Monday, December 31, 2012

Year in Recap: 12 in 12 Photos

Last year's 11 photos in 11 was so fun I thought I would continue the tradition and go for 12 photos in 12. I don't know how long I'll keep this up. I mean 32 photos is 2032 could be a really long blog post. But for now, it works. Some things I learned while finding recap photos:

1. I didn't realize all the fun we had until I went in retrospect. I was surprised to find we had a jam-packed year. I mean, maybe not surprised. I knew we did a lot this year. I was surprised we did enough photo-worthy things. For instance, E got a new job. Huge. No photo for that. And yet, I managed to easily come up with 12.

2. We really had months when we didn't take any photos at all. Like January. Or July. So forgive the fact that some months have no photos while others have many.

And now, in chronological order, our year in 12 photos:

1. Our trip to the final MU/kU basketball game, thanks to our gracious ticket fairy. It was a blast!

2. Venue captaining the largest venue at True/False and getting to hold Mr. Oscar himself for best documentary, Undefeated (shout out to Dan Lindsay--MU Grad). Woah.

3. Surprise girl trip with my mama to Chicago. Also my final Mizzou work-related trip. Great girl bonding time and wonderful dinner with cousins.

4. First Sunday at my new job. (from The Crossing's photo stream)

5. First Kids Club as a staff member. I survived!!

6. Trip to Portland for our 5th anniversary and to see Mark and his darling fiancé.

7. Empowered to Connect Conference in Nashville where I got to meet mamas from my agency and felt even more a part of this whole adoption-community-thing (sorry for the picture quality--it's the only one we have!!).

8. Half marathon with my family in town. Great precursor to that marathon thing that took up most of my life in 2012.

9. November celebration of one year waiting. And the reminder we have the best small group on the planet.

10. Finish of the St. Jude half marathon. Raising $1100 to fight childhood cancer and illness through St. Jude. Touring St. Jude. Training for months with my darling, amazing husband.

11. Christmas Card 2012 photo

12. Christmas at my house. All the kids (my brothers and their ladies, as well as my cousin Lauren)

2012 was grand. In so many ways it's not what I expected at all. I think that is a lesson I keep learning over and over. Life isn't going to be what we expect. But I have been changed and have grown so much this year. I can't wait to see how different I am at the end of 2012.

May God bless you in 2013. May you come out changed. Grown. And serving Him more with your everyday.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sew Merry This Christmas

 One of the important points impressed upon me when I considered this job was the scheduling. Sundays, holidays...these things are given when you work at a church. Let me also say this was not a surprise to me since my dad has been a pastor since I was 6.  So I've lived this for years. Christmas Eve at our house has always been kind of like the first Christmas for us (thank you Tina Fey for this analogy)...we all trek back to the land of our parents to be counted. We do service together, a great dinner, and open a gift or two.  But this was not to be this year. And not just because I was working.

This year, of course, I was at my house. a beautiful twist of events, a friend of ours needed a little childcare to finish up holiday shopping and it only took about 3 seconds after seeing her request on Facebook before I messaged her and begged:).

Now, there are some times being a "party of two" is fun. If we want to go to dinner, we just hop in the car. We can be spontaneous. I spend my Saturday however I want. But Christmas Eve? Way, way better with kids. Way. So, it tickled me three shades of pink when a knock at my door signified a 1 year old and a 3 year old on my doorstep. We spent the morning watching Charlie Brown (after realizing the Rudolph cartoon on Netflix is both pointless and racist), eating sugar cookies at 10 a.m., making construction paper snowflakes, construction paper Christmas trees, and well, snuggling.  When their parents returned, we were all bummed. Except when I realized it was nap time and I didn't have to figure out how to get a sugared up, Christmas-hungry kiddo to nap.  Are we sure there's no way to skip straight to grandparenting?

I spent the rest of the afternoon at work, preparing for my favorite service of the year.  By 3:30, the church was packed and E and I were standing on the side aisle without a chair. In time, a family pointed out some seats next to them but many were left without. Christmas Eve really is one of my favorite services of the year but in full disclosure this is the very first time I've been at my church in town. Luckily, God knows me so well he kept the changes to a minimum.  I usually help my dad serve communion at his church and instead I got to serve at my church.

I don't know if I have mentioned this before but I love serving communion. It brings tears to my eyes every time.  This time was no exception. I watched whole families come to the front and partake in the body and blood together.  The church was so full and people just kept streaming down the aisle. Now, I have been in a ministry family for a long time so I know that many of those people coming down the aisle may not have been in a sanctuary (or auditorium if you're new-school like we are) in a long time. Or Ever. And I think that was actually one of the most moving things to me. People hearing the gospel of Jesus, fresh and new.  Call me naive but I don't care why you come to church. You can be there because it's tradition. Because you feel like you're supposed to. Because you're lonely and it makes you feel at home. Maybe even because a relative drags you there. But if you're there and you get to hear the true love God shared when he put on flesh and came into the world to live WITH us and teach us the way home, it's a beautiful thing in my book.  So come begrudgingly. Come with a chip on your shoulder. Just come. Because he loves you.

Ok that was a little off track. But seriously it was just the. most. beautiful to share the incarnation with so many people I love, even if I did truly miss my momma and dad. When the service ended, I went back to my wing and watched kids learn the story all over again.  It's always different through their eyes. And aside from the one child who disrupted the telling of the Christmas story to tell me, "I  HATE this church!!," it was a beautiful, childlike, magical evening (for the record, I said, "It's completely fine if you hate this church but you still need to sit on your bottom, put a bubble in your mouth, and be quiet:)").

Once the final cookies were iced (yes--we are crazy and had children ice and eat sugar cookies at the service) and all the children had gone home, E and I tried to find some food, only to realize everything was closed. And so, I went home to pack and E filled the car with gas and grabbed the best Christmas Eve dinner the gas station could provide.  Two hours later, we arrived at my parents house, winning the 2012 Child of the Year competition, since I was the only one to make it home for Christmas. Mark, Pete, if you are reading this I'm kidding. But if you're not, I'm not either. No really, just kidding. It was actually super weird to not have any siblings home at Christmas.  Apparently  having fabulous significant others means the boys spend some time with their families.

After a real Christmas Eve dinner (even though the Corn Nuts were delicious),  we opened stockings, had egg nog, and crashed.  Since there are no children in our family, we woke up whenever we wanted.

Which was 6:30 a.m. because we all have dogs who don't sleep in the company of other dogs. So we opened presents at about 7 and I am the proud new owner of this beauty:

Which is ironic because on the way down to my parents, E and I answered tons of questions to keep busy, one of which being a new hobby we'd like to take up. Mine was sewing.  My mom is a terrific seamstress. Not only does she know how to take the duct tape off my dress pants and replace it with a new hem but she made dresses for me growing up, curtains that are currently in my kitchen, and so many other things. So, I watched the accompanying DVD and then tried to thread my machine.

An hour later, I made this beautiful stitch:

I mean, I know. It's glorious and only a little bumpy. But I decided I could do more. So Mom found some old fabric for me to screw up on and pulled out a purse pattern. She's so smart she even pre-picked a pattern with several teaching features (straight stitches, curved stitches, turning, and darting. woot woot.) to teach me.  So the rest of the day, I ignored all other things and made this purse:

Yes, it has fish on it. Eric says it's hipster so I shall be wearing it to Ragtag to watch the newest independent film. Or something.

It's not perfect but it was so exciting to start the day with nothing and end with a fish purse. I may or may not have chanted "FISH PURSE, FISH PURSE" for the whole evening while watching Hallmark Channel movies and, of course, White Christmas (now there's a tradition we've had for a while).

Plans for this week: make more things. But first, I need to grab some supplies.  While I was making a fish purse, Eric and the pups were doing this:

We also had a lovely dinner (but not the regular Christmas dinner--we did something--gasp--different!!), shared great times, and talked to both of those boys and their significant others.  What a Christmas.  We left early this morning. We were all worn out. See:

It was a beautiful Christmas in all senses. I pray yours was as well.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Little Man Monday

Dear Little Man,

Merry American Christmas Eve!

Right now, your dad and the puppies and I are all sitting on the couch, watching the Today show and talking about Christmas. All that's missing is you!!  Usually I work on Christmas Eve morning but since my new job has me working this evening, your dad and I are enjoying some relaxation this morning.  We slept in and are enjoying some coffee.

Now, I know we probably won't sleep in when you arrive. But I do imagine a day when we can all snuggle and watch Christmas cartoons on Christmas Eve morning.  This new schedule will be perfect for you, I think.

Christmas is a little different here than where you live now (if you're here yet!:)). For one, we celebrate Christmas in December instead of January. For another, we have different traditions and we tend to give gifts.  I think I'll wait to explain many of the traditions  until you get here and we can all make some of our own.  It's hard for me not to go crazy getting you gifts. I would love to load up with little old man sweaters, Toms, tons of books, snuggly little hats, and so much more. But, this is our second official Christmas waiting for you. If this process is as long as we think it might be, your room would literally be filled from top to bottom with gifts by the time you got here. So, we'll probably grab one gift especially for you and save the real spoiling until you get here.

Last night our good friends came over and we decorated gingerbread houses. I thought about you and what it would be like when you arrived. I pictured making a house with you. Our house would be a little messier and a little less planned but it would be filled with way more love than the one I made alone. I think this is also true of our actual home. Right now, our Christmas tree is perfectly decorated. All the ornaments match and not one is out of place. The decorations are pretty organized and in general, the house is put together. When you arrive, our tree will probably look a little disheveled and our house won't be quite so clean. And little man, don't be mistaken. Your dad and I are so filled with love right now, for Jesus and for each other. But I know with all my heart the love we have will multiply in ways I don't even understand when you join us.

Did I mention we now have two ornaments specifically to honor you? Well, we do. One is a beautiful, breakable glass globe we'll probably have to put away when you arrive. It has a heart right over Ethiopia. The other is made by a family also waiting for their child from Ethiopia. It's a soft Africa-shaped ornament with a heart on your country. That one might even get to go on your personal Christmas tree when you arrive. Oh yes, we'll make sure you get your own Christmas tree:).

Little man, I love you so.  I can't wait to share Christmas and the joy of Christ with you. Until then, Dad and I will be snuggly and smile and think of you.  We'll pray for you today, as we do so often.

All my love and Merry Christmas,


Sunday, December 23, 2012

DTE 13 Months

We do love the number 13 here in our home. Because of this, I wish I could give you some beautiful story about our wait this month.

Truth is, it was really just another month. Aside from our social worker's update visit. Well, except referrals started up at a good clip again and for that, we give God praise!

We have officially broken the 50s on the unofficial list and we are sitting at around 48. Not bad at all! I hate this wait but it's much, much easier when you can actually see movement.  

Even better--our very close friends are #2 on the unofficial list for a boy right now and we CAN NOT WAIT for them to get "the call." What a day of celebration it will be indeed. And then we'll keep waiting til it's our day to celebrate.

Here's this month's verse:

Psalm 138:8 (ESV) "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;  your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.  Do not forsake the work of your hands."

We keep praying for the Lord to fulfill his purpose in us--for him to grow our family as he sees fit. Here are some pics of our chain:

In our wreath above the fireplace

With the verse

Still sitting in the wreath, above the nativity

Our 13 link chain--about to touch the bed. We'll have to get creative after that!

Here's hoping the next month has as many referrals as this one. If it keeps up, it could be sooner than we think. Not that soon though--we're talking two more years instead of 4:).

Happy 13 to you!

Thursday, December 20, 2012


I've tried to write this week. Tried to write a note to my son, maybe even explain why my heart is full of sadness. Tried to go on, marking that this is our 13th month of waiting. Tried to explain the activities of my week. But every time I type, like so many others, I'm paralyzed. I think it might be impossible to write and make things sound like a normal week when I know that people will be burying their small children this week. And then I remember heartbroken mamas bury their children every. single. week. And I can't find anything to fill the screen.

I am blessed that, in the midst of tears that seem to come from nowhere at a pretty regular rate, God has given me so many times to laugh this week. He knew I needed respite, like so many of us do.  Because last Friday, when I heard that kiddos not to much older than the ones I hug every Sunday as they brightly smile and say, "Hi Miss Jess," were senselessly killed, my heart broke in a new way. A way I didn't know possible. It might not ever come back together.

Sunday our small group met and, as usually happens, we laughed til I thought we could laugh no more. Of course, we also shared truth. And I think those things have to go together. And I noticed somehow, no one brought up Sandy Hook. I don't think we could muster it. It hurt too much.  People on the other side of the country weren't laughing at their little one who was making funny little quips when she should be in bed. They were picking out pictures for her memorial.  Senseless.

And Monday, I gathered to watch Ashley and J.P.'s wedding with some lovely friends. And we joked about bad hair and silly camera shots and all the things girls talk about when they watch reality TV. And we ate sugar cookies and enjoyed each other. And somehow it didn't come up.  I had spent all day evading the heartbreak that was everywhere.  The news, The Voice, Katie (yes, Katie Couric has her own TV show. Who knew?) ? All brought me to my knees in heaving sobs. So a wedding was in order. And it was good.

But Tuesday, as I walked down the hallways where I work, looking at the glass doors that separate my kids from the rest of the church, I couldn't think of anything but. How would I protect my kids? Could this happen? Where would we go? How would I shield them? I shared this with one of my coworkers and her answer was:  you don't. You hold your children, and all children, palms up, open fisted to the world.  You pray and you give them to God, knowing he doesn't spare us of any good thing. Including heartbreak.

I should finish Tuesday by saying a good friend came in from Seattle and we had another girls' night where you say things you dare not say in the company of men. And me, the only childless one, listening wide-eyed, laughing and gasping.  We shared about kids and childbirth, husbands and family. We had such a good evening. And then, in the quiet when there were only three of us left, I let my guard down and for the first time in front of people this week, I wept uncontrollably, sharing the hurt we collectively share as a nation.  And my friends held me. And we loved.

I guess I'm writing this in one way, just to write it. I won't be able to move on and share the joys until I mourn the innocence of days. I probably won't walk down our hallway again without thinking of the babes in my care, each and every week. Or maybe I will. I actually don't know which is worse.

But here's what I know.  My God is faithful. I am not mad at him. I am heartbroken for the evil of the world but I'm not mad at my God. In fact, in this advent season, I'm reminded even more clearly that he dwelled with us, amidst our pain, because he loved, and loves, us.  And so, I'm memorizing this verse instead:

John 16:33 "I have said these things to you, that you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart: I have overcome the world."

The best I've heard this expressed can be found right here.

I am excited to write about fun, beautiful things later this week. But thank you for giving me a space for catharsis. I pray the Lord also heals and breaks and heals your heart, making you different each time, as he is doing to mine.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Little Man Letter

Dear Sweet Boy,

Yes. It's Wednesday. Whoops.   My only excuse is that mama was fighting bronchitis and felt pretty sick Monday. If I'm being truthful, I'm still struggling with feeling better. Days like this make me wonder how it will work when you're here and I'm barely making it work on my own:). Here's the good news, buddy. We have a great village of people who already love you and are already excited to help with you. So, you may get a fun day when I get a sick day...lucky you:).

I know it's not Christmas yet (and especially not in ET--where you celebrate in January) but you already have a gift in your room.  You see, our church does a big Family Christmas Celebration and this year, families got a pretty neat book about the birth of our Jesus.  I know I've told you some about him and I can't wait to tell you more when you get here. I pray you will begin to know him so, so early. Anyway, the book.  We gave families the book to enjoy together and there were a few extras so I got one for you!

I'm excited to read it with you! It's got beautiful photos and tells the story of Jesus by explaining how all the animals and fish and everything else God made was waiting for him to return as a baby. It's pretty fun.  Your book collection is growing:).

I feel like you should also know we met with our social worker this week. You'll get to know her as soon as you get home, since she'll come by to visit and see how we're doing with you.  I'm telling you we met with her so you can know she was checking to see what kinds of preparations we are making for your arrival. The answer: lots! We've read lots of books and done quite a bit of research in the past year and  a half. Oh baby, we can't wait to have a photo of you soon!  Well, probably not that soon. But we pray expectantly.  Speaking of baby, you may not be a baby at all! You may be a growing young boy. We don't know how old you are or will be when you arrive but we know we will love you so, so much. Even when it's hard for both us and for you.  Our Heavenly Father never, ever gives up on us and we will never, ever give up on you. I feel like you should know this.  And I feel like I can't tell you enough times. You should hear it always. It doesn't matter if you can't sleep at night or don't like running (gasp:)!) or won't wear a hat no matter how many I put on your head. Our love is not conditional. It will be hard for all of us sometimes but we will always, always love you.

OK, little man. I am off to send Christmas cards. We don't know how many more we'll send without your face but we know someday, you'll be plastered all over it. Just like the dogs are now.

Love you so much, Little Man!


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Running in Memphis, Part Two

Continuing on my St. Jude marathon weekend wrap up...

Friday (continued)

3:30 Hotel Check In

We stayed at a different hotel this year but the great news is, all the hotels downtown are within walking distance of the race and the expo/dinner/Friday night activities. Our hotel this year was across the street from the expo and dinner. This was the first year our family brought enough people to have two hotel rooms. So fun! Luckily, we got adjoining rooms. So Dad and Mom were in one, Eric and I in the other. We split Pete and his girlfriend.

Once we unloaded our luggage, toaster and all, we shuffled on over to the expo. St. Jude runs an amazing expo. It's quick to grab your race number, there's lots of deals and fun stuff to look at, and there are always great speakers. My favorite part, though, is the amount of fun St. Jude merchandise and the St. Jude Heroes area. I got some sleeves to wear on the race, a pair of shorts, and E got an armband, all with St. Jude logos. We may have gotten some other race gear from other booths too. Then we made it over to the Heroes area to pick up our dinner tickets and lounge passes. We may have also gathered some swag, like I heart St. Jude tattoos. They had a fun photo booth, where we each got fun photo strips.  And a side photo area where this beauty was taken:

5:45 Heroes Dinner

If you raise $500, you get a free ticket to the St. Jude pasta dinner. Our team has been going for a few years now and it is one of the highlights. Every year I forget to bring tissues and every year I end up sniffling into my sleeve.  This year there were more Heroes (that's what they call anyone who agrees to fundraise, FYI) than ever before. There were SO MANY people. As we entered, St. Jude staff and volunteers cheered us on with pom pons, cowbells, and lots of shouts. Oh, I cried. I can't explain how hard it is to be called a hero by people who fight childhood illness and disease every day. It will never get less humbling. It's just too much. Here's an arial (aka--taken by Eric) photo of us walking into the dinner.

Our team filled a whole table and I proceeded to load up on pasta. One of my main concerns throughout the week was getting enough carbs so I let loose. I am so glad I did.  After we had filled our bellies, the speakers started.  The emcee, who has been running and supporting St. Jude since the first marathon, was Joe Birch, a local newscaster. He runs the marathon in even years and the half in odd years. This year, he was recovering from a car accident where he broke his neck and he still ran the full. Wow. He's so inspiring and a great emcee.

The fundraising arm of St. Jude is called ALSAC. Their CEO, Rick Shadyac, spoke about St. Jude and the important mission they carry out.  This year, Rick ran the half marathon for the first time ever. I'll explain how I know that later (spoiler alert: I got a firsthand account of his run from a family member).   Rick introduced the top fundraisers and fundraising teams. Two of the top fundraisers were young girls--age 9 and 10. Sisters, in fact. Between the two of them, they raised more than $200,000. Phenomenal.

Last year, ALSAC started a new award called the Heroes Among Us award. It goes to someone fundraising who has also done something extraordinary for St. Jude. And, for both years, the person(s) who won had a personal connection.  This year it was no surprise that the Dismuke girls (those motivated young ones mentioned in the previous paragraph) took home the award. The surprise, however, was when their entire family came up and their dad told their family's story.

The Dismuke family raised quite a bit of money for St. Jude last year, when St. Jude was just their local neighborhood jewel. Everyone in Memphis takes great joy and pride in the accomplishments of the hospital. So, it was quite a surprise when, about six months later, their young son Ingram was diagnosed with a brain tumor and started treatment at St. Jude. Craig, Ingram's dad, spoke so vulnerably about what it's like to hear your child has cancer. The whole family stood boldly and professed their love and dedication to St. Jude. And sweet, darling little Ingram (who is a firecracker!!) spoke into the mic and said, "I had a tumor in my bwain. It's gone. I don't wike it."  Then he said his signature phrase, "Get your move on!!"  He is so cute. He didn't stop moving the whole time and pretty much ran off the stage, making friends around the room as he went.  I have since fallen in love with their blog. You can read more about their darling family and how the Lord is working in their lives in the midst of tough stuff on their blog.

Pete, on the elevator back to the room. He was trying to convince passersby his banana was a telephone.

8:30 p.m. Bedtime

We left the dinner with full hearts and bellies and headed out to our hotel. We laid out all clothes, pinned on race numbers, and crossed every t and dotted every i for race day (and yes, I realized their is neither a "t" nor an 'i" in race day.  E and I grabbed a glass of wine and then crashed.  I would like to say I slept really well. But, not so much.

5:00 a.m. Wake Up

My alarm was set for 6 a.m. but I was up all night, back and forth. At 5 a.m. I grabbed a banana and from 5-6 I had the best sleep of the night. Figures:). At 6:00 I was up for good and both our rooms were rocking and rolling. The toaster was poppin, the coffee was brewing, and we were layering and unlayering over and over again.

We woke up to the news that it was, in fact, still predicted to be warm. In fact it was about 55 before we even left the hotel.  So, on December 1, we ran in shorts and tank tops. We made our way down to check in our gear and really split into our corrals before we had a chance to even say goodbye or good luck.

E and I always have the strategy to go one corral ahead of our time plan and go to the very back. It makes it roomier and less stress.  That was our plan this time as well. We lined up and waited.

8:12 a.m. Our Corral is Officially "On The Move"

The race took more than 4 hours but I don't have a whole lot to say about it. It was, in some ways easier than I anticipated and in other ways, it was harder.  Some favorite signs:

--a picture of McKayla Maroney that said, "McKayla Maroney is not impressed with your running but I am"
--"Run like a Cullen"
--"Any idiot can run but it takes a special idiot to run 26.2"

Then there were lots of sad and inspirational sights.
--The guy next to us had a bib on his back that said, "Running in memory of my son."
--At mile 12 two men embraced in tears and it was clear this race was very, very personal to them.
--Smiling, baldies at St. Jude and Target House. A few waved at me and in the 24th mile as we passed by the St. Jude gates for the 2nd time. I pointed and said, " we're running for you guys."  It was definitely a moment for both of us.
--So many people out and smiling, cheering us on, thanking us for running.

Some other highlights
--My mom ran several miles next to ALSAC (St. Jude's fundraising arm) CEO Rick Shadyac. They shared conversation and parted ways but it was fun for her (and for me!).
--My HUSBAND! He stayed right next to me for every. single. mile. Even when it wasn't comfortable to go at my pace. He's amazing. So, so amazing.
--Running through the gates of St. Jude, especially having been there the day before.
--Iced towels. People, when you are running that much, 72 degree weather might as well be 100. It was so hot!! But they had ice cold towels at 4 different spots and they made all the difference

Finishers! Before the exhaustion set in.

12:30 (ish) Crossing the Finish

While I walked a lot (and I mean a lot) in the last 5-6 miles, I am so, so proud to say I finished. I held hands with my darling man friend and we crossed together. Our team trickled in one by one. Let me say, when you have just run for more than 4 hours, wearing a heavy medal around your neck is easier said than done.

I tried to grab some food but got a little woozy. It took a while before I finally felt better and, at that point, the massages were closed. Bummer! But, we were so proud of a strong finish it didn't matter. Mizzou Maniacs headed back to the hotel, showered, rested and hit up the downtown sights.

Celebratory Toast with Caitlin at Rendezvous

5:00 Dinner Out on the Town

We have a Mizzou Maniacs tradition of heading to Rendezvous. Best ribs ever!! While I wasn't too keen on eating when we finished, by six I was ready to try some food. And by some, I mean a bunch of nachos and a full order of ribs. Delicious!

View of the famous Peabody Hotel from the Rendezvous Alley

Every other year we've gone straight home so this year we enjoyed our overnight stay. We headed down Beale, enjoyed a drink and took some fun pics. And by 8:30, it was once again lights out for our team. I mean, we did run quite a bit!

In the middle of Beale Street

6:00 a.m. Up Again

As it turns out, when my body is in discomfort, I don't sleep. If I ever get pregnant, I am sure this will be an issue. It is also an issue in marathon running. I pretty much didn't sleep. So that makes three nights in a row. We woke up and I was officially STARVING. Days later, I am still starving all the time. Eh, I am going to do what I want for a week. Then, I'll start worrying about eating habits. I digress.

Back to Sunday morning. After live streaming The Crossing's service for a lil while, we headed to The Blue Plate Cafe for breakfast. Since Dad works at a church and I work at a church, we rarely do Sunday morning breakfasts. This was a huge treat. I don't know if y'all have been to the Blue Plate but if you are in Memphis, please go. Please. For $9, I had biscuits and gravy, eggs benedict, and three giant pancakes. Told you I was starving. OK, I didn't eat it all. But still. So good.

Blue Plate Menu

We zoomed on home from breakfast and concluded our trip.

I am telling you this trip was one of my favorite family outings.  Of course, all we needed was Marky.  But for the rest of us, it was a great trip. I am so emotional just thinking about it. I can't wait to support St. Jude more. I can't wait to run for them again. My heart is for children and St. Jude is all about em.

Thank you to all of you who have supported me in the past six months. You've listened to me as I've dealt with this. You've heard me whine about injury and difficulty. You've donated to St. Jude. You love me and you love kiddos. Thank you thank you thank you.  And if running for St. Jude sounds like something you want to do, we could use more team members! Registration opens in May and it closes quickly. You won't regret it.

I know many of you are thoroughly exhausted of hearing about all this.  You've got a few months until I start fundraising for December 7, 2013.  Enjoy em:).

Four Years of St. Jude race medals. Can't wait to make it five!

**Update** I forgot to give you all the final total!! Our team raised $6,585.32!! Praise God! What a blessing to be a part of such a neat cause.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Running in Memphis, Part One

After months of training and raising money and more training and more raising money, I can finally say proudly, I am a marathon finisher!! Woot Woot!!

I have tried several times to express what it's been like to train for this marathon but I don't know if I've really been able to express it. Yet, somehow, this weekend made all of that melt away. I'm left with tearfully beautiful memories, wonderful photos, and some tokens of the race.  Here's words and photos to try to explain the weekend.  I have so many thoughts that this will be separated into a few entries. Today, enjoy the travel and the tour of St. Jude.


8:00 p.m. On the Road

Thursday we packed everything in sight in our house (maybe it just felt like that) in preparation to head toward Memphis. The weather was predicted to be in the 60's but the forecast kept changing so it was hard to pack. We were stuffed! Warm pants, light pants, tank tops, shorts, stocking caps, mittens, rain coat, and so, so much more! And that was just for the race.  By the time we got our house sitter settled, went to a meeting, and got on the road, it was around 8:00.

10:00 p.m. Arrival at Dad and Mom's

We settled for the night at my parents' house. Since we had an early wake-up call, we pretty much crashed the moment we got there. Well, after we all expressed our anxiety about the race. Out of our 7 person team, 5 of us were doing our first marathon and it made for quite the jittery bunch. This cold be why I didn't get an amazing night of sleep. That and we were off early...


6:00 a.m. Wake Up Call

Getting six people (one of our teammates drove separately) showered and ready was not as much of a challenge as packing all our stuff:). We each had all the race gear previously mentioned. BUT, there was more! This was not our first trip to Memphis to run. This time, we (by we I mean Mom:)) didn't forget anything. We brought bananas, a giant jar of peanut butter, gu, a stick massager, a coffee pot (yes you read that right!) and, wait for it, A TOASTER! I mean, once you have a race routine, you have to stick with it.  One we got all that in, we were off by 7:15 a.m., only 15 minutes past our goal.  Which was good because what came next was a little unexpected.

9:00 a.m. Suburban Maintenance Stop

When you're on a road trip, you just never know what's going to happen. We hadn't even left Missouri when the check engine light came on and Pete The Mechanic got nervous. We stopped a couple of times for diagnostics before doing an oil change. Yes, it was a little delay but it allowed a Walgreens stop for nail polish and some Redbox movies. I will admit I was a little nervous because we had a tour scheduled and we were pushing to get there on time. Luckily, the oil change seemed to do the trick and we were off.  With only a few more stops. Let me just say race hydration and a four hour drive don't go hand-in-hand:).

1:55 p.m. Arrive at St. Jude

Yes, we arrived on time. After waiting quite a while to make it through the gate and hopping in for a bathroom stop, we started our tour at the statue of St. Jude.

Our tour guide, Adam, was also a former patient. His tour was neat because he not only spouted the facts but he gave personal experiences as well (like the way the registration desks are child-height and he would check himself in as a child to feel more a part of the process. So cool).

For privacy reasons, you can't take pics of people in the hospital. I did manage to get quite a few pics that I feel give you at least a glimpse of the cheery atmosphere.  For instance, the hospital has a mural at the entrance that portrays all four seasons. Then, as you go through the main floor, each section is a giant mural portraying one of the seasons. It's so bright and beautiful and reminded me of a beautifully painted nursery.  The kids portrayed on the walls (not the mural, I didn't get a picture of the walls) intentionally are of all types of kids--some with hair, some without, some with all their limbs, some missing.  It's a neat way to "normalize" some of the things the kids are going through.

I didn't get a picture of the cafeteria but it was a neat place. Adam told us they intentionally don't section off any area. So, kids, parents, researchers, doctors, and other staff all eat side-by-side. The chefs work so hard to make sure the kids have kid-friendly food to help them nourish their recovery. In one instance, they even worked pretty diligently to find a patient's grandma's mac n cheese recipe since that's the only thing he wanted to eat.

If you are in the hospital for any amount of time or even if you talk to someone who's been there, you'll hear the word hope. It's hard to express it in words but St. Jude is for sure a place of hope.  Almost every day, there are activities and parties for kids. The hospital was currently dressed up for Christmas. We didn't go upstairs to the rooms but there are Christmas trees in the main area and they're said to be in the rooms as well. Kids will spend their holidays here so they try to make it festive.

As we walked through, staff said thank you and patients with masks and little bald heads waved and smiled through glass. It's amazing how you can see a smile through a mask.  It was incredibly humbling to have such a warm welcome. They are so appreciative of the St. Jude Heroes and it's kind of hard to accept the thanks. I mean, these families are going through some rough stuff and yet they look at you with such gratitude. I am tearing up just writing about it.  Of course I did there as well.

The ABC wall is made by kids. In fact, lots of the hospital art is made by kids. The ABCs rotate out periodically and they express the emotions and experiences of the children, both patients and families.  You can see here K is for Kemo:). Some other notable letters were T is for Tears,V is for Vomit and  Z is for Zofran. They are sweet, heartfelt, a little funny, and incredibly sad all at once.  

I mentioned the patient art. This one was one of my favorites and was particularly poignant since we toured right before World AIDS day.  People often think of cancer when they think of St. Jude but they also do groundbreaking research on H.I.V. and AIDS, Sickle Cell disease, and many others.

The blood donation center is in-house and provides about 50% of the blood used by patients.

I'm not describing all of it and I'm for sure not doing it justice. There are tons of toys, rooms just for teens to hang out, video games in all the waiting rooms, and just so much cheer.  And that's just in the main area. The hospital is about to go through an expansion as well. In fact, as we were entering, Eric Trump's posse was leaving. He had just been there to announce a nearly 20 million dollar donation to the hospital and specifically to the new tower.  It will have new surgery suites, a fancy schmancy tumor shrinker (there's a real name but let's be honest, I will get it wrong if I try to say it. It has the word proton. That's all I got.)

We finished with a walk through the garden and a trip to the gift shop. Because, when all the money goes to St. Jude, you gotta buy!! We left with a water bottle, a Christmas ornament (our second) and some post cards. And of course, lots and lots of love.

Look at my cute parents in the garden.

Some interesting facts about St. Jude:

--It takes 1.8 million dollars per day to run the hospital. PER DAY! 
--The majority of donations are from individual donors
--The average individual donation is around $30 
--No family ever pays for anything. EVER. If a family has to fly to the hospital, it's covered. If they have to stay somewhere, they stay at the Target House or another place that's covered. If they need to eat, it's covered. Having a sick kid is trying enough. Finances shouldn't be an issue.
--St. Jude focuses on being a place of hope and healing. They have school, graduation, prom, last day of chemo parties, and celebrate holidays. Kids, after all, deserve to be kids.
--Siblings aren't left out. They provide counseling and activities for siblings and families. St. Jude explains how to handle questions and how to process feelings. They truly are a holistic place of healing.

I am so thankful for my tour of St. Jude. I can't wait to tell you about the rest of the weekend. But for now, I'll let you know it's still not too late to donate!  I'll be accepting donations for St. Jude until the end of they year. You can go to my website  to donate.

I'll see you around here tomorrow for the rest of the weekend:).