Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I have often lamented our decision to postpone starting a family. Bobby and I were approaching our tenth anniversary when our first little one was born. If only I'd known how important this family thing was to me - I feel sure I would have skipped some of the superfluous choices of my 20s. But - like many 20 somethings - I believed the myths: 1) that I would stay young and energetic forever 2) that there would be a time that I would become (magically, i guess) emotionally, financially and spiritually ready for children 3) and that establishing my career would be more rewarding, more true to myself, more financially savy then preparing for a family (after all - what would I do would all my spare time after the kids started school).

Now, $100,000 of school loans later, I see things differently. Hindsight, right? But, God is good, and this weekend I experienced a hidden blessing in my decision to wait.

When my sister, Erin, was born I was 4 1/2. Her little person punctuates my earliest memories. Petite, silly, and outgoing, she was a huge hit among my friends. My daughter, Jane, reminds me of her in many ways. As a little girl, I felt a fierce loyalty to and responsibility for Erin - I can remember repeatedly praying that she wouldn't have bad dreams. Ellen was different. Born when I was 8, I never really thought she liked me. She was quiet and introspective - it wasn't until I left for college and received many letters from her that knew how she felt - to this day, those letters make me teary.

My little sisters flew to visit me this weekend. They loaded up strollers, carseats, purchased coats for their babies (who were used to Tx weather) and made the trek to Chesterton, IN. See, there's this weird gap that exists, now - without Tiffany - I always feel I'm going through life stages way ahead of my siblings - putting us in different worlds. That, combined with the distance between Austin and Chesterton can really feel isolating. But, as these beautiful young women sat on the rug in my living room - their babies, my babies all mingling toys, blankets, nums I felt a special closeness. I felt like I had my children at the perfect time. How lucky I am to be surrounded by a loving family - how lucky my girls are to have such wonderful cousins.

I always feel a tightness in my chest and a lump in my throat after one of my family visits (yes, Zach, you too) - it's hard to watch them leave. But it's somehow easier now that my kids love my family, also - as though we are all intricatly connected. I miss Youcie (Lucie) and baby Knox my little Jane told me this evening. "I know, I do, too," I replied. "We'll see them again soon."

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Romanovs

It is the shallow fashion of these times to dismiss the Tsarist regime as a purblind, corrupt, incompetent tyranny. But a survey of its thirty months' war with Germany and Austria should correct these loose impressions and expose the dominant facts. We may measure the Russian Empire by the battering it had endured, by the disasters it had survived, by the inexhaustible forces it had developed and by the recovery it had made. [Nicolas II] made many mistakes, what ruler has not? he was neither a great captain nor a great prince. He was only a true, simple man of average ability of merciful disposition, upheld in all his daily life by his faith in God.

He is about to be struck down. A dark hand, gloved at first in folly now intervenes. Exit Tsar. Deliver him and all he loved to wounds and death. Belittle his efforts, asperse his conduct, insult his memory; but pause then to tell us who else was found capable.

Winston Churchill speaking of Nicholas II

It his remarkable book, Nicholas and Anastasia, Robert K Massie brilliantly untangles the historical tragedy: "Why Lenin triumphed, why Nicholas failed, why Alexandra placed the fate of her son, her husband and his empire in the hands of a wandering holy man..." Such an amazing portrait of corruption, loyalty, suffering, self control and humility.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Yes, this weekend I got to go on "holiday" with my friends. Sister-in-law/friend, Molly, detailed the adventure beautifully on her blog: from anticipatory packing, to luxurious weekend away, to returning home grateful that our children were not only surviving, but thriving under our husbands' sole care.

Having been back several days now, I keep thinking about how grateful I am to feel so comfortable and "at home" with these precious friends.

My initial excitement about this trip had a superficial element. Living in Chesterton, IN is wonderful - I realize it more every day - but I do occasionally spot a plane zooming across the sky and secretly wish I was aboard. I love to travel - love car trips, maps, airports, foreign languages, different foods - I even vary my route home from the grocery store to see different houses and streets. I also, being a southern girl at heart, love to dress up and go somewhere pretty. My husband teased me by poking fun at the receipts from the girls weekend. I guess stores like "Oh my darling" and "Chocolate Cafe" sounded a bit "girly" to him. "Who cares," I replied, "What's better than champagne and chocolate cake?" Apparently wine from a box and white castle, but that's another story.

All of this to say, that I was delighted that this little trip was happening. I had visited some of the wineries and small Michigan towns with my husband, parents and little ones. I thought then that it would be so nice to go with girlfriends - take our time - eat good food - drink nice wine - read - talk....

We stopped for lunch on the first day at Tabor Hill winery and restaurant. Feeling especially fancy, I ordered a glass of champagne with lunch. It was at about this point - the height of my fanciness (dressed up, drinking champagne in a nice restaurant overlooking a vineyard, and discussing the latest books we were reading - mine was the historical biography Nicholas and Alexandra) that I - well - snotted. In my defense, I was coming down with a terrible head cold, but it would have been a bad thing to have happen on a first date. Not to be too graphic, but it was like I sneezed- I didn't actually - I think I sort of coughed - and much mucus came out of my nose. At the table. While drinking champagne.

And that's when I realized just how much I love these girls. They all went to college together and have weird, embarrassing stories about one another that never fail to crack me up. In fact - I've heard them so many times now, that they are apart of me and my history. I think the reason that they are so precious - these crazy tales of awkward calls to "boyfriends," strange outfit choices, and big (or little) hair dos is that I was so competitive and insecure in college I did all I could to prevent that side - my "real" side from showing. No wonder my relationships were shallow.

As women, these goofy, girls are intelligent, pure of heart, and extremely beautiful. I am honored to be one of their friends. But most special to me - is that over the years, their genuineness has helped me heal. Their ability to be real and vulnerable has allowed me to experience true friendship - and that (please excuse the Sara McLaughlin/Bridget Jones cheesiness) is definitely better than chocolate cake.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


A year ago I got sick - crazy, excruciating pain, ER kind of sick. After a couple of long visits to the local hospital, I was referred to a specialist in Chicago. Several x-rays and CTs later I received the diagnosis from the surgeon. I had a slow growing cancer. He told me and my husband, Bobby, that we should go to MD Anderson cancer center in TX so that I could be close to my parents. He said I would need the support.

It was such a surreal few weeks - that gray time last October. One moment stands out to me very clearly, though. I was in the shower (the only relief from the pain occurred if I stood - slightly bent - under scalding water). I remember saying to Bobby, "Do whatever it takes." What I meant was, "Do whatever you need to do so that we don't have to live like this any more."

The thing is, I wasn't referring to the pain, the diagnosis - or anything concerning my crazy condition. It was as though the illness itself was a magnifying glass - allowing me to clearly see the ridiculous way I'd been living my life. Right then-as the hot water began to run out - and the pain escalated, I knew things had to change.

It's tough to explain how exactly I'd been living - or what what so ridiculous about it. To an outside observer, the problems may have been undetectable. How do you know when someone's just crossed that line - the line that separates a righteous thought from a sinful one? Or even a sinful act - how do you know when a day shopping with friends crosses over to greed - or sharing a meal turns to gluttony?

For me the problem was subtle - but quite real and destructive. It was a non-spoken mantra (kinda like in DH Lawrence's Rocking Horse winner) I needed to be more. Thinner, richer, better job were some of my ambitions - but there were "good" ones too - better mom, cleaner house, "better Christian."

It's not like I consciously acknowledged these goals - also - it's not like I was "succeeding" in any of these areas. I mean - you'd think I was Sarah Palen or something. No, the ambition manifested in silly ways throughout my day - trying to be just a bit busier than my time would permit, live a slightly more expensive lifestyle than my budget could allow, be a little bit thinner than was comfortable for my body. And living like this for the past 20 years was about to kill me.

It turns out that I didn't have cancer. A week at Mayo clinic revealed that I had a benign swelling of tissue - quite a wonderful diagnosis to hear in comparison to the first. So I lived for several months in sortof a dream state. Like Scrooge on Christmas Day. I was so greatful to be alive and not going through chemo.

But this afternoon- a year later - I became overcome with thanksgiving again. Not because I didn't have cancer - but because that crazy perfectionism that had eaten away at my soul for so many years had been shattered. This afternoon as the crisp fall air energized me, I cleaned my house made some bread. Let it be clear - I am not bragging here. Many people everywhere clean their house and make food. Many days I did these exact tasks - pre illness. It's just that it felt so different today. Today I wasn't panicked or rushing or trying to suddenly wash windows/curtains/clean out the garage and other manic tasks in addition - I was just living. I think you'd call it peace - and it felt amazing.