P.J.’s Journey: The Essentials

All along, in addition to dealing with the issue of P.J.’s survival and recovery, we’ve struggled with some other things affiliated with the accident, like the negative things that were reported in the news.  I remember Day 2 when we learned of  how the media were reporting the specifics of the accident.  I cried more hysterically at the point than I had the day before when I’d learned the extent of P.J.’s injuries.  It wasn’t that I was more worried about “what people thought” than I was my own child.  It was that I felt horrible that my baby was lying in a hospital bed with life-threatening injuries and people were talking about him in a bad way.  The negative reports, for the most part, have been cleared up.  Witnesses have come forward to correct false statements that were made and we’re hoping that’s all behind us.  Unfortunately, the newspapers don’t go back and print a follow-up saying “By the way, that statement was later corrected,” or “There was a misunderstanding.”  It surprises me, however, every time I talk to someone who shares another version of the rumors that were being spread, most of which do not even slightly resemble the truth or the news reports in any way.  I think to myself, “Where do people come up with this stuff?!?!?!”  I get angry and upset and I want to publish a website devoted solely to defending my boy’s honor and integrity.  And then I realize… it’s not essential.

What is essential is that the people who know and love P.J. know his heart and they know what a great kid he is deep down.  They’ve seen his struggles not just over the past 4-1/2 months but over the past 7 years and have prayed for him every step of the way.  They’ve refrained from judging and they’ve admitted their own mistakes in an effort to let P.J. know that we all need help once in a while.

P.J. came home from the hospital on May 10th and eleven days later (this past Monday), he was readmitted with a staph infection.   We’re thanking God that his body is already responding to the antibiotics.  That’s essential.  Prayers are being answered.  That’s essential.  P.J. has survived a tragedy that would have killed most people.  That’s essential.

A.J. and I were told early on that this would be a long journey, but I guess we thought the exhaustion and the stress would’ve been gone by now and things would have settled down for us, but they haven’t.  It is still very hard.  But we are so thankful to our Father in heaven for providing much needed joy and strength at the times we need it most.  It’s amazing how we continue to see God’s plan unfolding in P.J.’s life and in all our lives.  God is constant and faithful.  His mercy endures forever.  That’s essential.


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P.J.’s Journey: Incommunicado!

In 28 years of marriage, the only time my wonderful husband, A.J., and I ever had any problems was when we stopped communicating.  We were fortunate that we realized the problem and corrected it eventually, and we’ve managed to have many more happy years together.  The days since early February when we “separated” and I returned to work and life at home leaving A.J. at the hospital with P.J. have been really testing our ability to keep the communication lines open.  One of the hardest things about coming home for me (besides leaving P.J.) was knowing I would not have access to the doctors, nurses, technicians, etc., like I had while I was there at the hospital.  I begged A.J. to call me and put me on speaker phone whenever he talked to anyone important about things, but it’s not always convenient for everyone involved as you can imagine.

When P.J. was still in intensive care, it was easy for A.J. to steal opportunities to call me because he could only see P.J. for twenty minutes every four hours and he spent the rest of the time in the waiting room, but once he got moved to a regular room in the burn unit, visiting hours extended from noon to 8:00 p.m.  So then we talked only in the early morning and late evening.  Now, A.J.’s staying in the room with P.J. 24/7 and so there’s no convenient time for him to call me.  While P.J. is awake, A.J. gives him his full attention.  While he’s sleeping, A.J. doesn’t like to call because his talking on the phone might wake P.J. up.  Leaving the room is an option, but there’s not really a place to go to just sit and use the phone.  As a result, my technology-challened husband has become quite savvy at texting and instant messaging on Facebook.  Unfortunately, things get lost in the translation sometimes, so I’m having to learn to live with the fact that I don’t always know what’s going on.  I’m thankful for the weekends when I can get the scoop on everything (that A.J. remembers to tell me… unfortunately, he is stressed and exhausted and doesn’t always remember everything… I think I will bring him a notebook next time so he can start writing things down).

Communication is not just important in family settings.  The recent move for P.J. from the burn unit to the occupational therapy ward has been quite a challenge to say the least.  We’ve had to rely upon the nurses and doctors in both units to communicate about where he has been with his journey and where he’s going and what works and what doesn’t.  Poor A.J. gets caught in the middle and has to constantly correct their assumptions and insist that they talk to each other.  While there are many things this hospital has done well and that have made us happy P.J. is there, this issue with communication has been a real challenge, and we plan to follow up about everything that has happened with the Patient Care Quality Management Department.

If you’re as old as dirt like me, you may remember the Jimmy Buffet song, “Incommunicado.”  The chorus goes:

But now I’m incommunicado
Drivin’ by myself down the road with a hole in it
Songs with no vibrato
Takin’ the long way home

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.  Most of Jimmy Buffet’s songs confused me, too, and trust me, it wasn’t because I was listening to them while eating brownies with “special” ingredients.  I may have been a teenager in the 70s, but I was a good girl.  ; )  I was thinking about this one today, though.  I feel just like this… incommunicado… and P.J.’s takin’ the long way home.  BUT, the good news is that at least we know he’s coming home.  His target release date is May 14th.  It’s not written in stone, but we’re certainly trusting it’s a good date and looking forward to our family being together again as we continue P.J.’s journey!  We’ll keep you posted.


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P.J.’s Journey: Seeing is Understanding!

When this all started, we began keeping a diary of sorts for P.J., documenting with video and pictures the progress that he was making.  To maintain his privacy, we have not posted any of those pictures or shown them to anyone other than a few family members and close friends.  I know it’s probably difficult to imagine what someone who has been burned to the extent that P.J. has must have looked like on Day 1 as compared to today… Day 79.  Our impression of his healing has changed from day to day.  It’s hard to explain, but on Day 5, he looked much worse to us than he had looked on Day 1 because his face was beginning to scab and peal.  Of course for the first month or so, we were only seeing his face because everything else was wrapped up.  For that  matter, anyone who would walk into P.J.’s room today and see only his face (when he is covered), would think he looks fairly normal with a only a few minor abrasions.  But for us, since we have been with him when he is completely unwrapped, we know the seriousness, the magnitude, of his injuries.  He shared with me the other day that when the technicians were removing the staples from the skin grafts on his chest, he counted over 100 of them… just on his chest!

This time of year always reminds me of the movie, the Passion of the Christ.  I grew up knowing the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, and so I was surprised at the overwhelming emotions that surfaced when I viewed the movie with a group of friends from our church.  I was sobbing so hard that I almost threw up.  A few people walked out because they couldn’t handle the graphic nature of the scenes.  Seeing it (or a reenactment as it were) of the whole ordeal that our Savior suffered, brought a new understanding to what we’d already known.

For us (especially A.J. who is at the hospital all day every day) we see the agony in P.J.’s eyes, the rawness of his flesh, and the anxious anticipation of painful treatments. We see our 19 year old son weighing less now than he did when he was 12 years old.  We see it all and therefore have a different perspective, a greater grasp, of just what P.J. is experiencing.  I love my friends and I appreciate all of the support and encouragement that they have shared, but (yes, there’s a “but”) sometimes their comments like “You have to stay positive” and “Keep the faith, Tina!” tend to unnerve me.  Don’t misunderstand me, please.  I don’t get upset with the people who say these things.  Quite honestly, they are probably the same expressions I would use to encourage someone in my situation.  It’s just that the words bother me because I believe my faith is very strong.  But isn’t it true that even Jesus, as perfect as He was, asked “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”   The fact of the matter is that I will NEVER be able to express to you what this whole situation is like, and until I experienced it, I would have never imagined it.  Faith or no faith, if I don’t talk about how I feel, I will probably end up jumping out the window of my cubicle on the sixteenth floor of Lakeway II!  I don’t know what it is like to lose a child and I don’t want to ever find out, but I do know what it is like to see my child in agony and not be able to do a thing about it, and it’s not just occasionally or periodically… it’s CONSTANTLY.  I am so proud of him for fighting for his life.  I often look at him and think that if that were me… if I were in that bed dealing with the things he is dealing with… I would just give up and beg God to take me home.

Seeing P.J.’s injuries firsthand helps me to understand what he is going through, but (yes, there’s a “but”) seeing the PROGRESS he has made firsthand helps me to understand the kind of healing that he will receive when this is all said and done.  I look forward to sharing those miracles with you as we continue on with P.J.’s journey.


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P.J.’s Journey: The Joshua Factor

I remember back when A.J. and I were debating on adopting another child and some friends told us “Two are not much more work than one.”  I still don’t get that.  I think what they must have meant is that if you’ve got a routine down for one you can keep the other on the same schedule and do for two what you normally do for one.  Maybe that is somewhat true for twins or children who are very close in age, but when your kids are like ours, almost seven years apart, it’s a whole different ballgame.  Two kids equal twice the work, twice the cost, and okay… twice as much to love.   Our boys are as different as night and day.  From a very young age, P.J. always wanted company… someone to play ball with, someone to watch a movie with, someone to work out with.  Joshua has always entertained himself reading, drawing, playing video games.  There are definitely similarities… for example, both boys have always needed help with homework, but that’s a boy thing, right?  😉  They also both have a freckle behind their left ear.  When we discovered this, P.J. was about 7 or 8 at the time and I was able to convince him that was God’s way of stamping (or branding) them to get into the right family.

Lots of people have asked us how Josh is doing with all of this that has happened to P.J.  The answer is that he is doing amazingly well… handling it better than most twelve year olds would.  Of course, Josh would tell you that is because he is going to be 13 in July and will get his own email address and FaceBook account at that time (that’s what he thinks… haha).   This accident has had a huge impact on our entire family, especially Josh.  With the situation as it is now and P.J. being hospitalized over two hours away, it’s been tough for us to give both boys our undivided attention, so Josh has had to grow up a lot over these past 10-1/2 weeks.

Both our boys have strong biblical names:  Philip James and Joshua Michael.  I explained the meaning behind P.J.’s name in the first entry I wrote about his accident (see P.J.’s Journey:  The Early Days).  The name “Joshua” is from the Hebrew “Yehoshu’a” meaning “YAHWEH is salvation.”  The name “Jesus” actually comes from a Greek translation of the Aramaic short form.   The name “Michael” is from the Hebrew name “Mikha’el” meaning “who is like God.”  Joshua loves P.J. with all his heart and he hurts for him, but he has the kind of faith that we should all have… he just knows God is going to take care of everything and P.J. will be home again soon.  I can’t explain it, but he has never doubted or questioned the power and love of God.  He has such a simple (child-like as it may be) trust.  P.J. used to get a kick out of telling everyone that he named Josh.  Yes, it’s true… we actually let our six year old (with some guidance and limitations) pick out a name for his new baby brother.  But I think you’ll agree his decision was guided by God, and I think it is no coincidence that Josh has so much confidence in P.J.’s future health.


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P.J.’s Journey: A Movie for P.J.

Greetings all… This isn’t a typical blog post.  I just wanted to share with you this video that we made for P.J.!   Thank you to all who helped by sending clips and special thanks to Gabrielle Danos for contributing the ending clip.  Enjoy!


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P.J.’s Journey: TMI!

Joshua, our youngest, is a fan of chat/text lingo.  He often tries to stump me with acronyms.  He says things to me like “BRB, Mom!” and “TTYL!”  For those of you who are text lingo challenged, BRB stands for “be right back” and TTYL is “talk to you later.”  I laughed so hard one night when he was quizzing me to see if I was up-to-speed on all the acronyms and he asked “Do you know what TTFN is?”  “Tata for now!” I proudly responded.  “What about GGP?” he asked next.  “Gotta go potty… duh!”  (I flashed him my “you’re not going to stump me” smile!)  Then he said, “Okay… so you know what OTPNTP, means?”  Uh oh… he had me.  What the heck did that mean?!?!  NTP… Notice to Proceed?  Hmmm… I finally conceded and he said “Mom!  It means ‘on the potty, need toilet paper!'”  Well, of course it does!  Why didn’t I think of that?  I always text that to A.J. when I’m in the bathroom and out of TP.  Crazy kid!!

One of the first of those types of acronyms that I learned is TMI (too much information).  So when my friends start telling me about their love lives and they cross the line, I might say “TMI!” or when a family member shares details about a gastrointestinal disorder, I definitely hit him with “TMI!!  TMI!!”

Do you remember the days before the world wide web?  OMG (oh my gosh), I can’t imagine what we did without this form of modern technology.  Some believe it has been our downfall, but IMHO (in my humble opinion), I think it has provided all of us, especially when it comes to information about modern medicine, a second, third, fourth, etc., opinion!

Some doctors don’t appreciate my need to look things up and I understand that.  Although, Dr. Dhaval Adhvaryu, P.J.’s surgeon, got a kick out of it when I told him I’d “Googled” him.  So he obviously likes being “Googled.”  He said that he appreciated and understood that I wanted to know who was cutting on my son.  When I had my Glaucoma surgery in 2010, the information I read on the internet ahead of time scared me a little and the surgery itself turned out to be a piece of cake, and I was sorry I had looked it up.  So when I had my ankle surgery this past year, I deliberately avoided reading about it… until… after two weeks when I was in a lot of pain and was very frustrated.  Ugh… it was not a good thing.  I found the blog of a lady who’d had the same surgery and saw pictures and everything.  There I was, in pain, lying in bed with the computer in my lap, balling like anything.  I called A.J. on his cell and wailed “This is just awful!  I am going to be in pain like this for three more months!”  And that was pretty darned accurate!  Now, seeing everything P.J. has been through in the last 6-1/2 weeks, I feel like such a ninny for the way I acted.

The days following P.J.’s accident, we avoided reading about burn treatments on the internet.  We thought it would be TMI and we wouldn’t be able to handle it.  Gradually, we’ve learned so much from talking to the nurses and doctors, and we have read supporting information on the internet that has helped us to understand better what they’ve already shared.  I’ll never forget that on the day Dr. Reza Sheybani, the Pulmonary Specialist, told us P.J. had pneumonia (only a day after we learned that he was in a coma), A.J. immediately looked it up on the internet trying to find the chance for someone who is in a coma surviving pneumonia.  He didn’t like what he read, especially considering all of the other things P.J. was dealing with at the moment.  But the internet would also tell you that the way to calculate a person’s chance of survival who has been burned to the extent P.J. was, is to add their age (19 in this case) to the percentage of body burned (70%), subtract from 100%, and you have their chance of survival.  Now, you don’t have to be a Mu Alpha Theta to figure out that what that meant was that the odds were not in P.J.’s favor at all.  But what you won’t always get from reading the TMI on the internet, is that new medicines, technology, and processes are developed and invented every day that can increase those odds.  You might also not get that the power of prayer, and a person’s strength and attitude play a big role in their recovery.

Our boy is strong; he is special; and he is kicking butt in the burn unit.  TMI or no TMI, it doesn’t matter.  He is AAK (alive and kicking) and that is just FWM (fine with me).  As always, we TYVM (thank you very much) for your prayers, notes of encouragement, cards, blood donations, etc.  We would not be able to do this without all of your support.  TAFN (That’s all for now)!


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P.J.’s Journey: The “H” Words

From the time P.J. was six months old until he was nearly two, he had one ear infection after another.    It was excruciating for A.J. and I to watch him suffer through these things, one after another.  We felt so helpless.  After almost 18 months, we were referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor to determine whether or not he needed tubes inserted.  Instead of scheduling P.J. for that surgery, though, he immediately contacted our dermatologist who had diagnosed P.J. a year earlier with a nevus sebaceous on his scalp (he had been born with this condition).  Since sebaceous nevi can give rise to sebaceous carcinoma (malignancy), and the ENT did not like the appearance of it at that time, the attention quickly shifted from his ears to his head.  Surgery to remove the nevus sebaceous was scheduled just prior to his second birthday.  A biopsy was done and the results were clear.  We were so relieved.

In 2005, on our first night back at home following Hurricane Katrina, P.J. suffered an appendicitis and once again our child was in surgery.  Less than a year later, he was “under the knife” again to repair a broken nose.  That was three surgeries for him by the age of 14.  Josh, our youngest son, is now 12 and has had three surgeries as well.  You’d think that by the time P.J. arrived at the burn center, we’d be pros at this!  Here we are 37 days and six surgeries later and it hasn’t gotten any easier.  It is HARD.  It is HORRIBLE.  It is HELLACIOUS.  In fact, there are a lot of “H” words that describe what it’s like and how we feel… HELPLESS definitely comes to mind.

When you’re waiting for your child (or any loved one for that matter) to recover from an illness or incident, HELPLESSNESS becomes a way of life.  When our kids were babies, it was especially trying because there were often times when we didn’t know what to do to make things better.  Nothing we tried worked.  I’m sure P.J. has been frustrated somewhat over his own helplessness right now.  There are so many things he can’t do on his own and he can’t always communicate what he wants.  Talking (even getting out just a few words) is very difficult for him and there are times when asking “yes” and “no” questions just doesn’t cut it.  With his hands being bandaged, writing on a board is not much easier.

As each day passes, things get a little better.  We are pleased with his progress and with his patience, although he has mentioned another “H” word a few times…  HOME.  It HURTS to have to tell him that home is a long way off, but we are HOPEFUL that he will continue to be strong and courageous, and we are HAPPY that God is answering so many of our prayers.


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P.J.’s Journey: My Copilot

When A.J. and I had only been married for about a year, he went to work in California for about six weeks.  In our 28 years of marriage, that was the most we have ever been separated and it was quite a trial for both of us.  I lost 20 pounds and he lost 30 (okay, so maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing).  At any rate, it was tough.  I remember telling my mom that I was surprised by the little things that I missed… his habit of patting me on my head whenever we were watching TV together and he’d get up to go to the kitchen for something, his singing in the shower, and even his teasing me about my driving.

This has been an exceptionally difficult week for me.  While P.J. still has a very long and rough road ahead of him with his recovery, it was time for me to return to work.  I am very blessed that I have an understanding boss who is willing to allow me to get hours in whenever I can and I am thankful that some of my work can be done remotely, but this week, I was needed in the office, so A.J. spent the week at the hospital with P.J. and Joshua and I stayed in Braithwaite.  The goodbyes on Monday morning were hard.  When A.J. drove away, I cried.  I was sad because I knew it would be rough without him and I felt terribly guilty that I wouldn’t be with P.J. this week.  I didn’t want my child to wake up and not see me, and think I had abandoned him when he needed me the most.

Thanks to the help of my good friend, Nell, who has been doing housework for us and picking up Joshua from school, I managed to work a full week, but it reminded me of those six weeks back in 1984.  As is typical in most marriages, we tend to take each other for granted.  A.J.’s morning routine became mine… walking the dog, getting Josh up and ready for school, making his lunch, loading the car, dropping him off.  Little things frustrated me, like when I was walking Molly and the neighbor’s dog was loose and caused her to halfway drag me down the block.  I ran behind her and cried (yes, I really did… been doing a lot of that lately) and begged her to please hurry and tinkle so I could get to work at a reasonable time.  Every step of the way, I was thanking God that I am not a single mom and that A.J. would eventually be coming home.

This week gave me a lot of time to reflect on how much of a servant my husband is to me and to our children.  I had experienced this on a different level this past October when I had ankle surgery, but I must admit I was a bit distracted with my own pain and frustration during my recovery and didn’t fully grasp the level of his sacrifice.  But this time, I see it.  I see the commitment and dedication, and I see how he puts the needs of his family ahead of his own.

Nell, who cared for her sweet husband James for 14 years following his stroke, shared with me the other night that A.J. had once told her how much he respected her and how he could never be a caregiver.  Isn’t that ironic when that’s exactly what he is… a caregiver?  One of the things I have always admired about A.J. is his love for his children — all of them — and so I know how terribly difficult this tragedy has been for him; yet he has been the sane one, the strong one, the stable one.  He has been here for P.J., has reassured Josh, and has comforted me and helped me get through these past 24 days without losing my mind.  He has helped us all focus on God and keep our faith.

This morning, when I walked into P.J.’s room for the first time in 5 days, he grabbed my gloved hand and kissed it.  His healing is evident.  Each day shows us a new miracle.  In writing this series, my desire is to share those miracles with you, but to also give you some insight as to the overall journey we are all taking together.  This journey would be so much harder if we didn’t have A.J.  I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said “God is my copilot.”  It made me smile, but I thought to myself, “A.J. is my copilot… God is our GPS.”


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P.J.’s Journey: Roller Coaster of Love

The last time we went to Disney World, in 2005, P.J. was 12.  We hadn’t been to any amusement parks in years, so this was the first time that he was old enough to really enjoy the “fun” rides.  Josh was only 5 at the time, so he couldn’t go on any of the big rides, and A.J. is not real fond of some types of roller coasters, so I was drafted to be P.J.’s riding partner.  I drew the line at going on the Tower of Terror more than once, but there were several rides, like the “Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster” that we rode over and over again.  To be totally honest, by the 3rd time, I was ready to barf, but P.J. was having such a good time I couldn’t deny him the enjoyment.

Right now, we are riding a roller coaster together.  Unfortunately, A.J. and Josh and the rest our family and friends are forced to ride it with us, whether they like it or not.  Every day seems to bring different news.  First it looked really bad, then things got better, then he was in a coma, then he was awake, then he was off the ventilator, then he was back on it.  It has been one or two steps forward and one or two steps back from day to day, and sometimes from hour to hour.  Quite frankly, it stinks.  I am hating this ride, wishing I could take P.J.’s place in that bed.  I’m sure A.J. feels the same way, but we know that God has a plan for all of this and are anxious to see what that will be.

A.J., who has never really cared for roller coasters and never even tolerated them as much as I, has been doing a better job of coping these last few days.  It’s no coincidence that he and I are married… I am certain that God put us together because we complement each other so well.  He is strong when I am weak and I am strong when he is weak.  These last few days, he’s been the strong one and I am so thankful to have him.

After the 3rd time on the “Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster” at Disney, I was ready to throw up.  These last 16 days have had me to that point on more than one occasion.  A friend told me today that she doesn’t know how I just don’t crawl in in hole and hide.  I am sick of this roller coaster… I think we all are.  But, as I did when P.J. was 12, I will continue to ride as long as I have to because I love P.J. so much and I want to be by his side for this journey.   Thank you and God bless you all for taking the ride with us.


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P.J.’s Journey: Speed Relationships

One of my favorite movies of all times is “Speed” with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.  They discover love and passion in the midst of lots of drama.  At the end of the movie, Keanu’s character, Jack, tells Sandra’s character, Annie, “I have to warn you, I’ve heard relationships based on intense experiences never work.”  Of course they hook up anyway and you assume they’ll live happily ever after until Speed 2 comes out and Jack is nowhere in sight.  I have to wonder why any woman in her right mind would give up Keanu Reeves!  But that’s beside the point…  Do relationships based on intense experiences work?  Do they last?

When we arrived at the Burn Center for the first time, we were still in shock.  The nurse assigned to P.J. for the morning, Liz, quickly took us on the side to explain what had been done already and what to expect when we walked into the room.  That was the most terrifying part — seeing him for the first time.  What made it unusual (not sure if it helped or hurt) was that P.J.’s face was so swollen, it didn’t look like him.  We saw tubes coming from everywhere and Liz quickly explained what job each was doing.  Liz is a special lady, but she is not the only wonderful nurse in the Burn Center.  There are many.  I would start to name them all, but I know I would miss some.  Every single person (doctors, nurses, technicians, staff, etc.) that we have encountered has been kind and caring and attentive.  I quickly began interviewing the staff to ensure that they had my child’s best interests in mind.  A.J. found this embarrassing, but I had to do whatever it would take to reassure myself that he was in good hands.  I’ve stopped those interviews now because it is so evident that God chose this team of caregivers especially for our child.

As the days passed and we received the news that P.J. was in a coma and then the next day that he had pneumonia, we were comforted immediately by Cheryl and Leona, two ladies who were in the same position as us, waiting for their loved ones to heal from burns.  They quickly shared their own stories with us and we became great friends.  It has been wonderful to get their reassurance as we go through something they’ve already experienced.  As new patients arrive, I expect we will pass on the benefit of our experiences as well.  Everyone seems to “pay it forward” in the Burn Center, praying for each other and offering encouragement.

We’ve only been here for two short weeks, but already we are feeling such a connection to all of these people — staff, other patients, and their families — that I know we will miss them terribly when we eventually take P.J. home.  We understand that there is a big reunion for all of the patients once a year, so I guess other families feel the same way.  Will these relationships based on this intense experience last?  I think they will.   In fact, experts believe that when people support each other through tragedies or “intense experiences,” their relationships are typically stronger than those formed casually.  Trust me, I read it on the internet, so it must be true.  ; -)


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P.J.’s Journey: His Joy Comes in the Morning

We’ve learned that it is a common thing for families in the burn center to count the days.  At first, the days all seemed to run together and if it weren’t for the fact that life goes on and we have another child at home in school, I think we would truly lose track.  Today is day 11 for us, and after the better part of two weeks, the stress has begun taking its toll.  I never thought it was possible to be so tired while at the same time being unable to sleep.  And even after we do sleep, the fatigue is still there — a type of fatigue that is indescribable.

For days now we have been praying that P.J. would wake up from his coma.  I’ve heard of families going through this sort of thing, but had never really understood all they were experiencing.  Did you know that sometimes insurance will refuse to pay for surgeries and treatments for patients who are considered brain dead?  So then the next of kin has to make the decision as to whether or not it is “worth” paying for additional surgeries and procedures that the patient needs.  Some of the surgeries that P.J. is facing still are ones that are critical to his survival.    It sounds ludicrous to expect someone to make a decision as to whether their child’s life is worth any amount of money.  For us, this was not even open to discussion.

The drive from Braithwaite to Baton Rouge takes a little over two hours if we avoid traffic.  We’ve made this trip many times over the last couple of weeks and usually we talk the whole way.  This morning, our car was like a tomb.  My husband was quiet.  I was quiet.  Neither one of us said anything for the first half hour and then I finally admitted to A.J.:  “I am so sad.”  Other than the obvious, I didn’t know why it was hitting me so hard at the moment.  I couldn’t explain it, but he understood.  He seemed to feel the same way, although he reminded me that we had to stay positive.  I called the hospital at that point and P.J.’s nurse, Shannon, said “Ms. Tina, he’s awake!”  My immediate reaction was disbelief.  I asked her “What do you mean by that?”  We’d seen him with his eyes open, but there was no recognition, little response, etc.  She said “He’s awake.  He’s nodding his head, blinking his eyes, and responding to other commands.”  She went on to tell us that she had to restrain and sedate him due to his anxiety and agitation.  We understand that this is typical of people who have been in a coma.  They are confused and disoriented when they wake up, not knowing where they are or how long they’ve been there, feeling pain and having many tubes connected to them.

When we arrived at the hospital for the first visit, P.J. was sleeping and then got a little overly anxious when he heard our voices, but we quickly softened our tones and calmed him down.  We left a short time later (we’re only allowed 20 minutes at a time), and went to church.  We were so overjoyed to be able to report to everyone at St. Paul Lutheran here in Baton Rouge that their prayers and the prayers of countless others, are being answered and that P.J. was awake.  This afternoon, we returned for the 1:00 visit and our joy quickly turned to sadness as the sedation was wearing off and we were seeing the signs of anxiety, confusion, and excruciating pain on his face.  It is agonizing for us.  When I shared the experience with Danielle, P.J.’s older sister, she said it made her think of God, the Father, watching the crucifixion of his only Son.  We’ve had many struggles over the years, and some have suggested that it was to strengthen us for this difficult journey.  As I mentioned in my previous post, we believe God has been speaking to P.J. during his sleep, and I am comforted today by the feeling that God is still talking to and strengthening him, and maybe using us to help with that.

God’s word has always been a source of great comfort for us, but never so much as it has over these past 11 days.  We’ve read scriptures to P.J. during many of our visits and repeated over and over again that God is faithful and true, and his mercy endures forever.  We needed to hear these things as much as we needed to say them to him.  As we continue this most difficult journey of our lifetime, we are trusting in Psalm 30, and are continually reminding ourselves that “His joy will come in the morning.”


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P.J.’s Journey: The Early Days

We sit and we wait.  We have been doing an awful lot of that lately.  Today we are waiting for our son, P.J.,  to come out of surgery.  For the past five days, we’ve been waiting for him to come out of a coma.  For the past nine days, we have been waiting to see if he would live or die.  For the past 19 years, we have been waiting to see what God would have in store for him someday.

On the evening of January 11th, P.J. suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 70% of his body.  I hope to share with you through my blog, the details of his journey… the things I might not provide in a quick update… the emotions that our family members and close friends have been experiencing over these past 9 days and will experience over the next however many days, months, or years there will be on his road to recovery.

Before I tell you about the last nine days, here are some things you might like to know about the first 19 years of his life.  In the spring of 1992, I met a lady at my company picnic.  She was dating one of my coworkers and had joined him for the event and shared with me that she worked for an attorney who handled adoptions.  One thing led to another, and less than a week later, we were making arrangements to adopt a baby… a baby boy who was due in 3 short months.  WOW!

In August of that year, we became the proud parents of Philip James… Philip, meaning “lover of horses” and James, meaning “supplanter” – P.J. for short.  P.J. quickly became our world.  For the first seven years of his life, he was an only child.  In 1999, when his baby brother Joshua came along, lots of things changed, but our love for this child grew stronger and stronger.  Even at such a young age, he was a good big brother with a huge heart.  Josh was a preemie and had to have many blood tests during the first couple of weeks of his life to monitor his bilirubin levels, and P.J. hated being there when Josh had to get “stuck.”

We had a perfect family unit — two beautiful boys and lots of love to go around.  P.J. had a great childhood, playing T-ball, softball, soccer, and all the things boys like to do.  When he reached his teens, he shot up over night and his physical appearance drastically changed.  He became quite the looker (even if I do say so myself) and has always known how to use his charms to his advantage.  He quickly learned that his sparkling eyes were a very effective way to manipulate me, and he’s used that against me ever since!

The last few years have been a struggle for P.J. to find his purpose and love himself.  It baffles me sometimes how a boy that has so much going for him and is loved by so many people, could doubt himself so much.  But I believe the enemy knows the threat P.J. imposes and has been trying to defeat him all this time.  The good news is that God is on his side.

For the past nine days as we have waited for answers, our emotions have been up and down and all over the place.  We’ve mostly received discouraging news… more damage than was originally thought, slow and little brain activity, lack of response, pneumonia, elevated heart rate, and body temperature issues (too low sometimes, too high other times).  As we begin to get some encouragement from the neurological improvements over the last two days, we are cautiously optimistic as to what the future holds.

They say burns are the most excruciating of all injuries.  They say losing your child is the worst pain a parent could ever experience.  Here’s the conflict… What could be worse?  Knowing your child is alive but in excruciating pain, or knowing that he’d be at peace with his heavenly father who loves him more than even you if you were willing to give him up.  We are overwhelmed… overwhelmed with the current issues, overwhelmed with what the future holds, and overwhelmed with the number of people who have stepped up to help us in so many ways, offering childcare, help at home, financial support, blood donations, prayers, and more.  We are blessed by the stories that family and friends are sharing about the amazing ways this child has helped them over the years… we had no idea.

These are the early days of P.J.’s journey to recovery, and yet the lives that have been touched and the hearts that have been opened are countless.  Philip… lover of horses.  James… supplanter.  A supplanter is one who follows.  The bible tells us in the book of John, that Philip, who later became an apostle, was skeptical at first.  On the other hand, James, one of the sons of Zebedee, was one of the first to be called to follow Jesus.  We believe that as P.J. sleeps right now, Jesus is saying “Come and follow me.”  We look forward to learning in what direction the Lord will take him, and just how many more lives he will touch as his journey continues.


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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: Wish #10

My 10th wish is to change the whole pattern of this “Twenty Wishes” series!  Crazy, right?  I am sick of wishing for things for myself.  I didn’t know it would be so challenging to come up with 20 stinking (I mean creative) wishes.  I also don’t like the way it sounds for me to say all the time what I want for myself.  I mean, although it’s been fun to fantasize about some of the things I would some day like to achieve, I like to think of myself as an UNSELFISH person who wants what is best for everyone, in general.

I am hereby granting myself the freedom to change the format of my “Twenty Wishes” series to something more outwardly focused.  My wishes will be for others… maybe some will be for specific people while others will be for the world in general.  This could get interesting.  Buckle your seat belts, folks.  No telling where this could take us!  LOL!

Wishes #11 through #20 will be about the needs of everyone else.  There, I’ve said it.  Wish #10 granted!  Woo hoo!  I feel better already!!

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: Wish #9

My 9th wish is to be part of a flash mob!  I know the whole flash mob scene is getting kind of old, but let’s face it, books have been around for a long time and people haven’t stopped enjoying them!  The key is to be part of a “creative” flash mob that shows talents and also surprises the audience — not one that is advertised all over the country for weeks ahead of time and basically looks like someone’s choreographed a workout routine.

Any thoughts?  Please do let me know (you can email me at  I’d love to do a choral presentation kind of like the ones you see with the Hallelujah Chorus, or something similar.  Hmmm… Wouldn’t it be cool to do a Christmas flash mob?  I’m sure it’s been done, but it would be fun!  (Ha… I’m a poet!!)  I’m picturing tons of folks scurrying through the mall doing their Christmas shopping when suddenly an adorable kid with a great voice (probably one of my awesome nieces) starts singing “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!”  All of a sudden, four people come from four directions toward the child singing “Let earth receive her King!!”  Then 20 or so others join in “Let every heart, prepare Him room!”  It would be amazing!  And now is the perfect time to start planning such a splendiferous (no, it’s not a word, but it sounds good) event!!!  Email me if you’re in!  YES, I AM SERIOUS!!!

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: Wish #8

My 8th wish is to write a book! I’ve wanted to do this for a very long time and have had many different ideas about subject matter.  The only thing holding me back has been fear of failure.  Fear of failure… how sad that I would allow such a thing to stop me from even trying.  I often read wonderful stories about other people’s success and think to myself “I’ve never had that kind of luck!”  Instead, I should be saying to myself “That could be me!!!”  I need to remember to pull out all of the weeds in my field of dreams.

A couple of years ago I heard the story of Richard Paul Evans.  Evans was working as an advertising executive when he wrote a Christmas story for his children.  Little did he know, it would some day turn into a best-selling book and Emmy award winning movie.  When I’m in the right frame of mind and am thinking positive, I love stories like that!  They inspire me to reach for my dreams.

But I have now set a short term goal for myself to get mine finished and published by the end of this year. Egad!  That’s not that far away… only a little over 5 months left.  I’ve heard of people writing a book in less than 30 days, though.  I’m going to start writing today and I will continuously remind myself that perhaps the only difference between me and Richard Paul Evans is that he actually tried!  I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

If you would like to read all of the posts in the Twenty Wishes series, simply select “20 wishes” from Categories list on the right.  Happy reading, dahlins!

Chucky’s Legacy

Chucky Thurman was our young neighbor from across the street and one of the first people we met when we moved into our home in Braithwaite in 2007.  He had a friendly face with an extraordinarily bright and somewhat mischievous smile that often greeted us when we happened to cross paths.

Our son, P.J., had become instant friends with Chucky.  Although they didn’t spend a lot of time together at first, it seemed like whenever P.J. was bored, he could always count on Chucky to hang out for a spell and lift his spirits.  It wasn’t until several months ago that they became truly close friends.  In fact, P.J. had begun referring to Chucky as his “best” friend.  They hung out on our front porch, rode Chucky’s four-wheeler, watched movies together, and just enjoyed each other’s company while “chillin’.”  My last interaction with Chucky was when he and P.J. were trying to convince Josh, our eleven year old, that he should let P.J. take him for a ride on the four-wheeler.  I argued that there was no way I would allow it unless Josh had a helmet on.  Chucky promptly ran across the street and returned, producing a helmet.  We shared some laughs as we sat on the porch together and watched P.J. ride up and down showing Josh how “slow” he was going to go.  He and I both knew that as soon as Josh got on that contraption, P.J. was going to ride like the wind.  I was thankful when Josh finally thwarted the plan and ran inside, and I was so appreciative that Chucky graciously laughed and wasn’t upset at all that he’d wasted his time retrieving the helmet.  It was just a short segment in the life of Chucky Thurman, but I was thankful to be a part of it because it gave me a glimpse of who he truly was.

Early on the morning of June 4, 2011, a tragic accident brought an end to Chucky’s life.  P.J. was in the car with him at the time of the accident and was somehow spared, but his life will never be the same.  In fact, many, many lives changed that day.  Chucky’s parents, Chuck and Sandy, are now bearing the greatest cross ever bestowed on a parent – the loss of a child.  His sister, Destiny, is much too young to be dealing with the death of a sibling.  Many others, young and old, will ponder the question of “why” for years to come.  I have always believed that when any person (young or old) dies, it is because at the moment they are faced with a life and death situation, God believes that they are ready to come to Him.  Whether that is scripturally or theologically correct, I haven’t the foggiest idea, but I feel in my heart that God welcomed Chucky with open arms on the morning of June 4th.   God knew he was ready.

While our grief doesn’t begin to compare with that of the Thurman family, this has been a very difficult time for us as we’ve tried to help P.J. get through each day.  In spite of that, however, I will forever be thankful for the friendship that he and Chucky shared and the impact that Chucky made on P.J.’s life.  I was absolutely amazed at how many young people showed up for all of the services held.  It proved to me that what I had seen in Chucky, a goodness that was deep within him, was real.  His time on earth was a short span of seventeen years, but a measure of time has no bearing on the impact one life can have on another.  Chucky Thurman leaves behind a great legacy… one of compassion and camaraderie… one of friendship and fellowship… one of laughter and love.  He will be overwhelmingly missed.

Twenty Wishes: Wish #7

My 7th wish is to take a ballroom dancing class with my husband!  On the very first night we met, I danced with my honey.   I’m sure the only reason he agreed to dance with me was because I was dateless that night (and most others, come to think of it) and I was also the sister of one of his best friends, so he took pity on me.  It was painful for him, I’m sure, as he was (and still is) a much better dancer than I could ever hope to be.  Nevertheless, we took to the floor and started… jumping.  We were on board the Riverboat President in New Orleans and the band, Ivy, was playing “Freak Out,” the Chic song… and I do believe my dancing was super freaky.  It was 1981 and punk rock and disco had pretty much opened the door for any form of movement being considered dancing.  Jumping while on the dance floor was actually very popular, and the thing I liked best about it was that it didn’t require much talent.  That, I could handle.  I could actually do a decent job of jumping.   As coins started to fall from the pockets of the other… jumpers… I hit the floor!  I think I collected over $10.00 in change that night , and A.J. often teases me and says he fell in love that night, watching me crawl around the dirty floor picking up money people were dropping.  Yeah right!

There are so many wonderful things about couples dancing, like getting cozy with the one you love or moving together as one (unless you’re like me and you’re just dragged along in confusion).  This is why I want to learn how to dance well!  And I want to learn a variety of dances like the Salsa, the Waltz, the Rumba, the Cha Cha, and the Tango!  Yeah, baby!  I want to learn them all… the fun ones, the romantic ones, the fast ones, the slow ones.

Dancing is beneficial in other ways, too.  It gives you face time with and attention from your partner you might not otherwise get.  It also is great if you have big hips but a small waist, because you can look amazing in those swirly skirts that are tight at the waist but full and swooshy.  And dancing is great exercise!  Consider the cases of Marie Osmond and Kirstie Alley who actually lost weight due to their work on “Dancing with the Stars!”  It would be great… if we lost weight from dancing, we might actually be able to eventually fit our arms around one another!

I’ll keep you updated on this wish, dahlins!  In the meantime, if you missed any of the previous Twenty Wishes entries, just select “20 Wishes” from the Categories list on the right side of the screen to see them all — posts are ordered most recent to oldest.  Happy reading!

Twenty Wishes: Wish #6

My 6th wish is to win a competition!  It doesn’t really matter what kind of contest it is… except, it has to be a win that I earned, not a win by chance.  Anyone can be lucky, right?  But not everyone can win a contest because of their ability or talent.  I don’t think it even matters what prizes are awarded.  I just want to win!  I guess if I could win a trophy, that would be nice.  I don’t think I’ve ever won a trophy before.  Once in third grade, I won a Halloween costume contest.  I went as Ms. Universe.  No, I wasn’t a beauty queen, I was the Universe!  I had a moon for a head and the planets were all around. (When it comes to needing creative ideas, it helps to have an artist for a mom!)  My moon head had a cow jumping over it (and there was a little dog who laughed to see such sport).  Two years later when I was in 5th grade, I won numerous classroom spelling competitions.  Mrs. Geary, our teacher, would give candy bars to the first and second place winners.  Maybe I can blame Mrs. Geary (and my excellent spelling skills) for the weight problem I have today.

Since I have been involved in Toastmasters, I’ve won a couple of ribbons at meetings for Best Speech, but I’d love to actually win a formal competition speaking, singing, writing, or whatever.  At my husband’s urging, I recently signed up for the second season auditions of “The Voice.”  If you haven’t seen the show, it is where contestants sing for the judges while the judges have their backs turned.  The whole point is that you’re not judged on what you look like, only what you sound like.  So if  you’re 150 years old and 800 pounds overweight, but you have a great voice, you’ll have a shot at winning that you might not have otherwise!  In other words, they actually judge your VOICE like they’re supposed to, without bias to the way you look.  I love the concept, although, I told my hubby not to get his hopes up.  I am not sure that when the time comes, I’ll be brave enough to stand in line for hours and follow through with this thing… unless… the prize is chocolate!

I’ll keep you updated on this wish, dahlins!  In the meantime, if you missed any of the previous Twenty Wishes entries, just select “20 Wishes” from the Categories list on the right side of the screen to see them all — posts are ordered most recent to oldest.  Happy reading!

UPDATE, November 13, 2011:  Well, it took me a while, but I finally got wish #6.  This morning I won first place in the Toastmasters District 68 “Up and At Them” Club’s Tall Tales Contest!!  It was the coolest thing!  I really didn’t expect to win as this was my first time participating in a speech contest and the competition was fierce! Click here to check out the video of my speech!

Twenty Wishes: Wish #5

My 5th wish is to sing the national anthem at a major sports event.  I mean, isn’t that every singer’s dream?   The closest  I have ever come to doing this was once at a company event.  Three friends and I formed a group and sang “The Star Spangled Banner” in four-part harmony.  It was the coolest thing.  I have heard that some of the local teams, like the Hornets and the Zephyrs, will allow nobodies like me to audition to sing at games.  One of these days I will get up the nerve to try it.  I’m just afraid that when it comes time, my nerves will get the better of me and I’ll end up making Christina Aguilera’s Super Bowl rendition seem flawless.   I must admit, I judged her harshly right after her performance.  In fact, I think I tweeted something along the lines of “O-oh say can you sing, the right words to this song?”  I know… not nice… but I couldn’t believe she would flub such a great opportunity.  I mean, come on!  Since then, I have regretted my rash criticism and have tried to apologize to no avail.  She won’t return my calls!

I will keep you posted on this wish and all the others!  In the meantime, I am off to practice… Oh say can you see?

Note… If you missed any of the previous Twenty Wishes entries, just select “20 Wishes” from the Categories list on the right side of the screen to see them all — posts are ordered most recent to oldest.  Happy reading!