Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Lessons from Birds

**Disclaimer** At the time of this story, I was about 1 week post-partum with my second child. This does NOT mean that I am depressed. What it does mean is that my emotional reaction to the events described may seem like an overreaction to many, however in my heightened emotional state of re-adjusting hormones, it definitely felt like the natural response.

Anyone who knows me, knows of my dislike of birds. I'm not sure if it began with a bird pooping on my fourth grade teacher at the Albright Knox Art Gallery and her yelling at our class to stop laughing at her, or it was a friend of mine who decided it was a good idea for me to watch the movie "The Birds" by Alfred Hitchcock (which of course threw me right over the edge), or my biology classes in college which pointed to birds as one of the most disease-carrying animals in our midst. I also dislike things swooping by my head which obviously is a bird trait...so add all of that up and you have a lady who doesn't care for birds much. 

Our recent move to the suburbs, to an area rich with nature, has been an adjustment to city living, but watching our daughter enjoy the animals of nature that are so abundant in this area has been so worth it!

Ok to the story!

A robin family set up a lovely nest in a lilac tree that is immediately outside our front window. Perfect learning experience for my almost 2 year old and a perfect bird viewing for the rest of us. The weekend before delivering my sweet baby, the eggs hatched and out came 4 cutie baby birds. By the time we came home from the hospital, the birds were popping up out of the nest every time mama & dada came by with food, which we all loved to watch and were fascinated with.

About a week into our watching the baby birds grow, I was alone in the living room and saw a crow fly up to the nest. My immediate instinct was to run to the window and make a lot of noise, which just the motion of me coming towards the window made the crow fly away. Why would a crow come to the nest, I asked my husband? He assured me crows do not eat other birds and it was probably going after the food the mama and dada was bringing to the babies. I accepted this but kept an eye on our little baby birds.

Well, later that day, we were in a completely different room in the house and heard what one can only describe as constant bird shrieking. Matt and I looked at each other and basically at the same time knew exactly what was going on. We both ran to the front door to do whatever we could but we were too late. There were landscapers across the street that were saying out loud that the crow got a baby bird. (I will keep on going with the story but you can imagine my reaction at this point - I was absolutely sobbing, with my newborn in hand, and trying to see how many babies that crow got...just one thank God, but one too many for my liking! Not to mention the naivety of my husband for thinking the crows wouldn't eat the babies. Turns out he was just saying that so I wouldn't worry).

What we witnessed after this was incredible. One, there must have been at least 15 robins that flew after that crow in defense of the robin family it attacked. We couldn't believe our eyes watching them band together in defense of their fellow robins and young. Two, was the aftermath of this attack on the robin family.The mama and dada bird were perched about 4 feet away from the nest and were screeching at their remaining babies. We couldn't figure out why until about two minutes later, one of the baby birds jumped out of the nest.  Apparently they had told their babies their nest was no longer safe and to get out! I always thought that the mom/dad birds pushed their babies out of the nest, but that is not the case at all. After a few minutes the second bird jumped out. I sat there for a good hour rooting on the third bird, hoping it would get the point and jump but no dice. It took a few days before the last bird was good and ready to jump, but the whole time, the mama & dada bird remained a watchful eye and kept feeding their baby.

Since the last bird jumped, we have suffered a bit of "empty nest" syndrome, but the nest is still there and our sweet little toddler points it out to as many people who will listen to her as possible! I sat and thought about what happened a lot and took two life lessons from these birds:

1) Patience - if I was that mama bird, I would've given that third bird about 20 seconds to jump before knocking him/her out of that nest to find a safe place to hide until it was ready to fly. But nope - that mama and dada knew what needed to happen, and patiently waited for their third baby to jump. Literally almost two days, through dark nights and everything. So, patience my friends, everything happens in good time and when it needs to happen.

That third birdie - so close to jumping!

2) We need each other! Why don't human beings stick up for each other with such immediacy and vigor? I realize there are many people in the world who do currently do this, but I think this is something that is lacking for most. I am reminded of a story my friend in college told me about how she was waiting to get on a bus to go to another campus, and when she was in line to get on, one of the passengers ahead of her started having a seizure and fell over in front of the door to the bus. She said the people ahead of her just WALKED OVER the girl and got on the bus without even seeing if she needed help, while my friend ran to the girls' aid. What???? Someone goes into medical distress and you just walk over them like nothing happened????  Why don't we look out for each other more? While larger events like this are more significant, I'm sure there are plenty of things in our daily lives that we could improve on, and opportunities for us to look out for our fellow human beings. It doesn't matter if it is in your own home, your local community or around the world...we need to look out for each other. Either in deed or word - think about what you say too!

The lost baby bird reminded me of some hearty life lessons and I hope passing it on will remind others too.

Things I am grateful for this day:
1) My two precious babies whom I love so very much and will NEVER push out of our nest!!! (I'm sure I will read this in 20 years or so and either laugh or cry)

2) Being able to spend these early weeks with my newborn and toddler, seeing them grow together and help them to learn something new every day.

3) All the people in my life that would "fight a crow" for me. You know who you are...I love you and would do the same for you in a heartbeat!









Saturday, January 3, 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year readers!

I will begin this blog with few things that happened over the past couple of months that really made me feel like a mom. I am a rookie at only 1.5 years into this role, but am learning! So here's my list of "how you know you're a mom:"
1) When you have to clean a streak of amoxicillan off the kitchen floor after your child wails the medicine out of your hand in protest ( I definitely don't blame her for this - it was her first ear infection and the medicine smelled like gross bubble gum).

2) Surviving the first ear infection your child ever has.I know this doesn't seem like a huge accomplishment but I definitely felt like I had a "I am a mom" moment at the end.
3) When you destroy a load of wash after failing to remove a crayon from your pocket. 
4) When you are ok with wearing things with blotches of blue dye all over them because of event described in #3.

5) When you weep the first time your child goes tinkle on the potty. It's a combination of: happiness because the end of diapers for this child may be in sight, sadness because somehow time is flying and you already think your baby is growing up too fast, and finally slight annoyance because it marks the beginning of knowing where all public restrooms are and having the arsenal to de-germ everything that could/will be touched by your toddler (my guess is that this will fade with more children).

I'm sure there will be more but these were the most notable recent mommy moments. I wouldn't trade them for anything!

At this time of year, I'm sure many people are in a reflective mode - one of looking back at the past year and what you did or did not accomplish/improve - and one of looking forward to the next year. My mind keeps wandering back to Fr. Leon's (our pastor) column a week or so ago which talked about setting attainable goals instead of general ones. This of course makes perfect sense, but probably never occurred to me in the past because of the lofty expectations that I was accustomed to setting for myself. Let's be real - I have a child now, another on the way, a new house and have a slightly different focus these days than in the past. So, ok, I thought, I will definitely take our pastor's advice and add little things back to my life that are good and try to rid myself of some of the negative things. Seems simple enough. 

Well my friends, then my beloved Pope Francis dropped this (see article in grey below...I just copied and pasted the article right from Catholic News Service in case the link somewhere down the line went down) in my lap. Contrary to the title, I know this wasn't meant to be New Year's Resolutions - this is a list of serious life resolutions - the things that all of us need to take a step back and really take a look at in our lives to see if we are even close to "accomplishing." I can't even begin to describe how happy I was to see these, and have no favorite - they are all my favorite in some way shape or form.  But - rest assured - I will be reflecting on these throughout 2015 and probably the rest of my life. Well done Holy Father! 


Pope Francis’ suggested New Year’s resolutions

(CNS/Paul Haring)
(CNS/Paul Haring)
VATICAN CITY — When Pope Francis met before Christmas with Vatican employees, mostly lay people with families, he asked them to do 10 things. The list sounded remarkably like suggestions for New Year’s resolutions:
– “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.”
– “Take care of your family life, giving your children and loved ones not just money, but most of all your time, attention and love.”
– “Take care of your relationships with others, transforming your faith into life and your words into good works, especially on behalf of the needy.”
– “Be careful how you speak, purify your tongue of offensive words, vulgarity and worldly decadence.”
– “Heal wounds of the heart with the oil of forgiveness, forgiving those who have hurt us and medicating the wounds we have caused others.”
– “Look after your work, doing it with enthusiasm, humility, competence, passion and with a spirit that knows how to thank the Lord.”
– “Be careful of envy, lust, hatred and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people.”
– “Watch out for anger that can lead to vengeance; for laziness that leads to existential euthanasia; for pointing the finger at others, which leads to pride; and for complaining continually, which leads to desperation.”
– “Take care of brothers and sisters who are weaker … the elderly, the sick, the hungry, the homeless and strangers, because we will be judged on this.”
***On a side note - I spent the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014 trying to figure out how we could get to the Vatican so I could have Pope Francis give my sweet baby girl a kiss (i.e. in these photos). This trip did not happen, however, after pondering 2014 and all the wisdom that has come from our Pope this year, I feel like our whole family has been "kissed" by that wisdom and life advice. That to me is impressive but also feels like a huge blessing!***
Matt and I were privileged to speak a few weeks ago at Blessed Sacrament Parish about our Mission work. Prior to speaking, we attended Mass and Fr. Bill's homily was about radiating the joy of Christ. I think all of us could take this as a simple resolution for the New Year. Joy and happiness are contagious - radiate the joys in your life to others.

Things I am grateful for this day:
1) Change and its ability to make things better. I won't go into this too much but there has been a lot of change in various aspects of my life this year that at first I was reluctant to accept but now realize its greater purpose its positive impact.

2) My family - immediate, extended, in-laws and the like. Sometimes the holidays can be overwhelming but in the end, I am so very grateful for them all and the energy they bring to our lives

3) The year ahead - the opportunity to bring a new life to the world, and to bring about positive change in little ways.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Learn, Do, Teach...(Repeat!)

First, I want to thank all of those who have responded since my last post for our current fund drive! Every dollar goes a long way and we appreciate your prayers and support...pokotfriends.org.

During my undergrad days at UB, I had an awesome mentor in the Leadership Development Center (now known as the Center for Student Leadership and Community Engagement). I will never forget the day Frank sat me down and introduced me to the concept, "Learn, Do, Teach." At the time, I remember thinking it seemed so simple, but it was something I hadn't quite pieced together myself yet. This concept, for various reasons, has been at the forefront of my mind lately. 

One of those various reasons was that back in May I was asked to help with the current UB MBA's LeaderCORE assessment day. This meant observing individuals interact in a group setting while trying to solve a problem, and individual interviews concerning their strengths and weaknesses in the program and in life. I went through a very similar experience during my time in the program (when it was referred to as PACE) and benefitted greatly from the recommended improvements. 

From the second I walked into the Alfiero Center until we started the first group exercise I felt disoriented. I hadn't been in that building for years and floods of memories of the classes, presentations, group work, professors, classmates and relationships came rushing back. Looking around me at the MBA class in their business attire I thought, how easy it could've been for me to be a student in that program at that very moment...but then gave thanks to God that it was over (although I love academia, I also love my evenings and weekends free from going to class or doing school work). 

Once I had the chance to catch up with a few friends and eat the familiar campus dining breakfast that was provided, I started thinking about that concept that was introduced to me a decade earlier at this point...learn, do, teach. I was on the other side now - the teaching side - helping others to go through what I had once gone through myself, watching and listening carefully and assessing them so that the comments I made could help them improve. Leaving the assessment that day, my mind wandered further asking the questions, how many of us stop after learning and doing and don't continue on to teach what we have learned and done? How many of us stop after learning?

I could come up with a half of dozen ways in which I stopped at "do" and even a few where I stopped at "learn." Where am I going with this? Good question! The answer - two ways. One, I think for me simplicity comes to mind. Although not an easy task in many instances to learn, do and teach, the concept itself is simple and it is good keep that in mind for things we learn throughout life.  It is easy to get overwhelmed in life, caught up in the hustle and bustle, technology and other distractions but my mind always goes back to the mission work and the simplicity of life that we enjoyed while doing so. While we realized life was possible without cell phones and electronics, we were able to teach women basic business skills to help them make money to feed and educate their families. Sometimes while teaching others, we wind up being taught ourselves. This leads me to my second point...if I could edit the learn, do, teach concept, I would add repeat to the end! Why? I say, why not? What better way to live your life, constantly seeking knowledge and sharing that wisdom with others.   

I know I've probably completely oversimplified this concept, but now what comes to mind is one of my life mottos from our dear Blessed Mother Theresa: We can do no great things, only small things with great love. Learn the small things, do the small things, teach the small things...all with great love...and then repeat. You never know whose life you will touch and how that will impact them the rest of their lives!

What I am grateful for:
1) The much-needed vacation that I am on - the week spent with family, my hubs and my sweet baby girl. (With no cell phone service but obviously an internet connection!)
2) When my little sweet pea, who is learning animal noises, consistently makes duck noises and moves her body back and forth like she is waddling when trying to learn any other animal noise right now. Me: What does a birdie say...tweet tweet? Sweet pea: quack quack quack
3) Celebrating the final Mass with the Buffalo Daughters of Charity back in June. What an honor to be invited to such an occasion and what a blessing it was to know all those holy ladies - we will miss you dearly!!! 


Friday, July 11, 2014

Two Week Drive!

We are kicking off a two-week fundraising drive to raise as much money as possible for our 2014 campaign. We are excited to have raised over $2,000 thus far for the sewing co-op, but every dollar goes a long way and we could use your support! See details in grey below...to donate go to http://pokotfriends.org/

ASANTE SANA FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!!

I actually may have some time next week to blog about what's been going on recently...crossing my fingers. The topic in my head that has been lingering out there is: Learn, Do, Teach. Stay Tuned! 


Dear Friends and Supporters,
 
We are excited to announce that we have officially launched our 2014 Good Friends of the Pokot fundraising campaign! Last year your support was directly responsible for creating educational opportunities for the Pokot children--most notably a brand new school! This year your support will help create economic opportunities for the Pokot women. Our campaign will be centered around starting a sewing co-operative that will be owned, managed, and operated by Pokot women.
 
Many of the Pokot people, especially women, are eager to work and provide support for their families. But, they often find their opportunities to be very limited. That is why starting a sewing co-op can have such a big impact. The co-op will give these women the opportunity to generate income to support their families by producing and selling clothing, school uniforms, and other products to the surrounding areas.
 
The Pokot women are ready and eager to take on this challenge, but they need a partner. That is why we need your help and support to raise start-up funds to make this project possible. Please consider supporting this project, and most importantly, keep the Pokot women in your thoughts and prayers. Don't hesitate to pass this email along to a friend who might share your passion for positively impacting the lives of these women!
 
With prayers and gratitude,
 
Matt & Liz Astridge
2012 Vincentian Lay Missionaries

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fairy Tales & Mommy Olympics

A few weeks ago, a lovely St. Gregory's parishioner gave my baby girl a few cute pj sets and a book of fairy tales. I probably haven't read all the typical fairy tales since I was a little girl, mainly because they weren't the type of stories that my nephews were interested in. Anyways - I was really excited to read them to her and have done so over the past few weeks...but after making it through the entire book I realized how different they are reading them as an adult. Some parts are just disturbing (i.e. pushing a person into an oven, the frequency of giving up or stealing first-born babies). Also, I consider myself a pretty solid optimist, but after reading them all, one after another, it did slightly irk me how everything always turned out perfect in the end. Really? Can't Snow White just get a little peeved at Prince Charming for not doing the dishes or something? Either way, I'm sure she will enjoy reading them for years to come!

In honor of the Olympic Games, I've decided to put together a list of events I think should be in the Mommy Olympics:

1) Baby Nail Cutting - this could be an individual or team event. I personally would prefer it was a team event because I would have no chance of winning without my super amazing daddy-distracter.

2) Numb Arm Marathon - how many times has your child finally fell asleep on your arm and you don't necessarily want to move and disturb them? and then your realize your arm is numb, so you do a quick evaluation as to what is worth more - the sleep benefits to your child or potentially having to amputate your left arm. Basically this would be a test of will event that awards Gold to whoever can last the longest before reviving your arm.

3) Super D - This is one of my personal favorites and can be an individual or team sport as well. Basically, trying to change the diaper of a 5+ month old who discovered they no longer want to lay on their back to get their diaper changed and immediately flip over and try to escape. Extra points for successful poopy diaper changes.

4) Speed Eating - Basically how fast you can eat while baby is either sleeping or is entertained by the jumper/exersaucer/playmat/activity chair.

5) Baby Biathlon - Navigating any number of tasks (laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc.) while caring for your infant. This turns into a triathlon if you throw in unnecessarily worrying about basically everything.

6) Synchronized photo taking - what mommy and daddy can do to make baby smile and actually get a decent photo of it. Style points for baby belly laughs, extra points for doing this in public.

I'm sure there are a bunch more but that's all I could remember based on my random thoughts since the Olympics began.

Things I am grateful for today:
1) Having a few-week break from driving in hefty snow...don't get me wrong, I love winter but having to drive in the multiple snowstorms this year has been unpleasant
2) Being constantly busy at work - sometimes I wonder if my to do list will ever end, but it's all really good stuff!
3) All the people I've had the good fortune of talking to about mission work. There have been many lately and I LOVE IT!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I can't believe this year is almost over!

It's been an exciting couple weeks in our household. Here are a few things that have been going on:

1) Sr. Pat called from Kenya a few weeks ago to let us know they received our first official "Good Friends of the Pokot" donation. They were very excited and it is already being used for a nursery and other educational needs of a remote area near Chepnyal. She was so very grateful for the funds and promised to send pictures when they could. Unfortunately the internet has been very unreliable so we may have to use postal mail...so it could be a bit before we see anything. Either way, we are happy that it has already helped - and we are eager to continue to help so (shameless plug) visit http://pokotfriends.org/ and make your tax-deductible contribution today...every dollar goes a long way!

2) Matt, Millie and I spent an incredible weekend in Indianapolis at the end of October for the Vincentian Family Gathering. We were asked to speak about our VLM experience as part of a Young Adult panel on Saturday afternoon. We also were very fortunate to meet the campus ministers from Niagara University and are looking forward to keeping in touch with them.

It's hard to describe how we felt after that weekend - there were so many great speakers and amazing conversations that summing it up may be virtually impossible.  My mind keeps going back to this: from the second we received the phone call from Sr. Mary Beth back in January 2012, telling us we were accepted into the Vincentian Lay Missionaries program, we felt like we entering into a very special family. That feeling grew even more at orientation, in Kenya, back home in Buffalo and again on this short weekend trip. The best part about it - we are a family dedicated to serving those in need around us. I can't think of any better way to live my life.

We had an awesome time introducing everyone to the youngest Vincentian attending - our daughter. Between the airport and the gathering itself, I'm pretty sure she made a few hundred friends (80% of which were nuns) that weekend.

Participants of the 2013 Vincentian Family Gathering (we are in the very back on the right)

 
Things I am grateful for this evening:
1) The moments when my baby girl goes to sneeze and can't quite get it out right away. Not sure if anyone other than my husband will know what I'm talking about but the noise that comes out accompanied by her face is probably the cutest thing I've ever seen. And it makes me really happy.
2) Knowing that the small business workshops we held last year actually had an impact on the women in Kenya - we heard some positive feedback from the group that went this year.
3) Having a place to live that satisfies our basic needs.



Saturday, September 21, 2013

Always pray and never give up. - Luke 18:1

I recently came across a website that I thought was pretty neat...www.praymorenovenas.com. Basically you can sign up and get email reminders of the prayers you need to accomplish each day of a novena. So for example, my favorite Saint (and the Saint who my sweet baby girl's middle name is in honor of), St. Therese of Lisieux - her feast day is coming up on October 1. If you sign up on this website, you receive a daily prayer by email for all 9 days beginning September 22 (tomorrow!). When you check your email in the morning, you will have that reminder to pray your novena prayer!

I prayed my first novena this year, thanks to a group of women who offered to pray one with me before our daughter was born.  I have to say it was quite refreshing, and I looked forward to praying to that Saint each day. Try one out on your own and if you like it, sign up on this website and join thousands of others!

St. Therese