Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Beginnings

Nicole and I had the pleasure of witnessing two of her great friends exchange wedding vows this weekend. Zach and Maurine, fellow apprentices at the Actor's Theatre of Louisville a couple of years back, got married in Birmingham yesterday (Saturday).

We drove over Saturday morning, and checked into the coolest hotel in a hip area of Birmingham. The hotel was the aloft Birmingham Soho Square, in Homewood, an area now referred to as "SoHo." It is filled with quaint shops, restaurants and condos. To check out the hotel, go to

Nic and I got our wedding drag on and headed over to the church in beautiful Mountain Brook. (For those of you in Jackson, Mountain Brook is like Woodland Hills on steroids. Magnificent homes with lots of old money floating around...). The ceremony was perfect. Short, sweet, but very poignant. The vows were so sincere and the couple looked so happy. We got to witness the beginning of their life together! What an honor!

The fun part, however, came in the church parking lot after the wedding when Nicole was reunited with two of her NY roommates who were also former Actor's Theatre apprentices. Rafe Jordan and Timo Acker were just so helpful to us when we were in NY while Nicole was in the hospital. Timo actually drove from Cleveland to NY to be there for us. They are really great friends and we are so thankful they are in Nicole's life, and now ours. I think they were shocked to see her standing so tall and pretty, because the last time they saw her, she was laying in a bed with a ventilator tube down her throat. Remember, they lived in the building that Nicole fell off of. They knew oh-so-well what she endured.

After the wedding we went to the reception at the Alabama Theatre. It was a great reception, complete with a gi-normous wedding cake, lots of great food, and a killer show band that had everyone up on their feet. Nicole danced with Timo, and it was the sweetest moment of the evening for me.

We left after an hour to go back to the hotel. Too much standing had Nicole feeling tired. But a couple of hours later, Timo and Rafe showed up to take Nic out to a nice wine bar downtown. There, the bride, groom and other friends had a chance to relax and catch up. The guys brought Nic back to the hotel, and she went to sleep happier than I've seen her in awhile.

Josh spent his weekend in wedding-land, too. He had two weddings to shoot this weekend, so he wasn't able to attend the wedding with Nicole. I realized that he gets to experience the joy of weddings nearly every weekend. On his website,, Josh says "Weddings are those surreal events that move at the speed of light." He goes on to say that "I love watching families and friends come together to celebrate a loved one's happiness. I enjoy capturing the day's awe-inspiring moments with my camera." Yep, he gets it. And that's exactly what we experienced this weekend. I was honored to be there to witness it all.

This morning we enjoyed the most wonderful brunch with my Southern Living at HOME friend, Anita Hand. She's a senior director in the company and she's been one of my best mentors and cheerleaders! The weather was perfect, the food delicious, but the company was perfect!

After loading up the car, we took off for Madison. Lots of traffic, but we made it home in time to pick up Larry and head up to Camp Bratton-Green for the annual special needs camp talent show. It really puts things in perspective for you to see someone get in front of a crowd of folks and bare their soul...they sang, danced, painted, showed off skills they've learned and more. The campers are so wonderful, but just as wonderful are the big-hearted counselors who work so hard all week long to provide a "normal" camping experience for these special adults.

We all came home tired, but happy and content. We've shared in the new beginnings of Zack and Maurine as they start their life as husband and wife...and of the special needs campers, as they go back into their lives with new skills and memories...of the counselors who will go back to their realities tomorrow with a new perspective...and now we'll have our own new beginning tomorrow, when Nicole heads back to therapy FIVE days a week, thanks to the work she'll be doing with the new Bioness H200 ( And I can't forget Joe, who will soon be heading to Hattiesburg to begin studies at a new school (Southern Miss) and something very new for him, cheerleading! We are so proud that he'll be a cheerleader for USM this fall!

Let's hear it for new beginnings!

Blessings to all who read this!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stopping to Smell the Roses

How crazy are we? Rushing all the time to do what? Before Nicole's accident, Larry and I barely saw each other. We were always working, working, working...then we came to a screeching halt. We sat for a month in the neuro-ICU of New York Presbyterian Hospital, focused only on Nicole...taking one day at a time. Often, it was one moment at a time.

So now, Nicole is back on her feet--a miracle! And she is walking, albeit slowly. Which makes everyone around her have to slow down. And in doing we so, we are forced to see things around us we normally didn't see, because we were much too busy, rushing, rushing, rushing. And, as Martha Stewart says, it's a good thing. We are stopping to smell the roses, and man-oh-man, do the roses ever smell sweet!

This photo is of Nicole on the rooftop terrace garden above The House of Blues in New Orleans, where our new friend, Mrs. T, invited us up to visit last Sunday. Because we were slow going into the House of Blues, Mrs. T noticed us. And because we were slow leaving (we couldn't join in the "second line" of napkin-waving folks parading out of the restaurant), she asked us if we'd like to come see her flowers upstairs. It was because we were slow that we had the opportunity of a lifetime to see something magical and to visit with such a fascinating lady.

Nic had a couple of really great workouts with her personal trainer, Eclecius, on Tuesday, then a really good workout in therapy yesterday. She said the muscles in her legs were like jell-o, but she loved it, because she said she really felt the muscles and she knew the work she was doing was paying off. We ate a quick lunch and headed north up I-55 to Camp Bratton-Green, where Josh is a counselor for the week. It's the annual "special needs" camp where mentally and physically challenged adults have the opportunity to enjoy a camp experience for a week. Nic and I went up last year--I to write a story on it for PORTICO JACKSON magazine, and Nicole to work with a group, teaching them a dance to perform in the talent show. We went the talent show and for four hours, we were thoroughly entertained by the campers. I vowed then that I'd go back each year!

We arrived at the camp around 3:15, and Josh took Nicole out on the pier to go fishing. They didn't get any bites, but had lots of fun. It was another "stop and smell the roses" moment, just standing on the pier and listening to the late afternoon summer sounds of the crickets and frogs.

We watched a group play "Duck-Duck-Goose," then watched as others participated in "extreme body painting." The great thing about the campers is they don't hold back. They really have a ton of fun, and the counselors (many of whom are high school and college students) are so kind, caring and giving towards the campers. We stayed for dinner before heading back home. It was a full day for Nic, and she went to sleep fairly early. We'll be going back Sunday evening for the talent show--we wouldn't miss it for the world!

Camp Bratton-Green, by the way, is an Episcopalian camp north of Canton. Joseph attended summer camp there for five years, and deems it "the happiest place on Earth." It is a small camp, but it really is a wonderful place filled with God's beauty. There's a magnificent lake, a beautiful chapel, cozy cabins, a cool, clean swimming pool and lots of other special places. It's interesting how a place that was so special in Joseph's life is just as special in Josh's. And although Nicole had no connection with the camp, she's learned to love it as well. I'm sure she'll be back there many times in the years to come.

Nic's back in the gym with Eclecius today, and I'm home, catching up on some writing. I had a couple of deadlines, so it was good to have an uninterrupted day to write. I checked the mail a little while ago and a fun thing arrived: the Michael Vick chew toy I ordered for Roxie! Pretty funny, huh? The proceeds go towards an organization that works to create awareness about the violence associated with dog fighting. (Check it out:

Nic and Joe are planning a fun night out together, going to hear the new band that friend Justin Cook is playing in at Martin's. To hear a preview, log on to I'm going to pass on that...too late and too loud for me. Instead, I'm hoping to head up to Canton tomorrow evening. Thacker Mountain Radio (normally taped in Oxford and played on MPB Radio on Saturday nights) will be taped on the square in Canton. The Scramblers will be musical guests along with Grady Champion (my man!) and Bobby Smith. Author Jim Ritchie will be there as well.

We've got another road trip planned this weekend--Nic and I are driving over to Birmingham, Alabama for a wedding. Her friends Maurine and Zack (actors she met while at the Actor's Theatre in Louisville, KY) are getting married. Nic also found out that one of her roommates from NY will be there as well, so it should be a fun reunion for them all. I'm basically the driver, but look forward to it as well. I've really loved all of the friends Nic made while at Actor's Theatre. On Sunday, we're going to brunch with my Southern Living at HOME pal, Anita Hand. She's been such a great friend to us!

Life is so full of magical moments. We just simply have to take the time to slow down and enjoy them. I hope everyone reading this can stop and smell the most aromatic rose--literally or figuratively--today!

Blessings to all who read this!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Something Better Than We Planned For...

"When you least expect it, something great might come along. Something better then you even planned for."

That's a quote from my pal Suzanne Tanner's facebook page. And it's true. We experienced that time and time again the past few days.

On Friday afternoon, my friend Vidal sent out a (desperate?) request to several folks, saying that her husband, David, needed some paintings driven to New Orleans, from the Bryant Gallery in Jackson to the Bryant Gallery in the French Quarter. I asked Nicole if she was game, she jumped at the chance to get out of her purple room, and I responded that we'd do it! I invited Susan Luke to come along--we needed time together as she's moving to Cincinnati in June (another story for another day). I arranged for Roxie to be boarded, and come Saturday morning, the three of us were New Orleans bound!

We expected rain the entire time, but after driving down I-55 a ways, the rain stopped, the skies cleared and New Orleans greeted us with the most beautiful weather! We delivered the paintings, then took our things up the the apartment they provided for us. After a little wind-down from the drive, we got ready for dinner--at a most spectacular restaurant on Bienville, G.W. Fins. I'd never heard of it, but was delightfully surprised. Excellent food, superior service and wonderful company and conversation. We sat at the "see and be seen" table, which was perfectly angled to see both the restaurant (which was beautiful) and out the window, which provided some very entertaining sights. It was, after all, New Orleans!

After dinner, the three of us walked around the French Quarter, taking an obligatory stroll down Bourbon Street. It was so uplifting to see the Quarter full of people. Restaurants were hopping and folks were everywhere. Katrina may have kicked New Orleans in the butt, but she left the Quarter alone. Nicole walked between Susan and I, with us all hooked arm-in-arm. We laughed, because it looked like Nicole was a drunk, having trouble maneuvering after drinking too many hurricanes! But that wasn't the case, and actually, she was walking very well, keeping up with our stride step for step.

This morning we woke up and went to "church." The Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues is the place to be on Sunday mornings! We enjoyed the most delicious food--Nicole and I split a made-to-order omelette with spinach, crawfish, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and cheese. It was F-I-N-E! We also enjoyed grits and grillades, pecan-encrusted catfish, smoked gouda cheese grits, boiled shrimp, and soooo much more. We were so full that we skipped the dessert table--and they had bread pudding!!

The music had us up on our feet--Jo Cool opened the show with a song and served as the M.C. The Zion Harmonizers sang favorites like "This Little Light of Mine," and "Amazing Grace." During the show, the nicest lady sat at our table. She enlightened us on the Zion Harmonizers, declaring them to be the best gospel group in town. She said they traveled all over the world. After the show, she asked if we liked flowers. We told her we did, and she invited us to come upstairs with her, because she lived above the House of Blues and she wanted to show us something. We waited until the place cleared out after the show, then she led us to an elevator and up to the most spectacular rooftop terrace filled with pot after pot of flowering plants. The flowers were as breathtaking as the view of the city, the Mississippi River and St. Louis Cathedral. We had a great visit with her in her lovely apartment and after exchanging cards, we promised to stay in touch.

"When you least expect it, something great may come along. Something better than you even planned for."

The moral of this story is to let yourself be open to something wonderful that just may happen when you least expect it. Friday at 4pm, we had no plans for the weekend. Friday at 4:30pm, we had a trip to New Orleans planned. On Sunday afternoon, we were in a beautiful apartment above the House of Blues, seeing fascinating things and hearing fascinating stories from someone who has lived--and is still living--a magical life. it was certainly something better than we even planned for, and we are all grateful for it.

On the way home, we stopped in to see my mom, who is still gaining strength at Wisteria Gardens. We took her a Mardi Gras mask to cheer her up. Her blood sugar was extremely high, so that has everyone concerned. My sister, Sarah, was there, along with my dad. We'll check on her again tomorrow and pray that there is some improvement.

And tonight we mourn the passing of Larry's sweet Aunt Lilia. Ironically, I first met her in New Orleans, when she came to the U.S. from Venezuela with Larry's mom for a visit. It was in 1980, before we got married, and I was very nervous about meeting Larry's family. Lilia was so sweet to me, even though we had a bit of a language barrier. I remember we all spent a wonderful time exploring the French Quarter and staying in the Monteleon Hotel. God bless you, Lilia. Please give Isabel a big hug and kiss for us when you see her in Heaven.

Blessings to all who read this!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Surprises!

There's been a little buzz of excitement in the air everywhere we've been today. It's Friday before a long weekend! We picked up Josh at his studio this morning, and I greeted him with "TGIF!" He laughed and said that he had just said the very same thing, after not saying it for a long, long time. Not that it's been a bad week, but I believe the prospect of a long weekend--a holiday weekend--has everyone a little bit stoked.

We headed to Primos for the most scrumptious breakfast ever (they have the creamiest grits...if you're not from the South and you don't have access to grits, I feel so sorry for you! I once sent a package of grits and a recipe for cheese grits to my friend, Paula, in NY. The package broke in the box, and when she opened it, the dried grits just streamed all over her office. She though I was crazy!).

After dropping Nicole off at therapy, I took Josh to pick up his keys from pal Tara before dropping him off at home. I had a little therapy of my own, in the manicurist's chair, then drove back down Lakeland to get Nicole.

Nic did great in therapy today--her first session in a week. She has been surprised at her loss of energy from Monday's surgery, but she's regaining it quickly. They took it easy on her today, just mainly doing some stretching. They don't want her scars to get tight.

It was back home for lunch, and then I checked emails and found one from friend Vidal, who was in search of someone to drive a painting to Bryant Galleries in New Orleans. I jumped at the chance, and now Nicole, Susan Luke and I are heading out tomorrow for a fun little jaunt to the Crescent City. What a fun surprise! Nicole was feeling a little down because Josh is going to Oxford this weekend to shoot a wedding, and then he'll be at Camp Bratton Green's special needs camp all next week. She didn't share in everyone's excitement about a long weekend before this little opportunity arose!

We're going to eat dinner at GW Finns, then head to the jazz bar at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Sunday morning, we'll get our gospel on at the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues before heading back home. Our family has done that before, prior to Hurricane Katrina, and it was spectacular--delicious food and wonderful music. This trip, we'll be swaying to the sounds of the Zion Harmonizers. We've been wanting to go back for some time, so this will be a real treat! I think it will be a great change of scenery for Nicole. Just a three hour drive away, New Orleans feels like a different country!

My sister, Sarah, is coming in from Nashville today to help my dad out with my mother. I'm hoping Sarah can trade places with me some and be with Nicole, so I can spend more time with my mom. She's still in the "swing bed" (not a swinging bed...) at Wisteria Gardens Nursing Home in Pearl, but she's getting better every day. Physical therapy is the most wonderful thing! The lesson for us all is that we need to KEEP MOVING!

I've been going through emails and having fun reading facebook comments. The funniest one today came from David Kimball. He found something for all dog-lovers and their dogs. It's a Michael Vick chew toy. For real. Order at: So guess what Roxie is getting soon?! Why didn't I think of that???

One final thing I need to do is to wish Maggie Clark a happy 60th birthday! I can't believe I let that one slip by me. First of all, Maggie may be 60 chronologically, but she's certainly waaaaay younger than that! I have to say that Maggie is one of the best friends ever, and she has the most generous heart and spirit. She's been a rock for me. We don't talk as often as I'd like, but when we do, it's like we just spoke yesterday. She understands me and supports me and I appreciate her friendship more than she'll ever know. I love you, Maggie! Happy Birthday!!!!

Les bon temp roulez! We're New Orleans bound!!!

Blessings to all who read this!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sixteen Again, and Not So Sweet

I can't imagine what it must be like to be 26 years old and living at home again--not by choice, but by circumstance. That's Nicole's world at the moment. It's like she's a teenager who doesn't have her driver's license yet, so she has to catch rides with her friends. And she's encouraged to get in early, because her tired old folks want to go to bed!

That's what's happening tonight. Keith Luke picked Nicole up and they went to meet up with Josh and one of his friends at Hal & Mal's for dinner and a show. Of course, the show didn't begin until 9:30pm, and just a little while ago (it's 11:20pm), Nicole sent me a text saying the main act was just going on stage and that they'd leave in about an hour. I have no choice but to wait up for her, as I have to help her get ready for bed.

I want her to live a normal, happy life, but the mama in me is saying "you just had surgery on Monday! You have to be careful! I think you're pushing it!" And the part of me that wants/craves sleep is saying "hurry home, I want to go to bed!"

What happened to my life as an "empty nester?!"

I'm not complaining. Really. I'm just a little tired. I've really enjoyed having Nicole home, especially the past few days as she's been recuperating from surgery. We've watched movies, laughed at the stupid reality shows, and just generally enjoyed each other's company.

Joe left today to go to Hattiesburg for a few days of cheer practice. He's so excited that he's going to be cheering for Southern Miss this fall. So, that's one little chick out of the nest, if only for a few days!

I've met a few other mothers in the past few months that have been thrust back into their children's lives in a very hands-on way. Mary Margaret Graves has been the poster mom for patience and love with her son, Will. They've been away from home for a long time (since January 1) and they are now in Atlanta where Will is in rehab at the Sheppard Center. And Brenda Dunaway has had to deal with daughter Brandy's ailments, all the time fighting with insurance companies to get the care that Brandy needs.

There's a saying that "a mother's work is never done." I always thought the idea was to raise adults, not children. And that's what Larry and I have tried to do. Now our adult daughter is back home, and we are having flashbacks to 16. It's hard not to. She's the same size now as she was ten years ago, and she still needs us like she did then, but in a different way. So, I remind myself every day that Nicole is a young woman, finding her way in the world. And when I do so, I am rewarded with the fact that she is one of the most tenacious, persevering people I know.

Even while stretched out on the chaise lounge in her room the past few days, she's had her little computer on her lap, tapping out emails to all sorts of people. She's thinking about her future, and making plans and preparations now. Nicole would like to do motivational speaking on a large level. She's done some speaking locally, and will continue to do so at no charge, as that is her way of giving back to the community that has been so supportive of her. Her next engagement is on June 4, when she'll speak to the Madison-Ridgeland Rotary Club. In the coming months, she's hoping to have a demo video and website and become affiliated with a speaker's bureau. I believe she'll do it, and folks nationwide will be amazed at her story!

So, I'll take Nicole at both 16 and 26, although I'm sure she's ready to leave Sweet Sixteen behind!

Blessings to all who read this!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness

Given a choice, no one would choose to be sick. Or to get hurt. Or to accidently fall off a six story building. But, life happens, and when it does, we deal with it.

One of the ways folks deal with others getting sick, having surgery, etc. is to shower them with food. Churches have committees devoted to just that. I've taken food to people I don't even know, because I was on the committee and was called upon to prepare something. In the future, I will do that with great joy, as I know all too well now what the receiving end is like. It is good. Very good.

Like tonight, when our sweet friend Becky Adkins brought us a full dinner--chicken, pasta, carrots, salad and bread. Good eatin' for sure! In the past several weeks, our kind neighbor/friend, Phyllis Geary, brought over pork loin, gourmet pizza and other delights. Jacqui supplied us with comfort food: meatloaf and tomato basil soup, among other things. And just one week after my hysterectomy, we made our way to Larry and Susan Luke's home for a wonderful meal.

It's amazing how our friends seem to know just what we need when we need it. I was silently lamenting prior to my surgery how I had not had time to go buy new pajamas, and that very evening, the day before my surgery, Ann Frye came by with a gift of new pajamas, a nightgown and slippers.

I'm always so moved by random acts of kindness, no matter how big or how small. Since Nicole's accident, we've been the recipient of so many of them. Like the girl from the optical shop in NY who walked a few blocks to the hospital with several pairs of frames so Nicole could try them on and choose the ones she wanted. If I began to list them all, this would be an encyclopedia. With each kind gesture we receive a bit of grace. To not accept it would be to insult the one giving it. So we do so, gratefully and gracefully.

Because of this, we have become hyper-sensitive to such acts, and we understand how much each random act can mean. Each gives us strength, faith, confidence and hope. And now, more than ever, we feel compelled to "pay it forward." There's no way we can repay the kind gestures others have made towards us, be we can recognize opportunities to do for others in their time of need, and we will, to the best of our ability.

Nicole had her first outing today since her surgery on Monday. We went to Methodist Rehab where she met with her OT and a representative from the Bioness company. Today they did an assessment on Nicole, trying the new hand stimulation devices on her to see how she would respond. The response was good, and she was deemed a good candidate for the devices. For now, she'll use them at Methodist and see where we go from there. It was fascinating today to see how they can use electric current to help her do things with her right hand that she had not been able to do before. Extend her fingers, make a fist, pick up objects and drop them again. Things we take for granted, but believe me, when you can't do those things, life is a challenge. In time, the devices should help retrain the nerves and the messages they send to Nicole's brain. She will be opening up closed pathways and maybe even forming new ones, all to do simple tasks that help in tackling life's everyday challenges.

After a two hour session at MRC, we met up with Papa Dale for lunch, before going to visit Mama at Wisteria Gardens. She's doing better. Nicole went to the gym there and met with Mama's therapist. She wanted to make sure Mama was getting a good workout--Nicole style! Before we left, Nicole met the manager and somehow scheduled a karaoke gig at the nursing home with she and Josh in costumes. Those folks may never be the same again!

That was excitement enough, so we headed home, where Nic and I both took a good nap. Becky brought dinner over, and both Larry and Josh surprised us so we all ate outside on the patio. It was a nice evening and we enjoyed the delicious meal Becky provided for us.

Thanks to all who have signed the caringbridge guestbook, or left a comment on my blog. Those, too, are acts of kindness that are so appreciated.

Blessings to all who read this!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Facebook Fun

What did we do before cellphones, computers, and now...facebook???

When I was in the traditional working world, I was very connected. I attended meetings of all sorts, all the time. Meetings at work, meetings for various Chambers, committee meetings, board meetings, etc., etc., etc. I would attend after-hour events and see the same people I had seen in all those meetings, but in a different environment. It was fun getting to know so many people, but difficult, too, as I was also a wife and mother, trying to run a household.

Then I left the traditional working world. I came home and started writing. I could do all manner of work while wearing pajamas and slippers. Who knew? All I needed was a computer and phone. I was set. I cut waaaaay back on the number of committees and boards I was on (besides, I wasn't a 'big fish' any more...I didn't have the money of my company behind me). It was nice to enjoy the home we had built for a change. It wasn't unusual for me to go several days without ever getting in my car and I loved it. I could put in a load of laundry, write and article and make some money. Sweet.

But after a few years, things changed. I started feeling very disconnected. I didn't see the same faces I once used to see so frequently. So I kept writing, but I also got another job, of sorts, that helped me get out of the house and back into the world. It was Southern Living at HOME, the home products division of Southern Living magazine. And I loved it! I would load up my wares in my car and go to someone's home where I'd unload them and display them on a table. Women would come in, have a glass of wine, eat a snack, visit with each other, laugh and be happy that they were out of their own homes for the evening, and they'd look at my stuff, fall in love with it, and place orders. I met so many new friends doing this!

Then, Nicole had a little accident in NY, and my life changed once again. No complaints. We started a caringbridge site and suddenly I realized that I was not as disconnected as I thought I was. Names popped up from my past faster than I could read the messages. What a wonderful thing the internet is...while we were in NY--as Nicole was fighting for her life--we were comforted by the many people we've befriended over the years. That was such a blessing for us!

Now I'm on facebook. My kids have been doing this for years, but for some reason, it has really caught on with folks my age in the past several months. I now have 422 facebook "friends." Nicole is a friend, but Joseph has ignored repeated requests. I have friends who are truly life-long friends, friends from my past whom I've reconnected with, including friends from elementary school, junior and high school, college and beyond. I have friends who are politicians, buisnessmen and women, broadcasters, actors, musicians, photographers, writers and artists. It's fun to read the comments of their everyday lives, because in doing so, I realize how much alike we all are, and sometimes, how different we are as well. I love to read about friends who are doing adventurous things, and those who are celebrating the most mundane things. More and more, it seems that folks are finding joy in the simplest of things. It's something we've learned to do a better job of doing since Nicole's accident--stopping to smell the roses.

Now that Nicole is a little more independent, I'm cranking my Southern Living at HOME business back up again. Want to host a party? Check out my website at to see our catalog. You can get the things you love the most FREE just for hosting a party, and who doesn't love a good "girl's night" in? I'm exploring additional writing options, as the income I make from my freelance writing has been my contribution to our household income. I attend events such as "Fondren After Five" and such as a way to physically connect with folks, and it's alot more fun than committee meetings, because I don't leave with a list of things to do.

And in the meantime, I'll continue logging on to my computer several times a day, checking my facebook page, and seeing what all my friends are up to at any given time.

By the way...Nicole is doing well today. The day after surgery is never as easy as the day of. She's a little sore, and generally lethargic. But she's doing well, and will be back out again in the morning to give the Bioness H200 a test drive. It's a cool new hand stimulation device that we are praying will improve her hand function. More on that later...

Blessings to all who read this!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Scars Be Gone!

Nicole sailed through her surgery just fine today! We got to River Oaks Hospital around 10am, and she went straight to the lab to have blood drawn. While Larry and I waited for her in a little waiting room for outpatient families, Josh came in. He wanted to take one (?!) last photo of Nicole with her big ol' trach scar before surgery.

They put Nic in a room--very small, but with a rocking chair and TV! She had to put on a surgical gown and they took her to the pre-surgical holding area where she had an IV put in. That was a little rough, because she can't make a good fist, and it was hard for them to find a vein...three sticks (ouch!). Finally, they got it, and we visited with Dr. Welch (the anesthesiologist) and Dr. Dev. I went back to her little room and met up with Larry, and we went to eat in the hospital cafeteria while Nic was in surgery. We got calls every 30 minutes, updating us on her progress. The surgery took about two hours, then she went to recovery for awhile before being returned to us.

Nic was very alert when she got to the room, and felt really well. They observed for for awhile, then gave her some morphine in her drip before sending us home. We stopped by Beemon Drugs on the way home to get her prescriptions and Lester came out to the car to cheer on his favorite patient!

Next we stopped to get take-out for dinner before heading home. Nicole ate a huge dinner--she had not eaten since 9pm last night so she was famished. After settling in her room, she began feeling a little pain. "It hurts to talk." I gave her a pain pill, a big jug o' water, and I believe she'll be out like a light soon. Sweet Roxie is curled up on the rug at the foot of her bed. Could it be that she instinctively knows Nicole was operated on today?

What a day! It brought back lots of memories, but oddly, we remembered the good parts. I remembered how awesome nurses are (thanks, Mollie!) and how nice people can be. Everyone seemed to be rooting for Nicole, amazed by her story, and even more so, her strength. Dev came and visited with us after the surgery and we had a great visit. I think it was a good "un-wind" time for him, and a time for Larry and me to breathe a deep breath of gratitude. While her surgeons in New York were amazing, they just didn't have that "Southern touch." Sure, Dev is Indian, but he's been here long enough that he knows his "y'alls," if you know what I mean!

Thanks for the many text messages, phone calls and carinibridge guestbook entries. It was good for all of us to know that we had so many prayers being sent up today! Nicole will lay low tomorrow, then she'll be back at rehab on Wednesday morning to try out the new Bioness H200! It will be another exciting day on her road to recovery.

Blessings to all who read this!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Under the knife

A little over eight months ago, on September 1, Larry and I found ourselves in the hallway of New York Presbyterian Hospital, around 4:00 in the morning, meeting the surgeon who would be stablizing Nicole's neck. He looked so young, yet he was so confident and serious. He explained to us that the surgery was necessary, as her injuries were life threatening. But he also explained to us the risks of surgery--that she would be paralyzed for life, that she may not talk again as it was so close to her vocal cords, and if she did talk, she most likely would not sound the same. Also there were the risks associated with anesthesia, etc., etc., etc. Then he asked us to sign the papers that allowed him to do the surgery.

We basically had no choice. She had crushed her C5 and C6 vertebrae, and they were pressing on her spinal cord, which was already badly damaged. Surgery would take place at 6:30am--in just over two hours.

We asked Dr. Angevine to do his best, said a prayer, and went to the waiting room where we sat, in shock, as they wheeled Nicole into surgery for the next ten hours. Around 8am we left the hospital, making sure the nurses all had our cell phone numbers. We ate breakfast in a little Dominican cafe, which was interesting and tastey. We walked around the area, Washington Heights, which was good, because it became our "home" for the next month. We went in a wonderful little chapel in a basement of the "old" New York Presbyterian hospital across the street from where Nicole was staying, and we just sat in silence, thinking, praying and doing a little crying. I remember sitting in a little courtyard outside the chapel, talking to Josh, who couldn't get a plane out of Jackson due to the hurricane that never materialized. He was a basket case, so I spent my time on the phone calming him down, when my own mind was reeling. Larry and I walked down the block to a Starbucks and tried to get an internet connection for awhile, then we walked through the children's hospital lobby--a bright and cheery place--when my phone finally rang. It was Dr. A, telling us all had gone well and that Nicole was in recovery. We made our way back to the hospital just as they brought her back to her room. She was in a drug-induced coma for the afternoon and evening, so all was quiet. Just the steady beeping of the many machines she was hooked up to.

A week and a half later, on September 11, it was time for the second surgery, on her lower back. By then Josh had been by her side each night, and on the day of her surgery, we all shared a cup of coffee before Josh headed back to our room to sleep. We jokingly asked Dr. A if he had eaten his Wheaties that morning, and he assured us he had. The surgery was to last 9-11 hours, and several of the nurses encouraged us to get out of the hospital. One nurse in particular, Dorothy, reminded us that we would not be allowed in the operating room, we couldn't help the doctors, and that we'd most likely go stir crazy if we sat around all day. She told us to "give her up to God," get a cab and go to Central Park. After all, it was a beautiful fall day in New York. But we dared not venture that far away. Instead, we explored "our" neighborhood again, eating in our same little Dominican cafe, and I ended up having a manicure and pedicure--the best I've ever had--for $25! We walked around a little park near the hospital, visited the chapel again, and once again, were back in Starbucks when we got the call that Nic was in recovery. Again, another successful surgery!

Tomorrow, she goes under the knife again. It's not a matter of life and death this time, and it won't make a difference on whether she walks or not. But to Nicole, it's just as important. She'll go under general anesthesia at River Oaks Hospital to have plastic surgery which will reduce the size of her trach scar on her neck, the surgical scar and peg (feeding) tube scar on her belly, and the scar from the laceration on her back. She doesn't mind the scars that go up and down her neck and back, like zippers. They are "clean" scars and actually pretty cool. For us all, those scars represent what she's been through and are beautiful because they mean she's alive! But the other ones, particularly the trach scar, are so "in your face." The trach scar tissue is still attached to her trachea, so it moves up and down when she talks or swallows. Our friend and neighbor, Dr. Dev Mani-Sundaram, will be performing the surgery.

Larry and I will most likely hang in at the hospital for her surgery. I'll take my laptop to keep me busy. I can't help but feel a bit anxious--after all, it is surgery, and Nicole has a history of "coding" after surgeries. But I know she'll be in capable hands and that God will be watching over both her and the surgeon and his medical team.

This will be yet another step in the healing process for Nicole. She's come so far and is so brave to endure all she has had to endure. While I'm a little anxious, she's excited and ready!

Blessings to all who read this!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Reality check...

As I write this, Nicole is in her room, a little disappointed because she wants to go to the tanning bed and she can't. She has plastic surgery scheduled for Monday morning to reduce the size of four of her scars. Three are surgical, including the trach scar on her throat, and the fourth is a scar from a nasty laceration she received when she fell on a broken bottle. Yes, that was "the" fateful fall. The scar tissue is still very tender, after all, it's only been eight months. To damage that in a tanning bed would not be the best idea two days away from surgery. So, the reality check is that she simply can't jump into a tanning bed like she used to. But I'm sure she'll make her way to a pool or beach in the next couple of months, and with her beautiful olive skin, all the sun has to do is glance her way and she'll have a golden tan before she knows it!

I spent several hours today at a board retreat in Clinton for the Crossroads Film Society. The retreat was held at Greg Smith's home, which was a beautiful setting for our meeting. He and his wife, Beverly, live on a lake, and I had a hard time concentrating on the business at hand, as I was seated across from an expanse of picture windows that overlooked the lake. I watched egrets and cranes fly back and forth across the lake for hours.

Joe stayed with Nicole while I was gone. Larry had to go to the club early this morning as the pool opened today. I was a little worried about what they'd eat, as Joe is allergic to cooking and Nicole isn't able to really get in the kitchen and cook just yet. I should have known my resourceful children would be just fine--I came home to an empty pizza box on the counter.

Nicole was happy because Josh had come by on his way to shoot a wedding. She always misses him when he's gone (he's been in L.A. for a week--got in very late last night). She had a good week in rehab, and was happy to share all that happened with him.

It was really nice coming home this afternoon to both of my children. At 20 and 26, they have lives that aren't always centered at home. I am thankful that they were here, and I had fun just being with them this afternoon. I know it wasn't Nicole's choice to live at home again at her age, but I believe she's making the best of it. She enjoys her "new" room and bathroom, and I think it suits her lifestyle for now. Joe will be moving to Hattiesburg in a few weeks, into a house with a few other guys. He'll be practicing for cheerleading this summer, so we won't be seeing too much of him. We will be seeing him at the USM games this fall, which we are all excited about!

The kids and I will be heading to Wisteria Gardens tomorrow to see my mom and to decorate her room. I hope that will lift her spirits and motivate her to get better. Afterwards, Larry will join us so we can all go to mass together. It's been a long time since we've been there together as a family.

Our prayers are with my Aunt Sheila. She's had a rough go of it and we simply send up a prayer of healing for her.

Blessings to all who read this!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nowhere to go...

Today was one of those rare days when we had no place to go on our schedule. Nicole did have a recording session at noon today, but it was in the comfort of her own room, thanks to pal Daniel Guaqueta. Nic has done voice over work in the past, and wants to get back into it. Seems logical, as there is absolutely nothing wrong with her voice! Daniel is helping her make a CD that she can send to ad agencies, etc. in hopes of getting work.

I made lunch for everyone, and Joe joined us on the patio. It was really nice out, and we enjoyed a big lunch of tilapia, roasted vegetables and wild rice. I even made bread pudding for dessert. Afterwards, Daniel and Nicole got to work, and I spent the afternoon writing articles for Portico and the Jackson FYI section that will be coming out soon in The Clarion-Ledger.

Not having to load up in the car and be somewhere on time was such a joy today. Taking Nicole somewhere is kind of like taking a toddler--load up her bag, and corral her into the car. I don't mind it, but I enjoy the rare times when I don't have to do it.

Just as I was settling in for some relaxing couch time, Nicole suggested we go to the movies. We had both been wanting to see "The Soloist," so we decided to get up and go. We made it just in time and enjoyed the film. It was somewhat disturbing, because it showed the reality of homelessness in L.A. (We learned there are over 90,000 homeless people in L.A. alone.) Robert Downey, Jr. played a journalist with the L.A. times who "discovered" a down-and-out mentally ill musician played by Jamie Fox. They both did an incredible and believeable job in the film. I thought it would be a little more uplifting, a la "Mr. Holland's Opus," but it really wasn't. Instead, the lesson seemed to be that we should sometimes simply learn to accept things as they are and roll with it.

I couldn't help but think about Nicole, and how throughout her ordeal, we have never really "accepted" her current situation. Instead, we all expect more from her, and she expects more from herself. She is pushing her body so hard and doing all she can to get back to normal.

My mom continues to improve, very slowly, at Wisteria Gardens in Pearl. She's in a "swing bed" there, and going to therapy for a couple of hours each day. They are having her sit up in a chair for longer periods of time. Today it was almost five hours. She's just so very weak, and can't do much at all on her own. I'm praying that her appetite will improve, and that she'll get stronger so that she can be more independent. I went to see her the other day and she said she wanted her walls decorated like Josh decorated the walls in Nicole's hospital rooms. I'm going to take some photos to the hospital this weekend to tape to the wall. I think that will help perk her up a bit!

I'm hoping for a relaxed weekend as we prepare for Nicole's surgery on Monday. She'll be checking into River Oaks Monday morning, where she'll have plastic surgery on several of her scars, including the trach scar on her neck. We're not sure if she'll have to stay overnight--it really just depends how the surgery goes and how she does.

It's 10:30pm as I write this, and Nic and Joe just left about 45 minutes ago to go hear a band at Martin's. I don't get it...she's been up longer than me, and I'm ready to hit the sack. Oh, to be young again.

Blessings to all who read this!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

From caringbridge to a new blog...

Eight months ago, I began a blog, of sorts, by journaling about my daughter's accident & recovery on a site called caringbridge. If you're reading this, you probably know all about it. If not, in a nutshell, Nicole fell from the roof of her apt. building in NY--six stories--and lived to tell the tale. It's been a long, slow journey to recovery. To read all about it, go to the "my story" section of

In the beginning, the journal entries were primarily to keep friends and relatives apprised of Nicole's medical condition so that I would not have to repeat it over and over by phone. The entries were clinical in nature, with details about her condition, which was critical for some time. In the process, hundreds of people signed the guestbook, and we found that it gave us strength, courage, hope, faith and we felt a tremendous amount of love and caring. As the events unfolded, we discovered alot about ourselves as a family unit, and we realized that our friends were the best ever.

People were fascinated by Nicole's story. It began as horror over what had occurred, then moved into amazement at her strength and will to not only survive, but to beat the odds. Our beautiful dancer vowed to dance again, and who were we to doubt her?

I was faithful in writing the updates, and over the months, the clinical aspect evolved into a "day in the life" report. Nicole has managed to live her life to the fullest despite physical limitations. She's taken me along on the ride with her, and it's been nothing short of incredible.

Last month, she made the decision to write the journal entries on caringbridge herself. After all, it is her life. I fill in for her on occassion, but for the most part, it's her story now. But quitting writing cold turkey was difficult for me. I have gained great insight while on this journey, and still feel that I have alot to share.
I've learned some of life's lessons the hard way, and in a short amount of time. If I can help others with what I've learned, I'll be honored. And I hope to continue learning and sharing. So Nicole has caringbridge, and I have this blog.

I'm calling this "Every Step of the Way," after the name of the dance choreographed for Nicole by Cynthia Newland at Belhaven. Nicole has had tremendous support from family and friends every step of the way, and I have as well. And through this all, God's hand has been touching us all every step of the way. And we couldn't have done it without that help.

So, I'll keep it short, I'll keep it sweet (sometimes), and I'll enjoy writing this blog each day. I hope you enjoy reading it.

In the tradition of my caringbridge posts:

Blessings to all who read this!