Saturday, October 29, 2016

Second Grade Project

Second Grade at Parochial has a fun school project due next week. The kids have to go to six historical sites around Hometown and gather six facts about the site. They have to create a postcard about the site, put a stamp on the postcard and write the facts on the back of the postcard.

I mean, really!?!?! This is SO up my alley.

Birdie's buddy, buddy's mom, and the two of us set out on an adventure today to pick my brain for worthless knowledge that I have about Hometown.

We started at Engine Co. No. 7, by way of Central Ave. Central Ave used to have an electric trolley running up and down the middle of the street. Parking in the back, we started walking around.

Now, I don't taut my illegal activities on the world wide web. But.... the door was open. Ok, it wasn't all the way open, but it was open.

Fact: I went on a field trip to Engine Co. No. 7 when I was in first grade. When we left the field trip, the fire fighters told us "to come back anytime-- the door is always open."

FYI: The door was, in fact, still open. So, in we went into the abandoned, forgotten, and disheveled fire house.

Yep, breaking and entering-- that's how we show our second grade daughters how to get it done.

The girls asked if we could go upstairs. Other Mother said, "NO!" as I said, "SURE! Just let me go ahead of you ladies."

Safety first. That's my motto.

Both the mothers drew the line when they asked if they could slide down the brass pole.

"Ladies, steer clear of all brass poles."


After Engine Co. No. 7, which was the first fire station built to house motorized trucks, we headed over to the Academy, with a quick stop at the Bon-Air. The Bon-Air was not on our schedule, but Other Motherhood not been on the property and I said, "Turn in!"

We parked the car and headed inside to see the ballroom. Fun fact, this ballroom was used for Eisenhower's press corps when he came to town-- which he did frequently.

Now might be a good time to mention that the Bon Air is not fit to host Presidents anymore. It isn't fit to host Queen Elizabeth in the penthouse as she was once stayed here. It's not fit for much of anything besides meth and murders.

And, our second graders from their private school were working on a class project with their mothers.

We clearly didn't fit in.

Again, I made the girls stay behind me and Other Mother brought up the rear. In case a stray bullet or soft spot in the floor led us to our demise.

Fun fact: The original Bon Air was built in 1899 and was destroyed by a massive fire in 1921. The Vanderbilt family had four hotels across the eastern seaboard and one of them was the "new" Bon Air-Vanderbilt that was christened in 1923.

This building that was heralded as fireproof and will be standing here 1,000 years from now (no lie-- read it in the newspaper) is now Section 8 housing.

Sure is lovely for Section 8. And yes, these four ladies went up the steps and walked through the halls to get to the ballroom. The girls said things like, "EWWW-- Gross! There's trash!" and we had to remind them that people lived here. This was their home. Our focus was on the history of the building.

Get in, get out. MOVE ON.

We only saw one retired Woman of the Evening, painted up and ready to go. While I was curious to see the original lobby of the hotel, my instincts for safety got the better end of me and we headed back to the car.

The second graders were lagging behind and were quite annoyed with the mothers when we were vehement with their lack of expediency.

Imagine that...


After the Bon Air, we headed over to the Academy of Richmond County. Chartered in 1783, the Academy is one of the five oldest high schools in America. There were bumper stickers on doors when I was there that said, "And on the eighth day, God created the Academy."

Fun fact: Susan Still, NASA astronaut, is an alumni of the Academy.

Fun fact: The current location of Richmond Academy is actually the third location for the school. The first being on the river bank on the edge of Old Towne and the second being next to the Old Medical College.

Fun fact: Brother and I are sixth generation graduates of the Academy.

Fun fact: The majority of the original desks are still used in the classrooms today, almost 100 years later. The shooting range in the basement, however, is a different story.

Fun fact: George Washington gave the commencement speech in 1791.

While we were there, I remembered that there was a garden on the backside of the gymnasium. I asked Other Mother to drive around the corner and we got out.The girls read the inscription engraved on a stone book about a girl named Nina Deveraux.

Nina and I went to school together and she died in a tragic car accident the day after graduation. Family and friends put in the garden with benches, trees, and flowers in her memory. When we got back in the car, the girls started singing a song from when I was in high school that I didn't know that they knew, "I'm like a Bird," By Nelly Fortado.

I really don't like this song; no good reason- I just don't like it. I say that because it isn't in my iTunes and I don't know where the kids would have heard it. I do know that Nina was on the state championships basketball team in high school and at a pep rally when I was in school, they played that song. She loved the song. It always reminds me of her.

Odd, right?


After Richmond, we headed over to the Ezekiel Harris house where the girls wheels absolutely fell off. If it shouldn't be touched, it was touched. If it should be climbed on, it was climbed on. If it was breakable, it was provoked. And our tour guide just didn't get it.

Less words, more moving. Less scoffing at the 7 year olds, more moving. Answer a question, don't regale us with non-points of interest from the 1960s.

Other Mother was kinda awesome at this point. We were quick to learn that the tour guide was pokey in her presentation. At the end of the first room, the tour guide said, "Are there any questions?" .... a pause. Another pause. An impregnated pause that has had time to give birth.

No? No questions? Ok, well..... [insert fact here]

After the next room, when she said, "Are there any questions?" Other Mother, looked around clapped her hands together and said, "Nope? Nope. Let's go." and walked into the next room.

We decided it was lunchtime after that.


A fabulous lunch at Nacho Mama's, a quick trip to see James Brown and the Green Space, we headed over to the Old Medical College.

Fun Fact: While the green space was not established until 2003, it was part of the original plans for downtown Hometown.


The Old Medical College sits next door to the second location of Richmond Academy. It is/was the old museum before Scott Loehr raised about a bajillion dollars to build the current museum back in 1990-something.

Perhaps now might be a another place to mention that I am a rule follower.

I love rules and structure-- I thrive in them.

But, sometimes, those velvet ropes are meant to be moved. That door was meant to be opened. Sometimes.

The old Richmond Academy building was open for some event and we went in.

Fun Fact: we definitely taught our children today that if you are doing something you shouldn't be doing, don't try and look sneaky; look like you're supposed to be doing it.

Why just settle downstairs when we could go behind the velvet rope and go upstairs to the old classrooms?

Surely that is what we needed to do.

Fun Fact: The yearbook of the Academy has been, and still is, called "The Rainbow".... why is it called that?!

Upstairs, remnants of the museum remained. There were walls painted green with a "Tribute to the Masters" painted in large letters. And there were buckets.... lots and lots of buckets. There was a pretty good reason why the velvet rope should have been a heavy door with a big lock. People should not be allowed up those stairs.

Lucky for us, we weren't just people.

I am a sixth generation graduate of the Academy of Richmond County.

I am somebody.... {she says piously, knowing that it is all only in her mind}

Not so Fun Fact: J.W. Farmer was 39 years old when he died. He had just left Richmond Academy to be the principal at the Houghton School down the street. He died from double pneumonia brought on by the Influenza Epidemic of 1918.

It was freaking awesome to walk those hallowed rooms, going up and down sets of random stairs and seeing plaques dedicated to those long forgotten from almost 100 years ago.

This was the building where my people sat and learned. I couldn't help but pause for a moment and look at the walls and wonder where they sat, what they learned in both life and scholastics, and what kind of experiences those 16 year old boys had.

Before we walked down the stairs, I looked at the girls, our partners in crime, and said, "Listen- the thing about doing something that you aren't supposed to do, you need to look like you were meant to be doing it. Keep quiet. We are going to walk down those steps and walk out the door like there someone sent us up here to pick up something. Got it?"

Yes. I reiterated with them about how to be sneaky: don't look sneaky.


Down the steps and out the door we went, through the parade yard and over to our final destination: The old Medical College.

Fun Fact: Husband and Wife had their wedding reception there.

Fortunate for the building, all the doors were locked. Unfortunate for the seven year olds: they wanted to break in again.

Good job, moms.

Fun Fact: All of the Iron Lungs from across the country are stored in the basement of the building should another Polio epidemic happen.

I regaled Other Mother with what I knew about this place-- that the remains from over 400 bodies were found in a mass grave in the basement and that Dr. Cunningham loaned his personal bookshelves to the school for the library until the school could afford to buy their own. There was a slave that used to rob graves for cadavers so that the students could learn. He is buried in the same graveyard he used to rob.

That same slave learned to read and write, unheard of at the time; taught by both professors and students.

Fun Fact: My great-grandmother ran a tea room and boarding house on University Drive for the medical students. They would bring home real skeletons to study. When she was giving birth to my grandfather, it was her 37th pregnancy. (exaggeration... actually her 10th or 11th, but is it really a stretch from 10 to 37 pregnancies?) Dr. Jennings was her doctor and the labor went on into the wee hours of the morning. She told him to invite the medical students in to witness the birth of the 13 pound baby that was my grandfather.

On the way home, I mentioned the "Old Governor's Mansion" was nearby and we made a quick stop to walk around it. While there, Birdie saw a plaque that said, "Legend has it that this Gingko tree was planted to commemorate the visit of our First President, George Washington."

Ya know when that was right? When he made that commencement speech we told the girls about earlier that day.


Good day.

Pumpkin Carving

Getting around to pumpkin carving is something that seems to always happen on or around October 30th. We had a lovely Friday night, our little family of five. We carved and painted three pumpkins, put a bunch of sparkles on another and otherwise enjoyed the overheated October night. 

We like our pumpkins clean....

We had to say things like, "Bennie, don't run with sciss-- Bennie, don't dance with scissors. Bennie, stop dancing with scissors. No. No running with scissors. Bennie, put the paint down. Bennie, your brother is not a canvas."

Let the record show, my husband dressed my son. If it were me, he'd be in a smocked do-dah.

This picture is crazy blurry and should be erased... but want to draw attention to the white shirt that Bennie is wearing. 

That's a dirty shirt.

"Mama, let's google 'scary pumpkin carvings for Halloween'"

It was fun and reminded us that kids aren't always whining and complaining and getting corrected.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A Letter to Father R

In the Catholic faith, a child typically receives their First Penance and First Communion in (or around) second grade. Birdie is in second grade and we have started that process. One of the [many] requirements is that the parents have to write a letter to the head priest of the parish stating how they practice their faith as a family and how they will prepare their child for their first communion. Me being, well, me....


My address 

Fr. JR
St. Church

October 24, 2016

Dear Father,

How do we practice our faith? It’s funny to think that we, as a family, have been practicing our faith for 10 years and this is the first time sitting down and putting it into words how we both practice our faith and will help our first born prepare to receive her First Communion. 

Perhaps I should start with how we got here. 

Will and I were married in the Presbyterian church back in 2007 as no Catholic church in Hometown would marry us because, while I was Catholic, I was not a Confirmed Catholic. For reasons I have forgotten, I was not Confirmed as a teenager. At the time of our engagement, I was hurt and mostly sad. This was the church that saved my grandfather’s life, supported my family in times of hardship and celebrated successes. It gave us strength and was truly a home… and it did not want to embrace my love for this man I am fortunate enough to call my husband. 

After our marriage and my first pregnancy, I started to seek a home for my faith and found myself back at the steps of Catholicism. As I kneeled and prayed before that altar, I welled up with tears knowing that I needed to find a way to return to Catholicism. This baby I was carrying needed to know about the saints, the Virgin Mary, and all the ways we can both pray and be prayed for. She needed to know that the door is always open; that life is a journey, but it is a journey in Christ first.

Will and I discussed our faith and how we would raise our children. We agreed that we wanted a united front. But, with this change in my heart― there was no compromise. It’s not like you can raise a child in a Baptist church and expect them to appreciate Saint Jude in a way that only a Catholic who was full of lost causes can. My husband, a devout Presbyterian, was not interested in converting, nor was he interested in baptizing our first born in the Catholic church. 

We continued to discuss. We talked. We prayed. We discussed some more. As both of us were hard headed, young, and mostly stubborn- it was the most civil conversation between two people. We treaded trepidatiously, knowing that this subject of faith was one we were both passionate about and had ramifications beyond the two of us.

Our baby was born in the wee hours of the morning after an emergent c-section and a brutal delivery. To this day, I do not talk about the fires of hell I went through to bring her into this world. Only on very rare occasions, do I speak about it with Will in the stillness of the night. 

Those first days of parenthood turned into first weeks and those those first weeks turned into first months. 

One night, I held my precious Birdie, kissed her forehead and said our Hail Mary before bed. 

This was a child of God. This was our child. What we wanted was to have this child raised as a child of God- knowing she is loved by God, and we faithfully serve Him. 

How we believed in Him were just details. The bottom line in my heart was I did not want to wait one more second and leave her soul to chance. I did not want to be alone with my children at church every Sunday because two stubborn parents could not find a place to call home.

We both believed in Him and that’s all we needed.

My husband is a smart man. My husband does the Lord’s work. My husband would make the final decision and I would fully and whole heartedly support him. The Lord brought Will into my life and we had brought this child into the world. Our life was just beginning. 

The next morning, I prepared myself to tell my husband that we could baptize Birdie in whatever faith he wanted- I just wanted my child baptized and to know and love The Lord as we both do.

Will came home from the hospital that morning, having worked all night in the NICU. Still in his scrubs, he said, “I need to talk to you about Birdie.” I responded with the same.

“I love you and I love our family. I watched some parents lose their twins last night and they were able to baptize them right before their death.* I will go wherever you go. I want our child baptized wherever you see fit. Their spiritual education will always come from you because you will always spend more time with them than I can. I know you were sad when we could not get married in the Catholic church. You’ve been searching and it seems that this is where you really want us, as a family, to be. I want to be there with you.”

It was one of those moments where you know there are no coincidences.

Seven years later, almost to the day- here I sit and type this letter to you, wondering if you actually read every single one of these, but not worrying, because I am enjoying reliving the memories.

Birdie was baptized by Fr. L downtown about three weeks later and I love him for telling me that I could join the church without being Confirmed; I could Baptize my child without being Confirmed and that I could be an active Catholic and a parent to a Catholic child. 

After all I, too, was a child of God. 

My little family moved to Washington DC, where I was finally Confirmed with Saint Jude as my patron saint; the Confirmation being a decision I came to as an adult by my own fruition. We had our marriage blessed in the Catholic church with just our best friends and children standing as witness. It was one of those instances that reminds me how beautiful life is. 

In these 10 years, but really― in these 8 years― we have gone to Mass, not as often as we would like, but we make it more often than not now. We actively tithe and are involved in the church where we can be in facets that are mutually beneficial. We get to be a part of something bigger than our family, and the church and school are the recipient of our time and talents.

We pray the Rosary, we remember those that came before us, and our daily prayers of thanks are as routine as brushing our teeth. We read Bible stories and set our children up to ask questions about faith. As parents, we are the original teachers of these souls we are lucky enough to lead. 

The question we had to answer has not been directly addressed, but I think it gives you a pretty good idea about us. We are not perfect but we are raising our children in a house that both loves and believes in God. Our journey of getting to Catholicism was not one that we have known since birth. It is not one that we have always known. Rather, getting here has been a journey of self-discovery, love, and faithfulness. Faithfulness to God, faithfulness to my husband, and faithfulness to my family.   

And that Presbyterian husband of mine? He started coming to Mass with me and the children. He leads the children in prayers he did not grow up with and I am unsure as to how he learned them. That Presbyterian husband of mine had the opportunity to join the Catholic church on a “fast path” a few years ago and turned it down. When he decides to join, he said, he wanted to go through the whole series of classes to learn about this faith we are blessed to raise our children in. That husband of mine decided two years ago that he wanted to do RCIA* when his first born would go through her First Communion so that they could do this together. 

After all, she’s the reason we are here. 

Thank you for giving me the time to think about how we got here. From it, hopefully we will see better where we are going. 

Faithfully, I remain―


Mother of Birdie


A little long? Totally

* Catholics believe that in situations where a baby will likely perish, anyone can Baptize the child. Furthermore, we rely on the Lord's love of children that those babies that are not baptized will still be at His feet.

* RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults] is the process an adult has to go through in converting to Catholicism