Breathe in, breathe out, look up

Breathe in, breathe out, look up

Okay.  I’ve had my cathartic day of grieving.

I don’t like the results of this election, but I respect the office, our constitution, the current man holding the office, and the gracious in defeat opponent enough that I will obey their request to try to keep an open mind and give him a chance.

I’m also obeying God here. (See Romans 13 also)

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
Titus 3: 1-8

So, I’m going to start doing something good by starting to have fun again. Learning to look up and smile and spread joy.  The best way I know to spread joy is to go back to posting about my fabulous daughter Ginny.

Ginny is now 8 years old (which means my blog is approximately 9 years old since I started it before she was even born.  wow. ) Anyway, she is fun and sassy and learning to love God and her fellow humans at a wonderful Christian school that is dear to my heart.

Here are a few photos from recent years.  This is by no means comprehensive.  It’s just ones I had handy on my computer as I’m writing this today.

So that’s my version of kitten videos and lighthearted fun for today.



be still my thankful heart

Okay.  Time for an update on our adorable three year old girl.  Virginia Altie Aspen Gerard Russell……

This was the summer of new things for Ginny.  She rode a horse for the first time, flew on a plane and was aware of it (she has flown 15 times already, but she was under two at the time so she wasn’t aware of flying as such), went from diapers to potty trained in under two months, and swam away from her papa’s arms  (okay, she was using floating thingies on her arms, but she swam away from him instead of clinging.)   She sleeps in a big bed now and she is taking ice skating lessons. She can climb into a swing all by herself and does NOT want a starting push.

the horse's name was Pancho

Ginny used the speakerphone to call her birth-mommy Mel on Mel’s birthday and is showing more awareness of the idea of having two mommies and two daddies.  She knows these two people are important, but doesn’t really grasp why yet.

She loves her school and enjoys her teachers and she sings all the time.  If you ask her to play high notes on the piano she goes to the right end of the instrument, low notes, she goes to the left.   If left alone for more than two seconds she can pick a video, open it, put it in the VCR and play it.  She has lost her fear of cameras and turns into a total ham during family photo shoots.

Russells, Weltons and one Merrell in Boulder

But the accomplishment we are proudest of doesn’t show physically.  It can’t be measured on a growth chart.  Something has clicked within just the last week for Ginny.  She is showing a greater awareness of others. Their hurts, their needs and their impact on her world.   In short she is grasping the edges of the concept of compassion (a topic fairly dear to my heart)

One example of this can be seen in her prayers.  We pray with Ginny every night. Most nights Martin and I go through a list of her closest people and some far away relatives and just pray for God to bless each one and keep them safe.  Three weeks ago when her skating coach, Deena, was going in for elbow surgery we added her to the list and Ginny made an interesting connection.  She interrupted the prayer to say “pray for my elbow too”  “what?”  I asked.  Ginny repeated it “Pray for my elbow too.  It hurts like Deena’s does”  I found out later that Ginny had fallen in nursery that morning and bruised her right elbow.  To me it is interesting that Ginny had enough empathy to connect the two unrelated items.

Ginny's skating coach Deena

Then about two weeks ago, Ginny added “pray for Granddaddy.  He hurts.  He hurts all the time.  Pray for him.”  Which makes perfect sense when you know what my dad is facing these days.  But the thing is that none of us had discussed it with Ginny yet.  Clearly she is picking up on the conversations around her and we are going to have to discuss the particulars with her soon.  Again the level of concern for another human being surprised me.  She is only three after all.

Taking turns.  This is a tough concept to grasp….even for some adults.  We have started really making it plain that other people have rights too.  So in the car we each get one song at a time.  Ginny’s turn to pick will usually result in ‘Bob the Tomato’ singing “This is the Day that the Lord has made”  or something from SEEDS family worship, mama’s turn normally involves Travis Cottrell, Josh Groban or the Indigo Girls, and Papa’s turn defaults to Amy Grant alot.  Sunday morning we got in the car and I asked Ginny what song she wanted for her turn…she said “Mama’s song first.  Let’s do mama’s turn first.”  to say I was stunned would be grossly understating the case.  (however it took me scant seconds to recover from shock and cue up Travis Cottrells’ new CD, song #2 )

Another way Ginny is relating better to those around her is in what most people consider to be “polite behavior.”  The normal “Please and Thank You” routine.

What Martin and I are aiming for here is more than just parroting of please and thank you though.  We have tried everything we know to instill the idea of real gratitude into Ginny.  She’s had the outward trappings for quite a while now.  Mostly when prompted, she will say “thank you”    But recently she stepped it up a notch…..she gives a full description of what she is saying “thanks” for.   And she uses (mostly) full, grammatically correct sentences.

  • After breakfast Sunday morning – “Thank you for breakfast Grammy!  For the waffles, and fruit and milk!”
  • After her ice skating lesson- “Thank you Miss Deena for skate with me!”
  • When her friend Annabelle helped Ginny up after Ginny fell down – “Thank you Annabelle.  Look Mama, Annabelle helped me up!”  And she helps her friend Annabelle up when Annabelle falls.  They fell alot that day because they were running races across the grass and jumping into leaf piles.
  • When any guest leaves our house Ginny knows to go to the porch and wait for the person to drive away so she can wave and say “thank you for coming!”
  • After a ride on the carousel – “Thank you for the ride horse!”
  • And to the operator of the carousel – “Thank you!  Bye bye!”
  • She stunned a waitress the other day, Ginny was out of rice and she asked “May I have some more rice please?”  and when the rice arrived at our table she said “Thank you for the rice!”…oh and Ginny eats with chopsticks too, but that really should be saved for another brag session on some other day.

Now all this may be because Martin and I have drilled it into her to say “thank you”  and we try to model what we ask of her by thanking Ginny for things and actions.  But we never specified that she had to give detailed descriptions of what exactly she was thanking the person for.  She added that all on her own.

All of which may give the impression that we are raising either an angel in disguise or some kind of repressed child with rigid controls set all around her.  Thank goodness Ginny is NOT an angel.  She can still be selfish and rude and demanding and throw fits like any self respecting toddler.  She even was rude Saturday to one of her favorite people on the planet – her coach.  Yes, we know we can’t control her.  She is one long lesson in self control to both mama and papa actually.

But clearly, at least in this one area, something has just clicked into place with the whole ‘thankful heart’ concept.

Ginny achieved new heights in politeness this past Saturday.  We had been shopping at Fry’s Electronics store and stopped for lunch at their cafe.  They didn’t really carry any children’s sandwiches, so I got a ham and cheese on rye for us to split  (yes, my child eats real adult sandwiches.  She’s a foodie).  FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER we were done with lunch, paid out, and had gotten almost to the car when, unprompted,  this clear little voice pipes up from the stroller

“Thank you for coming and for sharing your lunch with me mama”

Be still my thankful heart!

my new mission

my new mission is simple

smile more.


what? you ask.  Well I just had a very humbling experience.

I think of myself as a fairly cheerful person.  Fun to be around, etc.  And photos of me pretty much bear that out.

See? lots of smiles.

But….that is only what happens when I look at a camera and deliberately smile.  Apparently my normal, neutral face doesn’t smile very much at all.

How do I know this?

Well I just got home from a solid hour of video taping.  My dear, darling wonderful husband got the joy of hearing, over and over and over again a short (3 minute long) piece that I had written at the request of our pastor regarding my job layoff and some of the things that came out of that.

The piece is full of joy and hope and purpose.  Or at least the TEXT is full of joy and hope and purpose.  But if you turned off the sound and just watched my face you would think I was announcing the death of thousands or something.  Seriously, I looked bleak. And I had THOUGHT my expression was pleasant.

So we did it again.  This time I will try to smile, really.

and again.

and again drat it.

I finally got it right after 5 takes.

It gave me a whole new appreciation of just how much attention I need to pay to my physical expression and the impact it can have on my message.

But wait, I’m not a pastor.  I’m not a paid speaker.  Why do I have to worry about this stuff?

Well the folks at my work and in my family and friends know I am a Christian. They know that I profess to have God in me.  So shouldn’t that show?  Shouldn’t I look different?  If I say I have the Joy of Christ Jesus in me, doesn’t it follow that my face would show it?  At the very least it should show when I am actually talking about the joy of Christ.

So that is my new mission – to spread the joy of my Lord by smiling more.

coming out from behind the tree….

So after the New Year’s Day meltdown what happens next?  Once you admit that you are sad and overwhelmed, where do you go from there?

Well, I got busy. Just in a different way.

  • I got back into Bible study
  • I got back into aerobics class
  • I started my 2011 Siesta Scripture Memory Team notebook
  • and I got snowed in for a week

Yup.  You heard me.  Getting snowed in for a week was the best thing that could have happened to me just now.  Everything came to a screeching halt and we just played.  We enjoyed Ginny.  We snuggled in front of the fireplace, we watched White Christmas, we played with the neighbors, we went for a nature hike, and I didn’t put in a single job application all week.  I just put the whole mess aside and gave myself up to enjoying this rare event of being snowed in.

And trust me, getting snowed in for a solid week in Atlanta is unheard of.

Wanna see photos?

yup.  I kinda thought you might.

This was after only about 2 hours of snow.  We got more than this, but the photo is so pretty, I just had to share.

Martin insisted that I take this shot.  I didn’t think it would turn out, but it ended up being one of the most unique photographs from this snowfall.

the only “flocked” tree I have ever liked….Our outdoor Christmas tree, with lights, covered in snow.

I love the way the colored lights glowed through the snow.

find a happy place.....

This is my happy place.  Snow is falling outside.  I have slippers, wine & cheese, a good book, a sleeping dog, a fire in the fire place, a beautiful Christmas tree.  you will notice that second glass of wine.  It wasn’t for me, but for my wonderful hubby who would come to shove the dog out of his chair and complete my happy place picture.

Our dog Kirby, heading for Narnia…..

Ginny playing in the snow with papa. I didn’t get very many shots of this, mostly because the snow was still coming down and I didn’t want to damage my camera.  So after snapping off a few shots of Ginny and Martin, I put the camera aside and just went out and enjoyed the playtime.

Our front porch.  Out of four steps you can only see ONE set of treads.

Martin and Ginny in front of Grammy’s house.  We hiked the mile to her house because she can’t go for a solid week without seeing her grandbaby.  Plus it gave us a chance to try out our fancy new sledding rig.  cool yes?  We both enjoyed pulling Ginny and the neighbor kids in it.

My parents were both very glad to see us by the way.  They had cabin fever really badly, so an infusion of cuteness really helped.

Ginny getting warm after a day in the snow.  She is turning into quite a ham for the camera.

So wrap up the week and put a bow on it.

Seven solid days of a snow and ice covered driveway made for some concentrated family time.  That might drive other folks insane, but  not me.

This week of being snowed in was exactly what I needed.  No, I don’t think God sent the snow for all of Atlanta just to help my heart, but I know He used this time in my life to quiet me down and say “Child, you have been mourning the past, and yearning for what is behind you, but look.  See?  This is the present.  And it is filed with wonder, beauty and joy.”


okay, enough dwelling on the lost job thing.  I’m done with that.  My new reality is the job hunt, and my joy in life right now is being with my family in this gorgeous fall weather.

We have taken in a few fall festivals, county fairs, local parks and of course spent plenty of time in our own back yard with our neighbors.  Here are a few photos of Ginny enjoying this concentrated family time.

picking tomatoes

cherry tomatoes, right off the vine, make a yummy snack


a better view of the garden.  We will do a bigger one next year….

papas garden

the tomato vine that took over the world

That arbor is for a cherry tomato plant that went insane in terms of growth.  It was growing up over our hedges, so Martin created an arbor. Every time we walk under it, Ginny gets to pick any red tomatoes and eat them right then and there.


fun with camera angles

Mama & Ginny looking up at Papa


at the little gym

Papa, Ginny & Mama-Altie at the Little Gym

coolest girl in school

you wanted something?

ponie rides

Ginny's first ever pony ride


okay, I know it LOOKS bad, but honestly Ginny was NOT strangling the bunny.


the Pumpkin Patch at the Family Tree Nursery Fall Festival was in the sun, so we went inside to find a place where we could get a good pic without making Ginny squint into the sunlight

Many people would say that we are now poor, but I look at these photos and can’t help but be aware of just how wealthy I am in the things that matter.  We do indeed have


we need to move the djembe…

ah …..

The unbearable cuteness of being….Ginny.  She does or says something cute every day, but some of them need to be recorded for posterity (or for embarrassing her with when she starts dating). That said, here are a few cute things Ginny has said or done recently

She has started singing.  The first recognizable song was “Ring around the Rosie” which in her world goes something like this

Ring a’ rosie
Ring a’  pocket a’ posies
all fall DOWN!

Not quite canonical, but when she gets the words right it won’t be nearly so cute.  I do have film and audio of her singing this, but as her favorite place to sing is in the bathtub….I can’t publish it. *sigh*

So instead you will get a photo of Ginny devouring birthday cake.  The child adores her Grammy’s carrot cake.

She slayed me the other day.  I work full time.  Monday through Friday 7:30 to 4:00.  Martin has a part time job doing AV for our church, it involves a lot of emailing, but he only really  physically works on Sunday mornings and a little bit during the times that Ginny is at school, so she doesn’t really notice him as being gone or not available.  Apparently she has no trouble at all identifying ME as being gone and unavailable.

This became evident about a week ago.  I was spending a delightful evening with Ginny. We played dress up, we wrestled, we giggled, she had a very good time at dinner and she was very snuggly all evening.  I was in hog heaven.  She was in her bath and we were playing and she started doing the roll call that all toddlers do.  Naming every person in their life whether the person is in the room or not.  And you, the adult are supposed to answer and tell her where everyone is.

Her – Gammy?
Me – Grammy is at Grammy’s house.
Her – Gammy’s house.

Her – Gan-daddy ?
Me – Grand Daddy is at Grammy’s house.
Her – Gammy’s house.

Her – Kirby?
Me – Kirby is downstairs.
Her – ‘own sairs.

Her – Lucy?
Me – Lucy is down stairs.
her – ‘own sairs.

Her – Papa?
Me – Papa is downstairs.
Her – ‘own sairs.

Her – Mama?

And before I could hug her and say Mama is right here, she came out with “Mama’s at work!” in a decidedly belligerent tone.

Ugh.  Talk about a stab to the gut!

I’ve never before run into this, but she knows the major USES of the colors Red and Green, but she doesn’t say the color NAMES.  For instance she will hand me a red ball and instead of saying “red” she will say “stop” and when she sees a green object she identifies it as “Go!” not green.  Is this weird?

One of my greatest joys in life is watching her figure stuff out.  Don’t you love the thoughtful look they get when the wheels are turning inside their little heads?  Well, last night Ginny was pretending to clean things.  She went all around the living room with an (empty) spray bottle and cleaned the couch “I keen sofa.”  She cleaned the little tykes slide  “I keen lide.”  She cleaned the dog “I keen puppy” (this was Kirby who got slightly annoyed with being sprayed with pretend water and sound effects).   She cleaned the TV screen “I keen Movies.”

Then she moved to the item next to the TV which is the glass fronted cabinet where all the other electronics are stored.  The VCR, DVR, Cassette player, the cable box etc.  She pretend sprayed the glass cabinet door and said “I keen……ummmm”  she visibly thought about it a moment and then said “I keen BUTTONS”

And then she looked at me funny as I giggled for the next ten minutes.

One more story of recent cute stuff.

Ever since she was born we have been singing a couple of specific songs to her “This is the day that the Lord hath made” is our morning song.  “the Lord bless you and keep you” is our night time song and we all hold hands and sing the blessing at the table.  For a while now Ginny has been asking for the blessing song all throughout dinner.  At random intervals she will hold out her hands to the people next to her and say “pray” which means she wants us to sing the blessing again.  Ginny also asks us to her nighttime song almost every night.  It is our best cue that she is ready for sleep.  She says “Peace.”  We sing the song, kiss her goodnight and go away.

The one song she hadn’t asked for yet though was the morning song. Until about a week ago.  Martin is the lucky man who gets to greet Ginny in the mornings.  And I’m not being facetious here, Ginny is pure sunshine in the mornings.  I don’t know why God saw fit to bless two people who are addicted to sleep with a morning person, but that is unquestionably what he did.  Ginny is at her best in the mornings. Cuddly, sweet, amazingly happy and very free with her hugs and kisses. Naps just aren’t the same thing.  She wakes up cranky from naps more often than not.  But mornings?  Pure gold. If you ever need to be cheered up or pulled out of a depression, just come by our house at 7 a.m.  any day of the week, Ginny will cheer you right up. This, by the way, is why I try to schedule our family photo appointments first thing in the morning.

Anyway, Martin gets to enjoy the majority of the wake up times and he has been singing his own version of “This is the day that the Lord hath made” to Ginny.  His version involves using two books as impromptu percussion instruments.  Apparently Ginny really likes this version. Martin forgot one morning last week and didn’t do the song right away.  Ginny went and got two books, started banging them together in the proper rhythm that Martin uses and brought them to her papa saying “This is Day! This is day!”

Clearly we need to get her tambourine or move her djembe to her room……

ginny’s second birthday party

Hey folks.  Long time, no blog.  I know I know.

I’m gonna try to get back in the groove of posting more soon.

But until then, here is a slide show of SOME of the 1000 photos that Doug Mulford took at Ginny’s Second Birthday Party.

the party was at The Little Gym in Snellville.  I had always sworn I was NEVER going to pay to have a party at some venue outside my home for a childrens party.  yeh, I know never say never….

At the beginning of the summer we enrolled Ginny in a weekly class at the Little Gym and she loved it so much that we decided “oh what the heck, let’s have her party here too” and boy are we ever glad we did!

First of all two year olds have WAY too much energy to have a party at our house.  Our home can barely contain Ginny in an energetic mood, never mind 10 or 15 guest kids.  oi!  The Little Gym staff was amazing.  They did everything we paid for and then some.  When we arrived they made a point of asking what Ginny’s favorite games are.  Hide-n-seek? Peek-a-boo? Tag? So that they could tailor the group activities to HER tastes!  Maybe other places do this too, but I am naive enough that I was impressed.

Anyway, her favorite thing in the whole world to do these days is (in her own words) Bouncy! Bouncy! Bouncy!  so they extended the time the kids get to play on the bounce…thingy.

I will post an update on her words and current doings soon, but for now I’ll just say that Ginny is 34 inches tall, weighs 26 pounds and has the sweetest personality in the world.  I am daily amazed at this wonderful, complicated, cheerful, creative, energetic little girl that God has blessed us with.  “Thank you” doesn’t even begin to convey the feelings I have for Ginny’s birthparents, Mel & Steve.

The adventure that officially started in a hospital room in Kansas on the night of August 29th, 2008 continues.  I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Happy 2nd Birthday to my lovely

Virginia Altie Aspen Gerard Russell