A change has come

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I haven’t blogged about this yet, but I love my new job (part time) as department secretary at Huntsville Hospital Pediatric Therapy – I feel like I’m making a difference for the children we see, and I feel like I’m giving back a little of what so many have helped us with during Riley’s journey to hearing.

The clinic sees patients for speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and now audiology. It’s exciting that families no longer have to drive to Birmingham or Nashville to have their child’s hearing tested or their cochlear implants mapped or their hearing aids adjusted. All that is available in Huntsville now.

It took a lot of hard work from the therapists, the audiologist, the volunteers, the hospital’s foundation, and many donors to help get the audiology program started. And it’s so worth it.

I’m learning so much about how these services really benefit these kids. I know first-hand how great auditory-verbal therapy is. Now I’m learning the benefits of OT. And about how you do PT with a 3-month-old. These therapy disciplines are fascinating.

Another cool thing? I wear scrubs to work. No futzing with dress pants and shoes. Or trying to find a shirt that fits. Or that isn’t too wrinkled. Just toss on the scrubs and go. I’m working on my color combos: Today it was turquoise and red; other days it’s been hot pink and navy.

I’m still writing, too. In fact, I’m working on a story right now for a national publication and another for a regional parenting magazine. And, of course, I’m still writing for VisitSouth.com’s Huntsville site. Stop by and leave me a comment there, too. The more links and visits and shares and tweets and posts I get the better.

In case you’re wondering, I took a buyout from the newspaper in January and was set to be a full-time writer when this opportunity at the hospital came along. Sometimes things have a way of working out, when the time is right. The good Lord knows what He is doing.

I’m loving my new schedule, and I’ve almost grown accustomed to getting up early. I’m still working on getting to bed early, as you can see. It’s nearly 11 p.m. and I’m banging away on this keyboard!

So that’s my update for now. Things are going well, and we’re enjoying life!

Home sweet home

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Daddy is home. Finally. After more than two months in the hospital, he can finally sleep in his own bed, relax in his own recliner and shower in his own bathroom. Hallelujah!

He has only a PICC line left, and Momma has learned how to give him his antibiotics through it. I’m not sure how long he’ll have to take those meds, but I imagine it will be for a while.

Daddy has lost so much weight – he’s so thin you can see the tubes the surgeon used to do the aortic bypass. One snakes down each side of his chest from the axillary arteries to the femoral arteries. He’s gone down a size or two in clothing – that belly you see in the picture is no longer there – and he’s now wearing track suits. It’s kind of funny to see my khakis-and-golf-shirt Daddy in a track suit.

His physical therapy is going well; he says he’s sore, but I tell him it’s a good kind of sore because it means his muscles are working. He’s getting around with the help of a walker, but hopefully he’ll get stronger soon.

The biggest problem I see is his mental state: Sometimes I get the feeling that he doesn’t want to try so hard. That he wants someone to feel sorry for him or do everything for him. But he won’t get better if he doesn’t fight hard to get healthy again. And it won’t happen if he doesn’t do it for himself.

Don’t get me wrong. This whole situation totally sucks for him. To go from playing golf one Monday to almost dying on Saturday. Then spending two months in a hospital with drains and tubes and stents and monitors attached to him. I get that.

But it’s up to him to do the work to get well. We can encourage him nicely and gently. But if that doesn’t work, we’ll give him some tough love. We’re not going to sit back and watch him waste away. He can just get mad at me, but he’s going to do the work when I’m around.

We’re going to their house this weekend to hang out. I’ve talked to him every day, and so far he sounds great. I hope being at home is just what he needs to speed his recovery.

I appreciate everyone who has said a prayer or sent good wishes or kept a good thought for him. And I’d like to ask for you to continue. It’s going to be a long haul, but we’re ready for the trip.

Alabama: National Champions: A family affair (Part 2)

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Part 2 of the 2009 edition of Crimson Tide football and family

Dec. 2
Just when we thought things were getting back to normal, Daddy faced another setback. A lingering fever signaled an infection that landed him back in the hospital, facing more surgery, at least three procedures.

Dec. 5 Florida (SEC Championship), 32-13
Momma, Michael, Ryan and I watched this one with Daddy in the unit, along with the other patient and nurses, who were all Bama fans. For the first three quarters, we took shifts with him so we didn’t tire him out too quickly. In the fourth quarter, we all gathered around his bed and watched the Tide finish off the Gators and earn a trip to the National Championship game in Pasadena. Finally!

Dec. 12 NYC
Sophomore running back Mark Ingram of Flint, Mich., became Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy winner. I was as nervous watching this as I was watching The Drive that beat Auburn.

Dec. 16 Surgery day
Daddy underwent an axillo-bifemoral bypass, the removal of the infected aortic stent and the removal of part of his bowel. The surgeries went well, and Momma, Michael, Ryan and I were able to go see him a couple of hours afterward.

Dec. 25 Christmas
Ryan, Riley and I took presents and a little fiber optic tree to the cardio-thoracic recovery unit where Daddy was. The gifts and our visit cheered him up. Momma said the next day that our visit really helped lift his spirits.


We’ve been to see him as much as possible between school and work, and finally just before the new year, Daddy got to move to a regular room.

Jan. 7 Texas (BCS National Championship), 37-21

Daddy was released from the hospital and sent to a rehab center at a nursing home closer to their house. He made it in time to watch the title game. Again, I had to work, but at least I was at home. I texted Daddy before the game and got a “Roll Tide” back. I was unhappy with the way this one started – it was like Auburn all over again – and I hated to see Colt McCoy get hurt. But I loved the 24-6 halftime score.

However, the conservative third quarter made me nervous. And 24-21? Yikes! But I was confident that Bama’s run game could keep the clock moving and our defense could tighten up and stop the Longhorns. And they did.

Marcell Dareus, Eryk Anders and Mark Ingram came up big. Heisman jinx? No such thing. Sports Illustrated jinx? Whatever. McElroy played with two cracked ribs, Ingram was banged up and linebacker and soon-to-be NFL star Rolando McClain was given fluids before the game and at halftime after suffering a stomach virus all week.

Heart. Toughness. Dedication. All part of Coach Nick Saban’s process. Focus on the journey and you’ll arrive at your destination.

I think that philosophy could help Daddy, too. (And me as I start on a new path in a few weeks.) Ryan, Riley and I went to see him yesterday at the rehab center, where he’ll be for three weeks. He and Momma were tickled by the championship T-shirts we took them. It was good to see him in a sweat suit instead of hospital gown and without all the tubes and drains.

We all took a stroll with him down the hallways, and he said he was looking forward to starting his physical therapy today. I hope he puts in good work and is able to get home by February. I know he is ready.

Alabama: National Champions: A family affair

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This season of Alabama football took me on a roller coaster ride, despite finishing the season a perfect 14-0. The Crimson Tide has always been special to my family, and this year was no different. Although, circumstances kept us from watching as many games together as usual, Bama football was still a family affair.

Click the links below for recaps of the first five games.

Sept. 5 Virginia Tech, 34-24


Sept. 12 Florida International, 40-14


Sept. 19 North Texas, 53-7
I just remember this being an early game on Fox and being glad I didn’t have to buy it on PPV, which I would have done. And early season backup QB Star Jackson led a TD drive. Then I went in to work.

Sept. 26 Arkansas, 35-7


Oct. 3 Kentucky, 38-20

Oct. 10 Ole Miss, 22-3
Bama intercepted four Jevan Snead passes, but it only scored one offensive TD … by Mark Ingram, of course. Leigh Tiffin kicked five field goals. Ryan, Riley and I watched the game at home.

Oct. 17 South Carolina, 20-6

This was Riley’s 8th birthday, and we were at Walt Disney World. We hit the Magic Kingdom first, had lunch with all the princesses, rode the dizzying tea cup, race cars, the Astro Orbiter, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We headed back to our room to let Riley open her DSi and Three Musketeer Barbie dolls. Then we plopped down on the beds and watched the Tide whip the Gamecocks at the most magical place on Earth. Ingram’s 246 yards rushing landed him on some Heisman watch lists.

Oct. 24 Tennessee, 12-10
I wasn’t able to watch this game closely because I had to work, but it was probably a good thing. Otherwise, I may have thrown something at the TV at home. I had my emotions a bit contained at work. However, I did see the key blocks, thanks to a co-worker and fellow Tide fan who was nice enough to arrange his TV so I could see, too. I downloaded this one from SECSports.com, so I could watch at my leisure.

Oct. 31 Open

This is where things got crazy for my family. On Halloween, we carved our jack-o’-lanterns, Momma came over, and we went to hang out with friends. While we were eating dinner and making trick-or-treat plans, Daddy had an abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture, or AAA.

He’s very lucky that he called Momma and listened to her when she told him to call 911. The blood was leaking into his abdominal cavity and was life-threatening. He went through four hours of surgery to put a stent in his aorta and was in the critical care unit for six days. He spent another 13 days in a regular room, including the LSU and Mississippi State games. We spent lots of time in the hospital waiting room.

Nov. 7 LSU, 24-15

Riley and I drove to the hospital in Florence to hang out with Daddy and Momma and to watch the game. Daddy was in good spirits, and we watched most of the first half together. However, the rooms are so small and an 8-year-old can only take so much, so we headed to my cousin’s so she could play. I watched the rest of the game with her husband, a big Auburn fan, who kept trying to discount Ingram’s Heisman candidacy by saying “he isn’t even the leading rusher in the conference,” that AU’s Ben Tate was. If that was true, it didn’t take long to rectify because Ingram ran for 144 yards. QB Greg McElroy also had a nice game with 2 TD passes. After the game, Ryan & I went back to the hospital to discuss the win with Daddy. He was pleased.

Nov. 14
Mississippi State, 31-3
This game is always played the week of Daddy’s birthday, Nov. 11. This year he celebrated in the hospital and with a butt-kicking of the Bulldogs. It was also my first time live-blogging with the fine folks at Roll Bama Roll.

Nov. 21 UT-Chattanooga, 45-0
Senior Day whoopin. And another Saturday at work. Daddy actually got to watch this one at home since he was released from the hospital Nov. 18.

Nov. 22 Griffin born

Another big day for our family: My brother and his wife welcomed Griffin, on his due date. Big brother Lincoln proclaimed him to be “perfect!” And he is.

Nov. 26 Thanksgiving

We celebrated Thanksgiving at Momma and Daddy’s with the traditional turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, mac & cheese, pasta salad and rolls. It was good to see Daddy eat some good food and watch a little football with him.

Nov. 27 Auburn, 26-21

Who thought playing the Iron Bowl on the day after Thanksgiving was a good idea? It was dumb. And I had to work in the office. Let’s just say that my co-workers who are Auburn fans were not too happy with me. 🙂 Few people were working during the game, so I didn’t feel bad about my outbursts. However, on one of those big AU plays, I did hurt my hand by banging my fist on the desk too hard. I got a text from Ryan late in the game: “What do ya think?” My reply? “Bama’s going to win.”

To be continued ….

Christmas lights bring calm on long drive

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My dad has been in a Florence hospital since Dec. 3, so I’ve been driving the hour and a half to visit him and help out my mom. Seeing my dad hooked to IVs and tubes and drains is not how I pictured the holidays.

However, the long, late-night drives home are brightened by the Christmas lights I see between Florence and Huntsville. I mark my journey by the Nativity scenes, the wooden Santas, the three crosses, the glowing reindeer, the flag display and the lighted wreaths.

When I need a break from the hospital, I can drive a couple of blocks to Florence’s Wilson Park, which is transformed into a wintry scene with tons of lights.

A favorite sight in Huntsville is on Sebring Street just off Oakwood Avenue (last photo on the left) – Santa’s sleigh is pulled by reindeer as Tigger keeps watch. Frosty and his family greet viewers from inside their snowglobe, candy canes line the driveway and snowflakes “fall” from the sky. The delightful scene thrilled by daughter. And it’s nice on my drive home after work.

These photos on the left are of our house. We did the best we could with the short time we had … and I probably love this display more than the years when we had the eaves outlined just so and the two lighted trees standing sentry at the front door.

Somehow this year’s display, though Charlie Brown in its disarray, means more to me than ever.

Check out Huntsville resident Mike Duncan’s incredible display set to music in the video to the left.
http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=8326384&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=ff0179&fullscreen=1

Christmas Light Show 2 from Mike Duncan on Vimeo.

Losing a pet is hard for an 8-year-old

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December has been a tough month: Daddy is back in the hospital with a serious infection, and he is scheduled for major surgeries Wednesday. My grandmother fell for the third time since summer and is now in a nursing home.

And last week, we had to let Carlo, our 11-year-old lab mix, go to a better place. Ryan and Riley had taken him to an emergency vet a week earlier because he was eating very little. They came back with a diagnosis of fungal pneumonia and prescriptions for pain and antibiotics.

The meds did nothing, so our regular vet came to the house to check on him. Carlo was laboring to breathe, could hardly walk and completely stopped eating and drinking. Our vet listened to him breathe and checked him out and said it was either fungal pneumonia or lung cancer. We had already discussed a plan and once we had confirmation that we could do nothing more, we made the decision. And it was hard. Riley gave Carlo a hug, and we sent her to our neighbor’s. Ryan and I stayed with him until the end, crying and talking to him.

Carlo was the sweetest, goofiest dog. When it came to eating, he was like a vacuum. He loved to run around in the backyard, and he loved our first dog and his mentor, Eboni, whom we lost several years ago when Riley was very little. And he loved us.

I miss him snuffling against the back door when he wanted in. I miss his barks when we pulled into the driveway. I miss him looking at me with those big eyes when he wanted to go outside.

That night, Riley asked when the angels were coming to get Carlo and if we were going to put his body under his tree. She asked if he was going to play with Eb and Bonnie (Nanny’s late dog). She asked if he was going swimming. We said yes to all. We tried to explain about his spirit, but that was fruitless. We didn’t have the words to get it right. She drew a card for Carlo and Eb and took it to school and all her classmates signed it. Isn’t that the sweetest thing you’ve ever heard?

The photos below show a 20-month-old Riley checking out Eboni (red collar) and Carlo; Ryan helping Riley get to know Carlo a little better; Carlo hanging out on the patio; and Carlo “opening” his Christmas present last year. In the drawings, Riley encourages Carlo to go see Eboni in heaven and marks Carlo’s final resting spot – under his favorite tree in our backyard.





Thanksgiving will be extra extra special

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Daddy is home! He was discharged from the hospital yesterday, and Riley and I were there to meet him and Momma when they pulled into the driveway. He’s doing well, but it’s going to take some time to get back in the groove.

And NO CIGARETTES! He’s been without the smokes for 19 days now, so that’s a good start. He started physical therapy today, which will be twice a week and last for four weeks, and a nurse will be by to check on him twice a week. And, of course, Momma is a very capable woman who can take care of anyone.

Not only is Dad home and healing, Michael and Robin are set to have baby No. 2 any day now. Griffin’s actual due date is Sunday, but we’re all hoping he’ll be ready to make his grand entrance before then. Robin had a tough time with Lincoln, who’ll be 3 in December, so we all pray this time will be easier and faster. Unfortunately, they live seven hours away, so we won’t be able to make it for his birth. But I can’t wait to get the phone call!

So we have plenty to be grateful for this Thanksgiving! And, believe me, we are very thankful!

Halloween was a crazy day …

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It started like this with a little pumpkin carving at home:


And ended like this in the waiting room of the critical care unit at the hospital:

My dad has been in the hospital since Halloween when he had an abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture, or AAA. Scary stuff … he’s very lucky that he called Momma and listened to her when she told him to call 911. The blood was leaking into his abdominal cavity and was life-threatening. He went through four hours of surgery to put a stent in his aorta and was in the critical care unit for six days.

He’s been up and walking, and Friday they took him off the oxygen and took out the NG tube. He had a couple of popsicles and has been feeling better. Today, the doctors were trying to get his fever down, so that’s a bit of a setback. We’re still hopeful he’ll be coming home soon. And we appreciate all the prayers and good thoughts you can spare.

Thanks!

Get well soon, Daddy!

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My dad has been in the hospital since Halloween when he had an abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture, or AAA. Scary stuff … he’s very lucky that he called Momma and listened to her when she told him to call 911. The blood was leaking into his abdominal cavity and was life-threatening. He went through four hours of surgery to put a stent in his aorta and was in the critical care unit for six days. He was moved to a regular room Thursday and had a setback Saturday when they had to reinsert the NG tube to try to get rid of fluid in his belly.

Today he took a stroll through the hospital hall and has had some physical therapy. We hope his moving will get his body moving and start healing faster. The surgery part is fine; it’s just getting the fluid out that’s now the focus.

He’s in good spirits, although, cranky at the nurses constantly poking and prodding him. “I can’t get no damn sleep!” he says. He’s had lots of visitors both in the critical care unit and the regular room, and we are so grateful for all the prayers and good thoughts from family and friends and people who don’t even know us.

So in honor of Daddy, here’s a playlist of some of his favorites and some that make me think of him. I love you, Daddy!