Good News

photo (10)I could wax poetic I suppose, but I’m more interested in just maintaining the discipline of keeping up the blog and writing daily. And given how the day turned out, I don’t have enough energy to really put a lot into this post.

Ella’s tests came back normal. Nothing that suggested any kind of defects. Nothing that concerned the doctors upon seeing the test results. We took the look the docs wanted, and we saw nothing concerning.

That’s good news.

We’re waiting on a few test results to come back – some blood work, a few bacterial studies, and a ciliac brushing – but for now, we’ve learned that Ella’s lungs look normal. If not perfectly healthy, the at least look the way you’d expect and hope an asthmatic’s would look.

That’s good news.

We’re home now. She’s all curled up in her bed, begging us to keep our promise to take her to do something special (roller skating), excited to be back in her room, under her sheets. Jon has spent the evening showing off, happy to be reunited with his best friend after an extended period of pampering with my mother. Rachel and I are just happy to be able to sleep in a bed that doesn’t feel like it was created to elicit confessions from prisoners of war.

That’s good news.

Tomorrow may bring us something different. Heck, today did its best to make things fairly sucktastic: I dropped my only set of car keys in to my trunk and managed to lock them in there. Right as we were supposed to leave for home. I had to call my in-laws to come get Rachel and Ella and then wait for the Auto Rescue Squad to come to my aid. It took that dude less than 2 minutes to get into my car, and I learned that my car’s alarm isn’t really going to scare anyone out of stealing it. That wasn’t exactly fun. But my daughter was still healthy, still heading home, and I was soon to follow.

That’s good news.

There’s this thing that comes over you when your child is sick a lot; it’s a sense of overwhelming dread that somehow, just around the corner will be something you can’t handle. A bad diagnosis. A sudden turn in health. A test result that wasn’t quite right. You essentially learn to live holding your breath, waiting for the day that someone gives you the all-clear and you can fully exhale.

Today, Rachel and I were able to exhale. We’ll end up holding our breath again sometime soon, I suppose, but for today, we could breathe easy.

That’s good news.

And like the real Good News, I’m quite happy to share it with anyone who will listen.

Getting My Head Examined

Have you ever thought about what’s inside your head?

Random question for a Friday, but it’s kind of where my mind is at. (And after yesterday’s post on politics, I’d rather tongue-bathe the monkey cage at Zoo Atlanta than write about anything political today.)

Today, I went and got my head examined. They strapped me into a pretty white machine with a nifty revolving gizmo and took pictures of the inside of my noggin. Then, they showed me those pictures and told me something that anyone who knows me realizes is patently obvious: I have massive sinus issues.

Massive ones. I’m more stopped up than a convention for constipation. I have more clogs than Atlanta traffic.

Or, as my doctor told, “You aren’t actually breathing. You just kind of take in air.”

Good to know.

Naturally, surgery was recommended. I’m not exactly a medi-phobe, but it’s close. Every time I sit down in a doctor’s office, all I hear is a cash register dinging. This makes me nervous, which makes me slightly panicky, which makes me want to be anywhere other than the doctor’s office. So I’m not scared of the doctor, per se, just his bills. And sinus surgery – even outpatient sinus surgery with minimal risk – makes me a little uncomfortable.

I’ve mentioned this hesitancy to some friends and family, and their response is the same: get over it.

“Don’t you want to be able to smell?” (I work with teenagers, and smell might be overrated.)

“Don’t you want to actually taste what you’re eating?” (Depends on what I’m eating. If it’s a burrito, yes. Zucchini, no.)

“Aren’t you tired of the headaches?” (Yes, but a bajillion pack of Advil is still cheaper than 1.3 minutes of anesthesia, which I would need if I had surgery.)

“You have no idea how it would change your life.” (Maybe so, but if I don’t know what I’m missing, then I can’t miss it, can I?)

I’ll probably end up having the surgery, of course. In the long run, I am tired of feeling like I can’t ever get enough air, or of hearing other people talk about how delicious something tastes. There are times when my stuffed-up-head deprives me of some of life’s simpler pleasures, like when my daughter took a deep noseful of air yesterday and said, “Smell that, daddy? That’s fall!”

I miss that. The last time I smelled fall, it was 1993, and my friend P.C. Frailey were at the UGA Homecoming Game. As we walked from Russell Hall towards the stadium, we were inundated with the smells of pulled pork, grilled steak, hamburgers, hot dogs; the smell of fallen leaves, woodfire, and earth; the crispness that autumn air holds when the humidity is gone, but the coldness hasn’t settled in.

We walked among this, my friend and I, and took in the wonder. It was so moving, in fact, that by the time we’d gotten to the stadium, P.C. had gone on a journey of a different sort. He looked at me, and with all seriousness declared, “I’m going to break some hearts. People have been encouraging me to go to BYU.”

Then he gestured to the sights and smells around us and said, “But this is where I belong. I’m coming to UGA.”

I can smell the barbecue now, and though it’s only a memory, it’s a powerful one.

So I guess when the surgical consultant calls me next week and wants to know if I’m ready to schedule my procedure, I’ll go ahead and say yes. It’d be nice to be able to smell even a little bit of fall this year, not to mention Christmas. I’ll just suck it up and get it over with, I suppose, and be grateful that I even have the option.

In the meantime, I’ll try not to think about that scene from Total Recall, when Arnold pulls the tracking device from his own nose, which is my rough approximation of what I imagine sinus surgery to be like. I’ll try not to think about that at all.

It’ll be tough.

Small Sorrows

That nick on your dining room table. The way your carpet bunches near the corner. Over there, next to your cookbooks? Yeah, that’s a crack in the counter top that seems to get wider every day.

Your car wheezes to life instead of roaring. Every time the weather changes, you or your kids get sick – sometimes all of you. A piece of siding wants to fall off your house and crush your azaleas, which probably deserve to be crushed given how sad they look.

A hangnail.

More gray hair.

Some stain on your favorite jeans that refuses to go away.

These are the small sorrows of life. Read separately and they are perceived as small; taken together, they become sorrows. It’s a strange phenomena, but one that you’re likely very familiar with. Chances are, you’ve been noticing the pile up, kind of like dishes in your sink or the insurmountable load of laundry you just can’t make yourself wash.

They’re a lot like toy cars, these wretched, tiny sorrows, in that one or two on the kitchen table doesn’t bother you. And if your son is like mine, then you also know that the next time you turn around every single freaking one of them will be on display, covering the table and clattering to the floor because there’s simply not enough room for them all.

Another way of describing it is drowning. Single drops of water are no threat, but when you toss a bunch of them in a pool, pretty soon you’re in over your head, struggling to stay afloat, wondering if someone – anyone – will come to your aid. Occasionally, there’ll be a lifeguard. Often, you’re on your own.

Sink or swim.

On the bad days, sinking seems the better option. What could be simpler than to just give in to the sorrow, let it overwhelm you, and hope that the “experts” are right and that drowning really is the most peaceful way to die? So you quit kicking. You quit struggling. You take a last breath and allow the water and darkness and sorrow to wash over you.

Only to discover that you still float.

Now you have to make a choice: take another breath, or let this one completely go? Keep floating or sink? Only a few sink; most take another breath, gulp another lungful of oxygen and hope. And even the ones that sink get only so far – usually, that survival instinct kicks the legs into gear and suddenly, there they are, breaking through the top of the water like Daryl Hannah in Splash.

And now they have to choose again: swim, float or exhale?

Personally, I’ve done all three, and quite often end up doing some sort of combo maneuver. Today, for example, was a swim-float-swim-punch-yourself-in-the-face kind of day. I was tempted to quit. I was tempted to exhale. But there was something in me that wouldn’t allow it. A sudden realization from my faith; I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say, I was confronted again with a particularly powerful and woefully under-examined (at least in my neck of the woods) truth about God, and I came out the better for it.

I decided that swimming was the choice because only swimming brings you closer to the side of the pool of sorrows. Only swimming gives you the opportunity to actually emerge completely from the water and find dry land. Everything else leaves you in the midst of your sorrows; it gives them power, more power than they deserve.

So your kid got sick after you took her to the doctor for a preventative visit. So she spiked a fever, went pale, slept like a college graduate and threw up all over herself. Small sorrows, my friend. Small sorrows.

Keep swimming, and they’ll be behind you soon enough.

McBroom of the System

Houston McBroom, of McBroom Heating and Air Conditioning.

It’s sort of pitiful that in a week where an article about me as a blogger gets posted, I have written only one blog. Shameful, really.

But I have a great excuse: my house was getting a makeover. And not some quaint little facelift or landscaping jobs, but a real honest-to-goodness, life-changing makeover.

We had our entire heating and air conditioning system replaced.

We’ve been thinking about it for years, mainly because Ella suffers from asthma and the only constant that we could think of for her symptoms was our house. But if you own a home, you know that replacing the entire HVAC system is not cheap. It’s not even expensive. It’s exorbitant. Prohibitive. Ridiculous.

At least, it seemed that way.

But after watching our daughter struggle with various trips to the doctor, the ER, and several specialists, we committed ourselves to making some changes. While no one could guarantee that a brand new heating and air system would make that much of a difference for her, no one exactly said that it wouldn’t help. So when Uncle Sam surprised us this tax season, we knew it was time to get the work done.

The question was, who do you call?

In a world full of charlatans, frauds and ripoffs, how do you find someone who will not only do good work, but honest work?

Enter Houston McBroom of McBroom Heating and Air Conditioning, a local company entering it’s ninth year.

How we found Houston is a long story involving my wife, my daughter, our neighbor, and several playdates at the park. Unfortunately, it’s not that interesting to read, so I’ll give you the short version: my wife became friends with Houston’s wife, Heather, and when we decided to get our new system, he was the first and only person we called.

From the get go, everything was smooth. He came and took a look at our old system, assessed it from stem to stern, and told us what we had thought for a long time: we were in need of a serious upgrade. He then gave us a couple of different options ranging from surface fixes to gutting and replacing, and gave us the pros and cons of each.

We told him we wanted it all gone, all replaced, and we wanted some specific bells and whistles in the filtration department. He smiled and said, “No problem.”

Houston mapped it all out for us: completely new AC unit, new furnace, new Aprilaire near-hospital grade filtration system, all new duct work, cleaned vents, and a new layout for the ducting that would provide for better airflow. Not to mention relocating the thermostat (also new – and digital) and installing a control unit for the filtration system. All for one heck of a lot less than I expected to pay.

Then he gave us the bad news. “We can get it all installed in one day, but it might take two.”

Oh. That’s the bad news?

“Is that okay?” he asked.

“Yeah,” we said, “that will be fine.”

The install was on Monday of this week. You’ve never met nicer or more efficient workers. When I told Houston that the crew was welcomed to have anything out of the fridge, he did a double-take, and then he and his guys still asked for permission to get a Coke or Dr. Pepper. They not only got everything installed, they cleaned the house up better than how they found it, left no trash in the yard, and except for the new unit on the outside of the house, gave no indication that anything had ever happened on the property.

Houston came back and made sure everything worked to his specifications yesterday. Let me just say this: we’ve owned the house for nine years now, and it’s never been cooler. Or quieter.

And here’s where you know that Houston made a difference: when we came home last night and walked into the house, Ella looked at me and said, “It smells funny in here.”

She was right. It smelled clean. And that was weird to us.

I don’t know what sort of difference this might make in my daughter’s life over the long haul. I do know that the old system was full of dust and mold and that those two things are significant triggers for asthmatics. So I can at least say that the new system won’t hurt Ella, which was a point that Houston had made to us.

I can also say this: it was absolutely refreshing to work with someone who was not only honest and knowledgeable and polite, but thoughtful too. Watching Houston and his crew, I knew that the care they were taking was partly their professionalism and personal ethic, but also a determination to make things better for my little girl. As a father, you can’t ask for better than that.

With the spring temperatures feeling more like summer, the chances are good you might find yourself in need of a good heating and air guy sometime soon. If so, you can help yourself and your community by picking up the phone and calling Houston McBroom.

You won’t be disappointed.

The Glory

Ella's smile. We saw a lot of it yesterday...along with our own.

So yesterday, I wrote about waiting for a doctor’s phone call that would change my family’s life. Not thirty minutes after posting that blog, we got the call. Naturally, I had to walk out the door to go meet Ella’s bus, but the doctor was kind enough to wait until I could return before he shared the results. I got Ella set up with a snack, some TV, and then I quickly joined Rachel in our room to hear the news.

Ever have one of those moments where, no matter what was about to happen, you knew that you would be relieved one way or the other?

I was prepared for the worst: IV treatments, regular hospital visits, massive insurance claims and bills for the remainder. I was ready to commit everything we had to helping our daughter achieve a better life.

And about that time is when the doctor said, “Well, with one weird exception, her blood levels are normal across the board. In fact, they look good.”

I looked at Rachel. She looked at me.

“So,” the doctor continued, “I’m going to get with Ella’s pediatrician and talk about what our next steps should be…”

I checked out there. My body felt numb, as if somehow become one gigantic funny bone. Her blood levels are normal.

Normal. Ever thought about how precious that word really is?

Naturally there will be more follow up. There will be more blood work, more needles, more tortuous waiting. Ella will still catch some random cold virus that will make it difficult for her to breath. We know these things. And now, we know that they happen for a reason other than her immune system being insufficient.

I can’t tell you what a relief that is.

There’s still an outside chance that her body doesn’t produce a specific antibody, and so she may need treatment for that, but even that possibility couldn’t dampen the fact that for once in my daughter’s life the doctor had come back with good news.


Last night, we met with a group of five couples who have been coming to our house for the past month and participating in a Bible study. We shared our good news, and everyone was genuinely pleased for us and for Ella. We talked a bit more about what the future holds, and how we weren’t sure what it all meant, and everyone agreed to pray for us. Then, we started the video for the study.

And there, about five minutes into the video, Rachel and I were stunned to hear these words from the Gospel of John: “No, this sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)

I was sitting on the floor in front of Rachel and couldn’t see her. But I felt it when she punched me in the arm. I could also feel the eyes of every other couple, turned towards us in near disbelief.

I know some people scoff at the idea of God, or, if they believe in God they’re not quite willing to believe that He speaks to us individually. That’s fine. But I can tell you plainly that last night, in the middle of 10 other people, my wife and I heard from God: Ella’s life is bringing me glory. What you are going through is not in vain.

And perhaps most precious of all: This will not end in death.

Now, obviously Ella will die. She’s human after all. But what comforted me is the idea that her life, whenever it ends, will have resonance in the world she leaves behind. Her battles, her toughness, her indomitable spirit, her laughter, her imagination, these things will live on and in doing so she will bring God glory. For a parent who’s greatest terror in life is to loose another child, I can’t tell you how much peace flooded my soul when I heard those words.

I don’t know if I’ve much better moments than that.

The glory of my Ella is that she’s alive and fighting, and showing other people that we may wrestle with the darkness but we don’t have to succumb to it. And the glory of my God is that He’s with her all the way.