Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thaaank You Lord for this fine day, right where we are.

There was a very off-beat song we used to sing at Blessed Sacrament. Thank you Lord for this fine day, thank you Lord for this fine day. Thaaaank you Lord for this fine day, right where we are. Thank you Lord for (insert point of gratitude) ice cream and cake. Thank you Lord for Ice cream and cake. Thank you Lord for ice cream and cake, right where we are. It was a great way to get us to understand gratitude and I have sung it with many a little one since then.

Recently, someone said something I hear a lot. "I don't get anything out of church." Sadly, it's a common claim. And while there is something to be learned from that about training pastors and preachers as good counselors and homilists (is there a class in seminary called 'how to keep them awake??'), I also briefly mentioned that maybe the first step in going to church (if you feel that pull) is going just to say thanks. Because, truly, if we all sat back and thought about what we were thankful for, just today, we'd dust off the Bible, close our eyes and whisper, "Thank you Lord, for this very fine day." (And if it happened to be Sunday, maybe we'd whisper those words in a place of worship.) I've repeated these words from Fr. Tim many times. "When you go to church and get something out of it, that's God's gift to you. When you go to church and don't really get anything out of it, that's your gift to God." Isn't that what unconditional love is? Giving even when we don't receive?

Anywho- As I am typically a walking hypocrit, I'll take today's blog to be a little gratitude journal. Feel free to reference this when I morph back into a spoiled brat in an hour or so.

Thank you Lord for last Saturday evening's Mass with grandma and mom and Katie at Blessed Sacrament. Thank you for the moment shared when Mary Kate grabbed the pearls on her great-grandmother's jacket and looked up at her. GGma looked down at MK and in her not-so-good inside voice said "you are beautiful, so, so beautiful." Watching two of my favorite girls share that moment, watching my daughter sit between me and my grandmother at church, it still brings tears to my eyes. Thank you Lord for special moments between generations of family.

Thank you Lord for mommy sandwiches. Each morning Ross or I go get Mk and bring her into our bed. On one side of me I have my girl, nursing, nuzzled next to me. On the other side is my husband, his head on my shoulder, arm draped over both of his gals. I would love a picture of this most special time of day. I never want to forget the feeling of literally being wrapped in love. Ross works later than most of my friend's husbands and while I hate that each afternoon, I am thankful that it affords us mornings as a family.

Thank you Lord for daddy daughter morning play time. After I feed MK, she crawls her way over to her dad and begins their morning ritual of play-time. Ross calls Monty over and MK peeks over Ross's side at the big ole beast, beaming at her big brother. Ross throws MK in the air, tickles her, talks to her. She tries to eat his nose, pull his hair and on a good day, will lay her little head on his chest for a minute. Whether I'm next to them or peeking in on them, I am so thankful that the Lord gives my daughter this time with her dad (and vice versa!)

Thank you Lord for the richness of friendships. We started the week with playing with these beautiful girls. Watching Melissa mother those 2 girls while her husband is in the middle of CPA busy season was inspiring and encouraging. Yesterday MK and I went to play with the sisters. She swung on the swing with Sr. Brunetta and chased little Moses with Sr. Anunciela. How lucky are we that they love us? Later we went to lunch with Grady friends. I loved hearing about the patients and our friends who take care of them. Then we went to our sweet Natalie and Joy Elizabeth's house. Natalie went grocery shopping for both of us while I watched the girls (very nice plan! ) MK and JE smiled at each other and I thanked God that my daughter and I both get a great friend out of the Stanfield family. Later in the evening, one of my old Team Athens friends came over for dinner. While she was technically there to talk business with Ross, we gossiped and caught up and she brought Mike and Ike's so it was wonderful.

Thank you Lord for lunches with Ross. I say this because there are some negatives to Ross's job. But since we are feelng grateful, one of the good things about this job is that it is five minutes from home and Ross can come home for lunch. So on the days MK and I aren't out and about in between her naps, we see her dad. And this beautiful weather lately has meant lunches on the patio with our favorite guy. As we start a little bit of separation anxiety, I am thankful for this extra face time with her daddy.

Thank you Lord for a healthy little girl. My heart continues to ache for  Kate McRae and for little Lucy Pittman, a doc friend's daughter.  While they battle a recurrence of brain cancer, I took my girl into the doctor this week, convinced she had an ear infection. Nope- just teeth. Thank you Lord that we have had ONE sick appointment since MK's birth nearly 8 months ago. Thank you Lord that our biggest problems are teeth and forgive me for complaining so much about them.

Thank you Lord for our home. Thankfully not as often, but envy still finds its way into my heart sometimes. I know that a bigger home means more floors to sweep and beds to make. I know that a bigger car means more money spent on gas and less spent on chick-fil-a (and that CANNOT happen).

Thank you Lord for the gift of being at home. I know it is not for everyone, but when I am the least bit tempted by envy, I think of my days at home with my girl. You could dangle a 3 story home with a finished basement, a big ole SUV in the garage, a huge backyard and a jacuzzi tub in front of my face and I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole if it meant not being at home with Mary Kate. It took a minute to get to here, but I am so, so thankful to be working in our home with our girl. Every last one of the sacrifices we are making for this to happen is worth it.

Thank you Lord for the little girl chatting from her bedroom. Writing this post on gratitude is keeping me from moaning that she took a 31 minute nap and thinking about what the rest of my day could entail from said lack of sleep. She could never take another nap and I'd love her as much (might not look like it, but I would :)

Thank you Lord for the chance to talk to St.Vincent's girls. Last week I spoke to 3 classes of junior and senior girls about HIV/AIDS and dying with dignity. Their questions were poignant, mature and compassionate. Thank you for the chance to dispel some myths, infuse them with some education and to learn from them. Thank you for the chance to go back to see Catholic school in action and to be reminded of how much I'd love to give this gift to MK.

Thank you Lord for the gift of YOU. Thank you that experiencing you through the sacrifice of the Mass, through the gift of the Eucharist, continues to bring me immeasurable peace and joy. As a plug, I will say that I think church is like exercise or enjoying a hobby, the more I invest in it, the more I do it, the more I think "how did I ever go without it?" Thank you Lord for refueling me each Sunday (and each day that I actually sit down for qt with you). I couldn't for one minute raise that little yeller without your guidance and grace.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Happy 21st birthday Aunt Roo

The baby of our family turned 21 in late January. For months we have planned a girls mountain weekend which this hate-to-stay-up-late-hate-to-party-hard girl loved! Not that we didn't party hard with mom's margaritas and 2 for $10 fish-eye wine but it was the 'in bed by 10:30' kind of partying hard. And it was lovely. I'd post more pictures of the actual time there but we didn't wear make-up or shower for most of the time so I'll protect the innocent and just show photos of the newest girl to join our girls weekends. Thanks Katie Roo, for all the love you pour into the world. Your generosity, selflessness and kindness are such a blessing to everyone who knows you. And the little ball of rolls in these photos loves you more than all of us (despite your insistence on putting her in doll strollers and grocery carts just for photo ops!)

Thank you to our dear friends, the Shirleys, for loaning us their mountain home for the weekend. This is one of many memorable weekends I have spent in this place, all so special.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Mary Kate at Seven Months

Oh sweet girl,

I cannot write this without crying today. You are seven months old at 6:59pm tonight. And that number rounds up to one-year-old and that gives me the shakes. Every last cliche about time flying (the time after the 3 month mark, that is) is true. You are my heart, little girl. As you become less a screaming newborn and more a little girl with your own personality, your dad and I talk a lot about our hopes for Mary Kate the human being.

This Sunday we were at Saturday evening Mass. You were playing on the floor in front of us as the lector read scripture from Isaiah.  "Thus says the LORD: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them,and do not turn your back on your own...If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday."

I could not have expressed my wishes for you any better. I pray that you will have a heart for anyone in need and a complete inability to close your eyes to injustice. I pray that you are pierced with compassion and filled with an energy to act. I pray that you will do as the Lord says and feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and clothe the naked.  I pray that making others smile will bring you much joy.

As we stood there in Mass, I held you and could see you smiling at the couple behind us. You babbled to them and gave them your biggest smiles. I know firsthand that a smile from a child can erase many hurts and I was proud that you were making them feel so special. Mother Teresa says "Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love." My heart warmed knowing that you have a jump start on loving others, gummy grin by gummy grin.

I have to also say that I apologized to that couple during the sign of the peace for all of your squaking. The husband smiled and said it wasn't squaking, it was music. I'll never forget that. And while your music is like your mama's, off-key and too loud, it is the most beautiful sound I have ever heard. Keep singing, my girl.

This morning we dropped dad off for a boys' ski getaway and we were hugging at the airport. He hugged me so tight and you smiled at the sight of your mom and dad in each other's arms. Dad said "she's so awesome. I hope she grows up to have your heart and my joy."

Little lady, that would be a combination. I want to share my heart for the poor with you. I hope you take that from me. But I spent too many years experiencing the sad of the world and not the happy. There is so much joy to be had and I know this is one of the reasons God sent me your dad. Dad exudes it. He is JOY. And as he does every day of your life, he will continue to show you the joy in the world. He will lay on the floor and play blocks with you and throw you in the air until you squeal. He will let you pull on Monty's hair and greet that big ole dog every morning. He will let you lay your head on his chest for the millisecond that you slow down, re-fueling for your next adventure.  My sweet girl, never turn your heart away from a person in need, but never turn it away from joy either.

As my prayers today go to a four-year-old little girl, another Kate, who is battling brain cancer, I am filled with tears for your health, your happiness, your fussiness, your new bottom tooth, your new ability to get up on all fours and think about crawling, your distaste for my homemade carrots, your love of bathtime, your obsession with your daddy, your love of pulling Monty's hair, your fascination with the TV, your high-pitched squeal, your time nursing, your smiles when we get you out of your crib in the morning, your curiosity about the world, your well expressed opinions, your uninhibited smiles. I cannot wrap my mind around the agony that Kate's mama is feeling. But I can honor that little girl by loving you better each day.

Happy seven months old you precious little fireball. May each month you grow to see more of the world around you, to fill it with your love, and to experience the beauty and joy of God's creation.

I love you, so, so much.


playing with your sweet friend JE
hanging with mom at FOCUS in the ergo carrier- best money spent!!

aggravating your brother

playing with your sausage toes (and a great shot of those rolls. Let's hear it for the 75 percentile in weight baby girl!!)

P.S. I promise to use an actual camera in the coming weeks so all your photos aren't blackberry quality :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.~ Anna Quindlen

Well folks, if you are going on vacation, about to have ankle surgery or are underneath two feet of snow, Merry Christmas. Thanks to friends on facebook and elsewhere, we have gotten you started with some great recommendations for books. Whether you want footloose and fancy free, spiritual inspiration, suspense or global interest, here ya go. Please feel free to comment on your favorites and I'll add them and keep a running list for us. P.S. If you have a kindle, some of these books are .99 !! Happy Reading!

By far the most recommended book has been The Help. I can't say anything more about this book. It is important. It is relevant. It is fantastic. Keri's (and Amy Norris's ) review of The Help. Thanks to Melissa Musgrove, Lindsey Buck, Audrey Brannen, Christine King, Frances Gatewood Raybon and others for reminding me how great it is.

The Virgin Suicides-Eugenides's remarkable first novel opens on a startling note: "On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide... the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope." What follows is not, however, a horror novel, but a finely crafted work of literary if slightly macabre imagination. In an unnamed town in the slightly distant past, detailed in such precise and limpid prose that readers will surely feel that they grew up there. Thanks Catherine Welsh!!

Water for Elephants Now being made into a movie with Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattison, I read and adored this book. I recently said this: For you animal lovers, maybe steer clear of this one. It's a hard read but a really captivating story about the circus and the intertwined lives of the people who live and work on it. I believe set in the 20's. I couldn't put it down but definitely had some moments where I had to close my eyes.Thanks Lindsey Kirley Nichols- great choice!

Pretty Little Liars- for the adolescent girl in your life, Eason Garmany highly recommends this box set. I'd take her recommendation any day!

The Red Tent. The red tent is the place where women gathered during their cycles of birthing, menses, and even illness. Like the conversations and mysteries held within this feminine tent, this sweeping piece of fiction offers an insider's look at the daily life of a biblical sorority of mothers and wives and their one and only daughter, Dinah. Told in the voice of Jacob's daughter Dinah (who only received a glimpse of recognition in the Book of Genesis), we are privy to the fascinating feminine characters who bled within the red tent. In a confiding and poetic voice, Dinah whispers stories of her four mothers, Rachel, Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah--all wives to Jacob, and each one embodying unique feminine traits. As she reveals these sensual and emotionally charged stories we learn of birthing miracles, slaves, artisans, household gods, and sisterhood secrets. Eventually Dinah delves into her own saga of betrayals, grief, and a call to midwifery. One of my all time favorite books, thanks to Dr. and Mrs. Shirley for having it on your mountain house book shelf and giving me such a great read!
I Alex Cross by James Patterson- featuring detective Alex Cross (after Cross Country), in which Cross takes on yet another barbaric serial killer, this one known as Zeus. Word that an estranged 24-year-old niece, Caroline Cross, has been murdered disturbs Cross's birthday party. To make that horror even worse, the killer fed Caroline's body through a wood chipper. Cross soon discovers that Caroline supported herself as a high-price escort for Washington, D.C.'s elite, and that other women who served similar clients have turned up missing. Cross's investigation soon attracts the attention of the feds, and he concludes that Zeus is better connected than most of the psychopaths he's brought to justice. A subplot centering on a health threat to another member of Cross's family adds padding.
Thanks Greg Smith for recommending one of two books my husband may consider on this list!

A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael-A Chance to Die is a vibrant portrayal of Amy Carmichael, an Irish missionary and writer who spent fifty-three years in south India without furlough. There she became known as "Amma," or "mother," as she founded the Dohnavur Fellowship, a refuge for underprivileged children. Amy's life of obedience and courage stands as a model for all who claim the name of Christ. She was a woman with desires and dreams, faults and fears, who gave her life unconditionally to serve her Master. Bringing Amma to life through inspiring photos and compelling biographical narrative, Elisabeth Elliot urges readers to examine the depths of their own commitment to Christ. Thanks Laura Susan Cain for this. I have heard really fantastic reviews and can't wait to read it.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. This debut thriller--the first in a trilogy from the late Stieg Larsson--is a serious page-turner rivaling the best of Charlie Huston and Michael Connelly. Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Recommended by Miss Rosemary Cone, with two of the author's other books The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.  I am reading this now and am intriqued!

Dandelion Dust-Jack and Molly Campbell are right where they want to be, enjoying an idyllic life with their four-year-old son Joey, and the close family and friends who live in their small hometown just outside Atlanta. Then the phone call comes from the social worker the Campbells never expected to hear from again. Three states away in Ohio, Joey's biological father has just been released from prison. He is ready to start life over, but not without his son. - recommended by Lindsey Brooks Buck, the author is one of mine and Lindsey's fav's, Karen Kingsbury.

Llama Llama Red Pajama-PreSchool-K–With its sweet rendering of the trials of bedtime and separation anxiety, this book's familiar theme will be a hit with youngsters.  Thanks Emily O for your favorite read this year :) I have read and concur!

The Mountain Between Us-From the author of Where the River Ends, comes this page-turning story of love and survival.On a stormy winter night, two strangers wait for a flight at the Salt Lake City airport.  Ashley Knox is an attractive, successful writer, who is flying East for her much anticipated wedding.  Dr. Ben Payne has just wrapped up a medical conference and is also eager to get back East for a slate of surgeries he has scheduled for the following day.   When the last outgoing flight is cancelled due to a broken de-icer and a forthcoming storm, Ben finds a charter plane that can take him around the storm and drop him in Denver to catch a connection.   And when the pilot says the single engine prop plane can fit one more, if barely, Ben offers the seat to Ashley knowing that she needs to get back just as urgently.   And then the unthinkable happens.  The pilot has a heart attack mid-flight and the plane crashes into the High Uintas Wilderness-- one of the largest stretches of harsh and remote land in the United States. As the days on the mountains become weeks, their survival become increasingly perilous. How will they make it out of the wilderness and if they do, how will this experience change them forever? Both a tender and page-turning read, The Mountain Between Us will reaffirm your belief in the power of love to sustain us. Meg Mamalakis Hollis has recommended this author before to me and I see why. He's on my list!

Jodi Picoult, My Sister's Keeper- Picoult's total collection of books was recommened and I linked my personal favorite. The difficult choices a family must make when a child is diagnosed with a serious disease are explored with pathos and understanding. The author, who has taken on such controversial subjects as euthanasia (Mercy), teen suicide (The Pact) and sterilization laws (Second Glance), turns her gaze on genetic planning, the prospect of creating babies for health purposes and the ethical and moral fallout that results.- these books will make you think- medical ethics are never black and white. Thanks sweet Hilary G for the rec!

Tuesdays with Morrie- It's not a cliche- the book is beautiful and heartwarming. Thanks Debi for remiding me. This one needs a re-read :)

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett- The story follows five families across the globe as their fates intertwine with the extraordinary events of World War I, the political struggles within their own countries, and the rise of the feminist movement. Intriguing stories of love and loyalty abound, from a forbidden romance between a German spy and a British aristocrat to a Russian soldier and his scandal-ridden brother in love with the same woman. Action-packed with blood on the battlefield and conspiracies behind closed doors, Fall of Giants brings the nuances of each character to life and shifts easily from dirty coal mines to sparkling palaces. There is so much to love here, and the good news is the end is just the beginning: Fall of Giants is the first in a planned trilogy.- Amy Solana Whitaker- you have 2 very small children, a job and a husband in a surgical residency. Please explain to me how you read a 1,000 page book??

Stuart Woods books'- He is an author from Georgia with "fast-paced," "intriguing plots." Recommended by Guy Kemp (for any men wanting a 'manly' book :)

Forever, Erma: Best Loved Writing from America's Favorite Humorist-The housewife columnist whose gently subversive humor has won her a prominent niche in American culture is commemorated in this collection of over 120 of her most popular and memorable essays. Bombeck, whose bestsellers include All I Know About Animal Behavior I Learned in Loehmann's Dressing Room, died in 1996. Trained as a newspaper reporter, she honed her skills into a unique blend of humorous social commentary based on the quotidian passage of domestic life and an empathy with women in their relations with the larger world, including spouses and children. Not surprised at all that Miss Beth Ross suggested this book. Looks like fabulous light reading.

Forgotten God- A follow up to the profound message of Crazy Love, Pastor Francis Chan offers a compelling invitation to understand, embrace, and follow the Holy Spirit's direction in our lives. In the name of the Father, the Son, and ... the Holy Spirit. We pray in the name of all three, but how often do we live with an awareness of only the first two? Thanks Molly Mac for what I'm sure is such an inspiring call to live differently.

Robinson Crusoe- Crusoe is also a story about the ability of mankind to master his surroundings through hard work, patience, and Christianity. The combination of these three supports are what allow him to escape captivity in Africa, overcome the deadly obstacles on the island, and finally leave the island itself. His physical prowess and combat skills are significantly less important to his journey than the message of trust and persistance that the decades he spends on the island convey. While this message might need tempering for the modern reader, it is also inspirational and important to read. From Rachele Gibson, reading some timeless classics that, like me, eluded her childhood.

To Kill a Mockingbird- I will admit that I have not read this and as I've said before, should probably reliquish my Master's Degree for not having done so. It's on my list! Thanks again Rachele G!

Emily Giffin's books- such as Something Borrowed and Something Blue- from Katie Leverett Waller- recommending my favorite beach-read author- appropriate since Katie now gets to live at the beach!

A Lucky Child, A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young BOY- A 10-year-old inmate in August 1944 at Birkenau, Buergenthal was one of the death camp's youngest prisoners. He miraculously survived, thanks, among others, to a friendly kapo who made him an errand boy. Buergenthal's authentic, moving tale reveals that his lifelong commitment to human rights sprang from the ashes of Auschwitz. -this and the following four books recommended by my BFF Katrina Critchley. After reading the excerpts from these books, I am now convinced that Katrina may be one of the most well-read, socially aware and compassionate people I know. Far cry from the ditz I previously assumed her to be :)

I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced- Chosen by Glamour magazine as a Woman of the Year in 2008, Nujood of Yemen has become an international hero for her astonishingly brave resistance to child marriage. With the help of an activist lawyer, sympathetic judges, and the international press, she divorced her husband and returned home. Her clear, first-person narrative, translated from the French and written with Minoui, is spellbinding: the horror of her parents’ betrayal and her mother-in-law’s connivance, the “grown-ups” who send the child from classroom and toys to nightmare abuse. She never denies the poverty that drives her parents and oppresses her brothers, even as she reveals their cruelty. Unlike her passive mother, she is an activist, thrilled to return to school, determined to save others, including her little sister. True to the child’s viewpoint, the “grown-up” cruelty is devastating. Readers will find it incredible that such unbelievable abuse and such courageous resistance are happening now.rec by Katrina Smith Critchley

My Own Country and Cutting for Stone. I have read both and easily have them in my top 10 books ever. Both are by Dr. Abraham Verghese, an Infectious Disease physician. The first tells of his work as an Ethiopian doctor treating AIDS in the early 80's in the poor areas of Tennessee. It's phenomenal. The second is his fiction work, set in India and Ethopia, about twin brothers whose lives are irreparably changed. Lots of it takes place in a hospital so the medical backdrop is awesome. There is also a nun as one of the main characters who is such a vibrant character. rec by Katrina Critchley but reviews are my own. Great minds read alike :)

Still Alice- Neuroscientist and debut novelist Genova mines years of experience in her field to craft a realistic portrait of early onset Alzheimer's disease. Alice Howland has a career not unlike Genova's—she's an esteemed psychology professor at Harvard, living a comfortable life in Cambridge with her husband, John, arguing about the usual (making quality time together, their daughter's move to L.A.) when the first symptoms of Alzheimer's begin to emerge. First, Alice can't find her Blackberry, then she becomes hopelessly disoriented in her own town. Alice is shocked to be diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's (she had suspected a brain tumor or menopause), after which her life begins steadily to unravel. She loses track of rooms in her home, resigns from Harvard and eventually cannot recognize her own children. The brutal facts of Alzheimer's are heartbreaking, and it's impossible not to feel for Alice and her loved ones.) from Katrina again and this one may be the first one I read while I have extra hands for la bebe this weekend. Sounds amazing.

I Love You This Much-Share God's love for his children through this moving story about the love between a parent and child. This sweet little tale is based on a beautiful lullaby, I Love You This Much, sung by a parent to a child, as a gentle reminder to children of just how much they are loved by their earthly parents -- as well as their heavenly Father. Filled with picturesque illustrations that reflect the soothing melody and gentle words, you and your child will treasure the precious moments shared together with this wonderful story, I Love You This Much. Thanks Tracy Wallbank McVay. I love this one too!