In Honor of Beautiful Livia, My Former Son: One Mom’s Perspective on Gender Dysphoria

For as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted was to be a mom and I had always wanted a girl. When I got married in 1983, I became a bonus mom to a girl and a boy.  I love them dearly and raised them on weekends for the first 9 plus years of my marriage. I dolled my stepdaughter up as much as she would let me (she teases me about that to this day). After many failed fertility treatments, I just wanted a baby… the sex did not matter any longer. I was simply thankful for a successful adoption… a boy in 1992. Seven years later, we adopted another boy. I spent 28 years being a boy mom.

In 2018, our oldest son passed away after a long battle with drug addiction. I was so very heartbroken. The only thing more painful for me than being childless is the experience of loving a child and losing them. I feel as if my life will never be the same. All the hopes and dreams I had for PJ are gone, taken away in the blink of an eye. I carry so much guilt about what I could have done differently with PJ. One day I will forgive myself, I am sure.

Not long after PJ died, our youngest son, Joshua, shared some news with us. (Oh… that feeling when your child finds you both in the same room and says with tears in his eyes “I need to tell you something.”) The last conversation that started that way went like this: “I don’t think I believe in God anymore.” He was 16 at the time. After we discussed the whats, whys, and hows, my husband said “We love you very much and we are not angry or upset.”

Confession: I wasn’t the coolest cucumber. My response went more like this: “Well, I am not angry, but I am upset. You may not believe in Him, but He believes in you. I love you and so does Jesus.”

This time, the conversation wasn’t about religion. He was 19 by then and the news was even more life altering… “I have decided I want to be a girl.” After some discussion about the whats, whys, hows, etc., he shared how he had been feeling for many years and promised that he was going to go through counseling before taking any type of hormones. My husband was cool. He said “We love you and we want you to be happy.”

Confession: I didn’t handle it as well as I should have. As much of a huge supporter as I am of LGBTQIA+ rights, it’s different when it is your own child… especially since I had already lost a son and I felt like I was losing another one. I didn’t want him to change… at all. What if his personality was different and I missed the big mess of a boy that he had always been! I cried. I cried hard. I cried hard and I was honest about my feelings. I asked if it was just some identity crisis he was experiencing and if he was being influenced by all his friends who were doing the same thing… was it a fad? I told him I was worried about him introducing hormones into his body and how that would affect his health. I told him about my fears that he would change on the inside as well and I wouldn’t know him anymore. He told me he chose his friends because they were like him. He didn’t change himself to be like them. He reassured me and told me everything would be okay. He would still be the same person.

The next day, I was driving and praying and crying some more. “Lord, why can’t life just be easy for a change?!?! I just want to be happy.”

“So does he!” is what I heard God say back to me. “So does he!” I wish I could say that was enough to settle things in my soul. I did text Josh right away and tell him I wanted him to be happy and I would support him however I could, but I also encouraged him to be certain of his decision before moving forward. I carry so much guilt that I didn’t immediately support him in the decision. One day I will forgive myself, I am sure.

Almost a year later she began taking hormones and we began using female pronouns and calling her by a new name… “Livia.” It’s been an adjustment, but it gets easier every day. One of my greatest fears was telling my family… we are somewhat conservative Christians. But it was a non issue. They couldn’t have been more supportive!

Last month I joined a group for parents of transgender children. It felt so good to hear other moms talking about their experiences and realizing that my reaction wasn’t as horrible as I had previously thought. A transgender woman on the call told me “You did good by being honest with your child.” She acknowledged my fear of losing my child as she transitioned and said there is a mourning period for the parents, especially the moms, that not enough people talk about.

I told her about my other fear… that my child would be ridiculed or hurt by ignorant, transphobic people. I said “This is the main reason I am afraid to tell everyone.” Her response? “That is the main reason why you should tell everyone. The more people like you, Christian parents who accept and support the transgender community, speak up, the more normalized transgenderism will become.”

Remember my fear that my child would change? She did change. She became a more confident and sociable human. My mom and I helped Livia build a new wardrobe of cute girl clothes and I’ve been training her on how to apply makeup and style her hair. She’s still my same beautiful child, but I’m a girl mom now.

Three Things Families of Addicts Want You To Know…

Our son died in 2018. He would have been 28 years old this month, but had struggled with addiction for more than half of his precious life. He wasn’t the only one who struggled. We all did. He may have been the addict, but the journey belonged to us all… P.J., myself, my husband, our youngest son. Some of my readers know that both our children were adopted. We chose to be their parents. You might ask whether knowing what we know now… knowing what turmoil his addiction would bring to our lives… if given the opportunity to make that choice again, would we still choose him? You bet we would and I would imagine that many parents of addicts would answer the same way.  Here are three things we want you to know about our son and we think every family would want you to know about their loved one who is struggling with addiction:


We love our addict… Just because our son or daughter is an addict, it doesn’t mean we love them less. They are still the same baby that giggled when we made funny faces at them, the same kid that got excited over over Christmas presents, and the same teenager whose heart was broken when his grandpa died suddenly. We love our addict as much on the days that they’re broken and/or unconscious as we do on the days they seem perfectly normal, so comments about using tough love and excluding them from our lives (which is not love at all) are not welcomed or warranted.  And when we tell you positive things about our addict, we want you to be happy for us. We cherish the good moments with them as much as we do those with our children who are not addicts. Don’t rain on our parade by rolling your eyes or reminding us of their addiction every time we mention their name.


Holidays are hard… The reason many addicts are addicts is because they’re self-medicating because of other problems such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. Like other people who suffer from these disorders, they don’t handle holidays and special occasions well.  And holidays are especially hard on the addict’s parents because at a time when we gather with extended family, the addict is not often welcomed because of the drama they bring with them, so sadly we are forced to choose between our addict and others. We understand your need to exclude them. Please understand our sadness as a result.


Losing them is painful… In the event our addict dies, it doesn’t hurt any less. We grieve as much as any parent who has lost a child. While there may be moments of relief knowing our son or daughter is no longer in pain and we don’t have to worry anymore, the grief is debilitating at times. Never for one minute think we are better off without them and don’t miss them.


The bottom line is that for us, the addict and the person are separate. The addiction does not define our child any more than any other affliction defines any other person. The parent and child relationship still exists regardless of the struggle.


Yes! We would choose him again. Every… single… time.

How posting my graduation photo changed my life…

Yesterday I followed the example of many others on social media and shared my high school graduation picture. As it was uploading I thought to myself “Do you really want to share this horrible photo?” I even wrote in my post that I’ve gotten better with age. In my mind, I was ugly. My skin was too white, my nose was too big, there was a gap in my front teeth. In my mind, I didn’t become even remotely (and I do mean remotely) attractive until a few years ago when I learned how to better apply my makeup and got a really great haircut and color.  A few years ago was when I finally started to become comfortable in my own skin.  I owe a lot of that to Toastmasters where I gradually overcame issues with self-confidence.

So back to my post… I was SHOCKED when people started writing things like “Gorgeous!” and “Beautiful.”  At first I thought they were just being kind, but then it continued and I thought… “Maybe they are actually sincere! Are they blind? Do they not see what I see when I look at that picture? A wimpy, awkward, nerdy girl?” My parents had always told me I was beautiful, but you know how biased parents can be!  I shared my thoughts with my husband, A.J. who had dated and then married that girl (I was only 20 when we met).  His mouth dropped open.  “Oh my goodness,” he said. “Do you not see what we see in that picture?” He, too, however, confessed that he had not remembered my being “so gorgeous” (his word, not mine).  I stared at him and gave him one of my looks… you know… the one that says with my eyes “Are you freaking mad?”

I was truly baffled by the whole thing. I kept staring at my picture from 1979 wondering what I was missing.  I thought about my photo from 2019 when I graduated with my Masters degree and remembered how much I actually felt pretty in that picture. For the first time in my life, I really felt pretty (at least for my age).  I pulled that picture up on my computer screen and compared it to the one 40 years prior. Suddenly, I had a revelation! I was the same person in both photos… well, a little less worn for the wear in one versus the other… but truly the same person.  I could see in my young photo the same eagerness to tackle the world and the same heart for God that I have now.

What’s really the difference between that 18 year old then and the 58 year old who finished grad school in December? Perhaps it’s that I’ve had 40 years to overcome  the comments made by mean girls (and boys) in my school and sadly even in my church youth group, or maybe I’m finally self-confident enough that I no longer crave the approval of others. I spent years changing my clothing style and my hair color with no satisfaction and now I understand why (golly… it only took me 59 years to get there).  Don’t get me wrong! I still want everyone to love me, but it’s more important that they “love me for me, not for what I have done or what I will become,” just as God loves me.  (That’s a reference to a beautiful song by Christian artist, J.J. Heller.)

This whole thing makes me wonder if those mean girls (and boys) knew back then how much damage they were doing.  Nevertheless, I don’t know that I would change a thing.  Perhaps those meanspirited jabs are what has given me the empathy that I feel for so many other people who never seem to feel they are enough, and maybe my lack of self-confidence has kept me grounded enough that I was never tempted to feel like I was better than anyone else.  Whatever the case, this simple process has changed my life for the better and given me a new sense of self that I didn’t have previously. I hope my sharing this helps some of you realize this may be your story as well! Take comfort in knowing that God created you to be you and that’s just perfect.

Mother’s Day with one less child…

It hit me last Sunday that Mother’s Day was coming and this would be my first with one less child.  My son, P.J., died on September 19, 2018 at the age of 26.  If I’d talked to someone like me a year ago I’d have said “It’s just another day.  Don’t let it bring you down.”  Mother’s Day aside, if I’d talked to someone like me a year ago, I’d have said “Don’t dwell in your grief.  Focus on happy memories and press on.”  I would’ve meant well, but my words would have come from an ignorant heart.

Since my husband was battling cancer at the time of my son’s death, I had a distraction.  So the first few holidays came and went with only a few tears shed here and there.  But then my husband got the “all clear” in late February.  He is cancer free!  Praise God!  At the moment we got that news, it was as if I had awaken from a six month coma.  Unfortunately, it was also as if someone had said to me “And by the way, while you were in that coma, your child died.” And then it happened. I started the true grieving process.

These last few months I have been a mess, and since I’m the one known for my positivity and strength, I feel like a failure.  I’ve been functioning in a fog, trying to keep everyone else from worrying about me but also barely being able to get the minimum things done.  Recently a friend called me “super woman.”  But grief is my kryptonite… making it more difficult to stand. I feel weak, but grief is not the opposite of strength, just as fear is not the opposite of courage.  Courage is pushing through even though you’re terrified at times.  Strength is moving forward even though you are grieving a terrible loss.

It’s just past midnight as I write this.  It’s Mother’s Day. I haven’t turned into a pumpkin and I am not any sadder than I was yesterday.  Today will be different.  It will be another first without P.J., but another day to be thankful that the joy of the Lord is my strength.

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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The trouble with the world today…

There’s an old Mandy Patinkin song that starts something like this: “The trouble with the world today, it seems to me, is coffee in a cardboard cup.” I am thinking that nothing about coffee could ever be bad, right?!?! But I had an aha moment just now (I’m a little slow, so it took me a while to get there). I have decided that the trouble with the world today is not coffee in a cardboard cup. The trouble with the world today is that being right has become more important than being kind.

Arguing has become more important than caring. Condemning has become more important than understanding. Principles have become more important than people.

Some are willing to engage in viscous arguments over statues… statues that no one had mentioned or cared about for years, but suddenly they’re extremely offensive and suddenly they’re extremely important to our history. For the record, I care about people, not statues, and I’m willing to listen, but only if the argument is stated peacefully and by open-minded people willing to consider both sides.

The trouble with the world today is that some people are ready to pounce. Sometimes they just want to get their 15 seconds of fame. Sometimes they are so angry about something else, they just react without thinking and then they’re too stubborn to back down. Recently, feminists are outraged because a football player expressed that he was surprised about a female reporter knowing so much about the game. (He wasn’t rude or ugly, he was reacting in the moment with an honest response. I’d imagine it is very unusual to hear females ask such technical questions.) Females don’t play in the NFL, so it’s not extraordinary to expect that many don’t take interest in or understand the specifics, at least not on a deeper, more technical level. I suspect if that reporter’s boyfriend or brother had made the same comment that Cam Newton made, she’d have punched them in the arm and laughed it off, maybe even taking it as a compliment, feeling pride that she’d impressed them with her knowledge… the way I did twenty years ago when my husband told me I drove a stick surprisingly well for a girl. As much as I believe in equal rights for all sexes, men and women are different! It’s a fact! It doesn’t mean one sex is better than the other. We need to stop turning every innocent comment into an opportunity to protest.

The trouble with the world today is that many people are hypersensitive. They are so hell bent on being treated as equals that they are not treating others as equals. They keep thinking they have to push everyone else down in order to raise themselves up! It’s time to stop being so SENSITIVE, but it’s also time to stop being so INSENSITIVE.

Let’s address the situation of bad people, not bad races, religions, sexes, etc. We need to stop looking at people as classes or groups. There are good and bad people of every color, race, creed, sex and sexual preference!!! There are good and bad teachers, police officers, politicians, and used car salesmen.

The trouble with the world today, is a lack of acceptance. It’s a lack of religious values or what stems from religious values. It’s a lack of love. In the words of Dionne Warwick, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing, that there’s just to little of…”  Yep, the world needs more love… and more coffee.

The little things add up…

In “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes,” Arthur Conan Doyle wrote: “It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”  I, too, believe that the little things are the most important.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the expression “Go big or go home.”  Often times people have the mindset that if they can’t do something big, they shouldn’t do anything at all!  But the truth is, the little things add up!

Whether you’re trying to build relationships, reach your goals, or serve others, those little things add up!

Let’s look at relationships…  Think about the best relationship you have in your life today.  It might be with a spouse or parent, a child or simply a BFF.  Now think about the interactions or conversations you have with those people the majority of the time.  Do you primarily talk about super serious things?  Or do you make small talk?  If you’re like me, it’s probably mostly small talk!  I have a text group on my phone that consists of my mom, brothers, and sister.  Our text strings are mostly frivolous… My brother may write to us about something funny that happened at work, or my sister may send a picture of one of her daughters in a new dress.  These conversations, while seemingly unimportant, keep us continually engaged with one another all week long and they strengthen our relationships.  People often under estimate the power of small talk.  Small talk is what keeps the lines of communication open and flowing.  With your children, if you start making small talk with them from a young age, by the time they’re teenagers, it will feel like a natural process for them to chat with you about their day, their friends, their life, and they’re much more likely to share the problems they’re experiencing.

Another way to look at this with relationships is that the little things you do for each other or the little ways you say “I love you” (by opening a door for your loved one, by writing little love notes, by texting them in the middle of the day to say “I’m thinking of you!”) are what make for a stronger relationship.  Why?  Because the little things add up!

The small things are also important when we’re trying to reach our goals.  Often times we focus too much on BIG goals and then we get overwhelmed and we give up.  This is especially true of weight loss goals.  If, when I went to see my cardiologist, he said “Tina, you must lose 50 pounds!” I might say response “What?!?!?!  Are you crazy!!!!!  That’s impossible!”  But if I set a goal for myself to lose one pound per week, that’s a pretty reasonable goal, and in less than a year that 50 pounds would be gone.  For me, it was that way for college.  I dropped out when I was 20 years old because I was overwhelmed with trying to go to school and work full time.  EVENTUALLY, I went back and started taking one class per semester.  It took me until I was 36 years old to graduate, but guess what!!  My degree says the same exact thing as the people who graduated with me but had started their college careers much later!  Even though it took me longer to get there, we accomplished the same goal.  Why?  Because the little things add up!

When you’re trying to help others – for example, giving to charities, give what you can… no matter how little.  ANYTHING you can do to help is appreciated.  If a million of us each donated $1 to the Make-A-Wish foundation, they’d be a million dollars closer to their goals.  If a friend needs someone to drive her child to school during the six weeks she’s recovering from surgery – we might say “There’s no way I can commit to SIX weeks of chauffeuring that rugrat!”  But if five of her friends help out ONE DAY per week, the job is covered.  Why?  Because the little things add up!

Friends, I urge you today to consider focusing more on the little things in your relationships, in your work toward your personal goals, and in your support of others.  You will accomplish more than you could ever imagine!  Why?  Because the little things add up!!

Restraint anyone?

Ready… Set… Go!

Do you feel like you never get across the finish line with your goals?  Maybe you’re not even able to get to the starting line!  What’s holding you back?  Are you waiting until you “feel” ready?  Wait no more!  Noted Psychologist, Jerome Bruner, once said “You’re more likely to act yourself into a feeling than to feel yourself into an action!” It will never “feel” like the right time… you just have to start!

I’m a goal-oriented person, but I still have trouble getting started on occasion.  Here are some things I’ve discovered along life’s journey that have helped me to stay motivated:

  1. Whether you begin or not, time will pass all the same.  When I was 31, a coworker approached me about returning to school.  Our company was encouraging all employees to take advantage of the tuition reimbursement program.  My friend and I had taken classes here and there and each had the equivalent of an associates degree, and so we’d be able to earn our bachelors degrees in two years.  “Two years!” I thought.  “There’s no way I can invest two years into night school!”  I didn’t seize the opportunity because I had a new baby at home.  I had longed for many years to become a mother and I wasn’t letting anything get in the way of my enjoying my son’s early years.  Two years later, my friend was graduating with her bachelor’s degree and I thought “Has it really been two years already?  Wow that went by fast!!”  Those two years had passed for both of us, but my friend had accomplished so much more than I had in the same time.  I regretfully realized that I could have easily managed the work and still have plenty of time for my child.  I immediately enrolled and had my degree two years later.  Time will pass all the same.  Don’t let time be a factor in preventing you from starting.
  2. It gets easier as you go.  In June 2015, my cardiologist became concerned about my cholesterol and wanted me to start taking yet another prescription.  I knew the only way I could avoid this was to lose weight and get my levels in check, so I acted that day (no time to wait for a feeling)!  I immediately replaced my diet sodas with water and began eating healthier, smaller portions.  Those changes were very difficult at first.  Drinking water with meals was a huge challenge!  Even harder was giving up fried foods.  The first few days were so tough, but each day got better and within a couple of weeks I had adjusted to my new diet.  I was so proud of the fact that I didn’t need drugs or special potions, I simply ate healthier!  After 15 months I am down over 50 pounds, and while I still have 30 more to go, I am happy to report that my cardiologist is thrilled with my progress and I haven’t had to add any medications to my list!
  3. It may take a while before you see your progress.  Sometimes others will notice your progress more than you do.  Sometimes, no one will notice.  Results can’t be your focus.  Progress is what counts… any amount of it.  Weight comes off slowly and so with my diet, I had to avoid weighing myself daily.  I restricted myself to once per week on the scale and I tracked my progress on a chart.  I knew that as long as I stuck with the process, I would see improvement gradually, not overnight.  It was the same for my schooling.  I knew what classes I had to take and checking them off my list as I completed each one felt amazing!  It inspired me to keep going!

What is it that you’ve been putting off?  Start working toward your goals today.  Act yourself into a feeling!  Franklin Roosevelt once said “To reach a port we must set sail – Sail, not tie at anchor – Sail, not drift.”  Start sailing now!  Ready… set… go!


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 ( 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,, 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.

The Season of Seasons and Senses

Black and orange, ghosts and goblins, and brightly lit jack-o-lanterns… Candy corn, candied apples, candy, candy, and more candy everywhere you look.

Not only is it the season that wreaks havoc on our diets, Halloween is the start of the season of seasons! It is like the first chapter in a book of seasons that takes us from October to April (or from witches on brooms to little yellow, melt-in-your-mouth, marshmallow chickens).

I get so excited about Halloween… not because of anything it represents, but more so because of what it introduces. It introduces us to the seasons of senses… Beginning with Halloween, our senses are almost on overload with everything we see, smell, hear, touch, and (my personal favorite) taste!

Each season touches each of the senses in a different way. For Halloween we see black cats, yellow moons, and orange jack-o-lanterns, and we see beautiful costumes on adorable children.  We smell pumpkin spice and we hear the laughter of the young and tiny voices yelling “Trick or treat! Smell my feet!”  We touch the guts of a pumpkin and sticky little hands that have been tasting chewy, chocolate chunks.

For Thanksgiving we see a cornucopia of color in oranges, browns, and greens. We smell the traditional turkey baking.  We hear the laughter of our families enjoying the Macy’s parade and bowl games on TV.  We touch the warm bread fresh from the oven, and we taste it all.  We taste the turkey, we taste the bread, and we taste the sweet potatoes.  We taste the cookies, we taste the fudge, and we taste the pumpkin pie.  (I told you “taste” was my favorite sense!)

I must admit, Christmas is my favorite time of year. It’s appropriate for me that it falls almost in the middle of this season of seasons and senses.  It’s like the mountain peak of holidays!  As Christmas approaches we see lights, tinsel, beautiful ornaments on the tree.  We smell evergreen and spruce, holly berries, and cinnamon.  We hear church bells, jingle bells and beautiful holiday carols.  We feel the softness of winter gloves and the crispness of stiff foil wrapping paper, and we taste… oh, we taste so many wonderful things that it’s hard for one to imagine.  There’s a reason that Weight Watchers offers free enrollment on January 2nd.

Right on the heels of Christmas, only a week behind, is New Year ’s Day. Upon the arrival of the new year we see the ball drop in Time Square, we smell freshly popped firecrackers, and we hear voices asking “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?”  We touch our lips to the lips of others at stroke of midnight, and we eat black-eyed peas and cabbage to bring good fortune in the days ahead.

At Valentines we see hearts and cupids, we smell red roses, and we hear lots of love songs on the radio. We touch fuzzy stuffed animals, elegant jewelry, and other gifts from our loved ones, and we taste Russell Stover’s and Whitman’s chocolates.

At Mardi Gras we see purple, green and gold decorations and people masquerading in costumes of all types. We smell the beer on tap and the diesel fuel from truck floats.  We hear crowds of people roaring almost in unison “Throw me something mister!” We touch beads and trinkets and toys tossed from the floats, and we taste Randazzo’s king cakes with cream cheese filling.

At Easter we see bonnets and dresses in beautiful pastel colors. We smell lilies lining the altar at church.  We hear the sounds of children yelling “I’ve got one” as they pick up and touch construction-paper eggs that have been hidden in the gardens.  We taste solid chocolate rabbits and jelly beans of all flavors.

October to April… Halloween to Easter… It’s the season of seasons and senses. Throughout the season of seasons, we see striking smiles, we smell fragrant flowers and food, we hear lots of laughter filled with love, we touch hands and hearts, and we taste delicious dishes and decadent desserts.

Friends, this is only the beginning. Welcome to the season of seasons and senses!

P.J.’s Journey: Good Dads Versus Great Dads

My emotions overwhelm me tonight as I write this post.  I am watching my husband go through one of the most difficult experiences a person faces, the loss of his mother, yet I see him continuing to care for his family and offer the same service he has continued to provide throughout P.J.’s journey (See P.J.’s Journey:  My Copilot).

To say A.J. is a good dad is like saying Mother Teresa was a nice lady.  A good father takes his kids out for pizza and tucks them in at night.  A great father, one like A.J., gets up three or four times in the middle of the night to cook for his son because he knows that weight gain is critical to wound care and it’s important to feed him when he’s hungry.  A good father helps his kids get dressed and encourages them to work hard at school.  A great father, one like A.J., changes sheets and pillowcases regularly because he knows infections can be deadly, and encourages his son to struggle through physical therapy, no matter how painful, because the end result will be worth it.  A good father pushes his child on a swing and holds his hand while he climbs stairs.  A great father, like A.J., pushes his son in his wheelchair and holds his hand while he is going through torturous treatments.

With my father and father-in-law both having gone home to be with the Lord, for the past few years, Father’s Day has been about helping my children to appreciate their dad.   I don’t know if they will ever be able to fully appreciate all he has done for them, but I can truly say that I do.

A.J., you are an amazing father… never doubt that for a moment.  I love you with all my heart.  Happy Father’s Day.


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P.J.’s Journey: An Anniversary to Celebrate

This past Friday, January 11th, marked one year since P.J.’s accident.  In some ways, that seems so long ago, and in others, it seems like just yesterday.  I am one who encourages others to forget anniversary dates unless they are of fond occasions, such as an engagement, wedding, lottery win (smile) or other happy moment.  I think remembering the date someone we loved died is pointless… what’s more important is remembering the date they were born, the date they were baptizied, the date they graduated from high school, etc.  Too often we dwell on the negative things that happen to us.  But because we wanted to continuously show P.J. how far he had come in “x” number of days, we kept looking at the calendar and counting back.  We had a positive purpose in mind, and I’m glad we did it, but the negative side of it all is that it made that date stick in our minds, and my friends, that is a date that I have often wanted to forget.

With the passing of one year, I was contacted by my Human Resources Department at work a few weeks ago and questioned about P.J.’s status.  The representative encouraged me to complete a request for an extension on my Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) coverage.  For those of you who are not familiar with that, larger companies are mandated to offer this type of protection to employees who are themselves ill or injured or have an immediate family member who needs long term care.  It allowed me to take off, without question or concern, up to twelve weeks (non-consecutively) during the past year while P.J. has been recovering.  When HR first contacted me, it forced me to dig through some of the original emails I’d sent in the hours/days just after the fire.  This was not a pleasant experience.  I found myself in tears as I was glancing over some of them.  It was a flashback of where I had been emotionally at that time, and that was not a good place to be.

I had a similar experience when I tried to write thank you cards after my dad’s funeral.  I offered to do this for my mom and family, and I very much regret that it never got done.  Every time I started writing, I found myself crying all over the cards and missing my dad more than ever.  I finally gave up.  So, if you’re one of the people who was owed a thank you card back then, my apologies and my belated thanks for your care and concern for our family.

My point is, that bringing yourself back to a place or a date that reminds you of a negative event is not a good thing, and you should do everything you can to avoid that!  It’s like the guy who said to the doctor “It hurts when I do this.”  The doctor’s reply?  “Then don’t do that!”  LOL.  All too often, a young girl has a tendency to cry herself to sleep listening to the song that reminds her of the boy who just broke her heart.  (Yes, I speak from experience!)  I say “DON’T!!!”  If it hurts when you do that, then don’t do that!

So what was my point?  Oh yeah… What I was trying to say is that with P.J., we were purposely remembering the date of his accident so we could point out to him his progress.  That turned out to be a very positive thing, because we have been able to show him pictures and videos of all of the early days and then intermittent ones thereafter.  Whenever he says “I’m not healing,” we have evidence to say “Oh yes you are!!”  Before and after pictures of his wounds show incredible progress.  We used the pictures of his face (which healed the best and fastest for several reasons) to comfort many family members of other victims who’d come to the burn unit.  Everyone who entered and left Baton Rouge General’s Burn Unit from January to September 2012 knew P.J.’s story and became a friend and supporter and we did our best to encourage and support them in return.  But while remembering the date was a good thing in a way, I did find myself becoming a bit emtional at times on Friday, and having my own little pity party about what a rough year it has been… not even counting the other difficulties we faced.

I’ve decided, however, that January 11, 2012 will be a date that we will celebrate and remember forever as a good one.  It is the date that God spared our child from what should have been a fatal accident.  It was the first day of a journey that has brought out the good in all of us as we’ve supported one another through the tough times, a journey that has made us closer to each other, and a journey that has given us such a workout that we are stronger than we could ever imagine.

P.J. is doing very well.  He is getting stronger every day and his wounds are progressing.  We are hoping that he will only need one additional surgery in the near term.  As we continue with P.J.’s Journey, I look forward to some new dates for celebration, like the day he walks with no assistance, the day of his wedding, and the day his first child is born.  As always, we thank you for the prayers that have kept us going and have helped to make each day a better one!


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With sincerest gratitude…

Our dear family members and friends (new and old), what a year this has been for the Guillot family!  As I was recovering from my October 2011 ankle surgery in early January, I remember saying to my physical therapist, “I can’t wait for life to get back to normal!”  I quickly learned that those days of swelling and pain were minor inconveniences compared to what was in store for us.  If you are reading this, I am sure you are aware of the circumstances that followed…  The fire that almost took P.J.’s life in January and the flooding of our family home by Hurricane Isaac in August.  Although we all often wish that we could turn back time and change the outcome of both those events, we can’t help but be thankful to God for His glory that has shone through in both tragedies. 

This letter is to thank you all for the love and support that you have shown us already and continue to pour on us each day.  During the first few weeks after P.J.’s accident, we were told to be prepared for the worst.  Your prayers and ours were heard and God woke him from his sleep and brought him back to us.  His days continue to include pain and suffering that most of us could never comprehend, but he is alive and fighting the battle courageously.  We thank you all for the prayers, calls, emails, Facebook posts, contributions to P.J.’s video, “Get Well” cards, and the hundreds of cards, letters, and gifts he received on his 20th birthday.  Your thoughtfulness has truly made a difference in our child’s life. 

After Isaac destroyed our home, we were reminded once again of the great support network that we have in all of you.  I do believe we have more clothes, sheets, and towels than we had before the storm!  Our rental home is filled with furniture and household items and appliances from countless sources.  I tell everyone that it has the value of Joseph’s coat of many colors.  As my mother always says, “We couldn’t have more or want less.” 

The friends and volunteers (from four different organizations so far) who have come to help with the emptying, cleaning, and gutting of our home, have shown us what selfless giving is all about.  We are inspired by their sacrifices and hope to “pay it forward” someday. 

Many of you have shared our story with your friends who have shared it with their friends and so on… (just like the hair commercial)!  We need your help now in sharing our thanks with these individuals, who in some cases remain anonymous to us.  We apologize that we were not able to send individual thank you cards to each one of you, but we ask your help in passing this message along to everyone.  Please feel free to email it, share it on Facebook, or photocopy and distribute it.  There is no way to adequately portray what we feel.

This is just a small attempt to let everyone know the enormous depth of our gratitude.  We are humbled, overwhelmed, and forever thankful for the generous gifts of all kinds that have been provided.  May God bless each of you twenty fold.  We love you.  We truly do.

Tina Guillot
(On behalf of A.J., Tina, P.J., Joshua, and Molly the Schnauzer)

P.J.’s Journey: Glimpses of Past, Present, and Future

I rarely have time for TV these days, but the other night, I caught part of the movie “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner.  In this movie, just like in all of the versions of “A Christmas Carol,” the main character gets to see glimpses of past, present, and future.  Sometimes, these are scenes that the person was not actually a part of, so it answers questions for them about why things turned out the way they did and gives them insight into how their actions affect other people.

Today P.J. was readmitted to the hospital.  Over the past few weeks, we have watched him make a rapid decline, and have been powerless to help him.  I was so sad last night because I knew what today might bring.  At the same time, I was so tired… tired from the physical strain of busy schedules, numerous appointments, nights with interrupted sleep and from the emotional strain of being a parent not able to help my child, and the guilt of feeling like surely we must not be doing something right.

Sometimes I wonder if I had the opportunity to glimpse past, present, or future, what would I see and how would it make me feel?  Would I have some anwers about what things had happened to take us to where we are today?  Would it matter?  Would it change anything?

In the movies, Scrooge and Connor Mead (McConaughey’s character) both change into better people overnight.  McConaughey converts from a womanizing dog who believes that “love is magic comfort food for the weak and uneducated” to declaring his love for Jenny (Garner’s character) and coming to a new realization:  “Someone once told me that the power in all relationships lies with whoever cares less, and he was right. But power isn’t happiness, and I think that maybe happiness comes from caring more about people rather than less.”  Can I get an “Amen?”

Who else can you care for more than your children?  So where is the happiness in that caring when you can’t give them what they need?  You can’t make them eat when they are starving themselves to death, you can’t make them heal when their bodies are just worn out.  What a frustrating situation for a control freak like me to have no control.

As synical as the above may sound, I really do think that happiness comes more from caring more about people than less.  What would that glimpse into the future tell me about P.J.’s journey?  Would happiness come from that?  I have to trust in God that it would and believe Him for a miracle for my boy.  Prayers are always appreciated as we continue to fight this battle with P.J.  May God bless us, everyone!


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P.J.’s Journey: The Touching Story

I was recently at a Toastmasters meeting where one of the speakers presented an advanced project called “The Touching Story.”   The objective of the speech was to tell a story that would move the audience in some way.  He very much accomplished that objective and had me crying before the timer hit the 5 minute mark.   Afterward, I was thinking how P.J.’s journey will someday make for a very touching story, but it’s too fresh right now… too hard to talk about in front of a large audience.  Now there are two meanings of the word “touching,” though.   It could refer to something that elicits strong feelings or emotions from someone, or it could refer to the physical act of putting your hands on someone.

For five months, we were not really able to touch P.J., at least not without gloves on, and then we had to be very gentle, of course.  It’s just been the last week or so that we’ve not been restricted to the gloves, but they’re still “recommended.”  Think about that for a minute…. that means no hugs, no kisses, no touching at all.  It’s sort of ironic in a way, because many people believe that human touch has great healing power.  Lack of touch can actually lead to “Failure to Thrive,” a potentially fatal syndrome, in newborns.

When I was emailing back and forth with a friend the other day, she closed with “Hug P.J. for me!”  I wrote back and said, “Well, hugs aren’t possible at the moment, but I’ll bank one for you.  After all, when I get word from him that he’s strong enough to handle it, I’m going to hug the lights out of him!”   Okay, not really.  But I can’t wait to make up for lost time with P.J.  I am sure I’ll have to stand in line behind his girlfriend, but that is okay.  I can wait my turn.  Besides, in the words of the iconic resident of the Hundred Acre Wood, Winnie the Pooh, “There’s no such thing as too much hug.”

At some point down the road, I look forward to telling the touching story of P.J.’s full recovery, but for now, I’ll continue blogging when I am able.  I thank you for your comments on my posts, your prayers, and your support as we continue on P.J.’s journey.


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P.J.’s Journey: Some Presence for P.J.

For our 25th wedding anniversary celebration in 2008, my husband and I included a note on the invitation that read “Your presence is the only gift we desire.”  We didn’t want “stuff.”  We wanted our friends to just enjoy the party and spend time with us.  We wanted their presence… not their presents.  Ever since he was very little, P.J. has loved the gift of our presence.  He’s never, ever been a loner.  If he’s watching a movie, he wants someone to watch it with him.  If he’s going for a walk or a run, he wants someone to tag along.  He doesn’t like being alone.

This journey has been a big challenge for him as he not only struggles to deal with the pain and suffering, but the time he has to spend alone.  Now that he’s back in the burn unit, we don’t have the freedom to stay in the room with him twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week as we did when he was in the therapy ward or for the short time when he came home for those ten days last month.  He is handling it well, but he anxiously awaits our arrival and becomes nervous when we don’t get there right at the start of visiting hours.  It’s not that he wants to talk to us or wants us to talk to him.  In fact, he often sleeps the majority of the time we are here.  But the point is, we are here.  We are sitting in the room with him, available if he needs us for anything from talking to wiping his nose.  Just knowing we are here is a great comfort to him.

In those rare moments when we wonder if our presence is really of any value, we remind ourselves of the extent of his condition, not only physically, but emotionally as well.  It is then that we regret the times when we aren’t able to be here with him, and we are thankful that in those moments, P.J. has the greatest gift of all — the presence of his Heavenly Father.   Just knowing He is with our boy is a great comfort to us.

Tomorrow is June 11th.  Five months have passed since that dreadful night when we were awakened by the delivery of horrifying news that our lives would never be the same.  But every day, regardless of whether we take a step forward or a step back, we are one day closer to P.J.’s full recovery, and every day, is one day that we are blessed with the gift of P.J.’s presence.


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