Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I have a new best friend. Her name is Linda Holder. Anna Grace says she is my “bff” or “bestie”. She walked into our house on March 14 and will remain in our hearts forever. Her work ethic is impeccable. She knows just how to interact or give me space since I seldom get to be alone. She handles the ongoing stream of guests that come on a daily basis. She accompanies us to the ALS center, hair appointments, and even Grandparents Day at Hudson’s school! Both Hudson and Hamilton are on board with her. They refer to her as Ms. Linda…(a term used to show respect for adults involved in children’s lives. Like we taught our kids to say Ms. MaryLee or Mr. Brad. It never seemed right for them to call our friends by their last names but sure didn’t want them to say MaryLee and Brad. A Southern thing for sure!)

Linda and I get along great. Typical of females, we laugh and cry together. Sometimes crying can end up in laughter. She has had a stabilizing effect on all our family. One thing we have tried to do along the way is to forecast what we need to be prepared for next. In the fall of 2010, we had family and friends scheduled to stay with me during the day. As I digressed, it became obvious I needed more assistance than untrained friends could provide.

One crucial symptom was the loss of ability to use fingers to turn pages. I couldn’t finish a book I had started- but worse was the separation I felt from my Bible of thirty years! I hate to admit I have not been a faithful daily Bible reader. I don’t think it counts for the first few weeks of a new year. Every year I tried it until I finally gave up the idea that I could pull it off!
The good news was I had a Bible app on my ipad that I could maneuver fine until I lost ability of hands, fingers and knuckles altogether. Even though I have been able to continue going to Sunday morning worship which has always been vital to my spiritual nature, it wasn’t enough. I missed not having access to peruse the concordance anytime I needed answers to questions, or was simply just interested in how many references a term could lead me to in order to quench the thirst I had when ideas or thoughts required.

Typical to ALS is the need to find new avenues when what was working fine, works no more. One morning, I asked Linda to read aloud Psalms 119. She didn’t hesitate and reached for my Bible. I warned her the condition of the well-worn book was fragile.
Sidenote: I asked her to look at the inside cover. Displayed there were two stickers of a child-like nature from the three-year old class Anna Grace was attending at the time. So many children had the privilege of Ms. Becky Cranford teaching that class for years, including all my four children. Ms. Becky had the unique ability to handle rowdy toddlers and still be fun, too. Naturally, I enjoyed Anna Grace’s sticker contribution to the years of use. Even better was her verbal exclamation, “Stickers from God!” ( Pronounced “G-a-w-d”). That saying continued to be a family favorite!

Linda read the chapter with ease and authority as well. This Psalm had been in my “hall of fame” for quite some time. One summer, Abby and Joseph went together to Colorado, along with other teens from our youth group. Traveling up a fourteen-thousand foot peak included “solo time” to hopefully reflect on life with this Creator of the magnificent mountains surrounding them. I strategically placed a letter in their Bible encouraging them to read Psalm 119. As always, I spoke to them requesting them to see what God had in mind for them to learn.
Thoughts of that circled my mind as I listened for the familiar verses I cherished: Psalm 119:9-11 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Psalm 119: 90 “Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.”

Psalm 119: 105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

As I listened for what I assumed would be pleasing to my thoughts, it happened. What was that? I managed to chase it away but then it appeared again. What seemed to be an encouragement now had become an exercise! The word “consider” was racing through my mind after the 178 verses. I asked Linda to scan the psalm for the word “consider”. She found two:

Psalm 119:15-18 “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

Psalm 119: 59 “I have considered my ways, and have turned my steps to your statutes.”

I consider God’s ways, thoughts follow easily from my mind. I can’t begin to list them all, but here is what comes quickly to mind: Creative… unbounding love…full of mercy and grace… plan-maker…all powerful and sovereign…protector and healer…provider….forgiving, to name a few.

Considering God’s ways was easy. But the second verse asking me to consider mine posed a not-so-easy challenge. We have a funny saying we use at times that says, “I’m gonna play the ALS card!” Seems appropriate but my mind would not allow me to play it. Since my life has been snatched out of my hands, surely this verse doesn’t apply to me, don’t you agree? But try as I might I felt the need to run my characteristics through God’s grid. “O woe is me!” I thought as I instantly began to have thoughts flood my brain, but not as good as those about God! Again I attempted to avoid the exercise that I knew would not be pleasant.

Determined, I began to face my same characteristics that I had, even before ALS. I dreaded this and wondered why I let myself lead me down such a condemning pathway. I find myself holding on to this life more than I realized before. I mean, don’t we all wish for the time when we shall see Jesus “face to face”? Since this seems more likely for me, I confess that I don’t. What is wrong with me?

I was reminded of a favorite song recently at the life celebration of a precious saint. The title is “Goin’ Home”. The line that struck me was “…there’s an ache in my heart that I can’t bear.” Sadly, I realized I don’t want to go anywhere but here: #1 Ben Hogan Cove, Little Rock, Arkansas…with all my “peeps” around me. I like my life, warts and all! With that confession, can’t I be done? I have just revealed a part of myself that is somewhat embarrassing.
Still, I found it pressing to continue. Even though I can’t speak, my brain is in overdrive! How can I display anger, frustration or disagreement now that I can’t apply the typical female positions for battle? I’m referring to hand on hip while the other is pointing as words are flying at warp speed! If ineffective, I would add stomping off- with additional sound effects best occurring from high heels. A combination might work, but if necessary top it off with a dramatic door slamming!

So you see, as ALS keeps me from responding physically, my mind is intact just as before. Therefore I should admit, along with an earthly desire to remain in the flesh, there are other weaknesses if I am coming clean. Judgmental thoughts still occur even though I know Christ’s teaching on that practice. The old green monster rears its ugly head at times over a number of things. Hearing conversations about very normal things seems to be an easy target for me. Things like future trips, babies being born I can’t hold, simple playing with Hamilton and Hudson-- send me down a path I am certain portrays the type of things I’m referring to. Not the typical bucket-list, but somehow I was forced to realize what is of utmost value. I think the simple things in life have always been first to me.

Jeff and I have other adventures planned but still ones that included children, other family, and friends: A dear friend and I used to plan on going to other countries where our gifts and desires to teach about our Lord could be used… more to Colorado snow skiing…Disney World, and summers at “Nan and Papa J Camp” was always expected by grandbabies. Besides, I felt that the bucket-list seemed somehow self-centered. In the movie, things not experienced didn’t include those held most dear.
Judgment. Jealousy. Since I’m spilling my guts, I might as well reveal another weakness--that would be a prideful spirit. I can’t begin to tell them all but will name a few. The mirror has become an enemy. I can’t escape when Catherine does my hair. She has a full length mirror. Before ALS, I usually came at the end of work, still dressed in a business suit. I always admired my appearance. Jeff liked my legs, and there I could see why! Now I am flabbergasted at the difference.

I wish I could hold a sign that says, “Not My Fault”! But then again, I can’t hold anything! Instead, I want to cry out, “Can you believe I ran a half-marathon just four months before diagnosis?” See, I am prideful. There’s more, but I won’t air all my laundry!
It is my hope that every writing makes you reflect on your behavior--never in a bashing way, but simply stimulating a path that leads to evaluation.

One last verse…. Psalm 119:175 “Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.”

Friday, November 25, 2011


I was born into a crowd. My Mom was one of four and my Dad was one of five. Whether it was a Hollon or Cook family gathering we had a crowd. When I was five my parents built an apartment on our house so my Mom's dad could live with us. He shared meals with us but he could get away from our crowd when mealtime was over. After he died Mom and Dad agreed to house my Uncle Paul and his best friend to live with us. Both being single, I'm sure sharing activity around the table and other things only increased their need to find the perfect one! It was a common practice for Daddy to call Mom and declare he would like to bring Mr. Brady for dinner. Mr Brady was his general manager with Chevrolet! Even though she panicked a lot, she could stretch a meal like it was her plan all along! The next decision I made just increased my crowd when I agreed to marry Jeff, who was one of three. Again, his Mom was one of six and his Dad was one of three. Maybe that was why Jeff and I lived away the first few years of marriage! Not really...we were interested in creating our own crowd which in turn would create more crowd breeders! Yesterday, which was thanksgiving, we had twenty nine people at our house! We still had ten short of the usual crowd! It was a great day. Besides priding ourselves as some of the best cooks around, we even brag about our ability to present our menu colors and textures that only enhance the palate for the dining experience! Truthfully my side of the family is the same way. Dressing is such an important dish and for the family member that is the designated dressing maker, the pressure mounts. My eighty two year old Mother and mamaw twila, eighty six, are the chefs on the Cook side and Chandler side, respectively. Pressure mounts for holding this status, as most dressing makers don't even know the exact measurements of the ingredients. They know what tastes they prefer like too much sage, or too dry, or not too gummy. Many have tried to put pen to paper to ensure they can imitate the recipe to assure they can create the same flavor and texture when it falls on the next person to take over the job. Now back to the crowd part! It is common to include others to our already crowded event. One year we invited Rebekah's third grade teacher! For a few years, we had several couples that were in med school who for numerous reasons couldn't leave Little Rock. What's a few more people, right?
One of my favorites was a Christmas get together at Mammaw Ouida's and Papaw Winston's house at Christmas eve. Dr. Stephen Tucker was thrown into the mix. I was a purist when it came to sneaking food bites in baby Rebekah's mouth. That night I allowed an exception. Dr. Steve sat Rebekah by the punch bowl and he commenced to dip her pacifier in the treasured recipe of egg nog punch! Yes she immediately began to kick her little feet with white ballet slippers that buckled around her ankles. She was wearing the first smocked dress I made her with all white smocking on white batiste except for one green vinelike row with red french knots that looked like holly berries. We still have a photo to remind us of her first taste of sugar!! Our philosophy is why leave others out of the mix when we have so much to share?
A colleague of mine from California noticed a term I frequently used to describe my family or friends. The phrase is "my bunch." He was literally a standup comedian and as we got to know each other during the two weeks of training, he incorporated that phrase often. I am so thankful for my bunch! I encourage all of you to do the same!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Just a thought...Four

This is an" Oh, woe is me" pity party post. Don't expect to hear some explanation or how I can twist this around to make everyone feel good. It isn't gonna happen. This morning I thought it would be nice to wear a skirt to church. I have always been a skirt girl. Besides, jeans are becoming hard to put on. I thought in a skirt I might have the slightest feeling of being normal. NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING, positively NOTHING could have been further from the truth. NOTHING is right about me. NOTHING. NOTHING I tell you. You might dare to differ that my mind is fine. But I cannot begin to say with words how much I battle to get typed out all I want to say. This frustration does not stem from my blog title, More to Say. Every thought has application in my mind. Nothing is void of memories which leads me to another post to write and yet there is no time and energy to get it all done. Even now eyes are struggling from dryness as I try to finish typing. Please don't think I am wanting a certain response from you. You can't explain this away with flowery words or scripture. I actually want no response. NOTHING. Just a thought...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Don't Park There!

Being a person with strong convictions has caused me to have to position myself on what we kindly refer to as a soapbox. I admit I have had many topics to warrant my thoughts. Mostly for the past twelve years I committed myself to change the world's view of a person whose pancrease had ceased working correctly. Of course you know I am speaking of a person who has diabetes. When Anna Grace was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I picked up quickly on the phrase, "Oh, she is a diabetic." I didn't think she was a diabetic, but rather a person who HAS diabetes. Jeff quickly told me to give it up but if I am anything, I am not a quitter--especially when it is about my child!

Now my family has a new soapbox. We seem to be united toward this effort. You see it every day whenever you're in your car, when you are in line for the next available parking space. You may have guessed it. I hope you're not guilty...I am referring to the always treasured handicapped parking spaces. I am amazed at how few handicapped spaces are provided at normal restaurants and stores. The exceptions would be Target, hospitals and doctor's offices. But for sure there is always someone needing that handicapped space you are pulling into now! Go ahead and fess up...you know I am stepping on all your toes!!

One day, Abby and I were eating lunch at Chilis. We were seated in clear view of the lone handicapped space. And yes, it was adorned with the familiar blue handicapped sign. At this point, it became the game surrounding our outing. We had fun watching for who would be getting in that ever cool Mercedes Benz that was parked in THAT spot, and driving off. Finally, the moment arrived and we watched intently as a couple approached the car. Not to our surprise, we didn't see even the slightest limp. I thought I would have to hold Abby back, as if I could!!

I'm not sure why this always seems to happen with Abby, but I have to add this event. She and I were going to our favorite place to get pedicures. Nail Paradise offers great services and we have grown attached to the technicians there. I met them before I had ALS. Jennifer would work her magic on my feet that constantly were in heels or running shoes! She would put my pain tolerance to the test at each visit. I told Jennifer if anyone ever tried to snatch her purse she could put them down with her thumb alone! The entire staff goes way beyond the call of duty and always responds to whatever challenges I present to position me in the spa chair safely. Back to the story...there were no handicapped places available this particular day, because there was this massive truck parked in the only handicapped spot that had enough space to accomodate the ramp that allows me to exit the van. At this point Abby was warming up the familiar comments that lead to a full-fledged speech of anger! The truck had no sticker denoting proper clearance to claim this spot. We parked at the end of the row to allow enough room to get me out. All the while Abby is muttering sentences of the accusing type. When we got me positioned Abby went to choose her color. Meanwhile I am beginning to sit back to let the whole process take place. All of a sudden I realized Abby wasn't back and wasn't in view... then I saw her, not in front of the polish rack but outside taking pictures of the truck's license plate! She confessed to wanting to track the owner down but settled for calling to report him, hoping to cause him to have to pay a fine. So I end this saga with words from Jesus..."Go forth and sin no more!"

Monday, September 5, 2011

Woo Pig Sooiee !

September 24, 2011

It's finally here! The subject that is never totally off the radar screen in our family...college football. It's the favored sport, and if you were present at any family event, you can expect to hear a number indicating how many days til the beginning of next seasons starting date! The topic isn't limited to the males in the family, either. Rather, the females know their own opinion about teams, SEC rankings, returning key players, and evaluation of new uniforms. My Mom talks about the Dallas Cowboys like they are friends! Joseph contends that talking to his grandmother is like talking to a guy, especially with regard to the Cowboys. Food fare ranges from grilled burgers and hot dogs, to home made ice cream and brownies, and always includes cheese dip and chips. If the guys score early in the hunting season, including bow and arrow or muzzle loader, we might have smoked venison or shish- k-bobs which is a family favorite of my bunch, even Hudson and Hamilton.

The more the merrier applies here but only to true football fans. No browsing through magazines, couponing, or discussing a new recipe will be allowed! We gave Bethany a bye last fall since she was in the middle of making wedding decisions and finalizing her bridal registry. Even though she has started pharmacy school, I am certain this season will include many index cards with pertinent info she is committing to memory. She has such a disciplined behavior for taking care of business. If you read in earlier posts about parenting tips, I mentioned if my kids were having fun together and were loud as well, I didn't say a thing about the noise. I like the sounds of fun, no matter how loud! The same thing applies to football cheering. Both televisions are dedicated to the Game for moments that require pacing from room to room . Jeff and Joseph are the main pacers. Did I mention that it gets loud? Last season I could lead the crowd in the razorback cheer. This season that can't happen. I had Abby make keys on my eye-gaze screen that say "Go Hogs Go " and " Go Joe Go ". Joe Adams was a classmate of Anna Grace's in high school, and deserves his own cheer since he has been keen on running back punts!! I must mention that DJ Williams was a friend and team mate of Joseph's in high school also. We miss him of course, but catch him in his first season of NFL play! Familiar phrases than can be expected..."I'm worried about our running game"..."we can't make those type of mistakes"...and the favorite, "here's your ball game right here"! Since I'm finishing this post the morning of Gameday, I'm reminded of a Covidien colleague Caroline Fardel. If I listen hard, I think I can hear her yelling Roll Tide!! You go ahead Caroline, I think I hear a Woo Pig Sooiee louder!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pillow Talk...8/21/2011

Let me set the stage for this post by providing a bit of telephone history. My freshman year of college was 1974. Cathcart dorm had one phone on each wing. Can you imagine the fight that took place for a few minutes of connecting with a male that hopefully was about to ask you out? I spent many hours between midnight and two o'clock in the morning on the floor cuddled up in my quilt to talk uninterrupted with Jeff ( at that late time I could ignore the sign reading, Please limit all calls to ten minutes!) Really? To talk to my parents I called "collect" and actually spoke with a living, breathing phone operator, who would ask my mom or dad if they would accept a collect call from me ! The first house Jeff and I owned in Little Rock, I purchased the longest cord possible that allowed me to walk in the kitchen or den as needed to check on the sounds that commonly accompany three kids. By the mid eighties cordless phones had arrived. This was extremely helpful chasing three kids between floors. This provided a whole new level of communication! I could unload a car full of groceries and put them away, change a diaper, and bathe a toddler , all while talking on the phone! I learned a pleasant way to get recipes ready for Thanksgiving or any holiday fare was to chat late into the evening with another night owl like myself...thanks, Charlotte!!

Obviously, you see where I am going...CELL PHONES, the technology that opened up a whole new way of life. Like with most things, Americans take everything to an obnoxious level. I mean really! I attended my daughter in law's white coat ceremony induction into the college of Pharmacy, and in the middle of complete pomp and circumstance I heard the all too familiar i- phone ring. Every Sunday we can hear the sound that is not part of the worship team! Why even take your phone unless you are a doctor on call? Even if you are prompted by the Holy Spirit with a life-changing revelation, I bet it is okay if you wait til another appointed time to post the new found thoughts on Facebook. I challenge everyone to do the right thing and practice the much needed discipline of separation during all situations where phones ringing is not acceptable. I realize this might throw some of you into separation anxiety but I fully believe you will find it liberating!

Another observation I have noticed is the condition that may be described as a "senior moment." Frequently women are categorized based on hormone levels being too low or too high! While I believe based on personal experience some crazy things take place in a female's body, I don't believe hormones is the reason. I contend it is the act of trying to process an unbelieveable amount of information at one time. Since I can no longer use the phone, I have observed the sheer panic at the scrambling into pockets or purses trying to intercept the call that might be earth-shattering! Jeff still hasn't grasped the concept of taking his phone into whatever room he is in. He may have started a new event in future Olympics-- Running Through an Obstacle Course Leading to Your Phone...maneuvering his way by the ringtone to the location of the MOBILE cell. Don't you find humor suggesting that one term used to denote the type of phone actually makes it difficult to find when you need it? I am constantly hearing "Will you dial my number so I can listen to find my phone?" To apply some great words of wisdom from the Apostle Paul, everything used in moderation is good. Thanks, Paul, I wonder what words you would have said to this "I need everything instantly" generation. If we refused to allow so much in at one time, maybe we wouldn't set ourselves up for so many brain freezes!!!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Talk

The title of this post isn't about the CBS show on afternoon tv, but rather the dreaded time when you can't ignore that you must converse with your child about where babies come from. Don't act like you were looking forward to it because no one will believe you! And don't think because you survived the biology lesson you are through. Truthfully, that is the easy part. Phase two can be even more challenging but is extremely important follow through. With four children we experienced the child that pushed the discussion before we were ready, as well as the child that avoided the topic vehemently. I finally roped her into "the" discussion by using my method of planting flower seeds. Here's the spiel..."Flowers begin as seeds. We plant them in the soil and as the rain falls and the sun shines the seeds become a flower." It is a visual your child can wrap their brain around. Next I would transition to a baby. A baby starts as as a seed, too. The baby seed is planted in mommy's tummy in a very special way that was God's idea. I would then proceed with the biology lesson. As their eyes widen and they exclaim "Ooooohhh," refer back to "remember I said it's God's idea." If your child is young and this is the first time you have broached the subject, you may get away with the seed application. Because Anna Grace was older, she received the full lesson...even the part that produces the most disdain, that parents do the big nasty because they like it, not just to make a baby. One thing that stands out in my mind took place on the drive home from piano lessons. Anna Grace was seated in the back of the suburban. She was always content to read books on the numerous trips a mother of four makes getting each to school and activities everyday. As we turned on to our cul de sac, she rang out "sex, sex, sex. I want my middle name to be sex, and when I can drive, I want a purple car with a top that goes down...and sometimes when I drive, I want to hold a cigarette! " Rebekah and I were speechless! Younger parents often ask what age is appropriate. It is a good question with no specific answer. I conducted an experiment with Joseph in an attempt to know just where his interests were with regard to the opposite sex. We were shoe shopping and the young sales clerk had a tatoo on her chest and ankle. The chest art was visible only as she leaned forward to size the shoes he was trying on. As we drove home I asked if he had noticed her tatoo. His reply..."Oh, she had two, Mom." Joseph 's answer was our cue. It was time for the talk! Abby resisted much like Anna Grace, which was a surprise to me. I had approached her but made she made it clear she had no interest talking about "that." I said that was fine with me as long as she didn't discuss it at school. Her reply was, "Mom, I would never talk about THAT at school." I found that odd. School was where I learned everything! One of my friends in school seemed well informed on the subject and what she didn't know, her older sister did. I had two older sisters. Wonder why I didn't just ask them? Well, Abby didn't talk about it at school. But she did engage the subject at church! One Sunday Rebekah came running to me and whispered in my ear, "Mom, one of her friends just told Abby that sex is when your Mom and Dad put their private parts together!" I was thrilled. I had worried that Abby would be the one to initiate conversation first and we would be apologizing to someone's parents. Whew! Escaped that one! Believe me, when you have four children, you are thankful for every smooth issue! Rebekah was our only child that pushed the envelope in this category. At 8 she asked where babies came from but did buy my seed/flower explanation, for a while. Next my sweet Rebekah thought through our first discussion and presented the dreaded question, "Mom, I understand babies start as a seed but... (here it comes, the moment I knew would test my ability to hang tough in hard explanations or just do what felt safe, which was just lie!!)... how does it get IN there?" Well great, she had to go and bust up our party! We had ourselves a health lesson followed with "by the way, mommies and daddies do this because they like it, not just to make a baby!" There, I had done the evil deed! I dared to explain a very adult matter to a child. Not even a teenager, but a precious child. I must admit I felt pretty proud of my performance. I measured that primarily from what I felt at the end of the discussion (she didn't cry, yell or throw up!) followed by no more questions! That must mean she took it all in, right? WRONG! Months later when I displayed the lovely symptoms of morning sickness followed by afternoon sickness followed by evening sickness, I became suspicious! True to form these symptoms meant a fourth baby was in the oven! Surprised and then excited, we decided it best to wait until I was past the first trimester so the kids wouldn't have so long to wait for their new sibling. It was October which meant one thing, the Arkansas State Fair! We loved the fair with rides, funnel cakes, and the petting area (Especially the baby chicks sliding down into a tub of water!) The combination of movement from the rides and the aroma of fair food filling the air didn't create a pleasure filled Saturday afternoon for me. They expected me to accompany them on the rides like always, but I just couldn't bring myself to participate. They kept asking "what's wrong, Mom? C'mon, Mom." Sunday morning Jeff and I decided to share the news since I would probably have several more weeks of not feeling normal. Jeff called everyone to the kitchen, told our news, and we celebrated together as we said over and over we didn't know if it would be a boy or girl! We were all going our separate ways to finish getting dressed for church, except Rebekah. Remember when I said they don't recall all you told them or it did not register the way you meant? Rebekah approached Jeff with the question, "Dad, how long have you and Mom known she was pregnant?" "Three weeks " was his reply. Her comeback, "You mean you and Mom had sex three weeks ago and didn't tell us?" His second reply was, "You should go talk to your Mom." I remember like it was yesterday! She repeated her question and waited for me to explain. "When we talked, I explained how parents have sex because they like it. Remember it was God's idea." After hesitating she asked, "Well, how much do you do it?" After more hesitating I answered, "several times a week!" Her comeback--"I bet the Goad's don't do that!!!" (I considered replacing their name to protect their inocence but decided Starla and Phil would like the shout out!) Children are the most precious yet most challenging parts of life! Jeff and I continue to be pleased from our efforts to raise them to be as transparent as is appropriate to prepare them for the reality that life can bring their way. As I mentioned earlier in this post, the biological approach of preparing your children for sex is by far the easiest lesson. Jeff was diligent to question each child about their behavior with the opposite sex...very specifically I might add! This is one reason we allowed our children to date in high school. We wanted them to come home so we could teach them through disappointments and challenges dating provides as opposed to their roommate in college who might not have the best counsel. Remember, exchanging affection in front of your children is both normal and healthy. It is the beginning of what true love looks like. Don't be afraid of "the talk," rather prepare to embrace this hot topic!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Back in Business

Christmas 1996 Jeff insisted we should buy a computer for a family gift. I resisted because my tendency was to not give in to buying new things just because they were the latest and greatest. I remember having the same attitude about cordless phones until we moved into a tri-level house with three kids! Jeff encouraged me to explore the computer. First of all, I didn't have time, and secondly, wasn't it ok if there was one thing I couldn't do! HaHa ... I soon accepted a position with Noven Pharmaceuticals, and they placed a hand held computer in my hands. In other words, I was being forced into the technological world I had escaped until now. I adjusted and even enjoyed less paperwork. After six years, I decided it was time to work full time. In the last half of the 15 year run of college tuition we had with our four children, (and that didn't include two daughter's weddings in the first eight years, and Anna Grace's freshman year overlapped Joseph's senior year), I knew I had to step it up. The manager that interviewed me asked me what I considered my greatest weakness to be. I came clean and confessed "computer skills." But she hired me anyway, and my confession soon became a thorn in the flesh. Early on I got realigned to a different district and my new manager had a teaching background and he taught me a crash course in computers 101 and 102! I could cut, copy and paste with the best (not really with the best, but at least I didn't dread the idea of opening the once dreaded laptop with this e-mail driven company). After the five year mark with Covidien I found myself on FMLA since my speech had not improved but continued to digress, still with no diagnosis. Jeff came home one evening with a dry erase board and although thoughtful, it was not quite the answer for a verbose female. An Ipad was the next step, and quickly became my new best friend. My fingers flew all over the modified keyboard and I was able to reconnect with my family and friends. I could talk on the phone some, and text, yet not in normal Nancy style. Until November of 2010, I could write and answer e-mails that took the place of days of what had become normal by cramming the most I could in a 24 hour period. First I lost the use of my index fingers, but not to worry because I had full use of my third, fourth and pinky fingers and didn't experience any less ability to accomplish whatever I needed or wanted to write. I had started blogging while Jeff and I were on a trip to Colorado in August and had more ideas of things I wanted to write than I could get done. By Christmas I was limited to two fingers per hand and had to position myself to use them effectively. My last strategy was knuckle typing with my pinkies and the drawback became weakness in my shoulders to support this effort. I chuckle at the many ways I tried to prolong the use of my Ipad to communicate. In March I started a post that I didn't finish til the end of the month. I had to break up with my cool technology that got lots of attention from adults and children. Now I face the greatest challenge by far if I want to continue to communicate. With no ability to speak and no use of my hands, so sign language is a bust, I am left with the option of using my eyes gazing across a keyboard to type. I am thankful for the technology that created this communication device called Ecopoint. It has amazing capabilities that I have just begun to learn, but with only one rep servicing the entire state I have to wait my turn for tutorials with Jennifer. In fact this is my second attempt to complete this post. I "gazed" three hours only to accidentally erase my thoughts. I have no words to express my frustration. I vowed I was finished blogging, but being unable to use my Ipad effectively March through April, I composed so much in my mind and am determined to put pen to thoughts. Communication is sharing, and something I miss drastically. I have so many questions to ask and so many answers to give! (Like when did Pizza and wings become a combo? Pizza and salad, yes, wings and potato salad, slaw, or fries, sure. But pizza and wings? Not so much)! I am comforted by the fact that I have talked in great detail about that which I considered important, even to the degree that I became the brunt of jokes for talking too much! The benefit now is that Jeff, our kids, my family and friends know what and how I think so my input still is considered. I am reminded of a scene from the movie Mr. Holland's Opus. After learning their son couldn't hear, with clenched fists pounding the air and feet stomping the floor, Iris exclaims, "I want to talk to my son!!!" I completely share her sentiment. I want to talk to Jeff and my kids. I want to read stories to Hudson and Hamilton. I want to continue mothering in the fashion that requires more than a word or sentence here and there. Living with ALS doesn't always bring out the best in us. I think I will scream (if I could) if I hear "I don't know what you mean" one more time! And I know Jeff thinks "really, Nancy, you think I understand what your eyes or groans mean?" Some of those moments have led to tears, complete exasperation, and even a fist in the sheetrock to be completely honest. To add fair balance, living with ALS brings out the best in us as well. Somehow we get past what seems in the moment to be unbearable and move forward. Jeff and I have lived with the understanding that if we were going to be at fault, which of course we would be at times, then we preferred to over communicate rather than under communicate. I am so thankful we did! If you are waiting for the perfect opportunity to communicate love, instruction, forgiveness, excitement, or pleasure, what are you waiting for? Select what means of communication you prefer and get busy!!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Just a Thought...two

Lately Iam experiencing the physical manifestation of swollen ankles. I escaped the lovely reddish purple addition during all four pregnancies, so I guess I'm due. Abby was determined to help the situation and so she set out to find the perfect footstool that would position my legs at a ninety degree angle and thus relieve the situation some. What she brought to my room was Mammaw Ouida's roasting pan. We laughed and continued to use it whenever I would sit upright. One Sunday, when all the kids were here for lunch, I looked up to see two year old Hamilton coming toward me with the roasting pan. "Here Nan" he said, and proceeded to put my feet on the pan. To all parents, grandparents, and adults influencing children, please let this remind you that our little ones are looking, listening, and mimicking our words and behavior. No pressure intended, unless you need to clean up your act!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Fact of the Matter is...

The following was written in November 2010 for Community Bible Study's opening session for the Bryant and Little Rock classes, read by teaching directors Mary Lee Dell and Sara Roberson respectively. Both are committed students of the Word and dear friends as well...

" On July 2, 2010, I was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease, specifically ALS. The disease first attacked the muscles in my mouth and tongue which caused me to have slurred speech in the beginning but has quickly moved throughout my body and is zapping my coordination, flexibility, strength, and balance. Because of that I have experienced several falls which have produced some pretty artistic bruises! Obviously, it is my constant goal not to fall, as well as the person with me. Since we know it can happen so quickly, I continue to hear the same phrase from whoever is "Nancy sitting" at the time. The phrase is, "please don't fall, not on my watch!" I thought it amusing at first but as I heard it more and more I thought, "are these people having a meeting without me?" or "did I miss the memo?" Even in the midst of such extreme disappointment that totally caught me off guard, we still laugh! And quite often I should add, praise
the Lord!

As we go about our normal daily lives we overlook so many things that are right in front of us, simple things. I don't mean this in a critical way, I had a normal life, too, until now. Things like: applying mascara or lipliner that actually ends up where you intended it to be, slicing an apple or cutting your own food, driving yourself when and where you need to go, ordering something to drink at a drive through, saying hello to someone you pass at the grocery store, talking on the phone as long as you want, multi-tasking,(how I miss that!) kissing your husband, children, or grandchildren with puckered lips, speaking and being understood, dressing yourself with no assistance, or tweezing your eyebrows or any other hair that has aggressively grown in an undesired place!

I could go on but I'm sure you get the idea. One normal thing brought to my attention lately in "the Natural" state of Arkansas are parking lots. I had never realized how sloped it is around here! Even places I thought were flat really aren't! My driveway is sloped, nearly every parking lot is sloped, and the designated handicapped areas are built on an incline most of the time. As a former runner, I thought at the top of every uphill comes the glorious downhill! That has somewhat changed for me. In other words, what is suppose to help me by being sloped to get around with a walker, really poses a challenge! I must work hard not to get ahead of my ability to keep up with myself! I have mental pictures of myself falling flat on my face in some designated handicapped area!

As my caregivers and I watch out for any possible mishap, we breathe a sigh of relief when we have successfully maneuvered through whatever we are trying to accomplish.
They think, yes!!, she didn't fall on my watch, while I check off another day without a fall. When I realized I was hearing the same phrase over and over, "not on my watch," the thought occurred to me, God never gets a break! His "watch" is endless, He isn't spending part of the day with me. He isn't scheduled in for the afternoon shift! He is AWAYS on "watch" for me. How else could I begin to bear this nightmare that has taken over my body and my plans for this stage of my life? How else could I have a moment of peace when I know what possibly lies ahead with this monster of a disease that has no medical cure! Hebrews 13:5 says, "never will I leave you, never will I forsake you." I know it by heart, I cling to the promise it provides and yet I still have the insecure feeling, why did this happen to me on Your watch?
When was the last time you read the "by faith" chapter? In Hebrews 11 we are told: by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible, by faith Enoch was taken from this life without experiencing death, by faith Noah was warned about things not yet seen and in holy fear built the ark that saved him and his family, by faith Abraham obeyed and went to a place he did not know, by faith Abraham, who was as good as dead, fathered a child to Sarah, who was barren and past the age to conceive but bore a child because she considered Him faithful who had made the promise, by faith Abraham offered Issac his only son as a sacrifice because he believed God could raise him from the dead, by faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born because they saw he was no ordinary child, by faith Moses refused to be known as the son of Pharoah's daughter, by faith Moses kept the Passover and sprinkled blood on the doorpost so the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel, by faith the Israelites passed through the Red Sea on dry land, by faith the walls of Jericho fell after the people had walked around them for seven days, by faith Rahab, who was a prostitute, was not killed like those around her because she welcomed the spies. Do any of these sound like normal life situations or more like the theme of some adventure novel or movie? Was God on watch while each of these events took place? I suspect these people were living what seemed as normal lives to them like I was, but each had the opportunity to move forward by faith or not. In each situation God did not leave or forsake those living by faith, but provided amazing moments of provision in what may have appeared at the time like He had left "His watch.". We all get to choose how we function in what might be the most horrific, disappointing, maddening, faith stretching event in our life! I am trying my best to follow Moses' example in verse 27 of Hebrews 11, "by faith Moses left Egypt not fearing the king's anger: he persevered because he saw Him who was invisible!." In other words, he trusted God was on "watch!"
You may not like hearing what I am about to say. Until now I have painted a picture for you of how this event has occurred, some real but not so difficult thoughts I have had, and scripture that reminds us that God does not forsake us when it appears there is little or no hope. I would be misleading you if I stopped here. To give you the cheerleader version with a few light lines here and there so we feel encouraged by positive highlights would be leaving the wrong impression. Not presenting the whole story would be unrealistic and untrue.
I pray none of you will ever experience a tragedy of this degree or nature. My hope is to utilize my experience in a way that will glorify God and plant truth in your minds and hearts to equip you. If we believe Christ's teachings, we can't overlook his words, "in this world you WILL have trouble." The truth is I have many moments of unrest, extreme sadness, complete disappointment, jealousy about things that have been taken away from me and things I may not experience that I have dreamed of experiencing, fear of the unknown with how this disease will play out in me, and embarrassment as I lose more and more independence. I hear conversations and watch interactions that remind me that I may never participate again on certain levels unless God heals me, and as of right now I see no signs of that happening. What I witness is more and more physical weakness and inability to do for myself, more moments of pushing myself to complete things I consider vital for Jeff, our children, children-in-law, present grandchildren and ones to come. I had begun a new phase of life that would allow more time with Jeff and our friends, the ability to actually choose how we spend our time and money because of less responsibility since our children are independent adults, all but Anna Grace who at the age of nineteen completely still needs my mothering touch in this critical transition from home to college. The thought of not being present when my children have babies is nearly more than I can bear no matter what I write so they will know how much I would love them or what I smock so they have an heirloom treasure from me. Whatever you can conjure in your mind to be a situation of utmost horror, I have emotionally been subjected to that degree in my thought processes. As long as I am being completely honest I will confess that even thoughts of heaven where I will see my Savior face to face have not brought me peace. I continue to think that will be great later but not now, not yet! The guilt from that has made me question how committed I am to the eternal perspective or if I am more tied to this world than I realized. I have tried to comfort Anna Grace when she has lost friends in an untimely stage of life. I have said to her that they are in a betterplace and wouldn't choose to come back if God gave them a choice. Even if it is true it isn't comforting. How shallow our explanations can be at times! I admit there is nothing in that type of statement that brings me peace. But because I tend to be a positive person that looks on the brighter side of life and in this case, possible death, I refuse to leave you in the depths of despair. The complete thought of Christ in John 16:33 was that we should take heart because He would overcome the world. Just as I didn't want to paint a picture that was unrealistic in a positive realm, the reverse is true as well. I must respond to the eternal place prepared for me because I completely trust I will be there when the time is right. I know God is still "on watch" where I am concerned! Let me close with this thought from Hebrews 13:20. May the God of peace who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen ! "

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Journal Entry

If I was keeping a journal, this would be yesterday's entry...Friday, March 18, 2011...

I woke up looking forward to the day. Abby and my sister, Judy, would be spending the day with me. If Joseph was working in Little Rock, he might pop in for a sandwich and a quick fix in his favorite spot on the sofa!! My nephew was bringing my mom for the weekend. Jeff left Wednesday morning after taking off five weeks to be home with me and he needed to spend two nights out to reconnect with doctors in the northern part of the state. He would be coming home late afternoon. The weather had completely given in to spring with warmer temps, no humidity. I always get my hair washed and styled on Friday so, yes, this had all the makings for a great day. All the people and circumstances I mentioned occurred. It WAS a good day! But while eating lunch in a local deli, my pleasant mood was challenged.

A mom and son came in and were in clear view from where I was seated. Maybe they had been to the orthodontist or just completed his driving test. My mind reflected to times I and one of my kids had a reason to escape shool/work for some one on one time. That was a pleasant memory, something I always looked forward to having with each child. Then my eyes were drawn specifically to the way the mom was dressed. She had on a black knee length skirt with a white spring weight coat top stitched in black and to complete her ensemble, a pop of color with red heels. Had she been in my closet? I love wearing skirts and heels! I had one black suit that was my very favorite. I wore it so much that Jeff said it was time for it to be retired. I must admit that the lining of that skirt was worn through in certain places! I removed it from the hanger and placed it in my "give away" sack. The jacket had three quarter length sleeves so as the weather warmed, I pulled it out for one more season. The combination of the beautiful weather and her outfit reminded me of numerous times when I would go from work to Home Depot in suit and heels, peruse the flower selection, then load a cart full of flowers, bags of Miracle Grow soil, and mulch. I love freshly mulched beds and getting my hands in the dirt. I don't do that in my skirt and heels. As each season rolls around, I'm forced to face past behaviors and rituals with present limits and realities. Everyone encounters change. I consider change as an opportunity to explore, learn, and stretch out of my comfort zone. The change I currently am experiencing holds true to the model. We are constantly exploring to learn new, better, and leading to the best way, to handle the days as smoothly as possible. I had to give up the whole comfort zone concept several weeks ago. I miss so many things that filled my life before this disease filled my body! Today presented three. Wonder what tommorrow holds?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Just a Thought...One

My miracle working physical therapist just left. She moves, stretches, and bends my joints/muscles every which way but loose! There is some discomfort involved but nothing I can't stand! I look forward to every visit. Today while she waw helping me walk, (heavy on the helping), I was struck by the decline physically I have experienced over the past twelve months! A year ago this weekend I ran in the Little Rock marathon with Jeff, Rebekah, Abby, Jeff's brother Winston, and my nephew and nieces Trey, Ashley and Bonnie. The only symptom manifested at the time was slurred speech and you don't have to talk to run...although I would have thoroughly enjoyed that on my thirteen mile course. As my miracle worker helped me from one room to the other, I couldn't help but have a bit of a pity party in my mind while working as hard as possible to lift my feet, keep my back straight and balanced so as not to cause us both to bite the dust! We just made four laps from the front door to the edge of the family room and back, but it was more trying than my jaunt last March! I can't believe my body has weakened to this state. If your are waiting to initiate some type of physical activity, C'mon! Get Moving!! I'm not writing this so you will feel sorry for me, but rather to motivate you to get in motion! You don't have to train for a race, but expend more energy than just going from your den to your car, your car to your first stop of the day and back! You owe it to yourself, your family and friends. It may take awhile before you like it, but endorphin power will kick in and you will be so proud!!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Amazing Love

Recently during the time we were all together singing, several phrases from the lyrics chosen by the worship leader planted thoughts in my mind I have not been able to dismiss... "Amazing love-how can it be that you my king would DIE for me...I'm forgiven because you were FORSAKEN, I'm accepted-you were CONDEMNED...CRUCIFIED, laid behind a stone, you LIVED to DIE, REJECTED and ALONE-like a rose TRAMPLED on the ground...you took the FALL and thought of me ABOVE ALL." I could write nothing else and hopefully you would follow the same thought process as I had from the emphasized words. If you catch on ot the theme, Jesus definitely got the raw end of the deal. No matter what struggles I'm combating, it can't begin to come at all close to the physical and emotional suffering he endured. I am completely inept verbally to describe his experience. It sent me to the gospel of Luke to read again the last hours Jesus was alive in the flesh on earth. He went to the Mount of Olives to pray, asking his closest friends, his disciples, to pray as well. I think Jesus reveals his humanness clearly by asking God to consider taking the cross process away. An angel came to strengthen Jesus but his agony was not lessened, in fact it intensified to a degree that as he continued praying his body perspired drops of blood. I can only imagine his emotional state to cause that kind of physicial response. I can, however, ask you to remember that even though he was the son of God, he was also the son of man, and the full weight of fear swept through his mind and body as it would you or I... were we facing any component of the levels of trial and suffering he endured. It's only natural since he was human no matter how much he believed in the cause. I have experienced moments when choking was severe enough to make me think, "Is this it?" So this is how it feels when your body has a stronger grip than your will! It is frightening, and Jesus must have had similar thoughts as his weakened body sustained abuse...including a crown of thorns placed on his head.
He returns to find no one praying. Instead they are sleeping. Again he asks them to pray when a crowd of men approach being led by one of his apostles. Judas betrays him, Peter denies him, the high priest and officers of the temple mock and beat him. They take him to Pilate who, after questioning him, gladly sends him to Herod because Jesus was from Herod's jurisdiction. Jesus continues to be vehemently accused, questioned, and mocked yet neither ruler could find any reason for Jesus to die. Both wanted to release him but they succumbed to the cries of the crowd to crucify him! The only break offered to Jesus was for someone to carry his cross on the way to Golgotha, where he would then have nails driven through his hands and feet securing him to that cross.
In our society there are standards in place to ensure the best means possible for comfort in the last days and hours leading to a person's death. It is called hospice care. Jesus received no such care. The soldiers offered him sour wine to drink but nothing to make his death more comfortable. There were people present who loved and believed in him but somehow I think they were over shadowed by the many who didn't. He didn't have the luxury of family/friends/medical staff circling him, singing, praying, or reading scriptures to soften his exit. What he had was humiliation as his physical body was exposed and separation from God as he took on the dark, sinful places of mankind.
Two observations from the reading are important. Jesus continues his ministry even in crisis mode. In the garden, when approached by Judas, one of the apostles drew a sword in defense and cut an ear off the servant of the high priest. Jesus stops any additional fighting and heals the servant's ear. Two criminals were being crucified along with Jesus. One of them acknowledges the innocence of Jesus and Jesus assures him a place in paradise. Reading the gospels, it is clear to see his intensity by... his response to crowds, or a single individual, children as well as adults, positioning himself in a boat to allow more people to be able to hear him...just to name a few. Read the first four books of the New Testament to see for yourself! Jesus loved people enough to sacrifice anything and everything for us to accept his offer of forever protection and assurance of being eternally present with him. He had limited time with a big agenda. I understand his push. The last hours on the cross were dark even though it was daytime. At his death the earth quaked, rocks split, and the curtain in the temple that hid the most holy place was torn from top to bottom-signifying that God was not hidden but was available to everyone! The head soldier and the crowds that witnessed these events realized Jesus was innocent. Why couldn't they grasp his Lordship before his death? How could they witness or hear testimony of miracles and still doubt? We have a written account and yet there are people who don't believe. Pray for more to be open to the gift of salvation Jeus died to offer. Since I was led to write this by song lyrics, I think it appropriate to end the same.
"What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I could bring a lamb. If I were a wise man I could do my part. Yet what can I give him...give him my HEART.

Friday, February 18, 2011

and the winner is...

I wrote this the morning of our Chandler family Christmas brunch. Abby did the honor of presenting for me!

Yesterday was a red letter day for me. Abby and Anna Grace helped me take a bath and by dinner I had typed so much I couldn't grip the spoon so Jeff had to feed me. And yes, he was moving his mouth with each bite like when you feed a baby! At least I was sitting at the table like an adult even if I was in a wheelchair. I began thinking about all the ways I receive assitance to be able to maneuver through the day, and thought I would list them:

Ashley Philbrick-Calendar Girl Award...keeping those meals, appointments, and social events straight!
Ashley Chandler and Erin Conner-tie for Starbucks Award... tall caffe mocha, two pumps chocolate, one pump peppermint and whipped cream, please!
Bonnie Chandler-Female Intuition Award...always seems to know what I need next and is beginning to do it before I even ask!
Abby Brown-Makeup Artist Award...every time she paints my face I receive compliments for looking pretty!
Rebekah Gates-Hoist Award...for the grip that never fails to get me up and where I need to go next!
Anna Grace Chandler-Clean Record and Entertainment Awards...since I have never fallen with her, even while laughing!
Linda Chandler-Transportation Award...for manipulating me into my first wheelchair ride!
Sharon Chandler-Dysfunctional Duo Award...creating sitcom material (she can't hear and I can't speak)!
Joseph Chandler-Search and Rescue Award...for instant response to wild wails and crashing sounds, equipped with he-man muscles to scoop me up! Also known for best foot wrapping technique!
Trey Chandler-Tech Support Award...providing the latest and greatest communication device!
Juston Gates-Tool Man Award...building high end equipment for walkers, wheelchairs and tricycles!
Luke Brown-Choking Award...testing recovery capacity for breathing caused by comedic activity while eating!
Winston Chandler-Tears Award...good for initiating a cry with a glance!
Hudson and Hamilton Gates-Cheers Award...guaranteed to make me smile!
Jeff Chandler-Best All Around Award....for constantly providing assistance with panties up, panties down, more drink, warm it up, comb it down, puff it up, wipe it off, wet it down, load me up, take me out, and everything else that makes him the best husband a woman could want!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I am somewhat a creature of habit... Classic business suits with trendy tops and shoes in seasonal colors, favorite entree selections at restaurants, house decor placed in the best arrangement and left for years, the same menu for Sunday lunch guests. My philosophy borders on "if it works, why invest time, energy, and money just for change?" There are more important things that demand my attention. Sure I want to be in style and experience new opportunities and adventures, but not at the expense of what I consider near and dear to my heart. I have three rings I wear all the time. One was a gift when I was sixteen, one was a Christmas present from Jeff in 1985, one was my wedding ring. When I say I wore them all the time I mean all the time. Whether working in the yard, wiping down my kitchen with "a little soapy water," (the phrase in parenthesis is an inside joke I should write about another time!), water skiing at the lake, kneading dough for yeast rolls, all three rings on like a permanent fixture. I had to have the dome ring repaired once because I clapped so much at one of Joseph's football games that I knocked the diamond out! So you can imagine how I felt when Jeff lotioned my fingers in an attempt to take them off before my fingers swell to the point they wouldn't come off. He was successful with two but not with my wedding ring. I have a high threshold for pain but after several attempts to get it over my knuckle, I threw in the towel! That circle of gold had to be cut in two and pulled apart by two pair of needle nose pliers, Jeff on one side and my nephew, Adam, on the other. (It's nice having a doctor in the family)! It's just a ring, right? I try to keep my emotional attachment in check where material things are concerned. Things are going to break, be lost or misplaced during the normal course of events in life. This one was different for me. I had never taken my wedding band off since Jeff placed it on my finger as a symbol of our love and commitment forever and ever amen! After the deed was done I noticed an imprint in my finger where my ring had been nearly thirty-four years. Not only that finger but my pinky that held the heart shaped dome ring I sported since 1985! Funny thing is my pinky had been ring free for a month and the imprint looked like I had just removed it. Later that day as I looked at the imprint side by side on my left hand, my mind took me through a different thought process. I thought about the many imprints that have shaped me in my life. I can't begin to name them all but will list a few: my parents who modeled gracious hospitality, unwavering faith, commitment to our extended family and church family, and unsurpassed work ethic, family friends that showed the fun and value of relationship, summer sessions at Camp Wyldewood where I was introduced to college age counselors that blew me away with their true love for Christ (and Coach Groover who I was convinced was an angel God sent to earth!), college years that taught me so much more than book knowledge, the acceptance, influence, and love from Jeff and his family, and a vocal ministry with people that stretched my faith and loved me warts and all! (I wish I had time to write a book about the Joyful Noise years! It would be a crossover of comedy, therapy, theology, relationship, musical theory...which is a fancy way of saying multiple opinions!) There are too many individuals, situations and circumstances to name and I'm sure after I post this I will be miserable about what I neglected to mention!
Imprints can fade through time and distance. In the beginning stages of this dilemma I prayed diligently for healing. As the scripture instructs "without ceasing." Praying, begging for God's intervention, and eventually telling family/friends so they could join me in prayer became critical as my speech continued to plummet. I, in my adult life, have been able to direct my thoughts while sleeping so I know heaven was busy transcribing so many prayers! During this, I looked forward to waking up, hoping healing had taken place. If not complete healing, even improvement would suffice. After a morning run, if the house was empty, I would lay face down on the floor and cry out to God to deliver me! That is the prayer He has answered to date. Through the assistance of many, I and my family are being delivered! As more symptoms have lead to more weakness which leads to more challenges and changes, I have become consumed with myself and what I feel compelled to accomplish while I can! In this process I think my Jesus imprint has faded, and been replaced by my approach of devising a plan to complete what I think is important. I know this isn't smart for me. Having a terminal disease is not license for ignoring the imprint that has given me life! I am examining my thoughts, motives, and prayers and encourage you to do the same, making certain the right imprints for our lives have the deepest grooves!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bottle #20

Have you been in a situation and thought, am I in a sitcom? I had one of those moments Saturday. Jeff needed to run some errands and I had an idea that he could drop me off to get a manicure/pedicure, accomplish what he needed to, then pick me up! Brilliant! He reluctantly agreed but I assured him I would be fine. I had been there several times and they even call me by name when I come in. It was a beautiful aftternoon and as we drove away from the house I thought I would choose a color I hadn't used before. As we entered the salon, the first signal letting me know this might be a different experience was when no one greeted me by name. To steal a phrase from Anna Grace, "buck up little camper," you can do this! Someone familiar has to be here! As Jeff responded to the first nail technician I saw only one familiar face! Where was everyone? I wanted to ask but they couldn't understand me anymore than I could understand them! Jeff seemed hesitant but the gentleman said, "pick color." So he wheeled me around in front of the wall display where I quickly knew this would be tricky! This would feel like shopping to Jeff with 100 different colors to choose from! Jeff will do anything for me but he doesn't have too much patience in this kind of setting! Can you imagine how challenging it is to select nail polish when you can't stand up and peruse the rows of colors, talk about them, or even point to one you think might be the color of choice! On the drive I had typed that I would like a dark polish, not black but dark. I intended it for the nail technician I knew read English but she wasn't there so I showed it to Jeff. He gave me that are you kidding look when I noticed some bottles were numbered. I scanned the numbered bottles for a color I had in mind when my eyes landed on bottle #20. I have a good eye for color but wasn't exactly sure, so I typed for Jeff..." read the name on the bottom of bottle #20." He turned it upside down but the print is small and of course he didn't have his glasses! I sensed that impatient thing surfacing so I decided bottle #20 would be fine or maybe there would be one on the supply cart more like I had in mind. Not so much! Jeff helped me in the spa chair and before I could address the color issue my IPad was taken and placed aside while one nail tech rolled up my pants leg and the other was pushing up my sleeves! We were off to the nail experience with little communication. I couldn't even tell them I was a bit lopsided in the chair as the water was bubbling, the chair massaging, and clippers snipping! I tried to shift with no luck so I sat back to relax and decided even if bottle #20 wasn't the color I wanted it was just polish and would only be on my toes. Then I realized he didn't know I don't put polish on my fingernails, just clean up the cuticles, trim, and buff. So as I was sprawled between two nail techs getting the full treatment except for someone feeding me grapes he began to polish my fingernails with what appeared to be black from bottle #20! Well my initial thought for a new shade was taking place before my very eyes and I knew Anna Grace would think it was cool. But I received an unexpected shout out from five year old Hudson, "hey Nan, I like your fingernails!" Who said guys don't notice details?

Saturday, January 15, 2011


"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.". A familiar line from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, sophomore English with Ms. Mozelle Johnson. This was the first thought that came to mind when I considered 2010 coming to an end,making way for 2011. The typical thought process of evaluating myself with regard to spiritual growth, personal behavior toward family and friends, physical health, and work performance just didn't seem to apply! Not that I couldn't stand a dose of improvement in each category, but I'm not working, I can't stick my foot in my mouth nearly as easily since I can't speak, and physical movement is saved for physical therapy to keep me able to perform basic tasks. Since my brain and emotions have not been affected, there is always need for spiritual growth if you get my drift! Even though I can't talk using words, my eyes and facial expressions can speak volumes! The ALS diagnosis was life shattering. The only thing I had experienced that even came close occurred at Arkansas Children's Hospital, April 25, 1999, when our youngest child, Anna Grace, received a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes. One moment our family was rocking along doing what " normal " families do, and in a seven hour period of time our world was forever changed! We had no history, on either the Cook or Chandler side, of this disease, so how could this happen to us? I delivered her naturally using only breathing techniques to get through labor, I nursed her, I stayed home with her, I prepared healthy food for my family. I did everything I knew to provide and protect her, and yet I could not prevent this life long disease from attacking her seven year old extremely healthy body. During her hospitalization we received tremendous love and support! Anna Grace's bed had so many balloons tied on we thought it might levitate! She had Beanie Babies lining the room like it was the fourth floor gift shop! We handled this new challenge one day at a time, learning all we could to help her world seem as normal as possible even though it wasn't. What does normal look like for a child that has to be stuck 8-10 times on a good day when blood sugar numbers are in the zone considered PDC, perfect diabetes control. We partnered with Anna Grace giving her shots, (she thought Joseph did the best). Never did he put her off or complain when she asked him to help. Try relaxing when your child has to remember when to check, calculate how much insulin, and what to eat at meals or snack time when spending the night away from home with a friend. We didn't have all the answers but were committed to
helping her embrace life and not shy away from anything she wanted to try because it seemed scary to us or more complicated. Anna Grace is a college sophomore and the only thing slowing her down is me! She postponed a three month trip to study in Chile this semester and application to work this summer at Camp Sweeney, a medical camp she attended nine summers for kids with diabetes. ( please don't ever use the word " diabetic" when referring to a person. They HAVE diabetes, it isn't who they are! I abhor the word if you can't tell and it has been one of my soap boxes to strike that use of the word from everyone's vocabulary! ) So here I am, somewhat stuck at how to approach 2011 with a disease I can't control. Somehow I can't get the same rush from setting goals I know I can do very little to accomplish. Things like walking, talking, feeding myself, standing up, dressing myself, putting on makeup, or washing and blow drying my hair myself are in my past no matter how much determination I can muster. The one thing I have some control of is typing. Because I have so many things I want to write, to leave my account of thoughts, events, memories, and challenges for my children/grandchildren, I limit writing and responding to
emails or Facebook messages which is a big deal to me! I want to type 24/7, but again I have lost control. Frequently, by mid afternoon my fingers are curled under and my shoulders are void of strength to manuever over the keys except for simple words or phrases to let Jeff know something I need. I would rather communicate than eat, and I love to eat! So instead of setting New Years' resolutions I played a mind game to pacify myself! I played like I had one day without ALS and could do exactly like I wanted! So here's what I designed in my mind...

I popped out of bed for a three mile run and prayer vigil around my neighborhood, cooled down while pulling a few weeds from the flower garden, and then came inside for coffee and a protein bar to find Jeff playing his guitar, a typical early morning ritual. We chatted awhile before I called my mom to check on her and what she had planned for the day while unloading the dishwasher, starting some laundry, and folding one load that dried while I was running. It is such a beautiful fall day I decide to call Rebekah to ask if I can come pick up Hudson and Hamilton for a little "Nan" time to buy groceries, drive through Chick Fil-A for lunch and head to the park near their house to eat and play before nap time. Of course she agrees to my plan with delight so I quickly shower and get ready for the day. For some reason it is s good hair day I think as I look in the mirror one last time before leaving! I remember to grab a bottle of bubbles for part of our fun at the park as well as a wet washcloth in a ziplock bag for sticky little fingers when we are through! How many fun filled kid picnic trips have I had through my parenting years I wonder as I drive off? While driving I sing at the top of my lungs the current favorite song that I seem to hear over and over in my head and can't dismiss for some reason. I'm greeted with the sound that makes my heart skip a beat! "Hi Nan" they shout as they run toward me and wrap their arms around my legs! We pile in the car and as we are about to leave I have one of those spur of the moment ideas for a family/friend cookout, the more the merrier! I tell Rebekah to send out a blanket text invitation and get back to me with a number. The boys and I have a great time and I deliver them home just in time before falling asleep in their carseats. The rest of the afternoon is spent preparing the basics for burgers and homemade chocolate and vanilla ice cream, of course. As everyone gathers I see signs of a crowd with more and more cars arriving and hear the sounds I love of the front door opening, bringing familiar voices of adults and children I hold so dear! We talk, laugh, eat, and talk and laugh some more. I'm sure there would be some guitar picking and three part harmony somewhere in the evening, or a card game while kids run in and out. Now this would be a red letter day, ranking high on the list of favorite days in my book. I know because I have had the privilege first hand many times!

The "worst of times" began for me December 2009 when I first noticed something different in my speech and has followed me to the present. But simultaneously the "best of times" occurs as well! How can that be? How can I be miserable and content, even happy while I daily struggle to hold on to the most simple physical tasks? Literally everything about my body has changed. Only my vision, hearing, sense of smell, and brain power remain untouched. Today. The answer is the love of God at work through His people given freely and continually to me and my family. It's the Acts 2:42 principle come to life! How I wish we could live that way void of crisis! To be that tuned in, that available, that willing, that generous, that loving, that attentive would truly make a difference in our churches, schools, communities, neighborhoods, friendships, and families! Here's to making the most of the new year, 2011.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Going to the Chapel...

My son is getting married today! We have gone through the prenuptial process including an engagement party, bridal showers, a family Christmas shower, a lingerie shower, bachelor and bachelorette parties, a bridesmaid luncheon, the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, and everything in-between to prepare for the grand finale, the actual wedding ceremony. We're all about celebration, as you can tell by the list of events, until the ceremony. That part when you stand before God, family, and friends to pledge your commitment, your devotion, your vow to honor this person before everyone and everything forever! The only covenant greater is the one made with Jesus, accepting His salvation offer, and declaring His Lordship over your life! Naturally, walking through these steps with Bethany and Joseph causes me to reflect on my wedding day thirty-three years ago. April 30, 1977, is forever locked in my treasure chest of life! It didn't take long my freshman year at Harding University to decide Jeff was the guy for me even though I played hard to get for awhile! After a very eventful courtship, which is a book by itself, he proposed the fall of my junior year and our wedding took place the Saturday before dead week in the spring. It was important to us to have our friends be part of the wedding and I knew after finals everyone just wants to go home, at least I always did. I committed to save my skips all semester so I could go on my honeymoon during dead week, then come back to take my finals. What a brilliant plan! On Christmas break my mom and I worked together making as many decisions as possible before I went back to school. Since she had been through this process with my two sisters, I wasn't worried. More important to me was my excitement and desire to marry Jeff, not stress over every detail planning our big day! I took a Bride's Magazine with one page dog eared and purchased that gown on our first shopping trip. I registered china, crystal, pewter, sheets, towels, cookware, and everything else necessary to start a new home. We ordered invitations, thank you notes, flowers, and cakes and chose music so the group singing could have time to rehearse. Back at school I had a busy semester cheering through basketball season and going to class all the time since I was saving skips! When the big weekend arrived, my sister, Judy, hosted a bridesmaid luncheon at her home which was a forty-five minute drive away. During lunch I received a phone call informing me the tuxes I ordered had not been delivered to the right place and had not been tracked down! Not to worry, a different style was substituted and Mr. Holmes was on his way to Dallas to personally pick them up. Jeff and the groomsmen were to meet at my house with the alteration lady in case a quick change needed to be done. Remember I lived in a small community, population 3065, so it wasn't like there were several places carrying tuxedos! I handled that ok, we were still going to have something appropriate for the guys to wear. But on the drive home it began to rain and that did bother me! Not only did I think people wouldn't want to dress up on a Saturday and get out in the rain, but the reception was at my parents' house and we were counting on guests being both in and out of the house! Our house was a big ranch style Texas home, but not big enough to hold everyone at the same time! The rain ended in time to refresh the outdoors and provide a rainbow overhead as we drove to the church building. It was a wonderful wedding and if there were other mishaps, I still haven't heard about them! There was one incident I anticipated but not my mom. As Jeff and I ran out the front door and through the shower of rice toward our decorated car, there was a mob of Chandler brothers and male cousins that swooped up the groom and proceeded to throw him in our car and drive off without me! My mom didn't catch on to the family prank and proceeded to voice her disapproval. I knew they would bring him back eventually but mom didn't share the humor in the ritual! I thought it was funny then and still chuckle when I replay the video in my mind. I believe our ability to laugh together, at each other, and at life in general has helped us enjoy liffe as a couple. You just have to be able to laugh, don't you agree? Now four months away from our thirty-fourth wedding anniversary, I can honestly report that just like my freshman year of colllege when I knew Jeff was the guy for me, i still feel the same! We've experienced better/worse, richer/poorer, sickness/health and we are stronger for it as long as we both shall live.