in the world with no reason for angst or frustration. And I've been hell bent on making sure he knows it is as hard or harder than his paying job. While dinner may be on the stove and I may even have lipstick on, you better believe he gets spewed on with the bad of the day. I think that I have not been willing to share the joyous parts because I need him to understand the bad parts. The damage there has been that by not sharing the joys, I haven't reflected on them myself and have let the bad days erase the greatness of the good days.

So feeding gal tonight, I let myself choose the joy over the difficulty of the past few hours. I don't need to tell y'all of the blessings of being at home with your babe. But I needed to remind myself how freakin' awesome it is to see her reach out to Monty for the first time, to squeal at the Christmas lights, to eat her first bite of rice cereal like it is filet mignon, to hear her first laughs and her glass shattering squeals, to get to smother her in kisses for more than an hour in the morning and evening. I sat in that rocker and let myself think of all the good. And (hello sherlock) it felt so much better than thinking about how she cried for the last two hours. I started thinking that even if Ross does think that these days at home are all rasberry kisses and mother-daughter bonding, that's okay. Because it feels better to feel grateful.

I thought too about my conversation with Ross earlier.  I thought about how much I would hate to fly out of Atlanta at midnight into a blizzard, arrive at 3 am, be in a meeting by 8 and be back in the airport a few hours later only to be delayed again. And what did my husband want to tell me about his day? Not the snow, the frigid temps, not driving in weather he's never driven in, not his 4 hour nights sleep. He wanted me to know how amazing his omelet was at the continental breakfast at the Hilton. If that man can focus on the awesomeness of an omelet, surely I can find some positivity in my day at home with my favorite butterball on the earth. And I did tell him about the good. I spared him the gory details of the last few hours and told him how cute his kid was. For a quick minute, I felt graceful. What a refreshing feeling that was.

I guess the take-a-way for this overly analytical gal is that it just feels better to express gratitude and interact with my husband with grace. He may think I have the easiest job in the world. And that's okay (I'll leave him with her Saturday and he'll see. Or maybe he won't. Y'all know she'll be on her best, sweetest, cuddliest behavior with dad). The job will be a little easier if I remind myself that it may be challenging, but it really is the best job in the world.

To my husband, thank you for working your freezing tail off for us. Thank you for wanting to sacrifice the new car and the bigger house and the SEC championship ticket to give our family this great gift. To Rachel, thank you for the reminder to pray as I rock that little girl, opening the door for the holy spirit to inspire me toward grace and gratitude.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dear. Sweet. Precious. Daughter.

In the words of Uncle Jesse, "Have merrrrrcy."

It is 5:45 pm. Your dad will not be home until after midnight and is gone again tomorrow night.  We HAVE to work together. Mom has given you rice cereal, nursed you, put orajel on your baby gums, given you tylenol, and has now resorted to Baby Einstein- WHICH ISN'T WORKING?! Darling, why are you the one baby on the planet earth who will not watch and listen to the soothing lullabies of Mozart?? Remember how I said that I kind of love the "Louisa Kate" brand of fire-cracker-ness? I lied. I am so sorry for lying. Tonight, and until your dad is back in action, I need you not to be a fire-cracker. Tonight, I need you to be malleable, compliant, easy-going (can't even keep a straight face writing 'easy-going' about you, m'love). But could you please throw your mother a bone here. I cannot nurse you any longer or I might cry. And I really don't want to pour that 2nd glass of wine. I know walking you outside would do the trick but kiddo, it's 30 degrees. And your face is chapped to hades and back so that would likely make you cry more later. I am so sorry your mouth hurts and you miss your dad and you just don't feel good. I have a lot of compassion for you, truly. It's just that my head hurts and I miss your dad and that makes it hard to come up with new ways to distract you from your fussiness. So, like I said, Have Mercy on your mama.

I need you to go from feeling like this....

to feeling all happy about your double chin-ness.

thanks. love mom.

P.S. you are sooo going to bed early. after which I am sooo pouring that next glass of wine.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Five Fabulous Months

well...okay...maybe 2 fabulous months. The first 3 were kind of hellacious. But some things to remember about our girl this month~

  • you are leaps and bounds more fun than you used to be. You are waking up to the world so much more and are pure entertainment. THIS is what people meant when they assured me all those times that things would get better. Right they were.
  • we held off on rice cereal because mom is lazy, but are starting this weekend so your me-maw and aunt Katie can witness the momentous occasion. (I'm kind of nauseated even writing that but I guess the first time a kid tastes mush is important!)
  • you notice Monty more and more which is cute. He licks you for a split second and runs to his one ally in the house- dad. I can say that the best thing about that shedding, toilet paper eating, shedding, licking, jumping beast is that I know y'all will be best buds.
  • your attention span is notsofabulous and you grow bored with one of the 200 pieces of baby equipment we have. Hence the need for 200 pieces of baby equipment.
  • you are totally teething. This means three things. 1) aquafor is now bought in bulk for your chapped, drooled on face. 2) lansinoh is bought in bulk. nuff said. 3) the 8 weeks we had of you sleeping through the night are over. I do indeed hate teeth. I love your gummy smile and it can stay that way until you are 40 if you sleep through your achy gums.
  • you are still exclusively breastfeeding even though I can admit this is becoming a struggle- for a few reasons, the least of which is above. We'll keep trudging along though because you are growing great and, while it may not be related, you get over a cold in 24 hours and are healthy and active again (just in time for mom to have caught that cold that takes her 200 hours to get over)
  • your best "nap" of the day is now around 1pm and usually starts while we're driving home from whatever activity got mom out of the house for the day. While I love this nap, I almost think you contrive it. Because, see, I don't dare take you out of the car. So I leave you in there and either sit on the porch or do chores inside. The time with you asleep is great but going out to check on you every 10 minutes kind of defeats the purpose of that nap (lest you think it's for your own rest and growth- it's not. It's for mom's relaxation and sanity).
  • you are opinionated (don't blame me. I'm sure it's not from your genes since everycottonpickingpersoninbothmomanddad'sfamily has the same "problem." But like I've said before, I kind of like having a daughter who will be assertive and sure of what she wants.
  • this 'opinionatedness' got you kicked out of MOPS childcare this week. Your first school expulsion. How cute! Now, a little background here. Mom is the coordinator for childcare for all the mothers of preschoolers meetings. One of the workers called out sick so I told the remaining workers not to hesitate to come get a mom if one of the babes was just not having a good day. The first (and only) mom to be called out?? Yep, that's me. Punk.
  • You are now rolling over every which way. I'm glad I finally realized you can easily roll from back to front and have stopped coming to get you when you scream during your nap from flipping yourself over to your back. You shouldn't have let me in on the secret that you are perfectly capable of getting back to your tummy. Game over kid.
  • You still love dad- and I don't just say that because every mom is supposed to affirm the dad and all. You love the guy and smile and smile at him. This is especially cute when I have complained that you have fussed from 4-6:30 and then you smile from 6:30 (when he gets home) until bed, making mom look like a drama queen.
  • Your 1st Christmas is approaching and I'll admit that with the cold you gave me and the business of life, I was tempted to get a table top pink tree and be done with it. I didn't (because your aunt Roo would murder me) but we are excited to celebrate the season with you. I'm proud to say that our tree is not yet up but our advent wreath is sittin' pretty. I sooo look forward to the coming years of making Christmas all about Jesus for you and celebrating his big birthday with you.
  • I'm sure there's more but the fed ex man just left something on the porch and I need to go outside before he calls DFCS about the baby in the car. I will just leave it on this note kid- never, ever, ever question God's plan for your life. Because what He will give you will be far and away better than any plan you could have for yourself. I couldn't have dreamed a more perfect child for me and couldn't have dreamed I could ever, ever love a non-napping, biting, poopy, drooly little chicken more.
Some photos from your 5th month~~

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Whatever you do for THEM, you do for HIM

and whatever you do to them, you do to Him. And however you love them, you love Him. These were the words spoken during a wonderful Mass tonight commemorating World AIDS Day. Archbishop Gregory, one of the greatest speakers I've ever heard, put a different spin on Matthew 25.  Just prior to Mass, folks were asked to write the names of people they knew who have died on a banner. I wrote...and wrote...and continued to write the first names of patients I'd seen over the years at Grady.  As Archbishop spoke, a slideshow of faces went through my mind. The patient in a diaper, scuffling down the hallway, asking me if I'd consider marrying a skinny man with AIDS, the patient who begged me to videotape her labored, dying breaths to get kids to stop using drugs, the 27-year-old with the greatest dred locks you've ever seen, the man who cried as we said a decade of the rosary after he was told he could not be operated on and would soon die, the patient whose little girl held her hand whispering to her demented mother not to be afraid, the transsexual who just asked that his nails be painted when he met St. Peter, the girl my age who drove me crazy (written about here).  I thought about my interactions with these folks. Some days, I was a good social worker, hopefully bringing some bit of help or laughter to their day. Some days I did for them what I would have done for Him. Other days, I was mediocre, stressing out over finding them a nursing home or a treatment facility or locating nexts of kin. Other days I didn't let myself see Christ in the eyes of a patient who had relapsed for the 56th time or in the face of someone demanding services that weren't available.

I don't work with HIV patients every day anymore. I miss the patients. And I really miss the folks who care for and treat the patients. I am realizing though that I do not have to work with AIDS patients to act out my faith.  I hope that I can now fill in the blank "whatever you do for ___", you do for HIM.  Whatever I do for my husband, I do for God. Whatever I do for my daughter, my home, my family, my neighbor across the street..."   But I am really proud of the friends I know who treat the "least" of these.

**thinking especially of Tyler this World AIDS day. I knew Tyler in college and am not surprised at all that he has taken a terrible diagnosis and turned it into a way to educate and inspire so many!**