Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A True Moment of Thanks



So, the holidays are upon us once again and I am seeing plenty of posts about the many things we are all thankful for. For me, it is the obvious choices I think we all share for Thanksgiving....the love of family and close friends, the satisfaction we feel after a wonderful meal and the comfort of knowing we live in a country where we can express the things we are thankful for in the safety of our own homes.
Thanksgiving takes me back to a moment I will always treasure. No, not the first time I saw the Macy's Day Parade on TV (although it was spectacular) or the year my parents forgot to turn the oven on and we realized hours later that there was no smell of turkey lingering from the kitchen (True Story!) My special Thanksgiving memory occurred four years ago when we were headed to Washington D.C. to meet family for the Thanksgiving holiday.
It was the typical last minute rush of trying to pack and keep our 18 month old son out of the luggage but I was too distracted to continue. My thoughts kept drifting all the way to the back of my head and pulling out the same question I had planned on answering when I returned from our trip. However, I admit, I am infamous for picking inopportune times to deal with things (like getting ready to walk out the door to catch a plane), but, there are some questions that just seem to stop you dead in your tracks no matter what is going on, and, this was one of them!....... Am I pregnant??
I remember thinking the month before when I booked the trip that I was not looking forward to having my "period" when I was on vacation. Yes, for the men who may end up reading this, I did say "period" and women do think about it when they make plans to do something or go somewhere. Even though, I was not that "late" and had to get to D.C., it would be well worth it to take a test and put my mind at ease so I wouldn't be distracted for the rest of my trip. Yep, bags packed, toddler running wild, impatient husband staring at me, and I was peeing on the stick! I was expecting a torturous minute of waiting but it immediately turned positive (maybe it knew I didn't have a lot of time to wait?? If so, I appreciated it for being so courteous) and I, or we, were pregnant once again!
I had mentioned before the rush of emotions that go through you when you are face to face with a positive pregnancy test, and, this time was no different, except, I had been through it once before. Oh, the swollen feet, throwing up, carrying around all that extra baggage, but, wasn't it well worth it for that cute and precious little one you receive in the end?
So, that Thanksgiving I had an exciting announcement to make to our family that I was truly thankful for. I was grateful to be surrounded by my husband, our son, and our relatives in our nation's capital and blessed to know that I had another addition to our family growing inside of me. That feeling of appreciation and completeness and the gift to express it is what Thanksgiving means to me and that year will always be my reminder of a true moment of thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Image Credit: Custom Metal Art entitled "Giving Thanks" from http://www.wizardsofmetal.com/Western_Main.html



Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Juggling Act


This entry is called, "The Juggling Act," and, I am sure, in some way, all of us have had to do it: The exhausting and difficult task of trying to balance work and family..........

I got a slight taste of it when I was pregnant with my son. My male boss, married but no children, was courteous enough about it in the beginning, BUT, I could see the looks forming on his face and his tone changing towards me as my pregnancy became much more obvious.
Then, the never ending questions began: When is the baby due? How long are you going to be gone? Are you definitely coming back? How often are all of these doctors appointments going to be? Now, don't get me wrong, I did expect most of them, but, what I didn't expect was the lack of "congratulations" or a "how are you feeling?" to come out of his mouth every once in awhile. Instead, it was just the constant insinuation that I had not picked a good time for this as our construction company was running at a ridiculously fast pace.
The housing boom in Florida during 2003-2004 was in full effect. EVERYONE was qualifying for loans, house flippers were scooping up enormous amounts of properties and making unbelievable profits, and sunny Florida was where they wanted to buy, and, oh how they did! The owner of our company was a "in it to win it" kind of guy and it was hard to keep up with the number of contracts that were flooding though our doors.
Finally, when I was 7 months pregnant, my prayers were answered and a "temp" was hired to help me and replace me in my absence. It was hard to train her in such a short time, and, I also had to make sure that I didn't scare her away. I don't know why, but, she stayed AND did a great job, so, that became one less thing for me to worry about.
However, my busy mind began to shift to many other thoughts:
How bad was it going to feel to push a human being through my you know what!?! What a downright cruel concept!
Why had we outgrown our "starter" home so fast and how I was dreading the fact that we had to join the feeding frenzy going on in the real estate market at that time.
Then, there was the sobering reality that little voice in the back of my head kept whispering to me...."Don't even think about staying home with the baby permanently. You know you can't live off of one salary these days!"

My constant thoughts were finally side tracked when the big day arrived. The funny thing about babies, though, is they don't care if the time is right or not, they are coming out regardless! So, he was born two weeks early and I was on maternity leave for 12 weeks!
Ah, 12 wonderful weeks away from work, right? NOT. I had a newborn, so, the around the clock feedings and care began, our starter house sold the day after I had him and we had to find a new one pronto, and, because the work load was so high, I stupidly agreed to work part time from home during the midst of all the chaos. My life consisted of two steady sounds for the next three months: The baby crying and the fax machine squealing from all of the incoming work.
There was a silver lining in all of this, though. Once my hormones started to balance a little more and we had mastered the art of switching off nights so we weren't both exhausted, it became more manageable to work and look for a house.
We were lucky to find a bigger house in the area we wanted to live in and we settled in nicely before I had to go back to the office. My wonderful mother in law had agreed to keep the baby while I worked and everything had seemed to have fallen into place.
So, I returned to my job with a positive attitude, but, the fierce juggling act began! The baby had to come first and my previous willingness for overextending myself beyond my designated work hours had changed. Regardless, if an impromptu meeting was called, or if the phone was ringing, or if someone without an appointment wandered through my door at the end of the day, I had a baby to get home to.
Suddenly, I was automatically thrown into another category there, the working mother, and it became immediately obvious that it was not the most tolerant place for employees with too many outside commitments. However, I juggled it. Faxes, emails, meetings, sleepless nights, doctor's appointments, making the bottles, running out at lunch for diapers, I did it all and I learned two valuable lessons through all of it:
It is not only important but vital to feel a sense of support and appreciation from both home and work when you are trying to juggle your responsibilities to each of them. I am sure there are many companies that are more tolerant and understanding to the struggles of working parents. Unfortunately, mine was not one of them, and, my juggling act there went on for many more years and NEVER got any easier or appreciated in any way.
Secondly, I have the deepest respect and admiration for every single working parent out there. The difficult necessity of providing for your family while trying to not miss out on too much of your children's everyday happenings is quite a constant yet rewarding challenge.

Image Credit: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/career_and_jobs/secretarial/article3618889.ece

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

First Born Blessing



















I have always compared motherhood to that saying about "...wearing your heart on your sleeve." You suddenly cannot hide your feelings and start expressing all of your emotions so much more freely and openly for the entire world to see as you witness and react to your child's many experiences.
The whole amazing journey of conception, pregnancy, labor, and birth for the first time is somewhat overwhelming and indescribable, but, the emotions of motherhood and what that little person brings into your life is something that you could easily never stop talking about. I swore to never become so consumed by motherhood that I lost sight of myself and had nothing else to express, but, when I held my own little miracle, he tugged at my heart so strongly and I was instantly smitten, and, have been ever since that first encounter.
So, yes, I have joined the ranks of proud mothers everywhere who never miss a photo opportunity, love peeking in late at night and watching them sleep, and realizes there is nothing more endearing than hearing them call me, "Mommy."
I have also learned from him over the years that it is irrelevant whether he is 5 months or 5 years old or even 55, for that matter! He will always be my precious baby boy and I am truly blessed and honored to be his mother and I would like to finish this entry by sharing a special poem with you about a first born child.
This poem, I received at my baby shower from my mother, is something that I proudly display in my home and I have read it often before and throughout his life and it has become a heartfelt blessing from me to my precious first child as I watch him grow a little more each day:

Our First Child - by J. Morse

Oh how we planned and waited
For the moment of your birth
Of all our little miracles
You were the very first

The first to hold, to raise, to love
And fill our days with fun
From your first tooth to your first steps
We counted memories one by one

The years passed by so quickly
And soon we realized
Dear first born, you were growing up
Right before our eyes

We have cherished every moment
And we wanted you to know
You have brought real joy into our lives
And we love you so



Image Credit: I also received this beautiful statue entitled, "New Life," from my sister in law after my son's birth and it is part of the Willow Tree Collection by a very talented sculptor named Susan Lordi. I remember that feeling of completeness my husband and I shared as we gazed upon our newborn son.
Since then, I have become a huge fan of this artist and have collected some more of her sculptures which all have a tender and embracing quality as much as this one, but, this piece will always be the one I will cherish the most.
http://willowtree.info/products

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ten Fingers, Ten Toes and Chubby Cheeks!

If you have not been faced with this image before, pretend you are holding this stick and this response is boldly staring back at you and hollering, "Uh huh, that's right! You are definitely pregnant!" This test result can cause an absolute whirlwind of emotions you never even knew you had!!!!
This was the image I saw approximately 2 months after our wedding, and, even though, I fully understood it was possible, since we decided to start "trying" right away, it still shocked the hell out of me that it had happened so fast! I honestly felt like laughing and crying, and, I am pretty sure I did a little bit of both, especially, when I saw the mixture of excitement and terror on my new husband's face after I delivered the whopping news.

I was the ripe old age of 31 when I got married and was, somewhat, considered an old maid by several family members. I saw it differently. Marriage was not something I took lightly and I wanted to take my time and choose wisely, no matter how long it took. I had always wanted children, but, I never acted impulsively, and, was committed to never settling. So, it took me, maybe, a little while longer than others by their standards! So what!?! It wasn't a contest, right? My delay in marriage obviously did not effect my ability to get pregnant, and, we were suddenly expecting our first little bundle of joy.
So, our honeymoon feeling was short lived and my new husband spent the next long nine months watching me rapidly grow. I was huge and quickly ballooned so much that we had both started to panic about what I was giving birth to! I knew there was only one child in there, but, I gained a whopping 45 lbs and, literally, felt like a beach ball with legs. If it was possible to just tuck them in and roll me everywhere for the last three months of my pregnancy, I would have greatly welcomed it. I tried to enjoy this amazing transformation but it was hard to see beyond the vomiting and swollen ankles, and, oh yes, that ginormous belly of mine.
Despite the discomfort and awkwardness of my pregnancy, I always had an overwhelming joy everytime I thought about becoming a mother and that we were getting ready to welcome our baby, a part of both of us, into our family. So, when the day arrived, I was truly ready to start the process, no matter how painful, and, finally meet our child.
I was blessed with a quick delivery for a first child, as I was told by many, and it took six hours of labor, many pushes, and an episiotomy to get him out. There were several moments when I felt like I was trying to squeeze a bowling ball through a straw, so, it made sense to me when they plopped my rather large baby onto the scale and he weighed in at 9 lbs 2 oz.
He was big and it was difficult, but, he was absolutely beautiful and I was so proud of him and myself for getting him here! Ten fingers, ten toes, and chubby cheeks! He instantly won our hearts and our praises. Unfortunately, for me, the joy was short lived, as I started to heavily bleed and quickly lose strength.
My doctor and his nursing team swarmed around me with their concerned faces and the feeling of the room suddenly switched from celebration to concern as I began to hemorrhage. After a few nerve rattling minutes, he was able to control the bleeding and correct the problem, known as uterine atony, and bring me back to my joyous state.
So, if you have nine lives like a cat, I was stripped of one of them that day, but, I made it! This "old maid" got the right guy, had a big and beautiful baby boy, and dodged a potentially dangerous situation! It was quite a year and I didn't expect the rest of my life to be any different from that point on! I had grown accustomed to the fact that, sometimes, things don't come easy, but, how you truly appreciate them even more when you have to work a little harder for them!

Image credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pregnancy_test_result.jpg

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Princess for a Day

"I showed the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed." - Norman Rockwell

Whether it is sitting close and sharing a sunset with someone special or being brave enough to speak up and take a stand in what you believe; tucking your young and sweet child into bed at night or the build up and overwhelming disappointment you succumb to after losing an election; getting caught in the act doing something you were specifically told not to do or being part of a loving family gathered at the table to eat well and give thanks, Norman Rockwell was there. There are over 4,000 images he created to document the emotions and events of our everyday lives. He took American culture and turned it into a visual journey full of innocence, angst, surprise, anticipation, respect, joy, discovery, turmoil, hope, love and every other emotion you can think of. He used every brush stroke to drawn in all of our senses so each scenario he depicted is still vividly recognizable.

This delightful image of a young woman gazing into the mirror as she imagines herself in that dress is my recognizable moment. I was full of the same anticipation and awe by the thought of being able to slip on my dream dress and feel like a princess for a day. My royal moment happened on July 23, 2003, my wedding day. It had taken me a long time in my life to get to that wonderful and magical moment. I was never much of a dater and always chose to be in relationships. I had my share of flat out failures and plenty of the "what was I thinking?" moments, but, I finally had a relationship I could stick with. He came along at a time when I was turning a new leaf and his presence always gave me a sense of encouragement and praise. We grew together as people and our love was a never ending source of comfort and joy in my life. So, when he proposed a couple of years into our relationship, I did not give him the typical "yes" or "no" answer. I punched him and said, "It's about time!"

My mother is from a charming village in Northern Ireland. It was a place where I had spent many wonderful summers making memories with our large extended family. It was also where we had decided to lay my father, and, someday, my mother to rest. So, we toyed with the notion of getting married in the old chapel where my mother sang in the choir as a child and it was situated next to the graveyard where we had buried my father. Could we make it happen all the way from Florida? Yes, but, since we had decided to get married overseas, the year leading up to the wedding was full of stress for me.
I had flown over to Ireland by myself about 9 months prior to the big day to make ALL of the selections for our wedding. I had five days to meet the pastor and get permission to use the church and bring in my own priest, find a reception site, pick the menu, pick flowers, hire the photographer, choose the entertainment, order the cake and the list goes on..... Anyone who knows me well (and I partly blame it on being a Libra) knows that I am extremely indecisive. Luckily, I had the incredible support of my very patient cousin and his nurturing wife to literally hand hold me through this very stressful process. I left feeling proud of myself and my choices but lost most of my courage as we got closer to the date.
When we landed in Ireland nine months later and a couple of days before the wedding, we had to hit the ground running. Not only was I battling a different time zone that I was not used to, we had family and guests flying in, deposits to pay, hair appointments to make, and (DEEP BREATH) hoping that I still liked everything that I had chosen and suddenly had a bad case of amnesia about. The night before, I was suddenly terrified. I laid there staring at the ceiling and my heart pounded inside my chest. It was my first and only real case of wedding jitters. Would I look good in my dress? Was it going to rain? What was he (my groom to be) thinking about right now?
So, you are probably wondering when I am going to get to this magical moment I had. It literally happened when I walked through the chapel's grand double doors and down the aisle adorned with small bouquets of fragrant flowers decorated with little American and Irish flags. My mother's arm intertwined in mine was strong and supportive, my Calla Lily bouquet bound together with shiny silver ribbon was breathtaking, the princess style wedding gown fit fine, the handsome and beautiful bridal party were a comforting sight, the audience filled with dear friends and loved ones were smiling and welcoming me into my moment, and, most of all, I could see and feel the joy in my soon to be husband’s face. It was everything I had hoped for, except, the feelings were even more intense than I could have ever imagined. It was another Norman Rockwell moment.
After the ceremony, we paid our respects to my father and laid a bouquet of flowers from the wedding on top of his grave. I knew his spirit was with me. There was even an ongoing mention of him as many joked that he kept the typical rain away for his daughter's big day.
I kept Norman's sentiment with me and continued to observe every single glorious sight, smell, and feel of our special event for the rest of the day as I was graciously treated like a princess. As we drove away from the chapel in a beautiful pale blue and silver vintage Rolls Royce past the rolling green mountains (a big deal for a girl from Florida), I captured every detail of my fairytale moment in my head. The crisp July air and the smell of the salty sea, the feeling of all of those undercover layers of crinoline rubbing my legs and sticking to my stockings, the overwhelming completeness that I was feeling. I remained so quiet (which is rare for me in moments like these) that my new husband asked me, “What’s wrong?” and I clearly remember saying “Nothing. I am just taking it all in and I don’t want to ever forget any of this.”

So, today I am offering this little bit of advice in the spirit of Norman Rockwell - Take the time to not only realize but to completely capture a memory when you are having a truly amazing moment.



Image Credit: Prom Dress by Norman Rockwell