Just Sayin’

I’m 35, which is like waaaaaaaay past……painfully far past……what I figure to be the average MTV-viewing age.  For the most part I don’t watch much on MTV anymore, but last night I’m relaxing, scanning the guide on my TV and suddenly there. it. is.

guide-001(not the actual photo because I lack foresight)

Something happens that I can only compare to a Pavlov-like reaction and suddenly my mind is a mushy-brain train with one lone track in sight and all I can think of is….



I made his name it’s own sentence because…..really,do you need a reason?

Some of you may not be familiar with Real World or Road Rules (which they began way back when I was in my MTV-age years), which means you’re also probably not familiar with the offspring of those shows called The Challenge.  Which means some of you poor, poor souls are not familiar with the double-sexy-dipped ball of hottness in that picture up there.

Well there he is, folks, in all his pretty boy glory.  Yeah, he has the typical good looks one would expect of a TV show celebrity.  He has the pretty blue eyes and the perfectly styled hair, the just-long-enough beard stubble, the sculpted body….Yeah, he has all that.  While it’s nice….yawn.

Let me just tell you……none of that pretty boy stuff matters.  This guy IS. A. BEAST.  I mean, he originally caught my eye a few seasons ago when this confused little fella tried to punch him in the face.  It was so cute, bless his little heart.

Later CT’s  stalking around in a circle outside like a bull with his gravelly voice and his Boston accent yelling and trying to catch this kid with like five grown guys trying to keep them apart – or keep CT corralled – either way.  And here I am watching at home and I can’t stay still in my seat because….I liked it.  You know.  Quite impressed.


Last season he carried a guy on his back like some kind of robo-beast:


You know, every girl has those certain men who, regardless of rhyme or reason, just make them lose their minds.  And morals.  And anything else that might get in the way.  That one right there does it for me.

I’m just sayin’.


I was talking to a guy at work yesterday afternoon.  His 19-month-old daughter has had severe health problems over the past year with multiple hospital stays.  She’s been diagnosed with the two rarest forms of immune disorders as well as a non-functioning liver.  Due to the rarity and severity of her condition they have recently been traveling to Duke University to see specialists.

During our conversation yesterday he was updating me on their latest trip to Duke.  He was talking about how his family had to spend a few days in the hospital there.  With his daughter in her current condition, he talked about seeing all the other sick kids.  He says to me, ‘You think you’ve seen sick kids.  You haven’t.  Even at the hospital in Birmingham (closest Children’s Hospital), I thought those kids were sick.  Those kids are nowhere near as sick as the ones at Duke.’

He goes on to tell me about seeing a family….mom, dad, healthy sister….all crowding around the sick sister trying to help her walk and listening to her howl in pain – sometimes almost collapsing from the ordeal – her family holding her up.  He told me it was so hard to watch even a nurse who sees things like that daily had to get up from her station and walk away when she started crying.

I tell you all this to say…on my way to work this morning I was thinking back on what he’d shared with me.  What especially stood out to me right then was how he said I haven’t seen a sick kid.  He’s right, I haven’t.  Myself, my friends, and my family have all been blessed with relatively good health. Most of them have been blessed with healthy children.  Beautiful children.

I thank God for my health on a regular basis.  “Thank You God for my health.”  This morning it struck me that I don’t even realize what a blessing that is; how thankful I should really be.  I say it so nonchalantly.  I’m ignorant to how bad things could be.  Thank You God that not only do I have my health, but also that I haven’t had to experience how bad it could be.  I should be on my knees in tears thanking God for my health alone.

There are people in this world who deal with health issues so horrible they would break me down in mere minutes.  A little girl who is in so much pain she howls when she walks.  Earlier this week I had a pinched nerve in my back and a guy walked in my office to say good morning.  I’m pretty sure I almost punched him in the face.  Because my back was hurting for about 3 hours at that point.    That little girl’s family would probably want to punch me in the face.  I don’t have a clue how bad it could be.  Thank You, God.

And not just with health, with life in general.  I go to sleep every night in a comfy bed with a solid roof over my head in a place I call home.  I don’t know what it’s like not to have a home.  Or a bed.  Or a roof over my head.  I don’t know what it’s like to miss meals because I have literally no money and nothing to eat.  Even worse, to have children who can’t eat for that same reason.

I just…..I don’t know why this hit me so hard this morning but it did.  Like a brick wall.  So I’m driving to work and I’m thanking God.  Not just for my health and possessions and these things I know I have, but I thanked Him for the things I don’t even realize I should be thanking Him for.  The blessings I don’t even know I have.  I thanked God for blessing me with that ignorance.  Not in a sense that I don’t want or need to know about it, even knowing “about” it doesn’t give me the knowledge I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the ignorance of what it’s like to live it on a daily basis.

I hope my point is coming across the way I intend it.  In a roundabout way this story is another way to put it:

“The Cross Room”

The young man was struggling, weighed down by the immense weight of the cross he carried each day. Then one day he came upon a room, opened the door, placed down his cross and walked inside. The room was filled, wall to wall with crosses.  He was surrounded by them. As he walked about the room he saw crosses of all different shapes and sizes, all different weights and woods.

Just then the man heard the voice of God, “What are you looking for my child?”

The man replied, “My cross is so heavy Lord, that I cannot bear it another day…let me take another one, God, a lighter one that’s more manageable and easier to carry.”

“Very well,” God said, “choose whichever cross you’d like…”

Some crosses were far to heavy to move, others were so large that they extended into the darkness of the room, toward a ceiling so high that their tops could not be seen. The man walked through the rows of crosses, hundreds upon thousands of them, until he focused in on a small cross in the corner, far smaller than the rest.

“I choose this one, God, this is the cross for me.”

“But my son, ” God replied, “that’s the cross you came in with…

Author Unknown


It’s like this morning I walked through that room overwhelmed at how huge all the crosses are until I spied that small one in the corner.  Then I realized it was mine.

God is Good.

I’m going to give you a peek into a little portion of my life today.  Stick with me through the old stuff and trust me when I tell you there’s a purpose.

Like lots of people, I had a less than perfect childhood.  I’ll skip the sordid details in the spirit of brevity and pick up when I was 14 and living with my father and brother.  My mother was out of the picture for two years until I started sneaking around to call her and we started up a relationship.

At the age of 14 I made a decision that changed the path of my life.  My father was abusive to me so I moved in with my mother who I hadn’t been around regularly for four years and barely knew anymore.  I knew this decision would have consequences, I just didn’t know what they would be.  When all the dust settled, I lost my father’s side of my family.  My father, grandmother, aunt, cousins, and most importantly, my brother who continued to live with his father.  (For the record, our father and mother are the same.)  All communication was cut off to me.

I have never questioned whether I made the right decision or not.  I know I did.  While the new situation with my mother wasn’t great, it was better than what I had at my father’s house.  Sometimes choices are like that.  It’s not always good or bad, black and white.  Sometimes it’s gray here, and more gray there.  Pick the lesser of two evils kind of thing.

But that didn’t make the price I paid any less painful for me.  The only thing I have ever regretted is that I lost a relationship with my brother.  Something I’ve always prayed about, and always wished were different.

It was about 10 years later when my brother started showing up again but at that point he was angry, his visits were unpredictable and sporadic at best, and it was just impossible to develop any kind of stable relationship with him.  I can’t tell you how bittersweet the times were for me when he was around.  I would drop any and everything whenever he popped up to be able to spend time with him, knowing that I probably wouldn’t hear from him again for months.

Skipping forward to seven months ago and again in the spirit of brevity, I hadn’t spoken to my father in 20 years.  Been around him a few times, never spoken.  I had a mostly recovered relationship with my aunt and cousins for about a year or so.  My brother came around occasionally and while I loved seeing him, it was difficult.  I was aware that he’d been off and on drugs, and of course all the anger he harbored….it just wasn’t easy.

In hindsight, I underestimated the power of drugs.  I’ve never had a problem with them myself.  Not even with something as seemingly innocuous as cigarettes.  I only saw James sporadically like I’ve said, and it turns out that was only when he was clean.  I didn’t see him high.  I didn’t see him hallucinate, or jumpy and fidgety; I didn’t see the mood swings.  So I underestimated.  If you get nothing else from this, hear me when I tell you….do NOT underestimate.

I thought drugs were something he’d defeated.  I only saw James high one time and it was during a break-up with his girlfriend.  I thought he’d had a hard time coping and had turned back to drugs for a little bit then cleaned up again.  I didn’t know it was an ongoing fight for him.

So in January when I got a call at work from my aunt that my brother was sick and being taken to the hospital with a high fever, I thought flu.  When I heard ’emergency room’, I thought meningitis.  Because the relationship with my father was non-existent and ‘strained’ would be a nice way of putting it on a good day, getting information was like pulling teeth.

I found out later that evening my 30 year old brother had a stroke.  A massive stroke.  He was in ICU at our local hospital with 103.7 fever and they were giving him a 50/50 chance of surviving the next 30 days.

I went out to the hospital that night.  I didn’t care about my father who puffed up like a bloated bullfrog anytime he saw me.  I didn’t care about the family drama and whose feet would get stepped on or who would get offended or anything else that might come from it (and believe me when I tell you, as sad as it is, that stuff was going on while my brother lay in that ICU hospital bed).

James was completely paralyzed on his right (dominant) side.  His face was turned to the left, his eyes looked left, and when he tried to talk it was incoherent.  My heart broke right there in ICU that night.

Things didn’t look good for a few weeks.  He had a blood infection that kept his fever in the 103 range.  We were desperate to get it down and the nurses were pumping all kinds of antibiotics into him trying to find some combination that worked and even had him sleeping on a cold air mattress until they found it.  His brain continued to swell for the first two CAT scans they did, putting his life in jeopardy.

While all that was going on, James was combative (drug withdrawls) and there was nothing we could do to calm him down.  He didn’t realize he was paralyzed and would continuously try to get out of the bed and “go home”.  After trying to hit the nurses once or twice he was strapped to the bed.  When they finally trusted him not to do that anymore , he tried to pull out his IVs and wires so many times they finally put white padded gloves on his hands so he couldn’t use them.  When the withdrawls had passed he was still irritated because of his inability to communicate, and of course he hated the mittens.

ICU for head trauma patients has certain visitation times – we’re talking 30 minutes every few hours – and they’re fairly strict on it, as they should be.  I was at the hospital for every one of those visits I could be.  Every time I walked off the elevator my father would blow up and huff loudly so I could hear him, just in case I thought he might be happy to see me that time.  In James’ room whenever James was nice to his father, Allan (the father) would look up at me and my mother and smile smugly to rub it in.  That was fun.

The poor nurses….On top of my brother’s health and his combative behavior, they also got front row tickets to the circus performance that is my family.  ‘The girlfriend isn’t allowed in his room’, ‘The girlfriend IS allowed in his room’, ‘Tell ME what’s going on with him first’, ‘No, tell MEEEE!’….My parents actually had security called on them one night.  Seriously.

Slowly – very slowly – James’ health began to improve.  For those who have no experience with strokes what happens is that parts of your brain actually die.  The process/speed/extent of recovery is solely dependent upon your brain’s ability to “rewire itself” and find a new way to deliver all those brain signals where they need to go.

We began to be able to understand certain words he said.  They got the fever under control.  We understood a few more words.  The swelling in his brain stopped.  More words.  He became less combative.  A few more words.  Eventually he was moved into a regular room.

Over the next month and a half or so James was in the regular room and then was sent to a physical rehab facility.  His father got mad at him, or at nothing, three separate times and left to pout at home.  By the time James made it to rehab he was speaking coherently, and was beginning to learn to walk again.  He had a little set back because his fever spiked back up again, but they got it back under control.  At this point Allan was out of the picture for his third pouting spell, James was speaking coherently, and learning to walk.  His physical therapy but was held back somewhat because of a high heart rate, which at that point was seemingly the only problem.

About a month into rehab James’ breathing had become so shallow and his resting heart rate so high the nurse called the doctor at home and they did a scan of his chest.  He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and moved into the ICU department of the rehab hospital.  Allan comes back into the picture.  The next morning they performed an echocardiogram and the results were serious enough that James was transported that same day back to the larger hospital’s heart wing.

Remember that high fever they’d had so much trouble with?  It turns out that was caused by a bacteria that was attacking his heart.  James had to have his aortic heart valve replaced.  Immediately.  The doctor never said as much but I could tell by what he didn’t say that if given the choice he would have waited to do the surgery, at this point two months after the massive stroke.

James was in the hospital another two weeks after his heart surgery.  He then moved in with our mother.  Within another month or two he was moving back in with his father and they’d decided he needed a pacemaker.

I was terrified when James decided to move back in with his father.  I thought I would lose my brother again.  We got in a bad argument a few days before he moved and I really thought I wouldn’t hear from him again.

I’m telling you all of this because I want you to have a glimpse of how serious James’ condition was, how close he came to dying more than once, and also the condition of the family.  Mind you, I’m holding back on a good portion of the drama.

The title of this post is ‘God Is Good’ and right about now you’re probably thinking, ‘Where?!?!  When?!?!?’ and at that time I would wholeheartedly second that notion.

Well, that was about two months ago I’m guessing.  Let me tell you how things are today.  I talk on the phone with James weekly at the very least.  I have been down to visit him – at Allan’s house, with him present and accepting – three times now.

As far as James’ health, he is now walking without the use of a walker or cane.  He uses a knee brace and he doesn’t walk as well as he once did, but it’s about an 80% recovery.  He has recovered about 15% of the control over his right arm so far.  His speech is almost normal with a few pauses or lost words here and there.  With the new pacemaker his heart rate is normal.

During my first visit with James, Allan spent the majority of the time working in the yard.  He didn’t speak to me, and if he spoke about me it was ‘her’ or ‘she’.  During my second visit Allan sat with us for a few minutes but again spent most of his time working.  We still hadn’t spoken to each other.

Yesterday was my 35th birthday.  20 years since I left my father’s house.  It was my third visit.  I celebrated it with the entire half of the family I had lost before.  Allan was even there and he bought my birthday cake.

Later that afternoon we – the three of us – sat around a kiddie pool watching the dog play in the water and Allan actually spoke directly to me.  He used my actual name instead of ‘her’ or ‘she’ when speaking about me earlier that day, but that afternoon he spoke his first words directly to me in 20 years.

The best part of all of it is that I had my brother there.  He went to church with me that morning for the first time ever, he gave me a birthday card he wrote on himself with his non-dominant left hand (he was so proud!).  My brother who is now off drugs, non-smoking, non-drinking, walking on his own.

Just seven months ago I never would have imagined any of this would ever happen, much less within a year.  God has taken what I thought six months ago was possibly going to be the worst thing in my life and turned it into the biggest blessing.

God.  Is.  Good.