Sunday, March 27, 2011


Dan looked at me through the computer on Skype Thursday evening and relayed the events of that afternoon. She had been scheduled to start home I.V. therapy, but the home health nurses were unable to get her port to flush. Further, she experienced burning and swelling in her chest every time they forced the plunger down on the syringe. So, even though she began insisting I didn't need to come, I packed up and made the drive to Birmingham that evening. She was admitted to the hospital through the Emergency Room, and after an x-ray and ultrasound it was determined that she needs a new port. After being completely irate and infuriated all over again at the surgeon who placed her port in the first place, I have come to accept that God has a plan. It is better this happened now than in the middle of transplant or shortly after. She will be able to get everything she needs during her surgery and after without a problem, so that is a blessing. We will need lots of prayer because she will not receive general anesthesia. That can be dangerous to her lungs at her current functions, so they will be using local anesthesia (numbing the area) and sedation drugs. UAB is very different from USA. In some ways if you've done one hospital stay, you have done them all... But, we are hospital connoisseurs. We have seen the best and the worst and everything in between. Further, Dan is no longer being seen at a Children's Hospital, so some of the differences are probably due to the fact that the adult hospital is not as familiar with dealing with parents. Still, we are adjusting and learning how to best advocate for what Dan needs. However, at UAB, we have to pay closer attention to what the doctors' orders are and what each person says with regard to her treatment, because after they leave the room, the next person coming in has no clue what has been said. I'm thinking, "Don't y'all write it down in a chart or type it in a computer... Something... Jeeze. Jot it on a post-it. Send a text. Post it to your Facebook wall." Just communicate. With all the techonology available, there is no excuse... And I will be happy to lend someone a pen. The most interesting thing this stay, though, has been all the curious sights and events in the corridor. In every hospital, there are two categories of people. (Well, three- But, the people visiting new babies don't really count.) There are the people visiting whose family members have had some sort of trauma or have had to have a surgery for something. They wander around looking tired and bewildered about the whole experience. These are the uninitiated. I don't fall into that category. And, I look upon them with envy sometimes. I imagine them going home and talking at dinner several years after the fact about the time that so-and-so was in the hospital and how horrible and traumatic it was. Then there is my category of folk. We are the initiated. We joined a club that we never wanted to join with people we didn't particularly ever want to meet. There is something different in the eyes of the initiated. When we meet each other's gaze, we simply nod to one another giving a empathetic little smile silently wishing one another well. We come and we visit. We stay and we hold hands. Sometimes we throw fits; we cry; we rest fitfully; we pray fervently... We even have moments of laughing hysterically and chatting amiably. Probably, we look somewhat the same as the uninitiated. The difference is we know this is not the last time. We know the last time is in the future, and while we would welcome the relief of not having to come back to the hospital, sometimes not coming back would mean the loss of the person we are here loving and waiting upon. So, we endure. We wander down for coffee and tell a story with our eyes that never needs to be spoken aloud. The initiated don't interest me. I feel for them, and while I occasionally have had the opportunity and sometimes privilege to learn their stories, I don't seek it. I'm not curious. I am, however, extremely curious about the stories of the uninitiated. Currently, there is a family of about 20 people who have brought pillows, blankets, sleeping bags and clothing and have set up a camp in the atrium lobby. Often you see people slumped in a chair exhausted and napping, but rarely do you see a huge family of people in jammies and nighties camping around in the lobby. It's like they are waiting for concert tickets yearning to be the first in line... And, so I wonder about their story. I'm going to church this morning, so I need to shower as to not offend my pew mates. Thanks for your support and your prayers. And, don't feel guilty for being one of the uninitiated. I hope you never need to join our club.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

The Power of Encouragement

We are heading up to Birmingham to visit Dan for Mardi Gras break. It will be so great to have a chance to visit. And, as most of you know, she is mondo-excited about getting a car. Before we charge out, though, I just had to take a moment to write about the power of encouragement.

This week at school, teachers presented on different chapters from the book, "Teach Like a Champion". (Note the Prezi below...) It's one of those books I wish I had read my first couple of years teaching, but it is nice to be reminded of some of the principles for successful teaching and classroom management. During one presentation offered by one of my fantastic special education colleagues, she reminded us all of the power inherent in positive praise and encouragement. Dr. Becky Bailey talks about using specific praise to build feelings of intrinsic reward for children.

When I first started teaching, (and for many years, actually), I used a token economy system of a "checkbook". My students would earn money for positive behavior, lose money for negative behaviors and shop weekly with the balance in their checkbook. It worked. However, I stopped using it after one of Jill Molli's Conscious Discipline trainings. Jill talked about setting children up for failure as adults by not teaching them positive strategies to manage upset and make choices. Essentially, my checkbook system may have subconsciously programmed children to believe, "If I do something good, I get to buy myself something..." Well, I watch that show, "Hoarders", and goodness knows I don't want to be a party to creating a compulsive shopper. But, more than that... I got what she was saying. Motivation must be intrinsic to work for a lifetime. My co-teacher also reminded of that during her presentation of "Teach Like a Champion" techniques. I'm trying to offer students lessons that will last a lifetime, not just for the year or two they call me their teacher.

I've come to believe that if something is True with a capital T, then it is true in a variety of ways, and the idea is prone to show up in all manner of media and print. I imagine it is just a little bit of Divine Wisdom inserting Itself into the universe. So, right after I heard that lesson presented at school, I received the lesson in my own life.

I have never been a "bound out of bed and great the day with enthusiasm" kind of girl. I also lost my "party all night and into the wee hours of the morning" energy of my youth some time during my 20's. However, after I began writing professionally last year, I found I had all sorts of energy. I would stay up typing late into the night, and constantly had thoughts and topics about writing racing through my head... My head still kind of works like an on-going blog, but I found my creative mind to be pretty quiet after Dave and I visited D.C. to take care of his brother's affairs upon his early alcoholism-related death. Then my grandmother died the week after, and the events of those late January-early February events left me sick with strep and physically exhausted... In short, I was back to my old, tired, pre-writing self.

Then last night I received an e-mail from the publisher of a magazine to which I am currently contributing requesting I call her. The magazine is a Mississippi Delta-based publication called By U that promotes "good deed doing" for others. Last night, when I called her she told me that a letter I had written for the magazine requesting donations for a little girl with health problems had generated a many contributions from people across the nation. She told me people were touched by my letter in a way that has prompted great monetary contributions. Essentially, God used my writing ability and By U Magazine to bring tremendous blessings to a young girl and her family. (I am attaching the letter below, and if anyone feels moved to contribute, I will find out how you can help.)

After my phone call in which I received specific praise for something I had done, my energy returned and I found myself typing well into the night. Dave and I have jokingly been calling it my "super power", but I realize now what it is... The power of encouragement sparks the "God energy" in each of us. Usually, I sign my e-mails and letters "Namaste'", which loosely translated means the Divine in me, honors the Divine in you. Well, truly, when my publisher honored the Divine in me with specific praise for a job well done, a fire was lit with the spark of encouragement.

So, I say to you on this day, "Namaste'". You have the strength within to do anything that is yours to do. Absolutely anything.

Tatyana's Story:

Dear Compassionate Friend,

Thank you for being a person who will make a difference in the life of a child. Tatyana Anderson, a 5th grade student at Quitman County Elementary School, needs your help. Diagnosed with lupus, a debilitating chronic illness affecting the joints, muscles and most other systems of the body, she finds it difficult to manage many simple tasks. Pain and fatigue are constant companions making every day a challenge for this bright and lively young girl. However, Tatyana does not allow this condition to rule her life. She struggles to attend school and looks to life with the hopes and dreams of a little girl.

While managing lupus has been difficult for Tatyana’s family, it has not been impossible. There were constant doctor’s appointments and daily medical management to keep Tatyana functional and relatively pain-free. The family was getting by. However, in 2007, they were delivered a crushing blow. A doctor’s visit after a symptom the family believed related to lupus revealed deeper trouble. Tatyana had cancer.

Life for this beautiful, young girl with the bright and shining smile has evolved into a twisting, turning walk of faith riddled with one hardship after another. Carolyn Anderson, Tatyana’s mother, strives to provide the best possible care for her child’s medical needs while single-handedly rearing three other children still living at home. Ms. Anderson, a mother of eight and woman of great faith, looks to her church family for support and encouragement.

Tatyana’s life-saving chemo-therapy treatments attacked the cancer cells simultaneously wreaking havoc on her lupus-affected body systems. The medication that currently sustains her has created a build-up of fluid in various parts of her body and dangerously around her heart. She needs an operation to drain the fluid and relieve pressure and swelling. However, the cost of Tatyana’s daily medical care and ongoing cancer treatments alone are exorbitant. In these trying economic times the family is unable to manage the cost of surgery along with all the other expenses of caring for a chronically ill child.

Fortunately for Tatyana’s family, people like you are available and willing to help. While one of us may be unable to shower the family with financial support and blessings, all of us working together can make a difference. Your contribution will provide financial support necessary so Tatyana can receive the surgery she desperately needs while continuing to battle the illness that plagues her daily. Your donation, no matter how big or small will make a lasting impact in the life of a child.

Blessings to you,

Friends of Tatyana Anderson

Wednesday, March 02, 2011