Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November 3: Dallas, TX to El Paso, TX

Tumbleweed, anyone?


Man, a whole day on the road, and we're STILL in Texas! It really is BIG here. Actually, today went FAR better than we anticipated. We shot for an 8:00 am departure, which was a personal family record on this trip. We got strapped in, and pulled out of Doug and Heather's driveway at 8:05! Not bad! Anyone with kids knows that being only +5 minutes out the door on a road trip is a victory!

We had ample caffeine in us thanks to Doug's two pots of coffee that we ingested this morning. We really didn't know just how long it would take to arrive in El Paso, and we knew our relative Helen was throwing a dinner party for us, so we didn't want to be late! When we left, it was lightly raining, and as soon as we turned the corner to pull out of Doug's development, we saw it: RUSH HOUR traffic, TEXAS style... which means Texas SIZED! It took us another hour and 15 minutes to get OUT of town. By then, I was a little nervous that we blew our timeline. See, THAT'S why we never leave so early! ;)

We cruised for a while in the rain, but it eventually cleared and we enjoyed a beautiful morning. We stopped at a truck stop to empty our tanks and refuel the car's when we ran into absolutely the cutest Australian Cattle dog named Gus hanging around the entrance. He was clearly lost, and he was the sweetest and friendliest dog you ever met. He hadn't been neutered but he wore a collar with his name on it and his owner's name and number. There were two men working on the door to the store, and I asked one of them if the area code was local, and he said it was. He proceeded to call the number, but got voice mail. I tried a few minutes later, hoping my mystery area code might entice the owner to pick up. No dice. Meanwhile, I went inside and filled a cup with water and poor Gus guzzled just about the entire thing on the spot. Curiously, he wasn't hungry. What dog isn't hungry? So, we hung out with him for a while, and the urge to just sweep him up and take him home with us was so strong! I can see why people in grief get a pet. Gus made me happy the minute we set eyes on each other, and he literally hugged me and just sat with me under the porch at this truck stop. As I steadily got more and more covered with fur, the clock continued to tick away. I just couldn't leave this dog. The gentleman working on the door said he'd be there all day, and that hopefully the owner would call back by the day's end. I asked him if there was a local rescue group he could call, and he mentioned that his wife actually worked with one, and that he'd bring Gus home at the end of the day if the owner didn't show. Angelique and I used to be dog foster parents back when we had a house in Phoenix, and we just can't leave the scene like that without doing something. So, Dan, the man working on the door, and I shook hands, and we left feeling confident Gus would be okay.

With as many hours as we had on hand today, Ali settled into a movie with her headphones on, and Angelique and I settled into the rest of Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. I have listened to Tuesdays with Maury and The Five People You Meet in Heaven before, and this was my second lap through Have a Little Faith. Yup, I'm a fan of Mitch Albom! Anyway, hearing it a second time, I heard things I missed the first time. Plus, I listened to the book on CD prior to the spiritual boot camp I just came out of in MN while driving solo from southern California in early June. What a lifetime ago. What I can say is that the story once again renewed my pride in my faith. What I love most is that the title doesn't say, Have a Little of THE Faith, or Have a Little of MY Faith. In fact, the point of the book is that it really doesn't matter what faith you have; it's the fact that your faith can coexist with mine, and they both can increase the world.

I have to tell you more about Ali. She impresses Ang and me more and more every day. She is amazing. Today, Ang and I were talking in the car about the grief process as it was a HARD day for us emotionally. Ali was coloring in the back seat and asked us what we were talking about. I told her. I said that we were sad because we went to Minnesota with so much hope for Bella, to which she replied, "And all our hope is gone now." She didn't break up crying, she didn't say it as a question. She said it so matter of factly, yet with enough sensitivity that we could tell that she thought about what she meant, not just what she said. She chose her words. This was so insightful that Ang and I just sat there and marveled at her... yet again.

Ang and I spent a good two hours in the car talking about the whole process and Ali just colored, talked with us, and took pictures (see below). We made great time, got the advantage of changing time zones, and ended up in El Paso at 5:15 local time! We looked back on the day and realized it was quite pleasant on the outside; it was just painful on the inside. We were really grateful the day went by so fast and so pleasantly.

One of Bella's nurses is in a masters program right now and had to pick a population to study this semester, so she picked EB. One question she had for me was, "What do you want caregivers to know?" I wanted to share with you what I shared with her:

I said that I want married caregivers to make a PACT when their child falls ill or is born with special needs that all the increased stress and anxiety will be fuel to drive their relationship closer together, NOT further apart. This is a choice, not a given. Unfortunately, our society has allowed this choice to slip into the hands of "that's just the way it is." NOT TRUE. I have never felt closer to Angelique in my life, and we have yet to raise our voices at each other or get mad at each other throughout this entire journey. We may disagree with a decision or behavior of the other, but we talk it out, or, if it isn't that important, we just let it pass. Pick your battles, folks, you don't have to be right about EVERYTHING. We CHOSE consciously at the very beginning of this journey in June of 2009 to allow all the stress and strain bring us closer together, and it has. The proof? The three of us have spent practically every waking moment together since last Sunday afternoon, and you know what? We love every minute together (okay, okay, except when Ali won't listen at bed time, but that's never been any different!).

I am so grateful to this day for the conversation I had with Sean Stephenson on June 17, 2009. In that conversation, he said to me, "Tim, this thing (Bella's condition) is going to do one of two things to your marriage. It's either gonna rip it apart, or it's gonna bring it together. You need to decide RIGHT NOW which one it's gonna be." That conversation inspired much of how the rest of this story with Bella has played out. Without it, I don't know where we would have ended up, but I do know that WITH it, we ended up here: in the deepest love, respect, and partnership I have ever experienced in my life. I have the marriage I always wanted. I am blessed.

Choose wisely; your whole life is a choice.

God night.

Bella after her bath, and here is what happens when you give Ali control of the camera...

The view from Ali's world...


  1. Your words refuel my day...your wife's strength is felt through your words...I can feel you all being "carried" and cared for in the palm of His hand. I have no words. Respect and thanks for continuing to share your journey. Ali is so precious. Thank you, thank you. May God's grace continue to carry you, Donna in NJ

  2. So glad that the TX EB gathering was a success (although I was sure it would be, no matter how many people were there)! Looking at your pictures driving from Dallas to El Paso really reminds me of driving to San Diego for internship - my dad drove with me out there, and there's just something about that wide open stretch of road that lends itself to wonderful conversation and reflection.

    You and Ang's strength together as a couple has been such an inspiration for me, as I'm getting married in seven short months! Thanks again for writing and for touching our lives.

    Houston, TX

    p.s. Was SO HAPPY to see Sam in your TX EB gathering pictures!! He rocks!

  3. Great post. I will say it again, you two are AMAZING. Thanks for your wisdom. Praying for you always... and Ali. Could she be any more beautiful???

    Amanda Schauer

  4. Love your posts to start my day. You guys are amazing! Thanks for sharing so much of yourselves, such an inspiration!

    Tracy Stuewe
    St. Peter, MN

  5. Great is Thy faithfulness!
    Great is Thy faithfulness!
    Morning by morning new mercies I see.
    All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
    Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

    The words to this old hymn were in my head on the way to school this morning. I just love the line, "Morning by morning new mercies I see." What a comfort to know that God's mercy to us never ends and that He is indeed faithful! I just wanted to share that with you today.

    And if you hadn't already established a place in my heart, Ringgolds, you did so with your story about Gus. As a rescue person myself, I certainly understand and greatly appreciate your desire to make sure that Gus was going to be safe and cared for. Props to you for that!

    Praying for a good day and safe travels, sweet friends. And may you be very aware of God's new mercies for today.


    A friend in NC

  6. Please tell Miss Ali that I love the pictures she took (like a photo booth on wheels). Vehicles are a great place to have meaningful conversations (no way to escape), and it sounds like you're all making the most of this opportunity. I have one of Mitch Albom's books, but I've never read it - not even sure which one it is. Based on your praise for him, it might have to be the next book I start.

    Continued safe travels -
    Angela Ulrich
    Dublin, OH

  7. I am thrilled your relationship has strengthened. i believe there needs to be a decent relationship to begin with. good relationships will be better but rough relationships will be torn apart. not by choice, but by the nature of a non solid relationship. relationships take both parents to be present. sometimes one "partner" is absent and not dedicated. it`s so sad and inexcusable to have a special needs child pull people further apart. what a missed opportunity! and for the child too. anyway, what would you like to say to us caregivers?

  8. Hello from Amarillo, Texas! I20/I10 do seem to go on forever across Texas. I always love it - what an amazingingly large and diverse country the USA is. I am a Texas transplant - from San Jose, Ca. I would have loved to attend your get together in Flower Mound but, as you have experienced, things are pretty spread out in this state. It is approx 7 hrs from my house to where you guys were. My great disappointment is to not get to hug and express in person my sorrow for your loss.

    I understand your saying Bella's experience could make or break your marriage. My husband and I went through a terrible beginning for our first child in 1974. The sad thing is that the medical profession seems to want you to know that marriages have a good chance of falling apart dus to the stress of these problems. As and RN in NICU, I took a different approch. I encouraged prayer and talk of emotional pain - disappointment in the unexpected and for many the feelings of abandonment/punishment by God. I believe God set up the laws of nature to run his creation and that He weeps with us when things don't go as usual.

    You are a beautiful family and I continue to pray for your peace of mind and adjustment to your life back at home.

    With prayer and love,

  9. Hi Tim & Ang: You guys are remarkable. So glad that all this SH** has made you stronger as a couple. You truly are blessed. I knew that Tim was strong but Angelique, the way you spoke at Bella's Memorial convinced me that you are remarkably strong too. I really don't know how you did it, but you spoke with so much grace and strength, my heart went out to you. You EB parents are really my heros. I love you all.
    Take care and enjoy the rest of the ride. Please let Ali take some more pictures, they are terrific. She is so adorable and I love the picture of beautiful Bella after her bath. Keep those pictures coming y'all. Love and Peace Leah's Nana

  10. Pain brings wisdom. Now you are not only husband and wife, you are also brothers in arms and that is a very strong bond. No one else has been where you'been and fought what you've fought.
    Ali is a clever girl, the pain has tought her too. And pretty too. What a combination! :)
    And Bella's eyes are unforgettable. Great spirit.

    Hugs to you all,


  11. Bella's bath picture is PRECIOUS! And I love Ali's photos at the end...she is such a ham!
    I am beyond thrilled to hear how this whole journey has strengthened your relationship. What an awesome blessing. Though you guys were pretty darn great together to begin with :)
    Thank you for continuing to write thought provoking posts; they are always so well put.
    Praying for a continued safe trip home. You guys are in our thoughts/prayers daily.
    We love you!
    The Vanderbooms

  12. Carla Spradlin ( 4, 2010 at 10:54 AM

    Isn't it amazing how kids view the world. They see things so much more true than we do, as adults. Kids pick up on feelings of the adults around them. Her thoughts and feelings on Bella reflect how much she loved Bella, and how much you all involved her in Bella's care and life. You guys did a great job. Ali is going to make a beautiful and caring adult. I wouldn't be surprised to find that one day, she chooses to be a nurse.
    Love and prayers from Southern Ohio
    Carla Spradlin

  13. You guys look like you are having an amazing trip - the scenery is spectacular. What a wonderful thing to visit the other EB families along your way and keep the community strong. I thought it was so cute when I read that Ali told Tripps grandpa, not to worry, she had experience being getle with EB babies. What a sweetheart and blessing she is. I'm sure she keeps you going on most days when the grieving gets tough. Her smile makes one melt. Take care and safe travels. KD MN

  14. Tim, I absolutely LOVE reading your post! I truly admire your outlook on life! And every post is so fitting and inspiring! They all make me stop and reflect on how Im living my own life.... so thank you!

    All my love,
    Sarah Hickman

  15. Wow, TX does go on forever and ever. ;) Cute Ali photos.

    I agree with your point that your life is a series of choices. Sure, you don't choose everything that happens to you or in your life, but you choose how you react to it. I'm glad you and Ang have chosen that this experience or series of experiences will strengthen your marriage - each of you and Ali deserve nothing less!

    Looking forward to meeting you guys tomorrow! Safe travels!

    Cara in Tucson

  16. Ali,
    First of all I have to tell you how beautiful you are and I love your "modeling" pictures. Sooo cute!!

    Tim and Ang,
    Thank you for being so candid with us. It's so hard to imagine what your life has been like since June 2009, not to mention since October 11, 2010. You two are some of the strongest people I know. I commend you for making the choice to be strong and support one another and strengthen your marriage. It's so easy to just give up or place blame and you've done neither of those things. When I feel down or just like giving up, I think of you and your beautiful family and I make the choice to keep going. Not only did Bella strengthen my faith and commitment to God, your family has helped strengthen me in so many other ways. I can't even begin to describe the blessing your blog has been to my life.

    These recent pictures of your trip are great. I can only remember bits and pieces of my life in Texas and my families road trip from Texas to California when we moved back in 1986. I was 5 years old and it's funny because you talk about music and how it affects our lives in so many ways. There are certain songs that when I hear them, I can actually see us driving from Texas to California. The one song that does it for me the most is "Everybody wants to rule the world" by Tears for Fears. I LOVE that song and everytime I hear it it brings me back to our road trip as a family 24 years ago...crazy. I'm glad you guys are having fun and making such great memories!!

    I love Bella's "bathtime" photo. Precious. I love taking pictures of my babies right after bathtime. They seem so playful just then and it's great to capture that one moment in time to cherish.

    Lots of Love,
    Amber, Craig, Malorie(2 1/2), and Liam(10 mos.)
    The McLaughlin Family
    Moreno Valley, CA

  17. Oh geez. I was starting to think I was dreaming. I was wondering why I asked you what you wanted to say to us caregivers? Now I'm going to completely not make sense as I try to explain it. Let's just say duh. I see it....for married couples to make a pact. It was early and I was obviously caffeine deprived.

    You see, I was reading your post in the wee hours this morning (pre caffeine) and as I was reading I was trying to remember what I read. So, by the time I was done and went to comment, I remembered you said something about a masters student asking you what you want caregivers to know, and not recalling your answer because you got into relationships and then I was checking out cutie Ali and her photo shoot. So, how embarassing for me! I think I was even more confused this morning because I thought you were going to address caregivers as hospital/medical staff. I'm one of those (scary, I know) So, you started with caregivers (in my mind, nursing staff)and ended up with relationships.

    So, it's the end of the day and I'm wiped (my excuse for this goofy, nonsensical comment that hardly makes any more sense than my earlier one; perhaps less)but I get it. I had to reread it, but you were perfectly clear.


    Okay, good night to y'all. Rest up for the next leg of the roadtrip.

  18. Another awesome lesson you shared today. It is so easy to take my anger out on my spouse when things are not going right. We always talk it out and work it out but I always feel bad for my awful behavior. I guess I will need to try harder.

    Glad your trip was good (I spent a summer in El Paso 30 years ago) hope you enjoyed your visit!

    Love today's picture of sweet Angel Bella. Love the pictures of Ali too.

  19. Heaveno! LOVE the pics of the Ali-Photo-Booth! That girl is quite amazing, to say the least. My kiddos (especially Jackson) loved playing with her! Also love that sweet Bella in her towel - precious as always!

    I've never been west of Fort Worth and that seems like a long journey - I can't imagine how the drive to El Paso felt! But how wonderful that you and Ang (and Ali) were able to spend that time sharing with each other, and that it wasn't a tension-filled trip.

    It's clear that God is blessing your marriage and that He is giving you and Ang the strength and the ability to work together - you're a perfect match!!

    Praying for safe travels on the rest of the journey and for God to restore your spirits.

    Love from TX!!
    Laura (for Team A)

  20. oh I absolutely love how Ali summed up that moment so well- all your hope is gone now- it's crushing, but when i read it for the first time I thought you might feel like, "oh, so that's why I hurt so much right now. it all makes perfect sense." It feels so big and confusing and complicated (my mind still wonders to Bella throughout the day and I think why? why? why?) and then a 4 year explains it so simply and completely. I know the why doesn't matter at the end of the day, all we can do is find beauty in the now. And you do this so amazingly well that night after night you draw readers to your blog because you uplift US and you make us feel better. amazing. Texas is huge, right? I love the tumble weeds!!
    Ft Lauderdale, FL

  21. geez...I guess I never realized...or knew for that matter how B I G Texas really is. It's a trip that the cities are within cities! Like Plano is in Dallas...hmmm?!
    After I read your entry, the part where you explained that this journey has brought you and Ang closer...just thinking that, brought a huge let-out of fresh air. It is so clear that God's peace is on and around you. Only you both really really know what each other is feeling. And for that, I am Thankful! I'm looking forward to the next entry, as always!
    with all our love- thinking and praying for you,
    nicole b & family

  22. Ali's pictures are fantastic - you are raising a very special young lady who's going to be an amazing adult (probably sooner than you want to know :-).

    My prayers for you and your family as you travel and heal.