A Date on the Calendar

So it looks like Virginia is having spine surgery on August 18. That's nine weeks from today.

I have a peace about it to the extent that we received the same opinion from all the doctors and Virginia's curve has progressed to the point over the last month or so that she is in considerable pain. So while I am still scared to death, I do not feel like we have another option.

There are things with Virginia that have turned out to be less difficult than I had envisioned. I am praying that scoliosis surgery becomes one of those events. Here are the things we are praying specifically over the next two months: that Virginia is big enough to use the slightly thicker rods in surgery bc they have less of a chance of breaking, that she has no respiratory issues- comes off the ventilator the evening of the surgery and never has any aspiration issues, for pain management without too much sedation, for the curve to be straightened, and most importantly, for Virginia not to lose hope in the days following surgery when the pain is at its greatest. And to come home in four nights or less...slightly optimistic, but you cannot get Virginia (or me!) out of hospitals fast enough.

Years ago someone said to me, "The days are long but the years are short" and I have heard it many times since. It is so true.

And one of the things I write about frequently is that the hardest part of this situation is that it seemingly has no end. Somehow this date of surgery has freed me up to live in the moment. I don't think we are going to lose her, but I know that it is going to be really hard, and that overall, even with a successful surgery, things are getting harder because of Virginia's size.

Seeing August 18 circled on the calendar has made it easier to relax...even if I'm playing my tenth game of Crazy Eights or fixing Virginia's fifth round of medicine. Those dreaded events of life do eventually happen...sometimes we have much forewarning and sometimes they sneak up unannounced. All we can do is treat each moment like the gift that it is. When you are young, with small kids {and I don't exactly put myself in that category anymore;)} time seems to slow to a halt. For me, with Virginia, I feel like I've been living the same day for 11 years, but then I wonder, when did Eliza learn to dive? When did Wills mature into this kind, wise, silly, not-so-little boy? When did Virginia's scoliosis curve transform into an issue? Is it possible she will turn 12 in October? Time creeps along so slowly, and then it's gone.

I honestly think the key to living joyfully in a tough situation is to take it one moment at a time. The past two days we have done a whole lot of nothing and it hasn't bothered me one bit. I'm still in my pjs at 2:30 in the afternoon, there are dirty dishes in the sink, the beds are unmade, and the kids have dumped out every single container in the playroom. But they are happy, and we are together, for right now, that is enough.

Watching the time tick away until August has turned ordinary moments into extraordinary ones. As Wills likes to say, "It's about to get real." The truth is that every day we have as a family is nothing shy of extraordinary, but it has taken the reminder that I am not going to be doing this forever to get me to engage in the mundane. It's hard to be thankful for changing your 11 year old's diaper...until you realize you won't always get to be doing it.

I really do think Virginia is going to be ok. My biggest fear is long term pain post-surgery. When she is in pain, it's almost impossible to figure out what's going on since she can't talk, and I'm scared something is going to hurt her and we won't be able to fix it. I worry about protruding rods digging into her skin, I worry about her dislocated hip starting to hurt after her back is straight, I worry it will be harder to control her tone when we can't get her back in flection. But right now, we are moving forward, and starting to pray specifically about all these things.

We went to the river last week and it was awesome. The only two things on our list were being with the kids and catching monster trout. I could get used to that!! All the little details of life at home can really steal my joy and peace, but when I slow down and do the next little thing without worrying about the big picture, I find I do ok.

Thank you for praying for Virginia and all of us.

Some pics...

This one is a nut. So funny. Half the time I can't even look at her because I'm laughing so hard.

Wills broke his arm at camp but has recovered very quickly. Kids heal so fast! I talked my favorite ortho doc into a removable cast. We definitely removed it more than we were supposed to, but hopefully we haven't done any lasting damage.

Virginia loves the cold water,

(you can really see her scoliosis in the above pic...but it's clearly not as noteworthy as her smile!)

Hope everyone is having a great summer!

oh...and I'm back on facebook and new to instagram if I've missed anyone there! As much as I needed a break, I've missed keeping up with friends in that way.


I think life is supposed to be exciting and dynamic. It usually isn't.

Life is often the same challenges over and over again. I am not good at managing my own little 'Groundhog Day', and that's putting it kindly.

But Virginia handles her life {which is objectively more painful, frustrating, and slow-paced than mine} with grace for me when my attitude is sour and my energy level is low.

All we can do in life is find joy in the hand we are dealt, and Virginia does it better than most.


We had a tiny taste of spring on Wednesday morning,

It was Wacky Wednesday at Eliza's school, an appropriate name for any day that brings Memphis 6" snow in March!

We woke up to this on Thursday morning,

As most of you know, Virginia hates the cold. She actually usually throws up when she breathes in cold air. But we took her out in it yesterday and she loved it,

Findley hooked the sled up behind the four wheeler. The faster we went, the harder she laughed. (but don't worry, Dad....we didn't go too fast!)

Now we are officially ready for spring, but I have a feeling we will get one more snow before March is over. It just seems like that kind of winter.

Decision Time

We saw Virginia's pediatric orthopedic surgeon on Thursday. It looks like her curve has progressed to the point that we need to make a decision about rod surgery.

Neither one of us was surprised. We have known this day was coming for over four years. That being said, I imagine it will take us 3-4 months to make a decision. We are going to prepare like we are having surgery...see the neurologist, cardiologist, pulmonoligist, and GI, and make sure everyone thinks V is healthy enough for this surgery. Obviously heart and lungs are the biggest issues. I think the cardiologist will be able to look at her recent issues and give me a definitive answer about if Virginia's heart can handle the surgery. I think from a pulmonary stand point, how she will do is anybody's guess.

Virginia is essentially at the beginning of her curve, and it is already nearly impossible to get her positioned well. We have been working on a new chair for a year, have purchased two different ones, adapted both after they were delivered, and still been unable to get her comfortable. It is tough to fight gravity. Knowing the curve will only worsen with time, it is hard to imagine being able to get Virginia sitting up just a few years from now. There are kids with severe cerebral palsy who don't interact with the world, and for those kids, surgery isn't worth the risk. But Virginia would be miserable confined to her bed or tilted so far back in her chair that she can only see the ceiling.

That being said, it is also impossible to imagine putting your happy, life-loving, "healthy" daughter through a high-risk surgery and facing the real possibility of losing her.

Memphis does very few high risk CP surgeries. We don't do rhizotomys or intrathecal baclofen pumps. I don't question the skill or dedication of the surgeon here who would put her rods in place, but I do know there are other post-surgery ICUs around the country that see a lot more Virginias. For that reason we are going to visit three other cities and get familiar with their procedures.

The wisest person in my life looked at me on Thursday and said, "This is the hardest decision you and Findley will ever make. Unfortunately, it is one of those situations where no matter what you choose, you will wish you had made the other choice."

We will not have surgery unless the odds of the best outcome are really good. So that is what we are setting out to determine...

To be honest, I don't know how you ever have peace making a decision like this. I can almost imagine feeling peaceful about deciding NOT to have surgery, but feeling peace in the decision to have surgery? I can't imagine it. Nevertheless, I pray that God will be in front of and behind us, in all matters, big and small, and that I will be surprised, yet again, by His healing mercy on Virginia.


I read today that this was the seventh coldest February in Memphis since 1899, and the first coldest Second Half of February since 1875, with the average temp between 2/15/15 and 2/28/15 a freezing 30.3 degrees! So like everyone else, we have been doing anything necessary to stay warm and occupied!

Wills' Valentine box,

 Getting closer to the playoffs, and after lots of effort, Virginia will finally watch an NBA game,

Literally the only "warm" Saturday in February,

Findley went fly fishing in the Keys last week. If my driveway hadn't looked like this for a week,

I probably could have forgiven the pictures like this,

George W. Bush and his biggest fan,

Sweetest girl in the world,

Turnpike Troubadour groupies,

I don't really know what the next few months will look like. Part of me wants to charter a plane to the BVI (remember, Fin owes me a trip!), take the whole family, and forget about scoliosis. But I guess we would have to come home eventually. I don't like feeling under the gun....you don't want to wait to operate until the curve is much worse bc your outcome won't be as good. And if we don't operate, I feel the clock is ticking on Virginia's comfort level, and this huge bucket list of things I want her to experience is floating around in my head. But what I really need to be doing is running down doctors and taking it a day at a time. I'm good at the first part of that, but a total failure at the last part.

I will keep updated on how Virginia is doing. Thanks for caring about our family!


Circling the Wagons

Happy 2015!

I have been revisiting the reason behind this blog, and one of the most important ones to me is sharing our story so that other caregivers in similar situations won't feel alone.

I would like to write more essays, I would like to reformat and have less pictures, but for today I am going to try to catch you up!

Virginia is still healthy from a pulmonary perspective, but her scoliosis is getting worse. I have spent the last four months researching, trying to figure out a way to head this thing off at the pass, trying to be proactive.

Some doctors think Virginia could handle spinal surgery to use rods to straighten her back, some don't. She is holding steady at about 30 degrees, so we don't have to make a decision yet. We go back for more x-rays in February. Findley and I generally feel that Virginia does the best when we leave her alone. Medicine doesn't have a lot to offer in certain situations, and unfortunately ours is one of those situations. But the day may come when we have no other choice but to have rod surgery.

Her scoliosis has made positioning more complicated. We picked up her new chair on July 2 at Scottish Rite in Atlanta, and of course they had ordered the wrong size. (We had only been waiting for it since January!!) Findley had to build one, using parts from her old chair and the new one. We were in a room the size of my laundry room, had all three kids, favorite babysitter/fourth child Rachel, a physical therapist, and the wheelchair rep. I just wanted to get out of there. And 5 hours later, we did. I thought the chair was going to work, but long story short, it didn't. Not Findley's fault- he did the an amazing job with what they ordered. If he hadn't been there (and Mom and I almost went without him), I would have flown home with V in my lap.

Turns out Virginia's scoliosis had progressed to the point that she needed a custom, molded chair, so we went back to Atlanta in October to be fitted for it.

Mom & I took her back the day before Thanksgiving to pick it up. The new chair is definitely better at supporting her back, but it's not perfect. Virginia wasn't quite herself on New Year's Eve and we realized that she had an abscess on the back of her leg, caused by contact with the chair. We (Findley, Mom, Dad, Uncle Harold, and I) have worked on the chair no less than 30 hours since we brought it home, trying to get it right. I don't think there is a better product out there for us, I just think everything about Virginia is very complicated.

Findley's company switched insurance carriers in September and it has about done me in! I knew the ropes at Blue Cross and they knew me. I loved them. I could literally write thirty pages on the issues I've had with our new insurance just in four months. Ridiculous stuff...like refusing to pay for her meds to be compounded, even though she can't swallow & they have to go through her g-tube, and sending me a letter informing me that they would only pay for half her baclofen (her jaw gets stuck open and she screams in pain if she has even 2.5 mg less), and saying that her stander (which keeps her hamstrings stretched so she can SIT) is not medically necessary.

I hate wasting time, which is what dealing with insurance feels like. And as annoying as waiting for the Sears service man to show up four hours late can be, it doesn't feel personal. I realize it is business to the insurance company, but it's personal to me.

There are many days I feel that I am fighting to keep Virginia alive. And on those days, most other things seem trivial. I was early to pick up Wills from school, and the kids hadn't come out yet. It was the perfect ten minutes to return a phone call to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon I really trust. He is our old neighbor, and knows Virginia better than our new doctors. As I'm listening, a mom comes up to my window, wanting to know if I've contributed to the annual fund. Poor woman, she never had a chance. They've sent home notes and emails. They've called us. Yesterday Wills came home wearing a sticker. Can't I have ten minutes of quiet in the carpool line? Nope, they knew I was trapped. The thing is, if Virginia were healthy, I would be that mom going car to car, raising money for her child's school. Instead, I'm the mean, exhausted lady in the wheelchair van who is totally annoyed that her child's school asked for money, again.

The consistency and intensity needed to care for Virginia seems to be increasing. As Findley said the other day, we can't afford to make a mistake. Forget to charge her feeding pump, and she won't get to eat. Forget to go by the pharmacy, and she won't get her meds. Forget to reposition her in the night, and she will throw up and aspirate. It's always time for a change, time for meds, time to be stretched, time to bathe, time for a drink, time to give her a change of scenery...and there are days when I do this really well and with a lot of energy. And then there are days when the thought of lifting her out of her chair and putting on her pjs is more than I can bear.

Each one of us has something in our life that we feel like we can't bear any longer. But then the sun comes up again and we get a new start. God's mercy in the form of a new day, a new year, an old friend, a hot cup of coffee..... Taking it a day at a time and putting out the fire closest to me is really all that I can do right now.

Somehow taking off my "big picture" glasses allows me to see small, joyful moments that I otherwise might have missed. And all these little moments do make the big picture more beautiful...I just have to remind myself to see them.

So I'm promising to write more in 2015, and here is how we finished off 2014....

Eliza turned 5! Peabody Hotel tea party (maybe would have been better when she's 15, but live and learn...and I needed a hair cut...)

Virginia turned 11!!!

 Both my girls got glasses

Boys canoed the Ghost section a few times this fall

Harry Potter I & II... funniest Snuggy ever

Wills loved his costume so much that he wore it everywhere for about a month...

Lots and lots of Grizz,

The WORST trip to Disney ever. I actually had a premonition it would be bad....but we went anyway. We all had the stomach bug, it rained the whole time, just overall rough. This sums it up.

There were a few happy moments. Findley took Wills to Harry Potter world while we were all dying, and he loved it,

On the last day, Eliza felt well enough to meet a few characters. It was really sweet...made me sad she had been sick the whole time!

Virginia seemed to enjoy the plane...seriously, this is about the best pic I have of her over 7 days!!

And speaking of planes, it is a nightmare to travel with Virginia on a plane. In the airport in Orlando on the way home (so I'm literally already about to kill somebody after the worst week ever) we had the TSA agent from hell. She wouldn't let me take Virginia's Boost through because it's a liquid. I had all the paperwork I usually have, but she kept asking how she could know it wasn't a liquid explosive. Seriously. It's her food!!! And I can't buy it on the other side of the security check point, so I have to take it with me. Finally I just said, "Fine. Keep it. But if we get stuck on the tarmac for ten hours and she starves to death, I'm coming back for you" and then the TSA agent said I was threatening her. I said it jokingly, but TSA agents obviously don't appreciate humor. So then Findley got mad at me for joking with her, and he and I got in the fight of the decade. I don't think we spoke for the rest of the day. At one point there was turbulence on the plane and I thought, "If the Captain told me the plane was going down, I still wouldn't apologize."

So....I finally gave in to something Findley has been wanting for years and we will not be flying anymore! Road trip? We have room for friends!

We continue to spend tons of time on our porch,

Putting all Nana's quilts to good use,

Santa brought Findley a pizza oven. Look out, Frank Stitt. (And one more reason to have a fire and be on the porch..)

V's favorite Santa gift was her Muppets Puppets...Wills does them best!

Our whole crew

We are all in love with this little lamb. I dream about him when I haven't seen him in a few days.

Down time by the lake,

And Findley finally talked me into putting ALL the things he loves most in the Christmas card...


Wills' principal quoted Billy Graham at a 2nd grade parents' meeting last week. When asked what life's biggest surprise was, Graham, who was in his 80s at the time, responded without hesitancy. "The brevity of it," he declared.

I am sure I was not the only mother in the room who did not need reminding that my son is growing up. The signs are everywhere. Wills went to camp for ten days this summer, he can read Harry Potter as quickly as I can, his sense of humor leaves us in stitches, and he and I wear the same size t-shirt.

It didn't just occur to me yesterday that life is short. I have been aware of that since I was a little girl. Unfortunately, life flies by even when we do our very best to appreciate each stage of childhood. Don't misunderstand, I have still missed plenty of moments and will continue to do so. I have done the dishes when I should have been playing chess, I have lost my temper over water splashed on the wallpaper in the bathroom, and I have hurried through bedtime because I needed to come downstairs and fix Virginia's night meds (or have a glass of wine).

Watching Wills and Eliza grow up is bittersweet. Obviously it breaks my heart, but I also love seeing them mature and embrace new experiences. There is an added sorrow in watching Virginia grow because as she gets older, she will start to face more complications from her cerebral palsy and it will become exceedingly difficult for me to lift and care for her on my own.

I took the kids to the beach in June with two friends and their children, but Findley wasn't there. It was tough. I had to kneel and rest half-way through carrying Virginia down to the beach. I tried to hold her in the waves once, but quickly realized it was less than safe.

I watched eight-year-old Wills swim out over his head and dive down to retrieve shells, over and over and over again. And I couldn't help but wish that his ten-year-old sister was right next to him, instead of in the house watching her fifth movie of the day.

We had a great time, and Virginia certainly appreciated the change of scenery. It was just an eye-opening trip for me about what it is going to take to handle her in the future and it started to dawn on me that the days I have dreaded for so long may have finally arrived.

I have had this feeling before, that the "good days" were over with Virginia, and I was wrong. Those last two years in Birmingham she was so sick, and that cough was relentless. I honestly thought we were losing her. Not that week, not that month, but way sooner than I had ever imagined. It was impossible to think that she could recover from such a steep decline. We just assumed she would continue to go downhill, but she surprised us, and these last two years she has hardly been sick a day.

So I am sitting here, watching Virginia on the edge of puberty, and wondering what the future holds. How bad will the scoliosis get? Will it be painful? Will it affect her lungs? Will we have rod surgery? How tall will she get? Will I be able to hold her and move her on my own for much longer?

I don't know the answer to any of those questions, but if I look back over the darkest times in her life, we were always surprised by the mercy we were shown, and I can only pray this will be another example of things not turning out to be the worst case scenario. In the meantime, all I can do is take each day as it comes. All of our days are numbered, not just Virginia's, and therefore we must focus on making each one a true celebration of life.

It sounds like a contradiction, but the brevity of life is what makes each moment special. It makes no sense without God, but the impermanence of our time on earth makes it all the sweeter.


We had a great summer. Here are some beach pics,


We spent the fourth in North Carolina with Findley's family,

These might be the two funniest family photos ever, as in future submission to Awkward Family Photos,

This little lamb keeps getting bigger,

We did spend some time fishing at the Eleven Point River, a little closer to home than NC. I caught my first small mouth bass on the fly rod and was pumped, but you have to take my word for it because there are no pictures. These two did a ton of fishing,

Took this for the Garden and Gun contest, but missed the deadline,

The pool at the HTCC was closed one Saturday, but we made do. I will say it was sort of a low point! My brother-in-law had to literally lift Virginia and me out of the canoe,

And what's a summer without eating french fries in a wheelbarrow?

Or using your shirt as a cup holder for your Sonic milkshake?


I grew up in Midtown (not a surprise to any of you who know me), and until I started attending St. Mary's in 6th grade, it was a rare occasion when our family ventured east of Highland. I was crushed when we couldn't find a handicap accessible house in Midtown two years ago, but I do love our neighborhood and it is still west of Highland.

One thing I have discovered upon returning home is that lots of people who grew up in East Memphis have ventured into Midtown. I no longer have to get a map out to explain where my parents live. Most of my high school friends couldn't have found the Rendezvous alley or the Shell without extensive directions, and that is certainly not the case with today's young Memphians.

I try to do my part and make sure my kids know what a great town this is! (never too soon to start priming them to come back home one day, right?)

A few of our Memphis summer outings. Trolley,

Main Street fountains

Mud Island

The Shell,


Red Birds,

Riverboat Landing Park,

I realize I have abandoned actually writing anything of note in my blog. I am not sure why that is, but I didn't start this blog just to keep everyone updated on our family's activities. I have had intentions of revamping it for over two years now and am going to give it another go here soon. Hope everyone is having a great summer.

Holding Pattern


It has been a good few months for our family. Virginia has been healthy from a pulmonary perspective and it certainly makes life easier.

Before I embark on this little update, please note that when you do a three month catch-up post, life can seem pretty exciting. Don't be fooled...most days around here are pretty mundane!

Findley and I took a little vacation in February to do some bonefishing. Yes, I like to fly fish now, especially at tropical destinations during the coldest winter Memphis has ever seen.

Essentially I sat on the front of the boat and read while we were poled around the flats chasing the elusive (& translucent) fish. We went with old friends and it was a much needed break. And Findley is thrilled that I have a new hobby. This next pic cracks me up. We call him the 'cuda killer.

As soon as we returned, it was time to go to Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta to order a new wheelchair for Virginia. (which they said we would have in 2-3 weeks, and that was 2 1/2 months ago). We took all the kids and spent one morning at the aquarium. The whole thing is impressive, but if you go, the dolphin show is incredible.

March included a low key spring break, but we did lots of fun things around Memphis. Wills has wanted to try ice skating ever since the Olympics, so Ginny and I took him to the rink. It was highly entertaining on all fronts, but he did not give up and I was very proud!

John and Emily's baby boy arrived mid-March and everyone in my house (including me) is a little bit obsessed with him. Actually our whole family is...having a baby around again has been so special.

Wills turned 8 in April, which is just unbelievable to me. We celebrated at Dino's, an old family favorite. Being there makes us very aware of Poppy's absence, but I know he would be so happy that his bunch was eating toasted ravioli together.


Findley started a new job last week. He took two weeks off in between, one of which we spent at the beach. I am never going in the height of summer again. The weather was beautiful and we didn't have to wait at a single restaurant. We skipped the beach last summer, so Eliza was only 2 years old the last time we were there and didn't remember. She essentially ran in circles squealing the first day and a half. She loved it!

Virginia loves it, too, but that is old news!

Findley did a little fly fishing in the ocean. He can't get enough of it. He took a ladder out in the ocean so he could get a better cast, but the ladder wasn't visible to people on the shore. People kept stopping and staring because he looked about 10 feet tall.

The Grizzlies season ended in game 7 against the Thunder. This sounds ridiculous, but I was a little depressed the following day. However getting booted in round 1 of the playoffs is certainly easier on the pocket book and the sleep schedule. It was a great season!

And while weren't lucky enough to party with the real royals while they were in town, these two were sitting behind us at game 6...

I really never thought I would like the NBA, but I do. For me, it is more about Memphis pride than it is about basketball.

Memphis pride or Jon Leuer...just kidding...

My mom had a milestone birthday yesterday. We had dinner here so that baby Charles and my kids could be included. It was a ton of fun. I haven't uploaded the pictures yet, but I did take this one on my phone. Pretty proud of my table.

Eliza loves flowers. My neighbor offered her a doughnut the other day and she ran over there. Turns out Eliza thought she had said "daisy" and was utterly disappointed. Here she is on Saturday at the Farmer's Market buying the flowers for Mom's party.

The saying in our house is "If Virginia ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

 We are very grateful for a smooth couple of months!

I actually do have a few other things to say. My plan is to write another post tonight. We shall see!



Thoughts on a New Year

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. I still don't have all my decorations down, but today's only Epiphany. Slow to go up and slow to come down. This is the first Christmas in a long time that I haven't felt stress. I decided if there was something that was supposed to be done with a glad heart (decorating, cooking, mailing cards, delivering gifts, etc.), but I was angry and annoyed about it, I just wasn't going to do it. I figured people would forgive me if they didn't get a gift- honestly, I doubt anyone even noticed.

Findley and I took Wills to the Vanderbilt bowl game this weekend. It was fun to be back in Birmingham and see lots of old friends. I told Wills there are very few people who have been to three consecutive Vandy postseason games, for obvious reasons. Hopefully we won't lose our coach so we can keep the streak going.

Yesterday was our 12th wedding anniversary. If that didn't make me feel old enough, a college friend remarked this weekend that Wills is closer to being in college than we are to having graduated from it. Thanks, Matt. That thought had me going through all of Wills' baby pictures and will keep me up at night for months. Seriously.

Whenever I am around lots of friends I haven't seen in years, I feel like our lives have been on hold while their lives have moved forward. Our life is slower, and it has to be. Our life doesn't look like what we thought it would, and it is all because of three hours, over ten years ago, when we had been married for less than two years.

And there is absolutely nothing we can do about it except celebrate a marriage that has not only survived, but continued to grow; celebrate a precious little ten-year-old girl whom we love more than anything; celebrate two other little monkeys who are happy, healthy and thriving; and celebrate a group of friends and family who came together over twelve years ago to witness a marriage and have literally stood next to us every step of this journey.

I think the best way to submarine your own happiness is to constantly compare your life with the lives of those around you. If I had her job....If my kids were as athletic and smart as theirs...If we had as much money as they do...If I had all my family close by like she does....If my house were as nice as theirs....If I were as skinny as she is....and for me, if I had healthy kids like they do. I look at healthy families and am jealous of how easy it is for them to go places and do things, and I would be lying if I said that didn't make me sad. Of course it does. But then my head takes the reins from my heart, and I am able to see things from a different perspective.

My life is full of special people, and full of love.

Facebook, Instagram and the internet in general have made it easier for people to compare themselves to others. Everybody appears beautiful and happy as they travel the world with the love of their life, eat at five star restaurants, and make raising four kids look like a cake walk. Nobody posts the fat pictures, writes about how much they hate their job, admits that their marriage is in danger, or calls out a difficult family member. And they shouldn't. The internet is not a place to air your dirty laundry.

It does, however, highlight our need as humans for true friends with whom we can let our guard down. Everybody has their struggles, and when faced with a true tragedy, you can use it to become more empathetic, or you use it to separate yourself from others because you feel your life is the hardest and no one can relate.

Empathy requires vulnerability, it really does. Until you can admit your own life isn't perfect, you can never feel true empathy for those around you.

I did make several resolutions for 2014. I am not sure why because I never keep them, but I am always one to take advantage of a fresh start. Somewhere in the middle of my list, actually between 'getting in bed by 9 pm' and 'only drinking coffee, water & wine' is the most important resolution I made. Focus on the gifts in my life.

I have no control over what is missing, but I have the ability to find joy in what is present.

Happy New Year, friends!


Waiting to see what Santa left on Christmas morning,

I would be this excited over a Barbour jacket, too,


We have spent lots of time on the porch. Love V's Rudolph hat,

And V loves our friend Ben, (this is my only pic from New Year's Eve, by the way; hopefully that means we were having fun),

Trying to master the Vanderbilt V sign. I agree it is a strange and complicated thing,

We left these two back at home, but they were happy,

I will end the recap there. I think these are the coldest temps I've felt in my life. I am in my house, have on a tank top, long sleeve t-shirt, sweater, and vest, in addition to heavy jeans and wool socks, and cannot feel my feet. Hope you are all staying warm and that this freeze passes soon!

And...for all you Auburn fans (including Findley), War Eagle! I really think y'all will win this one!

Oops- obviously wrote this yesterday. It was Auburn's to win, but they let it get away. Sad husband said he couldn't sleep last night because he kept thinking about all their missed opportunities. Exhausted Abby couldn't sleep because disappointed husband kept waking her up to tell her he was having trouble sleeping!!!

We're Back...

We are home and it was awesome. We almost didn't go because we are just so tired and it takes an incredible amount of effort. But I am so glad we did.

We took our favorite Birmingham babysitter Rachel, who is really more like family than a babysitter. She definitely eased the load on us and in case you were wondering what Virginia thinks about her...

We tried to do a lot more of this,

And this,

Ok, forgive all the pictures. I just can't help it.

In case you didn't know, Dug from Up is Virginia's very favorite character. (and Findley's, too.)

Ms. Barbara drives the antique firetruck on Main Street (and is now featured on the video you watch on the Magical Express from the airport.) We love Barbara and have gotten to be friends with her over the years. She and Wills had a dance off. Not going to tell you who won,

It was hard to leave the 80 degree weather and I could get used to watching fireworks from my balcony every night,

On the one hand, going to Disney in December leaves me feeling a little frazzled when it comes to getting the cards mailed and the tree decorated, and we miss out on fun Christmas activities back at home. But all of this is trumped by spending a week with the kids without the distractions of the holidays. Did I really just say that Disney was distraction-free? You know what I mean.

Virginia still has no cough. It's unbelievable. Thank you, Lord.