Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Keys to success from Civil War generals

And now for something completely different...

Back when I worked as a book editor in Washington, D.C., I edited this book about dense, dry boring military history. It nearly killed me. I'm just not really a military-history kind of person. But I gave my dad a copy for Christmas that year and he couldn't stop talking about how much loved it, so clearly it's the perfect book for the right demographic.

To pass the time while editing it, I began to write down "life lessons" gathered from the generals' experiences. It really helped me get through that tome. Some days, looking for a "life lesson" to write down was the only thing that kept me reading! When I left that job, I took my list of life lessons with me. Then I completely forgot about it until last week, when I was cleaning out old papers and found the list lurking in the depths. I thought you guys might enjoy reading it!

Life Lessons from Civil War Generals

Grant and Lee, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
1. Give extremely specific and detailed instructions if you care how something gets done.

2. Speed is of the essence. Don't dawdle.

3. It's not about "not losing." It's about winning.

4. Excessive caution can be "disastrous." Don't give your opponent too much credit; action trumps inaction.

5. Be mindful of the condition of your subordinates; do not exhaust or overtax them. Save their strength for when it's really needed.

6. "Divide and conquer" does not always work. Sometimes unity is needed.

7. Know when to retreat. (Here's looking at you, Robert E. Lee.)

8. You lose less men when you're on the defensive versus on the offensive.

9. Use trickery and cunning—i.e., the troops evacuating Corinth, Mississippi.*

10. Have a broad vision. Not everyone thinks like you do.

Do you have any favorite "life lessons" from history?

*I don't actually know what this one means. It's been a while since I read the book!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Does your family read your blog?

My twin sister Lillian reads my blog religiously, but the rest of my family doesn't. Actually, I think most of them didn't even register that I had a blog until maybe a few months ago. 

Every now and then, I tell a story to try and convince them of the awesomeness of blogging. Like how I met Giedre and Kathryn and Lyndsey through it. Their reactions range from total disinterest to shock that nice, normal people actually read this thing!

Here are a few of the responses I've gotten from them about my blog:

Caroline: So I looked at your blog the other day.
Me: Oh yeah? Did you like it?
Her: Um... you write about REALLY personal stuff. It's kind of weird.

My 12-year-old brother: I've been reading your blog.
Me: Great! What do you think?
Him: Please stop writing about pelvic pain... Seriously.

That cracked me up! Sorry, buddy, I guess this blog is not exactly aimed at the 12-year-old male demographic!

Does your family read your blog? Or are they like mine and think you're kind of crazy for blogging?

And if you want to comment and say hi to my little brother, who apparently reads here now, I'm sure he'd appreciate it. :p

Monday, April 21, 2014

9 months

Last night I told Frank I'd officially hit "that point" where I'm just DONE being pregnant.

I'm in the "maxi dress and flip-flops stage"—my feet are too swollen for most of my shoes to be comfortable, and even my maternity dresses are getting tight. So maxi dresses and flip-flops it was all weekend.

Today, though, I managed to get myself dressed in a nice, professional outfit, complete with black blazer and boots, for my last day at work before I start to work from home (until the baby comes). I wanted to make it in today so I could train the temp who's taking my place while I'm on maternity leave.

I'm actually really glad I made it to work today, even though I'm exhausted. If I hadn't, I'd probably be lying on the couch at home, feeling sorry for myself. Instead I feel like a productive member of society. :)

I keep telling Frank, "I don't think I was really pregnant until I was eight months pregnant." Before that, I had almost none of the usual pregnancy symptoms—no vomiting or nausea, lots of energy, very few aches and pains. I felt fine and genuinely enjoyed being pregnant. But when I got to 8 months, a bunch of symptoms hit with a vengeance—swollen feet, headaches and tiredness. I think the Lord in his wisdom designed the eighth month of pregnancy to help prepare husbands for living with newborns. All I've wanted to do for the past two weeks is eat and sleep.

My midwife told me on Thursday that it looks like Baby is around 8 or 8 1/2 pounds now, and "ready to come out any time!" That sent me into a slight panic, because 8 1/2 pounds sounds HUGE, especially if this babe takes its time and keeps growing.

Saturday night, Frank and I had a major false alarm. We were at Vigil Mass when I started feeling regular contractions. After Mass we went to a 24-hour diner with some friends and I ordered hot wings and ate them ALL in an effort to help things along. Sure enough, contractions kept coming. I was so excited and told Frank, "We better pack our hospital bags. I think it's happening tonight!" So when we finally got home around 2:00 am, we ran around the house like chickens with our heads cut off, packing our bags and the baby's bag and getting all the last things in place. Frank even cleaned the bathroom, in a random and adorable fit of nesting. The whole time we were laughing about being such classic first-time parents. We finally went to sleep at 3:00 am, with my final words being, "We'll head to the hospital in the morning."

Well, we woke up on Sunday morning to NO CONTRACTIONS whatsoever. Argh. We went to my parents' house for brunch, and after I told them about our false alarm and the baby's size, my entire family decided to play a fun and exciting new game called "make Tess go into labor."

First my dad led us all on a loooong walk, then my sister Maria talked me into walking up and down the stairs for 20 minutes. Caroline, the one in high school, decided to bake labor cookies and took me to Whole Foods for evening primrose oil and red raspberry leaf tea. We ran into one of my mom's friends at the Whole Foods. "What are you ladies doing here?" she asked sweetly. I replied with a bright smile, "Just picking up some natural remedies to induce labor!" Her response was a polite "Oh!" Afterward I realized that might not have been the most normal thing to tell her.

Caroline packed me a baggie full of 8 cookies to take home. So right now I'm sitting at my desk eating labor cookies and washing them down with raspberry leaf tea.

This looks like normal tea and cookies... but it's NOT.

I'll keep you guys posted.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A lovely baby shower!

Alright, it's Holy Saturday, and I feel like it's ok to turn back to fun/frivolous topics. Like baby showers. :)

There was much debate a few months ago over whether or not I should have a baby shower. I didn't want to have one because my bridal shower was only a year ago, so it seemed too recent since I'd been the center of attention.

But Frank tipped the balance, because he felt really strongly that I should have one. "It's your first baby," he argued. "People don't throw showers for later babies. You should have a shower for this baby and enjoy it!"

When I finally agreed, we encountered a new obstacle: my mom's social calendar. She had a big trip or event planned for every single weekend. It began to look like she wouldn't have a day available until after my due date! Luckily she was able to move some things around and we finally settled on Sunday, April 13, for the party.

I think my mom was born to throw parties, because she is really, really good at it. Any hostess ability I have comes straight from her, and I can only aspire to her level.

We arrived on Sunday to find a table full of delicious hors d'oeuvres (or "snacks on snacks" as I like to say):

Mom proudly showed us her masterpiece—the "baby angel" centerpiece:

My little sister tried to put a paper-towel diaper on it, which cracked me up.

My one request for the shower was that we play a lot of games. I figure everyone loves some good competitive games, especially if you can win prizes. Plus I didn't want the only event to be me opening gifts, because I think that can get boring for everyone else. My mom and sisters did such an awesome job and totally delivered with some really fun activities!

My sister Caroline organized this hilarious game where she interviewed Frank and me before the shower about our expectations for being parents, and then read aloud the answers while everyone guessed who said what. For example, "How many diapers do you expect to change per day?" Frank said 3, I said 1. ;) "Who will be the fun parent?" We each said ourselves! (Frank: "I think you should include that 100% of your family agrees that I will be the fun parent.") "When will baby start walking?" I said 12 or 13 months, Frank said "9 months because it will be an advanced baby." "Advanced baby" cracked me up. That game was really fun and got so many laughs.

My mom passed around a tape measure and had everyone guess how big my belly is, and the winner got a prize. Vanessa (who came all the way from California!!) impressively guessed within half an inch!

There was also a timed pregnancy word search and baby-themed word scramble, again with prizes. Theresa brought these darling little cards for people to fill out notes to the baby and predictions about the gender, name, and weight and height at birth. Frank and I have really enjoyed reading through those since the shower.

I opened gifts, and was completely blown away by the thoughtfulness and generosity of our friends. I can't even begin to list all the beautiful gifts this baby received. A few friends chose gifts especially for Frank as the new dad—he was thrilled to look through those later on! We also really enjoyed the darling packaging some of our clever friends came up with, like Anna's precious "cupcake box," filled with rolled-up onesies and baby socks:

Isn't that the cutest idea? As my Grandma said, "I can tell I'm at a baby shower because every five minutes I hear someone say, 'Awwww!'"

We didn't make Frank attend the shower—instead he had a great time mini golfing with my dad and brother. Do dads/husbands usually attend showers in your family? He did make an appearance at the very end, though—just in time for us to get a photo together, and for the guys to enjoy some cake and ice cream with us.

Finally, Mum crafted these clever party favors, based off an idea she found on Pinterest. She put packages of unpopped popcorn in little boxes that said "Theresa is ready to POP!" and topped each one off with a cupcake.

Those were a huge hit! I tell you, she was born to throw parties.

Despite my initial hesitation, I'm so glad I let Frank talk me into having a shower. I think it helped that we kept the party really small (just family and close friends) and that we played a lot of games. It ended up being a wonderfully fun afternoon.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

There is so much I want to share with you guys, especially about my baby shower last weekend, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Even though I've done a terrible job on this blog observing Lent and Holy Week (somehow baby stuff seems to trump all else in my mind!), I do at least want to pause and honor Good Friday.

My family will be eating the traditional Hot Cross Buns, which we only make once a year. Usually we just kind of live on these all day.

For your reflection, here is a small section of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets relevant to this day:

From "East Coker"


The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

  Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

  The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

  The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

  The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

Last year's Good Friday post here