Sunday, November 27, 2016

Falling into Advent Though I Am Not Ready

I created this graphic using photos I've taken of flowers in order to make the candles the traditional purple
and pink used on Advent wreaths.  I used a photo of leaves for the green of the wreath and the photo
of a bright yellow flower for the flame.  The way things have been going, this might be the only Advent
wreath I put up anywhere this holiday season.  We shall see.

It didn’t feel like last Thursday was Thanksgiving.  This was the first year in several that Kevin wasn’t scheduled to work on Turkey Day.  It’s just our luck that my husband and I spent the day at home in our pajamas instead of together feasting with family or even close friends.

We felt it was too big a risk for either of us to be around family members who had recently been sick with a very bad cold.  Though she was doing better than the previous three days, my mom wasn’t anywhere close to 100% when she made the apple pie the night before or started cooking the turkey the next morning.  She explained that she would sit down for a while and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, then she’d get up and do something else to prepare the feast, clean, set the table, etc.    

For a variety of reasons, neither Kevin nor I have seen much of my family in recent months.  I’d been looking forward to us all gathering at my mom’s, the one central location where all of us know we are loved and welcome anytime.  I figured I had a good chance of getting to hold Willa once more and hang out with Ezra for a bit. 

It wasn’t meant to be.  I thought of going to this once-a-year feast, especially since I really wanted to see everyone, but I knew Kevin was wise in advising against it under the circumstances.  We had to settle for a couple slices of turkey bacon cooked in the microwave and apple slices in place of roasted turkey with gravy and homemade apple pie.

After having worked in retail for a number of years, most recently at Best Buy, Kevin has a particular loathing of Black Friday.  I slept until noon.  Kevin conked out on the couch for most of the afternoon. 

We got dressed so we could go meet our friend John, who we hadn’t seen in months before he drove back to seminary in Baltimore.  We ate dinner together at Nanking and caught up a little.  It was kind of awkward to spend time together after not having much contact of any kind with John this fall.  The three of us confirmed that we still love, care about, and pray for one another even if the time between phone calls, texts, and visits has increased. 

Kevin asked if I wanted to listen to my music on the way home, by which he meant the Christian radio station I like.  I turned it on and when I heard Christmas music, I promptly shut it off.  I explained that I wasn’t ready, yet.  We’d barely had Thanksgiving.  I wasn’t ready for Christmas. 

I suppose my “I’m-not-ready!” reaction has a great deal to do with the fact that Kevin and I have had some very stressful, totally unexpected major health challenges and other crises to deal with over the past four months.  In fact, so much has gone on that I still feel the need to process most of it though we’re being dragged or thrown into the next whirlwind of activity and uncertainty before the last storm has cleared up. I realize that’s life—one thing going wrong right after another—but without the slightest break, I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed. 

While others are eating Thanksgiving leftovers, zipping about doing their Christmas shopping, putting up their tree, signing family photo greeting cards, and pulling out their holiday recipes, I’ve found myself wanting to hide from all of it.  I need more time to process what’s gone on these past four months and integrate it into my life and adjust accordingly to prepare properly for the future. 

It has dawned on me that I have been much more concerned of late about getting my body ready for my upcoming surgery than I have in planning and preparing my heart and mind for the coming of Christ.  Perhaps, therein lies the lesson.  Something is seriously amiss if I am neglecting the preparation of my body, mind, and/or spirit for Christ’s coming. 


What would happen if I spent as much time getting my mind and heart ready for Christmas as I have in making plans for this surgery?  Well, I'd bet that by the end of Advent, I’d be a better bassinet for Baby Jesus. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 21) Men of Faith

My dad and his brothers (Rich, Bob, Dave, and my dad-Jim) have
definitely had a huge impact on the faith formation of the Niermeyer family.

Day 21: Men of Faith

It would be difficult to name all of the men who have had a significant influence on my faith over the years.  Certainly, family members and close friends have greatly shaped my appreciation for what really matters in this life.  I would include several priests, deacons, and seminarians among those who have helped Kevin and I grow in our love and understanding of the Catholic faith.  We've been blessed beyond measure to have so many men of faith to inspire, instruct, and mentor us.    

Mary Kate and Rick Vivacqua (aka Stitch, my Godfather) have
been part of our family for years.  I know Stitch's prayers and
friendship with my dad ever since they went to St. John Fisher
College together helped my dad get through some really tough times
without giving up hope or faith in God.

They say to choose your friends wisely, for you become what
they are.  Laura, Jeff, and John have been with us through some
tough times as well as some really joyful ones.  We lift one
another up with our prayers and encouragement.
My brother-in-law Jordan and our nephew are
two young men of faith who have also enhanced
our lives and our understanding of Christ.
Dick and his lovely wife Jeannine have
been wonderful spiritual companions,
parental figures, and two of our dearest friends ever
since we met them in 2006 through Cursillo.
The Baabs "adopting" us into their clan have given Kevin and
me a father figure and four brothers to pray for and with.
Monsignor Chester P. Michael is someone Kevin and I got to
know through the two-year course in spiritual direction
this priest developed for laity and shared
with many members of our diocese and Cursillo family.

Dr. Ed Smith, (creator of Transformation Prayer Ministry),
his son Jonathan, and the amazing crew at New Creation Community in Chesapeake
have inspired me a great deal over the past six years.
Fr. Brian Capuano blessed the office as well as the Crucifix and Cross
that hang on the wall at the recently-opened Dignitas Health
Dr. Jill Zackrisson (pictured to Father's right)
has opened her new primary care practice.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 20) Faithful Sister-Friends

These lovely ladies (Laura, Holly, Jess, and Michele)
are the four sister/friends I most often call, text, spend time with...
We've been through some great sorrows and joys together.
This photo was taken on September 4, 2016 after the Mass
when Kevin and I renewed our wedding vows in celebration
of our twelve year anniversary.

Day 20: Faithful Sister/Friends


I am blessed to have a number of faithful sister/friends in my life of many different ages and at varying stages in their journeys.  I couldn't possibly picture all of them in one post, but I have included at least some of my ride-or-die sister/friends.
I include my sisters-in-law in this category, as I consider Deb,
Wendy, and Chari to be among my friends and sisters.
My original upper room spiritual divas (aka Cursillo group reunion) quickly
became my closest sister/friends those years when we met weekly.

This photo which was taken of a Cursillo team I served on
with the theme Harvesting God's Abundance.  Every woman
on the team and each of the candidates became sister/friends. 

Music Missionary Danielle Rose came to St. Michael the Archangel
to do a benefit concert and sing at the Masses.  I had the blessing
of being her chauffeur during that time and we became friends.
Knowing she is a strong prayer warrior, I have occasionally
contacted her via text message requesting prayers for major concerns.
The most recent prayer request I sent to her over these past few months
when facing some unsettling health challenges.  

All of these women who made their Christ Renews His Parish weekend in
February 2010 served on team for the next CRHP weekend the following summer.
Each and every one of these people has been a sister/friend.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 19) Praying Grannies

My maternal grandmother, my mom, and I on our wedding day.
I feel confident that Nana was also present in spirit and praying
for and with us at our wedding Mass.

Day 19: Praying Grannies


I was blessed that I got to know both of my grandmothers.  My dad's mom, who we called Nana, I felt closer to while I was growing up.  She was one of my favorite people on the planet, certainly someone whose love for me felt nearly unconditional.  Nana passed away when I was only eleven years old, a few months after my youngest sister Theresa was born.  

My maternal grandmother and I became closer with in high school.  She let me come live with her the summer after I graduated from high school before I started college, so I would only be a few miles away from Kevin instead of 500.  Once I returned to Richmond after college, Grandma had moved down here to be near my mom and help with us.  

Both of my grandmothers were devout Catholics with a special dedication to the Blessed Mother. I know they prayed countless prayers for us while they were on this earth and feel certain they are interceding on our behalf now that they have moved on to Heaven. 

My mom has followed in the footsteps of her mother as a formidable prayer warrior who frequently goes to battle for her children as well as her grandchildren.

This is my maternal grandmother Marilyn.
We called her either Grandma or Gram.
My paternal grandmother Jean, who we called Nana.
This is of Nana, my mom, my sister
Katie (aka Mary), and me.
As per her grandson's request, my mom has
taken out the nativity set well after the Christmas
season because the young man has been interested
in playing with the figures and talking about Baby Jesus.

Monday, November 21, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 18) Babies

Here I am with "my two little guys" who I began nannying for in Fall 2004.

DAY 18: Babies 

I have loved babies for as long as I can remember.  The one I took care of the most before I was old enough to babysit on my own was my youngest sister Theresa.  Even after getting my undergraduate degree and my masters, I couldn't resist the draw of taking care of little ones.  One week after Kevin and I got married I began my career as a nanny.  


The two youngest of "the three silly sisters" who
are fraternal twins with their mommy.
"The three silly sisters" with their first nanny (me!).

We all enjoyed it when my husband Kevin came to visit us. See
how happy the twins are to have him over!
 

Here I'm holding my Goddaughter (one of the twins).
Here I'm holding our once little nephew.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 17) All God's Creatures Big and Small

I have quite the collection of bee photos
ever since my friend Michele Morris and
I joked about glory bees.

DAY 17: All God's Creatures Big and Small

My knowledge and appreciation of insects, birds, reptiles, and furry friends have certainly been enhanced by working with children.  They are so fascinated by the natural world and keep that sense of awe and wonder we adults tend to lose over time.  

Teaching about nature during the school year and summer camps at a Montessori school has inspired me to read and research more about insects and arachnids than ever before.  

I took this photo when I accompanied the photography class I
was teaching to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens Butterflies Live exhibit.

When at Three Lakes Park with my sister, niece,
and nephew, we spotted this big bird perched up high.
I heard a very vocal squirrel when I was walking
around the Museum District, capturing some
beautiful fall colors with my camera.

This fine-feathered fowl was chillin' like a villain one afternoon
when a neighbor and I took an afternoon stroll at Byrd Park.

I had to take my husband Kevin to see Three Lakes Park. We
were amused watching the turtles in the lake nearest
Nature Center playing around.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 16) Parks as Recreation

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens has been a destination for
some fun photo shoots, a photography class trip, a birthday afternoon
stroll, and a place where young children can explore.
 

DAY 16: RVA Parks as Recreation

For many years my family and I have enjoyed the beauty and variety of the parks in our area. Some are great for their hiking trails, playgrounds, nature centers, and others are best known for the amazing gardens, friendly butterflies, and water play areas.  

"My two little guys" climbing up the red slides at Deep Run.
I love that we never have to go too far to find a park.  There are many around, each with their own personality.  Deep Run Park has been a staple in our lives for many years.  I remember when we'd take my youngest sister Theresa there to play on the playground.  In more recent years, I've taken "my two little guys" and the oldest of the three silly sisters for whom I nannied to run around there.  One year, I asked that everyone meet at Deep Run for a picnic on my birthday.  It was the first time I got to introduce the three silly sisters to our nephew.  All of us had fun!


Deep Run Park is one my family has been going
to ever since the first time we moved to Virginia
in the early nineties.  

Three Lakes Park is one that my sister and nephew introduced
me to that I've returned to a number of times.

Friday, November 18, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 15) My Sisters

My sister Katie (now known as Mary) and me with our lollipops.

DAY 15: My Sisters

I don't tell them nearly often enough, but I'm very grateful for my sisters.  They are both strong women who never cease to amaze me with all that they've been through and have managed to accomplish despite a slew of setbacks and an onslaught of obstacles.  

We aren't as close as we could be, and hopefully will be some day, but you are both on my mind, in my heart, and therefore in my prayers every day many times a day.   


Strawberry Shortcake was way popular back in the eighties,
so we both dressed up like her for Halloween.

My brother-in-law Jordan and my sister Mary.

My youngest sister Theresa has always loved costumes.

My mom sometimes tells people that Theresa and I are twins...
born eleven years apart. Our baby pictures look very similar!

Theresa with Mary and Jordan's son Ezra.
Theresa watching her peers perform at The Ohio State University.

My dad's brother Dave Niermeyer and my sister Theresa.



Thursday, November 17, 2016

21 Days of Thankfulness: My Photographic Attitude of Gratitude Project (Day 14) Clever Children's Book Authors

The three silly sisters frequently requested that I read them
certain books.  It was one of my favorite ways to spend time
with them.  I'd like to think I helped their parents foster
their love of books and reading from a very early age.
DAY 14: Clever Children's Book Authors

As someone who has been asked countless time to reread a book to a young child over and over and over again. I sincerely appreciate the authors who take the time to make the story entertaining and amusing to both children and adults.  I have far too many favorites to list here, but Dr. Seuss, Sandra Boyton, and Mo Willems are always fun for everyone.

I've observed some rather amusing behavior when it comes to kids and picture books.  
Totally deserving of that silver sticker!

Here I'm reading one of the Dr. Seuss classics to the two young
boys who came to celebrate a family friend's baby shower.


The following is an entry from a series I used to do called 7 Quick Takes Friday:

Life Imitates Fiction One morning, as per the girls’ request, I read them the classic children’s picture book by Don Freeman Corduroy three times in a row.  Not too long after that, I tripped over the kid fence that keeps them out of the computer area in their family room.  I didn’t just catch my foot on it and fall.  I took the flipping thing down, along with a tall floor lamp, and a small child.  All of us were okay, mostly just stunned.  I’m told the floor lamp still works.  (I was not brave enough to try plugging it back in since the plug was strangely bent, and I was already having so many things go wrong that I feared electrocution would be the result.)
    It dawned on me a little later that perhaps reading a book in which the following phrases appear: “bang into a tall floor lamp.  Over it fell with a crash!” got stuck in my brain and played out in real life.  Just one more reason, you should be careful what you read.  Fox in Socks is not the only book that’s dangerous! 
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