Thursday, November 2, 2017


I have nodes. I am living with nodes. But I am a survivor, but I have to pull back because I am limited. Because I have nodes.                   - Chloe, Pitch Perfect
I’m on day 7... day 7 of TEN DAYS of no talking. Not a word. Not even a whisper. This after a minor surgery last Friday where my ENT removed a small node form my vocal cords. Depending on my audience, I scrawl an explanation on my dry erase board, “like in Pitch Perfect.” And depending on my audience, that explanation is met with smiles and squeals.

Several weeks ago I called my ENT and told the receptionist, “I really don’t have any desire to make an appointment with Dr. Fewins, and I really don’t want to come in.”
She paused.
I continued, “Last time I saw Dr. Fewins, he forbade me to speak for ten days. And now I'm pretty sure I need the same procedure.”
“How long have you noticed your voice being hoarse?”
“Oh, about a year and a half.”
“Well,” she laughed, “let’s make that appointment.”

About a decade ago, the last time I had this procedure, our kiddos were so young. My ten days of parenting in silence was most difficult with Basden, because that’s just hard not to talk with a four-year-old. Essie was about two and toddled along just fine. The boys could both read, so I kept my dry erase board handy. But sweet Basden would just look at me, not fully understanding why I couldn’t talk to her. At one point she fell and  hurt herself, and I remember holding and rocking her, not able to soothe her with words. No fun.

Also because of that week, Branson claims he’s the only eight-year-old who’s been screamed at through a dry erase board. I distinctly remember waving him upstairs to my room, and I was so stinking angry. I remember sitting on my bed, furiously writing out his offense, whatever it was, and holding it up in his little face. Then furiously erasing it, then furiously writing again, and holding it up... seriously one of my biggest parenting fails. I knew even then that I was out of control. Red faced, angry, chewing out my little boy in deafening silence with a dry erase marker.

AGH. Well, frustration and anger with little ones is a real thing, and I’ve written on that before. Let’s just say I utilize the words “I’m sorry” an awful lot (still do), and Branson had and still has a tender heart willing to forgive.

At the beginning of that week, all those years ago, my friend Tina gave me a cute tiny chalk board with the word “remember.” It hung above my desk for years, and that sign took me back to the lessons I learned enduring a small window of silence.

So it’s time for me to again remember.

Even surgery last Friday morning with full anesthesia couldn’t keep me from Bran and Hud’s Friday night football game (c’mon, this is Texas), Basden’s City Championship volleyball tournament (her team WON and she actually got to play for the first time in weeks after her ankle injury), and Esther’s volleyball game. During Essie's game, my good friend Alison approached me very concerned, “TJ! Essie told Caleb you had LUNG SURGERY ~ what in the world?? Surely I would have known if you were having LUNG surgery??!”

It’s different this time around with teenagers. Easier for sure, but different. If you look at what I posted ten years ago, my kids were leaving "I love you" post-it-notes all over the house. Now these big boys are just making fun.

Branson asks me a question, then walks past me and says, “I can’t hear you.”
Or he’ll say goodnight and start to head upstairs, glancing back at me, “Hey Mom - are you mad?” He waits for me to shake my head no, then continues, “You sure? You’re awfully quiet...”
I asked Bran a couple of nights ago if I needed to call his coach for some details about an event (me communicating all of this, naturally, on my erase board), and he paused then asked, “And just how are you gonna do that?” and he held his up his phone, looking sideways at me with hearty chuckle.

I’ll mouth something to Basden, hoping she can read my lips, and then she silently mouths something back in response. Then starts cracking up. She keeps falling for it.

Hudson sees a need and jumps in to help. On Halloween evening as he and Bran came in from football practice, he caught me handing out candy at the front door and immediately took over. “How are you even doing this?” he asked, taking the bowl from me. And for the rest of the night he went back and forth to the door, taking care of all those costumed kiddos.

Now, Essie is still young enough to be writing notes. She keeps stopping to kiss me every time I pass. Lots of compassion and empathy from that one. The funniest is that when I write her a note on the board, she wants to write me back. So it’s taking us years to communicate. But sweet.

And Corbin - he can’t understand a thing. Not my eyes, not my expressions... he told someone, “I am not the TJ whisperer.” I texted him that we’re gonna be pathetic trying to communicate in our eighties. However, he is compassionate. Made me stay home last Sunday from church to sleep in, and yikes I needed it.

The funniest response, and I remember this happening last time, is that when people realize I can’t talk, they immediately start to whisper, or even mime things back to me. I dropped some stuff at Good Will, held up a note that I couldn’t use my voice, and the man responded with, “Awww.” His voice grew softer, and as I walked back to my car I heard him whispering to another man, “she can’t talk.”

Going through a neighborhood guard gate, I showed the guard my note, and he immediately started miming, using some sort of sign language and giving me a thumbs up (all I needed was for him to open the gate). Incidentally, when I returned again a couple of hours later, Basden was with me and spoke to him for me. He looked at me with wide eyes and said, “Oh, you’re the one who can’t talk!”
I nodded.
He leaned in, “Can you talk now??”

Joking aside, it’s evident when my friends “get it.” They immediately barge past the practicalities and consider the relational and even spiritual challenge of not speaking for a few days.
I pulled in the "Walmart to go" parking space (which is extremely convenient whether you can or can't speak) and looked over to see my friend Brandi in the next car. Holding up my sign, she immediately said, “Well what is THAT doing for your heart?”
And during small group, my friend Keely asked, “You can’t talk?? That’s awesome!” with a huge grin. She immediately knew this recovery involved a slowing down process, which I agree is “awesome.”

A few take-aways this time around:
- The invitation to rest is worth the interruption. So grateful that I don’t have added stress of losing days at a job, that my daily responsibilities are not terribly interrupted, and I was able to pretty much shut down for a week. How different - and refreshing - it is to just BE QUIET
- Other people get to talk. No kidding. I wish I listened more than I talked, the same way I’ve wished for years I was a morning person. I can discipline myself to get up early, but it’s not my nature. And I can work at listening, but man I usually have a lot to say.
- Much easier not to gossip or complain when not using words. I caught myself wanting to share a good story this week - a really good but not-mine-to-tell story - and thank goodness I couldn’t. And I got all the way to yesterday when I realized I haven’t complained this week (at least not with words, I'm still quite capable of rolling my eyes). How amazing and refreshing is that?! Affects my mindset.
- The majority of my words are not necessary.  Just how much do I really want to type into my phone or write on a dry erase board? Believe me, just the necessities.
- While Pitch Perfect's Chloe is not necessarily the standard of wisdom, in this case she's exactly right, I have to pull back when I'm limited. When we have to compensate physically, it’s exhausting. Takes a lot of energy and creativity to communicate without words.  Last Saturday after all the activity, I hit a wall. And even this week, if I’m out and about and seeing people, I have to stop and rest and be quiet. Perhaps I can remember this when spending time with (or even running into) others who are dealing with a physical disability.

Probably the most profound thing rolling around in my mind from all of this, intensified after just seeing "Same Kind of Different as Me," is that I need an advocate. I need someone who can speak for me. Basden with me at the guard gate. My mom with me checking out at Costco. Jamie with me in a crowded room of parents at gymnastics. I need someone to speak for me, someone to explain, someone to buffer. Someone who knows my story and can communicate for me when I'm not able.

And next Monday, even when I can speak again, I will still need an Advocate.
Especially if I have to go back through that guard gate.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Soaking It In

With Bran as a newborn, one of my first opportunities as a mom to "soak it in..." I loved watching him laugh at his reflection in our little upstairs bathroom

Life just doesn’t get easy this side of Heaven.

Corbin and I ran into a small grocery store Sunday evening for ice cream and saw an elderly woman hobbling toward her car parked in the handicapped space right near the entrance. As we passed her, I whispered to Corbin, “How can we help her?” Here it was, after 9 pm on a Sunday evening, and she was just feet away from us hunched over her cane with a small bag of groceries. She didn’t necessarily need our help, but my heart went out to her ~ all alone shopping late at night and then driving home. We simply smiled and said hello, and she launched into a story of how she couldn’t find her best cane, she’d looked all over, but this one would do. She finished with a half smile and shrug of her shoulders, “oh well” and climbed into her car.
Where was she driving home to? Should she even be driving? Would anyone be waiting for her at home as she arrived under the dark cover of night?

Several weeks ago I sat across our patio table from my dear friend and her lovely mother as they discussed the nearly two years since losing their father and husband. Said it felt like a blink.
“Tell me about his passing,” I asked.
And as they recounted the events of that shocking, difficult day, this precious woman's eyes moistened as she described being without her husband of nearly fifty years, “It’s so very difficult.”

Life just doesn’t get easy this side of Heaven.

I have this unfounded expectation that we finish school, get married and raise our children, and then coast a bit. I can’t think of one older couple actively pursuing the Lord who are simply coasting. The weight of loved ones struggling, chronic health issues, loneliness, despair with the state of our culture and world... the challenges seem to remain until we meet our Heavenly Father. So ~ I can either choose to carry the weight of the unknown struggles ahead, or I can choose gratitude for this day and soak in the good and the hard. And perhaps the best strategy ~ take one day (one moment) at a time.

One of the few times I've captured her without a huge spunky grin ~ but I love this one
It’s good and hard that our youngest is finished with elementary school and started middle school. No more little bitty ones in our home. (She will always be little!!) Soaking it in.

I just love her so completely
It’s good and hard that our almost-fourteen-year-old looks more like a woman than a child. She is growing up beautifully and seems comfortable in her own skin. She is sensitive to others’ feelings yet doesn’t feel guilty if things go well for her. I learn so much from her steady countenance. Soaking it in.
Has there ever been a sweeter face??!
It’s good and hard that Hud chose to leave his childhood friends and comfort zone and move schools to be with his big brother. Watching them suited up on Friday nights - in the same uniforms, on the same team  - it’s too much. Soaking it in.

The "wrestling window" is smaller than we think
It’s good and hard that our oldest has started his senior year. Eight more months at home, and then as he says, “I’ll probably never live in Fort Worth again.” Who knows, but I sure believe that’s a possibility. We’re in our “lasts” together as a family living under one roof. Soaking it in.

Well this is enough to make my eyes a little misty, but there is just so much good mixed into the hard. And this broad overview of our current season isn't even getting into the nitty-gritty of the daily good and hards! The way I see it, the years stretched ahead will continue to be a mix.

Amy Grant has a song on one of her latest albums, "Better Not to Know" ~ here's the chorus:
Oh, it's better not to know
The way it's gonna go
What will die and what will grow.
Oh, nothing stays the same
Life flickers like a flame,
As the seasons come and go
Goodbye more than hello
It's better not to know

I love that song. At first glance it can sound a little depressing, that it's better not to know the struggles ahead. But we also don't know the joys.

That elderly woman at the grocery store, I don't know her story or situation. But the lovely grandmother sitting across my patio table ~ as she grieves her husband, she also wakes every morning in a lovely home and in good health to the cacophony of her daughter's vivacious family. Three amazing grandsons still living under their roof all together, and she has great purpose as the matriarch of that family, sharing their daily struggles and joys.

We can take such comfort in the Lord's command to not worry about tomorrow, that today has enough concerns. Let us just soak in today and look forward to tomorrow with our chins up, knowing that He holds the good and the hard, and He will equip us as we go. 

Life will not get easy this side of Heaven. But we've got our Heavenly Father's promises and His presence, and we've got all of Heaven with no tears, no sadness, and no pain. Until then - may we soak it all in.

And here's to hoping we can enjoy lots of laughter in the process!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Practicing Gratitude 9.22.17

- Essie's first 6th grade cotillion

pretty cute 6th grade boys
- This PUNKIN in Bozeman, our newest little cousin Audrey Crystal

- More football - loving our Friday nights
even with Hudda injured, still a thrill to see my boys together
cheering on those Eagles
the gang's all here
so PROUD of them ~ and football is tip of the iceberg. but it's in there!

 - LUKE. So so so very thankful for him. And he's sure a lot of fun to watch on D

- Corbin coming home from DC - we miss him when he's away

- A quiet day yesterday - Sunday - wonderful!

- Walking down to the park with the girls last night, and then how well they got along practicing vb together in the ga ga pit - a gift
 - Canwick 2017 - Hud and Amanda

- McLean's 911 service - that they do this every year and teach our 8th grade kiddos about 911. I always cry
Basden is waaay back there in the choir
Retiring a well-worn flag and burning it, I didn't know about this custom until these services

- How much she's loving vb, feeling more accomplished and skilled

with our middle school chuch leader, Taryn

awesome cheering section
 - Sic Em Bears
win or lose, #our team
 - Ruby snuggled up ~ always

 - What a fun crew!! Go Rangers! I'm just so grateful these principals would take the time
Luke, Shane Naderman, Joey Richards, Bran
 - These two killin' it in Montana ~ pun intended

 - Special lunch, special friends

- An evening with Hannah and Chase and SHEPHERD


Shepherd falling asleep in Hud’s arms - precious

 - Hud’s clear MRI

- Shrimp and sausage kbobs last night and how much Bran ate!

- Hud & Joy working hard on homework

- Getting Hud to cryotherapy, Bran willing to take him

- HSM baptism - THIS many of Hud's PHS 10th grade friends at CCBC to celebrate - amazing

- Painters here, along with new windows for sunroom - which also gives me a deadline to work in sunroom and clean things out (!)
"before" windows
"before sunroom" - although mostly cleaned out. terrible stained carpet, chipped paint, just dirty. But this room has been one of the most invaluable in our home over the years as an amazing playroom
- Wylidlife watch out!

- Private school perks - time and capacity to celebrate Seniors well
a few of the dozen seniors
love this pic and that Mama Lott did ALL of this - she works tirelessly

 - Boys making it safely to school this morn - along with every other morn they've gone

- Snuggling with Essie last night - she was so scared listening to her Nancy Drew book that she was literally sweating when I went up to check on her

- That she can achieve her AR points in by listening to books

- That she taught herself how to make a bar graph in pages

- Hud’s shoulder (nerves) still injured, sitting out another game or two, thanking you in all things, Heavenly Father, for what you have for him in this

- Baby Noah's birth!!


- Ali and Cormac staying with us this week, what joy they bring

Noah time
- Keisters staying with us over the weekend for TCU parents’ weekend

- Your timing, Lord - my boys going to small groups last night and then getting Ali at this hospital for me; painters and windows and yard stuff - You are orchestrating timing so beautifully in ways that I couldn't

- When I feel jealous - that I can run to you. When I feel aimless - I can run to You. When I feel like my circle of influence is tiny and insignificant, I run to You, Father, and I know in your economy that doesn’t matter anyway. SO. Thank you for my feelings of jealousy and inadequacy, and please help me take my eyes off of myself and instead shape those thoughts into how I can worship You and encourage others around me. But I need your strength & hope to do it

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles...   1 Chronicles 16:11-12