Sunday, September 18, 2011

3rd Birthday Farm Fiesta!

On August 27th, 2011, we celebrated S's 3rd birthday with a fun birthday party at Fiesta Farm and Petting Zoo!

It was super fun, although it was the hottest day of the year. The Nana and I have decided no more outdoor parties in August, but we think the farm party was a big success! Here are some pictures!

S, the birthday girl

Climbing on tractor tires

Watch out world!

Party decorations

Thank-you gift bags

Greeting her friends

Hugs galore
Tiny goat!

The kids loved this part!

That's my hand holding the goat food LOL

S and her friend play trucks in the sandbox

S and Papa (my Dad) play with toys in the water trough

S and Papa

Pony rides!

S's friend E riding-all the kids got a turn!

S's friends get ready for the hayride!

S at the back of the hayride with her friends

She's having fun so Mommy's happy!

S enjoying the bubble machine!

Um, why are 40 people staring at me and singing?

I don't want to have a birthday! I don't want to grow up!



Wait, birthday girls get cake?!

Maybe being a big girl isn't SO bad.
(Nana and Daddy are in these last two pictures with me)

S's friend G enjoys her cupcake

Nana cut all these cupcake toppers!

Wow...I'm three now!

Mommy's big girl! *

The party was so much fun, but I have no idea how I will top it for S next year! I guess I have a few months to figure it out. :)

*All photos by Orange Crayon Photography.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Still Good in the World

The world changed irrevocably on September 11, 2001. While I didn't lose anyone I personally knew in the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania, I lost the belief that living in the United States meant being protected from outside forces of evil, that being an American meant things usually worked out okay. I was incredibly naive, obviously, bad things happen in America and to Americans all the time (e.g., Oklahoma City, Columbine, etc.). But 9/11 just destroyed any sense I had that things would usually work out and be okay.

On September 11, 2001, I was single, 28 years old, working, and had moved in with my parents after my Daddy had retired from the Air Force and they moved back to San Antonio. The first year they lived here I spent three to four nights a week at their house eating dinner, so it made sense to move in with them and save all that rent money for traveling and other adventures. In fact, I had a solo trip to Paris planned for February 2002.

The morning of 9/11, I was driving to work, listening to a CD in my car. When it ended, I switched over to the radio and heard the normally jovial DJs talking in somber tones about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. When I walked into my office, I headed for our conference room to turn on the TV and see what was going on. I found all of my coworkers already assembled, watching the news, some crying. Grasping the main details of the crash, I called my mother, who I knew was still asleep at home, and told her to get up and turn on the TV, something big was happening. Then, I called my Daddy at work to make sure he had heard. When I stepped back into the conference room, the second plane hit. Then, the Pentagon.

Realizing the United States was really under attack sent me into shock. I couldn't and didn't cry, not that day, not the first week, not the second week after. On Friday the 14th, I had plans to drive to Dallas, spend a night with my sorority sister and her family, then drive over to Granbury the next day and spend the night with my aunt before coming home on Sunday. My mom didn't want me to go, which now as a parent myself I totally understand-she didn't want me out of her sight, she wanted to know I was safe-but I didn't want to change my plans and felt bad for my aunt, who was all alone. My uncle, working in Poland as a contractor for the U.S. Treasury department, was stuck abroad and unable to fly home.

I listened to the 9/11 national memorial service on the drive to Dallas. 9/11 was all we talked about all weekend. I still couldn't cry. My sorority sister couldn't either, which made me feel better. When I got home, I slipped into what was definitely depression. I would go to work, then come straight home and immediately change into my pajamas, and watch the news and TV curled up on the couch in the family room with my parents. At the end of the second week after 9/11, I started crying and crying, about every 9/11 story on the news, in the paper, whatever. My mom, who cried the first two weeks and was starting to get over it, couldn't understand why it was all hitting me then, but it was. Then, I talked to my best friend from college and discovered that her first cousin died in the North Tower. He was on the 92nd floor. I had no idea anyone I knew had a direct connection to the attacks. I felt awful I hadn't known about her cousin. I made a contribution to a scholarship set up by his company in his name. I never told my friend. I just wanted to do something.

I don't remember what CD I was listening to in the car the morning of the attacks, but on my drive to Dallas, I heard a version of "Walk On" by U2 with audio of 9/11 interspersed through it. I bought the CD and played "Walk On" obsessively, on repeat, for the next three months, on my way to and from work. The lyrics, to me, spoke directly to the situation, and how I was feeling, and while I was listening obsessively in my depression, the song helped me heal.

And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on

Still, what lingered was this sense that life would never be the same. That life would never be as good as it had been before 9/11.

I went through with my solo trip to Paris in Feburary 2002 (couldn't let the terrorists win), but I didn't enjoy it as much as my first visit in 2000. Instead of wanting to lose myself in Parisian life and culture as I did before, I felt my American-ness more keenly. Instead of enjoying my own company and the thrill of adventure, I just felt isolated and homesick. I was suspicious of people in airports, in the streets, on boat rides. I think I was still pretty depressed, and being alone, in a country questioning America's decision to go to war, did not help the situation. I was happy and relieved to get home safely.

Slowly, after that trip, my depression began to subside and the tide began to turn back to the good. In fact, amazingly, all the best moments of my life have happened in the last 10 years. In November 2002, I met my now-husband. We got engaged in 2003 and married in 2004. (We honeymooned in Lyon, France, and Geneva, Switzerland. It was a much better trip.) In 2008, we became the parents of our beautiful daughter, the light of my life.

In our wedding ceremony, the reverend, who was the chaplain at my university and who was and is a very dear man with a gift for uplifting messages, said something completely unexpected and perfect, that just hit me right in the heart and brought tears to my eyes at the time. He said that despite all that had happened in the last few years (obviously referring to 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq), that there was still good in the world and we should always look for the good. I love that, and love that he included it in his message during our wedding.

9/11 and the person I was at that time seems like a lifetime ago, not just 10 years. I can still see how our world has changed forever as a result of it. I am still changed because of it, although I no longer think about it every day, as I did for a long time. Every year around the anniversary, I have to force myself not to watch remembrance specials, because I see the footage and hear the recollections and the memories flood back. My chest tightens; I can't breathe. I have to stop watching. But I'll never forget.

I am actually going to be in Granbury this weekend, the weekend of the 9/11 anniversary. I am going up there for work and am staying with my aunt and uncle while there. When I made the plans to go, I didn't even connect the dates and the fact it was the 10-year anniversary to my trip. It seems like, as Oprah would say, a "full-circle moment."

Most likely, I will play "Walk On" on my iPod in the car on the drive up and remember. I will pray for those we lost that day and for those we've lost in war since. I will pray for those who loved all of them. I will pray for our country and for peace. And I will remember there's still good in the world. And I will thank God for all the blessings in my life these last 10 years.

"Walk On" by U2

And love is not the easy thing
The only baggage that you can bring...
And love is not the easy thing...
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can't leave behind

And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it's a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong

Walk on, walk on
What you got they can't steal it
No they can't even feel it
Walk on, walk on...
Stay safe tonight

You're packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed to be seen
You could have flown away
A singing bird in an open cage
Who will only fly, only fly for freedom

Walk on, walk on
What you've got they can't deny it
Can't sell it, or buy it
Walk on, walk on
Stay safe tonight

And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on

Home... hard to know what it is if you've never had one
Home... I can't say where it is but I know I'm going home
That's where the heart is

And I know it aches
How your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on

Leave it behind
You got to leave it behind
All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you feel
All this you can leave behind...

From America: A Tribute to Heroes, U2, "Walk On," Live from London, September 2001