Sunday, September 30, 2012

venti-sized fun

Henry started his second year of preschool last week.  Unlike last year when he only attended three days a week, this year, he attends five days a week from 9:00 in the morning until 1:00 in the afternoon. He could be dismissed at noon, but he's opted to stay an additional hour and eat lunch with his friends. After watching him get ready for school these past few days, I've determined that his favorite part about eating lunch at school, probably isn't the actual eating of lunch, but rather the swinging of his lunchbox as he walks out the front door in the morning.

His other favorite part is the drive to school, because his french roast coffee-addicted dad almost always makes a stop at Starbucks.

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Just the two of them, sharing a piece of coffee cake and preparing for the day ahead.  Charlie tells me that these quiet moments together is a highlight of his day.

I think it's a highlight of Henry's day, too.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

just do it, make the call

It really doesn't feel like that long ago I was a child who had dreams and aspirations and strong and able parents that would always be by my side to help guide me on this journey of life. Very gradually, as I have grown older and I've watched my parents grow older - and witnessed Charlie losing his mom when he was "only" 24-years old, I've come to realize that who we have in our lives today is very dynamic and can change without the slightest warning.

As I'd written a few weeks ago, Jim isn't doing well.  Our sweet, wonderful, perpetually happy Jimbo has really been struggling and my mom is really struggling watching Jim's health decline. Being the fixer that I am, I want to fix the problem. But I can't ... because there are few things that we humans can control and the steady progression of time isn't one of them.

Earlier this month, Charlie's Dad, Alex was put in the hospital with what was initially thought to be a stroke or heart attack. It was neither and he's home now. The prognosis is good, although we're still feeling shaken at the situation and our vulnerability to control anything. (Refer to paragraph, above.)

It wasn't very long ago that I wrote a post about my Dad. Earlier this month, he too, was put in the hospital. He's since been in and out of the hospital with pneumonia, an ulcer, and and an assortment of ailments I don't fully comprehend.  At this moment, he's in a nursing home regaining his strength so that he can move back to his retirement community.

As we were saying our prayers the other night the children asked me, "Mom, WHAT is going on with our grandfathers?" It's not easy for my little ones to comprehend that time is going on and as people grow older, their bodies don't work the same way they did when they were younger.

Last week, my sister Janet wrote me a note that Dad missed me and wanted to talk.  While I talk to my mom several times a week, I honestly couldn't remember the last time that I had spoken with my dad?  I'm ashamed to admit that whenever I'd call he'd be sleeping or out of his room, or wouldn't feel up to talking so our conversations would last for less than two minutes.  Ultimately, I didn't feel like he wanted to talk with me, so I didn't want to bother him.  So my Dad's message, via my sister who is on the ground in Massachusetts and visits my father frequently, cut me. Why hadn't I called? Why hadn't I written?  Why haven't I made a quick weekend trip to visit?

I called Dad and while I was on hold as the dispatcher transferred me to his room, I listened to an advertisement about the state of the art facility where my dad is staying. They bathe the patients and dress them and feed them and have all kinds of support depending upon the level of ambulatory care required. And something, guilt - years that have flown past - regret over divorce and family feuds - whatever it was ... hit me like a damn tidal wave.  By the time Dad's nurse handed him the phone I was a mess, an awful mess.

I'm so sorry I haven't called you, Dad.  I ... I ... I'm not even going to give you any excuses because none of them are any good.  

My Dad is in his raspy voice responded, "It's OK Jenny. I'm so sorry. It's my fault. I should have called you. When I'm feeling better, I'm going to see if someone can drive me down to Virginia. I want to come see you..."

So I cried and Dad, undoubtedly feeling that he needed to reassure me because that's what a parent does... regardless of how involved in your life they may or may not have been, I'm convinced they're still wired on some primitive level to do something if they see their child hurt ... stayed on the line with me for twenty-five minutes.  Which is cumulatively, longer than we've spoken in a year.  Granted, he didn't talk much, but he listened to me drone on about birthday parties and home improvements and the stock market and the upcoming election and the weather. And he's called me again, several times this week, to check in. My father, who hasn't called me in months (years?) and is unable to dress himself, has been calling to check in on me. 


daddy and me

Today, I'm going to call him first. And I might even cry some more because it's been really nice to hear his voice this week.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

twinkle toes!

The most amazingly awesome shoes in the world ....

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If you're a seven (but almost eight-year-old in how many days Mom? MOM? How many more days before I'm eight? 16 days?! Squee!!!! HOW MANY MORE MINUTES IS THAT?!) little girl.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

the instigator

It was about a year ago that my mother told the children that she was going to buy them a dog for their birthday.  "That's so nice of you!" I gushed when she told me.  "I'm sure they're going to love coming to visit their new dog ... AT YOUR HOUSE!"

Whenever we'd go visit Mom in South Carolina, one of her favorite outings was to the animal shelter with the kids. In that context, it was really just a matter of time before we brought something home with us. To our home, not my mother's.   Yes, we see how that turned out.

A few months ago when Louie growled at me and I was pondering his long-term fate with our family, my mother quipped, "Get rid of him! You have enough happening in your life!"  I think her exact suggestion was to bring him to the pound and drop him off one day when the kids are in school and if they ask about him, just say "Oh Louie? He went to live on a farm!"

"But Mom" ... I told her. "You're the one that suggested we get a dog in the first place!" Mom wasted no time defending her position, "That's right and you did get a dog. But it didn't work out, so now it's time to get rid of him. Bye Bye doggie!"

(Don't worry, Louie. I've got your back. You're not going to the farm.)

(At least not today.)

This afternoon, the girls received this letter from my mother.

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It reads,

Dear Carolyn Grace and Elizabeth Jeanne: 
Your Mom's sister, Marylou, made this hat for you - - whoever it fits.  I thought it might be too small for your 8-year old heads. If that is the case, you can send it to Marylou's grandchild, Rachael, who is 2-years old. Do you write in school like I do?  When I was a little girl, we had to practice writing like this: Mary Louise Coleman. Please write to me and tell me if you like this hat and I will try to make more for you or your GUINEA PIG! 
Love, Noni
Guinea Pig? Whoa, wait a minute. The acquisition of a guinea pig is NOT a confirmed deal.  There might not be ANY guinea pigs.  I'm looking in the tea leaves and .... nope ... I'm not seeing a GP anywhere in our immediate future.  As such, there might not be any need for guinea pig HATS.

My mother is a hoot. Funniest of all, perhaps, is that the letter is written on the blank page of an undergraduate admissions form for Clemson University.

Mom, do you have something to tell me?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

with less than three weeks...

Now that the 8th birthday party is going to be at our house (details still not confirmed) (although bids for port-a-potties are pending) we're really motivated to keep up the momentum on clearing the back yard (and front yard, and side yards, and completing bathroom renovations).

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There are piles upon piles of debris that had been dumped over the past several years (decades?) down by the creek, and it's our objective to clear all that debris (and unhealthy looking trees) between now and Saturday, October 13, so we can have a good course for Capture the Flag (or Laser Tag or any assortment of activities which we'll need to figure out this week).

Today we chopped up three big trees.  More woodpiles were generated, which we think will be an awesome hide-out for our snowball fights this winter....

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And the kids made up a new game called, "See if you can get past me with out falling down..."

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(He recovered!!)

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Charlie and I were so consumed with our efforts at cleaning up the yard that when the kids complained that they were hungry, I looked at the clock and was dismayed to see that it was nearly 3:00 PM and we'd completely missed lunch. So we gave them (all-beef, KOSHER = healthy!!) hotdogs to cook over the fire.

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You mean this is all we're getting?

Meat on a stick? 

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Oh, don't worry!

Once we finish clearing up the yard, we'll be able to focus on feeding you properly again.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

if she keeps this up, we just might cave

A few years ago when we were living in California, we went to a place that our children dubbed, "The Guinea Pig Farm."  It was actually a petting zoo - but there were an abundance of guinea pigs running around in a pen and the kids went nuts.

Nuts, I tell you!! 

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They'd never seen a guinea pig before and yet here were these real-live adorable, softy and cuddly little animals that would sit quietly in the children's laps. They were SO much better than stuffed animals because you can feed them like a baby!

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Well, the kids started to ask if they could have a guinea pig. Every day they asked.  Pictures that they would paint would have an overwhelming theme of guinea pigs. 

Guinea pigs! GUINEA PIGS!

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Eventually, after several loonng weeks, the infatuation with guinea pigs faded away. Guinea pigs were nowhere on our radar until last week when Elizabeth checked out a guinea pig book from her school library and the fascination has begun anew.  At night, Carolyn our #1 animal lover has asked if we would please (please please please please please please please please please please please please PLEASE!!!) get her a guinea pig. PLEASE. She would feed it every day.

She would play with it every day.

She would clean it's cage.

She would be the best guinea pig owner in the entire world!  

Carolyn is actually a wonderful pet owner. Of all our children, she will happily take Louie for walks and always makes sure he has clean water in his bowl. She's probably too good of a pet owner since she also will take CLEAN blankets and DOWN pillows off her bed to make him a cozy place to sleep.

At night before she goes to bed she'll ask, "Mom. Tonight can you talk to Dad about getting me a guinea pig?" In the morning, before the sun is up, she's climbing in to bed with me and will sweetly ask, "So? What's the answer? Can I get a guinea pig? TODAY? Or ... maybe we should just go to the guinea pig store and look...."

Right. Like that's going to happen.

I was born at night, but not LAST night. 

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Earlier this week, I came home from work to find the girls making a guinea pig house out of a cardboard box.  They had taken half a bag of cotton balls and made it a bed. They filled a small bowl with water and broke carrots and apples in to small pieces that they put in a little "trough." They'd even created a tunnel so it could pass from one box to the next. I didn't get a picture of it, but the next day they painted it and plastered princess stickers all over it.

The perfect home for a guinea pig. 

The only thing that's missing is a guinea pig...

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That poops and I hear can be quite stinky.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

so, about the port-a-potty

I really appreciate all of the advice that you lent on my last post about the upcoming birthday party. You folks are the bomb diggity! At noon today, we had our minds made up that we'd host the party at an offsite location (here, in fact) and we were feeling relatively good with that decision.  Actually, Charlie was feeling GREAT with the decision because:

1) He wouldn't have to prepare;
2) He wouldn't have to clean-up; and
3) He would have an opportunity to experience the Fields of Fear

Me, personally? I had my heart set on fixing up our yard like a fall festival, but Charlie really likes haunted houses. And, one of the keys to a successful marriage is compromise. 

But then. I went to our school's Open House tonight and while there, I spoke to some of my friends about our birthday party plans and every one of them (!) suggested that we NOT host it at a pumpkin patch. At least not that pumpkin patch because although, yes - it is awesome and the kids (and Charlie) would have a fantastic time ... it's 90 acres and we'd lose everyone. 

I think their exact words were, "Do you really think the kids are going to know that it's time to come out of the corn maze and eat cake?? Most of the kids don't wear a watch, let alone know how to tell time!!"  Hmmm. Good point.

A few of my friends told me that hosting a party at our house is a wonderful thing to do. But, we're going to work our fannies off getting ready.  And then there's the whole bathroom issue.  Truly, I was cracking up at the number of people who suggested that we have it at our house and rent a port-a-potty.  When I read the first port-a-potty recommendation to Charlie, he snorted and said, "Yeah, RIGHT. Like we're going to have a portable toilet on our front lawn?!"  But then another 20 or so suggestions came in with, "Rent a port-a-potty!" and we were in fits.

I don't know why that struck us as so funny?

We clearly need to get out more. 

A few weeks ago, I took Henry to a playground while the children were in school and in the midst of climbing around a jungle gym, he had to go potty.  So I noticed that there were some port-a-potties lined up near the playground and we walked over to use one. My young son - who has no recollection of ever using a port-a-potty in his entire life - was aghast.  He peered down in to the deep blue water and turned with a look of horror on his face.

"You want me to .... IN THERE?" 

It took a few minutes of coaxing (no, you can't go behind the tree or the bush or the swing or the slide) before he went in. And this is how he came out, he was so desperate to extract himself from the deep blue water toilet box, that he didn't even take the time to complete his ensemble.

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He kind of reminds me of my friend, Terrell, who did the 3-Day (60-mile) breast cancer walk with me in 2009. Terrell had such a phobia about port-a-potties, she pledged she'd hold it until the walk was over.  If I remember correctly, she nearly succeeded.

No final plans yet on the venue for the party - although I have the invitations almost ready to go.

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As you can see, I just need to add in the WHERE and adjust the duration. Three and a half hours with 35+ children?? You'll find me hiding in the deep blue water toilet box.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

birthday party preparations

The kids will be turning eight in less than four weeks. Since Charlie and I haven't hosted a birthday party for them since they were four-years-old, we think they're overdue.  I promised the kids that TONIGHT I'd draft up the party invitations, but they've been little help telling me where they want this party or what they want to do. So I'm at a loss. Even though I've been thinking about it for weeks. 

This is me, brainstorming out loud....

  • They're all in the same class.  I suspect that because they all run in their own social circles, we'll be inviting the entire second grade class. To limit the number of kids when these students have all been together since kindergarten doesn't feel right. 


  • They've made wonderful friends through their Girl Scout and Cub Scout troops who aren't part of their class (and whose birthday parties they've attended), so we'll be inviting those kids, too. 


  • We want to have one co-ed party, not two.

Option 1: Host it at an offsite location. Gender-neutral venues that come to mind include Miniature Golf. Bowling alley. Gymnastics center. Ice skating rink. Laser Tag. Indoor swimming pool. Pumpkin patch. My preference is the pumpkin patch because we've had such great success at pumpkin patches in the past. The place that we have in mind has hayrides and corn mazes and a petting zoo and nonstop fun. The advantage is that it's at an offsite location so preparation and cleanup is essentially a non-issue. The drawback is that every person that enters the patch will require a ticket. If we invite the class + the scout troops, we'll have close to 35 kids. With that many kids, we'll need chaperones whose tickets we'll also need to purchase. Then there's food and a cake. Or two.  Also, there are time limits on the party. We couldn't extend it beyond 2.5-hours because you've got a "time slot."

Option 2: Host it at our house.  The advantage of having it here is that we could fix up the yard real pretty and have our very own Fall festival. Also, other kids from the neighborhood (with whom are kids are also close), could drop in.  Parents and siblings could come over and stay awhile.  We'd decorate with hay bales and lots of pumpkins around the front yard. There would be bobbing for apples, a piƱata and capture the flag in the backyard. We've also looked in to renting ponies and/or a moon-bounce and/or a rock climbing wall. The drawback of having it here is that one of our bathrooms is defunct and one is being remodeled. So we might have one operational bathroom and up to 70 people. On the upside: there are lots of trees in the backyard! And this, just in! Charlie found a place that rents out mechanical bulls. 

I'm sure the children would love that!

What do you think would yield more fun for our (soon to be) newly turned eight-year-olds?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

the tour de blogosphere

So ... it looks like Blogger is working again and I'd like to take a moment to hug, squeeze and kiss this adorable little blogging platform's head!!! 

My brief stint at WordPress was great and I'll forever be thankful to those fantastic people in the support forum who provided a tutorial on how to upload a picture from my Flickr account.  

But .... 

In the whole six days that I spent trying to understand a new blog platform, I could never crack how to migrate my 1,600+ worth of archives from this blog to that blog and there was no way I was going to leave my archives behind. It felt like I had no idea what I was doing on WordPress and when I received an e-mail from the people at BlogHer telling me that they were deleting my ad account which is hosted on this blog, the decision to move back to Blogger (once it was operational) was an easy one.  While the little ads that I have running on this blog generate the financial equivalent of a small cup of coffee every day .... over the next 12 years - that might be enough to pay a few books when my children enter college. Or a really nice coffee machine. Assuming I ever take up drinking coffee. 


Several of my links on this blog are quirky which will require some work. But regardless! Here we are again and I hope you enjoyed your tour through the blogosphere as much as me! I do plan to keep my WordPress blog alive because you never know if and when this one might tank again and it's good to be prepared. It's like my own little blogging contingency plan, if you will. 

One thing to mention: Last week when the world was dark and grim and I thought this blog was gone forever, I tried to reduce the size of my Blogger export file so I could import it in to WordPress. Because I didn't want to delete posts or photos, I started deleting comments. And what I hadn't realized until that moment was that I'd received more than 30,000 comments before I turned them off last year. While that might not seem like a lot of comments for some uber bloggers, it was a lot to me.  

As I was deleting the comments, I felt like I was erasing so many kind words and advice that had been relayed over the years and it totally bummed me out. I finally stopped the deleting insanity when I got to comments that had been left by my wonderful Uncle Bill and friend Deana in 2009 - just a few months before they both passed.  To add insult to injury, for all the comments that I deleted, I only reduced my export file by 2 GB (which still wasn't small enough for import). 

When I started up the WordPress blog, the default for comments was "on" and I was warmly reminded how nice it was to hear from old friends. (Hello Winecat and Twingles and so many others!)  So I've opted to leave comments "on" again.  Truth be told, I've felt guilty that so many have written to me over the past year to share a story after a post they'd read, and I've been negligent about responding. 

Borrowing from the back of a Papyrus card we recently received in the mail,  "Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird's delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life's sweetest creation." 

(I love that!) 

Thanks for all the personal connections you've made with me over the years.  I hope that going forward, I can do a better job of making those personal connections with you, too.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

clearing the land


This past July, we had a huge storm whip through the area and one of the 80+ foot trees in our backyard took a tumble.  For the past (almost) three months we've looked at the downed tree and every single day, we'll say to each other, "We should really take care of that..."

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Yep.  We definitely should. 

When Charlie was in California last week, I thought maybe I'd surprise him by having a tree removal company come in and clear out the fallen tree and a few (4) other trees that look like they could go down in the next storm.  Much to my surprise the cost to remove the one downed tree was $2,500.00.  The cost to remove the other trees brought the tab to almost $10K.  We were told the reason it was so expensive is because the trees are located very far down on our property line and they aren't accessible from the road. So they wouldn't be able to bring in any of their heavy equipment.

That bid wasn't acceptable to us because in my opinion - removing a few trees shouldn't cost as much as installing a new bathroom.  So Charlie and I (and our four little helpers) spent the entire weekend cleaning up our backyard.  And the ecosystem that we uncovered beneath the fallen tree was amazing. There were huge crickets, huge earthworms, huge beetles, huge furry spiders (whose size rivaled the palm of Charlie's hand), huge toads, and one itty bitty tiny snake.


As we were outside working, it struck me that for all the pressure I often put on myself to take the children out and expose them to various events on the weekend ... they had the perfect weekend working alongside us in the yard.   And best of all, we cleared almost the entire property AND generated multiple woodpiles to last us all winter.
The organization of these logs puts me in a very happy place.
If we were to pursue another career path, clearing trees might be on the list.


We've found we're very good at it ...


... although it certainly helps that we've got a Superhero on our payroll.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

kitchen band


Sometimes, the noise in our home is deafening.


But in a lovely, melodic way.

Or as lovely and melodic as children banging on pots and pans with various utensils can be.
Although we have our differences of opinion on certain music (Barry Manilow, me; Blackberry Smoke, him), Charlie and I love music and have it playing almost all the time in our home. This past week, my husband heard that the Wiggles are coming to our area and he has expressed to me that he really likes the Wiggles. As in, he will listen to them quite frequently (every day) without objection. So when he heard that they were coming to Virginia - he immediately looked in to tickets. Today, he was tickled as he told me that he'd found two awesome seats right down at the front.  "Two tickets? " I asked. "What about the kids?"  That's when he gave me a surprised look and asked, "Oh. So ... do you the kids will want to go, too?"
(An important message to our Wiggles fans William, Elizabeth, Carolyn & Henry: Your father, Charlie, might enjoy our music more than you!)
I dunno. The Wiggles? Maybe. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

is it obvious we've been going to church again?


Today at work, we participated in our annual "Employees Favorite Charity" drive.  Every year, several non-profit organizations from the area will "market" our corporation and our employees will determine which organizations they would like to financially support.  Our corporation encourages everyone to donate at least 0.006% of their income to the charity drive, which translates to approximately 1 hour of pay per month.  Considering last year employees from our campus donated more than $2 million dollars to local non-profits, I believe that this is a great way for us to learn about charities in the region while fostering a philanthropic spirit in the workforce.
So there I am ... sitting at my desk ... reading through the various charities in the area and I'm in TEARS because there is so much need and so many things I'd love to support but I'm limited by the number of charity rows on my donation form (6) and the number of 0's in my paycheck.

There's the Alzheimer's Family Day Center which provides support for people (and their caregivers) with Alzheimer's. I donated money to this group in honor of my Aunt Alice and my good friend, Jennifer, whose mom is battling Alzheimer's.  There is the Lamb Center which provides services for the poor and homeless in Fairfax. I donated money to this group, too.  I also donated to Miriam's Kitchen and St. Ann's Infant and Maternity Home and   The Cinderella Foundation and My Sister's Place in honor of our trail-guide from North Carolina. How I hope that my pittance donations will add up with other donations to a significant enough amount that they will truly make an impact.  But also, I hope that my donations will indicate to these organizations that someone BELIEVES in their cause enough to support it.  Isn't that half the battle?

I really wish that I could have supported all of the charities. Then I remembered that charity doesn't just come in the form of financial donations.

Incidentally, all day today, my friend Michele has been on my mind. She wrote me a note asking what the heck had happened to my blog and telling me about the Octomom (Nadya Suleman) who was moving in directly next door to her brother-in-law.  I'm not sure what came over me, but this morning when I should have been getting ready for work (and children ready for school), I instead googled Nadya's name to find out more about this woman.  And - well. My heart broke, especially when I read all of the public comments on the posts about her.
Why must people be so cruel?    

Oh, I know we can judge that she brought it all on herself, what with giving birth to 14 children.  And maybe she wanted a reality show. And she didn't get one. And now she's saddled with raising 14 children - ON HER OWN. So she files bankruptcy and stars in an X-rated film and goes out on dates for money.  And although it would be SO EASY to throw stones and say what a dope she was for not thinking this stuff through, instead, I feel terribly sad for her and for her children. She's expressed that she has a mental illness surrounding hoarding and I do not believe (and no one can convince me) that this is what Nadya imagined or wanted for her life. To be alone raising FOURTEEN CHILDREN, wondering how she'll survive and now staring in porn to make ends meet.  Really? Who wishes for that kind of thing?

Honest to God ... the woman is raising FOURTEEN CHILDREN as a single parent.  Of those 14, eight (8!!!) are three-years-old. Does anyone remember when *I* was raising three-year-olds?  I locked myself in a closet and fantasized about life on the other side (and I don't mean other side of the door).  All the while, I had a stable, devoted, loving husband in my life that would bake me chocolate cakes and paint my toenails. If I could link to my prior blogs I'd reference posts on that exact subject and I'd undoubtedly laugh and think, "Good Lord, how did I ever survive that time?"

Did I ... or am I just dreaming?

All this to say: Charity isn't just money. 

Charity is virtue, kindness and love.

Charity is loving our neighbors - fellow mankind - as we love ourselves.

I'm not suggesting that everyone funnel money to Nadya. But I am suggesting some charity in the form of compassion.  This is what Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Paul was a seriously wise dude.

Now, that verse was pulled from Wikipedia and DIRECTLY next to that verse were these pictures...


I don't know about you, but I if you added another NINE CHILDREN to these women's lap (and feet)...


I think she'd have a remarkable resemblance to Nadya Suleman. 

So ... Michele, when you go see your brother-in-law and you meet Nadya, please tell her that a mother with 10 less children is thinking of her and sending my very best wishes for her success.  Please let her know that I'm 100% certain she could do so much more with her life.  In fact, I'm so convinced, I'll even help her put together a resume. (I've still got a few good connections in California.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

be a helper

This past April, when we drove through New Jersey and New York on our way to Massachusetts, we made a stop at the 9/11 Empty Sky Memorial.

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The day that we visited, it was cool and overcast.

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As the kids were climbing all over these steel pieces which at first glance appeared as some kind of deco art, it struck me that they undoubtedly came from the Twin Towers.

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These structures supported buildings that were the tallest buildings on earth and held the record for the buildings with the most floors...

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... until their destruction on a beautiful day in September 2001.

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These two structures which are situated within New Jersey, are part of a memorial to the buildings that once stood on the opposite side of the Hudson River in New York.

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The metallic walls are part of the Empty Sky Memorial, in which the buildings, sky and water are reflected in the silver panels that run its entire length.

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As you look past your own blurry reflection, you'll see the clearly etched names of those from New Jersey whose lives were violently stolen on that cloudless day. Innocent people who may have had no idea that when they stepped out in to the world on that beautiful Tuesday, that the world would be an extremely dangerous place. The freedoms and securities that my generation of Americans have always depended upon and taken for granted, would be stripped away and as a nation, we'd feel vulnerable to evil in the world like we'd never felt before.

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As I walked through the memorial, I felt like I was passing through a tomb.

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These little faces don't fully grasp the events that happened on that day.  But one day, all too soon, they will. And they'll probably feel the same type of confusion, sadness, vulnerability and fragility that I feel every time I remember what happened.  But it's my hope that they'll also feel that same rush of how fortunate we are to be here with each other right now: we're not immune to bad things happening and life can change in an instant. So let's never be complacent in our love for each other.

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When we went on a ferry ride to visit the Statue of Liberty ...

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We sat near a young boy who knew what had happened on 9/11 and he shared his stories.

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See those big cranes over there? 

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They're rebuilding the towers... 

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The towers that were knocked down when people flew airplanes right in to them. 

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The children turned to look at me and ask why? 

Was it a mistake? Why would someone ever do such a terrible thing? 

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Why? Because sadly, people can be influenced to do terribly bad things. Terribly bad things like rob 2,996 people of their lives and flip tens of thousands more lives forever upside down because their loved one was torn away by a senseless act of violence.  

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But people can also be influenced to do wonderfully good things. I always want to remember the feeling that permeated America after the attacks.  It seemed everyone was touched in some way and we were sharply reminded of our own mortality so we became better, more humbled versions of ourselves.

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Just as Mr. Rogers used to say, "Whenever bad things happen, look for the helpers."  Helpers don't get lost in why something happened - but what they can do to make it better.

Here's to the helpers: those who bring goodness to the world, offer inspiration, and keep things moving forward in a deliberately positive direction.