Saturday, March 25, 2017

Celebrations

Recently, we celebrated two of the most important gals in my life who both happened to be named Molly.


Mom turned 70 and Molly Mae turned 7.

For Mom's birthday, the Bates family gathered in East Tennessee in the beautiful mountains.







The guys went fishing, Becki took the kids to the amazing aquarium in Chattanooga and I got in some quality time in the mountains running.  . .and sometimes walking. We enjoyed time together before coming back to Fredericksburg to celebrate Molly.

Nana and BJ enjoyed taking cupcakes to her class, and we all went to the nail salon to "do our nails."
 Nana got to see the girls in their weekly horseback riding lessons (thanks to Daddy Doug).
 And Nana went with Molly to breakfast to celebrate her buddy, Ms Bobby....who was on the Maine trip  when they realized they had their same birthday.
And Mum Mum brought them together.  Oh when I look at this picture, I have so much love for this special relationship.
On Sunday, Molly had her experience. We try to swap up every other year from "an experience" and a party, and this year it was high tea at a fancy hotel. I let Molly bring one friend, and she chose her friend, Darby, who lives up the street. Molly and Anna Cate play a lot with Darby and her older sister Katie.  Nana wanted Anna Cate to go, so I thought we should invite Katie too, so it turned into quite the afternoon.
(Yep that is Anna Cate on crutches. . .she is now on a scooter since something has happened to her ankle (the orthopedic doctor said either a bad sprain or hairline fracture).
We met my dear friend Dorinda, who is the one gave us the idea of tea at the Willard.

Molly was happy for a lot of reasons, including her fancy new dress from Norah.

And she got to bring a friend, who got to bring her sister since Nana wanted Anna Cate to come, too.

The girls were perfect little ladies.




It was a special day, one where I'm so thankful to have daughters, girlfriends and a Mother to celebrate flowers and frills.

Molly at 7.  Ahhh. It is the passing of an age where I feel like we have a little girl, but in these years that separate me from the day she came into this world, I somehow see her as my little girl more clearly. 
She is sensitive and strong, and as we have journeyed through some tough months as a family, we have called her "our rock." Her honesty and emotion make being in her presence either pure bliss or excruciatingly raw. Her humor and wit is met with coarse honesty, fear, anger, love and joy. She feels deeply and draws me in with her pure and deep approach to life.  I enjoy her humor and admire her honesty. She is in touch with her feelings even thought at times, she can't control them.
I pray I honor her with my presence and emotions as fully as she absorbs life. The way she loves and expresses emotion with full gusto draws me in closer to her and to life, and reminds more what it is to be human.   It might not be a coincidence that in this season where my life has been so shaken I've been grounded by watching her embrace life with authenticity.  
I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my friend Erin when Molly was 3, where I shared with her that Molly was an enigma to me. At 7, I feel like I understand Molly more deeply. Maybe, the feelings I have for and about her are not a mystery since they cut to the very core of myself. I don't know if it is motherhood in general, or if it is our likeness in particular that touches me so deeply in this journey with Molly. 
In celebrating my mother and my daughter, I am reminded of the precious connections of life and these beautiful souls who share their hearts.  Thank you, Mom, for showing me how to connect and love, how to celebrate those we love.  Molly Mae, thank you for the reminding me anew of how important it is to fully embrace life with purity. Thank you for making me laugh, love, feel and think. The ways you embrace life with your heart inspire me. 
"Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in a heart." 
- Khalil Gibran

Monday, January 30, 2017

Intentions

A.J. Muste was a clergyman who stood with candles out in front of the White House every night in silent vigil during the Vietnam War. One night, he was outside in the rain by himself, and a reporter passing by stopped to talk to Muste. "You know," the reporter said to Muste, "Your standing here, alone in the rain with a candle, is not going to change the world." 
    "Oh no," Muste replied, "I don't do this to change the world, I do this so the world won't change me." What a beautiful sentiment on what our intentions should be. 

I have been thinking a lot about intentions lately.  Where I go to hot yoga (http://dragonflyyogafred.com) in the winters, there is this little bowl with words on slips of paper, inviting us to draw an intention before our practice. During class, the instructor asks us to focus our breath or our moves on an intention. Because I'm a Gemini and like things in pairs, I often draw two and try to figure out how they fit together, thinking on ways I can use it in my life, and order my thoughts around the serenity of words like flow, love, beauty, awakening, simplicity, fire, flexible, energy, hope, gratitude, etc. 

Last Wednesday evening, the words drawn and focused upon were wisdom and passion.  I ruminated about this in light of my feelings in this political and social climate. I am so frustrated that both sides lack intellectual commitment to consistent principles -- I have thought about wanting to share my thoughts about issues.  I want to pick at both sides for their hypocracies. I want to quote historians on the philosophies of statesmanship and rules of law; I want to address feminist for excluding those of us who are pro-life. I am frustrated with a lack of intelligent wrestling with hard issues. I want to people to take heed in the words of Socrates, "An unexamined life is not worth living." 

But in yoga, I realized I need to breath in wisdom, and breathe out passion.  It is not my job to share my thoughts always, but to share my passion. I need to seek wisdom, and pray for others to do so as well; I value wisdom but what I need to give is passion. Maybe it isn't up to me to think I have wisdom to give -- just to seek wisdom and share passion. Inhale wisdom, exhale passion. The two-intention thing really serves me well. 

On Saturday, like most families across the country, our day was filled with leisurely activities.  I went to hot yoga and then the girls had basketball games through UPWARD, a Christian program teaching our kids about basketball and Christ. Their memory verse this week was. . .well I'll just have Molly share it. 
mollymemoryverse from Sarah King on Vimeo.


At Anna Cate's game, BJ told me about what was happening at JFK Airport because of an Executive Order in efforts to vet immigrants from countries seen as threats. BJ is the news junkie, and I didn't really pay attention to the details of the EO on Friday, but I was personally interested in the story about two Iraqis detained at JFK,  one an interpreter who served US troops. I distinctly remember knowing my brother had a good relationship with his interpreter, and I texted him and he reminded me that  he has a painting in his home that was a gift from his interpreter the day he left Iraq. BJ got some more information from a friend of his from high school who is a legal immigration attorney, and we were stunned by the details. We are moderates; we do not think these solutions are easy, but my God....to turn away people who have risked their lives for our interests in Iraq is sickening, to turn away people with green cards is no respect for rule of law. In addition to it being thoughtless and reckless in its implementation, it is bad PR for America. 

On Saturday night, we drank some wine and BJ explained to the girls why he was upset, why you can not judge people and treat people this way. He was FIRED UP!!! He felt like the language in the EO was anti-Muslim, and said, "we are going to Dulles tomorrow."
 So he got some cardboard from a Costco trip (another all-American Saturday event) and said, "Find me a quote. Let's use Thomas Jefferson since we in Virginia are so proud of religious freedom."
 "I never will by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others." So we decided that rather than go to church, we would go stand up and show our girls about a piece of Democracy -- peaceful protest. They wanted to make signs too, and looked up quotes for themselves and found these:



 We went to the international arrivals section, and the whole experience was calm and positive. It felt more like a rally, than a protest.  I was proud to be from a family of lawyers -- there were so many attorneys there donating their time, just trying to help.

 One lady started talking to me, and when I asked about herself, she said she was from Maryland and just sitting watching the news and said, "I'm going to go see if I can help; I'm a lawyer." They were happy to talk to the girls. Some openly admitted, "I'm not an immigration expert -- I just thought maybe I could help."

This was BJ's idea, and as a family, we just wanted to be a part of history and be a face of love and acceptance, to show our children that words matter, and that action behind their chosen quotes are meaningful.  By welcoming people, respecting the rule of law, and just showing up, perhaps we change hearts.  I will never forget the look on the children's faces as they saw the love in the protestor's claps. Wide eyed. The adults looked grateful, and I tell myself their experience will help us fight anti-American sentiment.


  One lady from Falls Church, Virginia,  who shared with us she has lived abroad,  asked the girls about their school and if they had children in classes who are from other places. Both Anna Cate and Molly named a bunch of children off by name and where they are from.  The lady responded in such kindness when she said, "you are lucky; you know not to be afraid; many people in other parts of our country aren't exposed to different types of people."


So, perchance,  we aren't so wise; we are just lucky to be exposed to diversity. The doctor who healed Anna Cate this Fall is an immigrant; BJ's brilliant movement disorder specialist is from another country. Some of my most intelligent and kind students are immigrants from the countries on this ban list. (Some of my hardest working students are from the other side of the wall people want built -- but that is another issue). And over a decade ago, a man from Iraq contributed to the safety of my beloved brother, and someone like him was detained in New York.  In support of them and the families at Dulles,  I became interested. So maybe I'm not that wise on my own volition -- maybe I consider myself a seeker of wisdom because I have have been blessed by experience.  Like that memory verse Molly and Anna Cate learned, God's gift to me, I hope, is to use words to serve others.

sarahonthenews from Sarah King on Vimeo.
So when I was interviewed on a local news station (clip above), it was edited out that I told the story about my brother's interpreter and we were inspired to skip church to come to stand up for what we think is right. As our family was leaving the airport after I spoke to the reporter, a man got my attention and said, "tell your brother thank you for his service!" Then he shared he was an Iraqi interpreter as well and speaks four languages. He came to see if he could help; he told us of the US soldiers he served with, about how he is Muslim but his family members are Christian and Jews.  He proudly showed me his passport and his US citizenship.



He asked me if my brother was ok, and the girls happily told them about Aunt Becki, Kitty and Talulah. . .all who came into our life after Douglas' returned from Iraq. 
So we left feeling proud to participate in the freedoms we have as Americans,  to see community service in action, and feeling inspired. 


We got the chance to be a face of a welcoming smile to a foreigner. 


Did we change the world or impact anything huge? Nah, but I hope we influenced the hearts and minds of those we encountered.  I know our experience impacted the hearts and minds of Anna Cate and Molly. So just like my yoga practice, we had two intentions. 

 Like that story of AJ Muste, a Dutch-born American who came here via Ellis island, holding the candle, I'm proud of these daughters of mine, holding up words. Words that might or might not change the world, but more importantly, words that will keep the world from changing them.








Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016: Reflections & Revelations, A Cold and Broken Hallelujah

I really appreciate those of you who take the time to write Christmas letters, so I'm sitting here still in my pajamas on New Year's Day, creating a photo album of highlights of 2016, trying to create an end-of-the-year letter.

I'm listening to my favorite show, CBS Sunday morning, give the rundown of who passed away im 2016. Rather than focusing on their death, Jane Pauley is describing their lives. It is not lost on me that two just mentioned in the past 5 minutes were Janet Reno and Muhammad Ali, giants in their fields who are remembered for what their lives meant, not their fight with Parkinson's Disease. 

 I am trying to not let myself get wrapped up in making that our story, and it is one of the reasons I haven't blogged lately. I just have on my mind how it has changed our life, but I certainly can relate to Elie Wiesel, who passed in 2016,  saying, "I write to understand as much to be understood."  My mind is very crowded with what the Fall of 2016 taught and brought us --  the revelation that our family will be moving to Centerville, TN the summer of 2017.  I have struggled with the decision, but my prayer today is "let there be peace. . .and let it begin with me." 

I don't want our family's story or our decisions to be defined by our trials, and when I reflect on these stories and pictures of the past year, indeed I see the good times aren't shadowed by the challenges, that even the hard times are not all dark.  The light of love, joy, hope and faith shine through in the faces of family and friends. 

2016: Reflections

Winter:
We rung in the New Year last year in a beautiful state park in West Virginia with friends.
 Whitney is more than a friend really, more like a cousin, and through a twist of fate or divine intervention, her career and BJ's health has intersected. She introduced us to his Georgetown neurologist and spends her career focused on Parkinsons.
Her family is charming and fun!
 In January, we enjoyed  a whale of a snow storm, providing fun and calmness.

Molly tried basketball and this year both girls will do it.
March brought fun birthday celebrations: Molly celebrated her 6th birthday with a jump party.



Anna Cate's 10th birthday was an amazing trip to New York with her and my dear  friends! 


As a family, the Social Studies teacher in me,  tried to involve the kids in the election process by having family dinners learning about the states who were hosting primaries and caucuses.  Like most things, it is my idea but BJ makes it happen. Among the highlights for me were shrimp and grits for South Carolina, hot dogs for Iowa, Clam chowder for New Hampshire. 

One of my favorite memories was when we did breakfast and poker for Nevada. 

Spring:
 I trained for and our family raised money for a half marathon to raise funds for Team Fox, a foundation dedicated to research. 
We went camping with Sarah, Greg and Graham. . . and their dogs. 
We celebrated an early Mother's Day at a winery with Mom (and Dad) and our friends, Geoff, Dorinda and Jackson.
I got to accompany Anna Cate on her field trip to Jamestown.
 Her Science project showcased the sugar levels in drinks, and it was so good, her PE teacher asked to keep it to make her point to students. 
Molly had a speaking part in the Kindergarten musical.
We enjoyed the performance of the Lion King and got to stick around and meet some of the cast. 
My parents came up for the USO dance at my school for 6th grade US History students. 

The end of the school pics made us realize how the girls have grown!
I turned 40 the last week of the school year, and BJ treated me with celebrations all summer long.



I enjoyed some time with dear friends, who have been brought into my life in all sorts of ways. 



My kindred spirit Nicole,with whom I spent some of my wild 20s in Russia, flew out for a wonderful week for us together in Alexandria! 



For the girls, summer brought good times with their best friends, camps, swim team, and family trips. 




For some reason, the girls not doing swim team is what rips my heart out the most about moving. I think it represents what I love about our summers here, our neighborhood, and what I did not have growing up. 
 When I shared this with Anna Cate, she said, " Oh I get it, Mom, you want to give us opportunities. . .but we are the opposite of you -- we want you had; we just want to be near family." 







We tie-dyed our 4th of July shirts.



We went to the beach and visited my dear friend, almost a second mother, Mary Helen Smith, who called our visit Camp All Things Homey. The girls got  cooking lessons and I got some plants to put in planters. 

And then our summer ended with the girls trip to Tennessee where they were treated to a couple nights in Gatlinburg with my Aunt and Uncle.  



 Anna Cate and Molly then went to Centerville to be with Nana and Daddy Doug  while BJ and I had the trip of a lifetime to Paris.  In just one week after the above picture was taken, Anna Cate got sick. 

BJ and I returned from Paris August 20, and I flew to Nashville August 21st to be with her for her first hospital stay. She was hospitalized 5 times in all, and with trial and error and the compassion and wisdom of some wonderful doctors (including her primary care physician Dr. Purcell and Dr. Martinez at Vanderbilt), she is back to herself.  In looking back on it all, I am glad my heart and mind went into functioning mode because if I focus on it too much right now, I want to throw up.  

So as summer seeped into Fall, it seems a little like a blur. Anna Cate was sick, BJ had his surgeries, and has been home while his doctors program his device. 


 Yet the scenes aren't just of hospitals, I will remember friends and the dozens of meals, cards and love  provided to us in our dark days. 

Anna Cate spent most of the Fall with my parents;  my Dad wholeheartedly believes that horses helped Anna Cate heal, so both girls are taking lessons at a nearby farm. 




A couple weeks ago, BJ came in the door and said, "Sarah, I have no idea what this is, but I bet it is going to be good! It is from Jill Baffert." 

Jill grew up in Centerville, and her sister was a classmate of mine, her niece has babysat the girls. She was always gorgeous but more importantly, she is kind and a lot of fun!  In fact the name of this blog is credited to her -- she once asked me how the queens of the king family are. I have lost touch with her personally (so I am in such awe of how she got my address) but we have kept up with their success and cheered on American Pharoah's success last year.  She wrote Anna Cate the most beautiful note, sent her a gorgeous book signed by her husband and included a piece of American Pharoah's mane in the card. She wrote, "I heard you have been brave and strong like American pharoah," and signed it Jill (from Centerville).  

Daddy said horses helped heal Anna Cate; I say Centerville helped heal her, too. She came home this Fall and said, "Centerville feels like home already."  This gift is the grandest gesture of such love from Centerville and of horses. Jill,  who even though quite a celebrity, signed a note to my girl,  "Jill (from Centerville)".  The night before both BJ's surgeries, another friend from Centerville, my dear friend, Dorinda, hosted us and gave him a wonderful home-cooked Southern meal.  In the hardest days of our life, we have been loved by Centerville even though I haven't lived there in 15 years, (and please know that I don't mean we haven't felt love and support by family and friends not in TN). 

In the trajectory of our story,  just like in 2016, I have faith my family will be loved. So when my mind worries that my kids won't have swim team,  I need to remind myself to appreciate the gifts we have had here in Fredericksburg,
and to anticipate the gifts that lay ahead after we move. 


Molly got schlepped around and I must say she got quite some perks. . .a trip to the Northeast in the Fall, a lot of extra love from her current and former teacher, and special alone time with friends. 









On her trip to the Northeast, she became friends with a delightful lady, Nancy, who is now special to all of us. 


We finished off the Fall with a lovely Thanksgiving with Greg, Sarah, Graham and Nancy.

I went yogaville one more time this year. 




The first weekend in December,  Molly, BJ and I went to Centerville for our niece's baptism (Tallulah is my god-daughter)

And we have enjoyed Christmas festivities despite more sickness (strep and stomach bugs).
Anna Cate had a fun part in the 5th grade musical -- a dancing reindeer who showed us all that SHE IS WELL!
 Molly got her ears pierced. 
 We found the emotional energy to appreciate the season.
 And of course, we loved being home with family this past week. 



So, 2016 brought us good times and good lessons in the face of hard times.

"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."- Leonard Cohen