anne grady and her son

Happy New Year! Today is our 34th day at the Ronald McDonald House.  We have made significant progress, but we still have quite a bit to go.  At this point, we’re hoping we will only be here for another couple of weeks.

This experience has been the most challenging I’ve ever had, but it has also been one of the most meaningful learning opportunities I’ve experienced.   While there have been a lot of emotional and stressful times, there have also been moments on the lighter side.  I’ve learned that it is much easier to survive difficult times when you take time to find the positive moments.  I thought I’d share some of ours with you.

1. I got a mullet. There was an announcement over the loud speaker that there were hairdressers from a local salon offering haircuts.   Ironically, I had “tried” to cut Evan’s hair earlier that day.  It was now time to get it fixed.  When they offered to trim my hair, I said, “Sure!  Please keep the length and style, just trim the dead ends.”  Clearly, I didn’t communicate well because when I left the chair, I had a mullet.  After my husband’s draw dropped, and I cried (only a little), I found a little salon that fixed it.  They had to make it pretty short.  On the positive side, I got spoiled at the salon, and got to try some extensions for fun.

Lessons Learned: 1. When it comes to haircuts, you get what you pay for.  2.  Just like everything else, it won’t be awful forever.  3.  People are incredibly kind.  While I wasn’t thrilled with the results, these stylists volunteer their time each week to help others.

2. I got cowgirl boots..or is it cowboy?  In order to be “politically correct” we’ll call them cowperson boots! While Evan was in the inpatient unit, we had to put him to bed at 8:30pm and leave, so we were able to have dinner out a few nights.  On one of the nights, we wandered into Wild Bill’s Western Store.  I have never had cowperson boots but have always wanted them.  Jay surprised me, and as an early Christmas present, I got the coolest boots ever.  It was also an amazing customer service experience, but that’s a whole other post.  I went to Dallas and came back with boots and extensions!

Lessons Learned: 1. Customer service is a state of mind, not just a skill. 2.  One small act of kindness can set an entire chain of events in motion.  3.  The great moments are always around; we just don’t always stop to appreciate them.

3. Focus is powerful. I swear, the pole jumped out and hit me!  I was parking at the hospital and the spaces were really tight.  I hit a concrete column.  Some might say I have scratched and dented my car.  I say I’ve created car art.

Lessons Learned: 1. Don’t drive when you’re tired and emotional.  2. When you are focused on something 110%, other things become less important because you become clear about your objectives and priorities.  In any other situation, I’m sure I would have gotten upset about the car.  I had to be so focused on Evan and his care, the car dent just wasn’t that big of a deal.

4. We got fat. The Dallas Ronald McDonald House is the only one in the country that provides three free hot meals each day.  These are meals donated by hotels, fancy restaurants, charity groups, and families, and the food is amazing.  With buffet style meals and deserts after every meal, it looks like I’ll be eating a lot of salads in the near future.

Lessons Learned: 1. You have to take it easy on yourself.  It’s ok to indulge a little.  2.  There are so many people who volunteer their time to help others.  It blew our minds.  We will be cooking a meal at the Ronald McDonald House in Austin.

5. We became quite the interior designers. We have lived in a hotel size room for a month.  It is hilarious to try to find new ways to move furniture to make the space more livable.  Because of his love for electronics, my husband became obsessed with creating a multi-media center.  We are at the RMH and have two monitors, a full work station, speakers, and it looks like we’ve moved in for the long haul.  They were very gracious, but when we tried to install a fireplace, they put their foot down.

Lesson Learned: We don’t need so much “stuff”.  We lived very comfortably in a small space without all the stuff that accumulates in the house.  When we get home, we are going to simplify!

6. So many “Evanisms”. Evan has stayed in amazingly good spirits throughout this ordeal, and he is so happy to be feeling better.  On his Christmas list, he asked for a “mote control dinosaur and mote control car”.  Santa knew what he meant.  He also made sure we put on “oderant” before we left the room each morning.  Then there were the car rides back and forth.  He stayed wide awake and asked questions the whole time.  “How big is that building?  How many offices does it have?  Have you ever worked there?  What kind of car is that? How fast can it go?  Have you ever petted a deer?  Can we get a deer as a pet?  Do you like to eat fish?  What kind do you like?  I don’t like fish.  I want to catch them and stuff them.  How big is an elephant?  Have you ever had an elephant?  I want to ride an elephant…”  And they went on and on and on.

Lesson Learned: Kids are resilient.  So many people tried to comfort me by telling me this, but I didn’t really get it until I experienced it.  This has been way harder on the rest of our family than it has for Evan.  He gets to make new friends, hang out with Ronald McDonald, and feel better.

As we near the end of Evan’s treatment (hopefully), it’s fun to look back on the lighter side of the experience.  Evan got to come home for Christmas weekend.  While we had a few bumps, he did amazingly well.  He is working hard and making progress.  We’ve never been able to see this side of him, and it has been the biggest gift we could have ever asked for.  I believe all of your thoughts and prayers were a huge contribution, and we thank you from the bottom of our heart.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, wonderful and peaceful  2011.

40 Comments

  1. Dear Anne,

    Three things:

    #1 They call it “big hair” in Dallas.
    #2 Your new cowperson boots are gorgeous, and I covet them.
    #3 Go, Evan!!!

    With warmth,
    Julie

    ……………………………………………
    Julie Wickert
    True Story Communication
    http://www.truestorycommunication.com
    512-914-6882
    Twitter: @juliewickert

    Get your story out there!
    Case studies, white papers, proposals.

  2. I wanted to let you know that you have such a powerful spirit in you to be able to share your experiences with everyone. Bless you and your family for your trials, tribulations, and triumphs. I saw you in Austin last August, and knew immediately you were a wonderful person. Your story is such an inspiration to everyone else in a similar situation. I do count my blessings that I am fortunate not to have that to go through, and while I have my own problems, I have always known there are more people less fortunate than I am. Thank you for sharing, and you are always in my thoughts and prayers. I am sharing with the whole office. Please tell your family and yourself to keep your head up, things are looking up for you!

  3. Anne,

    With guilt I must admit I have not been diligent about reading your weekly posts. When I opened this one and saw what you and your family have been going through, I cried like a baby. Like so many others, I will pray for your family AND donate to the Ronald McDonald House every time I pick up a Quarter Pounder with Cheese-no onions. But in addition, I’d like to share some things I am thankful for.
    First, I’m thankfor for you and your ability to touch so many lives with what you do. never forget how much influence you have with your story and your ability to write about it. Second, I’m thankful for Evan. He is a sweet adorable child of God who was given special challenges to overcome. I don’t know why…but I do know you will all be stronger for it. Third, I’m thankful for Jay. What a special man to know the situation he was walking into would be difficult, and loving you and Evan enough to stay and give you the extra support you need. No one can do this alone.

  4. Thank you for sharing your amazing story and the “lessons learned”. Many times we focus on what is happening to us and don’t take the next step to lessons learned. What great inspiration! You are still in our thoughts and prayers!

  5. Anne,
    You are rockin’ the extensions – way to make lemonade out of the mullet haircut.

    Congratulations on the awesome progress, and for making it a meaningful family experience!
    Lisa

  6. Thanks for sharing, Anne! AND we are excited that you will be cooking for the families at Austin’s Ronald McDonald House. Volunteers (and sometimes restaurants) provide lunch and dinner each day for our families. You have first hand experience about how important this is!

    You have an amazing knack for seeing the good in all situations, and I thank you for sharing your perspectives today. You have brought a smile to my face.

    Jan Gunter
    RMHC Austin

  7. Thank you for your continued enthusiasm and commitment to what you do. I also experienced the house in Dallas with my son and it has been awesome to see many of the same blessings and gifts that we received while there earlier this year as you are experiencing as well. One thing to note, that God is faithful and He will not give us anything we cannot handle. We just need to trust Him completely. God bless you!

    • Lately, I’ve said that I think God has too much confidence in me. I’m glad you experienced the same amazing experience at the house. They have been so incredibly helpful.

  8. When we had lunch a month or so ago, my gut told be you were a very special person. I am in awe of your resilience! I truly look forward to seeing you on ” the other side” and getting to know you even better. Thanks for being an inspiration to all who read your blog (and to all who are lucky enough to be in your life!) Continued love and prayers to you and your family.

    Jeri

  9. Anne, you continue to be a real inspiration to the rest of us. To think you are still keeping up your weekly postings from Ronald McDonald House! My best to you, Evan, and Jay.

  10. Anne,
    Last month I went to the Starbucks we met at last year. I sat in the same seat and first asked for God’s forgiveness that I let a whole year go by without getting together! Then, I just thought about the three hours we spent ‘catching up’ and tried to imagine what your year has been like since then. Girl, I don’t know what to tell you other than I can’t imagine your year, but am in awe of YOUR resilience and your heart. Perhaps the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (thus explaining Evan’s resilience!).

    Thanks so much for sharing,
    Barb

    By the way, I think you could have two mullets with sideburns and still the only thing people would notice is your beautiful smile and sweet heart.

    • Your comment made me cry…in a good way. I have to clarify because there has been a considerable amount of crying in the past couple of months 🙂 I look forward to catching up at Starbucks or wherever you choose when I get back. Will you touch base in Feb or March?

  11. Anne,

    As I sit here crying while reading your post, I am more thankful than ever that way back when, you invaded my personal space in that fateful “Spanish for Dummies” class – Your resiliency and humor amazes and inspires me, and I am honored to call you my friend. I wish you, Jay, Evan, Riley, and your mom a wonderful, prosperous, healthy, and happy 2011!

  12. Thank you for your inspiring and entertaining words. Our paths haven’t crossed at the House yet (I’m Friday 6-9 pm, but during The Trains at Northpark I’m an exhibit manager and take that shift off), so I look forward to meeting all of you soon.

  13. Anne, I just happened on your blog through a post that RMH of Dallas posted on FB. I have spent some time reading back through your entires and reading your story. We stayed at RMH of Dallas for a short time (just one week this time) the first week December. We live in Tampa, Fl. Our son, Eagan, was born w/ various urinary tract defects. This last visit was our third to Dallas for corrective surgery. I can write openly and honestly here and say that I don’t know what we would have done this last year w/o the house. I try to explain to people the amount of love and encouragement you get the moment you walk through the door…they just can’t understand b/c they haven’t been there. I still spread the word as often as I can. Eagan’s problems are minimal in comparrison to most of the families who stay at the house. It only took the first night, of our first stay at the house, to realize that. However, he was 11 months old in Sept 2009 the first time that we came to Dallas and we were terrified. Our surgeons in Tampa just didn’t have the experience to deal w/ the severity of Eagan’s issues and (after months of searching) were able to find a pedi urologist in Dallas that we were comfortable w/. It was so hard being away from home (and leaving our, then 2 year old, older son at home) for the surgeries. RMH of Dallas, their staff and volunteers, made all the difference in our trip. After that first time, it wasn’t quite as scary to return. We looked forward to staying at the house and seeing everyone again (God love Gracie!). In any case, I thought it was neat that we were there at the same time. I will say lots of prayers for you, Evan and your family. I hope that you are able to return home soon. If you ever come to Tampa to speak, I will be first in line 🙂 Take care. -Katie
    (ps) I gained 5 lbs our first trip 😉

    • Hi Katie,

      I was so moved by your comment, I forwarded it to the management team at the House. I totally agree that they made the whole situation much less scary and daunting. It’s one of the few places you say, “I hope I never see you again” when you leave. I hope and pray that Eagan is doing well. Again, thank you for your comment. Oh, I think I’m at 5 lbs. too.

  14. Anne,
    What a contagious, positive spirit you have-and what a blessing that is especially to your son! We too have a special needs son. He receives treatment in Dallas at Scottish Rite and has for the last 6 years. We also stay at the RMH and were so taken away with people who volunteer so much in order for us to be comfortable and be able to spend as much as needed at the hospital! It’s a wonderful place that people don’t understand unless they have been there! The RMH is such a blessing! We too thought we’d lose weight from the stress if everything, but those awesome volunteers are awesome cooks and we too gained weight!! My prayers are with you all!

  15. Hello Anne:
    I’m glad Evan is doing better and I will continue to pray for him, you and the rest of your family. I always look forward for your posts. You are a true inspiration.

  16. Anne,

    They say everything happens for a reason, sometimes we just don’t know what that reason is or when it will be identified. Somehow I see this whole experience launching you into a totally new level of motivational speaking and writing. Perhaps even in a Fund Raising Capacity (hint RMH :)).

    One thing that I am sure of, that book that you have been working on will now take on a brighter positive approach (even comedic)!
    Jackie

    • Hi Jackie,

      If I survive, it will definitely give me things to write about 🙂 I would absolutely love to help raise money for RMH and for NAMI. Both have been so amazing and supportive. Thanks for your comment…and for subscribing 🙂

  17. Hey, Anne, Happy New Year!

    For some reason, these emails have started going to my junk mail folder; I happened to find your last three or four entries while looking for something else. I’ll start checking the junk folder on Mondays.

    Mullet–You know what they say about a mullet: “Business in the front, party in the back!”

    Boots–They look awesome! Now, you just need to go to a country and western club, and dance in them.

    Evan–Evan looks great! From the way you often talk about him in your journal entries, I was beginning to wonder if he ever smiles, so it’s wonderful to see that he does. It sounds like the treatment is helping, and I am so glad for that.

    Reading his questions from the car ride reminded me of the dog in ‘Up’ and made me giggle. I wouldn’t have been able to answer most of them, except in a Daria Morgendorfer kind of way:

    Q. “How big is an elephant?”

    A. (pause) “At what age?”

    Chantal

    • Ha! Your comment made me crack up. I told my husband that when we get another dog, I want to name it “Squirrel!”. I love that movie 🙂 Happy New Year!

  18. Thanks so much for your willingness to share with us all. I beleive you can see how it has touched so many lives in a most positive way and I beleive that what you give will return one-hundred fold, or more. It’s is great to hear Evan, Jay, and you were able to enjoy Christmas at home and I wish the best for all three of you. May 2011 be the most prosperous year yet!!!

    Loyd

    • Hi Loyd,

      I feel so grateful that you think this is inspirational. I think it’s survival. I’m not sure how much I’ve helped others, but the prayers and support from folks has been more than I ever imagined. I appreciate your kind wishes and hope you have a wonderful new year as well.

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