Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day After Christmas Musings

Although most scholars agree that Jesus wasn't born on Dec. 25, my mind still wanders back to Bethlehem this time each year. I wonder what Mary was thinking the day after Jesus' birth. I wonder if they were still housed in a crude stable, or had someone helped them find a more suitable place to stay? We know that shepherds came the night of the day he had been born. The Bible tells us that Mary treasured these things in her heart.

Today her amazing new baby is a day old. Her body is still feeling the effects of just having given birth. She probably didn't get a lot of sleep last night. Or perhaps she was so exhausted that she was able to sleep despite the rustic conditions. It would have been normal for a Jewish mother to keep her baby close to her during the night as she nursed him and kept his body temperature stabilized. By the light of the new day, is Mary marveling at all the things the shepherds said? Of course, she already knew exactly who Jesus was. She knew that she was still a virgin despite having given birth yesterday. She knew that the baby suckling sweetly at her breast was the Very Son of God.

Oh how I wish that I could interview this amazing young mother. I can only imagine the joy radiating from her face as she recounts the miraculous events of the last nine months. I would love to hear her talk about her reaction to the angel's announcement that she would give birth to the Messiah. It would be fascinating to hear her describe those difficult early days when she first told her beloved Joseph that she was with child and the amazing relief she must have felt when God protected her by sending an angel to Joseph as he slept.

Perhaps one day in Eternity there will be time for a birth junkie like me to share a few minutes with Mary. But for today, I will simply rest in the certainty that God, in His amazing providence, chose the perfect young woman to bring forth, nurture, protect, love and teach His only Son!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dads Help Make Breastfeeding Work!

I used to talk to the fathers in my breastfeeding classes about how important they were to helping their wives successfully breastfeed. I emphasized the father's role as encourager and support person for his wife. I suggested he bring her a drink when she was nursing, and offer to change the baby etc. All of those things are important. However, I recently met a very interesting Army midwife and lactation consultant who gave me a very different perspective!

Major Jarold (Tom) Johnson is much more than a healthcare provider in an army hospital. He is also the father of seven breastfed children. In the breastfeeding classes Major Johnson teaches, he helps fathers learn how to REALLY help their wives breastfeed. He teaches dads how to recognize a good latch and how to help both mother and baby nurse successfully.

So what exactly does Dad do?

Evaluate Latch
Dad is in the perfect position to really see how baby's latch looks. So it is important that he know what to look for. He should look for a wide-open mouth with the nipple and areola deep in baby's mouth. Baby's cheeks will look full, and baby's chin and nose will be touching the breast. His lips should be flanged around the areoala.

Evaluate Suck

Dad is also in a great position to help Mom evaluate baby's suck:swallow ratio. Once her milk lets down, baby should be swallowing with every suck or at least every other suck. Baby will have spurts of actively sucking and swallowing, then he may rest for a half minute or so before beginning another suck/swallow burst.

Evaluate Pain
Breastfeeding should NOT be painful. Pain is an indication that something isn't right. Usually the problem is the latch. If Mom is experiencing discomfort, Dad can slide his finger between the baby's chin and Mom's breast, pulling down on the chin while he pulls baby's head in tighter to the breast. Sometimes it may take two or three tries, but this technique should deepen the latch and eliminate any pain.

A father's role in breastfeeding success cannot be overestimated. The husband who is willing to focus on evaluating his baby at his wife's breast will reap multiple rewards: a grateful wife, a healthy thriving baby, and the knowledge that he played an integral role in the process.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Medications and Breastfeeding

It makes me sad when a mom tells me, "I really wanted to breastfeed, but my doctor said I couldn't because of a medication I have to take." Sometimes, in very rare cases, the medication may truly be incompatible with breastfeeding. Certain drugs like Lithium, argatroban, any type of radioactive iodine, any chemotherapy agent and a handful of other drugs are definitely not safe for a nursing baby.

However, many medications that may be acceptable come with a manufacturer's label discouraging use by nursing women. Why is this? Perhaps it is an attempt by the drug manufacturers at CYA (just in case something were to happen....) Perhaps a drug may not be safe for use during pregnancy, so the assumption is made that it isn't safe during lactation either.

Whatever the case, many health care practitioners are quick to tell a mother that they can't continue breastfeeding while taking a certain medication, even if the evidence does not bear that out. Ideally, it really is best to limit the medication a breastfeeding mother takes to only what is truly necessary. But when a mother needs a particular medication to be healthy, she should certainly take it!

Dr. Thomas Hale, Ph.D. has devoted much of his career as a pharmacist to studying the effects of various medications on breastfed babies and on the breastmilk itself. He is a professor of Pediatrics at the Texas Tech University School of Medicine. Dr. Hale, who is widely recognized as the leading authority in this field, has authored a book called Medications and Mothers' Milk which is now in its thirteenth edition. Any health care provider who works with nursing mothers and babies should have a copy of this book to use as a reference.
Dr. Hale defines the following categories for lactation risk when considering a particular drug:

L1 - Safest - These drugs have been taken by many breastfeeding women with no adverse effects. Controlled studies fail to demonstrate a risk to a nursing infant, and the possibility of harm to the breastfeeding infant is remote, or the substance is not orally bioavailable to the infant.

L2 - Safer - These drugs have either been studied in a limited number of breastfeeding women without any increase in adverse effects in their infants or there is scant evidence of a demonstrated risk likely to result as a use of these medications.

L3 - Moderately Safe - There are no controlled studies in breastfeeding women; however, there is a possibility of a risk. Or controlled studies that do exist may show only minimal non-threatening adverse effects. These drugs should be used only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the infant.

L4 - Possibly Hazardous - Positive evidence exists showing a risk either to the breastfed infant or to the mother's milk production; however, the benefits from the use of the drug may be acceptable despite the risk to the infant (e.g., if the drug is needed in a life-threatening situation or for a serious disease for which a safer drug does not exist or is not effective.)

L5 - Contraindicated - Studies in breastfeeding mothers have demonstrated that there is significant and documented risk to the infant, or it is a medication that has a high risk of causing significant damage to the infant. The risk of using these drugs in nursing mothers absolutely outweighs any possible benefit from breastfeeding.

The next time you are faced with needing a medication, be sure to ask your doctor to check Dr. Hale's book. If he doesn't have it, find a lactation consultant who does, and do your research! There's no need to stop breastfeeding unless you absolutely have to!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Response to Dr. Rosemond

I am an advocate of Attachment parenting, but I am also an advocate of parents using common sense and setting age-appropriate boundaries for their children. I believe the two actually go hand in hand.

The little that I had read of popular author and speaker John Rosemond in the past led me to appreciate his practical common sense approach to parenting. Recently I had lunch with my good friend Lysa Parker, one of the founders of Attachment Parenting International. Dr. Rosemond was planning a visit to Huntsville; therefore, he came up in our conversation. I told Lysa I appreciated his common sense approach (remember, I haven't read a LOT of his stuff...just a little and mostly dealing with older kids). Lysa explained that he is a strong opponent of all things AP. I was quite surprised.

I wasn't able to go hear him speak, though I would have liked to, but I did see an article in the Huntsville Times today that I found to be quite enlightening. Apparently in his address to about 250 people at Huntsville High School he said " 'psychobabble' about fostering a child's self-esteem and being ultra-involved in a child's life has had a disastrous effect on children's behavior." According to the article, he also said "his mother 'never paid much attention to me,' but she set clear ground rules for what she expected from him at an early age."

I read that line and felt sorry for him. Setting ground rules with clear expectations is wonderful. However, as a 61 year old adult his memory is that his mother never paid much attention to him. And now he is advising a generation of parents not to become too attached to or involved in their children's lives.

According to the Times article, "One of the biggest errors parents make, he said, is that they are in relationships with their children rather than being figures of leadership and authority. Because of those relationships, he said parents hunger for popularity and acceptance with their children, something which he said nullifies their ability to lead."

I agree that the roles of parent and friend cannot be one and the same when a child is growing up. However, I consider my grown children dear friends. My son and I talk every day about everything under the sun. I wonder if Rosemond counts his grown children among his closest friends? Attachment parenting does not mean that we seek to be "popular and accepted" by our children. It does mean that we create a relationship with them which fills them with a sense of security and well-being. The relationship begins at birth and continues throughout the child's life. It does not mean that a parent does nothing but cater to her child's every whim.

The problem is that authors like Rosemond equate Attachment Parenting with Permissive parenting or parenting without boundaries. They fail to understand the premises set forth by Dr. William Sears. As both a pediatrician and a father, he has years of experience working with patients, but also a proven track record of raising terrific kids who are making a real contribution to society.

Rosemond believes that his approach to parenting is a Biblically based method. Yet the picture I see of God in the Bible is one of a loving Father who tenderly cares for His own or a shepherd who cares deeply for each sheep. Specific imagery related to breastfeeding and attachment can be seen in Isaiah as God talks about His loving care for His people. I think it's time that Christians begin advocating for strong Biblically based Attachment Parenting. If we truly want to raise a generation of selfless, giving, confident young adults, then we must teach them the most basic lessons of trust from infancy on.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Should You Rent a Breastpump?

Every week we have several moms come in to A Nurturing Moment to find out about renting a breastpump. Sometimes they want to make sure breastfeeding is going to work before they invest two or three hundred dollars in a good pump. Many times, though, they are trying to decide if they should rent or buy. That's a really good question, and the answer depends on several factors.

Timing of Baby's Birth
If your baby is a healthy, term baby, you should be able to exclusively breastfeed from the time he is born. As long as he is nursing well, you shouldn't need a pump to stimulate your milk supply. However, if your baby is 3 or more weeks early, he may have a very difficult time nursing. Even if he does latch on, he may not have the strength to help you establish an adequate milk supply. I tell mothers of premature babies that they really need to use a hospital-grade breastpump to establish their supply. The Medela Symphony pump actually has a preemie card, developed through extensive research, which helps the mothers of premature babies establish a more complete milk supply earlier than they would otehrwise. I think all mothers of preemies should have access to this technology!

How Nursing is Progressing
If everything is going well - no sore nipples, good milk supply, etc. - no pump is necessary in the early days. However, if a mother is experiencing cracked and bleeding nipples, then she should pump for at least 24 hours and finger feed the pumped milk using a curved tip syringe or a supplemental feeding tube. A hospital-grade pump is ideal for the mom in this situation. Even though she might have another pump, the hospital-grade pump will be more effective at helping establish and maintain a good supply.
Pumping should NEVER be painful. If it is uncomfortable, ask your lactation consultant to help you find breast shields that will fit you better.

Mom's Work Situation

First of all, I want to make a disclaimer here....I believe that ALL mothers are working mothers. The word mother implies lots and lots of hard work. Some mothers, however, have a second job outside of the home. Those mothers need to be able to pump their milk quickly and efficiently. Good pumps that a working mom can purchase include the Medela Pump in Style, Medela Freestyle, Ameda Purely Yours and Hygeia. Some mothers, though, prefer to rent a hospital-grade pump. You can rent a pump for about 4 months before it becomes more cost-effective to purchase a good quality double pump. The mom who struggles with decreased milk production when she returns to work may find that a hospital-grade rental pump will be more effective at helping her maintain her supply than a regular double pump.

What Is a Hospital-Grade Pump?
Many people really don't understand what makes a hospital-grade pump different. First of all, it is larger and has a more powerful motor. But the difference doesn't end there. Because it is a multi-user pump, a hospital-grade pump will always be a "closed" system. That means that it is engineered in such a way to make it impossible for milk to ever back up into the pump's motor. Therefore, it is totally hygienic and safe for multiple users. The two most popular hospital grade pumps are Ameda and Medela. You can use these links to find a rental station near you. Find out if the rental station allows short term rentals or pro-rates the price if you return the pump early. Some do, but many do not.

Ideally, you should rent your pump from a breastfeeding professional (IBCLC) if possible. That way you have someone who can give you solid research-based advice on your particular situation. Ultimately, your lactation consultant is the very best person to help you decide if YOU should rent a breastpump.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Breastfeeding and Obesity

You may have read that breastfeeding helps prevent childhood (and by implication, adult) obesity. According to recent statistics 2/3 of US adults and 1/5 of US children are either overweight or obese. That's really appalling! Obesity is a contributing factor in a wide variety of serious health conditions ranging from blood pressure problems to diabetes to cancer.

Health experts agree that it is important to address this problem on both a national and a local level. In July the CDC released an important document, "Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States." This document presents 24 strategies that local communities can implement in their effort to curb the rising tide of childhood obesity. The strategies deal with food choices, exercise, availability of safe public transportation, etc. One strategy, however, stands out to me as a lactation consultant.

Strategy 11 states: Communities Should Increase Support for Breastfeeding. The document urges all governmental employers to set aside a specific place where employees can pump and store their milk. It also shows the relationship between the percentage of breastmilk a baby receives and the likelihood of childhood obesity.

What a timely statement for the CDC to make. In this time of recession when many women truly can't afford NOT to breastfeed, they have yet another incentive to do just that! However, this message isn't making it to the women who most need to hear it. The challenge facing breastfeeding advocates is clear: we must find a way to work in cooperation with local, regional and state organizations to help all mothers understand the importance of breastfeeding. I'm excited about taking on this challenge in Huntsville! How about you? Will you rise to challenge in your community??

Friday, October 9, 2009

Attachment Parenting Meets the Gridiron

I have two sons and a husband who are all sports fanatics. My 18 year old son played both football and soccer in high school. He isn't playing college sports this year, but may well be back on the soccer field next year! My 11 year old plays football, wrestles, and plays baseball. My husband played football and baseball in high school, too. So it should come as no surprise that Sports Illustrated is a staple in our household.

I picked up the Oct. 12 issue earlier this evening. An article about Florida Gator's quarterback Tim Tebow caught my eye. Though we aren't Gators fans, I think Tebow is one of the classiest young men I've ever seen. Not only is he an amazing athlete, but he also demonstrates true character. His faith has feet that take him to the Philippines to minister to children. His leadership both on the field and off it has made him a legend in his own time. In his "Point After" column, writer Chris Ballard discusses whether Tebow should play in this weekend's game against LSU.

The discussion centers on the safety of Tebow's getting back on the field after his concussion two weeks ago. As a mother of athletic kids, I felt myself responding to this column with a resounding "YES, IT'S ABOUT TIME!" reaction. We want our children to be safe and healthy. Our whole parenting style is built around helping them feel secure. Yet even at the Pop Warner level, it's so easy for both coaches and kids to want a player back in the game too soon. And pity the poor mother who says, "Um, I don't really think he's ready..."

I've been pretty lucky with my kids' coaches, but I do remember my son passing out with a concussion following a nasty hit his junior year. He was back in there way too soon, and stayed in until the coach realized that he just wasn't sharp and wasn't functioning normally. AP mom that I am, I had urged him not to play. But he was determined not to let his team down, and his coach believed him when he said he was good to go!. Fortunately, he didn't take another nasty hit, and was able to recover completely.

But the article I read tonight made me realize that I will be much more proactive with son #2. If my momma instincts tell me he's not ready to get back into a game, I'm gonna listen! Pity the poor coach who tries to cross me! Son #1 used to say I was just too protective. He thought he was invincible (common mindset for teens). I knew he wasn't, but I didn't make too big a fuss when I thought he was hurt. It will be very different with Son #2!

I'm realizing more and more how important the AP principles are to all of parenting, not just when they're little. And I'm all the more thankful that I was blessed enough to learn about this wonderful parenting philosophy!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Breastfeeding in the Work Place

Last night on CNN Campbell Brown addressed the case of LaNisa Allen, the mother of a 4 month old who was fired by Totes/Isotoner because she was taking pumping breaks to provide breastmilk for her baby. While other employees could take smoke breaks or bathroom breaks, LaNisa lost her job for taking the same length break.

In her introduction, Brown talked about how lucky she is to have an employer who allows her to pump milk regularly for her baby. Not all women have that opportunity, however. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)also appears on the segment talking about a bill she has sponsored, The Breastfeeding Promotion Act. Maloney's bill would provide protection for breastfeeding in the workplace under civil rights law. No woman could lose her job or be discriminated against in any other way for pumping during a break. Employers would have to provide break time to pump. They would also be required to try to find a private, secure place for nursing moms to express their milk. It would provide a tax credit for up to fifty percent of any expenses an employer incurs as a result.

We have a lot of working moms come into A Nurturing Moment. Many of them are professional women who have lactation rooms at their companies or who have private offices. Nevertheless, we still see many mothers like LaNisa who have to pump in a restroom, arguably the most germ-filled place in the whole company. No mother should have to pump in a bathroom! So we tell moms that we will work with their human resource director to help make pumping work for them.

Pumping Benefits Everybody

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has put together a comprehensive guide for employers called The Business Case of Breastfeeding. This material is available free of charge to companies. It details the many benefits to the company itself when it creates a lactation support program.
- Greater employee satisfaction
- Higher retention rates
- Reduced employee absenteeism
- Lower health-care costs for babies receiving breastmilk

We will help companies evaluate their situation to find the optimal lactation program that will work for them. We will even contract with them to provide on-site breastfeeding support and education for their employees and for spouses of employees.

LaNisa's little boy is now four. She took her case against Totes/Isotoner all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court where she lost. They said the case was about her taking unauthorized breaks. I wonder what the company would have done if she was smoking instead of pumping? My bet? She'd still have her job!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Insufficient Milk Supply

I get a lot of calls from mothers with a wide variety of problems: sore nipples, poor latch, baby's weight gain etc. But one of the most frequent calls I get goes something like this:

Mom: "I'm not making enough milk for my baby."
Me: "What makes you think that?"
Mom: "He's hungry after he nurses, and still needs another ounce of formula after we nurse."

At this point, I find out the baby's age (varies) and how often the baby is nursing (often less than 8 times per 24 hours). I also ask if she has PCOS or a thyroid condition. I find out if she has recently started taking birth control or gone back to work. Any of these situations can have a negative impact on milk supply.

Based on the information she gives me, I make one or more of the following suggestions:

- Make sure you nurse every 2 1/2 to 3 hours during the day. Count your time from the beginning of one feed to the beginning of the next. You should have a minimum of 8 feeds every 24 hours. If you're trying to increase supply, 9 or 10 times might be even better. Sometimes going to bed for 24-48 hours with your baby and nursing as often as she wants helps. Make sure you've got somebody feeding YOU and taking care of YOU!

- If you are using a breastpump, try renting a hospital grade pump for a couple of weeks to get the stimulation you need.

- Be sure you're getting enough rest. When your baby is asleep, you need to rest, not do laundry! Also be sure to get at least 2400 calories and enough fluids so that you aren't thirsty.

- Certain foods help increase supply. They are called galactagogues. Oatmeal, Brewer's Yeast and Ovaltine are a few common foods that can help increase your supply.

- Herbal galactagogues can also be very helpful. Motherlove More Milk Plus has fenugreek, blessed thistle, nettle leaf and fennel in an extract form. It often makes a difference within 48 hours. It is important not to eat or drink anything 20 minutes before or after you take it, though, for maximum absorption. Moms with PCOS or thyroid conditions benefit from More Milk Special Blend which also contains Goats Rue to help with the development of milk-producing tissue.

- Use a Lact-aid nursing trainer to increase the amount of milk your baby gets at the breast. More effective suckling will help you produce more milk.

- Two drugs are often used to increase milk supply: Reglan (metaclopramide) and Domperidone. Both can have serious side effects, but both do increase supply successfully. I encourage each mother to talk with her doctor about these possible galactagogues.

If you have questions or concerns about your supply, the best thing you can do is contact your La Leche League leader or your lactation consultant. She is there for you!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Say "I Love You" While You Can

One week ago today my friend Dana died suddenly and unexpectedly in her sleep. We still don't know exactly what happened. She was my age, 49. Actually Dana was one month and eleven days younger than me! She was healthy, fit, vibrant, full of energy, and lit up a room when she entered it.

She was also an amazing mom! Her two boys are 14 and 18. Her older son is one of my son's college roommates. Her younger son is in my high school daughter's freshman class; they've been friends since 5th grade. Last semester her son and my daughter both homeschooled. They did their science and math classes together, and I grew even closer to Dana during that time. Their math teacher was a nursing mom who often nursed her baby in the sling during class time. Sometimes it was a little awkward for a 14 year old boy. But Dana told him that he had nursed and how completely natural it was.

It's always hard when kids leave the nest, but Dana did all she could to make it a smooth transition. We all went down to help our boys get moved in (there are 3 roommates who all played HS soccer together). She made frequent Sam's runs so the boys would have plenty of food. After the last shopping trip, her son said "I love You" before he headed back to school. She told him that she loved him, too. That was the last time he saw her.

Dana did a great job of raising two incredible young men of faith who have the resources necessary to make it through this time. We never know how long we'll be given to enjoy and love our kids. Sometimes mothering can be overwhelming. You feel like if you have to change another diaper, wipe another snotty nose or mediate another sibling fight, you'll go stark-raving mad. But when you're right in the middle of that, remember what a gift your kids are. Remember what a gift life is. And pause for a minute; then say "I love you."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The beauty of kangaroo care

More and more studies point to the changes that occur in preemies who are allowed to have kangaroo care with their mothers. I could point to any one of them to show that kangaroo care can be a powerful healer.

Instead of doing that, I'm going to point you to a story about one mother's experience with kangaroo care, and how it saved her tiny one's life.

Monday, August 24, 2009

In the home stretch!

This summer has been the craziest that my family has been through. Four weddings, a trip to the beach, a birthday, two trips to Atlanta, a trip overseas, family and friends visiting us, starting home-schooling, damage from storms, starting two new jobs (luckily one is temporary)'s just been wild. We're in the last two weeks of it - my daughter is in Maryland this week with her grandparents, and next week my husband and son will go up there to visit and pick her up, and then the kids will go to the beach with my parents while my husband and I are at a conference in Atlanta. Labor Day, we'll all come back home, and we'll be able to breathe a sigh of relief until the holiday season. Even for me, the amount that we've been doing has been too much.

Through all of this, my son has kept nursing. Even when we've been separated for three or four days, whenever we've come back together, he's eventually asked to nurse again. Some days he may nurse as many as four times; other days not at all. We're definitely in the last parts of our nursing days.

Even knowing this, I'm not totally prepared for the idea that he may wean completely next week. We'll be separated for seven nights and eight days while he's in Maryland and down in Gulf Shores - by far the longest period of time we've been separated. By the end of it, I don't know that he'll be thinking about nursing at all. I don't know that I want him to be thinking about nursing by that time either. But whenever I think that this Sunday/Monday might be the last time he nurses, I get a sad little ache around my heart.

Don't get me wrong - we've been nursing just over three years now, so it's not like he'll be weaning early. I have plenty of good nursing memories with both of my kids to look back on. Knowing, however, that he is my last, that this is the last child I'll ever makes me a little melancholy, something I have never expected to feel when it came down to it.

Ah well. Life will be full of such lettings go. Right now, my daughter is in Maryland with her grandparents, and I won't see her for two weeks - much, much longer than I've ever gone with not seeing her. It's probably the combination of this next step along the path of my daughter's independence combined with the possibility of my son weaning that is making me feel sadder about this than I thought I would. And I know that when it's all said and done, I won't really give it another thought; it'll just be another parenting milestone hit, so to speak.

But for right now, I'm just a little sad about it all.

Monday, August 17, 2009

PTD – Parent of Teens Depression

Everyone recognizes PPD (post-partum depression) as a very real phenomenon often caused by significant shifts in hormonal balances. I've written before about how important it is for mothers suffering from PPD to get help. Another key factor for those moms is breastfeeding which increases a woman's production of prolactin and oxytocin. In an earlier blog I listed several antidepressents that are considered compatible with breastfeeding. Since I tend to blog about breastfeeding and baby issues, I know that's what my readers have come to expect.

This blog, however, is about a different season of parenting and the very real effect it can have on a mother's emotional well-being. Parenting teenagers can be a real challenge; it can also be an absolute delight. But even strong attachment parenting techniques in infancy and early childhood don't guarantee a smooth ride during the teen years. Although I do believe the secure foundation we give our children through attachment parenting certainly makes the ride a little less bumpy than it might be otherwise. Neither does extended breastfeeding and attachment parenting guarantee that a child will never have any kind of illness. Genetics play a key role in some illnesses, and while breastfeeding absolutely does help our kids be healthier, it is not a magic elixir.

One such illness which we have faced in our family is adolescent bi-polar disorder. We do have a family history of mental illness, and unfortunately one of our children has developed the chemical imbalances which create bi-polar disorder. Fortunately this child is very bright and actually did research herself when she began having symptoms. We have a wonderful Christian psychiatrist as well as a terrific Christian counselor to whom she relates very well. But it is still a struggle. You have to find the right combination of medications, make sure they are in balance, then make sure that nothing else she takes for an unrelated condition (say a brown recluse bite, for instance) interacts with her bi-polar meds.

Add into this mix the fact that Mom is 49 and definitely peri-menopausal, and you have a recipe for PTD. Now I've never seen anything in the literature about PTD, but I think it should be there. Many women who are parenting teens and experiencing menopause are also caring for an aging parent. That will up the stress several notches! These same women are also often at critical points in their careers – they may be in leadership and management positions with all the accompanying headaches. I'm telling you, this is a recipe for disaster! Actually in the literature, there is information on PTD, but it has nothing to do with parents of teens. I really wish some PhD student who needs a good thesis topic would tackle PTD as it relates to parents of teens!

The good news is that help is available. A family doctor or Ob/Gyn will often prescribe something to help a woman cope with the stresses of PTD. Even women who've never had to take an anti-depressant may find that they cry a little less and get a little better perspective once the chemicals in the brain get stabilized. New moms have all kinds of support groups; maybe mothers of teens need their own version of La Leche League. Finding one or two close friends in whom you can confide is crucial for the mom who is overwhelmed by her life. Another option is a professional counselor. If you can find one you click with, it is worth every cent. The goal, of course, is to get you to the point where you don't need help….but in the meantime, don't be afraid or embarrassed to get a little help.

Whether you are in the early days of parenting, still enjoying your baby's precious cuddles, or you are on the roller-coaster ride of parenting teens, one thing is certain: your child will grow up way too fast, and you need to be mentally and emotionally healthy so you can enjoy every moment of every day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Breastfeeding is a Lifeline in an Emergency Situation

Every year the first week of August is set aside as World Breastfeeding Week. This year's theme is "Breastfeeding is a vital emergency response. When a disaster strikes, everyone should be ready!" The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, (WABA), reminds both mothers and health care workers that emergencies can happen anywhere in the world. In their press release, they point out that infants and young children are especially vulnerable to malnutrition, illness, and death in these situations. Whatever the emergency –from earthquake to conflict, from floods to the flu pandemic – the story is the same: breastfeeding is a lifeline and a shield that protects infants in emergencies.

According to their press release, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF recommendations - early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age and continued breastfeeding for two years or beyond - are even more critical in emergencies. Breastfeeding is the one safe and secure source of food and fluid for infants - instantly available, providing active protection against illness and keeping an infant warm and close to his/her mother. It also reduces the risk of post-partum hemorrhage in the mother, the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide. In the challenging and risky environment of an emergency, how infants are fed is key to their survival.

The rationale behind this year's theme includes the following points:

  • Children are the most vulnerable in emergencies – child mortality can soar from 2 to 70 times higher than average due to diarrhea, respiratory illness and malnutrition.
  • Breastfeeding is a life saving intervention and protection is greatest for the youngest infants. Even in non-emergency settings, non-breastfed babies under 2 months of age are six times more likely to die.
  • Emergencies can happen anywhere in the world. Emergencies destroy what is 'normal,' leaving caregivers struggling to cope and infants vulnerable to disease and death.
  • During emergencies, mothers need active support to continue or re-establish breastfeeding.
  • Emergency preparedness is vital. Supporting breastfeeding in non-emergency settings will strengthen mothers' capacity to cope in an emergency.

WABA is quick to point out that when an emergency strikes, simple measures can make all the difference in the world. Emergency preparedness is the key to quick appropriate actions. Mothers need to be secure and have priority access to food for the family, water, shelter and safe places to breastfeed. I recently read about a victim of Hurricane Katrina who was stuck with her newborn on a roof for many hours. When they were rescued, the baby was severely dehydrated and later died in the hospital. The nutritionist who reported the situation noted sadly that if this mother had been nursing her baby, the baby would probably still be alive. It doesn't matter whether a mother lives in a third world country or in a western nation, the ability to nurse her baby may just be the factor that saves his life.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Where Should Newborns Sleep?

I recently attended the International Lactation Consultant Association Convention in Orlando. We heard several presentations dealing with infant sleep.

Moms Need Sleep!
Helen Ball, an anthropologist at Durham University in England spoke about the normalcy of infant/parent shared sleep. In a recent study she and her partners evaluated the amount of sleep mothers got based on where their infants slept. Some infants slept in their mothers' beds. Some slept in cots attached to their mother's beds, and some slept in traditional separate cribs. The mothers whose infants slept in the cots attached to the mothers' beds got the most sleep. The mothers of infants whose babies were in their beds got almost as much sleep, and those whose infants were in traditional cribs got the least sleep.

Depressed Moms Really Need Sleep!
Another fascinating speaker was Kathleen Kendall-Tackett a Clinical Psychologist who is a professor at Texas Tech University School of Medicine in Amarillo. She spoke about recent advice given to mothers suffering from post-partum depression that they get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. Some experts say that they should be separated from their infants at night in order to ensure proper rest.

She highlighted research, however, that indicates such separation actually makes the situation worse for the mother suffering from PPD. When these mothers have ready access to their infants in a co-sleeping situation, they actually get more rest! A wonderful solution for such a mother might be an Arm's Reach Co-sleeper.

Sleep Where You Sleep Best...But Be Close

Ultimately mothers and babies need to sleep where they sleep best. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants sleep in a "separate bur proximate environment." Researchers from a variety of venues have demonstrated both the safety and the benefits of mothers and babies sleeping together whether it be in the same bed or in a co-sleeper attached to mom's bed. So each mother must decide for herself where she and her baby sleep best!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

When Do You Need a Lactation Consultant?

Breastfeeding is natural...the way God intended for babies to be fed. So it should be easy and automatic, right?
Well, maybe in a perfect world. But unfortunately, not in this one. Some lucky mothers never have the first problem. Baby is born, goes to the breast, latches on like a champ, gains weight and grows beautifully! The reality for many mothers, though, is that breastfeeding can be a real challenge. In fact, many moms just give up because they feel like they just can't do it. That's where a good lactation consultant is worth her weight in gold!

What Is a Lactation Consultant?
A Lactation Consultant is a health care professional who has received specialized training in the management of breastfeeding. She knows how to help moms who are having problems with latch-on, with milk supply, with sore nipples or engorgement and with sick babies. She can help a mother figure out what medications are safe to take while breastfeeding. She is both cheerleader and coach.

Unlike a peer counselor or La Leche League leader, she charges for her services because she is a professional who carries malpractice insurance and has worked hard to receive her professional credentials. Many times she will encourage mothers to seek out peer counselors or La Leche League groups for ongoing support because she recognizes the vital role they play in helping breastfeeding moms succeed.

The "gold standard" for lactation consultants is the designation International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). All IBCLC's will also have the designation Registered Lactation Consultant (RLC). To become an IBCLC, the candidate must be able to prove extensive education in the field of human lactation. She (or he - some male physicians are IBCLC's) must also have documented a specified number of hours of direct contact helping mothers and babies breastfeed. Then the candidate takes a challenging board exam and must achieve a passing score. Every 5 years IBCLC's must recertify either by continuing education hours or by exam. However, they are required to recertify by exam at least once every 10 years.

Other programs do exist that certify lactation educators or breastfeeding consultants, but none is as stringent as the IBCLC. Hospitals looking for a breastfeeding professional want the IBCLC designation, and honestly, if you're looking for the best possible care, you should, too. You can find an IBCLC near you at the ILCA site.

When Should You Call?
As long as your baby is nursing well, you're nipples aren't sore, and baby is gaining weight, you probably won't need to see a Lactation Consultant. However, if your nipples are still sore after the first few days, or your baby isn't gaining weight like he should, you definitely need to set up an appointment. Some IBCLC's will come to your house. That is really the ideal because you are in your own environment, and she can help you find the very best way to nurse there. However, you may have to go to her office. Be sure to take your breast pump and any other accessories you have been using.

Often nursing will start out just fine, then after several weeks or months, all of a sudden mom's nipples will become very tender. It's a good idea to go see a lactation consultant so she can check you for thrush. Sometimes when a mom returns to work she will need to see a lactation consultant to put together a pumping plan. IBCLC's are usually able to help working mothers find a way to blend breastfeeding and work fairly seamlessly. Occasionally a mom will get sick or need surgery. The IBCLC can help her create a plan to sustain breastfeeding through this period.

Many hospitals have one or more lactation consultants on staff. It's always a good idea for first time mothers to make sure they get to see one before they go home with their new baby. However, many IBCLC's are in private practice. They tend to do home visits and may even have a breast pump rental business. Some IBCLC's host support groups for moms. If you are able to attend a moms' group hosted by an IBCLC, by all means do so. You will get expert advice without paying consult fees. Furthermore, being around other nursing mothers will encourage you, and you just might encourage them, too.

Next week IBCLC's from all over the world will converge on Orlando for the International Lactation Consultant Association meeting. This professional organization for IBCLC's (and those studying to become IBCLC's) helps members stay up-to-date in their practice. Recent research will be presented, and participants will come away renewed and re-energized to provide you with the very best breastfeeding support available!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cruising Through 25 Years Together – Part 3


We awakened this morning in Endicott Arm, a fjord filled with chunks of glacial ice. We were supposed to go to Tracy Arm, but a huge glacier blocked our entrance. Nevertheless, our naturalist said that Endicott Arm, which leads to Daw's Glacier is perhaps even more spectacular than Tracy Army. A fjord is a U-shaped valley that is carved by glaciers. At one time this was all ice! Waterfalls on each side cascade to meet the sea. Every once in a while we see ice that actually looks blue. This is called "heart ice" because it comes from ages of snow being packed making for very dense ice. It is spectacular! We learned that an iceberg has to be 20 feet or more. A growler is a medium size piece of ice. The closer we get to the glacier, the more we see pieces of ice of all sizes all around us. We are enjoying the show from the comfort (cold though it is) of our balcony. I have decided that the one absolute MUST for an Alaskan cruise is a balcony room! Our naturalist has a running commentary on the TV. She explains that we are only seeing 10% of the ice; the rest is below the surface of the water. I tell Keith that I have to blog about this as we are experiencing it because I want to capture this surreal once-in-a-lifetime event as we live it. If I wait until later, I might not convey the wonder and amazement we are feeling at this moment. As we approach the glacier, it looks like a field of ice lying in front of us. The water is aquamarine, and the air is crisp. I wonder how in the world we will navigate through it. But our naturalist has assured us that we have 2 experienced Alaskan pilots aboard who know these waters better than even our ship's captain and pilot. Furthermore, they use radar to guide them so that we don't experience a Titanic-like tragedy. It does make me feel better that nobody has claimed "Not even God could sink this ship." At last we see the glacier ahead of us wedged between two rocky mountains. It looks like tire tracks run down the face of the glacier, as if some enormous four-wheeler has been playing here. But our naturalist explains that these are created by sediment from the rocks and mountains. We're nearly 4 miles from it, but it seems huge. Seeing this glacier is one of the most amazing things I've ever done.

After finally seeing the glacier, we headed up to the Horizon buffet for a late breakfast. Then we went down to the Vista Lounge on deck 7 (the Promenade deck) for a little line dancing. We both had fun learning new steps and trying to keep up. Keith tried to sit out for a minute or two, but his task master (me) wouldn't let him. We had thought about going to the gym to work out, but our line dancing class gave us a great cardio workout! Trivia was at 11:30, so we headed into the Wheelhouse Lounge to join in. Our team didn't do so well, only 11/20. I've always thought the Statue of Liberty was on Ellis Island. It's not; it's on another little island called Liberty Island. That's just one of the many things I learned today. By then it was time to celebrate Canada Day in the Piazza. Keith donned his Canada t-shirt, and off we went. We stood for a lovely rendition of O Canada – I think it was the first time I really paid attention to the words. Then the band struck up a Dixieland concert. So we grabbed a very light snack of quiche coupled with shrimp and mushroom salad at the International Café. We shopped a little – they have daily big bargains on the boat. Then we headed up for an Alaskan lunch buffet. I tried Caribou which was delicious!

The ship docked at about 2:00 in Juneau, and we headed into town for some shopping and sightseeing before our tour. We found the state capital and got to tour it. Governor Palin wasn't in, but I did manage to get a contact name for an article I'd like to do about her. She's a breastfeeding, baby-wearing mom whom I'd love to profile in Valley Babies. We had to sort of hustle back to the bus which took us the mile or so down to our boat where we were scheduled to catch our tour. We made it just in the nick of time and headed off to glacier gardens. I've been to some beautiful gardens in my life, but I've never seen anything like this. It is built on the site of a mudslide, and the variety of flowers which grow in this rainforest environment is amazing. After seeing the lower part of the gardens, we boarded golf carts to take us up a long trail through the forest to a boardwalk overlooking Juneau. The ponds, little waterfalls, and upside down trees used as planters made for a breathtaking ride. Our drivers were eager to share their wit and knowledge of the area with us, which made the trip even more enjoyable. We came back down on a "monster" golf cart – I think it seated 16.

After the gardens, it was time to go to Mendenhall glacier. We learned that this glacier is now receding about 230 feet/year. We got stunning photographs, but they can't begin to capture the incredible sensation of seeing such an enormous piece of ice. On the way back into town, the bus dropped us off by the Red Dog Saloon, a saloon with swinging wooden doors, sawdust on the floor, and the most delightful eclectic collection of memorabilia. After shopping a bit we headed back to the boat –almost a 2 mile walk. We're definitely getting our workout. We had a very late dinner followed by pure, sheer, unadulterated relaxation in the whirlpool. It could have been a little warmer, but it felt divine to relax. Now I'm trying to stay awake to finish writing about today, but the foot massage my dh is giving me isn't helping at all!


We had already docked in Skagway when we awakened around 7:00 and went upstairs for breakfast. Leaving the ship, we noticed many of the rocks on the mountainside in front of us had the names of ships and captains painted on them. For over a hundred years, it has been the custom to paint the name of each ship and each captain on the rocks of Skagway the first time they dock there. We walked about a half mile into the town which, at first glance, appeared frozen in time. Relatively few vehicles were in the streets; most of them were carrying tourists somewhere. The population of Skagway (which means wind) is between 800 and 900. The summer cruise season swells the number of people there each day to as many as 8000. One indication that this quaint town is very tourist oriented is the number of major jewelry companies that have storefronts here. Diamonds International, Venetian, Effy – all names we've seen at other stops. We tried to shop the locally-owned stores as much as possible.

We didn't have an excursion planned, but we did plan to see The Days of '98 Show, an 84 year old musical depicting the history of early Skagway. We lucked out with a combination deal that gave us a 2 ½ hour tour plus the show for $50/person. Our tour was on a 24 passenger shuttle with a delightful driver named Ty who is an Alaskan transplant from New York. He got tired of driving cabs and moved west. He's been here 12 years and was an entertaining fountain of information. We drove up the highway to White Pass passing the continental divide and International Falls. We also saw Pitchfork Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. We got loads of pictures before my camera broke! The scenery as we were driving was unbelievably spectacular. We saw glaciers wedged between mountain peaks, valleys full of lush vegetation, rocky plateaus covered with Christmas Tree lichen, and the churning waters of the Chilkoot River. We crossed into Canada where we stopped to explore, crossing a small creek and ending up on a rocky ledge where our guide showed us evidence of the various stages of regrowth following the melting of a glacier. Returning through Customs, we didn't even have to show our driver's licenses. Our driver just told them how many US citizens and how many Canadians were on the bus and that we were all tourists from the ships – nothing to it at all!

On our way back we visited "Boot Hill" the Gold Rush Cemetery where local legend Frank Reid is buried with a huge memorial proclaiming him as the man who made Skagway safe again because he shot conman Jefferson Randolph (Soapy) Smith. Both men died, but thousands showed up for Reid's funeral and he was buried in the middle of the cemetery. Only the preacher (who had to be asked twice to perform the funeral) and two others (a mystery woman veiled completely in black and a Teamster who quickly fled town) showed up, and Smith was buried just outside the boundary of the cemetery. We noticed that many of the graves indicated relatively short life spans – 38, 45 years – too young to die! Even more eye-opening was the number of graves for infants and small children. This was truly a difficu Bytlt place to survive!

Back in town, we went to The Days of '98 Show which depicted the story of Soapy Smith and the "ladies" at his establishment. Apparently he had a wife and several children back in St. Louis, but in Seattle he had met Belle, and she had come with him to Skagway. The musical was funny in many places, with the dancing girls getting members of the audience actively involved. Nevertheless, it ended with the Soapy's death at the hand of Frank Reid. By the time the show was over, we just had time to drop by one museum quickly where we saw artifacts from Alaska's history including whale bone swords and whale teeth. We also learned that the last shot of the Civil War was fired in Alaska two months after Lee surrendered. A Confederate gunboat had traveled up to cut off a northern supply route, and they didn't get the message that the war was over!

Back on the boat we changed for dinner and once again enjoyed a lovely meal with our table companions. We finally got the Alaskan King Crab legs we had been hoping for all trip! The crew had put together a talent show for us in the Princess Theater for Thursday night, so we decided to attend. From waiters juggling to a belly dancer from Peru, we were thrilled by the talents of the crew members. Housekeeping staff, waiters, casino dealers, engine room workers…a wide variety of crew members shared their talents with us. It was a lovely evening. After the show we wandered up to the top deck and decided to visit Skywalkers Lounge perched high atop the back of the ship. It is a great place for 20 and 30 somethings, but we decided we would rather go down to the Promenade lounge where Bruce was playing again. We were becoming regulars with Bruce the piano player. He ended at midnight, so we came back to the room and watched a Loveboat rerun on TV!


After our late night on Thursday we slept in Friday morning until nearly 10:00! We had gotten in the habit of falling asleep with our curtains open so we could see the ocean, but usually around 3:00 it would start getting light, so one of us (usually me) would get up and close the curtains. Thursday night we knew we were going to sleep in on Friday, so we closed the curtains before going to bed. No alarms, no ringing phones, no children…nothing to awaken us but our own internal clocks! It was heavenly! We headed down for a late breakfast at the Horizon buffet. Then we went to see an ice carving demonstration by the Neptune Pool. In just 15 minutes or so two carvers each turned a 300 pound block of ice into a piece of art. One created an eagle with his wings up as if he were coming in for a landing. The other created a fish – it looked like an aquarium fish, perhaps an angel fish. Watching them work was fascinating. They begin with a picture in their mind's eye, and with each successive stroke of their tools, that image took shape and seemed to come to life.

Keith and I both love games, so we headed down to play Taboo in the wheelhouse lounge. We joined two teens from Connecticut, Josh and Alyssa, as we laughed our way through definition minefields. We had eaten a late breakfast, but on a cruise ship it seems that it's always time to eat again….so we did. It was Mexican Day in the buffet line by the Conservatory Pool, and we love Mexican food! I couldn't eat very much, but I did manage to enjoy a fajita and some of their incredible guacamole sauce. Then it was off to hear Kathy Stamp, our resident naturalist talk about whales and other Alaskan wildlife. She first came to Alaska when she was 4 years old with her parents who were missionaries. Her knowledge, her pictures, and her stories were all fascinating. Although we didn't get to see a bear or a whale in person, Kathy's pictures just about made up for it. Besides, Keith got his bear fix Thanksgiving two years ago when we were in North Carolina at my brother's house…but that's another story for another blog! We actually bought both of Kathy's books, Little House in the Arctic and Little House in the Rain Forest.

At that point Keith and I parted ways L but only briefly. He wanted to go see the movie Eagle Eye on deck, and I wanted to go to the Vista Lounge for Nowhere Near a Millionaire. This hilarious take-off on the popular game show had me laughing so hard that tears came to my eyes. Suffice it to say that the Entertainment Staff on a Princess Cruise work hard to keep lots of endorphins flowing! At 3:30 we met at the Portofino for high tea. We sat with a former Huntsvillian, Carol, who graduated from Lee High School and UAH. She now lives in Phoenix. High tea was always fun, but the challenge was to just eat very little since formal dinner followed so closely afterwards.

Friday evening was our second formal night, so I got to wear my pretty little black ruffled cocktail dress with its accompanying shawl, and Keith wore his dashing black suitl. Roz looked lovely in a sparkly silver and black pantsuit, and Elliot was in a tux. But Gregory was the real hit as he approached the table dressed in a handsome suit and tie with his sunglasses on! He was every bit the debonair young man as he dramatically doffed them to greet us! I thought again how much our Son #2 would have enjoyed hanging around with him! We began our meal with a seafood pate and caviar, followed by salad. Dinner was lobster tail and prawns with drawn butter. Unlike our previous lobster experiences in Maine, we didn't have to do any of the work; they did it all for us. Dessert was Baked Alaska on Parade. They literally paraded lit Baked Alaskas around the entire dining room. Now I've heard that in the past they were lit with sparklers; ours, however, had battery operated candles…not quite the same impact, but still fun. For the benefit of those who've never tasted Baked Alaska, I have to take a moment to describe it. It looks like an enormous big meringue-topped pie. When you cut into it, there are 3 layers of ice cream, vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. It is so unbelievably rich that it must be tasted to be believed!

Words and Music was the Friday night show in the Princess Theater. It was a tribute to some of Broadway's greatest composers and their most famous musicals. From Les Miserables to West Side Story, the cast sang and danced its way through numerous Broadway numbers. Following that, we headed to the Vista Lounge to hear Tony Daro at 10:30. He kept the audience in stitches as he talked about parenting teens and young adults. Boy could we relate! Our kids are terrific, but he really hit home when he talked about adolescent girls and menopausal women living under the same roof! The sad thing, though, was his negative humor about his wife. I know he was trying to get laughs, but it was depressing to both Keith and me to hear the way he talked about her. We've been married 25 years, and I can honestly say I love him so much more than I did 24 years ago, and I feel pretty certain he would say the same thing. Excuse the mini-digression here, but unless you both take time to nurture your marriage like a precious green plant, it won't blossom the way it should! We've worked hard over the years to fertilize and water our relationship so we would have deep roots for optimal growth. Of course, we had to end our evening with our favorite piano player, Bruce, who played Rocky Top but didn't know Sweet Home Alabama!


To those of you who've stuck with this travelogue thus far, Thanks! After breakfast Saturday morning we went to the Interdenominational Worship Service with Cruise Director Lee Childers again. His message this time was from Hebrews 12 about faith. He spoke about the faith exhibited by Abraham, Noah, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. His encouragement to us was to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. After the service we gathered at the Piazza for the singing of the National Anthem and God Bless America. The deck was festooned with red, white and blue, and several beautiful cakes celebrated the Fourth of July. Ron Pearson, juggler and comedienne extraordinaire entertained us afterwards.

We decided to change up our lunch routine and ate in the Portofino where we were seated with two interesting families, one from Kansas City and one from Arizona. We decided it was time to explore the ship a little more since it was our last day, so we headed up to the Princess Links on deck 16. Have you ever tried to hit a golf ball with a foghorn blowing in your ear? Interesting experience! Keith was so proud that he ended up 2 under par…he's gonna tell all his friends he went 2 under on the front nine of a brand new course! (Of course, he's not going to mention it was just a putting green) In the afternoon we played Independence Day Trivia (we only got 12/26 points…do You know who the shortest President was, or what Eleanor Roosevelt served her guests that caused a huge media stir?? Neither did we! Then we played Taboo – we named ourselves "The Honeymooners," and lost out to "The Dragons" and "The Tigers," both teams of 20-something women who were pretty sharp! (Keith says they just had easier questions!)

Miraculously, by the time we docked in Victoria the fog had lifted, and the sun was shining gloriously. We disembarked and opted for a walking tour that first took us down to Fisherman's Wharf in the Inner Harbor. What a lovely, quaint little wharf. Floating Houses and Houseboats line the docks. Some look Dutch; others look Victorian; still others look modern. All are colorful with flowers decorating every available nook and cranny. Approaching the end of one dock, we noticed a family was taking pictures, so we offered to snap a shot of all of them together. AS they walked away, one lady turned around and came back to us, saying we looked so familiar to her. She asked where we were from; when we said Huntsville, she asked our names. It turns out she and her husband were members of the first church Keith pastured in Huntsville before moving to Atlanta in the early 90's. Another lady in her party was from Guntersville and recognized Valley Babies! I guess I'll always be "The Valley Babies Lady."

We continued on our walk along the lakefront as we approached downtown Victoria and the Parliament buildings. Across from the domed Parliament was the grand old Empress Hotel, a destination in its own right. This lovely Victorian era hotel boasts gardens, a famous tearoom, shops, and unbridled luxury. Leaving the hotel we wandered past the Gatsby Manor Bed and Breakfast. Just as soon as they create a Babymoon Package, I'll feature them in Valley Babies! We headed past the Royal British Columbia Museum and the original St. Ann Schoolhouse to beautiful Beacon Park. This inner City park covers hundreds of acres. Filled with duck ponds, lakes, peacocks, winding paths, beautiful gardens and even a children's petting farm, this park seems to epitomize the charm of Victoria. Leaving the park we strolled down through the St. James Bay district with its charming Victorian houses and old-world neighborhoods. Victoria has a delightful mix of modern architecture and old British style. I can see why people love living there. Residents we met told us they have a relatively mild climate year round.

Returning to our ship around 9:00 in the evening, we opted for a buffet dinner in the Horizon. We were tired and somewhat saddened that we were coming to the end of a wonderful cruise, so we decided to stay in our room. We also had to have all luggage except our carry-on pieces outside our door for pick-up by 10:00. Marley and Me was on TV. Though I had seen it, Keith never had, so we relaxed, finished off our anniversary dessert from Tuesday night, and worked on this blog!


Dawn came much too early on this final morning of our adventure. After a final visit to the Horizon buffet for breakfast, we finished gathering our carry-on luggage and headed for the Princess Theater one last time where we got to watch a Loveboat rerun as we waited for our group to be called to disembark. Two uneventful flights later, we arrived back in Huntsville tired, but with memories that will last a lifetime.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cruising Through 25 Years Together, Part 2

We began the celebration of our 25th Anniversary on May 24 with an afternoon vow renewal ceremony at our church followed by a reception. Son #2 graduated from High School on May 22, and all our family from both Florida and Texas were here to celebrate with us, so we decided it was a great time to go ahead and renew our vows. When we married 25 years ago, my father was unable to attend our wedding because my grandparents who raised me loathed him and said they wouldn't attend the wedding if he were there. It was a truly awful thing for them to do to a young bride, but they weren't thinking about me, only about themselves. Both of them struggled with mental illness, so I can't be bitter, but I'm so thankful for the wonderful relationship I have with my Daddy now. He walked me down the aisle at our vow renewal. Words can't begin to express the overwhelming sense of completion I felt as I walked down the aisle on my father's arm in my formal black gown with glittering rhinestones. Our dear friend, Rev. Keith Cook performed the ceremony (which we had initially planned for June 26, then changed 2 weeks earlier – what flexibility!)

Our wonderful church family helped us put together a wonderful reception. However, we still had just over a month left before we headed off for our second honeymoon!


The fun really began early Saturday, June 27 when we left our house at 5:30 for the Huntsville airport. After making our connection at DFW, we landed in Seattle shortly before 1:00 pm. The flight from Dallas was spectacular as we saw snow-capped mountains in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington. Mount Ranier loomed majestic right outside our airplane window. What a magnificent backdrop for a truly beautiful city! Upon arrival, we were immediately impressed with the friendliness and helpfulness of the people. Although we weren't scheduled to sail until Sunday, Mona from the cruise transport company provided a wealth of information, even giving us a map and telling us what bus to take to get downtown. We settled into our Holiday Inn Express, though I must admit that my first impression of the hotel was not very positive. Someone had the bright idea to use two clashing shades of green and a nondescript shade of beige the paint the outside. Ugly doesn't begin to describe it. But inside it was quite nice, and our room was very comfortable. The staff was both friendly and helpful. After Keith rested for a little while (don't forget, he IS 3 years older than I am…and he's already in his 50's…) we decided to take the city bus downtown. The hotel staff recommended that we take the shuttle which was "only $14 a person." We thought $2 a person on the bus sounded better, plus we wanted an adventure!

On the way to the bus stop we happened upon an International Festival in a park overlooking a lovely lake. We meandered through the festival for 15 minutes or so. That's all it really took to get an overview, although there were some interesting vendors with nice things. However, we were eager to get to the famous Pike Market. Our bus came, we hopped on, paid our money and got our transfers for the ride back, and off we went on our Seattle adventure. One thing that stood out to me about Seattle is how clean the city is. Another thing that impressed me is the multi-cultural aspect of the city. We heard a variety of languages on the bus and saw people from many different ethnic backgrounds. Fellow passengers were very friendly and told us where to get off and how to get to the Market. As we approached downtown, the bus entered an underground tunnel – a unique innovation in Seattle which helps clear the streets of congestion. They also have a train system that runs through the tunnel, so it almost seemed as if the bus was driving on the train tracks – in fact, it probably was.

We got off the bus and a lovely young women showed us how to get out of the tunnel and gave us clear directions. A few minutes later, a young man from LA who had just participated in a marathon began talking to us. Turns out he has traveled to several marathons, but he hasn't made it to Huntsville yet! We chatted until we reached the market at which point we parted ways. The Pike Market is amazing. They really do throw fish….and I didn't hear the fish complaining at all! The recent uproar about the fish throwing made me really curious about it; it is fascinating to watch. The market stretches for about 4 blocks and is on two levels. It's actually a wonderful collection of markets, specialty shops, restaurants and souvenir shops. We wandered through the market for over an hour. As we were emerged from the inside section of the market to the outside vendors, we heard somebody say, "Is that an Auburn shirt?" My husband was indeed wearing an Auburn shirt, and it opened the door for us to make the acquaintance of a family from Muscle Shoals. In fact throughout the day we heard "War Eagle" at least 3 times from different people! No trip to Pike Market would be complete without a visit to the original Starbucks. Keith got a souvenir travel mug and we enjoyed a strawberry and cream frappacino. After another hour of walking, we were starting to get hungry, so we began looking for a place to eat. We wound up in a little oyster bar set back inside a shopping area. The outside seating had a view of a terraced garden – it felt like a lovely little grotto. I wish I had written down the name, but I hadn't yet had the idea to do this blog! We had fried zucchini and a seafood sampler. Then we climbed the stairs beside the terraced garden to an alleyway with more shops and restaurants. We made our way back to the bus tunnel with no incident, and headed back to the hotel for a wonderful night's sleep!


We awakened early Sunday because we were just so doggone excited we couldn't sleep! The hotel had a nice spread for breakfast, but the eggs really left a lot to be desired….so did the biscuits and gravy. They might be friendly in Seattle, but they sure don't cook like Southerners! We boarded a shuttle back to the airport where we met our transportation to the cruise ship. Hundreds and hundreds of people with thousands of bags were waiting to be transported. Our cruise terminal services Holland America as well as Princess. Finally we boarded a bus and began the trip to the terminal. We saw the Norwegian Pearl on the way and oohed and aahed. But suddenly we turned a corner and there looming before us was the Star Princess. She is a beauty to behold! Our ship is white with lovely lines and exquisite style. I learned that the 1970's show Loveboat was filmed on a Princess Ship. We entered the terminal, went through security, checked in and received our cards which do all kinds of good things: open the door to our stateroom, allow us the buy things, and let us get on and off the ship. After standing in line forever, we finally got to board and were shown to our stateroom on the Aloha deck (the 12th floor). The room is small, but nice. Our steward is delightful, and the view from the balcony is amazing – especially if there's land nearby. The first order of business was getting some lunch at the Horizon buffet. What a spread! We decided that we'll have to do a lot of walking – lots of stairs and no elevators- just to keep from gaining a ton on this cruise! We completed a scavenger hunt to get to know the ship and attended the Sailaway Party by the pool on the Sun Deck. During the party Keith won a book full of coupons and free items from various stores in Alaska. We even have a coupon for a free 2 carat sapphire! We watched from the upper deck as the ship left Seattle, then we explored some more.

Our dinner seating time is 5:30, so we returned to the cabin, dressed for dinner and headed down to the Amalfi dining room. When we arrived at our table, one lady was already seated there. She said her husband would be back shortly. Well, he did come back shortly…and told her to get her things and follow him…apparently they had some friends they wanted to sit with, which is quite understandable. But we were all alone at a table for 7! We waited and waited, but finally we ordered appetizers. I had spring rolls and Keith had a lobster pate – both were delicious. About that time our new dining companions showed up, Roz and Elliot with their 11 year old grandson Gregory. They were from Southern California and had taken each of their grandsons on a special cruise to Alaska. Greg was the youngest, and it was finally his turn. As we got to know each other, we discovered that Roz teaches Hebrew for young men and women who are preparing for bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah. We learned so much about Judaism from Roz and Elliot – they were a true delight! For dinner I also had a French mushroom soup followed by pan-seared perch with delicious asparagus and rice pilaf. Keith had prime rib. After dinner we went to the Welcome Aboard variety show in the Princess Theater. The comedian was okay, but not great. It had been a long day, so we returned to our room to crash. Keith found My fair Lady on TV, so we fell asleep watching that and being lulled by the gentle motion of the ship. What an amazing first day!


We awakened around 8:00 and had a delicious buffet breakfast in the Horizon Dining Room on the Lido deck (14th floor…great view.) We attended an interfaith worship service in the Vista Lounge at 9:30. Sadly, only about 20 people showed up, but the message was good, and we felt refreshed and renewed. Then Keith went to a seminar on health and getting a flat stomach…they tried to sell him a detox program. I went to a seminar on shopping…they tried to sell me on the idea of buying diamonds and alexandrite here. Nevertheless, we had won a little book with coupons for lots of free stuff, so I paid attention to the info on the many bargains available to us in Ketchikan. For attending I received an Alaska charm bracelet and some other pretty jewelry that will make a great gift! Keith started feeling a little motion sickness, so we had a buffet lunch – I made an amazing salad at the salad bar – then we came back to the room and slept for an hour and a half. Next I went to a seminar on diamonds, gemstones and watches…learned a lot and got a certificate for another free pair of earrings. Keith and I met for High Tea; it started at 3:30, and I didn't get there until 4:00. I felt so sad when I saw him sitting there all alone waiting for me.

Dinner was a formal affair Monday night, so I wore the gown I bought for our vow renewal and decked myself out with beautiful jewelry. My appetizer was shrimp cocktail followed by a salad of mixed greens. Keith had mushroom soup, then Shrimp Newberg for his entrée. My entrée was Cornish game hen with tender spring vegetables. For dessert he had a chocolate raspberry soufflé and I had a small bowl filled with a hot baked cookie doused with rich crème. Oh my…delicious doesn't begin to describe it. The captain's welcome champagne party in the elegant Piazza began at 7:15. From the champagne waterfall (750 glasses stacked in such a way that when champagne was poured into one glass, it overflowed and cascaded down filling the glasses below it.) I had a mimosa and a champagne as the captain welcomed us to the ship. He said we had over 2800 passengers on board. It certainly doesn't seem like there are that many of us! I don't feel crowded at all.

We returned to our room to change into something nice and warm. I wrapped up in my Alpaca cape, and we headed up to the Lido deck for movies under the stars. Bear in mind this ship does do Caribbean routes, so I can imagine that people would love the idea of relaxing on deck under the starlight of the Caribbean sky. First of all, here it doesn't even begin to get dark until 9:30 or later (the further north we go, the later it is.) Secondly, it's downright cold up there. But we both wanted to see the feature movie, Frost/Nixon. It was worth braving the elements. They did provide us with blankets to wrap up in, and my Alpaca kept me quite toasty! The movie was fantastic – what an amazing job David Frost did of finally getting President Nixon to admit his wrongdoing. Yet President Nixon was a pretty sympathetic figure in some ways, too. I found myself feeling sort of sorry for him, even though his downfall was totally and completely his own doing, as he finally admitted. I remember living through that time period as a high schooler, and the movie brought back memories. After the movie we headed into the Horizon for a tiny late night snack, then down to the Promenade Lounge where Bruce the piano player delighted us with tunes from old TV shows favorites from the 70's. Finally around 11:00 we headed back to the stateroom, deciding it was time to call it a night, but almost too excited to sleep because we knew we'd wake up in Alaska!


Excitement about awakening in Alaska kept us from a really sound sleep. We fell asleep with the curtains open, but by about 3:30 the dawning light woke us up, so we closed the curtains to get a couple more hours of shut-eye. By 5:30, though, we just couldn't stay in bed any longer. We were approaching the quaint village of Ketchikan, and wanted to grab some breakfast before we headed out for a well-planned day of shopping. We found a window seat for breakfast and watched as we neared the dock, joining two other ships who had just docked this morning. Shortly after 7:00 we left the ship for our first Alaska experience. A boardwalk runs along the dock, and several visitor information centers awaited us. At one, we found an excursion (greatly discounted from the shipboard price) which we booked for 8:15. We had about forty-five minutes left, so we pulled out our shopping guide and got busy looking for the freebies. From a whaletale pendant to tanzanite earrings to a 2 ct. sapphire, we got lots of goodies throughout the day. One of the best was a collection of four distinct crystal Christmas ornaments from four different stores.

At 8:15 we boarded our shuttle for a trek into the wild. I hoped we would see a bear, but we never did. However, we did see majestic bald eagles as well as leaping salmon struggling to make it upstream so they could spawn and then die. Our first stop was a waterfall tucked into a wooded area (See the picture above). We explored the area for about 10 minutes, then boarded the bus for our second stop where we saw the salmon and bald eagles from a great vantage point. Then we traveled into Saxman, a native village made popular by the abundance of totem poles. We actually saw the carving house as well as the tribal meeting place. We weren't allowed to go into the tribal meeting place, but we could hear some sort of chanting coming from inside. It might have just been a recording, but it sounded impressive. Each totem pole tells a story. One particularly interesting pole is a ridicule pole of William Seward, the man who purchased Alaska for .02 an acre in the 1800's. He had been invited to 4 different potlatches – special meals where gifts are given to the honoree – by 4 different clans. Courtesy dictates that he should have given some sort of return gift within 2 years, but that didn't happen. So they carved him sitting on top of a ridicule pole. What a way to be memorialized just because you happened to have bad manners! As we left Saxman we saw a tall tree with a bald eagle nest complete with mother and babies. (It took binoculars to see the activity in the nest, but it was there!)

Back in town we visited Dolly's House. Dolly was a madame who moved to Alaska to make a living in the world's oldest profession. She and her "soiled doves" even had a "married men's path" to the back door of the house. It was such a sad story – I asked the hostess for more information about Dolly, and she told us that she was abused from the time she was 6 until she was 11. The love of her life was money. Keith and I both felt so sad as we left. We continued down the Ketchikan boardwalk, visiting various little shops along the way. Around 1:00 we came back to the ship for lunch in the Horizon buffet. We were thrilled to find flowers from my dad waiting for us in our room. What a delightful anniversary treat! I took a few minutes to call my dad to thank him, then we went back out or some more shopping. We had to be back on the ship by 4:00 when we set sail for Juneau.

At dinner we celebrated our anniversary with our tablemates, Roz, Elliot and Greg. We got a bottle of wine and toasted our 25 amazing years together. Roz and Elliot recently celebrated their 52nd anniversary, so it was a joy to share this time with them. At the end of the meal, our waiter brought us a small chocolate cake courtesy of the Captian for our anniversary. We were too stuffed to even think about eating it, so we brought it back to our room to enjoy later. After dinner we went to Motor City, a musical production in the Vista Lounge celebrating the history of Motown. Then we came back to our room to finish our celebration!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cruising Through 25 Years Together, Part 1

June 30 was my 25th anniversary. We just celebrated it with an Alaskan cruise on the Star Princess. Twenty-five years ago I was a 24 year old English teacher who felt called to be a pastor's wife embarking on the journey of a lifetime. I met my husband Keith in a summertime seminary class. I had decided to begin working on a Master's in Counseling. The minute he walked in the classroom the first day I noticed him…in fact, I had a pretty strong reaction when I first laid eyes on him: "Oh no, Lord, You wouldn't dare!" In my defense I have to tell you that it was a windy day in Memphis, and he was already starting to lose his hair, so he had allowed the hair on the top of his head to grow a little longer, and the wind had it standing straight up so he looked sort of like a blue-eyed, suntanned mad scientist. Of course he smoothed the hair down, and after class he made a beeline to meet me. I wasn't overly impressed, so when I saw my roommate's (happily married) brother in the hall, I greeted him enthusiastically. Turns out Keith was good friends with him, too!

After that less than auspicious beginning, he began sitting with me in chapel every day, then waiting to have lunch with me. Now if you know my husband, you know he likes to eat. I had another hour long class after chapel and before lunch, so that meant he had to wait an hour to eat. The guy was pretty committed to getting to know me, I guess! After a couple of weeks of this, he finally asked me out on Tuesday for the following Saturday. I said yes only because I had promised the Lord I would never say "Yes" to a first date with a guy who didn't love Him, and I'd never say "No" to a first date with a guy who did! Be careful what kind of promises you make to God!! I spent the rest of the week dreading the date. Finally on Friday I decided not to worry about it anymore. After all, it was just one date…then I would fulfill my promise to God and be done with it. I wasn't going to marry the guy!

A funny thing happened. After I let go of my dread, I actually began to sort of look forward to getting to know Keith better. After all, he did seem like a nice guy, even though I wasn't interested in being anything but his friend. Saturday came, and he picked me up for our date to the Memphis zoo. He showed up in shorts and a polo and looked pretty good. In fact, he looked awfully good in shorts! As we walked around the zoo, we talked non-stop about our backgrounds, our testimonies, our dreams for the future. I found myself enjoying him more than I had imagined possible. After the zoo he took me to a sidewalk café in downtown Memphis where we continued our comfortable conversation. He took me home early because he had to work that evening as a security guard. Did I mention how handsome he looked in his security guard uniform??

Over the next couple of weeks we saw each other at school all the time. Now I didn't feel frustrated when he waited for me at lunch time. And I didn't try to escape from him before chapel so I could sit with somebody else. If I was studying in the library, he would send a paper airplane my way, or I would find a sweet note tucked into my books. I was really starting to fall for him! Just two weeks after our first date, he took me to Victoria Station, a fancy restaurant housed partially in an old train. It was obvious to both of us that we were certainly past the "just friends" stage. That night he kissed me for the first time. We made plans for me to accompany him the next morning to the little church in eastern Arkansas where he preached each Sunday. Then he would attend my singles group at the megachurch I attended in Memphis. Sunday was a terrific day for both of us (except for the fact that he wore plaid pants straight out of the 70's – I had a lot of work to do on his wardrobe still). That night he told me he loved me. In shock, I said the first thing that came to my mind, "My mind and my will are there, but I just don't feel that in my heart."

His immediate response, "Don't worry, you will. Just give it time," wasn't the least bit arrogant. It simply belied the confidence that he felt about our growing relationship.

So I left Memphis that night (I had an apartment there with 2 roommates) to return to Hughes, Arkansas (an hour away where I lived in a teacherage.) I spent the drive praying about Keith and our relationship. There were two other young men who were very important to me at that time. The first, Don, had sort of been my boyfriend my sophomore year of college. After his graduation, we had stayed close, but hadn't seen each other for several years. I was preparing to go visit him in Arizona for the Fourth of July. The second, Kyle, had been my best friend and partner in crime our senior year of college. He had just finished getting his MBA and was moving to Memphis in two days where he had landed a job with a large accounting firm. I'd had feelings for Kyle for a long time and had hoped that something might happen to take our friendship to the next level after he moved to Memphis. I hoped he felt the same way, but didn't really know if he did or if we'd just remain in the "friend zone" forever. As I drove and prayed that evening, I realized that what I had told Keith was true. In my mind I knew that he was exactly what I needed in a husband, and I knew that I was called to be married to a minister, and neither Don nor Kyle were headed into the ministry. So I made a commitment to the Lord that I would cancel my trip to Arizona and I would tell Kyle when he arrived in 2 days that I was dating somebody seriously.

I can't begin to describe what happened next. It was like something out of a cheesy romance novel, except it was real, and it was happening to me. Immediately after I made that commitment to the Lord, I was overwhelmed with the most amazing, incredible, dizzying sensation of being in love that I have ever experienced. It was almost a physical reaction to the realization that I was truly head over heals in love with Carl Keith Lorick! I must tell you that I have never felt anything like it before or since that night, but that night as I prayed the Lord certainly made sure that I felt in my heart what my mind and will already knew.

I was so excited! I couldn't wait to tell the whole world, especially Keith, that I loved him. On Mondays we didn't have class because, like Keith, many of the seminary students preached in small churches on Sunday. So I had invited him to dinner that night at the teacherage. Our wonderful cook, Victoria, was making a special meal because she knew love was in the air. That day I visited the nursing home in West Memphis where I occasionally went to minister. One precious little lady was always such an encouragement to me. As I told her my story, she rejoiced with me, and urged me to always keep Christ first and let Him lead. Driving back to Hughes where I lived, I prayed again about Keith. I went through I Corinthians 13 in my mind and compared Paul's ideal of love to what I felt. I thought I was in pretty good shape, but I still didn't have peace in my heart about telling Keith I Ioved him. It was really distressing, but then the Lord reminded me of the promise I had made to Him my freshman year of college.

Towards the end of my freshman year I had begun dating a wonderful, Godly young man named Tim. He really kept Christ at the center of our friendship, and I fell hard for him. That summer I longed to hear from him more than I did, and when we returned to school in the fall, it was obvious that he didn't feel about me the way I felt about him. In fact before long he began dating someone else. I was devastated. (He married her, and they have had a wonderful life and ministry. As I look back now, I'm so thankful that Tim taught me to wait for God's best, and I'm thankful that he has enjoyed life with God's best for himself!) During that time I spent a lot of time on my knees. One night when I was still a freshman, I was in my room praying he would call and trying to keep my eyes on the Lord. It was then that I read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 which talks about two being better than one and the "threefold cord" that isn't easily broken. It was as if God burned those verses into my very being telling me that I needed to wait on Him to bring me the right mate for me. I acquiesced, promising Him that I would wait on Him (it got awfully hard at times). I even promised Him that I wouldn't marry anyone until God gave him the same verses.

So here I was, eager to tell Keith I loved him, but constrained by the promise I had made to God. I knew that I could rush in with my declaration of love and do things my way, or I could wait on the Lord and let Him lead. Fortunately I had enough common sense to wait on Him. Keith arrived, and we had a wonderful dinner after which we went into the parlor. We were finally alone, and I just gazed into his eyes. He could tell something had changed. I began, "I want to tell you I love you, but I just can't quite yet."

His logical response, "Why not?"

"Well, there's this verse that God gave me, and I'm sure He'll give it to you, but I just have to wait," I stuttered somewhat awkwardly.

"Is it in the Old Testament?" He immediately asked.

I thought, "Great, we're going to play 20 questions now!" But I simply said, "Uh, yeah…"

"Is it Ecclesiastes 4:9?"

The fireworks exploded as it sunk into my consciousness that out of the millions of verses in the Bible, Keith had just identified the ONE VERSE that God had given me 6 years earlier. Remember how I said that we didn't have school on Mondays? Keith regularly met with a friend to pray every Monday morning. That morning Keith had been telling his friend about our growing relationship and his feelings for me. His friend had prayed our verse during their time together, and Keith, struck by the power of those words, had gone home to look up the words in his concordance and figure out what verse it was. So it was fresh on his mind. He had planned to share it with me at some point in a letter, but when I mentioned that there was a special verse, he just knew that was it!

Now I must admit it takes a lot of faith to say, "Okay, God, I won't get married until you give some guy this verse." But I knew that if I tried to pick out my own husband, I might really botch it. I wanted to get married one time and spend a lifetime loving one man, building a family with him, and growing old together. I never wanted either of us to be able to second guess our decision or even consider divorce as an option. By allowing God to be my Heavenly Matchmaker, I got all that and so much more!

We met and fell in love in May of 1983. In October his cousin got married in South Carolina. I had met his parents, brother and sister-in-law and niece and nephew, but not the extended family. Keith turned 27 in July after we met, but his mother made comments about not getting married until he finished seminary. Hah! Not likely! (But I couldn't tell her that!)
The week before we left for the wedding, Keith took me to dinner at a revolving restaurant high over Memphis called Windows on the River. He suggested I dress up. Though it wasn't particularly cold, I noticed he was wearing his overcoat – rather odd, I thought. We enjoyed a lovely meal seated adjacent to the piano player, then he excused himself for a moment. When he returned they brought dessert: a fruit volcano with dry ice smoke – very elaborate. When the smoke cleared Keith began, "Glenni, I've really enjoyed these past months with you. I love you and I believe God has brought us together. I'd like to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?" I think he dropped to one knee, but it was all such a blur! Before I knew it the most beautiful marquis diamond ring was sparkling on my finger, and I was crying tears of joy. I think the whole restaurant knew what was happening by now, and the piano player played a love song as we embraced and Keith dried my tears! (Okay, I admit, writing about it now after all these years still brings the tears…am I not incredibly blessed??)

The next week I traveled with him to South Carolina as his fiancée. His whole family was ecstatic! We had 8 months to plan our wedding. During that time we attended pre-marital counseling with our pastor Billy Spink of Riveroaks Reformed Pres. Church in Memphis. As the time drew closer for our wedding, we found that we had to spend less and less time alone together! We were so excited about getting married for so many reasons, but the fact that we hadn't slept together certainly increased the anticipation! Finally June 30, 1984, arrived, and we entered into a lifelong covenant with each other and with God. We've had lots of highs and lows, but it has been a remarkable journey so far, and we still have a long way to go!