P.J.’s Journey: The Next Chapter

“You’re such a positive person,” they say. “You’re always smiling,” they say. “You’re an inspiration,” they say. Today is one of those days that I don’t feel very positive. I am not smiling and I certainly do not feel like an inspiration to anyone. I am a grieving mother and the feelings associated with this new title are so much harder than I ever imagined they could be. I thought I was prepared for this. After all, P.J. had so many close calls. Over the last few years, we saw him going downhill rapidly and we were helpless to change his course. We prepared for the worst… or so we thought. Nothing… absolutely nothing… could have prepared us for this horrible loss. On September 19, 2018, while A.J. was in the hospital fighting a battle of his own following surgery for kidney cancer, we received the call that P.J. was gone. We were devastated at first and then relieved that his struggle (and our constant worry) was over. Relief was followed by guilt and guilt was followed by deep sadness… and all these feelings were experienced within the first 24 hours. The cycle has repeated itself regularly over the past 4-1/2 months.

P.J. was such a mess his last few years on earth, that it was a constant source of heartache for us — a type of dread that consumed us. When something was wrong, he called A.J., and those calls came so often I began cringing at my husband’s ringtone. I would hold my breath until I knew it either wasn’t P.J. or if it was, he wasn’t calling because of some new crisis. A.J. tried to shield me by not telling me the bad things, but I could sense when things were not good. I cried whenever I saw P.J. because he was so thin and so beaten down by the world and everything he’d experienced. When I looked at his scars, I imagined that they cut all the way into his soul and all I could do was weep for him. But he didn’t even want to discuss the possibility of getting help. He was more afraid to fix things than he was to face death.

Before P.J. died, I knew people (some very close to me) who had lost children. I tried to understand what they must be feeling, but couldn’t even begin to imagine it. I can now say without a doubt that until you experience it yourself, you will never understand this type of grief. I would assume, too, that it is different for every grieving parent, depending upon the circumstances surrounding their loss. I don’t let my grief paralyze me… I can’t. Life, after all, goes on. I continue to forge ahead and I don’t dwell in the sadness, but it seems like it’s always there… right below the surface. Sometimes I am able to push it way down inside and can do some pretty daunting things… like speak at P.J.’s memorial service without showing my vulnerability (click here to watch the video). Other times, I will dissolve into tears because of something completely unrelated… something as insignificant as a paper cut or an encounter with a rude cashier.

In the first few weeks following that devastating call, I searched desperately for answers to my grief. I read countless articles and blogs hoping to find someone who had experienced the same types of feelings I was having in the same way I was having them. I needed to know I wasn’t abnormal and that I wasn’t losing my mind. I wanted an explanation of what was happening and I wanted to know how long I could expect it to continue. At one point, I came across an article that talked about how grief comes in different forms and that often times, we grieve the intangible losses as much as we grieve the loss of our loved one. I grieve the loss of the P.J. I knew 14 years before his death… before his struggle with addiction… before the fire… but most of all, I grieve the loss of hope that someday he would find his joy again and we would find our boy again. I grieve never being able to see him hold his own baby the way he held his niece for the first time and lovingly smiled down at her. I grieve never being able to see him rough house with his own children the way he did with his nephews when he visited them in Austin. I grieve that I will never be able to hold him tight in a hug while secretly praying for him… well, not so secretly, really… he was on to me with that but let me do it anyway sometimes. The loss of hope for the future is a devastating one. I grieve that loss deeply and sometimes it feels as if I will never recover from it. But I know there is hope in the Lord.  Romans 5:2-5 reads “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Yes! The book of Romans has always been my favorite and a great place to seek comfort on a day such as today!)

P.J.’s journey has taken him to a place where there is no suffering and there is no shame.  My hope of someday seeing him whole again is not gone… it has been realized.  We can’t hope for what we already know exists!  My hope of someday seeing him with his own children has been replaced with the realization that he is now loving on the children from our family who went before him and were waiting at the pearly gates to meet him.  P.J.’s journey has taken us to a place where we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God and his journey will continue as we share his story with others who can benefit from our experience.  The journey is not over… it’s simply the next chapter.

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Do’s and Don’ts for Emotional Health while Recovering from a Natural Disaster…

100_2274Next week marks the 11th and 4th anniversaries of Hurricanes Katrina and Isaac, respectively.  Many extended family (including my parents and brothers) lost everything in Katrina.  Seven years later, our immediate family (my husband and I and our two children) lost everything during Isaac. Our home was flooded with 14 feet of water.  Even items that we’d moved to safety (presumably) on the second floor did not survive.  Now here we are in 2016 and it’s happened again, this time to many of our family and friends in other parts of Louisiana.  The physical journey we’ve all had to go through (or are now going through) is tough, but the emotional side of the journey is even more unsettling and difficult.  Here are some do’s my husband and I learned during our recovery:

  1. Do be patient and take it one day at a time… Recovery doesn’t happen overnight and insurance and other resources for income and assistance do not pay off immediately.  Hang in there.  Do what you can while you can.  It seems cliche to say “This too shall pass…” but it really does pass. You will work your fanny off for months, but at some point, you’ll suddenly discover you’ve accomplished much more than you ever imagined you could, and you’ll realize how close you are to the finish line.
  2. Do be an advocate for your cause…  One of the most difficult things for us to do is accept “charity.” When we were going through recovery from Isaac, we quickly realized we could not do it on our own. It’s okay to ask for assistance! There are so many people who want to help but don’t know how.  Post messages (often) asking for specific help on your social media pages. Don’t assume that everyone knows what you need and when you need it, or that everyone will see your one post asking for general help and know what to do in response. Also, keep in mind that there are lots of non-profit agencies willing to help as well, but you have to be willing to do the research and request that help.  Google is a great tool for finding that support. Make sure you check regularly and watch the news as in emergency cases, not every resource available to help is able to get the word out quickly.  Ask your friends to keep you posted as well when they hear news about help that is available.
  3. VolunteersDo team up with your neighbors and friends… When Hurricane Isaac ripped through the community of Braithwaite Park, members of our homeowners association formed a non-profit, “Braithwaite Matters,” and began helping one another.  Donations that were over and above our needs were shared with other communities impacted by the storm. Residents formed informal teams as well. While working on our own home, we took turns with some of the neighbors moving heavy things that required more hands. We ran back and forth from one house to another helping each other. That’s what community is all about. Team up with those you know who have been impacted and see what you can do for each other.
  4. Do be good to yourself…  As we were accepting donations of various items from many different sources, I felt guilty. I hesitated to do anything for myself that would cost money that could be used for recovery. I chopped at my own hair and even avoided doctor’s appointments that were simply routine. I stopped taking care of myself because I made my home my priority. Then, suddenly, I spoke with a Pastor who helped me put things in perspective. He reminded me that many of those who had donated to help us did so because they loved us, not because they wanted us to have a nice house. He reminded me that we, as people, were more important than the things the money would provide. He reminded me that my friends trusted me to use the resources they’d provided as we saw fit.  Make sure you take time for yourself during the recovery. Set aside a few hours a week to do something special for you and your immediately family – go out to dinner, go to a movie, or just sit and enjoy each other’s company.
  5. Do look for silver linings…  It’s been said that “every cloud has a silver lining.” I believe that to be true. The silver lining for us with Hurricane Isaac was that thanks to our insurance paying off and the Small Business Association offering us a loan at a low interest rate, we were able to purchase a new home at a much lower note. Our financial position drastically changed and we were no longer living paycheck to paycheck because of high insurance costs and an inflated house note.  Every cloud does have a silver lining, but in some cases, you have to look a little harder to find them. Keep your eyes open. I’m sure you’ll discover some rainbows along the way.

We also learned a few things not to do during our recovery:

  1. Don’t agonize over stuff… Most things are replaceable and those that aren’t won’t keep you from living a wonderful life.  As we were removing the wet and moldy items from my parents’ home following Katrina, it broke my heart to realize a big, lumpy and smelly rectangular object turned out to be their wedding album.  When I dropped it on the pile, it popped open and revealed my mom’s beautiful smile covered in mold and mud. As I pealed back the plastic cover on one picture, it took the top layer of the image with it.  We’d heard that some photos were recoverable, but we also knew it was not likely with this and would be expensive. With our parents’ permission, we opted to discard the soggy mess. My husband and I went through a similar experience with our own photos after Isaac.  I wept as I tossed one album after another of baby pictures into the trash pile, but I can honestly tell you that I haven’t thought much about it since. With a simple email to some close relatives and friends, we received copies of many old photos. Thanks to FaceBook, many of our recent photos were in digital format and easily accessible. Do I ever wish I had certain pictures? Sure, but the loss of this memorabilia hasn’t scarred me in any way.
  2. CrossRotatedDon’t expect the world to stop revolving… Life goes on. It’s business as usual. Bills will still arrive. Tuition will still come due. Meetings will still take place. Understand that lots of people around you are not going through the same things as you and some may not be aware of your struggles.  Don’t hesitate to share with them what’s happening. When our home flooded during Hurricane Isaac, my son was in the hospital two hours away.  A quick phone call to some friends who lived near the hospital was all it took to get the support we needed.  Several good friends volunteered to sit with him on days when we were tied up with recovery efforts.  We also discovered that late charges were quickly removed when we contacted bill collectors and let them know the situation.  Again, life doesn’t stop for everyone because some people are in recovery mode, but that doesn’t mean you’re forgotten or that people don’t care.  Communicating with them is critical.
  3. Don’t be bitter… Sometimes when you’re going through a crisis like this, it’s easy to expect others to mourn with you, and while they probably do, they won’t be as consumed with the grief as you. Some will be living out happy experiences (weddings, births, vacations, etc.) and smiling in all of their Facebook photos. Here’s the deal… it’s not only okay for them to smile, you should be smiling with them!  When you can’t have joy of your own, share the joy of others. Remember, too, that while some are recovering, others still have regular commitments they have to fulfill. Some will provide help when they are able. Others will not help at all. It isn’t because they are bad people.  It doesn’t mean they don’t care or that they are insensitive to your needs. Some people are not equipped to deal with the recovery and others may simply be too busy. Respect that and allow everyone to help in various ways as they are able.

I hope these lists help you and yours as you recover. C.S. Lewis once wrote “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary journey.” My thoughts and prayers are with you all for an amazingly extraordinary journey.


Contact me (tina@tinaguillot.com) to speak about the emotional side of recovery at your next community meeting. 

Blessed are the Moms…

Everyone has those moments in life when they question the value they bring to the world in general and especially their families who love them.  If you’re a mom, you’ve almost certainly had that experience.  I know I have on more than one occasion.  My most recent such moment was last Sunday.  Everything was fine until I had a disagreement with our youngest son.  He’s almost seventeen, so you’d think that’d be a regular occurrence in our home, but that’s not so with Josh.  He is a different type of child, worldly in so many ways and sheltered in so many others, but very logic-driven and confident… such a contrast to our oldest son, P.J., who has lived the last ten years of his twenty-three so far dealing with one internal struggle after another and fighting many physical battles as a result (click to read more about P.J.’s Journey).

Author Howard W. Hunter once wrote:  “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.”  But what if we screw it up?   Surely all mothers feel this way at one time or another.  I think about some of my closest friends and our conversations about this very thing… we’ve all had so many worries and concerns.  I think of how blessed their children are to have them, and I suddenly realize, I don’t know a single mom who has not struggled in some way.

  • Blessed are the moms who work fulltime and still manage to attend every baseball and soccer game in which their kids play.
  • Blessed are the moms who labor over dance costumes and make cupcakes for the 4th grade bake sale.
  • Blessed are the moms who sit at the kitchen table for three hours every night helping with homework.
  • Blessed are the moms who agonize over bullying, teasing, and self-esteem issues their children are facing.
  • Blessed are the moms who give their children the freedom to make mistakes so they will learn the truth.
  • Blessed are the moms who play dad as well, filling in the gaps left by an absentee father.
  • Blessed are the moms who feed their children through tubes and sleep in chairs in the PICU.
  • Blessed are the moms who look at the child who has just declared himself an atheist and simply say “Well God still believes in you, and so do I.”
  • Blessed are the moms who never give up… who continue to care, pray for, and love the children who have detached themselves in some way.
  • Blessed are the moms who cry at the drop of a pin because they’re so exhausted and overwhelmed with life.
  • Blessed are the moms who have to revive their own child or call 9-1-1 after a drug overdose.
  • Blessed are the moms who place flowers on the graves of their children and never stop grieving.
  • Blessed are the moms who do their best and give it their all.
  • Blessed are the moms who struggle.

There I was last Sunday, following the disagreement with Josh, and wondering if perhaps I should have accepted my infertility as a cross to bear.  (That’s what one Pastor told me I should do when I asked him what the church believed about fertility treatments… that and the cost involved with the in vitro fertilization process is what convinced us to seek adoption as an alternative.)  In retrospect, I wondered if by adopting I had meddled with God’s plan… Clearly anyone would have made a better mother to these boys than I, right?

The next night after things settled down, we sat and talked with Josh and it was all good.  I was thankful I had allowed time for prayer between the disagreement and the resolution… a smart move on my part.   A sense of peace came over me.  I suddenly realized these things… the disagreement, the follow-up, the adoption of both our sons, were all part of God’s plan… not a diversion from it.  No matter what happens with their respective futures, God has given me an opportunity to make a mark on our sons’ lives one way or another.  The difficulties we’ve encountered, all of us moms, do not define the value we have added to our children.  God has entrusted us with these precious souls and all He’s asked is that we do our best.  Blessed are the moms who struggle.

How to Attract Others to Your Purpose with a Significance Story (by John C. Maxwell)

Most people want to live a success story, and that’s a good thing. Success can bring you money, accomplishment, power and invaluable experiences. But success still falls short. Success alone cannot bring lasting happiness or deep fulfillment. Success, by itself, does not inspire others to remember and share your story long after you are gone.

If you want success, and you want happiness, a legacy, and the certainty that you have made the world better for having lived, then what you want is more than a successful life; it is a life of significance.

What’s the secret to living a story of significance?

Living each day with intentionality.

When you live each day with intentionality, there’s almost no limit to what you can do. You can transform yourself, your family, your community, and your nation. When enough people do that, they can change the world.

When you intentionally use your everyday life to bring about positive change in the lives of others, you begin to live a life that matters.

Intentional living is about living your best story.

Your story still has many blank pages. Write them in with a life well lived.

4 Ways to Start Creating Your Significance Story

If you want to make a difference and have a significance story to tell by the end of your life, I believe I can help. But first, you need to be willing to take an important step forward. And that comes from a change in mindset, from a willingness to start living your story by approaching your life differently.

1.  Put Yourself in the Story

No one stumbles upon significance.

We have to be intentional about making our lives matter. That calls for action—not excuses. Most people don’t know this, but it’s easier to go from failure to success than from excuses to success.

In a famous study by Victor and Mildred Goertzel published in a book titled Cradles of Eminence, the home backgrounds of three hundred highly successful people were investigated. These three hundred people had made it to the top. They were men and women who would be recognized as brilliant in their fields. The list included Franklin D. Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Winston Churchill, Albert Schweitzer, Clara Barton, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and Sigmund Freud. The intensive investigation into their early home lives yielded some surprising findings:

  • Three-fourths of them as children were troubled by poverty, a broken home, or difficult parents who were rejecting, over-possessive, or domineering.
  • Seventy-four of the eighty-five writers of fiction or drama and sixteen of the twenty poets came from homes where, as children, they saw tense psychological drama played out by their parents.
  • Over one-fourth of the sample suffered physical handicaps such as blindness, deafness, or crippled limbs.

 

Adversity tried to knock these people out of their stories, but they wouldn’t have any of it. Why? They were highly intentional. They had a strong why—a purpose—which drew them forward even if the road wasn’t wide and smooth.

2.  Put Significance in Your Story

A well-lived story of significance is built when we focus on adding value to others and making a difference in their lives. When we live for significance, we are telling people around us that it is important to us. Almost everyone wants to live a life of meaning and significance, whether or not they express the desire.

To put significance in our stories, we must do things out of our comfort zone. And we must make changes that we may find difficult. We often avoid trying to make those changes. But know this: though not everything that we face can be changed, nothing can be changed until we face it.

Your story won’t be perfect. Many things will change. But your heart will sing. It will sing the song of significance. It will sing, “I am making a difference!” And that will give you satisfaction down to the soul level.

Put Your Strengths in Your Story

Recently I had an enlightening lunch with Jim Collins, author of Good to Great. “Jim,” I asked, “What is required to bring about positive life-change to a community?” I knew he had done a lot of research on the subject of transformational movements, and I was very interested to hear his answer.

“There are three questions you need to ask,” Jim replied. “They are:

Can you be the best in the world at what you do?

Are you passionate about what you are doing?

Do you have the resources to change your world?”

Since our conversation that day, I have spent a lot of time thinking about those questions. Here is what I discovered. The first question is about talent. You have skills and abilities that can help others. Can you be the best in the world using them? Maybe, maybe not. Can you be the best you in the world using them? Absolutely! You are unique, and have a unique chance to make a difference only you can make—if you’re willing to get into your story.

The second question is about heart. Significance begins in the heart when we desire to make a difference. We see a need. We feel a hurt. We want to help. We act on it. Passion is the soul of significance. It’s the fuel. It’s the core.

The third question is about tools. No doubt you already have many resources at your disposal. My desire is that my book Intentional Living will be another one. It will show you the way so that you can become highly intentional and live a life that matters according to your heart and values.

4.  Stop Trying and Start Doing

There is enormous magic in the tiny word do. When we tell ourselves, “I’ll do it,” we unleash tremendous power. That act forges in us a chain of personal responsibility that ups our game: a desire to excel plus a sense of duty plus complete aliveness plus total dedication to getting done what has to be done. That equals commitment.

An attitude of doing also helps us to become who we were meant to be. It is this doing attitude that often leads to the things we were meant to do. While trying is filled with good intentions, doing is the result of intentional living.

As you read this article, you may be thinking, I’m not sure if I’m ready to make a commitment to creating such a significance story. It’s an understandable reservation. But what if it is the one thing holding you back from a remarkable life?

Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, identifies this reluctance. He calls it resistance. He writes, “There is a force resisting the beautiful things in the world, and too many of us are giving in.”

Choosing to live each day with intentionality and purpose helps us break through that resisting force, and the world needs that.

It needs for us to live our stories and contribute to the greater story that’s happening around us.

What story will you create?

~ Adapted from John C. Maxwell’s new book Intentional Living


I am thrilled to be able to publish the above from my mentor, John C. Maxwell.  If you’d like to find out more about Intentional Living, click below to order the book and participate in a 30-Day Journey to Transformational Living.  

All things new…

Katrina Volunteers

This has been a week of remembrance.  For most, those memories are of Hurricane Katrina.  For others, those memories are of Hurricane Isaac.  For some, those memories are of both life-changing storms.  Some suffered great physical and emotional loss during both events.  For my family, Katrina’s effects were minimal, at least in the physical sense.  There was no damage to our home.  We lost a refrigerator and its contents and were displaced for roughly three weeks.  I lost my job with a consulting firm, but received three months of my salary as “bench” pay while I sat simply waiting for a callback.  Those three months had no sooner ended and I was blessed to receive another job offer, but that unexpected “paid vacation” allowed me to help my parents and brothers and other family members and friends who had lost everything and were living in trailers while they were in the process of rebuilding.  I was able to start a website, KatrinaWishList.com, where we told the stories of the victims (vetted for legitimacy) and posted links to their wish lists with Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target, etc.  This gave donors an opportunity to directly help families who were affected by the storm without any concern that a portion of their donations would be eaten up in organization fees.

Five years later, life was fresh and new again for most.  All of our friends and family members had started over and were thriving.  After helping my parents rebuild, we had purchased a gutted home in Braithwaite, Louisiana and were excited at the sweat equity we’d earned.  The likelihood of the area ever flooding again seemed minimal.  Then came the “Great Wall.”  With the 26-foot high Caernarvon Floodwall to the north and the 17-foot high federal levee to the south, Braithwaite became the bull’s eye for any strong storm surge.  Our home owner’s and flood insurance immediately shot up from a combined total of roughly $3,500 per year to a whopping $10-12,000 per year depending upon our deductible and our coverage.  We elected to remove our contents coverage and drastically raise our deductible to get our costs down to a barely affordable amount.  What could we do?  We had a mortgage and had to carry insurance, but we could barely afford to live.

Two years after that, on August 29, 2012, the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac brought a beating to our small community and pushed fourteen feet of water into our beautiful home.  We will never underestimate the devastation and level of suffering those in our neighborhood and other affected areas endured.  Lives were lost, lives were saved, and lives were dramatically changed.  It was Katrina all over again for some.  For our family, what we salvaged from both floors of our home fit into the bed of one pick-up truck.  What we lost was stuff.  That’s it, just stuff.   We had learned a valuable lesson in January of the same year, when our son was burned over the majority of his body in a tragic accident and nearly died.  But at the time of Hurricane Isaac, he was still recuperating safely in the burn unit at a Baton Rouge hospital, and my husband and youngest son and I were safely waiting out the storm at my mother’s home.  We had been through so much during the previous eight months of P.J.’s recovery (read more under P.J.’s Journey), that this seemed like small potatoes (at least after the initial shock wore off).  Some felt it would be the nail in the coffin for us, but we took it for what it was… another new beginning.

IMG_0548We were incredibly blessed that those who had “been there, done that” with Katrina were quick to offer advice on everything from how to argue your claim with the insurance companies to where to go to get family photos restored.  They were filled with empathy and caring.  As random people handed us household items, gift cards, and checks, some of them reminded us that we had been there for them following Katrina.  People from all over the country offered their support.  We couldn’t have had more or wanted less.  I likened our rental property to Joseph’s coat of many colors.  It was filled with mismatched furniture from multiple sources, but it was the nicest, most comfortable furniture you could imagine because it was donated with love.  The opportunity to finance another house at a low interest rate through the Small Business Association was a huge blessing, and by May 2013 we were the proud owners of another beautiful home, different from our Braithwaite home, but with it’s own certain benefits.

I will always pray for our friends who have been through Katrina, Isaac and other similar events.  My heart goes out to each and every one of you.  We each have a story of our own.  But while there are glimpses of sadness, there is hope for the future.  Katrina and Isaac may have taken our memorabilia, but we still have our memories. While our spirits were wounded, we are one in the spirit of the Lord and NOTHING can separate us from His love!  Revelation 21:5 reads, “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’”  All things are new.  God is true.  God is faithful.

Twenty Wishes: Wish #11

Crippled, handicapped, lame, mobility impaired… All of these labels, politically correct or not, describe me sufficiently over the past 4-1/2 weeks.  In fact, I might add:  stifled, restricted, imprisoned, exasperated, and frustrated beyond belief!  On October 5th, I had surgery to repair a ruptured tendon in my ankle.  Having had foot surgery in 1999 that turned out to be a piece of cake, I had great aspirations that this time would be just as easy.  NOT!  My recovery will be ten weeks plus and I’m not even halfway there.

The first few weeks were the worst since these were the days of the  “non-weight bearing” part of the process.  Think about that for just a few minutes.  Did you play hopscotch as a child?  Imagine 3 weeks of hopscotch where you’re allowed to sit and hold onto things, but not allowed to put your foot down on the ground the entire  time.  Blah!  Not to be overly graphic, but have you ever tried to go the bathroom with only one foot on the ground?  The hardest part is balancing long enough to unbutton, unzip, and pull your pants (and underwear) down!  And if you do hop around too much, the throbbing of the injured foot starts… like someone just took a hammer to your instep.  To add insult to injury, you get a bruised behind for sure when you try to sit (no PLOP is a better word) slowly and gingerly from a one-legged stance.

Two days before my surgery, I went to my pre-op appointment and part of that was meeting with a physical therapist to learn how to properly walk on crutches and a walker so that I could choose between the two which I thought would work best for me.  I chose crutches because I thought they would be easier to use in tight areas and would also give me the flexibility to go up and down steps if I needed to.  The therapist laughed at me when I commented as I demonstrated what I’d learned:  “I’m pretty good at this, huh?”  His response:  “Yeah, you’re pretty good at this when you’re not recovering from surgery, not in pain or heavily medicated, and not lugging the extra weight of a cast!”  Rude?  No… reality.   I’m so thankful for my good friend Nell Garrett who had a wheelchair and walker handy, because after two falls adding additional injuries to my already marred body, I couldn’t take it anymore.  And you know how they say “the bigger they are, the harder they fall?”  Something tells me this surgery would have been much easier if I’d lost 50 pounds before proceeding.  I’m sure my age doesn’t help, either.  I was twelve years younger for that first surgery in 1999.

So, after we got the new equipment from Nell, things got easier (at least for long distances).  If I was going to the doctor or to dinner or whatever, my husband, A.J., could help me get from the house to the car with the walker and then once we got where we were going, if (and only if) the place where we were going complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I could get wheeled around like the queen I’d like to think I am.

Interestingly enough, we found that most facilities do the bare minimum to squeak by the act’s standards.  For example, while visiting one office, we quickly learned that there were no handicapped parking spots, so we parked in a regular spot as close to the building as we could.  Once I was in the wheelchair, it took us a while to figure out where there was a wide enough opening between the cars that were parked facing the building so that we could get to the door.  Unfortunately, when we did find one, we realized it did not allow us access to the ramp (which was blocked by two cars parked very closely together).  So A.J. had to tilt the wheelchair back to get the front wheels up on the path and then lift from behind (at which time I’m sure he was wishing, too, that I’d have lost those 50 pounds prior to surgery).  Going in the building door… same problem.  There was a ledge.  It was only about an inch high, but it was enough that we couldn’t just wheel over it.  The elevator was another challenge.  Wheeling straight in didn’t allow room for the doors to close, but the opening was so narrow we couldn’t seem to turn on the right angle to fit sideways.  Lift and turn.  Poor A.J. working those biceps.

Since getting my hard cast removed and replaced with a fracture boot (which is removable at night and when I want to take a bath – hallelujah), I am a little more mobile, but I still have to limit the weight I put on my foot and use crutches to compensate.  Again, crutches allow for a little more freedom, but have you ever tried them?  Add to that… have you ever tried using crutches to walk while carrying a purse on your shoulder?  Or a purse on one shoulder and a laptop bag on the other?  I find myself relying on others for things I didn’t give a second thought to before.   For example, when I went back to work this week, I discovered that I could prepare my own coffee, but I couldn’t carry it back to my work area while on crutches, so I found myself asking  for help for the simplest things.

And I thank God for A.J., I really do.  He’s been amazing.  I have introduced him to everyone as my “personal assistant” for the past month.  If anyone gets it, A.J. does after observing firsthand the struggles I have had (and he has shared) for the past weeks.  But even he has difficulty sometimes understanding the depth of my frustrations.   For example, he forgets sometimes that I can’t just hop up and switch off the bedroom light that he left on when he came in to say goodnight.  It’s not intentional.  He is in the same situation as me… learning to live with a disability that wasn’t there originally.  I’m looking so forward to five weeks from now when (if all goes as planned) I can walk without a cast of any kind.  Tinkling will be so much easier!

But seriously!  How do people who are handicapped for life (sorry… can’t think of a better way to say that) deal with the limits imposed on them?  How many of them have a “personal assistant” to help them get through the day?  How does a person with a wheelchair open a door on their own?  Or get over that ledge at the entrance to a building?  Or turn their wheelchair in the elevator so that it fits right and the doors can close?

My 11th wish is for EVERYONE to be compassionate and accommodating to those who suffer from disabilities.  Having empathy is to share another person’s feelings.  I can tell you today that I truly have empathy for anyone who is stuck in a wheelchair, limping along for one reason or another, or is suffering from any type of physical impairment.  The challenges are great and human beings are not always kind.  You’d be surprised at how many people walked past us and kept going as A.J. tried to hold the door open and lift my wheelchair at the same time.  To the few who stopped to help, I pray a special blessing on them.  To my family, friends, and coworkers who have done everything they can to make my period of impairment more tolerable and manageable, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I encourage you all to help my wish come true.

If you would like to read about my other wishes, please select “20 Wishes” from the categories list at the right.  Happy reading!

Twenty wishes…

I’ve never had much time for recreational reading and so when my mom suggested that I listen to books on tape (or CD) while driving, I jumped on it.  When our small group at church was reading “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren, I listened to it in the car on my way to and from work.  When I was working in Baton Rouge, I listened to the entire New Testament of the Bible on CD.  Recently, I have been listening to some fictional novels that my mom has passed on to me.  In the past, I always felt guilty if I listened to fiction because I felt I would be making better use of my time if I focused on books that encouraged self-improvement and growth, but truthfully, sometimes I just want to be entertained.  Surprisingly, I have found that even some of these fictional stories have helped to shape my life and my decisions.  “Twenty Wishes” by Debbie Macomber was one of those such books.  It’s the story of a group of women of various ages who decide they will each come up with a list of twenty wishes — things they would like to do in their lifetime, sort of like a bucket list.  There are no real guidelines the women must follow, but the things they put on their lists are obviously achievable.  Some are as simple as dancing in the rain and some are as indepth as going to Paris with someone you love.  Some include small dreams like buying a pair of red cowboy boots, while others are huge… like becoming a mother.  The book takes you through the journey of these women as they each fulfill their twenty wishes.

Twenty Wishes” inspired me more than you can possibly imagine.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe it was the fact that I turned 50 last week, and so I’m feeling old and unaccomplished… or maybe it’s just that Debbie Macomber is simply a great writer who speaks to me in more ways than one.  Her stories are intense yet comforting and her happy endings bring me great joy.  In developing their twenty wishes, the characters in the book learn about themselves and experience a variety of emotions, sometimes surprised with the things they decide to include on their lists, while other times realizing that fulfilling even the simplest of them could trigger other events that are incredibly lifechanging.

I make no promises, but I have every intention to develop my own twenty wishes list very soon, and I may even share that list with you and blog about my own journey.  You’ll just have to wait and see.  : )  I have a feeling that a number of my wishes will have to do with the things that I am most passionate about, God, family, friends, and music, but I have no idea what they will be.  I can only hope that the story of my journey to fulfilling my wishes is as good as the book.

The secret to happiness…

If I told you I had discovered the secret to happiness, would you believe me?  Would you send me $18.95 plus shipping and handling to read my book and discover the truth?  It amazes me how many people are searching for the key to happiness and it is so abundantly available and at a really reduced rate!!  It’s FREE!

I’m sure many of you have heard the acronyms that are supposed to remind us of our dependence upon God.  You know the ones I am talking about:  FROG (Fully Rely On God), WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?), and PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens).  I made up one of my own:  SWAP (Stop Whining And Pray)!  It is based on the ever popular scripture Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 

A very wise person (I don’t remember who, but I’m guessing it was my mom since she’s pretty much the wisest person I know) once told me:  If you know something is wrong, fix it.  If you can’t fix it, then forget about it!   And the best way to forget about something that is bothering you, is to turn it over to God.  Let Him take care of it for you.  He can carry the burden.  He can carry you when you are too weak to stand.  And he can make you happy when you’re at your lowest point.  SWAP!!

My husband and I have a home church group that meets at our house every Saturday.  Our group is made up of a variety of people, each of us with our own share of worries and problems, each of us with our own gifts and talents.  I believe it is truly a “God” thing that we are together.  Yesterday, our gospel lesson was from Matthew 5:1-12 – The Beatitudes.  Having come to know each other so well by this point, we were able to laugh together when we realized that if the “poor in spirit” are blessed, we are filthy rich with blessings!

All too often, people dwell in misery.  I can remember getting dumped (more than once) by my boyfriend when I was a teenager, and I would dwell in the misery of it.  I would look at his picture while listening to “our song” and I’d cry like anything.  Everyone in my family tried to comfort me to no avail.  They just didn’t know what I needed.  Looking back on it now, I know that what I truly needed was for someone to whack me upside my head with a bible and say “SWAP!”

So here’s the deal… If you want to know the true secret of happiness, just send me $18.95 plus shipping and handling… NOT!  Just SWAP!  Stop whining (or worrying, as the case may be) and pray.  Surrender yourself to Christ.  He is your Creator, your Lord, your Daddy.  Turn your problems over to Him and let them go.  While they may not disappear overnight, you will begin to look at them in an entirely different light.  Your outlook will change.  Wake up tomorrow and decide that you WILL be happy.  If that doesn’t work for you, give me a call and I’ll come over and whack you upside your head with a bible.  (Just kidding!)

I’m Thankful

Many years ago, my family and I attended a concert at our church.  The singer was Paul Hill, an old friend of my pastor’s who was visiting from California.  Paul was responsible for collaborating on many wellknown songs, but I think his greatest gift was for entertaining children.  He knew exactly what to do to make them smile and laugh and take joy in the Lord.

Of Paul’s most memorable songs was one that he composed with the help of some of the students where he was teaching.  He had all of the kids list what they were thankful for and then he put all those things together in the song.  One of our favorite lines from the song was “For nice clean clothes and boogers in your nose, I’m thankful, I’m thankful.”  The kids at our church laughed hysterically when Paul got to that line.  Over the years, he updated the song to include current things to be thankful for, like “For the Easter Bunny, Santa, and Hannah Montana, I’m thankful, I’m thankful.”

Paul passed away in 2009 and will be greatly missed.  I can only imagine that he’s up in heaven entertaining the angels.  As for us, his music will remain in our hearts forever.  We can learn a lesson from Paul and the children who helped him write that “I’m Thankful” song, and that is that we should give thanks for everything.  We so take for granted everything that God gives us.

Verses 4 and 5 of 1 Timothy, chapter 4 are:  “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”

So what will you be thankful for tomorrow?  How about everything?  Yes, even the boogers in your nose.

Sunday Sunday

Today is Sunday.  For years, Sunday has been my favorite day of the week.  When I was a little girl, Sunday was the one day of the week we ate fast food!  I looked forward to my Burger King french fries so much that sometimes it was difficult to pay attention in Sunday School.  Sad, right?  Although food was a great source of enjoyment to me at the age of 10, and still is today at the age of… (well, you can read the other pages of my blog and do the math), those french fries were not my only pleasure on Sunday.

When I was real small, my mom’s side of the family always gathered at my grandmother’s house on Sunday afternoon.  I loved seeing and playing with my cousins.  We had enough in common that our time together was usually lots of fun.

The other highlight of my day was always church.  I loved church.  I loved listening to the choir, I loved singing along on the hymns, and I loved the feeling that I had when I walked out of the doors of Mt. Calvary Lutheran every Sunday.   I was spiritually restored and didn’t even understand that at the time.

Today, Sunday is still one of my favorite days of the week.  Some of the joy has spilled over onto Saturday (an additional favorite) now that we worship a day earlier than we used to, but on Sunday, I get to see my family.  Every week, we gather at my mom’s and go out to lunch together.  It’s wonderful to see my Mom and my brothers and my sister and her family.  Sometimes my nephew joins us with his family and we have a houseful of children and fun.

I hope that as time passes our Sunday traditions never change.  I look forward to spending special time with the Lord and time with my family every weekend for many years to come.