Monday, December 14, 2009

I won!

There are a few of things that have made me feel not-so-great lately. I have tried not to focus on them, but it's kindof like when your computer wants to update something and it reminds you every time you log on. Some things just aren't easily ignored.

Like what, you ask? Well, you know I'm not a super negative person, and especially here on this blog, I try to focus on the joys of my life.

But, for the sake of hoping you can relate, here are some things I have had more "not winning" in than winning lately:

- Having a child: Even the foster care peeps haven't called in a while. I know in an ideal world, we'd never get a call and never get a placement, because no child would ever need foster care, but according to the news, people are still doing stupid things to their kids, which means some of those kids should be with us.

- Eating right: To their credit, my friends are awesome. And quite a few of them have made delicious goodies as Christmas presents this year. It is not my friends' fault that I'm not working out like I should and though they are not forcing their brown butter cranberry orange bread down my throat, I can't just leave it sitting lonesome on the counter. By eating it, I am showing my friends how much I love them. Love is good, right?

- Applying for grad school: My application to UMD for their PhD in Communication was due Dec 1. I'm still working on it. It's taking me for-e-ver to finish my writing sample, which is silly, cause I'm just adding a section to a paper I wrote in 2000. But that was a long time ago and the military has ruined me for writing in academic style and I'm a lazy perfectionist and well, it's just not done yet.

So, there. That's just a few of them. My house is a mess, there are science experiments happening in the veggie drawer of my fridge, my inbox is overflowing, the Christmas gift list still has lots of un-crossed-off items and I have a cold. That last one isn't my fault, but it still sucks.

Waah, waah, waah, right? But I'm not just whining and being ungrateful. I'm trying to find the silver lining and keep my eye on the goal and letting my joy be not dependent on my circumstances and all that good stuff. I have far more things to be thankful for than would fit in this blog. But maybe cause of where I am right now, something like the email I got today just makes me feel like a winner, and I'm embracing it!

What is it, you ask? You're going to think it's silly. But, ok, I'll tell you.

My team was selected to run the Cherry Blossom 10-miler in April! Exciting stuff, right? See, last year they sold out their 15,000 slots in two hours (TWO hours!!!), so this year they did a lottery system. I registered John and I as a team, so we'd either both be entered or neither of us. And we got in!

The Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., is absolutely the most beautiful time of the year and makes this federal city the most beautiful place in the world for those two weeks. Sure, we can go run on the mall for free during the festival, but there's just something about paying to run with 14,998 strangers that is... well, it's just something we love to do.

Well, that's my little WIN for today. What about you? I hope you've gotten some sweet love notes from your Abba in the midst of your life, whatever's going on. I'd love to hear about them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Tribute

When I first joined the Air Force eight years ago, it came as a surprise to some people.

After all, I majored in drama in college and had already gotten my Masters, so I think the idea of me wearing boots and marching around carrying a gun was a different picture than most had of me.

People would ask, "Oh, do you come from a military family?" At first, I'd laugh and say, "No," cause I kindof liked the shock and awe effect of my decision. But after a while, I felt like I needed to give some props, so I'd add that my brother served in the Navy and my brother-in-law served in the Army and, oh yeah, my dad had been in the Navy for a wee little bit- but way before he met my mom- so basically those people had no impact on my choice.

Then, at Officer Training School in Montgomery, Alabama, my paternal grandma informed me that my grandpa had been in the Army Air Corps, stationed not too far from there, training pilots to go into WWII. And a few years ago when going through my maternal grandma's things, we found some WWII medals and rank that belonged to her cousin. Woah! Maybe I had more of a military family than I thought.

Now I'm married to a former Soldier whom I've converted to an Airman, and his dad is a Navy vet.



Now I've also been through several assignments, including a deployment, where the military people around me have become my family. Commanders, co-workers, even subordinates have become moms and dads and brothers and sisters when I needed them. And there's plenty of weird cousins and favorite uncles, too!

In this family, there is a trust that comes with a shared uniform and a shared commitment to protect and defend the constitution. There is an honor that comes with a salute, even if it's mandatory. There is also a deep sorrow that comes when one of our family pays the ultimate price. There is a responsibility to live in such a way to maintain this trust and honor, to represent well our family name.

Today I'm so thankful to my whole military family, serving in the US and abroad, serving in uniform and as civilians and Reservists and Guardsmen. I'm thankful to you for helping me become the person I am today. I'm humbled to be in your ranks.

I may not have known or acknowledged I came from a military family when I first raised my right hand, but today I'm proud to claim it. I'll even say it, I love you (what's a family without love, right?)!

Happy Veteran's Day!

Friday, October 2, 2009

10







10 years ago today my little sister married her high-school sweetheart. She was just a baby. 19 years old.

As the oldest sister, I always thought (as most of us do) that I'd get married and have children first. After all, I had done everything else before she did. I even remember when mom and dad brought her home from the hospital, sitting on the couch getting to hold her. 

Today, I remember helping her with her veil and being overcome that my sister was all grown up. And being so proud of her and so excited for what God had in store.

Thank goodness she didn't wait for me! Thank goodness she didn't wait until the world thought she was ready to get married!

These days we grind our teeth and wring our hands when people get married "too" young. I certainly wouldn't have been ready at that age, but that's the beauty of it. Each person gets their own story.

I think Jeremy and Martha's young hearts when they got married is exactly why they are celebrating 10 years today. Those young hearts were flexible and open, which was necessary for their first few months in Army barracks and first few years of moves.

Some might say it's better if you experience the world outside of your parent's home for a few years, grow up, figure out what you want to do or be, then settle down and get married. Great, if that works for you! (it did for me)

But their world was each other, cemented that way early so the foundation would be strong through a year-long deployment to Iraq and several job transitions. Not to mention five babies.

And oh, those, babies!

Sorry guys, but Judah, Josiah, Avrah, Hosea and Micah are really my favorite part about you being married.

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But, today is about you - the plural you. My life wouldn't be what it is without you.

Jeremy, you were always meant to be in our family. And you were even the key to my husband being in our family. You were the one who told me that I didn't need another 'little brother' and I should find out what John's intentions were.

I'm so proud of you both and thankful for the genuine friendship we have. I can't think of another couple I laugh more with.

So, here's to young love. Here's to making a choice and sticking with it. Here's to the miracle of God making two into one (and then some!).

Here's to you, baby sister and favorite brother-in-law.

Love,
Anna

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another helpful tip

Last time I wrote about something I had observed, I was surprised that so many of my readers had also observed it.

Now I know that you are a bunch of astute and, quite frankly, brilliant people, just like me. So, what I have to share with you tonight will come as no surprise. No doubt you already are in the "in the know club," I just haven't had the fortune to be at a gas station filling up at the same time as you.

What??

Yes, my tip tonight is about gas stations. Most people (other than you, of course) don't seem to realize that the gas hose is long enough to reach to the other side of your car. That means, if all the pumps on your gas door's side are taken, you can go to the one on the opposite side and just stretch the hose over.

I feel bad for all those other people who wait in lines 2 or 3 cars deep for a pump on their side, while I just zip around them and have my bank account emptied tank full in no time.

Now, I am not going to guarantee that every gas hose in the world is long enough to reach over your vehicle. But I have been trying this out at any station I go to for the last few years and haven't been disappointed yet. Sometimes I have to pull up to where the hose just has to go around the back and not over the top, but it always works.

Everyone waiting in line must be from New Jersey and is just learning how to pump their own gas. Let's give them some time and enjoy our no-wait pumps in the meantime!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Blue Friday

[Spoiler Alert- The blog below contains honest emotions. If you're one of my work colleagues or someone who would feel uncomfortable seeing this side of me, please feel free to click away to one of my funnier blogs now. :-)]

[and it's really long]


It's a good thing I didn't get my makeup on before leaving for work, because it would've been all over my face by the time I got there. I'm not a crier. Well, that's not true. But I used to not be. Then, when I started dating John, I started crying all the time.


Oh, it wasn't him. It was the fact that our relationship was long-distance bi-country (him:US, me:Honduras) until 2 months before we got married, so I missed him alot.


I digress. 

Today (Friday) started out really early. I had a presentation to give in the Instructor Training Course I'm taking at the Defense Information School. It was just a demonstration, so I didn't spend as much time prepping for it as I should've. I got up at 4:30 to work on it, but never quite got my head in the game.


On the drive up to Ft. Meade (35 miles away), the song All My Praise by Selah, came on the radio. One of the singers in Selah is Todd Smith. I came across a blog by his wife, Angie, several months ago. Eighteen weeks into their 3rd pregnancy, they learned that their unborn (4th) daughter, Audrey, had no kidney function, an enlarged heart, undeveloped lungs and no amniotic fluid. Angie's blog about their journey was one of the most read blogs of 2008.


The short version of the story is that they were told they should have an abortion because Angie would probably miscarry, and even if Audrey survived delivery, she would take one gasping breath and die. Plus, carrying a live baby with no amniotic fluid is very painful for the mother. They decided that God gave Audrey to them and they'd hold on to her as long as they could. She was delivered via c-section at 32 weeks and lived for a peaceful two and a half hours. (I highly recommend you read her version of the story, just keep a tissue close.)


The song was recorded 3 years before their ordeal with Audrey started, but the blog was fresh on my mind. The lyrics--


And even in the shadow of death
I will praise You
And even in the valley I will say
Holy, My God
You are worthy of all my praise
Holy, My God
You are worthy of all my praise



--just seemed really poignant. I wonder if even as Todd sang this song, God was preparing his heart for what he would actually have to walk through in the future. And I wonder what God is preparing my heart for.


I can't hear a song by Selah without thinking about their story, so of course my heart got sad for them. --Tears start. -- And then sadder still for anyone who loses a baby. And sad for me because I want a baby. And happy-sad for my friend who just had a healthy baby 3 weeks early, before her husband got home from his Navy trip. And sad for all the daddies who can't be there for their babies' births. And hoping John is there for ours (because we WILL have them).


By this point, I'm not even bothering to dry my cheeks off.


And then I cried for our future foster children, for their parents who will make bad choices that will lead to us taking care of their babies. And for all the children in the world who don't have loving homes to live in. And then some more for myself for wanting a baby, and for all my friends who want babies, and for missing John, who is only gone for 2 weeks, but it seems so much longer.


Do you see why I was a mess when I got to work this morning? My mind was a million miles away from my demonstration on how to make a trifle. 


I made it through today, but I feel like I've been in a daze. I write this not to be all "woe is me" but just to let you know that it's okay to feel the blues every once in a while. I try to keep what I write very encouraging and full of joy. But today, I knew I had to tell you about this.


Because joy tastes so much sweeter when you know the bitterness of sorrow. Our character can be developed more in our times of 'weakness' because our hearts are softer to the Potter's hands. 

I don't dwell on these things every day, but today I was able to offer all of it up as a prayer, knowing my God is big enough to hold it all.


I'll be glad to see this day tucked into history and look forward to His new mercies tomorrow.







Monday, September 7, 2009

Three birthday wishes

I'll be honest (aren't I always?), birthdays are not my love language.

A few years ago I tried to stop celebrating my birthday. It did not go over well. I ended up offending more people than I thought possible. My desire to ignore my birthday didn't stem from not wanting to age. That's inevitable and -for me- very desirable as I seek the wisdom associated with age. I just didn't think that I did anything the day I was born to warrant a celebration. My mom did all the work.

My loved ones protested saying my birthday was a chance to celebrate me and all the great things I mean to this world. My argument was, if my birthday is about me, why can't we honor me by not celebrating it? I've done things worth celebrating other days, like graduating from college or joining the military. I don't mind a cake and cards to congratulate me on the anniversaries of those events. Sigh. Like I said, this was an ineffective pursuit and I gave up.

Anyway, now I have an idea to harness birthday-loving-people-everywhere's desire to celebrate and my desire to do something worth celebrating.

I give you three great causes to send some money to. This way, you and I both make a difference!

1) Solomon Jordan Siegel - He's my nephew and turns 2 on Sunday (now there's something to celebrate!). He was born with Down Syndrome, and has been through a lot in his life. He is amazing. This year, he's attending a special school called The Little Light House. The school will invest $26,000 into his education this year and not charge his parents a dime. They can do this only through fundraising ferociously and partnering with people and organizations who care. You can find out more about him and donate as much as you want on his page here.


2) Philippines trip/Camp Sonshine - I'm going to the Philippines with my church from Oct 25-Nov 7. We're going to be working with the Anascos (ORU grads) and the camp for street kids they run called Camp Sonshine (yes, related to the one in Maryland). My team of 12 (plus a baby) needs to raise $27,600 total by Oct 1. This amount goes towards our plane tickets and expenses, then the rest goes to putting on the camp for 150 to 200 kids. If you want to 'go' with us, you can contribute here and choose any of our names to put in the 'For' line.


3) charity:water - a simply amazing community of people who want to provide clean drinking water to everyone on the planet. I started a campaign to help and the webpage is http://mycharitywater.org/annasbirthday. You'd be amazed how much a little can do.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The next, best thing

This is not to say "the thing that is next to or second to the best thing, the lesser-good thing." This is to mean "the thing that is next for us, which is the best thing."

I decided to save the biggest news of the month for the last blog of the month, now that -hopefully- I have more readers.

Several months ago, nine months to be exact, God planted a seed in my heart. My emotions were boiling at the latest story of child neglect and abuse. All I wanted to do was go rescue those children and get them away from crazy parents who could not grasp what a precious gift they are. I yelled at the TV, "Don't put your baby in the microwave or throw it off a bridge, just give it to me!"

I felt a nudge that maybe I could actually do something to help, googled foster care in my county and made a phone call. Turns out they were having an information meeting that very night. John was all in. We ditched our dinner plans with some very understanding friends and made our way over to the Fairfax County Gov't Center, where, with about 40 other prospective foster and adoptive parents, we heard enough to make us sign up for the training.

In January and February, we attended 27 hours of training, then started on all the paperwork necessary for the county to do our home study and approve us for foster care and adoption. In our county, it's the same process, which makes alot of sense and saves the county and parents time and money. We've had alot going on this year, so it took us longer than it should have to get everything turned in, but we finally did.

Last Monday, we went in and signed papers making us officially ready to accept a placement.

Here are the most common questions we have received so far:

Q: What ages did you ask for?
A: We said we were open to infant to 7 years old. The age ranges they're seeing the most of right now are 0-4 and 12-16.

Q: When are you going to get a placement?
A: We don't know. They initially said it could be several months until a child that matched our abilities/openness would need placement. They also said there are alot of medically fragile babies in the system right now who need a stay-at-home parent, which I am - mostly.

Q: Will you get the chance to adopt the children placed with you?
A: Maybe. The county's first priority for any child in the system is permanence, and they look to place them with immediate or extended family before placing them into foster care. If they do need to be in foster care, the county will try to rehabilitate the birth family in order to place the child back in a stable, nurturing environment. They ask to the foster families to help with that by facilitating visitations and even mentoring the birth parents. If that isn't possible, again, the county looks to immediate or extended family to adopt.

Finally, when all options have been exhausted, they place the child up for adoption. For the foster/prospective adoptive family, this can be a long, roller-coaster process. Parental rights have to be terminated, and when the birth parents don't do this willingly and are unresponsive to rehab, the county has to go to court and have a judge terminate their rights. They can fight it through several different appeals. So, it's not an easy process even if one of our foster children becomes available for adoption.

But, since we are approved for both, we might get a placement that looks headed for adoption, since the county wants to move the child as few times as possible.

Q: How long will you have a foster child with you?
A: That depends entirely on the birth family and the county. Could be anywhere from an overnight to several years. We can opt out at any time if we aren't able to provide for the needs of the child, but the best thing for everyone is that we consider the costs as much as we can before accepting the placement.

I don't want to overload one blog with everything we learned about the process over these last several months. I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities to write about our experiences as we have them. Overall, we have been so impressed with the Dep't of Family Services in our county and all the social workers we've gotten to know. We have stacks and stacks of support materials and long lists of numbers to call for just about anything we can think of. We even have a parenting consultant!

We got a call last Thursday that almost changed our lives. They had a healthy baby boy born Wednesday, whose birth mother had mental health issues and maternal grandma and great aunt said they did not want him. He would be released from the hospital Friday and, if we accepted, would've come home with us then. Woah!

We were both excited and scared. Are we ready for this? What in our lives would we have to cancel or adjust? For me, a job and missions trip were on the line. We both have separate overseas trips planned in the next two months, so each of us would be here alone with him. We don't have any baby stuff - car seat, bassinet, bottles, nothing. They would provide some clothes, formula and diapers to get us started, but we'd need to do some massive shopping!

In the few hours we had to talk it over and make some plans, the baby's situation had improved. His mom had been stabilized after delivery and was able to make some lucid decisions. Her mom hadn't wanted to take the baby when her daughter wasn't aware of it, but together they were able to sign him over to Grandma's care. They didn't need us after all, but it was a great drill for us.

We are going to hold off on being available for a placement till mid-November, when we are both back from our travels and have job stuff more stabilized. Again, there's no telling when another child will need a place, but by then we'll be more ready to go.

I'd love to answer any questions you have about the foster care system or our experience so far. We are so excited to be able to give out of what God has given us and help restore families in our area, and maybe, just maybe, get a little family of our own.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Musings on a Sunday Night

Several years ago, back when I was in college, I started to notice a trend in Proverbs, then saw it all over the Scriptures, particularly the Old Testament. I thought maybe someday I would write a book about communication according to the Bible. As a communicator by trade, I've noticed messengers and messages get special notice and it might make an interesting study to see what God says about our profession.


Here's one passage I've been chewing on lately.
Isaiah 52:7-8 (emphasis mine)


7 How beautiful upon the mountains
      Are the feet of him who brings good news,
      Who proclaims peace,
      Who brings glad tidings of good things,
      Who proclaims salvation,
      Who says to Zion,
      “ Your God reigns!”
       8 Your watchmen shall lift up their voices,
      With their voices they shall sing together;
      For they shall see eye to eye
      When the LORD brings back Zion. 



I have alot of opinions (gee, you think?) and am usually not at a loss for words on any given occasion. And I may have some nice or interesting things to say here on this blog or in any public setting, which may help someone or brighten their day or just give them a little mental break from whatever they were doing. And those are good things.


But when I read verse 7, my communicator's heart starts jumping up and down saying "I want beautiful feet!" I want to bring good news, proclaim peace, bring glad tidings of good things (God knows there's enough bad news or bad reports of bad things!). I want to remind the people of God who they are, and that God is present in their lives and is on the throne. 


Then verse 8 speaks to the heart of worship in me. Tonight we had vocal practice for our worship team and the sound of our voices blending together in harmonies was so sweet. You hear the expression "singing from the same sheet of music," alot. Maybe too much. But maybe it's used so much because it's one of the most powerful examples of unity and togetherness. Here in steps that unwrap backwards, the prophet says that restoration has to take place before we can see eye to eye, and only after that we can lift up our voices and sing together. 


I think this has powerful implications for communicating in an organization, whether there's a spiritual setting or not. Perhaps communication (from an organizational and personal standpoint) is often so frustrating because we are trying to sing together, but haven't been restored. 


Just some stuff I'm thinking about. Thanks for listening.
      

Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's time I told you

There's something I have to get off my chest. It's this bit of knowledge I have gained and looking around me day after day, I feel like nobody else knows. I know, a blog with 10 readers isn't necessarily the world's greatest platform, but you have to start somewhere, right?

You know how on an escalator, you put your hand on the moving handrail? Have you ever noticed that you have to keep readjusting your hand because your hand is creeping up ahead of you? If you don't put your hand on that communal conveyor belt of germs, then just watch the next time you're on one. You'll notice everyone whose got their hand on the rail will be slowly tipping forward as they go up or down, then subconsciously, and almost simultaneously, pulling their hands back to stay upright.

Why? Because the hand rail always moves slightly faster than the stairs. I have been watching this for about 4 years now and I've yet to see one that moves at exactly the same pace. I can't put my hand on the rail knowing this, it would just get too annoying, but nobody else seems to care. But, maybe it's cause nobody knows, so I'm doing my part to share this with the world. There. I feel better. You?

Friday, August 28, 2009

4-minute Friday: Living Rooms

Go.

Living rooms are places where most of my favorite moments in life have happened. Tonight, I'm blogging from my pastors', Bill and Lisa Shuler, living room. They just moved into a new house 2 months ago, but the living room they moved from is one of my favorites. It's where I met my John. The furniture and decorations are the same here, so it kindof feels the same.  But now it doesn't matter what room I'm in with John, I just love to look across it and see that he's mine.

Another living room I love is the one at my mom's house in Tulsa. It has been through several modifications, from housing my grandma and aunt, to now being the grand central station of my siblings and their kids. There's a Wii Fit there that even the youngest grandkids know how to use and we convinced our grandma to try it out over Thanksgiving. Laughter lives there.

Overall, I just love the comfort and community that develops in a living room, and I couldn't think of a more appropriate name for that room.

Stop.

That's my 4-minute take on living rooms. What are your favorite (G-rated) memories in a living room?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Caution: Experimental Blogging Technique in Use

I have this idea of what I want to write about tonight. It's not packaged all nice and neat, so I'm just going to write free-flow and see what happens. There will probably be some incorrect placement of commas and some run-on sentences, too, but if you're down for that kind of thing, strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride.

This whole NASA shuttle-delay thing got me to thinking about countdowns and how the numbers flashing before us can change our perspective on time. I was also thinking about how I have only 5 more blogs to write this month, 4 after this one. Maybe as humans we have a need to measure our time, and we find a value in knowing precisely how much we have left before certain events take place.

I have a certain event taking place tomorrow morning. The countdown is already running in my head; 5 hours prior wake-up, guzzle coffee, eat protein, stretch, continue cramming math and other GRE test-taking material in brain; 2 hours prior, shower, get dressed, drink some more coffee, keep studying, get on metro; .5 hours prior,  arrive at testing center. Then, each portion of the test will be timed, and the screen will show me how much time I have left, which I should have down to a science how long I have to answer each question or draft each point of my essays, but since I haven't done any practice tests, I have no idea, but that countdown timer will surely be a helpful stress inducer.

So the test is a pretty big deal and may have certain ramifications on my future, like my ability to get into the grad school of my choice, but mostly likely it will just serve as a practice test and I will have to take it again. But as soon as it's over, another countdown is on, this time studying for the subject specific test. And after that, it will be polishing the applications, trying to get everything in for that December deadline. Clock is ticking. Come on! This is my life we're talking about here, my dreams, my calling. Time is not stopping to wait for me to finish this show or this blog.

But we get no countdown on major events in our lives. Like our life starting. There is no way to  countdown to conception, or a timer showing when our hearts will start beating (of course we know generally what day this happens on or what week in the gestation period something forms). And, unless you're involved in a deathrow inmate situation, you don't get a countdown on your death or the passing of someone close to you.

If we did, though, get a timer on those things, (or other important events such as the moment you fall in love or the moment your marriage will hit a rocky period), would we do things differently? Would we live and love with more urgency, intention? Should we do that anyway? Would we race the clock or just let time take its course? Some people do that now, without a timer. Maybe they have one in their heads that keeps them moving. Maybe that's why we countdown to moments we can control or know, to make up for what we can't, or to develop a mentality that time is always ticking.

Finally, won't it be nice in Heaven when the clock stops and time really starts? No more countdowns, no more timers, no more ticking or beeping or alarm clocks. I don't know what you believe about Heaven or eternity, but it might be the piece of eternity in my heart that makes me long for that peace without end.

But, fortunately for you, this blog has an end. Now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Darn you, Pottery Barn!

I want this.

It's a "Found Dough Bowl," described in the latest Pottery Barn catalog as such:

"In the first half of the last century, bakers at farmhouses in Hungary and other Eastern European countries used these hand-carved solid-pine bowls for bread making. Each bears individual marks of use and history, and is entirely unique."

They are also $199, so I will never buy one. But I want one.

I don't know if I could ever purchase something Pottery Barn advertised as uniquely historical after watching the Apothecary's Table episode of Friends. I did look for bowls like this in some antique stores and all they had was "recreations" of old bowls, for about $85-$100. Again, not gonna pay that much for some old-looking wood.

I also don't know how this applies to you unless you happen to be in an antique store and see something like this for around $30.

I guess this is what you get when I put off blogging until 11pm. I was going to tell you all about my awesome nephew Solomon and the school he gets to go to and how you can help. Maybe tomorrow. One thing I know for sure is that every dime I spend on this subject will be much better spent than on that darn old bread bowl!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A first for me

Yesterday, I found out I got my first job ever from a resume. (Yay!) All my other employment has been from applications or just knowing someone.

The job is as an instructor at the Defense Information School (DINFOS) in Ft. Meade, MD in their Reserve Instructor Program. DINFOS is where all the public affairs people from all the uniformed services go to learn how to be public affairs people. They offer the officer course online to Reservists and civil servants, then they have a two-week resident course to finish it up. I will be an instructor primarily for that course. 

It's still a Reserve job, so they'll basically have me on a roster of people to call when they have a course they need an instructor for, and I can decide if I want to/can do it or not. I'll still be assigned to Andrews AFB and able to go work there if they have money to pay me.

One of the things I'm most excited about is the Instructor Training Course I get to take. It starts Tuesday, Sept 1, so I'm scrambling to get ready for it, and is three weeks long. In this course, I should learn how to teach adults, which is awesome, because that's what I want to do! I've known I want to be a teacher for a long time, but just not the what, who and when of it. Now, I can teach others the only real job I've ever had (Public Affairs), still serve my country and develop my classroom skills for when I'm a professor.

Just wanted to share the good news with you. This is one of those life developments I hinted at in the first blog of the month. I have at least one more big development to share, but you'll have to wait a few more days for it!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thoughts on Testing

Studying math for the past several hours has drained all the creativity out of my brain, so I couldn't even come up with a catchy title for this blog.

I do not like math.

I'm sorry to all my math teachers and all you other math lovers and especially my dear aunt and uncle who are both math professors. My distaste for the subject is probably because I never took one of your classes.

I'm studying math because I'm taking the GRE on Friday. I'm taking the GRE because I'm applying for grad school - again. This time to get a PhD in English Lit. Not math. Obviously. But, for some reason, they think it's important to test your understanding of mathematical concepts and relationships between x and y and stuff.

The biggest reason why I don't like math is because I don't know enough about it. And I don't know enough about it because I 1) didn't learn it 2) don't remember it. I was a Drama major in college. The only math class I had to take was Math in Society, in which we learned about credit cards and interest rates. The class was such a joke that for one of my group's presentations, we did a puppet show I wrote with paper bags about the cultural role of the digits 0-5. For example, the number 3 talked about how he was invited to every wedding. It made sense at the time. We got an A.

Anyway, the reason I don't remember math is because I'm not continually learning it and I'm not being tested on it. This got me thinking about other kinds of tests in life. What we learn (or re-learn, or don't learn) from these tests must be the really important stuff. The stuff that God values so much that He wants to make sure we know it, understand it, live it. He doesn't test us because He's mean or likes to see us squirm. He wants us to succeed in this life He's given us, He wants us to know His love and His enoughness. (yeah, I made up that word, but I'm gonna get a PhD in English, so I can do that) The best thing about God's tests is that there is no scoring (that's grace!).

I hate that my acceptance to a school might be contingent on how well I do on this test, but I have to trust (I learned that through a test) that it will all work out.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I wish you could've been with me

I thought this over and over these past two days while John and I rode with the 9th annual America's 9/11 Memorial Ride up to New York. This foundation provides scholarships to children of active first responders (EMS, Fire, Police).

We showed up at the Pentagon parking lot about 7:30 am, where we were joined by about 600 or so other bikes. Here's my attempt at an artful shot in the early morning light.

Then, as we traveled, we had police escort the whole way. I mean every exit or interchange from DC to New York City was blocked off. It was amazing having the whole road to ourselves.


Even more amazing were all the people who came out to watch, wave and even salute. On many overpasses emergency vehicles sat hooting and blinking their support.


The people stuck in our traffic seemed to be handling it well for the most part. We're probably on about 400 or more people's cell phone cameras.


We also got a little New Jersey treatment the whole way. At each planned refueling stop, a pit crew pumped gas for us. We stopped twice along the way for meals that were donated (by Famous Mike's Harley in Delaware and Applebee's in Linden, NJ). The ride was so incredibly organized and staffed with smiling volunteers. Our police escorts were also mostly volunteers. They were from city, county, and state police, sheriffs, and port authority crews, from about as many different states. This is one of my favorite shots going over the last bridge before New Jersey. You can see our police escort way in the lead.

When we came out of the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan, we were greeted by crowds on every corner.
Ok, so maybe most of them weren't there for us. In fact, many just pretended we weren't there.
But we made our presence known and got on a few more camera phones.


The thing that struck me the most (besides the bugs and rain) was the age of most of the children who were out with their parents. Most of them weren't alive on Sept 11, 2001. I wonder how parents tell their children about that tragic day, if at all. I mean, we're doing this ride to remember and honor the lives lost that day. What if it's not something you have to remember, but something you have to learn about? How does a child process that?

This morning we had special access to the construction site at the World Trade Center. I've been here a few times in the years since, and even though the work done here has been tremendous, it still feels like a giant hole in America's heart.


The tall building is Tower #7, which was the last to come down after being damaged that day and is the first to be rebuilt. It's 54 stories high. The crane in the frame on the left was putting steel in place for Freedom Tower, which is replacing the twin towers, which will be 3 times as high as #7.

We hope to do this ride every year. Come do it with us for the 10th anniversary!!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Early Riders

This morning John and I are joining several thousand bikers at the Pentagon for the 2nd leg of America's 9/11 Memorial Ride. We skipped the first leg, which was riding from the Pennsylvania crash site to the Pentagon Memorial. We had ridden up to the PA site over Memorial Day weekend and saw the Pentagon Memorial recently with John's family. Here are some pictures from the Flight 93 Memorial.

And here are some from the Pentagon.


We're headed up to NYC to ground zero there. It'll be my first major group bike ride. We went up to Sturgis a few years ago, but that's a group ride just by default. This time, we're police escorted and have t-shirts and everything. Should be pretty amazing!

(Don't worry, I'll take lots of pictures!)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why I love cooking

I'm not a great cook. I'm a pretty good cook. I'm a very slow cook. But boy do I love it. There's just something about taking a recipe, a pile of ingredients, a drawer of cooking tools, then chopping, sauteeing and stirring, bring it to boil, drain it and -viola!- something delicious.

For me, it's the perfect mix of science and art. You take a formula and finite ingredients, add in creativity and passion and you have a seeming unending variety of results.

As I've grown 'older,' I've learned that my tolerance for ambiguity has decreased. I want to know what the expectations are before I start a project. Some friends who sat in classes with me can attest to my frustration at vague assignments. Give me a checklist and I'm uber comfortable performing the task because I know what the parameters are. That's why I love following recipes and collecting good cooking tools (like Pampered Chef's :-)).

But there's still this starving artist in me, who wants to be unique and put some originality into anything that's going to have my name on it. And I crave feedback (hint hint). Cooking often offers that flexibility with a recipe and usually I can get instant feedback if people keep eating my dish, or come back for seconds.

Cooking also satisfies that bit of me that likes to make order of chaos. Here is an ugly, bulbous pepper, and after a few minutes with my knife, it's a pretty pile of colorful, evenly sized bits. I own plenty of Pampered Chef tools that make chopping and slicing easier and faster. But I usually opt for the good ol' knife and cutting board. The repetition and rhythm are soothing to my cluttered thoughts. When all else has gone wrong during the day, when it comes down to me and that tomato, I can win.

I'd love to hear what you love about cooking or whatever it is that feeds your soul.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More or Less

When I was doing my reserve gig at Andrews AFB earlier this year, we had to go watch this financial/motivational speaker. I can't remember his name, but he wore crazy shirts and boots and yelled alot.

One thing I do remember about him is this quote:

"Humans are the only living beings who wake up every morning and make a choice to be less than their potential."

It's true. Every other living thing does exactly what its DNA tells it to do until an external force intervenes. There is no tree that decides to be shorter than it was meant to be and no dog who decides to be less friendly.

There's another side to this, though. I think we are also the only living beings whose potential is not limited to our DNA. We can be/do better than we are naturally by being in proper relationship with God and others.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What's in my hand?

Have you ever been looking for your keys when they're in your hand? Or for your sun/glasses when they're on your head? This is an age-old piece of advice, but one that remains true.

Sometimes what we're looking for is right in front of us. Sometimes it's actually in our hands.

This can be true for so many things, from the practical items mentioned above to the biggest life decisions. So many people who have searched high and low for their spouse find him or her in their very own social circle. More people find jobs now by networking than any other way. It's all about who is in your life right now, what is right in front of you.

Somebody once said that most of the time in life all we can do is make the next right choice. We may not know what lies ahead 10, 20 years down the road. But if we have a right thing to do or say today, that's a big step in the right direction.

Of course, sometimes you did leave your sunglasses on the metro and many people do meet through eHarmony, and there's much wisdom and life lessons to be gained on an adventurous search.

I was just thinking about what to write my blog about tonight while I was digging through my purse for my keys. Turns out they were in my hand. And so was my blog topic.

How about you? Do you have any life experiences that resonate or clash with this thought?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Do They Know Who We Are?

This is what John and I kept asking ourselves today. We are both pretty low-ranked on the military totem pole and here the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) was rolling out the red carpet, chauffeuring us around and the town royalty showed up to watch us eat lunch.

Well, I think what John accomplished to merit all this attention was pretty awesome, but he's threatening to go on a motorcycle trip without me if I brag on him too much. Ah heck, I'm going to do it anyway.

He was named the Honor Graduate of the Year (HGY) for FLETC. In Oct 07, we both went down to Brunswick, Ga., for four months. Most folks go unaccompanied because there are no accommodations for family members on the base, but I had nothing better to do and thought I might as well stick as close as I could to my husband. You can read about some of our adventures there in my earlier blogs.

His course was in two parts; the first was a basic course that several of the 88 participating agencies' federal agents take. That was the course for which he was name honor grad. Then he went on to complete the Air Force specific course, graduated from that in Feb 08 and we came home. They mentioned he would be up for honor grad of the year at the end of the fiscal year (Sept 30, 2008), and would compete against all the other honor grads from that year.

He checked the website a couple of months ago and saw that a Secret Service agent got the award, so he thought that was the end of it. But then several weeks ago he got a call to congratulate him on his award. The press release online was from last year's recipient (it's updated now ).

We thought, "wow, that's cool. he won." Then they called to start making travel arrangements. They were flying us down, putting us up in a hotel, rental car and all that for a ceremony to present him the award. Also pretty cool. Then someone else calls to find out what kind of gun he wants. Yeah. Turns out a private foundation buys the HGY a gun. Sweet!

The general who is over all of the Air Force Office of Special Investigation (OSI, the career field John is in as a reservist) sent out these stats to the whole career field to explain the significance of this award.

"To provide some insight on the scope of this accomplishment, during FY08, 5,606 law enforcement students graduated from one of the FLETC basic programs eligible under the parameters of the HGY award. A very limited number of students qualify as Distinguished Graduates, with numerous FLETC basic classes concluding with no student meeting the required academic, firearms qualification, and physical efficiency battery (PEB) scores needed to merit Distinguished Graduate status. That said, in the rare instance where more than one student qualifies for Distinguished Graduate, only one graduate can be designated the Honor Graduate for that class, and that would be the student with the highest academic average. In FY08, there were eight Honor Graduates, and of those, [John] graduated with the highest composite score."

To make this even more exciting for the Air Force and OSI, he added, "This marks the nineteenth year in which this award is being presented, and the first in which an AFOSI Special Agent has been honored as the award recipient."

We were able to have John's dad join us for the ceremony today and we all got VIP treatment. Really, like even badges that said VIP on them. They took us on a very extensive base tour, along with the general, and we got to play in simulators, and I even shot a bad guy on a "plane" with simunition.


(yes, i think my eyes are closed and I think I shot him in the mouth)

We were expecting a pretty small luncheon/awards ceremony. But there were about 100 people there, including various directors from the school, local business folks, staffers from Senator Chambliss and Representative Kingston's offices, a district court judge, local FBI and US Marshals directors and so on. So many folks came up afterwords with a gleam in their eyes to shake his hand, commenting on how they were retired Air Force/OSI and how proud they were that he brought this honor to their branch.

Today was just awesome and I was so happy to see my hard-working husband get recognized for what he's accomplished. Even though he's uncomfortable with the attention, as most people who work in his career field are, he deserves it. What's better, he took the opportunity to show the people who work at FLETC how what they do matters.

Here we are in front of the Honor Grad of the Year plaque that now bears his name and will soon display his photo. In the picture with us is Brig. Gen. Dana Simmons, the commander of AFOSI, John's dad, Teddy, and Connie Patrick, the director of FLETC.



Monday, August 17, 2009

I'm Just Saying: Trip photos

Here is a phrase I think is useless, but have even caught myself
saying it. When someone is about to go on a trip or have an exciting/
milestone event we say,

"Take lots of pictures!"

Let's talk about why this phrase is completely unneccesary.

1) I already was going to take lots of pictures. If I am the average
American, I have at least one digital camera, and will take an obscene
amount of photos because I can.

2) You are not going to look at my 'lots' of pictures. What you want
to see is one, maybe two really good shots that give you a feel for my
experience.

3) I am probably not even ever going to go through my lots of pictures
to edit them and pick the best shots to share with you (or the whole
Facebook/Flickr world), so either I will post all of them for you to
not look at or I will never post them and you will forget what it was
you told me to take lots of pictures of.

Where did this idea come from? Is it like when we say, "Have a safe
flight," when, as a passenger, our beloved traveler has very little to
do with the safety of their flight, but we need something to say
before we say goodbye?

Do we mean, "Have a great time and I hope you bring back some good
memories."? Why don't we just say that? Or if we really are interested
in the outcome of their camera activity, could we be more specific
with our suggestions? Like, "I'd love to see the bride getting cake
smashed in her face, she has it coming" or "if you see a really cool
alley, can you get a shot for my collection?"

I'm just saying, saying "Take lots of pictures," does nothing for you
or me. If you want to keep saying it or other useless phrases, I'm
going to use you for blog fodder.

I'm just saying.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Celebration time

That's actually where I am in Florida. It's almost midnight, so I'm
almost out of time on this day. It's amazing how fast time goes when
it's full.

After a full day at Hollywood Studios, we came to Celebration, a city
nearby Orlando to have dinner with a dear friend of mine from grad
school. The last time I saw Cyndy was in 2001 as I came through
Orlando on my way to Montgomery, AL, for officer training school.
We've kept in touch through the years via e-mail and now Facebook, but
there is really no substitute for good old fashioned face to face
conversation.

We've been catching up on life, sharing dreams and hearts cries and
some delicious Spanish fare. And I'm just feeling pretty proud and
thankful right now.

Proud of myself for picking friends that have sticking power and for
picking a husband who fits in pretty seamlessly into relationships as
if he was always there. And then I know I didn't have anything to do
with that, so I'm overwhelmed with gratefulness.

Time that is full may go by faster, but it also leaves stronger
memories. And this is what I'm celebrating tonight.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Observations

1) When you bring your raincoat with a 60% chance of rain, it doesn't
rain. When you don't bring it with a 10% chance, it does.

2) Disney seems to be very wheelchair accessible. I can only make this
observation as a non-occupant of said device. But there are lots and
lots of people who are and they seem to be enjoying themselves.

3) Overheard conversation while waiting for the bus. "I stopped
working out my legs when I came up with a new philosophy. If I ever
was with a girl and it came to taking my pants off, it probably
wouldn't matter to her how skinny my legs are."

Friday, August 14, 2009

My favorite things

I'll be honest (aren't I always?). I don't have the best mindset for
blogging tonight. But, because I promised, I'll do a short bit about
my 3 favorite things about my wedding.

1) I like how we had our attendants give us the charge. The "Do
you...,take..., till death do you part."

2) Jessi Canning and Brannon Carnes, two amazing singers and great
friends, singing the song I wrote for John at the reception.

3) Having my 4 existing nephews, ages 4yrs, 20 months, 18 months and 6
weeks, as the ring bearers. The oldest pulled the youngest in a little
red wagon down the aisle with the two toddlers following. I'll post a
picture when I get home.

I have so many more things I love about my wedding, but I'll save
those for future anniversaries. Well, of course my absolute favorite
thing was marrying my John. But that's the whole point, right? :-)

What was your favorite element of a wedding you've been to? Your own
wedding can count!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Memories on the verge

John and I are in Florida this weekend to celebrate two pretty big
deals. The first and biggest is our 4th Anniversary, which is the
14th. The second is John being awarded the Honor Graduate of the Year
from the school we went to Georgia for last year (more on this Tuesday).

Since Disney is free for military this year, we are taking fully
advantage of it and the discounts they are offering to their hotels
and restaurants. I'm almost, but not quite, equally excited about our
anniversary dinner at Seasons 52, which is my favorite restaurant so
far.

So, on this anniversary eve, I thought I'd share what we did instead
of a rehearsal dinner four years ago. We had a rehearsal prayer
breakfast. We did this for a few reasons.

1) We got married outside and the weather in Oklahoma in August is
terrible, so I wanted to do something in the morning when there was a
chance of it being cooler.

2) I love breakfast. I could eat it for every meal, and sometimes do.
Plus, breakfast food is far cheaper to cater than dinner!

3) We have an incredibly spiritual family and group of friends and
couldn't think of anything we'd rather do than be commissioned into
marriage with praise and worship and being prayed over.

It was an amazing time, almost more special than the ceremony the next
day (but that was pretty great too). My only regret is that we didn't
record it, except with a few pictures. It's sealed pretty tightly in
our memories, though. We have seen many of the prayers answered and
the words spoken over us come to pass.

I'm on the road now and only have my iPhone to blog with, so I will
post some pics of that day once we are home.

Thanks for joining me on this little trip down memory lane. Join me
tomorrow for a little reminiscing about the day I married my best
friend. (or interesting things I've seen at Disney World)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

If you care, to know.

I want you to know that I’m ok. I’m actually better than ok, I’m doing great. My life overflows with blessings, my future is bright, though mostly unknown. I think one of those future unknowns gives many people cause to pity me or project something on me that I do not feel. So, I wanted to gently place here what I do feel.


This October will mark three years since John and I decided to start trying for children. Three years seems like a long time, and it has felt like a long time, but in perspective, it’s just a breath in the life God has given us. In that time, countless babies have been born to our friends and families, and we have rejoiced in them all. Also in that time, countless people have prayed for us, prophesied over us and confirmed in us the promise of God, and we have been thankful for them all.


I think there’s an inherent tendency for empathy to take form in words more kin to the heart of the giver than the receiver. There is nothing but good intent here, but maybe some understanding will enlighten those who try to speak words of comfort and hope to me and other TTCs (Trying to conceive). Of course, I can’t speak for them, just for me. This is where I am after three years of a winding journey down a narrow road. I’m not at the end yet and thank God, I’m not where I started.


First, know that I am content with what God has given me. I can’t list it all here, but you’ve seen in previous blogs my delight in my friends, my family, my husband and my Savior. God has turned what was mourning in a ‘have not’ to joy in all I have. When I think of His goodness to me, I can’t think of one reason to complain or one more thing to beg for. Even if I never hold a baby of my own in my arms, I will ever lift them in praise to God. This was not an easy statement to come by, but it is the truth.


Next, know that in this season God is making me who He wants me to be. He is changing and shaping my character, and I know when I finally am an awesome Mom, I will be so only because of who God is making me into now. God is also using me just as I am, to be a blessing by serving those around me in ways not possible if I had my own kids. My eyes have been trained to look for these opportunities and my desire is to use time wisely. A lot of well-meaning people say “It’s just a matter of time,” or “it’s all in God’s timing,” which kindof turns Time into a master of sorts and even the bad guy when one is waiting. I say Time in our hands is nothing but the space where we can either choose to let God change and use us, or we can choose to sit passively, or even worse, act out of resentment and ingratitude.


Finally, and I’ll only close here because I don’t want this to be too long, we believe the promises of God. John and I have both had vivid dreams of our children, so real that we know these are just previews from our loving Father. We do not make the mistake of putting our hope in the dreams, only in the Giver of the dreams. Some loving friends have also told us that we just need to “let it go” or “lay it down.” Please believe me when I say we have done both to the deepest extent we can. Some dreams do not go away as urgently as we demand they do. With those stubborn dreams, we can only offer them continually to the Giver. We don’t know how we’ll get the children, whether they’ll have our DNA or simply our last name, but we know God has given us the heart of parents and that heart is too precious to be unused.


Tears may fall from our eyes when people pray over us to have children. These are not tears of sorrow or lack. They are not Hannah’s tears, though we know the taste of those. They are tears of strong desire and faith. More like Jacob’s tears when he kissed Rachel.


From this place, we stand confident and happy. We are so excited when we find out about others having babies, whether they were trying or not! People who really know us should know better than to withhold that good news in order to spare any negative feelings we might have. People who really know us are always welcome to speak into our lives, I just wanted to give you a better picture of where we are.


Thank you for reading this, for trying to understand and for your continued prayers on our behalf. One thing our children will know, as well they know their own names, is that a world-wide community of people prayed over them before they were born. And I think they will be amazing world-changing people because of it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"We don't have time for pants"

A few months ago I wrote a blog called "Fame or Something Like it." I was doing an Air Force Reserve tour at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and in working up publicity for our Joint Service Open House (air show), I needed to find a celebrity of some sort to fly with the USAF Thunderbirds. This was harder than you'd think.

After contacting Sully of the Hudson Miracle Landing and finding he wasn't available, I got in touch with his First Officer Jeff Skiles. He agreed to come to Andrews to fly during our airshow, but when the Thunderbirds suggested that he could do it in his hometown of Milwaukee, he jumped ship. (get it? a pilot who landed a disabled jet 'jumping ship'?)

And as my blog said, I cast the line for an ever bigger fish, got a bite... and someone else got to reel him in. The reveal is much overdue, but the person was none other than Stephen Colbert! He ended up doing the flight in New York and they showed it during his Operation Iraqi Stephen USO tour.

So, here for your viewing pleasure are the clips of his flight.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Operation Iraqi Stephen - Fallback Position - Air Force Thunderbirds
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMeryl Streep

And we got even more airtime in his re-report: (warning- there's some Stephen Colbert on Tom Hanks kissing in this clip-NOT a part of his Thunderbird flight!)
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Re-Report - Lost Treasures of Babylon
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMeryl Streep

Oh, who did we end up flying with us at the Andrews show? WTOP radio's national security correspondent, JJ Green. He did a 9-part series on his flight. Excellent coverage.
We also participated in the Hero Flight Program, which honors a local hero and shows the public the every-day heroism of the U.S. Air Force. Our flyer was a Fairfax County Police Officer, Brian Bowers, who helped evacuate an apartment complex set ablaze by a suicidal man. Unfortunately, the local press didn't run the story of his heroism or flight. Maybe I'll post it here as one of my blogs. They were both great to work with and the Thunderbirds were an impressive crew.

I'm so glad they got the coverage they deserve on The Colbert Report, even if Andrews AFB wasn't mentioned. It all comes down to creative ways to tell our story to the American public and beyond. Someday, maybe I'll be famous enough to get my own Thunderbird flight. Come on, people! Follow my blog! Only a couple million more to go before I make it big! :-)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Celebrating a Princess

Avrah Grace is the only female child born to my immediate family line so far. My brother has 3 boys. My sister, Avrah's mom, has 4 boys. My sister-in-law also has a boy. Avrah is our princess.

It's her 3rd birthday today. I'll tell you later why you should care.

She was born while I was deployed to Kyrgyzstan. She wasn't the first offspring-of-siblings (there really should be a gender neutral word that encompasses both nephews and nieces) whose birth I missed, but it was especially hard to be so far away that year. My family was going through a very hard time, I was missing my first anniversary and that baby was a bright ray of sunshine on all of us.

The first time I met her was pretty amazing. My mom and husband had conspired to surprise me when I returned from my deployment. My mom brought my brother, my sister and 2-month-old Avrah out to DC and, with the help of some very good friends, they were sitting at a table in the food court at the mall where John and I were shopping. I am not a good surprise person, by the way, so don't try it if you want one of those really good faces/reactions. I usually just stare blankly until I can figure out how I was duped. Anyway, here I am falling in love with her.


It used to be that having a baby girl was not looked on with joy and celebration. I know it's still like that in many parts of the world. This is in no way a feminist manifesto, but I'm still amazed (in the not-good way) that someone could look at a little baby girl and not realize what a wonder she is. If not as a baby, then as a cute toddler or precocious pre-schooler.

Here is the gender God gave His life-bearing power to, a precious vessel to be cherished and protected. Here humans depart from the animal kingdom (where males are typically the more beautiful) with a dominant feminine beauty. And here is a mystery and allure that nations have gone to war over and new religions were formed around.

I'm grateful to be a girl in America today. I'm grateful my niece can grow up to be anything she wants to be. And I'm extra grateful God saw fit to bless our family with her sweet face.

Happy Birthday Avrah!



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