Monday, December 30, 2013

30th Birthday Update

Remember how I was apprehensive about my 30th birthday? I needn’t have been.  In fact, it was so amazing that I’ve devoted this post to a photo journal of the day.  Thank you all so much for your love and friendship!  You have made this not only a wonderful day but a wonderful year!  

Breakfast at my favorite diner with my best friends in the world!
Yup, I ordered a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream.
I know it's just swiss miss and ready whip but the diner setting somehow makes it magical.
Oh and I got corned beef hash because that's how I roll:)

These goofy guys:)

I LOVE my presents!!!  Can you tell?

First time skating for the little man.

Wherever we go it's a party.  The ice rink is no exception.

An epic game of pillow polo to top off the insanity.
If you don't know what pillow polo is
you probably didn't go to a small Christian school in the middle of nowhere...
it's basically floor hockey with oversized American Gladiator sticks.  

The best ice cream cake ever!
I didn't even make a wish, I just thanked God for so many blessings.    
And in case you were worried that people didn't take my requests for GIFTs and DAREs seriously please watch this video of my sister giving high fives to total strangers.  (Unfortunately, I can't seem to upload the video of my other sister's interpretive ice dance...several people stopped to watch and ask if she was being serious. She kept her game face on even when she slid across the ice on one knee with arms wide open. ) and if anyone has the photo of my mom with toilet paper hanging out of her pants, please post that because there is no doubt that she wins for gutsiest DARE.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Birthdays:  A Present, A Proverb, and A Purpose By Justin Gottlieb

Merry Christmas!  This week we won’t have our regular blog schedule but we do have a special guest blog today from Justin Gottlieb.  Justin is our neighbor, friend and pastor.  You can read more from him at

When I was growing up, an elderly, depression-era, neighbor lady, gave my brother and I each a fresh pack of tighty whities for our birthdays It was quite frustrating conjuring up even the tiniest bit of thankfulness. 

While in line at Starbucks recently, I found out it was a new friend's birthday and want to give him a gift. I purchased a gift card assuming that he'd be served and blessed by free coffee for the next week or so. As he shook my hand and smiled, he said, "It's better to give than receive." 

That was rugged. It's not like I'd given him a pack of underwear. 

For much of my life (I'm not proud of this!), I haven't been a big fan of birthdays. Celebrating the lowest common denominator of human existence just didn't get me hyped. 

While I have reformed my thought on birthdays (becoming a dad will do that), I have also come to realize that there is one birthday worth celebrating. That birthday is belongs to Jesus. 

Jesus was eternally and unendingly rich, but chose to be born poor, so that we (the poorest of poor!) might become rich in him (2 Corinthians 8.9). 

That's a birthday with purpose. 

That's a birthday worth celebrating with more than tighty whities and giftcards. 

Celebrate Jesus' birthday by giving your life to him. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Little Angels by Rochelle Rubino

Here is a post by my dear friend and former co-teacher Rochelle Stewart Rubino.   If you love her work as much as I do you can read more at and occasionally at (Yeah, she’s kind of a big deal:)   Enjoy!

Sending my daughter to pre-school at was momentous for a couple reasons: 1. She’s attending preschool at the same catholic elementary school I spent the formative years of my education; and 2. Well, it’s pre-school. Huge milestone, people; Come on!

But on Thursday of this week, another huge milestone occurs: Gianna’s first Christmas Concert. Now, friends, the Christmas Concert is a BIG deal. Growing up, it was the highlight of the school year. We performed inside the church and were allowed to stand on the steps of the altar. Like woah! When do you ever get to stand on the steps of the altar?! Plus, we said goodbye to our uniforms in exchange for fancy Christmas dresses. And we even crimped our hair. (Remember when hair crimpers were all the rage?) So the fact that she will be singing in her first-ever Christmas concert for her school is HUGE.

Since her school added the Little Angels pre-school (yes, my daughter is officially a Little Angel, as if you thought otherwise!), the structure of the concert is slightly different. The Little Angels students go first and when they are done, they actually are allowed to go home (thank you, concert organizers! You know how to please the mommies and daddies of little ones).

Regardless of the abridged schedule for Little Angels, I still alerted the relatives about Gianna’s debut performance.  They wouldn't miss her sing her two songs – “Baby Jesus” (sung to the tune “Are You Sleeping”) and “Twinkle, Twinkle Christmas Star.”  Just don’t tell the concert organizers that I may be bringing more than four guests. It’ll be our little secret. ;)

So Thursday evening when I walk into the church with my little family for our daughter’s first-ever school-wide Christmas concert, I may grow a little teary-eyed, but mostly, I think it will feel a little surreal. Instead of my parents taking me to the church, I’ll escort my daughter. Instead of my parents coming to watch me sing, my parents will be watching their granddaughter perform.

Same church. Same school. Heck, even the same priest!

Life is good sometimes pretty darn often. I just need to remember this on nights when two little kids suck the patience right from my bones!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Riding the T

Here is a story I wrote back in grad school.  It's a slice of life from when I used to ride the T (subway/trolley) 3-4 hours a day to get to work and school.  It made me smile when I found it.

In the past year, I have spent an obscene number of hours on the T.  My most modest estimates put me at about 300 hours.  Sometimes it feels as if my permanent state has become a moderate twinge of motion sickness and a dull headache.

I’ve noticed many things over the months.  I’ve compared the faux leather seats of the orange line to their upholstered cousins on the red line.  I’ve noticed the metal handholds riveted to the crossbars and juxtaposed them with the plastic version, hanging more leisurely.  I’ve made mental notes on the narks riding the train, rating the “service” of the MBTA and the plethora of middle aged transvestites.  I’ve grieved for the homeless circulating from car to car fabricating stories to evoke just 5 more cents.

But today, I noted the walls and the floor of the T.  I have obviously stared at them unaware hours before, trying to avoid any unwanted eye contact.  But today I noticed them.  I noticed the plastic tack paper imitating wood that someone had adhered to the walls of the orange line.  I also paid close attention to the rust brick swirl of the linoleum floor.  Linoleum? I thought, like my kitchen?  How odd.  I assume that the pattern and color of the drab flooring was created with the same intention as dorm room carpeting- something that cloaks a nasty mess as unobtrusively as possible.  And to that end, the flooring of the T works pretty well.  The gum, lollypop sticks, and remnants of spilled soda blend pretty well. Perhaps too well.  

I remember riding the green line last year, and a woman kept throwing up.  Over and over she tossed the contents of her inners until there was only dark green bile splashing against the floor.  What struck me was that no one reacted.  Myself included.  Everyone needed to get to work, or get home, or get somewhere and so they set their face like flint and tried to ignore the sludge spreading across the floor.  

A solitary mother finally reacted.  She was getting off at Harvard Ave. She’d been out getting groceries. As she got up to leave she pulled her leeks from their plastic sheath and stuck them, naked, into her cloth “Please Recycle” bag.  She proceeded to hand the clear veggie bag to the poor girl, who could only nod before convulsing again into dry heaves. 

After a while, no one was on the train.  It was just me, riding the B-line to the end.  The heaving lady had even exited and I was left alone with the inanimate amoeba of bile.  I was shocked at how easy it would be for someone to enter the train unawares, and step into this nasty mess.  It had become part of the dingy flooring.  Only the smell betrayed its presence.

The train reached the end and I felt that I had to inform someone.  I walked to the front and tugged on the conductor’s sleeve. “Excuse me,” How did I say this politely?  “I think a woman back there vomited on the floor.”  All decorum had to be scrapped as the man indicated he did not speak English.  I was reduced to awkward reenactments of the scene and finally just led him to the mush.  “Oh” he said and shrugged.  It seemed normal enough to him.  Health hazards were all in a day’s work I guess.  So, he nodded a dismissal and I walked away.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent and Amy Grant by Anne Reis

I don’t remember all the details of why I started celebrating Advent.  Maybe it was because  of the advent wreath at church that looked like the one from my American Girl Doll’s St. Lucia Christmas outfit, or maybe it was because I had watched Little Women quite a few times and loved how their Christmas felt with fire and singing. Either way I had decided to celebrate Advent, it was perfect because for the first time in my life I had the entire room to myself.  That meant every night in December I would say goodnight to my family and make sure they all thought I was in bed. I would get up and walk over to my dresser where I would light a candle. (My 7th grade teacher had taught me that lighting a candle is a good way to remember and symbolize the Holy Spirit is present, plus Jo did it.) Then I would sing. Mind you, I do not by any means have a good voice. In fact, at Sunday worship I am constantly fluctuating between the mens and women’s parts because neither seems to fit my voice. But either way, I would Sing a Christmas Hymn, ok usually just the 1st verse and chorus because that was all I could remember, then I would just hum. When I finished I would open my advent calendar eat the chocolate designated for that day. I could imagine I looked silly and a few times I laughed at myself and the thought that someone watching me might think I was crazy but with all that aside this 24 days of candle lighting and songs one of my most treasured memories and Christmas felt more like Christmas that year. 

Now that I am older I notice that Christmas sneaks up on me, and many of the feelings I used to have seem absent. After reflecting on this I realized it was because I was missing the anticipation. That time of preparation in itself is such a gift. So in my extreme fashion I decided to celebrate advent again and try to recreate the closeness I felt at that time. Not with one advent calendar but with three. First, the traditional chocolate one my parents always buy for me. The second for myself which I put all 5 scripture readings from the Book of Common Prayer, I was going to be disciplined and get close to God. And lastly, one for Pedro, my husband. 

My new friend Angie had encouraged me to do the one for Pedro. She thought it would be good to be deliberate about adoring our husbands. I thought this was a good idea since I rarely take the time to encourage Pedro at things he does well. Plus, Angie and I are just becoming friends and I wanted to make a good impression. The day before Advent began we wrote 24 encouraging notes for our husbands and put a chocolate in each envelope. I had trouble because I noticed most of mine were less encouragements and more about myself. “ Pedro you make me feel like…” No, that wasn’t right. This was supposed to be about him. 

Only in the last few days, being days behind in my Advent reading and feeling guilty, it has dawned on me that Angie got it and I didn’t.  Advent is about taking the time to get the focus off ourselves and get excited about something bigger that is coming. It makes Christmas feel more like Christmas because we have taken the time to look at the person we are celebrating. It wasn’t my diligence about doing the singing every night as a child that made me feel close to God, it was that I was singing truths about God back to Him. It was selfless. I was unabashedly singing these songs that millions of people have sung for generations about the truth of who Christ is and what he has done. Some may say Advent is legalistic but I have found there is such freedom in it. It is like my childhood Role Model Amy Grant says on her 1993 classic album Age to Age:

“Sing Your Praise to the Lord, come on everybody, stand up and sing … one more Hallelujah. Give your praise to the Lord, I can never tell you, just how much good that is gonna do ya just to sing.” 

(I wish we had a video tape of my sisters and my choreographed dance to this but please enjoy this song )

Monday, December 9, 2013

"Lord Have Mercy on My Next 30 Years"

I worry about my birthday... every year... 

I worry about it getting lost in the hustle and bustle of the holidays since it is the day after Christmas.  I’m not just worried about not getting presents, or getting “joint presents” that cover both days, because I understand that.  Money is tight for everyone.  

I worry that the day will just float by without any celebration or notable difference from every other  day.  I worry about this because I see it as a reflection of my life.  Am I just floating through this existence?  Is my highest goal simply to stay out of people’s way so  I’m not an inconvenience?  Am I adding any cause for celebration to the lives of those whom I love?  Do I matter?  Sometimes I’m afraid to even ask.  Ann Voskamp wrote a beautiful post on her birthday that really inspired me.  (  

Here are the two things that have stuck with me since reading that post in August:
1. Fight anxiety with love for others.  “Perfect love casts out all fear.”  
2. Don’t be afraid to do something that will make people stop, and think, and smile.  

In her post she challenges readers to give forward the love they have received by doing one or more of the 40 “GIFTS” listed on her page.  I LOVE that idea.  I love it because it is a way to create memories and stories, a way to stop and celebrate life!  

Still, I felt I couldn’t just rip off her 40 ideas (even though they are all excellent).  I wanted to put my own spin on it, make it kind of a truth or dare game played across the whole country.  

I have been watching the show Impractical Jokers lately, and the things they challenge each other to do simply blow my mind. (  The show is hilarious to me because the guys are fearless (and/or shameless).  I envy that sort of hilarity,.  I think for 90 % of the population that sort of gut wrenching belly laugh at life’s awkward situations and absurdities dies out somewhere between middle school and the end of college.  So, I tried to weave it into my birthday celebration.  

I made a list of 30 things. 15 humorous requests and 15 thoughtful ones.  If you are game, look over the list below, chose a gift/ challenge to complete and then write me an email or birthday card telling me which GIFT you chose and how it went:)   (Extra bonus points if you get a picture or even better a video of the funny ones.)  I also attached the websites where I got the ideas from, check them out so you can see what I have in mind.  I really really hope you’ll celebrate with me this year....I mean seriously 30 only rolls around once.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hush by Anna Paddock © 2013

Thank you again Katie for giving me an opportunity to share on your blog.  Earlier in the fall (in my first post), I had expressed my desire to be able to write this fall.  It certainly has been a writing season for me, and I now anticipate the winter and the time to edit and arrange the songs from the past 8 weeks.  I decided to share a lyric for one of my recent songs I wrote this fall.  There is no proper recording of it available as of yet, but if you'd like to hear my initial demo – you can email, and I will make it available for you to listen – either by email or a website link.  

HUSH – Anna Paddock © 2013

Hush, you've said enough
You're like a disease, and I don't need this
Hush, say no more
You come like a thief, and I don't need you

People say “we'll fix your head”
Just swallow this pill, it'll get easier
I tell myself, 'get out of bed'
You can not be ill, it'll get easier, but all I hear is

Voices, voices, voices
God I can't think when I hear
Voices, voices, voices
They're growing in number, they're closing in

Hush, don't rear your head
You're like a disease beginning to spread
Hush, you've made your point
You come like a thief to kill and destroy

People say “we'll fix your brain
Just swallow this pill, it'll get easier”
Statistics say “you're one in ten
Maybe you're ill, it'll get easier”, but all I hear is

Voices, voices, voices
God I can't think when I hear
Voices, voices, voices
They're growing in number, they're closing in
God I cant think when I hear
Voices, voices, voices,
They're growing in number, they're closing in

Hush, it's time you go
You're like a disease killing my soul
Hush, you've said too much
You come like a thief, and you've taken enough

If you are interested in purchasing my recent album, Feel Better, it is available on iTunes (search Anna Paddock and/or Feel Better).  It is also available on
For more information or to stay connected, visit: for more information.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Here are my five favorite moments from this year's Thanksgiving celebration

1. The sight of my sister’s father-in-law laughing amiably after pulling his sunglasses down off his head so that he can see the Catch Phrase more clearly, not just once but at least three times.  

2. The smell of my sister’s gourmet coffee sweetened with my mom’s Aldi pumpkin spice creamer.  

3.  The feel of my great grandmother’s silver flatware sturdily cutting into a slice of roasted turkey. 

4. The sound of my bother laughing at my son who struts away like Lebron James after dunking the basketball on a miniature rim.    

5. The taste of orange peels soaked and marinated for days until they become a sponge of sugar, orange zest and refreshment.