Monday, October 18, 2010

Introducing Bella!

This weekend started like any other. Sara had her last football game, so we left early to go to the stadium. It was a beautiful morning – a little cool, but we were sitting on the sunny side of the stadium, so we warmed up very quickly. I love watching Sara cheer – she’s good at it, and always looks happy. The boys won the game, too, so that was a big plus!

After getting home, I told Sara that if she got her clothes put away, she could go with me to Petsmart. I needed to get kitty litter, and I also wanted to get a new water fountain for the cats. The last two we’ve had leaked quite a bit, so I wanted to see if I could find another design that might not be so leaky. Little did I know that we’d come back with much, much more.

A little bit of history: Sara’s been asking for a dog since she was about three. Rick has always said no way. In fact, when Sara was very small he said “If you get a dog, you’ll have to get rid of me.” One day in the car, Sara got very quiet. I could tell she was thinking very hard about something. Finally she says to me “Mommy, if we got rid of Daddy, then we could get a dog?” Trying not to laugh I told her that probably wasn’t in the cards, and silently hoped that she wouldn’t say something like that in front of Rick!

Back to Saturday…

I’ve been to PetSmart on a Saturday when the rescue organization had dogs and cats there. Up until Saturday, I’ve never seen a dog there that was “mine.” As Sara and I walked through the parking lot, we both caught sight of a small brown dog, and we both said “uh-oh.” She was cute. She was just the perfect size. And as we spent time with her, she had the perfect temperament. As Sara played with her, I spoke on the phone to the woman who was fostering her. I asked lots of questions, and got all the right answers. I went inside to get the things I needed for the cats, and left Sara outside to play some more. Before we left, I took a picture of Sara and her new friend.

When we got home, we showed the picture to Rick, and after a remarkably short conversation he said “Well, I guess you should go get her.” Sara and I didn’t look back - we literally ran to the car and took off. Sara was worried that the dog wouldn’t be there anymore. They had said that they would start packing up at 3:30, and it was 3:25. I told her that if we were supposed to have that dog, she’d be there. We were, and she was. After some paperwork and supplies, we were on our way back home with the dog, who they had named “Dora.”

Home again, I had to leave right away for church. Apparently, Rick fell in love with Bella while I was gone (we didn’t like the name Dora so we changed it). Later in the evening, while I was out again taking Hannah back to school, our friends Clay and Cathy came over. Cathy told me that when they came into the house, Rick was lying on the couch with the dog lying on his chest. He tried to put on a gruff face – he said that he hadn’t had a choice and that Sara and I had bullied him into letting us get Bella. Cathy told him that she might have believed him had she not seen him cuddling with her ten minutes before.

So now we have a dog, and she’s wonderful. I was immediately made aware that I know nothing about dogs, but she seems to know something about humans, so it seems to be working out okay. She sleeps with Sara, wants to play with Spike (he’s not having any of it), and interacts with our family as if she has been with us all of her life. I’m so thankful that caring people make it a point to rescue dogs and cats, and that many of these animals are able to find good, loving homes. I know that Bella has found one.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Hannah (Sept. 18)

If you know me, you know how much I love my kids. Someone shared a link today on Facebook that was a letter a mom wrote to her daughter about the student at Rutgers who committed suicide. It was a heartfelt note that encouraged her daughter to always know that nothing is bad forever and that her parents will love her NO MATTER WHAT. It encouraged me to post the note I wrote to Hannah the day before her 18th birthday. I just wanted to make sure the world knows how much these children mean to me! And just in case Sara reads this - I love you too, sweetie. I'm sure I'll be writing to you soon too!

18 years ago today, I was bummed because Dr. Littlejohn was going to be on vacation and probably wouldn't be in Baltimore to deliver my baby. 18 years ago, I worked a half day, went to the store to get the ingredients for the chicken stock that I just HAD to make before my mother got to Baltimore the next week. 18 years ago today, you were due in a week and everything was pretty much about me.

18 years ago tomorrow, you decided you'd had enough of preparing to come into the world and you made your appearance. Dr. Littlejohn delivered you and handed me the most beautiful baby I'd ever seen! 18 years ago tomorrow, it wasn't all about me any more - it was all about you.

I'm so blessed and thankful that God decided you were the baby for me. There couldn't have been a more perfect daughter for me. You have added so much joy and love into my life for the past 18 years. And I'm so proud of you - you've grown into a beautiful, talented, smart, sweet young woman. And I can't wait for the next 18 years to see how you grow. I loved being your mommy when you were a child - I'm going to love even more being your mommy as an adult!

I love you so much, Hannah. There's nothing that can describe the wonder of watching you grow up. You're amazing.


P.S. Happy Birthday tomorrow!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pondering History

I’m steeped in history right now. I’m reading Bill Bryson’s new book "At Home" which is an exploration of the history of homes. He states that he endeavored to "write a history of the world without leaving home." I’m also listening to Ken Follett’s "World Without End", which is a work of historical fiction set in the
1400s in England. While I’m only about three chapters into "At Home", these two books have dovetailed in an interesting way – Bryson details the evolution of the house, and some of the historical facts are specifically about the time in which "World Without End" is set.

Last night, as I was reading in my usual chair, I started thinking about history, and how it has been captured and reported throughout the years. Much of what we know about what happened in the world prior to the advent of the printed word is speculative at best. Stories are told from a specific point of view, and detail one person’s or one community’s experience. But even after the introduction of the printing press, history is generally still reported from a skewed point of view.
There are some events, the Holocaust, for example, that I believe are reported in a way that is pretty true and accurate. But smaller, less far-reaching events, are much more subject to individual interpretation and therefore it is much harder to determine the truth between the opinions expressed.

For example, if I were to write a history of what has happened with my company in the past year, I’d write about the mergers and having to recomplete for the account I work on (still undetermined at the moment, by the way), but mostly it would be a positive history. The mergers haven’t really affected me, I like my work and the people with whom I do it, I feel that I get paid fairly for my efforts and I have a pretty good balance of home versus work. Others who would write a history of the same company for the same time period might say something completely different. There are those who lost their jobs, those who may not like the new upper management for whatever reason, those who may be completely overworked due to unfilled positions in their departments, those who haven’t gotten a raise recently, and those who just don’t like what they do or who they do it with. Which history is true, from a JWT Atlanta perspective? Both accounts would be honest, presumably, but which would stand the test of time and in the future be considered the “definitive” history of JWT Atlanta during 2010?

The history of the United States, as taught to me and to my children, is full of triumphant victories, hard-working people and God-ordained rights. But as we all know, the history of the United States is also filled with people taking advantage of others, stealing land, murder in the name of God and Country and terrible injustice. The history of all other countries is probably the same, as is the history of the Church. I recognize that there are always at least two sides to every story, but who decides what makes the cut when it comes to reporting the historical “facts” of a time or place?

My sense is that it’s generally the most powerful people who decide; those who might be the ones with the most to lose if the negative truths come out. Those who are less powerful or ambitious are also those less likely to fight to get their side of the story told. Access to media and to an influential audience, the ability to articulate an opinion in a clear manner and the time and money to do so are all important to getting a story out, and the majority of people are probably lacking in at least one of these things, if not all of them. So we plod along, accepting what we deem to be the inevitable one-sided histories of our lives and times.

My children both had the opportunity to do a family history project in elementary school. This allowed them to explore the histories of their grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles and cousins, and to find similarities between themselves and those who went before. It was an opportunity for me to learn these things too, and it was the one project that I really enjoyed helping my children with. What a gift it would be if something like this were a regular part of school curriculum for every child. How much more empowered would our children be if they had the opportunity to talk to the patriarchs and matriarchs of their families? To learn the struggles and triumphs of regular life and to see that each age has its own interesting set of challenges and innovative solutions. Combine these individual histories with what they learn in school, and all of a sudden history is something that affects them in a real way. A great-grandparent who wasn’t allowed to sit at the diner counter, or in the front of the bus, puts the civil rights struggle in a completely different context for the young black child who wonders why racism still exists, and it hopefully gives him a sense of the hard work his ancestors did to make the world better for him. The young girl whose grandfather fled from a civil-war torn country can better understand the individual hardships the citizens endured to make a better life for their families. Spend some time telling your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews your own personal histories so that when they learn the “official” history of the country or the world, they have some context to make it personal and true.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Happy Birthday Dad!

Many who know me well have heard me say how blessed and thankful I am to have the family that I have. Last weekend, Rick and I had the opportunity to spend Saturday and Sunday morning with my older brother and sister and their spouses. As an anniversary present for my brother Phillip, my sister-in-law planned a day and evening in Chattanooga for the six of us. We broke bread, drank some wine, played bocce ball, sat around and talked, and just generally enjoyed each other’s company.

This weekend, we once again had the pleasure of spending time with family as we celebrated my father’s 75th birthday. But in addition to my wonderful family, we were blessed to spend the hours with truly wonderful friends as well.

My dad and my step-mother live in Sautee, Georgia, in the mountains near Helen. It was a beautiful afternoon and evening for a gathering. Cool and clear, the early October sunshine was beaming through the trees and warming rocks for the cats to lie on. When we got to my dad’s house, my older brother Phillip was there, my sister Carole, her husband Derek and daughter Kelsey were there, my mother, Susan and her boyfriend, Matthew were there. Good friends were there as well – Cindy and Ray, finally back in the south after living in the Northeast for a few years, and Doug, who drove up from the Atlanta area like we did. Not everyone came from far away though, also lighting up the afternoon were Don and Lila, from just next door.

As the day wore on, friends from near and far turned up to help celebrate with Dad. As I thought about this on the way home today, I am struck by the strength of the friendships Dad and Jeanie have. This is, of course, a testament to the type of friendship they give. Dad and Jeanie are open and loving, welcoming to anyone and everyone, funny and thoughtful, and just a blast to spend time with. And it seems that many people love to spend time with them. Good friends came from all over, and everyone had a great time.

No party at Jeanie’s house is complete without a smorgasbord of great food. Everyone pitches in, and yesterday’s party was no exception. And of course, there were plenty of libations to enjoy as well, but the best thing about a party at Dad and Jeanie’s house is the music… well the laughter AND the music. There are always equal parts laughter and music there. In the carport, and in the house, were groups of people communing over old-time tunes, with fiddles, banjos, guitar and an upright bass that split time between the two groups. People singing, harmonizing and strumming. In the kitchen and on the back porch, others were getting to know new friends, or getting back in touch with old ones, laughing and talking, telling jokes or stories. Looking around, I saw smiling faces and love. I saw God.

Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Even if we didn’t specifically say, “today we are gathered in His name.” we were, and He was there in the midst of us. Because it was a joyous celebration of my father’s life, because it was a celebration of relationship and love, we were gathered in His name, and He was there. Because we could celebrate a crisp, fall day in beautiful North Georgia, we were gathered in His name, and we could see the “invisible God” in the trees and flowers, and feel Him in the breeze.

God gave us each other. For that I am eternally thankful, because the “us” He gave me includes a loving family and friends who care for each other and for me. Today, on the 75th anniversary of your birth, I am especially thankful that He gave me you, Daddy. I love you!