Friday, April 29, 2011

You Be Thelma, I'll Be Louise

It's the end of Day Two of an epic road trip. Epic for me, at least. I've never spent so much time in a vehicle, but I'm not complaining!

My traveling buddy, Jonni Webb, picked me up around noon yesterday. We got out of Annandale, up Highway 463, and I realized I didn't have my phone. Back that thing up!

Back to the 'hood, and I couldn't find my phone inside. Back out to the car, and there it was...on the bumper. It had ridden a few miles, was covered in dust, but was fine. I took it as a sign that we would be taken good care of on this trip!

About that time, Jonni gave me a little notepad. Here we go!

Well, after we made stops at two banks, Madison Fireplace and Patio, the Woofolk Building downtown, and finally, lunch at Annie D's in Brandon. Finally...on the road at 2:20pm. Me, Jonni, and car full of stuff for a month in Maine, and...
Cole---Jonni's possibly-autistic camera-shy dog!!! (Who, by the way, has been a TROOPER! He's a real Road Dawg!!!)

We made it to Chattanooga last night...but not without some anxiety. It seems the power was out in all of north Alabama...every exit we took was like a ghost town. Finally, we got to Chattanooga and went to the first hotel we came to. NO PETS ALLOWED.

So, on the next hotel...and what do you know?
So, Jonni begged. Yeah, she did...she said "we're soooo tired....we have a tiny little dog, he'll be no trouble..." and the guy behind the counter slips her a note...

OK. Shhhhhh....he put us in a room on the back side of the hotel, and we snuck Cole in for the night. We had no phone, no internet, no television...we were lucky we had electricity. So, we drifted off to sleep, forgetting all about....


I got up first and went to get breakfast, and the tv was on in the hotel lobby. Tornado refugees were sitting around, eating waffles and drinking coffee, watching the wedding and forgetting, for a moment, the devastation they had escaped. I saw Kate in her dress, and got to see the happy couple kiss on the balcony. So much for that.

We got back on the road, and just a little north of Bristol, just across the Virginia state line. we happened upon something that looked like a nightmare. One of the tornadoes had crossed the highway. It obliterated a truck stop, and 18-wheelers were tossed and twisted all over the place. Cars pulled over to the side of the road and people got out to just look in awe at the destruction, and to take photos. Jonni snapped these:

It was pretty shocking...something we didn't expect to see, especially since we had driven on I-20 through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham and all we saw was lots of huge uprooted trees and toppled road signs.

It's been a long day, and we've enjoyed seeing the beautiful Appalachian Mountains most of the day. We're in Hagarstown, MD for the night. And guess what? They are replaying the entire wedding, just for us! Seems we'll be up to speed on all things royal...if we can only stay awake long enough!

Our hope is to make it to Maine by day's end tomorrow. I am looking forward to seeing lots of the East Coast on the way.

We are thankful for the traveling mercies God has granted us so far. We are praying for another uneventful day as we approach our destination.

Blessings to all who read this!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Heading Out...

Twenty-four hours from now I'll be on my way! Jonni Webb and I are loading up her SUV with all the stuff we'll need for a month in Maine, including her dog, Cole.

We'll drive for about three days to get there...and I'm actually looking forward to the road trip. I'll be seeing parts of the country I've never seen before. And Jonni is a great traveling companion to do it with.

While we are there, I'll be writing a book on our family's journey since Nicole's accident. I've got alot in my head, and the year and a half of Caring Bridge we wrote, so I've got a book in the making for sure! Jonni is a potter, and she's designed some awesome lobster ornaments that she's going to try to sell to shops up and down the coast. She's also going to be selling ads for Front Desk (a tear-off map with restaurant ads that hotels give out to guests). So, we'll both be busy.

Nicole's journey has strengthened my spirituality for sure, and the book I have in mind will reflect that. Someone told me that "the closer you get to God, the closer the devil gets to you." I kind of think that's true...I've been tripped up every which way this past month. I've had some awful attacks that have seemed at times like a heart attack (enough to buy me a full cardio workup--and my heart is FINE) and at times it seemed like a gall bladder attack (lots of testing there, and a trip to the ER--gall bladder is fine!). The attacks zapped all my energy, leaving me useless to do the things I needed to get done.

Money has been t-i-g-h-t, and now we have all these medical bills to pay. But they can be paid another day...and I've worked hard in spite of the attacks so that I will have a little money coming in throughout May...enough to make sure I stay fed while in Maine.

So there! I'm going!

I'm leaving my sweet, supportive Larry behind. I'm leaving my miracle daughter behind. I'm leaving my now-maturing son behind. I'm leaving two high-maintenance dogs behind. I'm leaving my parents behind. Everyone will have to fend for themselves, because I'm taking one month to process what's happened over the past two and a half years so that I can share what I've learned in a book that I hope will glorify God as much as Nicole's healing has.

I'm still going to be taking writing assignments and doing work for the ALS Association while I'm there, so my time will not be spent lounging around. But I think a change of scenery, lack of daily obligations and a will to do something that will make a difference will make it all worthwhile.

I'll be reporting from the road, so stay tuned! Your prayers for our safe travels will be appreciated!

Blessings to all who read this!

Monday, April 18, 2011

An Evening of HOPE

What a weekend in contrasts! Violent tornadoes ripped through our area on Friday, then we had the most beautiful weather all weekend. A good analogy for life...there will always be storms, but if we can just weather them, we can enjoy the beauty life has to offer. I've always heard that which doesn't kill us will make us stronger. Good for me...I'm stronger today!

Nicole's second annual "Evening of HOPE" was held Saturday night at the Arts Center in downtown Jackson. She did the event last year as a way to give back to the community that so generously came to her aid following her accident. A visit with Malcolm White (Executive Director of the MS Arts Commission) last year helped Nic to choose the "Ask For More Arts" program as the beneficiary. It's a program of Parents for Public Schools to assure that the arts are incorporated into the curriculum in Jackson Public Schools.

The event was such a success last year, Parents for Public Schools wanted to do it as an annual event. This year, recording artist Rhonda Richmond was the entertainment, and she did not disappoint. The food was provided by Parlor Market, a chi-chi new restaurant in downtown Jackson. It was amazing!

The poster was designed again this year by the ubber-talented Talamieka Brice of Brice Media.

One of the highlights of the evening was Cassandra Wilson's attendance. Nicole has been a big fan of Cassandra's since she was in junior high. She has every one of Cassandra's CD's and always dreamed of meeting her. She got the chance when she was in college. Jef and Brenda Judin were producing a blues documentary, and they were shooting in the Delta at the Shack Up Inn. They hired Nicole to be Cassandra's assistant for the day. What an honor it was for Nicole!

Fast forward several years, and there was Grammy-award winner Cassandra Wilson, showing up for Nicole's event! Exciting stuff!

Last night, I was watching a favorite new show "Undercover Boss."  On the show, a young LPN who has had a touch life told the undercover boss, "I don't want what's happened to me to define me. I want people to remember me for my accomplishments."  Nicole's accident will, in some ways, always define her. But her accomplishments will eventually be what she's known for. I'm really proud of what Nicole has accomplished so far, and I expect greater things to come.

I'm proud of Joey Joe as well...he had a wonderful weekend and is looking ahead. He's loving his job at the Children's Museum and doing great in school.

I've been writing all weekend...trying to catch up/get ahead. The bus (Jonni's car) rolls on April 28--next week--for Maine! Sooo much to do to get ready!

Blessings to all who read this!


Friday, April 15, 2011

Ain't No Roadblock Gonna Get in My Way!

Have you ever had a plan, and a million roadblocks seemed to try to keep you from that plan?

My plan is to head out on April 28 to go to Owl's Head, Maine, where I'll spend the month of May writing a book about Nicole's accident and our family's journey.

The first thing to try to thwart my plan is lack of funds. But I'm determined to do all I can to cover not only the household expenses I typically cover, but Joe's tuition and the trip itself, not to mention rental fees for the house, and expenses for the month.

The second thing to get in my way is my health. I've been in relatively good health for a long, long time, and I'm eating healthier and doing more exercise now than I have in years. Yet, my body is turning on me...simulated heart attacks, which were really the result of critically low potassium. Then severe abdominal pain that sent me to the emergency room at River Oaks last night, sure that I was having a gall bladder attack. Now, thousands of dollars of medical testing later, we know that my heart and gall bladder are fine!

The third challenge is my friend Carol, who had major heart surgery Wednesday. Somehow, I've got to fit a quick trip to Nashville soon to be with her for a few days when she comes home from the hospital. There's nowhere on Earth I'd rather be.

And then there's life in general...lots going the Jackson Ad Fed Silver Medal luncheon/presentation that I'm involved with, and the Southern Miss Founder's Day Dinner that I'm planning. And Nicole's got her big annual "Evening of HOPE" event coming up tomorrow night. (Check out her facebook page to see the awesome commercial she did at WLBT earlier this week!).

In the middle of all this, I've got more work than I've had to do in years. And less energy. I poop out fast and my house is falling apart around me.

So, it sounds like this may not be the best time to go to Maine. But since when do I do things when the time is right? As a matter of fact, if we all wait to do things until conditions and situations are just right in our lives, I'm convinced we'd never do anything!

Sometimes you just need to plow ahead, regardless of the roadblocks that are thrown up in your way. Nicole taught me that in a major way, and the best way I can honor her bravery and perseverance is to write her story for others to be inspired by.

So, we're T-minus 13 days and counting! If I don't answer your phone calls or emails, please forgive me. I've got a book to write, and alot of work to do before I can!

Blessings to all who read this!

Friday, April 8, 2011

One day at a time...

Will this really happen? Will I really get to the point where I can leave for a month to go to Maine to write a book?


I cannot doubt this. God gave us a miracle when Nicole fell off that building. He carried her down, he sat with her on the ground and he guided the surgeons hands as they knit Nicole's broken neck and back together again. She's a WALKING quadriplegic. And that story has to be told on a larger stage. I've been encouraged by so many, assuring me that because this book will give God the glory, He will make sure that the money will flow to make it happen.

My little health scare has slowed me down a bit...critically low potassium will zap your energy and fast! But each day, as my potassium levels rise, I feel stronger and stronger. I've got a week's worth of housework to catch up on this weekend so I can focus on work again next week. I'm going to be gone three days next week to go to Chicago for training for the ALS Association walk that I'm coordinating, so I have to cram alot into the two days I'll be in my office.

And I'm also going to try to go to Nashville later this month for a few days to tend to my friend, Carol, who is having surgery on her delicate heart--valve replacement and triple by-pass--next Wednesday.

One day at a time...

Have you ever had a goal that seemed impossible, but you plowed forward as if you would reach it no matter what? I'd love to hear about it! I know the first step towards reaching a goal is believing you'll reach it.

Blessings to all who read this!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Maine or Die Trying...

COUNTDOWN for Maine!

Sometimes, life hands you an opportunity that is so perfect, you would be crazy to pass it by.

I have been handed an opportunity to go to a place for a full month, where I can sit and focus on writing a book about Nicole's accident and our family's journey. That place just happens to be in a beach house in Maine. And the month is May. As in NEXT MONTH

How am I going to make this happen, when our finances are tighter than they've ever been in our 30 years of marriage?

Well, I just believe so much that this story needs to be told, and the book needs to be written. And, just as when I got on that plane to New York on August 31, 2008, not knowing really what we'd find or how long we'd be there, or how in the world we'd ever afford it, I had faith that all would be OK. And it was. We were provided for. Nicole recovered. And even now, over two and a half years later, we may not have the disposable income we once had, but we certainly aren't starving. (Except for the self-imposed diet, which we are getting used to and is already making a difference!)

So I'm running on faith that the work I'm doing this month will pay off. I need enough money to cover the expenses I typically cover in our household, enough money to finish paying off Joe's tuition for this semester, and enough money to get me to Maine and back, and to be there for the month of May. Each day I just wake up and get right to work. It's the only thing I know to do!

And wouldn't you know, there's already been a hiccup in the plans. A big hiccup. After feeling rotten all weekend, I went to see the doctor, and he was freaking-out concerned. My ekg was "disturbing," and my symptoms were a real head-scratcher. A blood test revealed I had "critically low" levels of potassium--which perfectly explained my symptoms, including the disturbing ekg. Six huge horse pills a day for five days should do the trick. Best bad news I had heard all day.

Until the phone rang early yesterday morning.

Another blood test, taken later the day before, came back. Called a "D-Dimer" test, it can tell if you have a blood clot. My test came back positive.

I was told to high-tail it to the Madison Radiological Group for "stat" testing. "Right after I jump in the shower," I said. "NO. NOW," I was instructed. Scary.

They did a Doppler test on the veins/arteries in my legs. No clot there.

So they decided to do a CT scan. An IV with dye in it that made my body feel like it was on fire for about a minute...then four minutes of wondering if I really peed, or if it just felt that way (it just felt that way!).

All that to get some really good news: no clot!

But, the tightness in my chest and lack of energy has my ever-vigilent doctor concerned. Enough so that it seems I've bought myself another round of tests to make sure my heart is OK, including a stress test on a treadmill at Madison Heart Clinic tomorrow morning. Nothing to eat or drink past midnight.

While this is all certainly a bump in the road in many ways (lack of energy = not getting done all the things I need/want to the fact that our medical insurance deductible could buy a small island), I'm determined not to let it steer away from my plans to go to Maine.

And really, I look at it all as a blessing. Because I'm on a journey of my own towards better health and an active lifestyle going forward, and this is a little reminder of what eating bad foods and not dealing with stress in a healthy way can do to you. This little episode will make it much easier to resist tempting sweets and high-fat dishes, and much easier to hop on that treadmill each day!

Don't forget...I've got great gifts for graduation, Professional Assistant's Day (4/26), birthday, wedding, new babies, housewarming and more! Order your Scentsy products direct from my website and my profit will go straight to the Joe Marquez College Tuition Fund! I sure do appreciate it! Log on to Tell your friends!!! :-)

Blessings to all who read this!