Saturday, June 22, 2013

To Heaven and Back

I just finished reading the book To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal MD and I feel so inspired I wanted to share.

So I saw this lady on the Katie Couric show about a year ago.  (The only explanation I can give for actually watching the Katie Couric show is that back in my breastfeeding days, I watched a lot of tv while I sat at the pump.  It was hard to hold a book, so tv was the best bet.  And you can only watch so many episodes on HGTV, TLC, or Food Network before you need a break.  So the afternoons sometimes included The Chew, my girl Katie Couric, and/or Dr. Oz.  Don't judge.)  Anyway, the show was about people who have encountered the afterlife: a couple kids (including this guy, who's dad, an evangelical-type preacher, I think might have made up his story) a painter, and this woman Mary C. Neal.

She is a well-educated orthopedic surgeon, a wife, a mother of 4 - basically she seems really solid and credible to me.  And she wrote this book about an experience she had rafting in South America.  After an accident while going over a waterfall, she got pinned underneath it, physically died, and went to Heaven.  She was then told by Heavenly beings, much to her disappointment, that it wasn't her time yet and she was returned to her Earthly body.

Ok.  First: whoa.  And I know some of you might be reading and rolling your eyes like, "whatev - she's lying, that's what's happening in the book."  But I wholeheartedly believe her story and I think you would too if you read the book.  To address the possibility she could be lying, all I have to say is that she doesn't seem to have any motivation to do so, in my opinion.  The majority of the profit from the book has been donated to charity, so it's not monetary.  And she doesn't strike me as a huge narcissist, that is, I don't think she's creating a crazy story because she wants to have an autobiography published. I think she's writing this book because her story is so wild and so unbelievable, she knows it can change people's lives.

And I have to say, I feel my own life changed by it.  It seems sort of cliche and "pop Christian-y," but this book was exactly what I needed to read right now.

Like all Christians, I feel my own faith ebb and flow.  There are times when I feel really good about where I am spiritually, and other times when I feel like God is far away or not there at all.  I think this is quite normal.  And in those times when God is furthest away, while I know I should seek Him even more, like most people, I often don't.

This is probably a good explanation of where I am right now.  I felt so close to God when we were going through the whole song & dance to get pregnant.  And when I actually did become pregnant and give birth to Bates, I knew it was the most precious gift from God and the most abundant answer to prayers I had ever received.  But then I had a newborn and I didn't sleep and there weren't enough hours in the day and I was a hormonal mess and excuse excuse excuse, I became distant from God.

But the crappy part?  I never really went back.  I feel like most of the 16 months of Bates' life have been a spiritual dark place for me.  There were a few glimpses of light (like going through the Deacon experience at our church and mentoring the 9th grade girl through confirmation), but mostly I had put my faith on the back burner.

As God is so faithful, though, He's always been waiting, kindly, for me to return.  I think the Bible study was the first step; gathering with other women who feel pulled in directions other than God because of their kids was such a welcome relief - and such a desired opportunity for accountability.  We all want to return on our God-centered spiritual paths and will help each other get there.

And then I read this book.  In about two days.  I devoured it because it struck a chord in me.  God is real.  Even when He feels far away, He is there and waiting with joy for me to return.  I hate that I had to read a book like this to remind me that God is real.  I mean, really?  How can I question the existence of the one who created me and who has worked miracles in my own life?  But regardless, that's where I was.

And so here is this book.  I really recommend you read it.  Maybe you don't feel like you need a book like this to tell you God is real - but even so, it's fascinating to see what Heaven was like for this woman.  I mean, come on, isn't everyone curious about Heaven and what happens when you die?

She has no agenda other than to share her experience and inspire others.  (Ie, she isn't from a specific denomination nor is she judging or condemning behavior or anything.)  Give it a read - I hope you will - and I hope you will be inspired like I have.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sick Baby :(

We've been pretty fortunate in the illness department with Bates.  He got some colds (which led to a couple ear infections) during his 2-month sampling of daycare last year.  Other than that, though, not much of anything beyond a stuffy nose here and there.

Last Wednesday, we went to my Bible study in the morning (where there's group baby care) and he had a fun time playing with the kids.  Then we came home and he went down for his nap, as usual.  He slept about 2 hours, as usual, but when I got him out of the crib he was super cranky (not usual).  I put him in his highchair for lunch and he wasn't into it.  I got him to eat a few bites, and then....BLAAAH! <----puke 101="" and="" highchair="" his="" i="" in="" it="" nbsp="" nd="" p="" temperature="" the="" took="" was="">
The poor sweet baby was sick until Friday.  He had a couple more small puking incidents, but mostly he had this crazy fever.  It got as high as 102 at some points!  On Thursday, he was down and out.  All he wanted to do was lie in my lap and watch tv (something he never does because he doesn't sit still).

We talked to the doctor on the phone who said there had been a ton of fever viruses all week.  Thankfully Jonathan nor I got sick.  But the poor little guy!  It's so sad when they can't tell you how they feel.  Can you imagine if you had the worst headache of your life but couldn't tell anyone?  Instead you just cried (which probably made it worse)?  Or if your stomach was killing you, but you couldn't tell anyone you didn't want to eat?

Anyway, the fever was way down on Friday and he was up for eating and playing again.  And then by Saturday he was 100%.  I'm assuming he picked it up at one of the parties we went to the weekend before.  Or at the zoo on Monday with his Grammy.  I feel so awful that I had him at Bible study playgroup - I'm hoping no one else's kids got sick, but I guess I'll see tomorrow.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Book Reviews!

I've been reading a lot, which has been nice.  I was pretty apprehensive about Bates switching to one nap a day, but I must say, it's so nice!  We get out and about in the morning, he sleeps for 2-3 hours at midday, then we play until Dada gets home.  So during those 2-3 hours, I usually have some time for reading, which has been a lovely addition to my days.

So here we go (remember - no spoilers - so read away):

1) Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

This concludes my reading of Lisa See for awhile because there aren't any of her other books in our public library's e-database.  Of the three I've now read, this is my least favorite.  This one takes place in China when it was ruled by emperors (I don't know - 1800s?) and as all her books have been, it's an awesome historical picture of what it was like to live back then.  (Ie, pretty crappy if you were a woman.)  This book is about two women who were basically pen pals (it was some technical thing in China) the whole span of their lives.  They went through lots of hardship, some joy, births, deaths, etc. and you follow their journeys during the book.

Overall it was fine - not great, not horrible.  I thought the end was sort of dumb and I thought one of the women (Snow Flower) was annoying and weak.  But it was an ok read.  I would check out Lisa See's other books before this one, though.

2) Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

This was our book club book for May and we all loved it!  This is one of my favorite books I've read in awhile.  It follows different stories about interwoven people - a few in present day and a few in 1950s Italy and LA. It's about old Hollywood and new Hollywood and relationships and life - and it's so good.  It's super engaging and written well.  It would make both a good summer/beach read and a good book club book.  Definitely read this one if you're looking for a new book!

3) Inferno by Dan Brown

Oh Dan Brown.  I might be a huge nerd for saying this, but I always look forward to his new books coming out.  I sort of feel like I'm on vacation when I read them; they totally suck you in and take you to exotic locales.  And I love remembering my art history from high school and college.

This one is a pretty typical DB.  It's no Da Vinci Code, but really, none of his other books have been as good, in my opinion.  You've got your exotic locales (Florence, Venice, and Turkey), a hot, young woman, lots of art, plot twists, an international disaster that's going to happen if Robert Langdon doesn't save the day, etc.  Check it out if you're a fan, it will suck you in like they all do.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ohio Trip

My half brother (my much younger half brother) graduated from high school a couple weekends ago.  And since my dad's family is really big on graduations, off we went to Ohio to celebrate!

One of the many benefits of being out of the workforce is that I can take extended weekend trips.  So Bates and I headed up to Ohio on Wednesday and Jonathan met us on Friday (then we all flew home together on Sunday).

I don't want to dwell too much on the plane ride, except to say it wasn't the easiest moment of my parenting.  It was fine, overall.  But it's just hard to keep a super active, super curious child contained for 1.5 hours.  On the way up, the very kind gate agent moved me to a seat with an empty one next to it, which was great because he could sit in his own seat when he wanted to.  Anyway, a cold, well-earned beer was ready for me when we got off the plane.

Overall the weekend was nice.  They had gorgeous Ohio early-summer weather, with cool breezes and cool nights.  My aunt and cousin came in town (in addition to some of my step-mom's family), so it was a nice little family get together.  I was concerned leading up to the trip that having Bates with me would make us change our plans a lot (and thus make me feel bad we couldn't do all the stuff we wanted to do).  But everything ended up a-ok on that end.  We didn't really go out to eat like we usually do, but it was no big deal and we just enjoyed being out on the patio at night.

The graduation was fine - the usual "you have your whole life ahead of you, you can achieve so much" speeches.  And then there was a swanky party that night celebrating my half brother and three of his friends.  (My dad and step mom incessantly complained about how the party "got out of control" by the moms who were planning it - that is, a bartender, catering, a tent, 4 cakes, etc. - but as a guest at the party, I was on board with the excess!)

Side note about graduations: isn't sort of crazy how when you're the one graduating, it feels so monumental.  The speeches are so empowering and inspiring.  But to everyone else (except maybe your parents), it just seems like another life event to tick off?  I guess that's a cynical way to look at life, but I couldn't help wondering when I was sitting there how many of the kids in that room would actually "follow their dreams" and how many would just go to college, graduate, take a job they are offered, and get into the same cycle of monotony the majority of the adult world is in.

Anyway, our trip was good.  Bates' favorite part, hands down, was my dad's dog.  It's one of those fluffy Bichon Frises and Bates followed him around all weekend saying, "dog dog."  At home he had never been that into Hank (I think because Hank is so big), but when he was around this little 20 pound dog, he had never been happier.  And actually, when we got home, his interest in Hank did seem to spike a little (for better or for worse from Hank's perspective).

Bates enjoyed practicing his walking on the carpet in my dad's house and enjoyed seeing all the people he doesn't usually see.  He's such a good baby - so friendly and adaptable to all situations - that the trip was pretty easy.  And the time change actually worked to our advantage because we kept him on his normal time (so he went to bed at 8:30 and then slept until 7ish).

Here are all our pictures from the trip....  Oh wait, we took none.  Zero.  I'm so bad at taking pictures and I MUST. GET. BETTER.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Of Late

I feel like I have so much to blog about.  There are a few book reviews to write (including my take on Dan Brown's newest, Inferno).  A recap of our trip to Ohio, which included Bates' 2nd trip on an airplane.  And a 15-month update on the sweet baby boy and his newest feat: walking!

But I should also maybe just catch up on life?

For example, this past weekend was really fun.  Saturday morning we played at the Botanic Gardens (which has an awesome area for kids).  Bates played in some sand boxes and played in these kiddie playhouses they have.  He also saw some fountains and some ducks (and ducklings!).

That night we went to a baby-laden first birthday party for my friend's son.  Bates enjoyed being with all the other kids and playing with balloons and balls in the huge, empty front room of the house.  He was happy to get a couple bites of cake and ice cream, as well.

And then in totally atypical fashion, we had a Sunday Funday (Funnight?)!  A party was thrown to welcome some of our good friends to our neighborhood.  So it was just a great neighborhood get together in someone's backyard with lots of kids and babies and chitchatting and brews and wine and sidewalk chalk and snacks.  I wish someone threw a party like that every week!

So it was a good weekend.  And I'm really excited about this week, too, because some of our summer activities begin!  Tomorrow we have the first session of our music class (Music for Aardvarks).  We did  the Winter session, but skipped Spring.  So I'm glad to get back in the swing of it.

And then Wednesday I'm starting a new small-group Bible study, which I'm super pumped about.  It's all women from my church around my age and with kids.  And some of the sweet older women in the church are volunteering their time to watch our kids while we have our Bible study every week!  How wonderful to see them "being the church" for us.

In other news, the splash pad finally opened at the Kroc Center, so Bates and I checked it out and he seems to approve.  Also, the weather is starting a major heat up; we're in the 90s all week.  So the splash pad is a welcome refresher.

Summer has always been my least favorite season, but this year seems like it's on a path towards awesomeness.  Stay tuned!