Thursday, May 31, 2007

36 years - 18 months = 34 wonderful years

He has always been my hero.

He has always been bigger than life.

He was the man who formed my faith, and taught me that a woman is not limited in what she can do just because she’s a woman

He’s the man who taught me the word ambidextrous when I wasn’t even big enough to have any business saying that word.

He’s the man who we honored this past Saturday night, and while to most of the people there he was a great friend, co-worker, boss, employee – before he was all of these things, he was my dad.

I was born in the very small period of time that my dad wasn’t Pfizer. Yes, I said my dad was Pfizer, because for me, growing up – he was. As far back as I can remember, Pfizer was part of my life. I had the “opportunity” to learn that when a “p” and an “f” are next to one another that you don’t pronounce the “p” at a much earlier age than most of my contemporaries.

One of my earliest “Pfizer” memories is when we lived in Houston. My dad was a hospital rep, and he had just been promoted to his first district manager position. We found out at a “family meeting” – which by the way was where we would find out about moves or babies, or sometimes both – that we would be moving to Oklahoma. I remember crying and crying. My dad asked me why I was crying, and I told him that he would be gone even more than he was now with work. He assured me that his office would be at home so he would be home more. Now for anyone who knows my dad, he is not a man who does anything half-way; especially not something he is passionate about. And my dad was passionate about his job. Let me change that. He never felt like what he was doing was "work". He was having fun and getting paid for it. One of the things that he told my brother Michael when he was looking for a job out of college, was not to find something you're good at, but to find something you love to do and become good at it. That's what my dad did every day of his 34 year career with Pfizer.

People always talked about the "Pfizer Pfamily", and it was truly a reality for our family. We always had a place to stay on our road trips. When I went off to college in Richmond, my parents introduce me to Mel & Elsie Katz. Mel was the District Manager for the Richmond district. I'm not sure how well my dad knew Mel at the time, but through the years that they were my surrogate parents while I was at school, their friendship grew. I still exchange Christmas cards and birth announcements with the Katz family - that's how close we became, and it was because of the thread that bound us together - Pfizer.

The Pfizer Pfamily connection even played a role in the life I have today. Tom Killick, who was working for my dad, is the one who introduced Chris and I. Without that introduction, I wouldn't be as happy as I am today, and I wouldn't be blessed with the life I have. Tom always says it took him a year and a half to make the introduction, because he was afraid if Chris and I didn't hit it off that my dad would fire him! Now that it's worked out, Tom is still saying my dad owes him one for getting me out of his house!

So, how do you celebrate 34 fabulous, successful years? You do it in style. The night of May 19th brought together all of my brothers and sisters, as well as people from all over the country, to come and pay tribute to a legend - my dad. There were people from the beginning right through to the end of his illustrious career. Who came you ask? Why, I'll tell you!

Jim Raby & his wife Jeannie, Jim Black & his wife Mary were friends from years ago who share special memories with my parents of a fun trip to Mexico - oh the stories they tell!

Murray Smith & his wife Crystal as well as Woody Goodson also made an appearance. The aforementioned Mel Katz & his wife Elsie drove up from Richmond. Al Derenzo, and Mike Logan both came up from Florida. Mark Brown & his wife Lynette drove down from Connecticut. When Mark became a District Manager, he lived down the road from our family in Florida. Now he lives in the same town that we lived in 20 years ago! Another regional manager, Brad Doss & his wife Christine were there. There were 2 former Assistants to the Regional Manager (ARMs) Dan Bellair and & John Hooten who was responsible for putting the party together. And many managers who used to work for my dad came from near and far for his final hoorah: Mark Iverson, Scott Sagester (a fellow Spider!), Katina Owens & her husband Scott, Joe McCoy, Jonathan Kashouty, Gary Malmstrom, Scott Kinas, Sean Griffith, Tony Anderson, John Melvic & his wife Leslie, Frank Sodnicar & his wife Carla, Rory & Debbie White and Mirella & Seth Berger & their 7 week old daughter Katerina.

It was a night full of laughter and tears. There were a number of speeches, and someone noted later that for a tribute to a really funny guy, there were quite a number of serious speeches. It goes to show the full spectrum that is my dad. This is the guy who can find a pun nearly everywhere he turns, but he also cries at the end of "Highway to Heaven". I have always been proud to call him my dad. I was so moved to see how many lives he touched in his career with Pfizer, and how many people are proud to call him their friend.

Dad, this isn't an ending, but a new beginning, and I'm excited to see what the future holds for you.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Happy 1974th Birthday!

Pentecost celebration at our house this year. The boys had a fun time with this one.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I'm Blocked by the Great Wall of China

My blog is blocked from being seen in China! All those poor people who are being denied my wit and wisdom. If you're interested in checking, look here.

Just poke me in the eyeball with a sharp object, please!

Okay, so my dad has a retirement party coming up and I need to find a dress. Sounds simple enough, right? I'll just load up the boys into the car around lunch time, throw some healthy and nutritious chicken and french fries at them, and head off to the store. The food will ensure that they're not cranky, right? I also had a nice talk with Brian and Sean before we headed into the store about how Mommy needs to get a pretty dress, and how we need to be quiet and stay right with Mommy the whole time. Everything was going to be fine.

We got out of the car and my "big boys" held hands as we crossed through the parking lot - great, they're listening right out of the shoot. This is going to be easy!

Oh, what a naive woman I am. As soon as we hit the inside of the store it was like an amusement park for Sean - he ran straight towards a rack of clothes - woo hoo let's ride the clothes rack ride! I managed to reign him back in by asking him to help me look for a dress. That lasted for about 2 minutes. Brian was doing a pretty good job of "helping" me, but I could see him itching to run free. I finally managed to grab a couple of dresses, and herded my crew back to the really large (thank goodness) dressing rooms. Oh boy, a whole new place to explore - the tri-fold mirror makes a really loud noise as the sides are slammed either against the wall, or the center section of the mirror in case anyone was wondering. Sean also took this time to begin to try and poke Colin's eyes out. He even asked, "Mommy, may I please poke eyes?" I guess the manners lessons have taken!

At this point I decide that I need to find something else to try on - wasn't so sure I like the dress I took in originally. I asked Brian to stay in the dressing room with Colin and took Sean (didn't want Colin losing an eye now, did I?) with me to find another outfit. "Mommy, big boys are good at taking care of broviyers (translation: brothers)." I am often told, and Brian did an excellent job of playing with his trains while watching Colin. Sean, on the other hand was running to and fro, hiding in the clothes racks, running back to the dressing room and screaming with delight. Now, Brian opens the door to see what the fun is all about. "Go back in there and keep the door closed" I advised Brian.

Finally, with my nerves being shot, I grabbed the first dress I tried on and tried to corral these three crazy men (Colin is crying now because it's nap time) to pay for my purchase, 'cause I'll be darned if I'm going to leave this store with nothing in hand at this point! So picture if you will, screaming baby in car seat, toddler and pre-schooler hopping like frogs around the store, mommy losing her mind. I finally convinced Brian and Sean to lay down on the floor and rest - yes, I know how dirty that floor might be, but it was my best option at the time! That lasted for all of about 3 minutes, then it was off to the races. Boys running back towards the dressing rooms, laughing and having a good ol' time, baby screaming, line NOT moving, and me, just too mentally wiped out to do much more than think about how this will make a great post on my blog.

In case you were wondering, here's the dress I ended up with.
Hubby thought I looked good in it so I guess it was all worth it, but let's just say it will be a LONG time before I try that experience again!

How Sweet is This Man?

There are many reasons why I love my hubby. Here's just one reason why he is so special to me. Hope you enjoy.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Nearest Book, Fifth Full Sentence Meme

Here's the deal:

Grab the nearest book.

  1. Open it to page 161.
  2. Find the fifth full sentence.
  3. Post the text of the sentence along with these instructions.
  4. Don't search around looking for the coolest book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.
The nearest book to me was Pierced By A Sword. Here's the 5th full sentence from page 161...

"Raphael suggested in a perfectly rational tone of voice, holding his hand out toward Lee."

(That would be the Archangel Raphael in case anyone is curious.)

HT: KC, Elizabeth

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Happy Birthday Gramma McDonald

Today would have been my Gramma McDonald's 88th birthday. This year she is celebrating her birthday with Our Lord, and my Grampa.
I was treated to a wonderful surprise this morning. There was another lovely May basket hanging on our front door this morning from our friends, the Beardsleys. They didn't know it, but this basket was really special given the day that it arrived on my front door. I know my Gramma was pleased with it as well.

Ruth Marion Brennan was born on May 9. 1919. She grew up in New Jersey, and went to Mount St. Vincent's College. After graduation, she went to work as a secretary at a patent law firm and would take the train in to New York with her father. When she was 22, my gramma met Eugene John McDonald. His uncle worked with my great grandfather. After their boss' daughter died, everyone was invited back to my gramma's house for a drink. Since Gene was the only young man, he and my gramma sat on the stoop and talked. He asked her for a date and the rest is history. It was a whirlwind romance. Gene would take the train out to New Jersey each weekend to court my grandmother, and then take the train back to Brooklyn at the end of the evening. They just sort of got engaged by default according to my grandmother! They ended up getting married on December 26, 1942. My grandfather was in the Army, stationed down in Alabama. Their honeymoon was an overnight train ride to their new home together.

My grandparents were married for 50 years, raised 4 boys, and lived in countless homes before the Lord called my grampa home in 1993. Grampa held on through his devastating bout with prostate cancer to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary. He died a couple of months later.

I was the first grandchild, and I was her first girl. My grandmother went crazy when she heard she finally had her girl. The story goes that she decorated anything that didn't move, and some things that did, with pink! Little did she know that out of the 13 grandchildren she would have, 10 of them would be girls.

After I graduated from college on May 9th, 1993 (note the date...), I ended up going to work in Atlanta for 6 months. During that time I grew very close to my grandmother. I would go to her house for dinner - and man, could the woman cook! She always cooked for an army even though it was just the 2 of us!

For Thanksgiving that year, we flew to my parents' house in Florida together. I was going to be moving back to Florida for my job, so I was bringing my cat home with me to leave at my parents' house until I moved. I don't know if you are aware of the nightmarish traffic in Atlanta on a typical day, but let me tell you, it's not fun, and it's even worse on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Now, for someone who went to school in Richmond, and left for Thanksgiving on Tuesday of that week, I didn't really factor in enough time to get to the airport. We couldn't do curbside check-in because of my cat, so we had to wait in the super long line with the rest of the Atlanta population. When we finally got checked in, I asked the agent to call down to the gate and let them know we were coming. My poor 74 year old gramma and I were RUNNING through Hartsfield Airport - so I was doing the really fast running, but she was moving pretty quick for an old gal. I really thought she might have a heart attack. After all that, we still missed the plane. She always blamed it on my cat having to get checked in. She really didn't like cats.

Even after leaving Atlanta, I made a point to stay close to her. She always told me she wished I would move back to Atlanta. My gramma saw me through many frogs before I found my prince. And she always told me how much she loved Chris and how lucky I was, and how lucky HE was to have me. My mother made my ring pillow for my wedding from my gramma's wedding dress. Once I began having children, she was just overjoyed at being a great-gramma.

Now, let me digress in my story for just a moment. Gramma was "Gramma" from the time I was born. Being the first grandchild, I had the privilege of "naming" my grandparents. I think my gramma was glad I didn't call her Nambana like my dad named his grandmother! She was "Gramma" until halfway through her grandmothering journey. Then she changed her name to "Gram". Those of us on the front end of the grandchildren refused to change mid-stream on what we called her. So, depending on which of my cousins you talk to, you might hear Ruth referred to by different names. Back to the story previously in progress....

So once again, Gramma changed her name. This time she became Gigi - for Great Gramma. She loved my kids like nobody's business. We brought Brian down to visit her when he was 9 months old. She just couldn't get over how cute he was (of course!), and how lucky I was.

On our way home Brian got to meet Mohammed Ali - he singled Brian out on the people mover at Dulles, and came over and picked him up and kissed him. It was pretty cool.

Gigi came up here for Thanksgiving that year, and got to meet Sean at 6 weeks old.

I got to hear once again what cute kids I make - I never tired of hearing that!
I made sure to send Gigi pictures of "her" boys often, so she could see them as they were growing up. We made a point to go down to Atlanta last summer to visit her since a few weeks before her heart had stopped while she was out to dinner with all of her kids. I was pregnant at the time with Colin, but she got to see Brian and Sean again, and was just amazed at how smart and handsome they are. She told me I'm a wonderful mother, and am doing a great job with them. I will always hold those words close to my heart.

We were planning on making another trip down to see my gramma this June. However, she went home to Our Lord on March 24th. She went in the hospital just days after moving into her new apartment near my Uncle Tom. They found a slow growing colon cancer, and they opted to go in and remove the cancerous area. The surgery was a success, but she ended up developing hospital grade pneumonia, and ended up dying from respiratory and kidney failure. She died peacefully after seeing all of her boys. My cousin David drove like crazy down to Atlanta to say good-bye, and he let me talk to her on the phone one last time. I told her that it was okay to go. I would miss her, but she needed to go home. I'm so grateful that I was able to say my good-byes to her, and I know she heard me. She died a few hours later.

At the funeral, many of my gramma's friends came up to me and told me how much my gramma loved me and talked about me and my boys all the time. She was so looking forward to meeting Colin this summer. My dad had brought down a picture of Colin for my gramma to see while she was in the hospital. I know she is watching over my boys and I, but I really do feel sad that I don't have the memories of her holding my baby.

I still have a hard time realizing that she is not here anymore in the physical sense of the word. I know she will always be with me in my heart, and I miss her very much. Happy birthday Gramma. You will always be loved.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

5 Months Old

Five months ago today, Colin Andrew was born into this world. He came over 4 weeks early - he just really wanted to meet his family, and darn if he wasn't tired of fighting off that HUGE kidney stone in there! The downside of his early arrival was what he had to go through his first day of life outside the womb. Colin was whisked away out of the OR and taken directly to the NICU where he was intubated, and put on all kinds of machines to help his breathing. Chris wasn't even allowed to see him for a few hours until they had gotten him stabilized. And because of my high blood pressure, I was placed on a magnesium drip IV and not allowed to get out of bed for 24 hours after Colin's birth. Now, if you can't put two and two together, I'll spell it out - Mommy confined to bed, baby in NICU means Mommy doesn't get to see/hold/kiss/touch baby until he's over 24 hours old. I knew it was for my health, but that was the LONGEST 24 hours of my life. Chris took a picture of our little man in the NICU and I just looked at it and cried. Colin looked so little and helpless with all of those tubes, and I couldn't be there with him. He didn't even know where his mommy was. All I did was pray, and pray that afternoon. Our dear friends Mike and Elizabeth came to the hospital to see me. Elizabeth sat with me, brought me some spiced tea, and just made me feel better. Later, as I was praying a rosary and asking John Paul II for his intercession to help my baby get well, Mike came in the room with Chris. I remember coming out of a dream like state of prayer and seeing Mike sit down. What stays with me about his visit is the very first thing he said to me. He told me that Colin is absolutely beautiful. His words made such an impact on me, and I just knew that my boy was going to be alright.

After only 8 hours on the respirator, Colin was able to breathe on his own. I have no doubt that John Paul II interceded on his behalf. I don't know if it counts as a "true" miracle or not, but Colin did not suffer ANY withdrawal symptoms from all of the Vicodin I had to take during the last trimester of my pregnancy. The doctors and nurses in the NICU were absolutely amazed that Colin was able to be released to go home with me. One nurse told me specifically that if I had asked her if he would be released in just a few days, she would have said there would be no way. God truly is good.

5 months later, we have a beautiful, smiley, laughing baby. Colin never ceases to amaze and amuse us. He loves blowing bubbles, and really has found his voice - he loves to "talk" to his brothers, laugh at them, and roll all over the place. You've come a long way, baby boy, and we have loved every minute of it!



Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day

The first of May always reminds me of my mother. She and I both went to the University of Richmond, albeit at different times! She used to tell me about May Days at U of R and it sounded so lovely - all the girls with their flowers, and the May Pole celebrating spring. Of course by the time I got there, May Day was a thing of the past. How sad to have missed out on that tradition.

Now, May reminds me of Mary, the mother of God. This morning I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful May basket hanging on my door. The givers of this basket are 2 of my favorite little girls, and I was so touched to have them think of me. BTW, my basket is the one in the middle of the first picture. Thank you for bringing me such joy today.