Thursday, April 26, 2012

Back to the Buff...Eventually

I am going back to the Buff!!  Not permanently--just for a week--but I am sooo excited.  I love Buffalo with my whole heart and soul.  I am looking forward to visiting Rounds Avenue, driving by the beautiful Forest Lawn Cemetery, eating banana cream pie from Wegmans, walking through the tiny airport (more on that in a second),  driving around streets that are so familiar to me, seeing the rolling green farmland and colorful barns near Orchard Park, and most importantly, visiting some of the best friends I have ever had.  I can't wait for everyone to see Noah!  

I was actually supposed to arrive in Buffalo tonight, but I missed my flight.  Yup--I missed it.  It's a long and harrowing tale, but I suppose I'll tell it.  I have nothing better to do tonight.

Okay, so we all know that I am a bit scattered and prone to being late to things.  But today, I was actually ahead of schedule and feeling really good about myself.  I had the bags packed, zipped up, and sitting by the door when Grandpa arrived to take me and Noah to the airport.

I wanted to get there early because I was feeling a little anxious about traveling with Noah.  I've flown with him before, but he was a tiny baby then and much more docile and willing to sit in my lap and be snuggled; now he is a rambunctious nine-month old who would rather do just about anything but sit still in my lap.   Plus, the other flights we've been on have only been an hour long, whereas the flight to Buffalo is about four hours long with a two-hour layover in Chicago in the middle (miserable, I know).  So I stuffed my backpack with snacks and toys and prepared myself to walk up and down the aisle bouncing Noah for four hours if I had to!

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, but this is when everything started unraveling.  Have you ever been to the Denver International Airport?  It is a monstrosity.  It is the biggest international airport in the United States and the second biggest in the world (thank you, Wikipedia).  To even get to your gate, you have to take a series of trains (the concourses are not connected to the terminal).  And the airport is not just big--it's busy.   When Noah and I arrived, the security lines were insanely long, but I still wasn't worried about missing the flight because I'd planned ahead and been on time for once.  After quite a while, we made it to the front of the line, and I hoisted my backpack onto the belt, took off my shoes and put them in a bin, took Noah's car seat out of his stroller and put it on the ground while I folded the stroller and took off the wheel so it would fit on the conveyor belt; then I took Noah out of his car seat and put his 22 pounds of chubbiness on my hip while I lifted his car seat with one arm and put that on the conveyor belt (are you getting the picture that this was all a production? because that's what I am getting at), and then as I was walking through the x-ray machine, the worker said, "Ma'am, your cell phone is in your pocket."  Silly me--with everything I'd been worrying about, I forgot to put my cell phone in the bin with my shoes.  All of my stuff had already gone through the machine by that time and was waiting at the other side, but they insisted on putting my cell phone in its own little bowl and sending it through the machine behind several other people's stuff. 

I went through the x-ray, got the car seat, buckled the baby in, unfolded my stroller, put the wheel back on, put the car seat in it, picked up my backpack, put on my shoes, put my boarding pass and ID back in my wallet...you get the idea.  Can you guess what I forgot about again??  My cell phone was probably still making its way through the x-ray machine as I walked away pushing Noah.  Can you blame me?  I had a lot on my mind.

So what would you do at the Buffalo or Salt Lake City airports if you realized that you'd left your cell phone at the security check point?  You'd turn around and walk back and get it, right?  I had plenty of time, so I figured that's what I would do.  The problem was, I had already gotten on the train toward the concourses by this time, so I got off at the first stop and got on a different train heading back to the terminal.   Literally as soon as the doors closed and the train started moving, I gasped in horror as I realized my mistake: The train going back to the terminal does go to the same platform where I boarded--but the doors open to the other side of the platform...

I would have no choice but to go through security again.

Oh man was I mad at myself.  If I were a swearer, I'm sure profanities would've been uttered at this point.  I have been flying in and out of the Denver Airport my whole life--I should've remembered where the train would let me off.  I was just so frazzled trying to get me and Noah through the huge airport as quickly as possible that I didn't think.  


The story goes on...but I won't go into all of the depressing details.  Airport workers and passengers were all very kind and let me go ahead in line, but things kept going wrong, and at the end of it all, I ran to my gate (which was in Concourse C, which means three stops on the train), and I was too late.  My plane was still sitting there, but the door to the jetway was closed, and they'd already given my seat to a standby passenger.  Our suitcases made it onto the flight, but we did not.

It was quite the afternoon.  And all because of my stinkin' cell phone.  Seriously, I think I should just get rid of that d@*% thing!!

So Noah and I will be heading to Buffalo tomorrow.  I told him that today was just a "trial run" for the main event (we are really good at going through security now) and he assured me that he will be on his best behavior for our long day ahead.  I just pray that he is because I don't think I can handle another airport debacle tomorrow!

As for Ryan, he is going to miss us, so he is thrilled that we are home for another night.  I just heard him say to Noah as he was putting him to bed, "Thanks for coming back to see me." :)

Buffalo friends, I am coming!!  I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

More on Moab...

I mentioned before that I recently went on a road trip to meet my college roommates in Moab, Utah for a race.  And now for the details of our fun weekend together!

First of all, I need to report on this blog that three of them got married this past summer/fall.  It was a crazy few months of celebrations and girls' reunions.  Between moving from Buffalo and becoming a mother, somehow I never blogged about the weddings--but I finally wrote a blog post about it here (backdated so it's somewhat chronological).  Check it out.

Okay, so Moab.  Tia drove from Pheonix, I drove from Denver, Becky drove from Salt Lake, and Kirsten drove from Provo.  Yes, we really love each other!! :)  We missed our Katie--but Seattle is a little too far to drive for a weekend! (Next year, Katie, right??  Plan ahead!)

I was originally going to run the half marathon race (as I mentioned several times on this blog), but I ended up doing the five-mile race instead.  I felt like kind of a weeny wimping out like that--but training for a long race in the dead of winter with an infant was just too difficult.  If I were in better shape, it would've been possible...but with my 11 minute mile (I wish I were kidding), going for a six mile run meant over an hour with Noah out in the cold.  And some of the training runs were much longer than that!

This is how he felt about it:


Eventually I decided it was okay to settle on a "lesser" goal.  I am an all-or-nothing goal setter, and that's not always a good thing.  Rather than forming consistent good habits, I often set a lofty goal for myself, such as running a half marathon, and then when it's over, I stop running all together.  Or worse, I will think, "Well, I don't have time to train for a long race right now, so what's the point of running at all??"  Such a bad mindset.

So I switched to the five-mile race and enjoyed a 30 minute run with Noah every day.  We were both a lot happier!

Tia and Kirsten also ran the five-mile race, and we all enjoyed it.  Here we are after the race, looking lovely as we enjoy some free food (the best part!):


Becky didn't run the race with us because she is prego.  I got her a Twinkie to enjoy in a lawn chair while the three of us worked off our calories.  (This was a total joke because she is a super fit and thin person who felt silly that she wasn't running the race--but we were grateful to have her as our photographer and moral support!)

After the race, we did some hiking in Arches National Park.  So beautiful.



We stayed up late at the hotel, talking and painting toe nails--like any good girls' sleepover.  It was too much fun.

I love these girls, and I love that we've made it a priority to stay a part of each others' lives.  Here's to 10  more years of friendship...and many more after that!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Make a Difference in Uganda


A few months ago, I got an unexpected email from my older sister's best friend, Morgan.  As I read her words, I felt inspired and excited.  I love witnessing miracles unfold, and I knew that's what was happening as I read Morgan's email:


Hello dear friends,

As most of you know, I spent 2011 living in a small town in Northern Uganda, working with a micro-enterprise NGO employing women.  As you can imagine, it was a rather life-changing year.  While I was living life in Gulu, it was impossible for me not to notice how entirely lacking their whole trash removal system is.  Litter positively lines the streets, water bottles clog the sewer system, plastic bags choke the agriculture, and what isn't thrown to the side of the road is burned - including materials containing hard plastics, rubber and electronics. 

I hadn't been living there long when I got extremely passionate about this place that was completely rebuilding itself after being ravaged by 20 years of war - and I could not believe it was starting off without a recycling system in place.  I knew there had to be some outlet for me to at least recycle paper - women making gift cards - something

My search led me to an amazing organization that takes recycled paper and makes sanitary pads which are then freely distributed to schools along with an educational program.  Girls drop out of school after hitting puberty at alarming rates due to lack of knowledge about what is happening to them and how to deal with it without missing a week of school each month.  Currently, in order to produce enough pads to furnish ten schools, this organization is trucking recycled paper up from the capital city - a five hour drive away.  The paper they need to double or even quadruple their production rate is right in Gulu - there just isn't any system in place to gather or receive it.  After talking with the director about her amazing organization and this need that wasn't being fulfilled locally, I knew before I even left that first meeting that I had to be the one to fill it. 

A few months later I found another organization that helps formerly abducted women, child mothers, and other victims of the war get back on their feet through counseling and education.  They began building houses using water bottle bricks in 2011.  The first (and currently only) completed house was built on their compound - a small, one-room structure with electricity and running water that you would never know was built entirely of plastic water bottles if someone didn't tell you.  Empty water bottles are everywhere in Uganda because the well and tap water is undrinkable.  The bottles are collected by this organization, packed with dirt, and stacked just like bricks - only using existing resources (that won't decompose) instead of burning expensive charcoal to make the bricks.  This organization has plans to build many structures and would like to use the water bottle brick method as much as possible.  Again, they are limited to what they are able to gather by hand because there is no centralized location in Gulu to receive the waste bottles. 

The third organization I came in contact with employs women who have been through a tailoring course.  They take plastic bags and re-purpose them into a material that closely resembles patent leather and sews them into new products like Kindle covers, laptop cases, etc.  This particular organization employs only a few women so as to provide a larger income rather than a small income to numerous women.  The more plastic bags they could gather, the more women they could employ at a good Ugandan wage.  Again I repeat myself - there is nowhere in Gulu currently collecting the waste they could use to make these products.  

Friends, I am ready to start the program in Gulu that gathers these materials.  I did a good amount of preliminary work while I was in Uganda last year and have contact with the directors of each of these groups.  They are ready and excited to receive as many materials as I can get them.  But in order to do this, I need funds.  I need funds to buy the initial run of recycling boxes that I will place in businesses, nonprofits and schools.  I need funds to print real literature and posters to convince people to participate in my program in Gulu.  I need funds to create entertaining, educational and captivating assemblies in schools and to other events to begin to build a culture of recycling in Gulu.  I need funds to rent an office (in which I will also live).  Once this program is up and running, it will pay for itself (and also employ local Ugandans)- this money will just get it started.

In the coming weeks, I am going to launch a fundraiser called Friends of Friends, during which I will ask 100 of my friends to ask 10 of their friends to donate $10 (or more) to Recycling for Hope.  I hope through this effort, a lot of people can come together to make small sacrifices that will make a big difference.  Please let me know if you are willing and able to be one of my 100 fundraisers.  I’m so grateful for the friendship, support, and encouragement that you have always given me.

Very Best Wishes,
Morgan

I was so impressed by Morgan's email.  I love when people see a need in the world, believe that they themselves have the capacity to make a difference, and then diligently work to address that need.  It doesn't surprise me that Morgan is taking this on--she has always been extremely passionate, competent, intelligent, and courageous.

I eagerly agreed to be one of Morgan's 100 fundraisers, and I have asked 10 of my close family and friends to donate--but I also wanted to extend the opportunity to all of you.  Morgan's fundraising drive ends Wednesday, and though a lot of money has been raised, she is still short several thousand dollars of her goal.  

I really believe that small donations from lots of people can make a difference in the world.  Ryan and I don't have tons of money, but we can spare $10.  We can forego dinner out this weekend to support a life-changing, community-building program in Africa.  

If you feel that you can donate, go to http://www.recyclingforhopeug.com/ right now and donate via credit card or Paypal.  :)  Don't delay--just click the link and donate.  :)  I know it will make a difference.

This house is made out of water-bottle bricks?? Amazing!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Always Lost and Somehow Always Found

I have written before (okay, more than once) about my ineptitude with cell phones.  (Maybe I should make this its own post category?)  Well I realized earlier today that I hadn't seen my cell phone in 24 hours.  This is not unusual--I lose my cell phone at least once a week--so I did what I always do: I got online and starting contacting friends and family via Facebook and Skype.  Can you call my phone?  I don't know where it is.  

That's when I realized that I hadn't charged my phone in several days and it was likely dead somewhere.  A phone call wasn't going to do it.  

Hmmm.

Tactic #2: Dig around in the cushions of the recliner in Noah's bedroom.  This large chair has been known to eat things, including, but not limited to, nail clippers, iPods, and my glasses.

No luck finding the phone, but I did find two (almost) empty bottles that smelled just lovely.

As I continued to search the apartment for my rogue cell phone, I decided that I need some sort of necklace or lanyard in order to wear my cell phone around my neck at all times--so I can never lose it or drop it.  This made me think about the retainer case necklace that my best friend, Liz, made for me in high school.  She was so tired of me losing my retainer (which sometimes led to us digging through cafeteria trash cans and worse) that she drilled two holes in my yellow retainer case and strung it with some twine, creating a very fashionable necklace indeed.

The sad thing is, I wore that hideous necklace.  I really did.  I can't believe I had any friends.

Anyway, I found the cell phone (it was in the car), and when I had recharged it, I saw that I'd missed seven calls and hadn't replied to five important text messages.  (I can't believe I have any friends now.)

Sadly, I couldn't read a few of the texts because my cell phone screen looks like this:


Can you guess why?

I promise I actually am an organized and capable person--but for some reason, I have a real problem with cell phones!

What do you say, Lizzy...want to make me another cool necklace? :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cuteness Overload

March was a huge month for Noah.  He astonished me daily with the new tricks he was learning.  One day he was creeping and scooting...the next day he was crawling...the next day he was racing all over the apartment on all fours.

One morning, I found him sitting up in his crib.  I thought, "What the heck?  When did he learn to do that?"  And not a week later, I found him standing up in his crib.

?????????????

I was shocked, to say the least.  I wish I learned new skills so quickly!

Here are a few of my favorite pics from the last month, including a few of him in his gingham Easter tie. Is there anything cuter than a baby in gingham, grinning with his two tiny teeth poking out?  I don't think so!

What a ham.
Just hanging out with Mom as she blow dries her hair
Exploring
Helping Mom with laundry
He thinks he's a hot shot.
Happy Easter! 
On the way to church
Blue eyes.  Teeny teeth.  Gingham tie.  Doesn't get any cuter than this.
Love this kid.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

I Went on a Road Trip By Myself

Last month, I went on a road trip by myself.  I had never done that before, and I must admit, it was quite relaxing.  As I drove into the Colorado mountains, I couldn't help but marvel at the blue skies and the snowcapped peaks.  I rolled down the windows and let the wind rush over me, and I felt grateful, happy, and blessed.  There's just something about being alone in a beautiful place...God feels nearer somehow.

I drove to Moab, Utah where I met my college roommates so we could run in a race together.  They are some of my best friends in the world, and I'm so grateful that we've all stayed in touch despite the fact that we live in different states and are in different stages of life.  We stay close through a private blog that only the five of us have access to, and we manage to have a girls' reunion at least once a year.

The trip to Moab was the first time I'd left Noah overnight, and it was harder than I expected it would be.  I knew he was in good hands (he was with my sister during the day and Ryan at night), but I missed him immediately, as soon as I drove away from my sister's house.  I called her every few hours to check in and see how my little man was doing.  Sometimes being a stay-at-home mom can feel tiring, isolating, and frustrating, but this brief time away reminded me how incredibly grateful I am that I get to spend every day with Noah.  I had a wonderful weekend with my friends--it was so so good to see them--and when I got home, I was ready to be a stay-at-home mom again.  It helped that Noah could not contain his glee when I walked in the door.  He was grinning and reaching for me and panting in excitement.   When I picked him up, I hugged him close and put his cheek against mine--and then I almost started crying.  I was just so happy to see him.

The trip made me think about so many things.  On the car ride to Moab, I listened to an essayistic memoir called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and on the way home, I listened to an epic novel called A Thousand Splendid Suns.  Both books made me deeply ponder the world and my place in it.

I don't know quite how to explain A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  It was unlike any book I've ever read in form and even in content.  The author, Donald Miller, realizes that, though he's made a career out of writing stories, the life that he's "written" for himself is boring and uncompelling.  He is not living a good story.  Each chapter introduces a principle of writing meaningful stories and then applies that same principle to living meaningful lives.  The book is funny at times, sad at times, and overall very very thought-provoking.  It made me want to live deliberately, to set goals and go after them, to consciously choose a meaningful story.

I felt like it came at a good time.  I have entered a new chapter in my life, that of motherhood, and I can decide if that story is going to be boring or beautiful.  Ryan and I will also have to make decisions about his career in the near future, and I want to choose a story that is going to fill our lives with meaning, not just money.  There is soooo much more to life than money.

On the way home, I listened to A Thousand Splendid Suns, a novel which captures the struggles of women in Afghanistan by telling the life stories of two Afghani women.  I fell in love with the main characters, and I have thought of them often in the month since I finished the book.  Their stories made me so grateful for my life--for my husband, for my freedoms, and for my opportunities.  This book was profoundly sad, but it touched my soul.  Not an easy read but definitely an important one.  It no longer seems like such a big deal when I have to make several trips up and down the apartment stairs to carry in the baby and the groceries, or when I am doing a sink full of dishes for the third time that day, or when my husband isn't home until 11 p.m. because he is on-call at the hospital.  I love books and movies that remind me to count my blessings, and this was definitely one of those.  I wish it was easier to hold on to my resolutions to be more grateful (I hate to admit that I have complained a time or two about the dishes since reading this book), but I figure the more often I have an experience that reminds me how blessed I am, the more likely I am to permanently internalize that fact.  This is one of the many reasons why I love reading.

So from start to finish, my solitary road trip was a good one.  I definitely think it should become an annual tradition for me.  It gave me time to think and reflect, and I came home with renewed perspective and resolve to treasure each day of the life that God has given me.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I have a niece!

Jade Joanne McKenna was born today, April 3rd, at 8:55 a.m.  She is a tiny little peanut (6 lbs 1 oz), and she is absolutely perfect.


Callum has been eagerly awaiting the arrival of his baby sister.  He's been calling her "Baby JoJo" for months, and no one knew why--but it sure is a cute nickname!  Sarah and Logan had her first name picked out from the beginning (Sarah has always loved the name Jade), but they just decided on her middle name today: Joanne, after Logan's amazing grandma.  Looks like Callum's nickname will stick!

Congrats to the happy family!!

Proud Mama
Proud Papa 
Proud Grandpa 
Proud Big Brother
Meeting Baby JoJo for the first time!
Okay, my heart just melted.
Welcome to earth, Baby Jade.  You are so loved already.