8.30.2008 in Roller Coaster!

Saturday night in Tampa...what a crazy day. Y esterday was kindof a booger of a day--it started extremely early with a trip to the airport to deliver Daniel and it never stopped. If you know me at all, you know that I n-e-v-e-r go to bed before midnight (trully never). Last night I was snoozing by 9:50 and I overslept a bit this morning. This place is an emotional vacuum.

When I am with Andy, I get this wierd sort of tunnel vision. Life outside comes to a grinding halt and I have to consult my phone to even remember the date and time. Days run together and nights aren't long enough. There are so many moments that I long to share but I can't take the time to write it all out tonight--I have to sleep to fly tomorrow without getting cranky so I'm only writing one story for tonight.

Andy had a downer of a day today. His doctors are monkeying with his pain meds and he's not getting good relief, so as one might expect, he was kindof a bear today. I tried everything I could think of that might be of service, but it just wasn't ment to be. By the end of the day--around 4 pm, I needed to pick up some grocery things for Daniel (I have a car) so I left to run my little errands and get some dinner. I came back around 5:30 pm to check on him and he was sitting up in the bed scowling at the dinner tray that had just been delivered. It was not a pretty sight--the tray or the face.

He looked so bummed. "How can I get stronger on food like this?" he asked me and I had to agree it was pretty pathetic. Mashed fake potatoes, faded green beans, unidentifyable soup, orange juice, and something called "Minced Beef".

Let me tell you.
Minced beef is 100 times worse than it sounds.
And it sounds horrible.
Think pre-chewed meatloaf...kinda shaped like rice kernals.
And brown.
Formed in the shape of the scoop it was applied to the plate with.

Now that's some healing goodness right there.
I took one look at that and wanted to cry for him. And I looked at him and he looked at me...and I knew we had to do something.

So, Andy says "Do you suppose you could loan me $20?"
"Of course, what do you want to buy?"
"I wanna order a pizza."

"Alrighty then."
And for the first time today, Andy seemed a little more like Andy...and a little happy.
And I could feel the breeze on the mountaintop!!

So, we rounded up the location of the nearest pizza joint and I told him that I had been considering making a pot of spaghetti and meat sauce to leave for Daniel...I asked if that sounded good to him.

He rolled his eyes...and said "Aww Sarah".
It was a declaration of love, I tell ya.
So we made a plan.
I had to hit a grocery for the supplies for spaghetti and I would pick up the pizza while I was out. Somehow, before I got out the door he requested Sprite and Blue Bell Cookie n Cream Ice Cream as well. I've have never been so over-joyed to go to the grocery in my life!

He said: "Man. I'm really hungry now. I haven't wanted to eat in ages."
You had better believe that I a rocket to the grocery and the pizza place. By this time I would have gone to the moon to fulfill any request he made. It felt so good to be useful and to know that he was finally interested in eating.

It took me a little over an hour to get it all together and he ate...willingly and hungrily. And it was a beautiful sight. He ate some pizza and some ice cream...ok...alot of ice cream. Deb..I told him about "personal pints" and he smiled that beautiful smile. That boy deserves "glorious gallons"...yes.

We talked for a bit after dinner...he was more like himself than I have seen to date--and it was a complete gift. I asked him if I could take his picture and he said OK. (He had said no to my earlier attempt.) I posted it to Facebook...I considered taking out an ad in the New York Times ...

After eating, and our conversation, he was pretty worn out, so I told him I needed to get moving on the spaghetti prep for tomorrow. I was planning to put his pizza in the refrigerator when he stopped me and said "Leave 2 slices here for a midnight snack." So I wrapped up a plate and left it within reach. OK...he really was hungry. :)

I went back to the Fisher House where I am bunking and prepared the spaghetti and meat sauce. The Fisher House is a housing facility for family members of patients at the VA units. It's like a small hotel, with a large communal kitchen, living room with tv and dining room. It's a wonderful place...and only a few steps from the rehab it's wonderfully convenient. (More on that later.)

I began to prepare the pasta and the sauce and some other family members were eating and talking in the kitchen area. A lady come in and asked if anyone knew who offers takeout in this neighborhood. It's getting on kinda late and it occured to me that takeout would take a while and she shared that she had just arrived late last night and had no sleep for 36 hours and was starving...her son is 20 and was 173rd Airborne wounded in Afghanistan. "I'm making some pasta and sauce...I'm happy to share" I said.

So we ate together (I had a salad from earlier) and shared some stories. I'm so glad to have had the chance to be in that room at the right time making a simple dinner--ostensibly for Daniel and Andy--but also for her. She later said "I haven't had a home cooked meal in 3 months."

Two nights ago I was the new girl, wandering, feeling overwhelmed and useless--tonight, I feel like a million bucks...Andy's eating and I shared a meal with an amazing mom who has given up everything to care for her son. Oh how good our God is...when we are in the valley, he gives us a way up, if we can only see it.

I want to be that person more often. Less of me...more of others...more of Him.

A sweet story about a police officer tomorrow night...after I'm home...OK.

Happy Sunday...


Tampa News

I'm not sure how the weather was on the ground between Nashville and Tampa today, but at 30,000 feet it was positively magnificent! Lavish blue skies and puffy, marshmallow clouds all the way.

And there was no one in the seat next to me, so I got to have my litlle bubble of space uninterupted. That's always nice.

Weather on the ground in Tampa was a balmy 93 degrees and sinfully breezy.

But enough about the magnificent weather...

Andy. Wow. I am so glad to be here to see him again. He looks so very different that he did the last time I saw him. His facial wounds have cleared, he's been clean-shaven with regularity, and there's a noticable lack of cords and wires and tubes. He's still on the lightweigh soft foods diet...his drink of choice being Sunny D. :)

The down-side is that he's lost a significant amount of weight--dropping from 185 to 145 in less than 6 weeks. He was covered up with a quilt when I first went into his room and I swear he looked about 12. Thankfully, Daniel had warned me.

Andy's new routine here includes a-l-o-t of work--something he wanted. Speech, PT, OT, and several other "T"s...


New Stampin' Up catalog...check
A cord and charger for each of the above...check
Mail for Andy...check

Oh yeah...a few clothes and a toothbrush...check.

If I didn't have to carry all this technolog...I think I could have packed in a much smaller bag.


Embossing with the Revolution

Using Cuddlebug (brand) embossing folders with the Quickutz Revolution...yes, you can!

Read carefully.

ONLY use the embossing folders in conjunction with the gridded sticky mat. See the photo. The sticky mat set is 2 pieces. Use the thinnest piece (the one with the grid that is actually sticky) with the Cuddlebug embossing folders.

The sticky mat set is designed to be used with the Cookie Cutter alphas and comes with each set of CC alphas or can be purchased separately here or at your local QK retailer.

Finally, you can see a video of this being done by the Scrap-Mart Live lady here. It's a project video...and the embossing is done towards the end.

If you are embossing on a Revolution that has the extended platform (not the original), you can use more than one gridded sticky mat at the time (lay them end to end) to get the full coverage of the embossing folder. Also, if you add an extra layer of cardstock on top of the gridded sticky mat, the embossed impressions will come thru deeper and more detailed.

I love the Cuddlebug embossing folders...they are inexpensive and give such fab textures. Enjoy!

EDIT TO ADD: To acheive the same result with your Revolution and the expanded platform, use the sticky mat for the extension platform. This will allow you to utilize the entire length of the embossing folder. You can see that at the Memories in Bloom blog here.


The New Battle

From Daddy on Monday...with a slight edit.

Hello faithful family,

Well here is the long awaited address for Andy's new place in Florida--

James A. Haley Veterans Hospital
13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd
Tampa Florida, 33612,
(skip two spaces here and put ...)
James Andrew Burnett.

The whole thing goes in the center of the envelope as usual.

I had a long conversation with Daniel tonight and the gist is that Andy is doing what he is suppose to do with all of his therapist and he is eating, but he is also struggling with his reality. I'm sure we all knew these days of hard reality were coming.

Daniel's prescription seems to be a good one. He said, "Dad, we just have to get through it."

I think there is nothing else to say. Sometimes you just have to hurt and push on. Thank God for Daniel's wisdom and patience. He seems to know just what to do and be for Andy. But, at the end, this is Andy's battle, and he just needs time and space to fight it.

I would only ask that you to continue to pray hard. It is the only means by which we can really help him. In the place where Andy is now, I truly believe that only God's hand can lift him.

I (We) will never forget your faithfulness in these days.
Larry for Donna and our family

From Sarah:
If you've been reading here very long, you've probably noticed that I try to keep the news of Andy succinct and as positive as it can be, given the gravity of the situation, while keeping it honest. I know it's hard to read at times. It's also hard to live, even from this distance. (I continually vascillate between believing that the distance is a blessing or a curse.) Nonetheless, it is always my goal to convey 3 facets in each revealing post about Andrew:

1) the facts of the situation, especially so that believers can pray specifically for his needs

2) the faith with which we face this reality--not to show it off for our glory but to reinforce our faith and belief in the author and creator of all of us. We do not stand by our own strength and at no time in the past or present has that ever been more clear to any of us.

3) the universal nature of the experience--because while this particular story belongs to Andy mainly, and the rest of us secondarily, it is also being played out to varying degrees in the lives of many other soldiers and their families too. This thought can be simultaneously comforting and grievous.

Some of you have only come to know Andy in the past month by whatever information and experiences you have collected through his story here. Know that we are deeply grateful for your concern, your prayers and your thoughts and that sharing his stories with you is healing for us. The power of virtual strangers expressing generous compassion and concern is amazing.

Daddy wrote today of the seeming beginning of the hardest part of this battle-- the part that only Andy can fight. There is no positive way to say it...except to say that I am positive that this is the fight of his life. That's just the bare fact. As the medications clear from his head and the hard blows of reality is no longer clouded, Andy--more than any of the rest of us--bears the full weight of how deeply his life has been altered.

The time has come to soldier on.
So that is what we do.
We claim a certain healthy amount of tunnel vision and we find just one day's worth of grace and power from God our Father--just enough. We are not thinking of tomorrow...just today. Not saying that's the long term plan--just the plan for now.

Soldier on.

While Andy has a choice to make in how he responds to all that life has brought to him, and we pray often for him to have the strength of mind and soul to make all the right choices in this fight--the rest of us really don't have a choice for ourselves. Mom and Dad, Daniel, Deborah and I--I think it's safe to say that none of us even consider that we have a choice in this matter. Andy is ours. Our brother and son. We will soldier on right beside him, physically and metaphorically carrying him when need be, for as long as it takes.

Giving up is not an option.
Backing down is not an option.
Failure is not an option.

Andy's path in life is perhaps bumpier in the short-term, but it is as straight as it has always been. Surprising--yes. Unexpected hills and valleys--certainly. Dark at times--absolutely.

I don't believe in that "Army of One" theme--not for a single moment. I think it's totally bogus. I know that there are literally thousands of people in Andy's Army started with 5...and it grows exponentially with each passing day.

Thank you for that.

Several readers have emailed questions about all sorts of topics related to my family, Andy, how the Army works in this situation and such...if you have questions, don't be shy. I have started answering them in a catch-all post that I would like to finish by Wednesday. So now is the time, if you have a burning question that's sticking to your brain like gum on your shoe... let me hear from you.

Soldier on.

Life's Not Fair...suck it up and deal.

One thing I learned pretty quickly after becoming a parent is that if you want to see yourself in an honest, unpolished light, look closely at your children. Little mirrors, they are. And sometimes, the news isn't pretty.

My sons are 12 and 5 and, as all children do, have been known to get pretty wrapped up in themselves. Gee, I wonder where they learned that from? They seem to operate under the misguided universal notion that life should be fair and equal. Am I raising some little socialists? No, no, no.

"He got more macaroni than I did..."

"He has more markers than I do..."

"Why does he get to go with Daddy to the gas station and I don't? It's not fair..."

It's that inborn "me first and foremost" attitude that drives me up the wall--in them and in myself. How many times this week have I heard myself say "He's your brother. Don't be self-centered"? Too many. How many times have I said "Lord, why...?" thinking I had a better plan than the author of the big picture or that I had somehow been deprived of something that someone else had or had access to?

Silly, silly children we can all be.

One of the things I want my sons to learn how to do is to put other people before themselves--without being asked and without expectation of return favors. Those are tall orders, I know. Tall but attainable. I especially want them to do this for each other, as brothers.

As an adult, I have already figured out that life does not have a fairness meter. If we spend all our time bemoning the lack of perceived "fairness", life will pass us right by.

On a practical level, it's not particularly fair that the more you exercise for your health, the more you have to exercise. If life were fair, exercise would work in reverse. The more you did, the less you would have to do.

If life were fair, drunk drivers would be the ones injured in their car crashes. Most of the time, it's the drunk driver who doesn't get hurt. Why is that?

If life were fair, dedicated soldiers wouldn't get shot by snipers.

If life were fair, babies wouldn't be born with birth defects and painful complications.

While I don't want to be the kind of mother who rips every shred of that innocent world view from my children prematurely, I do think that the earlier they begin to understand that not everything in life feels universally fair, the better equipped they will be to deal with life as mature adults. A week or two ago I heard a snippet of a conversation on tv where the one character said to the other something along the lines of:

"There's a bunch of planets and moons and stars floating around in space. They are all aligned with the one big ball, which is the anchor of the universe. That big ball, the anchor of the universe around which all things rotate...well, it's not you."

I couldn't help but laugh. I think that should go on a t-shirt. :)

I want to teach my children that they are cared for in a way that is most uniquely appropriate for each of them as individuals, by Joal and I, and by the heavenly Father too. God the Creator knows exactly what we need and gives to us accordingly in grace and with great love--not according to what our neighbor of friend or brother has or needs--but exactly and specifically what we need individually, according to his design. How reassuring that is.

Part of learning that life is not fair and that the universal lack of fairness is OK means also accepting that Christians are called to have hearts constantly filled with gratitude. Asking myself "Am I operating from a grateful heart?" is one of the finest ways I know to quickly and succinctly check myself. Is my current action reflective of my heart's gratitude for the presence and wisdom of the Lord in my life? When it's not, the misalignment of my life becomes glaringly obvious. Fast.

~~James 3:17~~ ((The Message))
"Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. "

May it be so today.

"No, you don't get as much macaroni as your brother because he's 7 years older than you, weighs 50 pounds more than you and he needs more to eat than you do. Your needs are met--you are not starving. Stop whining and eat."

"That's because he has taken care of his markers, so he still has the full set that he got at Christmas. Look around and see if you can find the ones you have misplaced."

"It's his turn to go with Daddy to the gas station. You went yesterday, remember?"

Life is not fair.
But God is good.
For that I am grateful.

Happy Monday!

PS I really like what Jane Johnson Struck had to say about this topic too...

Is that a completed page I see?? Nooooo, surely not.

A completed cruise book way.

Sorry for the little face smudges...don't want to post people without their permission.



From Dad on Saturday

Hello to Andy's extended family,

Sorry to be a little inconsistent with updates the last few days. I'm finding it more difficult, not being at the scene. I don't want to overload him, but I hope to be able to turn these updates over to Daniel soon so that your info does comes directly from the scene. However, Dan's wireless capable lap top is still in route to Florida. That makes it much more difficult for him to take care of this right now. So, I guess Dad is still the guy, along with Sarah and her wonderful blog, and our great son-in-law, Joal, with his occasional messages.

So, here we go. It seems the boys are just in the "take it all in" mode right now. Andy is just working through a kind of orientation at the hospital and the first week stuff is going on. Daniel said the transition had been fairly painless for both of them as far as the orientation goes.
Andy is still dealing with pain in his shoulder but the doctor's are very focused on that now. They have given him a cortisone (I think) shot to help but it takes 24 hours to kick in. However this should give him some relief.

He will have a regular daily routine within a few days. His work will involve from 2 to 6 hours a day. He continues to laugh and talk and cut up a bit with the staff there. Daniel also speaks, as you would expect, of some low times too.

My feeling is that we have kind of settled in for the "long haul." I can only somewhat estimate Andy's emotional ups and downs from this distance, and Donna and I both are really uncomfortable with that, even though we know that for now it is necessary and best. Andy's heart is the issue that is really never very far from our minds, and I know all of you share in that concern. But, for now at least, it seems to be mostly about just breathing in and breathing out, and putting one foot in front of another to get to a better place.

That place is coming because God's in the deal.

Love to all. Larry, Donna and family.


Stampin' Up

I had the pleasure of attending my neighbor's Stampin' Up New Catalog Release Party last night...what a blast! There were about 20 people there (maybe more) and she had six stations set up--each with a different project. It was nice not to have to think too much about what to do--just stamp and assemble. The new catalog is many things to love. I had such a great time!

The card above is made using the new colors from Stampin' Up! Aren't they pretty and seaside-ish. The bracket frame is a set that comes with 4 stamps (all that shape) and (get this) a punch that is perfectly matched for use with the set. How cool is that? (Cool enough that I ordered it...)

One can never go wrong with pink and red and brown and glitter right!

This is the's just large enough that when you raise the flap, there's a pocket for a mini-chocolate bar or other treat. With just a slight adjustment, this could also be the perfect holder for a gift card. (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the inside.)

And finally, in Andy news, a few days ago my father wrote about Andy's hair. I found this photo a while back and thought some of you might get a kick out of it. It was after his first haircut, which tamed his flaming curls just a little. A little. Not much. As you can see. :) That's Andy on the right, lookin' all devious and cute in his cammo at Christmas.

Happy Saturday!

PS I'm aware that my blog banner is goofed up right now. Sorry about that. I dumped a bunch of stuff off my website and accidentally deleted it. I'll get it fixed in a while.


Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Hear me humming... :)

I'm flying down to Tampa on Thursday to see Andy and Daniel!
One week...gotta hang on for one week.
You know they have beaches in Tampa.
Hee hee...oh wait. Did I say Thursday? I might tell Daniel
I'll be there on Friday. Would that be so wrong?

Yeah, ok.
Probably not a good idea to lie to my brother.
But we are talking about the beach.
The beach...only like my favorite place on earth!

Tampa...even tho my beloved in-laws dangled their possible move to Tampa in front of my beach-deprived heart and then snatched it away like a bad joke a few months ago...(not that I haven't forgiven them or accepted that God had other plans for them...), I may still end up with my toes in the Tampa sand this season anyway.

Shouldn't play with a girl's heart like that... grumble grumble... :)

Not that it's all about me or anything.
I just get a little caught up when there's a stretch of soft sand and blue water within--oh, say 200 miles of my feet. I get a little nuts.

I know you're probably thinking I'm a little nuts already.
And I'm OK with that.

Fay better get out of the way.

Opps. Did I mention I'm going to Tampa to see my brothers?
Happy Friday to you!

PS For what it's worth, my in-laws are, in fact, moving to the great state of Maine in September, where, I've been told, there are some fabulous beaches as there's hope for getting over the loss of Tampa yet. :)

From Daddy on Thursday

Hello Andy's Family,
Donna and I took off a couple of days after Sunday. Our minds and hearts wanted to keep going, but our bodies wouldn't cooperate. But we are kind of back now, and I thought I would let you know what I know from Daniel as of about 10:00 last night.

Dan said that they had a pretty good trip to Florida on the C-130 aircraft. It wasn't crowded and he got a nap on the way. Andy rested pretty comfortably. Dan said it was kind of an "Air Force Sky Taxi." They let several people off at different places along the way.

Andy and Daniel arrived at the hospital after the normal business hours, but Dan said that everybody was very accommodating. They settled Andy in and began attending to the pain that had started up in his shoulder again by the end of the long day.

Dan said his quarters at the Fisher House were about 100 feet from the back door of the hospital. He said his room was extremely nice and that there were all of the extra facilities for an easy stay including washers, dryers, and a nice kitchen with a private cabinet for each guest where they could put their own grocery items.

So, it seem that everyone has entered a new phase, so to speak. Donna and I are starting to consider how best to play a role in Florida to help Mr. Independent (Daniel) who always seems comfortable with whatever he has to do. I wish I had half of that kids confidence.

For Donna and I, the details that used to seem so important around here, don't really seem so any more. Caring for Mother is important. Our ministry work is important. And a few people issues certainly matter. But the rest, not so much. We're still drifting a little bit, like we are not really supposed to be here. But we know we are, at least for a time.

Since this all happened my mind has regularly gone back to times when Andy was small. I guess it is kind of an escape mechanism. That has gone on a lot since we have been home too. It brings a great deal of comfort to me to think about his childhood.

I remember one time when we lived in Jackson MS. Andy would have been about 3 or 4. In those days, I was taking some classes and building furniture to make ends meet. Every day, in the morning, I would go out to my shop to start in and my little shadow would follow me.

Little boys typically have a lot of questions along about that age. Not Andy. He had all the answers. And he was not afraid to share this vast wealth of insight with anyone who could keep up. I used to think, "So many answers, such a small head." Anyway, that was exactly what he was doing with me on this one particular morning.

He started to play on the rope swing just outside the doors of my shop as I went to work. So, for a couple of hours, I worked and he "rattled." Then, I noticed that it got quiet. There was only one thing more scary than listening to Andy, and that was when you listened and couldn't hear him. At that point you instantly knew, "something's up."

So, that morning I went to investigate. What I saw is still clearly etched in my brain to this day. Just outside the shop sat an old rusty, deep sided wheel barrow. Andy had gone in and gotten the the big fluffy white pillow off his bed and put it in that wheel barrow and then crawled in himself and went to sleep.

So, there he was, sound asleep in the wheel barrow. That in itself was quite a picture, (which I did snap with our camera that morning). But unless you knew Andy in those days, you don't yet have the whole picture.

At this age, except for his searing intellect, Andy's hair was, without doubt, his most striking feature. Actually, in those days, he was mostly hair. He had little reddish blond tufts all over his head. They were thick and shiny and just long enough lay over in little soft loops. It was quite a "do" and we just didn't have the heart to cut it.

When he walked, every little tuft bounced lightly on his head. People couldn't keep from touching it. And more than one lady said they would kill for hair like that. Andy, of course, was oblivious. But, the rest of us loved it, and we've got lots of "pics" to prove it. So, when I looked at Andy in the wheel barrow, the picture I saw was about 1/3 pillow, 1/3 boy, and 1/3 hair. He looked like "Cousin It" (The Adams Family) with a permanent. As long as I live I will never forget that picture.

I am very proud of who Andy is today, and who he is going to be, as I am all of my children. But I so treasure the memories of their childhoods, especially today. I think there is nothing so beautiful in this life as innocence.

I hope we can all retain something of ours. I hope our children can. I hope our world can. I have found that, that is one of the things that Christ has restored to me as I have followed him. He has taken away much of the "destructive sophistication" of life, just as He promised to do, so that I can enjoy the innocence that comes from being less "aware."

When you can entrust such issues as tomorrow, and personal survival, and life's randomness to Him, life is simpler and I don't have to be so sophisticated in all that I am about. I will take innocence over sophistication any day.

We love you all, and we are so grateful for your love. My God grant you the "light burden" of his watchcare this day.

Larry and Donna for the family.


One Month Ago

Written on August 17--

One month ago today, on an oddly cool Thursday in Middle Tennessee, I turned off my phone for one hour during a meeting with Julian's psychiatrist. I almost never turn off my phone...but on this day I did.

When I got in the car, at about 9:55, I turned it back on and saw that my brother, Daniel, had called and I had a message. Daniel doesn't call me very often--usually it's when he's talked to Andy and has news. With Andy's leave approaching in a few weeks, I thought maybe Daniel had the date of Andy's arrival to share. As I called my voicemail to retrieve the message, I was thinking of plane tickets and how I was looking forward to being there at the airport when Andy arrived home this time. I chose to miss his last arrival party at the airport in Dallas...and I have regretted that ever since. I met him in Texarkana at my parents...and while it was sweet, I wished that I had made the larger effort to be at the airport. I had already warned Daniel that I would definitely be at the airport for the next homecoming.

And then I heard Daniel's voice say "Sarah, this is Daniel". In four little words, I knew something was very wrong. He continued. "I had a phone call about 20 minutes ago and Andy's been wounded".

I've never actually been punched in the stomach but I suspect that's probably what it feels like. I couldn't breathe. Time just seemed to stop and my heart started hurting that day in a way I have never known before.

I was driving down Hillsboro Road, thinking I should really pull over but knowing I neeeeded to get home. Daniel's deep gravelly voice relayed as many details as he had been given but I could hear him struggling to relay the information. To his credit, he got through the message and even had the forethought to go on and call my husband. Providentially, Joal was in town that day, working close by and he answered when Daniel called. I use the word "providentially" because all three of those details--him being in town, working close by, and in reach of his phone when Daniel called--are all three small miracles. If this had happened on any of the 5 Thursdays before, Joal would have been anywhere from 4 hours to 4 states away.

Joal knows me well and he knew that I would call him first. When I did, his first words to me were "Daniel's already called me and I'm on my way".

We talked for a few minutes, although I don't remember about what exactly. His love calms me in amazing ways and then I knew I could call Daniel back. I did pull off the road for a few minutes to do that. I'm pretty sure my boys were scared quiet in the back seat. When we stopped Grey got out of his chair, crawled up to the front of the Jeep, put his hand on my face and said "Mommy, do you need a Diet Coke?" I a bad way, in fact, but more than that, I needed to get home to Joal.

I explained to the boys that Uncle Andy had been hurt in Afghanistan and we needed to pray for him and then we needed to get home. We prayed together and I drove us home. Grey's prayers always amaze me. Anytime Grey asks God for something, instead of saying "Lord, please" or "God, we ask that you..." Grey says "Jesus, be sure to...". In this case it was "Jesus, be sure to take care of Uncle Andy in the Army. Be sure he's not too scared."

We met Joal at home a few minutes later. Joal and I have been married for 16 years. I've found comfort in his arms so many times. He rights my world. And so it was this day...we spent the rest of the day together, on the phone, on the computer, praying, waiting for information.

I don't remember much else about that day. It's pretty much a blur. I just know that everything changed that day. Life became harder and messier and sweeter. Jesus became more real to me.

Back in the spring, I read of a woman named Angie Smith who received the news that the daughter she was carrying was facing being born with many birth defects and that her daughter would not survive. Upon receiving this heart-breaking news, she began to say "My Jesus is still the same." This became somewhat of a theme that carried her thru the weeks and months that were so difficult--so filled with heart break and mourning. No matter what life brings, my Jesus is still the same.

God the Father wrapped those words around my heart on Thursday, July 17, 2008. I didn't know that day what the future would hold. To be honest, I was pretty scared of the future that day, but I did know that the God who created Andy to be the power-lovin', thrill-seekin', parachute-jumpin', never-say-die, big-hearted Army medic is the same God who will not be defined by whether or not Andy's legs work right or not. In the face of Russian-made bullets, damaged bodies and hurting spirits, My Jesus is still the same.

I rest in that today and every day.

My brother was a hero long before that sniper found his mark and he will continue to be long after this part of his story becomes just another chapter.

Wheels Up

Message from Mom this morning said the boys (Andy and Daniel) are wheels up for Tampa. Who Hoo!! The transport plane they are on (Air Force) has several stops to make so it will probably take all day to get there.

No jumping, Andy. :)


Birthday Funny.

So, if I had posessed two brain cells I would have thought to stop and take a picture...but I didn't so you'll just have to read all about it.

A few days ago Julian and I were down in Cool Springs doing a little shopping. As we drove past the world-famous Financial Peace Plaza, on Mallory Lane (hi dave) --on the next corner I noticed a banner that said "Call ___ and wish him a Happy Birthday 000-0000". (I can't remember the name of the person...Richard maybe.) For non-locals, Mallory Lane is one of the busiest streets in the community...tons of business offices and retail establishments. It's always busy.

I'm sorry. I thinks that's about the craziest funniest birthday prank in the history of modern birthday gags! The banner was huge and in a very visible location...I wouldn't be surprised if a gazillion people called to wish him a happy birthday!

I bet it was the best birthday and the busiest...ever!

Andy on Tuesday

Daniel called this morning to say that Andy rested well last night, with only some minor pain in his shoulder. Their trip has been delayed by some residual paperwork and the arrival of Hurricane Fay in Tampa. Hopefully by Wednesday they will be back on the move.

Bless you all,



Joal's first single "dropped" this morning on MySpace.
Check it out.

((Turn it up!))



Be Strong
By Maltbie D. Babcock

"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might."~ Ephesians 6:10

~Be strong!
We are not here to play, to dream, to drift,
We have hard work to do, and loads to lift.
Shun not the struggle; face it.
'Tis God's gift.

Be strong!
Say not the days are evil, - Who's to blame?
And fold not the hands and acquiesce, - O shame!
Stand up, speak out, and bravely, in God's name.
Be strong!

It matters not how deep entrenched the wrong,
How hard the battle goes, the day, how long.
Faint not, fight on!
To-morrow comes the song.


Winkflash has 8x10s for 99 cents!!

Sea and Sunshine

I've been sitting on my hands to keep this quiet until it became official...and finally it is! Joal has earned a new diamond in his ring and secured our place on the 2009 NWYC cruise!

Way to go, babe!


In anticipation of Andy's move from Walter Reed to Tampa--which should happen in the next few days--Mom and Dad are returning to Arkansas today. Pray for their safe and comfortable travels and for them to be fully able to rest and find peace with this separation from what has been complete focus for weeks now.

Happy Saturday...and can I just say "GO DARA!!"


Dude. Go to Walgreens and get a PG test for $25.

OK so last Friday I had to go to the ER. My blood sugar was/is catastrophic and I was severely dehydrated, depressed, mad, and tired of fighting and not winning--all very normal for a person with high blood sugar. So shoot me. I've been a little stressed lately.

Nonetheless, after two bags of fluids and several rounds of "giving blood" for labs, the ER nurse told me I had an infection, and to go home and keep fighting. Just like I had been doing for a week.

Today the bill arrives.
Joy. Joy.

The good news. In the myriad of blood work, they gave me a pregnancy test. For the low low price of $293.

You could have just asked me.
I'm pretty bright.
I would know.
Or gone to Walgreens and gotten a very high-quality, brand-name test for somewhere in the neighborhood of $25...not that I have needed one of those in about 5+ years...but ya know, it's kindof general knowledge among women.

293 dollars.
Just plain ol craziness.

And PS...No I'm not pregnant.
Big news there.
Alert the media.

Armando is Home

Armando, my beloved computer, is home from the computer doctor. It was a long few days without him while he was on the fritz...hopefully, he's passed all that craziness now. I only spazzed a little without him.

Only a little (that I'll admit to).
My whole life is on this machine.
I neeeeeed Armando.
He's vital to my mental health.
Don't tell Joal.

In other news, however, in Armando's absence, I did manage to get moving on the big company scrapbook for the cruise. I have not scrapped a single thing since just before Andy got hurt. My scrapbooking juice just went away. I was really getting worried--I've never gone that long without doing something crafty before. I missed it.

About Andy

I talked to Mom earlier today and she said that Andy's feeding tube was removed last night! Great news. He's on the soft foods and Gatoraide diet...much to his approval. Deb said he received oatmeal for breakfast today but sent it back saying it was "nasty". I couldn't help but laugh at that. Oatmeal in our family is somewhat legendary. My mother makes oatmeal--or did when we were growing up--that only barely resembles what most people know as breakfast-style oatmeal. Her creation is more like a warm soft oatmeal cookie in a comes doctored with brown-sugar and butter...sometimes a little milk if it's too hot. Trust me when I say it's the best way to eat oats on the planet! I can just imagine how disappointing hospital oatmeal would be, with a history of my mother's oatmeal!

I digress.

Mom said Andy and Daniel could be transported to Tampa any time--from tomorrow to two weeks from now. They are supposed to get 24 hours notice...but even that's iffy. Whenever the Air Force gets him a ride...that's when he goes. :)

Andy worked on PT for several hours today. Mom says PT is the highlight of his day and he works so very hard. I'm sure his goal is to exhaust himself so he can sleep at night. Mom went with him and she says it wears her out to be there with him. Yesterday the therapists got him on his stomach and up on his elbows (hands on the mat) and asked him to do some half-push-ups. He was able to do quite a few push ups--pushing his upper body up off the mat. Do you know how amazing that is?! And how hard he must be working?! So they did that again today, with success, and Andy commented that "these push ups aren't regulation". So, the PT asked him if he thought he could try to do regular (full-body) push-ups. At first he said "no". So of course, they didn't push. But then he said "yes." Mom said she's never seen the physical therapist scramble so fast to get into position to help him. :) With just help in maintaining the alignment of his lower body so the weight of it didn't throw the rest of his body off, he was able to do 10 (ten!!) push ups from his knees!


It's easy to see the progress in his physical work and we are so grateful for his determination and his unbroken spirit in that regard. It's not so easy to deal with the emotional stuff. Healing is so equally needed and vital for his heart and mind as well as his body. That's our continued prayer...

Happy Thursday.


Dear family,
Andy has had another rehab type day.  He was busy learning new skills.  It is hard to convey this process verbally.  Andy goes at it 110 percent, but to do that, he has to overcome the lack of perfect clarity, due to the effect of his medications.  He has to struggle to communicate through a weakened voice due to his surgeries. And he has to hold his emotional life in check as he battles through the issues of how his life has changed.
This latter issue is really the issue.  Today some of the New York Mets Baseball team were at the hospital visiting with some of the soldiers.  The hospital is careful to get permission before bringing visitors into the room.  When they asked Andy if he wanted them to visit he "waived them off." 
This incident clearly characterizes what Andy is going through.  It is much different when a soldier is wounded, but he knows that he will heal and life will be basically as it was before.  For Andy, and those like him, that is not the case. Life is not going to be the same.  They are not able to look forward to returning to normal, because they do not know what normal is any more. 
So, everything in life becomes bitter sweet.  Even our loving support and all of our best wishes and encouragement produce a confusion of emotions for him.  These are met with a mix of gratitude mingled with fear and magnified anxiety.  And daily now, I see him trying to sort it all out.  

As he struggles in this stage, it seems that only the things that have real gravity matter at all.  The shallow stuff and the light weight stuff of life never really get his attention right now.  The consuming desire is just to do what ever is possible to get better.  To get down the road.  To find out what you can do again.  All that really matters is "what will fix this." 

Andy is always polite and considerate to those around him.  But he is in real emotional pain.  And everyday I see him quietly shield the people around him from that pain.  He doesn't lash out, he doesn't complain. He just works at it.  Hour after hour, day after day, he works at bringing his emotional life and his physical life back to the place of some meaning. 
I love this kid.  I love who he is right now.  I love what I see in his character and the strength of his heart.  I look forward to the day when we can laugh and talk about silly things together again.  I look forward to the time when peace and confidence return to his life.  But this is not that day.  Today I have to be serious with him and accept the issues that are important to him and join in the gravity of his struggle. The struggle is really all that matters right now.  And, to be part of Andy's life right now is to be part of his struggle. 
Andy's life is not about the past right now.  It is not about visits from baseball players or high ranking officers.  Right now Andy's life is about finding the real substance of what will put life back together.  And I think, right now, all he needs is the time to get that done, because he already has the heart. 
I know that all of you love Andy.  Some of you have never even met him, and yet I know that you love him with a true love.  Thank you for being part of his struggle.  Maybe we should all agree that, one day, after the tears, when it is appropriate, we must all laugh together with a long and heart felt laugh at the beauty of what God brings from this struggle. 
Love to all  Larry, Donna, and Family.


Moving News

In the near future (when the pancreas and lung issues have been 100% resolved), Andy will be moving to the Veterans Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center at the James Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, Florida. This is an intensive rehab program that is designed especially for soldiers with spinal cord injuries. This intensive lasts for approximately 4 to 6 weeks and will be the opening volley of Andy's rehab. Following his stint in Tampa, it's likely he will move to Dallas for the long-haul rehab.

Tampa VPRC Page

Daniel and Andy put a great deal of thought, prayer and research into this decision and are confident that this is the best place for Andy. He's "ready to go to work".

A New Day

There are still concerns about Andy's lungs and pancreas, but there are also areas of improvement-especially the movement and control of his arms and ever-increasing amounts of mobility. On Sunday, Andy tried out a motorized chair. He took it for a spin and got the hang of it pretty quickly. Mom said she thought that the only downside was that Andy thought the chair didn't go fast enough. ;) If I know my brothers they are already scheeming how to "Tim Taylor" that baby. He got pretty exhausted tho...

Sunday also brought the return of Aunt Judy and Uncle Ron (they live in Maryland, so they visit on the weekends). Andy was glad to see them--Ron is a retired Navy man (something I just learned), so they have alot in common.

Dad says Andy's been watching a good bit of the Olympics on television.

On a personal note, today is Grey's first full day of Kindergarten. I dropped him off this morning and as he was walking in, he turned back and gave me the "thumbs up" sign. :)



Just received a short email from Dad saying Andy has a collapsed lung.


Shortly after Andrew enlisted and left for boot camp, I felt compelled to write a few sisterly letters. I wrote to the President of the United States, to 4 Senators (2 from Texas and 2 from Tennessee) and to my Representatives from Tennessee. The letters were probably more for my benefit than theirs, but it was something I needed to do.

See I believe with all my heart that the people running this war from the comforts of their offices in Washington DC need to bear the full weight of their actions or in some cases in-actions. I believe that every day there should be photos of men and women who have acted bravely and sacrificially in this current military action--every single man and woman currently deployed to any spot on this globe--whether in combat or peace should have his or her picture flashed across the walls of the capital rotunda to remind our congressional delegations that every single time there is a troop deployment, a fiscal decision, an equipment development, a movement, an action--they are not conducting this war on numbers. They are conducting a war with real people--real soldiers.

In my letters, I explained those thoughts with as much respect as I could find and I asked for their faithfulness in remembering that these men and women are of greatest value. I asked that they each not give in to the number-crunching and the status-quo, but that they remember the humanity of every soul deployed. I enclosed a picture of my brother with each letter, stating that he was just one of many brothers, husbands, sons, fathers, wives, sisters, mothers, daughters, cousins, aunts and uncles, and friends who were depending on their elected officials to do right by them and this country.

I received a couple of form letter responses, and that's OK.

When I returned home from visiting Andy at Walter Reed, I began to grasp that Andy's story is being played out hundreds of times over in hospitals and rehab units all over the country. Soldier's doin' what they do...

I began to collect news articles about the attack on the 173rd and the many articles about those who went home for the last time. I wept over them...and prayed earnestly for their families.

(to be continued)

From Daddy on Thursday

Hello family,

We had probably the best day we have had since surgery today. I talked with the doctors as they came in early this morning about Andy's drowsiness etc. through the day. He has not really been clear since his surgery. I suspected the meds and I ask for some adjustments. As usual, they responded immediately and he was much brighter and more active today.

He had a teleconference with the rehab facility today. In all, there were about 35 doctors involved around 2 conference tables--one at WR and on in Tampa, Florida. The Florida group assured Andy that they had the facility and the expertise to get him to his maximum. Then Dr. Scott, the main doctor in Florida asked Andy if he had the drive to go the distance. Donna said that he straightened up in the strongest voice he's had since he's been here he said, "Sir, Yes sir. That is an affirmative!"

That is so Andy.

But, he is also still working through those big issues. Please continue to pray for him in that regard. He is kind of fighting a two front war--one with himself and one with his rehab. But, he is doing an admirable job of both. It seems to Dad these days that he just has to be older than 22 years.

Thanks for all your kindnesses and encouragement.
Love in Christ
For now,
Larry, Donna and Family.

From Daddy on Wednesday

From Daddy:

Dear Family,
I am learning compassion at a higher level these days as I watch your responses to Andy and our family. You make me aware that I must pause longer and look with more truly caring eyes at the pain and struggle of others. I have been truly changed by what I have seen in all of you.

Andy continues to collect people as he has always done. It happened again yesterday. The nurse came in late last night and as he was working on Andy he made a passing comment. He said, "Andy, you really impressed Douglas" (I think that was the name). "He said he was blown away by what you said."

This visit happened on day shift while I was sleeping, so I did not really know what they were talking about. We have been visited by several high ranking officers since we have been here and I thought they were referring to another one of those visits, but after the nurse finished and left, I asked Andy who he was talking about.

He said he was a fellow solider who came to see him . Three weeks ago that soldier stepped on an explosive in Iraq, and as a result, had lost both of his legs, his left hand, and suffered "compression" and burns to his face. Andy's comment was, "Dad, I know things could be much worse for me."

I don't know what Andy said to that valiant soldier, but I know that Andy was the one who was "blown away" by this soldiers courage. He also couldn't believe how far that this man's courage and the doctors at Walter Reed had brought him in just 3 weeks. He certainly inspired Andy, the people collector, in a lot of ways.

Andy continues to improve, as well. His pancreatitus is clearing up nicely. And this morning, he sat on the "throne" (a huge adjustable cardiac chair) and they rolled him down to the barber shop for a hair cut and shave. He got back exhausted, but he won't back away from anything that moves him closer to "normal."

He is still in-and-out somewhat due to the extreme exhaustion of his last 2 month on the battlefield, the wound and the medicines. But he is making visible progress. He never complains and he seems infinitely patient with what are sometimes very slow and difficult process that he had been used to doing much faster and easier: from turning in the bed to brushing his teeth to learning to use his fingers again.

It would appear that he will be going to Florida for his initial rehab. There is a facility there that is reported to be the "best in the system." It is where most special forces are sent for their rehab (naturally that would appeal to Andy). That initial rehab should last about 4 - 6 weeks and then probably back to Texas (maybe Dallas) to complete his transition. That's about all we know at this point.

Andy, is kind of quiet (for Andy) these days. When one of the therapist asked him about it the other day he said, "I'm just working through the big things." He and I continue to talk when he wants to about the "big things." Please pray that God would give him the graceful insights that he needs at this juncture.

Andy is mostly worried about how his circumstance is impacting the lives of his family. When Andy told us that he wanted to go in the Army, I got in his way "big time." At first, I just couldn't see it. No good parent is going to easily allow their child to be put in harms way. However, as Andy and I talked and I prayed, God began to make me aware, even way back there, that there was a providence connected to Andy's life that I was not privy to and that I should get out of his way. So, I did.

I certainly never dreamed that the providence would include the events of the last few weeks. But, I am convinced that this is the very providence that God, in His kindness, did not allow me to know in advance. I could not have survived that knowledge.

But I can survive it now because I see how God is changing all of our lives for the better through Andy's circumstance. He is changing Andy, and Daniel, and Sarah and Deborah and Donna and myself. And I know that so many of you are being significantly impacted in a very personal way by what has happened. And all of this brings me back to something that I have known for some time: There is a real "chemistry" involved in spiritual awakenings.

I have often made the statement to my congregation that the Church primarily exists for a moment in time: that moment when the spiritual chemistry becomes right to truly experience God. The chemistry of the divine moment - we live a thousand ordinary days waiting on that moment to occur, the moment when circumstance, emotions, sensitivity and awareness all align themselves in just the right way to enable us to make the leap to a new and higher level of spiritual reality.

It is only in these moments, when the chemistry is right, that we make the leap of conversion or the the leap to personal empowerment in the Living Christ through the Spiritual baptism, or to a true spiritual refreshing, or revival, or a new nearness to God, to a renewed heart and commitment.

These great leaps of faith do not occur in the "ho hum" days of ordinary moments. They occur in those rare and costly moments when the spiritual chemistry is right in our lives. They occur only in those God designed moments when all is right.

For many of us, myself included, God has brought to pass this very special chemistry through Andy's circumstance, and even as we weep, we sense the dawning of a new nearness, a renewed energy, an energized commitment to experience God at a higher level.



Where did those 5 days go?

My apologies. I've been sick. And angry. And waiting. And the three do not make for happy or even decent blog posts.

The good news--the excellent news is that Andy's best 2 days since the attack were Sunday and Monday. As of Mom's latest update this morning (Wednesday), he's sitting up in the cardio chair more often and today the occupational therapist helped him to get dressed and took him downstairs for a haircut and shave. Mom said that alone has him feeling like a new man.

He slept better last night than he ever has...less pain, fewer nightmares.

He's more alert and responding to his surroundings more. All good things.

Still waiting on word about where he's going to be moving too...Daniel and Andy are examining all the options and looking for the very best for Andy. I'm not going to try to explain it all--that just seems to lead to confusion. When there's something to tell on that front, I'll post it.