Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Thankful Tree and Thanksgiving Morning

We continued a new annual tradition this year: the Thankful Tree. It's a wooden tree I painted brown, and it includes a pack of sticky fun foam leaves. Starting November 1 and until Thanksgiving Day, Katie picks a leaf and writes one thing she's thankful for on it then sticks the leaf to the tree. This morning Katie put the last leaf on her Thankful Tree. Here's her list of thankfulness this year, in order:
1. helping
2. my brother
3. clean up
4. my word
5. being brave
6. readeng
7. cuddling
8. Grandma
9. home
10. food
11. helping
12. God
13. Daddy
14. home with Mommy
15. Mommy
16. happynis
17. Jackson
18. Eve
19. Sammi
20. Crius Gorg (Curious George)
21. Anna
22. bred (bread)
23. Mizzou
24. froinsz (friends)
25. skool
26. goodnis
27. calindr (calendar)

I love seeing what Katie thinks is important. I also love that her brother made it on the list twice. My thankful list would probably include all those things and more: God's love, a devoted husband, funny and good-hearted kids, a great extended family (sister, nieces, brother-in-law, stepmother, aunts, uncles, Dan's family), friendships with people who uplift me and know just what to say when I need it, a new church, music, the luxury of having more than what I truly need (food, shelter & the basics), and MY HEALTH.

This morning Katie went to the St. Louis Thanksgiving Day parade with our neighbors, and Dan got up with Jackson while I slept in. I am doubly thankful for that! Katie and Jackson have been watching the National Dog Show on TV, and now it's nap time before we head out to Thanksgiving Dinner with Dan's large extended family.

I wish you all a nice Thanksgiving Day, with a full and thankful heart.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kansas City

Katie and I took a roadtrip to Kansas City this past weekend to visit my friend Susan and her family. Dan and Jackson stayed at home because Jackson has been stuffy and waking a lot at night. Dan and I agreed we didn't want to inflict the nighttime screaming on everyone in Kansas City, so they had a boys' weekend at home. I missed them, but I admit Katie and I had a good time. And we picked a good weekend to drive: gas is getting cheaper and cheaper. Yeehaw!

Just being the car with silence was a luxury I wouldn't have enjoyed if Jackson had been along for the ride. Katie watched two movies on the way there (thank God for portable DVD players), and I listened to past podcasts from our new church. It was so nice! We arrived at Susan's Friday night around 8:30. Katie and Susan's oldest daughter hit it off right away. They ran away and played for a while before bedtime. I got the tour of Susan's new house, which is amazingly gorgeous. It's even more amazing because she's spent the last eight years of her life in a tiny two-bedroom house. Y'all. Two bedrooms. With TWO kids and TWO adults. Doesn't take a genius to figure out what a tight fit that was. She deserves every square inch of this new house, and worked hard as a teacher to be able to afford it. I'm proud of her for making her dreams come true.

After we got the girls to bed, Susan and I stayed up and talked while her husband puttered in the basement. Saturday morning we took the three girls bowling for the first time, then lunch at (of course) McDonald's. Then Susan humored me and let me drive around to the two apartments that Dan and I lived in when we were in Kansas City. It was cool being able to show Katie where we spent our newlywed years. It was also a bit disconcerting to have part of my present life intermingled with my past life. You have to remember: my kids have never been to Georgia where I grew up. They've never been to Kansas City even. They know nothing about my previous life. Dan's life is a different story: they stay at Grandma and Poppy's house often - the same house Dan grew up in. They live in the same metro area that Dan was born and grew up in. So it's natural for him. For me, seeing the first apartment Dan and I shared was already enough of a shock to my system. And then propping my daughter up in front of it really hammered it home: my life is nothing like it used to be. The changes I have gone through since the last time I set foot there... wow. Let's change the subject.
The rest of Saturday was spent back at Susan's house, hanging out while the girls colored and played and beaded bracelets. We ordered Chinese that night and shared a bottle of wine (the grown up girls, not the little ones, of course!). The girls got to take a bath in Susan's princess tub and went to bed a little early to make up for lost naps and Friday's late bedtime. Katie woke that night with another round of night terrors, so I brought her to my bed to sleep with me. Ugh. That was a horrible night of sleep!

Sunday morning was leisurely, with spinach quiche and cinnamon rolls. Katie and I said our goodbyes and headed out of town. It was a good visit with Susan, and I enjoyed her new house and family.

On the way out of town, Katie and I stopped at one of my favorite stores in Kansas City before driving to Columbia, MO. (Okay Angie & Cool Carol - don't get mad that I didn't stop to visit you. We were on a schedule!) First I took her by Faurot Field and then showed her my dorm and former sorority house. Then I took her to Dan's fraternity house, and took photos of her on the front steps. We drove through campus and I pointed out Jesse Hall, then I took Katie to see the Columns. I took a few great photos, then raced her across the Quad. She climbed on a column for another set of photos, then I helped her down and raced back to the car. She liked racing and when we got in the car she said, "Mizzou is fun, Mommy!" I agreed with her and told her Daddy and I had lots of fun at Mizzou too. And then it hit me. She has crossed into another part of my past by visiting my alma mater. I thought to myself, "God willing I'll be there when Jackson visits the first time too." And then my heart dared to hope: "My grandkids too." Wouldn't that be awesome?
Katie and I had lunch downtown, then hit the road and headed on home. She watched another movie and barely glanced at the beautiful scenery on the way home. I pointed out my favorite views to her (Rocheport!), but it didn't compare with Clifford's Big Movie. (Sidebar: have I mentioned how very glad I am that she's still so innocent and happy to watch Clifford and Curious George? I can feel Hannah Montana and High School Musical breathing down my neck, so I'm clinging to these last moments of innocence. My heart soared in the car when she started squealing, "Yay Clifford!" and clapping when Clifford did something great in his movie. She is pure. Thank you, God.)
We arrived back home and were greeted with hugs from our boys. My heart is full, and the four of us are back together. It's good to be home.

EDIT: Here's what Katie drew in school today about her weekend in Kansas City.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Our Story, Part IX

(Go here for Part VIII.)

Dan came to visit me one weekend in June of 1995. It was June 24th, to be exact. I figured this would be THE weekend. You know, his proposal? Because it was the last time we’d see each other before our trip to Dad’s wedding the following weekend.

For some reason I can’t remember, his parents were in Columbia that night too. That was odd, and I was convinced it was because he was going to propose at dinner. I was on pins and needles all through dinner. And then we paid the bill. And then we left. And still no ring. My mind continued spinning ideas of the proposal. I thought that maybe he’d drive me to campus to propose at the Columns. But we were heading away from campus in his car. Ugh! The suspense was killing me. I kind of just gave up and stopped trying to second guess for a little while. I remember being in the car and asking him if he had written to me in our notebook (the one that we would write back and forth to each other in). He said that he had, and I asked him where it was. I wanted to read it right there in the car. He said to wait and he’d get it when we got to my apartment.

My next memory of that night is going into my apartment and into my room to talk. I remember Dan sitting on my bed, and asking me to get him something to drink. Ah ha! That’s when my suspicions went on red alert because he would never have asked me to do that if something wasn’t up. (I would have just told him, “Go get it yourself!” Ah, true love.) So I agreed to get him some water, and went to the fridge. I made sure to take my time and be noisy, so he could prepare just in case he was getting something ready. Ha, ha.

I brought the water back to my room, and he was still sitting on the bed. The only difference was he had our notebook on the bed. Uh, okay. I gave him his water and sat down to open the notebook. And here is what I found:
Of course, I immediately squealed and probably said something like, “Really?!” He pulled out a ring box and opened it and said, “Will you do me the honor of being my wife?” I hugged him and squealed again and said yes. Oh, my heart was overflowing by this point. Pure happiness! I was especially thrilled with the ring. We had looked at rings together previously, but this one was different than other settings I had seen. It was way better than I ever imagined, and I was so happy to wear a ring that he picked out on his own for me. After a moment, I ran to my roommate’s door and knocked. In her usual can’t-be-bothered style, she opened her door and said pretty dully, “He proposed, didn’t he?” I said yes, and she smiled and hugged me and ooohed and aaahed over the ring then went back to her room. Then Dan and I made the obligatory phone calls and told my family and his family.

I will be forever grateful that Dan proposed to me in this way. I am still so happy to have his proposal on paper, in a place that I’ll never forget. He knew me so well, and knew how very much I like the written word. He used the best way he knew how to commit his life to me. I couldn’t ask for more!

So here’s the question: does Our Story need to continue? There’s still so much more I could tell you about planning our wedding while we were separated, moving in together, our first big fight (as a married couple), losing my engagement ring, moving to a new town, having babies, and all the ensuing details. I’ll have to ponder whether the story should stop here, or continue on. I think the true question is this: are there more details my kids might want to know one day? Because this story is truly for them.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fifty Years Without a New Lupus Drug

Fifty years is a looooong time. Enough time for two (if not three) generations of your family to be born. Did y'all know that gas cost 25 cents per gallon in 1958? NASA was formed in 1958, and Elvis was inducted into the Army. The musical "My Fair Lady" opened in London. The Hula Hoop was introduced. And so was the last drug to specifically treat lupus. Think about that. Can you imagine yourself in fifty years (I'll be 84), and still using the same cholesterol medication or the same vitamins or headache pills? Man, I sure hope that we've advanced a bit more than that in fifty years.

I found out that November 20 marks fifty years since the FDA last approved a drug to specifically treat lupus. What?! Fifty years? Ouch. In that time, we've not only treated countless other diseases, we've even cured some of them. Cured. Extinct, baby. And yet not even one new measly little drug has been approved for lupus? Aw, c'mon. I can't imagine the uproar that would be storming the nation if it had been fifty years since the last drug was approved to treat breast cancer or heart disease.

The Lupus Foundation of America blog has asked lupus patients to share their stories with Congress, in hopes of raising awareness of the issue and asking for more funding in the area of lupus research. Lupus patients are also asked to write a thank you note to those who are currently researching medicines and cures for lupus. I already sent in my letter, and hope and pray that it gets heard!

One more thing about lupus: a recent commenter on my blog pointed me in the direction of the Alliance for Lupus Research. I have been checking out the ALR website, and am floored by the prospect of direct funding for lupus research. Go check out their website, and let me know what you think.

Don't let another fifty years pass us by!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Happy Box

I got a card in the mail yesterday that will go straight into my Happy Box. First, let me tell you about the card. It's from my friend Michelle. She's married to one of Dan's best friends, who he's known since grade school... but not Brad (inside joke). We met each other in college, and have grown a lot closer since they moved nearby and we became mommys. I won't transcribe everything Michelle wrote, but I will quote my favorite line (hope you don't mind, Michelle!): "You leave me with an odd mix of inspiration to do more, be more, appreciate and live more." I read the card and then cried. I was touched that my friend took time from her busy day to stop and handwrite me a note to tell me she loves me.

Sometimes my heart begs the universe for some small sign that I'm not alone, that I'm not unnoticed. Sometimes I just need reinforcement that I'm not spinning my wheels. Sometimes, as narcissitic as it sounds, I just need to know that I matter. My heart was recently crying out these things, wondering if the Cupid's arrows of love and respect that I shoot ever land solidly in anyone's heart, or if they miss the mark and are swept aside. Sometimes I wonder if the effort is worth it. And then I'm reminded that even if no one sees, Someone sees. Right? I tuck that little wisdom into my heart, and keep shooting my arrows anyway. To quote Mother Teresa, "Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway."

So... my heart was questioning a bit lately. And then Michelle's card affirmed my intentions. I needed to hear the words she wrote, and her arrow is now stuck solidly into my heart.

Michelle's card will go into my Happy Box, along with other cards and notes that people have given me. I have cards from years and years ago from friends I see every day (Beth, Michelle, Dan, Sheryl), ones I don't see as regularly (Sarah, Kerry, Catrina, Linda, Teresa) and family too (Mary, Catherine, Maureen). The box itself was a gift from my grandmother when I was a little girl, and I loved that it had a lock on it and I could stash my treasures in it. Funny how the treasures have evolved from seashells and ribbons to words and paper.

I look through my Happy Box from time to time, but I realize I don't do it often enough. It's not that I need an ego boost (although that's always nice). It's just that sometimes I like to hear that I'm loved. Don't we all?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Katie Said...

Tonight as I was fixing dinner Katie said, "You're a good mommy." I picked her up and hugged her and she continued, "Even when you yell at me you still love me, and that makes you a good mommy."

How's that for a performance review? I love her and she loves me. She loves me, and that's all that matters tonight.

Daisy Girl Scout

Katie is officially a Daisy Girl Scout. She had her investiture ceremony at her troop meeting last night, and did a wonderful job of being color guard and carrying the flag into the room. (Don't you love her boots?)
The girls recited the Girl Scout pledge, and received their badges and center of their Daisy flower for their tunics.

We all enjoyed cookies and drinks afterwards, then had a speaker from the power company come talk about his job so the girls could earn their "Respect Authority" petal.

I was a Brownie Girl Scout, and loved it. I always looked forward to the crafts (big surprise) and field trips. I went to Girl Scout camp a few times, but didn't like it much because I had previously attended some other sleepaway camps that I liked much better. (My parents sent me to my first sleepaway camp at age five. If I remember correctly, it was for an entire month. I can't even imagine doing that with Katie now!)

I hope Katie enjoys being a Girl Scout and makes some great memories. So far so good!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Surrender Date

Beth told me about a recent Oprah episode where the husband and wife went on a Surrender Date. The thinking behind it is that today's women are in control of every aspect of their lives: work, kids, schedules, groceries, cleaning, and all the details of running a home. That means a lot of our husbands don't have much control, and the wives have infantilized them and treated them like children. Therefore the wives aren't as attracted to their husbands anymore, because it's hard to be attracted to someone who seems powerless. The Surrender Date is a way to shift the control back into the husband's hands. In the Oprah episode, the husband was in charge of planning every aspect of the date: navigating directions, picking out the clothes she wears, finding a place to eat, even ordering food for the wife.

I showed the episode to Dan. We both agreed we're not in extreme need of a Surrender Date because our marriage is pretty healthy. (I don't exert complete control, just partial. Ha, ha.) But we thought a Surrender Date would be fun, and he was up for the challenge. Grandma had already invited the kids to spend the night at her house last night, so we were off on our date.

Dan started the evening by arriving home with a bouquet of pink roses. (He knows I don't like red roses. Good choice on the pink!) After I arranged the roses in a vase, Dan escorted me upstairs and told me to pick out a dress to wear. He didn't go as far as picking it out for me, but told me that it needed to be a dress and I could not wear denim. He then changed into a suit, and that's when I knew we were up for a big night - not a movie and Applebee's like I had imagined. (Have I mentioned how handsome my husband always looks in a suit?! Yowza!)

We left the house in Dan's car, which was a change from the norm and meant I didn't even have my iPod to select music. But I didn't mind: we ended up having a great conversation about his job, future plans, and our friends, among other topics. It was a long drive, and I didn't even once ask him where we were going. We ended up in downtown St. Louis at the Millenium Hotel. Dan said we were a little early, so we had a drink at Martini's Bar. At 7:00, we took the elevator up 27 more floors to a restaurant called Top of the Riverfront. The elevator doors opened and we stepped into the small lobby of St. Louis' only revolving restaurant. I had heard of it, and always wanted to see it. It turned out to be such a great dinner. So romantic and relaxing. Before we even ordered drinks, Dan said, "Let me save you the suspense. Yes, they have creme brulee here." He had called earlier in the day to confirm that my favorite dessert was available. Oh, what a guy!

We had a trio appetizer of pistachio-crusted zucchini, a duck taco, and a crabcake. We ordered wine, ate salad and rolls, then our meals were peppered steak (for him) and salmon (for me). And, no, he didn't order for me. He figured I could take care of that. Dessert was heavenly. It was creme brulee with a raspberry compote on top. Oh. My. Gawd. I literally got goosebumps with my first bite. (I love creme brulee. Love.)

Our dinner conversation was almost as good as the dessert. We dreamed a bit and talked about future vacations (relaxing ones vs. high activity ones), trips we want to take with the kids (camping, Disney, Great Wolf Lodge), and my new goal of a half-marathon next fall (walking, y'all... just walking). I can't tell you how wonderful it was just to sit and enjoy the sensations of good food, attention from my husband, and the amazing view of St. Louis and the Gateway Arch. We decided that this dinner would be our anniversary celebration a month early. It's December 23 and never gets the attention it deserves, so it was nice to have a moment to just be us -without the gifts, without the pressure. After dinner, Dan's plan was to walk the Arch grounds but the rain nixed that. We drove across the street to the Arch and Old Cathedral, and decided to sit in the car instead of walking.

When we got home last night, we both walked into the kitchen. I stayed near the door to take off my heels, and Dan walked over to the the kitchen counter. It is a memory that will be frozen forever in my mind. In the dim light he turned and looked at me and said, "I am in love with you." The look on his face was so tender and full of adoration. It was breathtaking. He is breathtaking.

What a great night! A wonderful dinner, time with my best friend, and a spontaneous anniversary celebration of 12 years and 11 months of marriage. I can't wait to surrender again!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Blogging Has Done For Me

Back in April, I wasn't quite sure why I should start. But for some reason, I did it anyway. And I have to say that it has become an amazing thing for me. I have thoroughly enjoyed it because:

  1. I've remembered how much I really enjoy writing. I haven't liked writing this much since AP English with Mrs. Musgrove back in high school. I got my Journalism degree because I liked writing so much and it always came naturally to me, but making a living from it kind of dulled the sheen. Now I'm doing something I haven't done in a while: I'm writing just to write. What a concept. And maybe one day I'll make a living from it again, but it'll be on my terms next time. I don't want to feel pimped like I felt in TV news. Here's an interesting link I found on how blogging can improve your writing. I think it's true!
  2. I've enjoyed seeing the world through bloggy glasses. It's like when I travel overseas and see that there is a whole other world outside my zip code. It's interesting to learn the contrast in people's lives by reading their blogs. I might post something about a great day I had and then find that a friend had an awful day, or vice versa. I like reading the slices of life that exist in the bloggy world.
  3. Blogging has become a virtual scrapbook, diary, baby book, and venting outlet for me. I've been able to chronicle my life and my family's life and include multimedia like video clips, photos and scanned artwork within the pages of my blog. My wish of having something for my children to read one day has come true. (Let's just hope they're not too embarrassed.) I've been able to vent and whine a bit in my blog, and get reassurance that I'm not crazy.
  4. ...which leads me to reason #3: I love the new bloggy friends I've made. I've always loved having pen pals (which Janera wrote about), and now the virtual version is even more fun. I get to read all kinds of great writing from people I might never have met before. I have bloggy friends who are in totally different stages of their lives, and yet I've found common ground with them. I love that I am "friends" with other moms who are still in the trenches, and moms who can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have even found friends in different countries, and friends who are somehow related to my sister (Hillary). It's so cool! And although I've never met these friends in person, I hope to some day.
  5. I also love the old friends I've connected with through my blog. I've found friends from my old neighborhood (Julia), high school (Tracy), friends who have moved away (Brina and Tammy), former co-workers (Catrina and Jen), and friends I see in person on a regular basis (Danielle, Sarah, Jen, and Robin). And in reading comments on some old friends' blogs, I've also found even more "other" friends!
  6. I am keeping in touch with people a little bit better. A lot of my friends and family can keep tabs on us now by checking my blog. I love that. The only problem with that is if they don't have a blog, the information is a bit one-sided. They know what I'm doing and therefore don't call or connect as much, but that means I don't know what they are doing. That's kind of a bummer. So can all y'all get yourselves a blog now too? Then my little bloggy world would truly be paradise.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans' Day

"A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount of 'up to and including my life.' That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it." (Unknown)

Thank you to the veterans who sacrificed years of their youth, hours at home with their kids and spouses, and especially to those who gave the ultimate gift of their lives. Thank you also to the families who supported them.

Say thank you to a veteran today!

Monday, November 10, 2008

What Lupus Feels Like

I've been meaning to write about this for a while, but had other (more fun) topics to discuss. I mean, who really wants to hear what lupus feels like? But I want to get it down for posterity.(Usually, we call them Katie and Jackson, but posterity will work fine for now.) It would save me a lot of grief if I had something like this that my mom had written for me. So... here goes!

I've read enough to learn that lupus affects everyone differently. And from my own personal experience so far, I can tell you that it feels different every day. Some days, I can roll out of bed with only minor difficulty. Other days, I flashback to the way I felt immediately after my c-sections. I remember how gingerly I had to roll onto my side, and use my arms to push myself up because my ab and back muscles were so tender. It's like that with lupus, except I can't use my arms very well in the morning. I have very little strength to push my torso off the bed, so I kind of just loll out of bed. Like a sloth.

I'm swollen too. Again, kind of like the last month of pregnancy when I felt like my skin was going to burst. The good news is that I don't feel like that all over anymore, like I did when I was pregnant. Now I feel that way mostly in my hands and wrists. That's not so bad.

You know that stiffness you get in your elbow and wrists after someone's given you their baby to hold, and they don't come back to get the baby for about an hour? That's how my elbows, forearms and wrists feel lately. The worst part is that I keep thinking that if I just move my arm and shake it out a bit, the pain and stiffness will go away. No such luck. No amount of shaking makes it go away.

It hurts to hand write. My hands can't grip as tightly anymore, and my fingers cramp up. Actually, the finger cramps probably aren't lupus related because they've been feeling that way when I handwrite for the last five or seven years. (I think I'm out of handwriting practice because I type so much more.) And speaking of my hands, I have always had tiny little fingers. My wedding ring is size 4 3/4. Seriously. But guess what? There are no diamonds on my fingers now. I can't get my rings back on my fingers because they're so swollen. Even my biggest diamond ring that I inherited from Mom/Grandmother is too small for my left ring finger. Previously, it would fly off that finger if I ever wore it there. Now I can't even get it on. I've been wearing a silver "rolling ring" instead, because I can roll it off and on my finger even if I'm extra swollen.

One of the things that surprises me most every morning is how achy it feels to put lotion on my body. I have always had the habit of putting lotion on my legs, arms and shoulders after I shower. But in the morning, it's hard to straighten my fingers enough to rub the lotion in to my skin. I can mostly straighten my fingers out, but not to the full extent that it takes to really rub lotion onto myself. It's odd to me that lotion application would be so annoying.

I also put lotion on my hands before bed (and sometimes wear gloves) to help the skin cracks from the Raynaud's Syndrome heal. Have you ever heard someone put lotion on? For me, it's not the lotion that's noisy. It's my wrists. They keep cracking over and over, every time I rub. It's not painful, just weird that I'm so noisy.

Have you ever thrown your arm out? I used to do it sometimes in high school when I played softball. I overused my arm, and it would ache later that night and the next day. That's how my shoulders feel now. And this past weekend, I had a lot of the bone achiness that I used to feel in my collarbones (which I broke three times as a child) - the same kind of achiness that people attribute to, "There's a storm coming. I can feel it in my bones." Do you know what that feels like?

I tried to describe to Dan what I feel like. The best thing I could come up with is this: you know how your knuckles or back or neck or foot feels when it needs to be popped? How it kind of aches a bit, but if you just pop it hard it'll feel fine? That's how the majority of my joints feel all day. Some days don't feel so "poppable," but other days I am creaky and achy and in need of a good crack. The rub is that even when I do get that crack (like if I try to pop my knuckles), it doesn't make that feeling go away. Hmph.

So, there you go. The noisy, achy, poppy, swollen truth. I can tell you were enthralled.

In talking to Dan about my symptoms last night, the thing that upsets me the most (besides just feeling lousy), is the knowledge that my mom felt like this ALL. THE. TIME. For years. And I had no idea. What's worse, I wasn't even very sympathetic towards her. You have no idea the shame and regret I feel now.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Writer's Almanac

Lord, have mercy. I have a new daily delight, courtesy of my long-lost relative Marti. She tipped me off to a great email service from NPR. It's called The Writer's Almanac, and I subscribed to a daily email that includes a poem and a bit on notable birthdays for that day.

I just subscribed to the email this week, and have had two amazing poems sent to my in box. I have taken such joy and pleasure in reading them. Please go read the one for today, and here's a copy of the poem from November 3:

Lessons by Pat Schneider
I have learned
that life goes on,
or doesn't.
That days are measured out
in tiny increments
as a woman in a kitchen
measures teaspoons
of cinnamon, vanilla,
or half a cup of sugar
into a bowl.

I have learned
that moments are as precious as nutmeg,
and it has occurred to me
that busy interruptions
are like tiny grain moths,
or mice.
They nibble, pee, and poop,
or make their little worms and webs
until you have to throw out the good stuff
with the bad.

It took two deaths
and coming close myself
for me to learn
that there is not an infinite supply
of good things in the pantry.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sometimes Your Guy Loses

At breakfast today, I told Katie that Barack Obama won the race for president. I was kind of flippant with the news, because I didn't expect it to have much of an impact. She surprised me and started crying. I told her it's not a bad thing, that Obama will be a good president. She said, "But I wanted John McCain to win. I voted for him." (The kids voted at school.) I told her sometimes the people or teams we want to win don't win. But Obama will take good care of us, and he has people called senators and representatives who will help him run America. We talked about how people in other countries don't get to vote for their leaders, and we're lucky in America because we get to vote.

Tonight when Dan got home, Katie said, "Daddy, did you know that Barack Obama is our president? John McCain lost." She got sad again, so Dan explained the same thing to her that sometimes the people we like lose and that Obama will be a good president. She seemed better with it this time. I had no idea she would cry over Obama, or that she was so invested in the election. Poor girl!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I'm Invisible

My friend Susan left a comment on my post this past Sunday, and it made me think of a story I was emailed about a year ago. I'm not sure who wrote it, but it's one of my favorites. I am pasting it into the post to inspire Susan and the rest of you, including me. Remember we're all building a cathedral, and our true Boss notices every piece of stone we put into place. Happy reading!

I’m invisible.
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, “Can’t you see I’m on the phone?” Obviously not. No one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible.
Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, “What time is it?” I’m a satellite guide to answer, “What number is the Disney Channel?” I’m a car to order, “Right around 5:30, please.” I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going … she’s going … she’s gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, “I brought you this.” It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: “To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.”
In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:
· No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.
· These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.
· They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
· The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.” And the workman replied, “Because God sees.”
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, “I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.” At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, “My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.” That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, “You’re gonna love it there.”
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Daily Guideposts

Every morning before my shower, I read a devotion from Daily Guideposts. It's a great way to start my day with a little Scripture, a small devotion and a prayer. When I was in college, Dad started giving me the coming year's Daily Guideposts as a Christmas gift. He always wrote in the front of the book, and I've saved every single one of them - just so I can have those inscriptions he wrote.

Christmas of 2004 was the last time I received a Daily Guideposts from Dad. It was my first Christmas after Mom died, and it would be my last Christmas with Dad. He died exactly two months later, on February 24, 2005. Here's what he wrote in the last one:

Dearest Elizabeth,
As I said last year, live, with excitement, each and every page of this book! God is speaking to you with each day's message - to you!
This past year could never have been fore-told, but you made it! One of the joys of parenting is the joy and reward of watching and participating in the growth and maturity of your children. I have been so proud this past year watching you cope and enjoying watching you mature in just one more step of womanhood. You'll never be "grown up." You can always find something to learn tomorrow.
Never forget how much I love you - as long as we both and each live. Live it fully.
Dad, Christmas 2004

Why am I writing about Daily Guideposts today? Because it's that time of year when I need to order copies for next year. After Dad died, I made a deal with my sister: I'll by us both a copy of Daily Guideposts every Christmas (Dad also gave her one each year too), and she'll buy us both that year's White House ornament (which is what Mom bought each year). In this way, we will carry on the traditions of our parents.

Of course, I write an inscription inside the Daily Guideposts that I give my sister. Who writes mine now that Dad is gone? Each year I beg Dan to write something for me. It usually sits on his desk for a few weeks while he ponders it. When he finally writes something, it always ends up being eloquent and meaningful. I re-read Dan's inscription today, in which he quoted a poem that ends with the word, "together." I love that he's carrying on the tradition too.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


My bloggy friend Gretchen sent me a little award, which I'm honored to receive. Thank you, Gretchen!

This is what the award stands for: "These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."
It says I am "not interested in prizes." However, that's not true 'cause I love me some prizes. So maybe I'm not worthy of this award?
In any case, here are my eight:

The Extra Hour

The end of Daylight Saving Time usually entails the nice perk of an extra hour sleep. I've decided there ain't no such perk in this house. In fact, the extra hour just means I'm even more tired!

Because now instead of sleeping until 7am, Jackson woke at 6am. And in order to get him back on time, I stretched him until 1pm (his usual naptime). Tonight bedtime will be at the usual 8pm, but all that really means is I had an extra hour of work today. Instead of "punching in" at 7am and "punching out" at 8pm, I punched in at 6am. Oh, lucky me.

I hope my boss sees all my hard work and rewards me with an extra day of vacation. Hardy-har-har. Man, I'm tired.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

This Past Week

I need to give y'all an update on this past week. We had a busy one!

My Uncle Bob and Aunt Florence came to visit this past Monday night on their way through town. Bob is my mother's brother. It was a good visit. The last time I saw them was in November 2007, and they treated my kids the same then as they did this time: kind of like their own grandkids. It's amazing how much that means to me! Since Mom is gone, I don't have much representation of her side of the family in my life. So it was wonderful watching Bob and Florence hug and play with my kids. Bob asked them to call him Pop Pop (which is what his own grandkids call him), and we called my aunt Grandma Florence. Jackson even learned to say "Pop Pop" before they left on Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday, my mother-in-law came over to work on one of Katie's Christmas presents. I told you I'm having to get creative this year, so Grandma and I are working on a handmade quilt. You can go to this post at my Katie Kay Tees blog to read about it. While making the quilt, I sliced my finger open and I've been paying for that mistake for a few days while having some Raynaud's Syndrome attacks on my fingers. Ouch.

On Wednesday I got to get my haircut and do some early Christmas shopping while Jackson was at Parents Day Out. That night was Moms Night Out, and I got my henna tattoo. Fun!

On Thursday, I had another family member come to visit. This one was my (stay with me here) father's mother's brother's son's wife. Or to make it easier, my grandmother's niece-in-law. Or even easier: the wife of my first cousin once removed. In any case, her name is Marti and I found her while doing some research on our family tree. I knew of her before that, but got back in touch with her after Googling some distant relatives and finding her work already online. She and I shared stories of our families, and had a good (albeit short) visit. She even brought toys for the kids, including a fairy book and fairy paper dolls for Katie. So cute! I really enjoyed talking to her, and can't wait for her to come back in town again.

We also carved pumpkins on Thursday night with our neighbors. It's become an annual tradition to carve them together, and something I think we all look forward to. Some of them do very elaborate designs, but my designs are always very basic (mine is the moon and Katie's is the pumpkin face).

Friday was, of course, Halloween. It was a hectic day. Beth and I weighed in early (I'm up to 12.8 pounds lost so far!), and then Dan came home early to be with Jackson so I could go to Katie's classroom Halloween party. It was a fun party, and the kids looked cute in their costumes. But, wow - they are loud and crazy too! Friday night was Trick-or-Treating. I've realized I will never get to take my kids out for T-or-T, because it's the one event all year that Dan truly looks forward to doing. So I hold down the fort while they go on the adventure. Truly, I don't mind. I think I'd be too nervous about kids darting into traffic to enjoy the T-or-T anyway. Besides, I like it when they come home to me with their loot and stories of what they did.

Today I slept in for a long time, and woke to an achy body. We puttered around the house and Dan had a neighborhood meeting. Afterwards we went to church and dinner at Chick-fil-A (my favorite). I'm very tired tonight, and just about ready to go plop myself on the couch for some mindless TV. Hopefully I won't get any more election calls tonight. They're starting to drive me crazy.

And keep your fingers crossed that the kids will sleep in late tomorrow when the time change happens!

Getting By

Today I thought to myself, "How am I really doing?" The answer I gave myself is, "I'm gettin' by. Hanging in there." And then I told myself that's a shameful answer.

How can I truly think I'm just "getting by" when I have such abundance surrounding me? Yes, I have a lot of body aches today. Yes, I have a screaming 19-month-old who is in the beginning throes of those terrible twos. Yes, I'm feeling the economic pinch. Yes, I have worry and what-ifs etching themselves into my heart. And yet...

I have an abundant life. Not just the basics for human survival (food, water, shelter), but true ABUNDANCE. I have a husband who can drive me crazy (as we did to each other today in a particularly snippy moment), but he's still a man who knows me and loves me despite the snippiness. He's my partner, best friend, lover, and believer in me. And between the two of us, we have not one but two monuments to our love. Our daughter is a kindhearted, eager to please, independent, sassy little girl. Our son is a fast-moving tornado, full of laughter and very loud lungs. I am blessed by these three people, not to mention the dozens of friends and family that surround me daily.

But here's the thing: my abundance comes not only from the love of these people, but from the grateful heart that God has given me. I'm learning from His teaching to be grateful for the abundance He puts in my life, even in the midst of suffering and pain. So I'll change my answer from "getting by" to "soaking in the abundance."


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