…UNTIL IT HAPPENS TO YOU

 

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And that’s the truth!

I have not been on FB much in the past few days…busy week!  Today, however, I looked to see what friends were up to on FB, and found some things of interest on the pages I subscribe to.

First I saw that…10659265_10152675144837661_5990919985010472310_n

 

This brings back all kinds of memories for this Mom.  I have a son who survived cancer.  He is a wonderful son…handsome and talented…with a beautiful wife, Suzanne and son, Levi.  He is 39 years old and a paramedic and professional photographer.

Time was, 36 years ago, that we didn’t think we would see him live to turn 4 or 5.  His cancer was a ganglioneuroblastoma.

 

********       What is neuroblastoma?
Neuroblastomas are cancers that start in early nerve cells (called neuroblasts) of the sympathetic nervous system, so they can be found anywhere along this system.   A little more than 1 out of 3 neuroblastomas start in the adrenal glands.  This type of cancer occurs most often in infants and young children, under the age of 2 years.  It is rarely found in children older than 10 years.  It has an incidence of about 650 cases in the US per year.

There is a wide range in how neuroblastomas behave. Some grow and spread quickly, while others grow slowly. Sometimes, in very young children, the cancer cells die for no reason and the tumor goes away on its own. ).

Ganglioneuroblastoma is a tumor that has both malignant and benign parts. It contains neuroblasts (immature nerve cells) that can grow and spread abnormally, similar to neuroblastoma, as well as areas of more mature tissue that are similar to ganglioneuroma.

Signs and Symptoms
The effects of neuroblastoma can vary widely depending on where the disease first started and how much it has spread to other parts of the body. The first symptoms are often vague and may include irritability, fatigue, loss of appetite, and fever. But because these early warning signs can develop gradually and mimic those of other common childhood illnesses, neuroblastoma can be difficult to diagnose.

In young children, neuroblastoma often is discovered when a parent or doctor feels an unusual lump or mass somewhere in the child’s body — most often in the abdomen, though tumors also can appear in the neck, chest, and elsewhere.

The most common signs of neuroblastoma are caused by the tumor pressing on nearby tissues as it grows or by the cancer spreading to other areas. These signs vary depending on how much the cancer has grown and where it has spread.

For example, a child may have:

***a swollen stomach, abdominal pain, and decreased appetite (if the tumor is in the abdomen)
***bone pain or soreness, black eyes, bruises, and pale skin (if the cancer has spread to the bones)
***weakness, numbness, inability to move a body part, or difficulty walking (if the cancer presses on the spinal cord)
***drooping eyelid, unequal pupils, sweating, and red skin, which are signs of nerve damage in the neck known as Horner’s syndrome (if the tumor is in the neck)
***difficulty breathing (if the cancer is in the chest)       *************

 

He was diagnosed at age 3, which is usually quite late as far as survival goes.  But, for some reason, the tumor, on his adrenal gland they say he was born with, did not start growing until shortly before we found it.  At removal, it was the size of a grapefruit!

One Saturday morning, I was giving a graduation luncheon for a dear friend of the family.  Because it was at a nearby motel banquet hall, I dropped little Adam off to stay with my mother.  I went a little early to get him settled.  He had been running a few and was coughing, red eyes, the whole bit.  I did not plan on taking him to the doctor.  Being a nurse myself, I usually just found the right meds or got the doctor  to call something in.  But, my mother…God bless her soul….my mother said, “Tonja, it’s the weekend, what if he gets any worse?  Maybe you should run him by and let them get him started on some meds.”  Something rang true about this, and so I did.  The nurse said for us to come right on over and he could see him quickly.

We did.  The doctor looked in his throat and in his nose and listened to his chest.  Yes, upper respiratory infection.   but before he handed him back to me, he did a once over on his body and mashed all around on his body.  Then he looked at me and said, “Come here and feel this, Tonja.”  And, I did.  I said, “I sure hope that’s his spleen.”  The doctor looked at me and said, “So do I…but I don’t think it is.  I want you to go straight to the hospital…right now…and check in.  I will see you there in about an hour.”  “I said, I am giving a luncheon in an hour for 20 people.  I can’t cancel now.  I can be there early afternoon.”  He said get there as soon as I could.  *****LIFE LESSON:  Always listen to your Mother!  She knows!*****

We went back to my mother’s house and she took him to my house and got his clothes and mine.  I did the luncheon.  Mom and I left for the hospital and I stopped by Don’s work to tell him where I was going.   It was in that moment that I told him that the realization struck me that my life had totally turned itself around and would never be the same.

We were admitted and tests run.  By late evening, we knew that it was most likely cancer. By early afternoon on Sunday, it was positive.  We were dismissed from the hospital and went home to pack…final destination Birmingham Children’s Hospital.  Don was sick from a bad stomach virus, so his sister drove the us to Birmingham.  She, Adam and I in the front…Don laying down in the back.  We dropped him at a motel and went to the hospital down the street.

This is the part that still gives me terrors when I remember.  We walked in and were admitted and they told us to go to the 6th floor and someone would meet us.  We rode up the elevator and got off.  All I could see were bald headed children.  Some walking with IV poles, some being pulled in wagons, some in wheelchairs, and some carried by parents.  I turned around, got back on the elevator. I took it to the first floor and walked out of the hospital toward the car.  There was no way I was letting my child go in there.  No way I was going to put him through this.  No, not going to do it.  I sat in the car and just got myself together.  Talked to God…He talked to me.  Beth was playing with Adam in the parking lot.

As hard as the unthinkable is to deal with…and as much as you want it to not be so…there always comes that realization.  This is real.  This is happening.  Happening now…so deal.  And, that’s what I did.  I took a deep breath and walked back in…up the elevator and through the doors.  This time a nurse was there to greet us.  She said, “I have been looking for y’all.  I was afraid you’d gotten lost.”  “We did,”I said.  “But we managed to find our way.”

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And, that’s what we did for the next 8 or nine years…Children’s Hospital of Alabama became a second home.  There were also hospitals in Atlanta.  Surgery upon surgery…treatment upon treatment…pain and loneliness and fear.  And, always God.  And always family and friends.  And, Adam has been cancer free for 30 years now.   You can play tic-tac-toe on his belly from the scars of all the surgery…small price to pay.  From an original diagnosis of perhaps a year to live, God has granted us grace and mercy and strength and growth and peace.  We did not deserve it anymore that another child riding in that hall.  And, yes the time came when he rode his tricycle down the hall with the other children.  No child deserves cancer.  No child should ever have to live through this demon attacking their life when they are still innocent children.

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But, God kept every promise.  And, while we knew that a gift of healing could mean God taking him to Heaven…we boldly prayed for God to take control of Adam’s life and hold him in His arms and love him with all the love He had.  And, that’s just what He did.  Thanks go to the doctors, the nurses, the family, the friends, even the strangers who we never knew.  But, God!

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As I continued to scroll through FB,  I was surprised to see this picture …

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Surprised, because this is what I dealt with with my youngest son.   Ian was born  with a unilateral cleft lip and a bilateral cleft palate.  This means that only one side of the lip was affected, but both sides of the palate were cleft.

**********         Orofacial clefts are birth defects in which there is an opening in the lip and/or palate (roof of the mouth) that is caused by incomplete development during early fetal formation.

Cleft lip and cleft palate occur in about 1 or 2 of every 1,000 babies born in the United States each year, making it one of the most common major birth defects. Clefts occur more often in children of Asian, Latino, or Native American descent.

The good news is that both cleft lip and cleft palate are treatable. Most kids born with these can have surgery to repair these defects within the first 12-18 months of life.

The complex needs of a child with cleft lip and cleft palate are best met by an interdisciplinary team of professionals from various specialities who work together. This is a standard of care that begins soon after the child’s birth and continues to adulthood.

The members of the cleft lip and palate treatment team include:

geneticist
pediatrician
plastic surgeon
ear, nose, and throat physician (otolaryngologist)
oral surgeon
orthodontist
dentist
speech-language pathologist
audiologist
nurse
social worker
psychologist
team coordinator       **********

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I had a natural childbirth, so I was fully aware when Ian was born.  The moment he was born, there was a hush over the delivery room.  I asked the doctor to show me the baby.  He then held him up for me to see.  I was prepared to see another sweet baby boy…but not prepared for what I was faced with.  I went into shock and don’t remember much of the next few minutes.  But, that passed quickly enough and Don and I had to quickly come to terms with how to care for this baby boy.  I knew nothing about clefts. I had not even seen an unrepaired one before, even through all of nursing school.  But, I was soon to find out way more than I ever desired to know.  As the info says above, the path to correction includes many different areas.  And, depending on the severity, the path can be a long, drawn out road.  Ian’s first surgery was when he was 3 months old, to repair his lip.  At 14 months his palate was repaired.

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He has had revisions, repairs to fistulas, bone grafts to the gums, major orthodontics, and the list goes on and on.  He has had 12 operations with the last one being just 2 years ago.

We were blessed to be led to a wonderful program at the University of NC in Chapel Hill.  They have performed all but 2 of his surgeries…and led Ian to another excellent doctor in Birmingham for his last 2 procedures.  Will there be more?  At this point, we are not sure.  As Ian is 31 now, these decisions are in his hands.

As you know, children can be cruel…sometimes without meaning to.   Don and I decided that we would be proactive about this so that Ian would be prepared when the time came that someone would mention his scar.  We explained to him that his face did not finish growing before he was born, and so the doctor just had to sew it up…just like when you get a rip in your pants.  Because we felt that his speech would be the most noticeable thing to draw attention to the problem, he started in speech therapy at age 18 months…right when he was learning how to form words.  He had to learn how to talk without sounding nasal.  And, we and  his speech therapist were very firm with him on this.  He had to learn the proper way to speak.  And, he did beautifully!  He has no hint…and never has had of nasal speech that is sometimes associated with clefts.

We prayed from the very first days that God would bless Ian with a personality that would outshine his physical appearance, and He answered us by giving him a bold, fun loving spirit. Never one to meet a stranger, he talked to everyone.  He had that fighting spirit from day one.  But, the day did come when some of his friends in kindergarten started asking him why he had that scar on his lip…why was it there?  Ian handled it beautifully.  He went to his teacher and asked her if he could tell his whole class something.  She let him…and she told me later that this is what he said.  “I have a scar on my lip because my face didn’t finish growing, so the doctor sewed it up.  It’s just a little scar.  So don’t ask me again!”  And, that was that.  Nothing else was ever said that we know of.  His friends grew up knowing why and it has never made any difference!

Ian is VP of a graphic design and advertising agency in Birmingham.  He is married  and has a beautiful stepson, Jackson.  To this Mother, he is as handsome as he can be…and his wife, Tina, thinks so too!

GRIN

 

 

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As hard as it was raising three boys…even without major medical issues…great lessons were learned.  I think that every crisis we encounter is in our lives to teach us a lesson.    The greatest tragedy is failing to learn.  Because the boys and their brothers had major medical issues…it taught them to be kind and loving to those who looked or acted differently.  We  learned how to pray…specifically for what we needed.  I would make a poster and put it on our refrigerator with 2 columns…WHAT WE NEED and WHAT GOD DID.  As needs were met, we filled it in and it was a tangible reminder that God will do what He says He will do!  He doesn’t promise to give us what we WANT…just what we NEED.    When you have the evidence staring you in the face everyday, it’s hard not to know the truth of His words!  We learned to search the Bible for verses that would speak to us.  When Adam was facing one of his operations, we found the verse that says  He will always be with us wherever we go.  This concerned him and he said I just wish He would pat me on the shoulder so I would know that He’s really there.  I boldly told him that God could do that.  “Just wait,” I told him,” you will feel Him.  He will pat you on the shoulder.”  So, his last words to me as he went into surgery were, “Are you sure He is going to be there?”  “I promise!” I said.  And, I did some powerful praying asking God to let that little 6 year old boy feel His hand.  When Adam was brought back to the room, still a little groggy, the very first words out of his mouth were, “Mama, He was there!  He patted me the whole time!”  How can you not believe in the presence of God when He answers prayers like this.  Such a tiny thing…but my God is aware of all His children and everyone of their needs!

It became one of our favorite teaching tools through out their time at home to ask, “What lesson did you learn?”  no matter if it was a problem with friends or school or illness.

Lest I give you the wrong impression…there were also tears and questions and anger and frustration.  There were times we cried out that we were angry and that God was not fair!   There were times I wanted to run away and hide from it all.  I freely told God just how I felt.  “Why did you do this to us?”  And, you know…God listened and He heard me and He understood.  He knew my feelings before I even told Him.  He told me to unload my burdens to Him…and I did.  And still do.  He listens.  He holds me.  He comforts me.  And, He gives me grace and mercy and peace.

And, I must mention in closing that there is also another special day that is near to our hearts…

 

National Rare Diseases Day!

3b15b7f33b29610f22fa757f88ff2e3dAnd this would include my third son, Alex.  He was diagnosed with Cerebellar Atrophy when he was in the eighth grade and his life was never the same.  There is very little research about the disease.  Most of what is known is how it affects people in the long run.  It is extremely rare for it to strike a young person, usually being diagnosed in middle age.  There is no treatment…only managing symptoms.  Alex is in severe pain daily, has very little balance, sees double all the time and has nystagmus…which is the eye jumping continuously.  It is not a disease that affects the mind  in any way…only physical traits.  The National Rare Disease Day is held annually on February 28, which happens to be Don’s birthday.

Just a little info:

***a disease is considered RARE if it affects less than 200,000 at any given time

***there are over 7000 Rare Diseases identified in America

***there are approximately 30 million people in the US who suffer from a rare disease…that is 1 in 10 Americans

***50% of these are children

***50%  of the diseases do not have any organization for information or support for research

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One Sunday night Don was asked to give his testimony in our church.  He stood and gave praise to God for his healing of Adam.  He told how thankful we were that God was meeting all our needs with Ian.  And, he said how thankful we were that our middle son was healthy and strong.  Less than 2 years later, Alex was diagnosed with this horrible disease.

We don’t understand…and that is OK.  It is the path that we were asked to walk.  These are the 3 boys…now men, whom God chose to become members of our family.  These are the boys He wanted in our family of grandparents and aunts and uncles.  These are the boys He wanted raised in the knowledge of the Lord at Southside Baptist Church, by staff and church family and friends.   And, so our lives have always been a little different, but so many blessings I could never count them all.  Oh, the wonderful things we know now that we may never have learned any other way.

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My heart breaks for those afflicted with Childhood Cancer.  I cringe whenever it is mentioned.  I am so sad when I see a child going through the countless stages of treatment for cleft lip and palate.  I pray that they will have strength and courage for both of these.  And, my heart breaks whenever I hear someone say that they can not find much information on what is wrong with a loved one.  Or they cannot find a doctor to help.  For we have been there.  We have taken Alex all over the US searching for doctors with some…any…information to help us.  But, sadly, it’s just not there.

I urge you to pray for doctors and nurses who deal in illness and disease every day.  I urge you to pray that more research is done on the diseases that sometimes do not even have a name…just a number.  I ask that you teach your children that even though someone may look a little different, or talk a little different, or have a bald head, or can’t walk without falling…inside they have feelings just the same as they.

And, I should like to encourage you that if you find yourself in any of these situations or other medical crisis,,,the strength you need will be there.  Just ask.  There will be hard days, for sure.  But look!  You will be surprised to see how many people God will use to meet your needs.  Keep a record.  It will amaze you what God will do.  I can tell you this for sure….in the midst of sorrow…there will come joy.  There will come joy!

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May God bless all those that suffer today.  And, may I never take for granted the blessings we have.  I pray that He keeps my heart tender to always be concerned about others and be willing to share and help in ways He puts in front of me.  Say an extra prayer today for those children dealing with hurts and pain.

I hope maybe this post has enlightened you a little.  Sorry for the length, but it is what it is.       Isaiah 46:4

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GOING BACK

8/28/2014

This morning I walked back into the building where I spent 20 years of my life…teaching little ones about the world around them and the God who made it all, teaching them to sing praises to God and delight in the movement of their bodies.  I retired 5 years ago, and I think I have thought of the children and my fellow teachers almost every day since then.  Today, I took my youngest grandson in for the first time.

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See, this is a magical place.  It is a school where the child is wrapped up in a warm blanket of love and care and direction.  There are rules and consequences, as there should always be.  But everything here is filtered through God’s plan for teaching and growing little ones into men and women who will one day serve Him.  The director leads the rest of the teachers with an attitude of kindness and gentleness….firmness and fairness.  And all the teachers follow her lead.  Every child is guided to a place of understanding with kind hugs and sweet smiles from their teachers.  And, to be real…sometimes this includes sitting in time out or by the fence at recess.  And, perhaps even a call to parents.  What else would you expect from a lively, excited group of 3, 4, and 5 year olds?  And, don’t we all need to be guided back into line at times when we decide to ‘go our own way’?

There is music…which was my area way back when.  Now songs and marching and dancing and games are taught by a wonderful teacher who makes me so proud.  There are chapel lessons each Friday where the whole school comes together to sing and learn Bible stories.

My sweet Levi went for his first day of Preschool last week.  His Mom and Dad took him.  I didn’t go.  Except in my heart.  This was a time for them…and I knew my time would come soon.  I wanted to watch that baby strut into his classroom and find his place by his name at the table.  I knew there would most likely be a few tears…not from Levi, but from Suzanne!  And, there were.  But, Levi never looked back.  We, his extended family, are so proud of the way in which he meets people and new things…life, really… head on.  And, most always with a smile from ear to ear.  He’s ready to explore and grow and learn.  And, our hearts are overjoyed that God has seen fit for First Presbyterian Preschool to be that place.  Now he does have a few things to learn about the sharing bit and pushing folks out of the way if they are standing in a place he feels is meant for him….but that will come.  He’s three.  He’s a little boy.  He has much to learn.

(That’s him in the hat!)

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I think when God said that we are to “train a child in the way he should go” He means much more than just teaching.  I think it applies to where he spends his time.  I think it applies to what he watches on TV and movies.  I think it applies to what books are made available for him.  I think it applies to what games he plays on a tablet.  I think it means we are to keep him in an environment that is filled with those things that we hold dear….those things that God told us were the right ways to live.  If our young children are not spending time in those places and with those people who believe the same way…it is because it is not important to us.  Or that we are lazy.  Because it just takes a little effort to do.  As Christian parents and grandparents, this is our command from God.

I know it is much harder to control that as children grow.  I raised three boys who were not always where I wanted them to be, nor doing what I wanted them to do.    But, there also comes that time when they must make their own decisions, and follow their own hearts.  And, they, then, must live with the consequences of those decisions.

Preschool education is all about laying a foundation… especially in teaching a child about God, His wonders, His world, His rules.  Knowing that people are happy when they tell stories from the Bible teaches that the Bible is a ‘good book’.  Learning thoughts from God’s Word lends a familiarity that will be remembered when they are old enough to read the Bible for themselves.  Singing songs about God and Jesus and the natural world all add layer upon layer of  information upon which will eventually lead a child to be comfortable enough to always want to know more.  These things have a way of being ‘hidden in their hearts’ and pulled to the surface when they are needed.  (Has that ever happened to you?  Something traumatic or stressful happens and immediately a Bible verse or a hymn or Christian song will pop into your mind?    It happens to me quite a lot.  I may not can quote chapter and verse, but I know what it says!)

It behooves us, therefore, to make their foundations solid.  To filter all they see and do.  And, when they do stumble upon something that we don’t think is appropriate (and it WILL happen)  we must have an explanation to satisfy them as to why it is not acceptable.

Well, this was not supposed to turn into a sermon.  But, sometimes words and thoughts come as I am writing and I feel compelled to share.  So, please forgive the ‘preachy parts.”  That does not mean I don’t fully believe every word I just wrote.  I do.

It is just a blessing and a wonderful, sweet gift from God that my youngest grandson gets to experience all the goodness that is overflowing in his preschool.

(And, yes, that is my favorite outfit he has that he is wearing!  I bought it for him in the spring, and sweet Suzanne let him wear it today just for me!)

 “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the

Lord, His power,  and the wonders He has done…….

so the next generation would know them,

even the children yet to be born,

and they in turn would tell their children.”   PSALM 78: 4-6

LABOR DAY WEEKEND 2014

What a wonderful weekend in beautiful Laguna Beach!  Don and I, along with Levi, set out early Friday morning.  Destination…The Sand Castle!  Suzanne and Adam joined us early evening.  I have just gotten a new vehicle and it has the built in DVD player.  Levi was all excited about watching ‘Frozen’ on the way to the beach!  Ironic, much?

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First job is to do a little cleaning up around the place.

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Checking out the dead bugs on the car…Oh, the things that fascinate little boys!!!

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Suzanne and Adam arrived and Levi took Adam straight to the dirt to play with his new car.

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Then a bucket load of rocks he found made their way into a delightful design on the front porch…all placed ‘just so’ by Levi.  I love how he curved it in two places!

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Wearing my favorite beach shirt, after his bath!

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Next morning, it’s off to the beach for Suzanne, Adam, Levi and Don.  I’m still having foot troubles, so under doctor’s orders to stay out of the sand.  “No fair!”  I sent my camera with them and instructed them all to make many, many pictures!  And, they did!

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Play time over…warm bath…and nap time!

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Adam and Suzanne decided to go out and eat…so Don and I took Levi out, too!

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Then, while I ‘people watched’…Levi and Don found some rides just fit for a little boy!  And, since I was not with them…no pics!

Morning came too quickly!  Time to clean up and pack up and head home to Dothan!

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And, though we were separated by about 300 miles…it made us happy to know that Ian and Tina and Jackson were spending fun time together.  They went to a ball game and then spent today at an arcade with skating and other fun!  Ian even had on skates!  Missed being together with them this weekend.  Was so hoping to get lots of love from sweet Jackson.  But, soon…

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Alex was not able to be with us either this weekend…and he was sorely missed, as well.  Joy and all her family went to the mountains and rented a cabin .  They have had a ball,too!

FAMILY…isn’t that just one of the sweetest words in our language?!

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So good-bye to summer….even though here in South Alabama, the heat will be with us till at least November!  We will certainly ready to feel a little ‘nip’ in the air!  Time to get out the pumpkins and the fall leaves and the scarecrows.  Here comes school days and football and festivals and heading straight into the wonderful seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Happy Fall, Y’all!

 

AUGUST 18, 2014

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And, here I go…adding numbers to the sixties.  Sixty-one?  Me?  How did I get here?  How did all the years before fade away so quickly?

Memories…I got ‘em!  And, I wonder if I am the only one in this world who has random memories just pop into my head.  Sometimes, some long forgotten day or person will come to the fore front and I will relive a day or a feeling from long ago.  Poof!  Then it’s gone.  I wonder where those come from and what triggers them?  Please tell me that happens to you, too.  I will feel oh so much better!

I have been enjoying the day…just me and Levi.  He came in this morning and proceeded to sing me ‘Happy Birthday’.

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We made bacon eggs…but he said they were not like Pa’s.  And, they aren’t.   Don beats the fool out of his eggs before he cooks them…I mean, beats the fool out of them!  Me, I’m more inclined to break the egg right into the skillet.  Levi put them away, in spite of them not measuring up.

Our next project was to make brownies.  Yes…I know no one in this house needs brownies.  BUT, it IS my birthday, and it’s as close to a birthday cake as I am going to get.  He stirred…I cleaned up the floor.  But, they finally made it to oven.

While we waited for them to cook, we decided a little Play-Doh was in order.  I have a box full of all sorts of goodies to work with in the dough.  He had a ball.  He even made me a birthday cake.  A tiny one…bless his heart…with 3 candles!  I will treasure it forever!  (And, it is perfectly fine that he is still in his pajamas…so am I!)

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Brownies out…and cooling.  And, we proceed to the studio, cause Levi had spied some new paints he is dying to paint with.  Yes, I am that LuLu.  I believe that any art experience is a good experience.  Thankfully, Levi agrees.  And, Suzanne is happy cause I only buy washable paint.  Because even though I know neatness counts…when we get into a project…that’s the first thing to be forgotten!  Clothes and body parts should not get in the way of art!!!

Paintings go to the drying place and Levi and I go to the resting place.  I tell him since it’s my birthday, I get to take a nap with him.  He thinks that is such a great idea.  I do , too.  And, so we nap.  After he wiggles and turns and snuggles and flips and flops and kisses again!  It’s perfect!

Up from rest…and brownies to taste.  Oh, yum! They are the best brownies ever.  EVER!  We had 3!

******And since the very first thing this morning…before I even got up…my phone has chirped and chirped and chirped.  Levi began asking what it was after he heard several.  So, I told him it was my friends saying, “Happy Birthday!”  So, each time I heard a chirp, I would hear Levi say, “It’s your friend, LuLu!”  And, then he would ask me the name.    This happened about 125 times.  So, each and every one of you who sent me a greeting yesterday on FB or message, or text mail…was thought about and talked about by this grandmother and her grandson!  (Except the ones that came after 8 pm…it was such a busy day, that I hit the hay around then.  However, I got chirps until way after 11 pm!  What a blessing you were to me yesterday!******

Soon, Suzanne came to pick up Levi.  He went to the car and came back with the most beautiful carved  wooden pumpkin!  It is so cool!   Suzanne tested a brownie and then they were on their way to run errands and head home.  I sat down at the computer and began writing this account.  Don is out of town at a business meeting so it was quiet .  And, Alex has been quiet all day.

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Then I heard a car horn and in a moment…a knock on the front door.  (The garage is forever closed off to the elements now…SSSSSS! , remember?)  When I checked, it was Suzanne and Levi…holding a box of Gigi’s cupcakes!!!  So, I didn’t have to make brownies for my cake after all!  The cupcakes were so yummy and Levi was beside himself surprising me with them!  See the great pumpkin?

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I had sweet phone calls and fun cards and a wonderful day.  No big party…no big fuss made.  Just a quiet day, full of activity and full of love from family and friends.  Just the things that really matter… home and hugs and happiness.  And, chocolate…makes any day a little more special!

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JOY IN THE JULY JOURNEY

DOTHAN…July 1, 2014

As soon as my foot was released from its hard cast prison after 5 weeks…I progressed to an air cast.  Told to wear it all the time, except to take a bath, I took that to mean that big ole bathtub in the backyard would be fine, as well.  And, first thing Tuesday morning, I donned my swim suit and carefully waded into the pool.  Soon I was joined by the two cutest little boys in town, along with their mother and aunt.  Oh, we had such a great time!  Following are some pics from the day.

 

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Loving my new camera!

 

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It make pics underwater!  And, it will not break if you drop it!  Camera heaven!  Everyone has had a ball using my camera to make these great pics in the pool.  Today is the first day that I got to use it.  However, these underwater pics are courtesy of Suzanne…I have to practice a little more!  It probably would help if I could open my eyes underwater! :-)

LAGUNA BEACH…July 2-3,2014

Oh what fun Don and I had with Suzanne and Adam and Levi for 2 days…We crammed as much in as possible!

 

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Sweet Levi is not a fan of the ocean.  He likes to run in the sand,  and pick up shells, but does not want to touch the water.  However, he loves to swim.  A friend had told us about a wonderful public water park here in PCB.  It is the Frank Brown Recreational Complex on Back Beach Road…just past the ‘Y’” going toward PCB.  There is a website you can go to learn more info.  It is a fantastic park.  Plenty of playground equipment, picnic tables, fishing, and 2 wonderful pools.  One is dedicated for children, but parents are welcome to go in with their little ones…there are all sorts of climbing equipment and sprinklers and slides.  Such fun.  And very well kept up.  $8.00  adults…$5.00 kids.

LAGUNA BEACH/ PANAMA CITY BEACH…..July 11-14, 2014

Joy and I, along with Tara and Lori and John Thomas took a long week-end trip to the Sandcastle.  We all needed a little break from ‘real life’…and the beach seemed to be just what we needed.  We ate out and slept in.

 

 

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John Thomas and Tara and Lori took in Shipwreck Island, and Wonder Works…while Joy and I took our time on the couch and the front porch!  To each his own!  They all managed a trek down to the beach and some swimming in the ocean…my foot said,” Stay right where you are…on solid ground!”  And, so I did!

 

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John Thomas and I did a little painting.  He painted a ‘goldie fish’ to grace the walls of the SandCastle.

 

 

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Suzanne and Adam and Levi joined us for the day on Monday.  We all headed back over to the Recreational Complex I mentioned above and had a wonderful day, playing and eating and swimming…with lots of fun and laughter!

 

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DOTHAN…7/16/14

Today Levi stayed with Don and I for the day while his parents were busy.  First Pa cooked Levi his favorite, ‘baconeggs’…and then they went to ride the toys.  Finally, a little newspaper reading was in order while they cooled off! 20140716_094116-1

 

 

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Then I managed to snap some good close-ups of the little man while we played outside waiting for Suzanne to come!

 

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JULY 21-24, 2014

Officially, this isn’t on my list, because I was not there.  But, family was.  And, since this is my blog, I get to make the rules!  Love how that works out!  Anyway, Jackson and Tina were able to spend a few days at the Sand Castle.  Word from them was a great time was had, even amidst the rain.  There was still swimming and fun to be had.  And, fried crab claws, too!  I only wish i could have spent some of the time with them.  They are so dear to me!

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10527909_10152170452046510_6835910154409141866_nJuly 29, 2014

Today Suzanne started back to school…crazy, huh?  So I’m back to Levi and Lulu time!  It has been such a fun day.  But, boy is our schedule ever off!  We’ve got some work to do to get back in our groove! Don is out of town, so Levi said he could not eat ‘baconeggs’…so we had bananas, toast and blackberries.  He was too excited to eat, I think.  Cause he knew what I had promised him we would do when he came to stay again.  Paint! art-quoteHe had seen my paints out and had been wanting to paint and I kept putting him off…but today was the day!  First, he donned his new painting apron.  Look!  He wrote his own name!

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We started with the watercolors.  He did well for the first time.  It’s not easy to remember to dip the brush into water between each color…but he finally got it.

 

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I title the above finished painting…”Just A Little Brown”. ( The bottom pic in photo below).   After he had finished painting such a pretty mix of blues and greens, he looked at it and said, “Gotta put some brown right here.”  And, so he did.  Wonder what that thought process was.  Maybe he just has an artist’s eye!

 

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His second attempt turned out beautifully, I think.  I think it looks like wet cupcake sprinkles!  Don’t you just love how the colors blend in together…no matter what color is used? Next we moved on to fingerpaint.  He was not quite as sure about this.  After he realized it was just fine to get paint all over his hands, he began to enjoy it.  We eventually moved it to the floor.  And decided the best picture of all was Lulu and Levi’s hand prints all over an old towel!

 

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We decided then that the best way to celebrate our art was with a swim!  And even Uncle Alex and Finn joined us for a while!  Such a beautiful day to be in this glorious world created by the Master Designer!  After all that and a quick lunch, I was ready to rest.    I was just happy to put my feet up!  Well…at least this little man got some dream time in.

 

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And so ends our short journey through the month of July, 2014.  Could life be any sweeter?  God is just so good and gracious to our family.  All is not roses and candlelight…and we go through our tough times.  Things happen that we want to run from.  We are affected by circumstances that we have no control over.  We still deal with illness on a daily basis.  But through it all…God brings the joy!  We are not thankful FOR all things we go through…but we are thankful IN all things.  Because the only way you get to appreciate the joy…is to taste some of the bitter.  The promises of God are always true and always steadfast.  He will never fail.  Thank you God, for allowing me to know this in my heart of hearts!

 

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I LOVE A CROWN…

Last week, Levi came to stay with Don and me for the day.  We have missed having him here every week, as Suzanne is out of school.  Don cooked him his favorite, ‘Baconeggs’…one word…and toast and fruit.  They ate and then got busy.  First they had to fill the bird feeder.  Levi and I have 2 special birds that visit everyday…Mama and Daddy Redbird!  And, their food was getting low.

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Then Pa let him ride his tricycle down the lane for a little bit…even though he (Levi) was still in his pajamas!  He didn’t mind!  We didn’t either…just don’t tell Suzanne!  :-)  I couldn’t walk with them…this FOOT!

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After their workout, they decided to sit a spell and check the paper to see what was going on here in Dothan…not much.

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Pa had to leave for work, and Levi wanted to ride some more.  But, first, he had to take a potty break and get on some cooler clothes.  Even at 9 AM it was very humid and sticky outside.  I pulled up the rocker so I could watch him, and put out his barricade.  Our driveway has a steep slope to it…and once he gets past a certain point…there is no stopping till he gets to the lane!  And, since I couldn’t go after him…I gave him a stopping point before he hit the slope.  Then I sat back and watched.  He had such fun filling up the back of his train…which he is really too big for now…but he loves it the best… with leaves and pinestraw and rocks and bringing them to me and making a little pile of the most interesting things.

Why are these long?  (pine straw)

They stick together.  They pull apart.

Why is that leaf yellow?  Why you have no red flower? (hydrangeas will have to do)

What is that sound?  (weed eater)  What is that?  (garbage truck)  I hear music.  (wind chimes)

Big rock…little rock…WHY?

Is the sky blue today? (no it is sort of gray)  Why?  (because it is hiding some rain)

Rain and thunder?  Storm?  (maybe just some rain today) Welcome to summertime in the South, my boy!

We get wet?  (No, we will not)…but maybe we would if I did not have this cast on my leg…one day we will)

Oh the delightful mind of a three year old!

 “Stand still and consider the works of God.”     Job 37:14

 

He made a few more trips and then stopped to rest awhile right by my chair…so I took the opportunity to snap a few pics.  He wasn’t really in a smiling mood…obviously all this nature play had started his mind rolling!  I did manage to catch a few poses that brought some thoughts to mind as I looked back over them…

 

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A little boy is full of energy! What a joy that is! God has blessed him with a strong body and a strong will. It is important that he has plenty of time to run that energy off. Running and riding and playing and swinging and swimming…all so wonderful to build up his little body and mind to stay strong.

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There is a great big wonderful world that God made for him to explore. We must teach him some of the things we can do to take care of it. Watering the flowers, feeding the birds and taking the time to marvel at the size and colors of the leaves and rocks!

“You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.”                 Nehemiah  9:6

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We must also work on his interpersonal skills. Children need to be taught to be obedient. We say, “OBEY…RIGHT AWAY!” Now he and I do not always see eye to eye on what is acceptable and necessary. But, this is where we have to bring in a little discipline. Usually TIME OUT works really well! Adam and Suzanne do such a good job raising him. He loves to attend church and gets excited retelling the Bible stories. We always look for those ‘teachable moments’ to teach him about respect and good manners and politeness.

My personal philosophy is this…God made this fantastic, wonderful world for us all.  He put so many things in it for us to delight in.  I still discover new things everyday.  Wonderful and amazing things.  It even can be overwhelming to me when I think of all I don’t know and wish I did.  And, how do I even know what else I’d like to know?  Even at 61, I want to know and see all that I can.  I want to experience things I have only heard of!  (Well, not everything…but some sound amazing!)  So just imagine how a little one feels thrust into this same big, wonderful world!  They have to learn to navigate it as well.  It is so much easier when you take it a little at a time.  But they do not know that.  And, jump with boundless energy from one thing to the next…overloading all the circuits!  We must teach them to slow down…take time to really see…really feel.  We must teach them the ‘rules’ for the best path through this life.  We need to teach them how easily doors can open with the right words and actions.  And, how quickly they can close to those who don’t appreciate how precious are our hearts and minds and feelings.  We must tell them that it is OK to travel over the same path several times if we are happy there…but there are so many other paths that lead to equally wonderful times.  How sad to not at least try.

(Like asparagus and beets…I tried them both.  And now I know I NEVER want to go down that path to their garden again…ever!  I will stay with my friends broccoli and fresh corn and sweet Slocomb tomatoes).

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Isn’t it amazing how we, as grandparents, have so much more patience than when we were raising our own?  I guess that is what is meant by all the things I hear people say about being grandparents…’you really haven’t known of love til you have a grandchild.’  Of course it’s the children…they are so adorable.   But so were yours and mine.  I think we enjoy them so much because we have time to be quiet and watch and discuss and explore.  And, wisdom!  We have so much more of it now, don’t we?  We can give them that most valuable commodity…time.

I find myself thinking back to when we were raising our 3 boys.  Oh how I wish I had taken more time in some areas.  Life gets so full and unexpected sometimes that the best you can do is just ‘get through it’.  But, I don’t think that’s what God intends.  How sad we come to this realization later than sooner.

 “Let us be concerned with one another in order to promote love and good deeds.”     Hebrews 10:24

 

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“Thank you God for this precious boy…and all the precious grandchildren those of us ‘of a certain age’  are blessed to love and guide and enjoy.  Thank you that we can play ‘Follow the Leader’ with them to some wonderful discoveries.  And, how blessed we are to watch them make others all on their own.  I, for one, continue to take your command to ‘train them up’ as a necessary part of my job as a Lulu.  And, I am so grateful for this precious gift you have placed in our lives.”

“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged…”  Proverbs 17:6

 

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And, aren’t crowns just the most delightful of accessories?

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THESE BOOTS…

“You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the lands which you shall possess.”     Deuteronomy 5:33

Pop was born with a sense of adventure and growing up in a family of 6 brothers and 1 sister, he learned to fend for himself early on.  Even though he didn’t always use the best judgement, he always went, with gusto, into the task at hand.

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Having a love of motorcycles, he seized the opportunity to buy a motorcycle dealership when he was very young.  And, his love for motorcycles and the open road have filled his soul all his life.  He set about to make his dream of seeing the world come true…just he and his motorcycle…and lots of faith in God.

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His first trips took him north through the Unites States and Canada on the AlCan Highway, to Fairbanks, Alaska. One hundred miles north of Fairbanks is Circle, Alaska…the northernmost point of the Northern America Highway System…The End of the Road. Heading southward, he arrived at the End of the Road once more…40 miles above the Panama Canal.

After he was satisfied that he had seen the End of the road…he set his sights away from the USA and into 15 foreign countries. If he could ride his motorcycle there from Dothan, AL, he did. But, if not, he shipped it in and then picked it up and rode throughout the countries. Many times, he would exit the country the way he came in…and leave the missionary with a newfound and reliable method of transpiration. Kenya, Tanzania, Venezuela, Argentina, Peru, Guatemala, Honduras are just some of the countries he spent time in. Not speaking Spanish, he quickly learned the most important words to safely navigate his way. A place to sleep, a place to eat, and a safe place for his machine. Many nights he kept it in his motel room with him ! He made a total of 7 trips, 5 solo and 2 with a buddy. Most lasted for 2-3 months. And on every trip, he wore boots….these boots to be exact…

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These boots were made for riding…and hiking through jungles…and catching alligators in the Amazon River. They were made for wearing while missionaries homes were tinkered with by the ‘missionary man’ from Dothan, AL. He calls himself ‘the missionary to the missionaries’. Always traveling at his own expense and providing his own tools and work gear, he left tiny snatches of his heart throughout South and Central America, and parts of Africa. His work over the years included building radio stations, churches, helping visiting medical teams, traveling with the missionary on the field to remote villages to check on new churches, pray with them and encourage the ‘brothers’. He fixed cabinet doors in missionary residences, repaired washing machines so they wouldn’t scoot across the floor, and built rabbit hutches for a young missionary kid. He patched roofs and fixed doors so they would swing freely. He went to be a friend to those who were called to serve. He befriended missionary kids and made lifelong friends.

[Missionary Dick Greenwood center back in brown jacket...Pop in front gifting this church with a generator...] generator...Honduras

These years were full of close calls, brushes with near death, and an angel visitation. But, for a man who felt a calling on his life…he viewed it as one big adventure. My Mom supported his trips and we daughters were in awe of the man who would pack a few bags of supplies on the back of his Honda, tie them down with several bungee cords and take off for parts unknown.

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Some called it folly, others a great witness and testimony. But, he calls it “just one little man doing his little part in the great big world.” There are missionaries all over who know today that they were cared for and loved and respected by him and his family. If they had a need and it was in his power, he met it. God’s grace and protection abounded everywhere he went…and the stories he can still tell could fill a book…which I hope to write one day.

This is my Daddy…my Pop… and if you want to know more…just ask him. But, you better be prepared to sit for a mighty long spell! They are as fresh and alive in his 88 year old mind as they were when they happened!

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Happy Birthday, Pop! You make me proud!

 

boots 2   [The pictures of Pop's boots were done by Adam as a gift for Pop.  They are absolutely beautiful, printed on metallic paper ...the copies here do not do them justice.]