Friday, August 30, 2013

The Best Thing I Did for "Back to School"

In preparing for Lily's first day of first grade, I read quite a few articles full of helpful tips to make that transition from summer break to school year a successful one.

For example, laying out clothes the night before, complete with hair clips, socks and shoes.  Or setting the breakfast table before you go to bed.

But if I had to pick one thing I did this first week of school that made the biggest difference, it would be this:

Prepack lunches for the whole five days.

I do this anytime I'm going to be out of town so that my mother-in-law doesn't have to worry about what to pack in Bird's lunchbox.  But I've never done it for myself.  Until this week.  And I just couldn't believe how much more relaxed it made the mornings.

I've plugged these before on the blog but I'll do it one more time - we use Easy Lunchboxes and their insulated cooler bags pretty much everyday.
photo courtesy of

Since Lily eats a predominantly paleo diet, these bento-style trays work great.  Most of her lunches look more like a "buffet of snacks" consisting of cut-up fruits and veggies, deli meats, trail mix, nuts, boiled eggs, popcorn, gluten free crackers, fruit leathers, and the like, along with a special paleo treat or two, like cookies, banana bread, or granola bars.

So last Sunday afternoon, as I'm getting everything ready for Lily's first day of school, I decided to try making her lunches for the week.  And within one hour, I had a nice little stack of Easy Lunchboxes...

... ready to pull out of the fridge and go.

We'll see how long it lasts but since the mornings went so smoothly, I'm hoping that motivates me to overcome my typical Sunday afternoon laziness.

Oh - and the lovely recipient of those nice little lunches?  

Here she is on the first day of first grade.  I caught her on the move but I also caught her looking at the camera!

Got any great back to school tips to share?  I'd love to read them so leave a comment!

Now get out there and have a fabulous (long) weekend!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Compassion in Action

I don't know about you but I'm ready to talk about something besides IVIG, New York City, doctors, hospitals, and all the medical stuff that has dominated the blog lately.

I'm ready for a good old-fashioned feel good story and have I got one for you today.

I know many of my readers aren't from Texas and aren't University of Texas Longhorn fans.  I myself graduated from Texas Christian University, a school that played against UT so I still find myself unable to "put my horns up" like so:
photo courtesy of

Just can't do it.

But you can't really live in Austin without being surrounded by all things UT.  

So while I may not put up my horns, I've enjoyed attending the occasional football game and following a few of the players.

And one of my favorite players to come through the University of Texas has been Jordan Shipley. 
photo courtesy of

If the quarterback gets the ball even remotely close to him, he's going to catch it.  He was just such fun to watch.

Now, his younger brother, Jaxon Shipley, is playing for UT and he seems to be filling his big brother's shoes quite nicely.

photo courtesy of

But this isn't a story about football.

This isn't a story about the Shipley brothers.

This is a story about the Shipley sister, Shelby.  

And a very special young man.

It's a story of compassion put into sincere action. 

So go get your kleenex.  You're going to need them.  

But I bet you'll also feel good knowing that there are people like Shelby Shipley out there in the world, educating people and promoting awareness in a way no parent ever could.


SHELBY SHIPLEY PROM FEATURE from Michael Holmes on Vimeo.

Friday, August 23, 2013

New York City in Pictures - Rush Family Version

So we just got back from New York on Tuesday.

The purpose of this trip was for Lily to get five days in a row of IVIG treatments.

Which meant a five day stay in the hospital.

I can't tell you how many times I contemplated sneaking her off in the elevator just to take a little stroll outside.  But since I've pretty much always been a goody-two-shoes who follows the rules, we stayed put.

But I can promise you this - there isn't a single inch of the 9th floor of the NYU Langone Medical Center that we have not personally explored.

On the first day, Lily didn't think it was all that bad, as checking into the hospital typically means getting a few treats that we never eat at home.  Like Apple Jacks, for example:

 After the glamour of the forbidden snacks had worn off, we started to see a lot of this face:

Translation - I AM BORED.

And our girl became a little more demanding, requiring foot rubs...

trips to the playroom...

endless cups of ice with unlimited usage of electronics...

the use of parents as furniture...

and much lounging in the family waiting area.

After five days of the same old, same old, we were finally released with one full day to spend in the city before heading back home to Austin.

And did we have some fun!

First on the agenda was a trip on the East River Ferry...

to Dumbo, Brooklyn, which stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

There, Lily rode the historic Jane's Carousel not once, but twice.  She loved the ride but took it very seriously.  It was quite a hoot.

Then we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge...

and jumped on the subway.

This picture totally cracks me up because not only is Ryan's thumb over the camera, the "bigger than my head" beer ad was the first thing I noticed when I saw the picture.  Plus, you can't even tell we're on the subway.  But we are.  And I am not drinking beer.

We got off the subway and proceeded to Chelsea Market, a pretty indoor space with lots of fun restaurants and unique shops.  

For those who might be interested, Chelsea Market used to be the home of the National Biscuit Company, i.e. Nabisco.  The Oreo cookie was invented here.  Currently, the studios of the Food Network are on the upper floors.

At the Market, we ate some Italian food and visited the bookstore.  Then we picked up some dessert and hoofed it back to the hotel to get rested up for traveling back to the ATX.

All in all, Lily was a champ and made quite an impression on the doctors, nurses, and techs who took care of her during our stay.

In case you're wondering what might be next medically for The Bird, she will receive an IVIG infusion once every two weeks for the next two months.  These will be done by a home healthcare company right here in Austin, and right in the comfort of our own home.

And everyone said... "Amen".

We'll have a conference call with Dr. Najjar after the first at-home infusion so he can hear how things are going and give us more advice on what to look out for and that kind of thing.

Then we'll go back to New York in November for an appointment with Dr. Najjar.  At that time, we'll discuss how we think the treatment plan is working and find out if there are any next steps we need to take.  We had already decided to fly up to Virginia to spend Thanksgiving with my family so hopefully, we can combine the New York trip with that one since we'll be halfway there.

As always, we would be so grateful if you would continue to remember us in prayer.  We feel confident that God is going to do something BIG through all of this - we just don't know what that big thing is.  But we do know it's even better than we can imagine.

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen."  Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

Have a marvelous weekend, dear ones.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How We Pay For Enormous Medical Expenses

One of my favorite things about having a blog is hearing from my readers.  It's so nice to get your feedback, thoughts, questions, comments, concerns, and encouraging words.

Once in a while, there will be a particular comment that actually leads to its own blog post rather than a simple reply from me.  Today's post is the result of just such a comment left on "An Open Letter to Doctors".  It caused some discussion around the supper table in my house - maybe it will do the same in yours.

First, the comment:

I agree with so much of what you're saying. I wish doctors would listen better. As someone with a chronic illness I have gathered a pretty good team that usually listens to me. What I really wish you had written is how lucky you are to have the resources to travel all over the country to get the best treatment. I could find a better doctor 1000 miles away but who will pay for my transportation, room, and board? What about insurance that won't cover special treatments when standard treatments are available? Most of us can't travel just to get surgery with a smaller scar. We have to accept the treatment available to us. Probably even most of your parishoners can't even dream of the kind of access you've had.

While I might not have worded this comment in quite the same way had I written it myself, Jeanne does  raise a good point:

We are incredibly blessed.

Without the help of both sets of our parents, financial and otherwise, we most likely would not have been able to do all we have done, especially so quickly.  Ryan and I are able to make many healthcare decisions comfortable in the knowledge that our parents will not let us go to debtor's prison.

At least we don't think they would.

Our church family has done amazing things for us as well.  Delivering meals to our home and hospitals,  running our older girls all over town before they could drive themselves, dropping off groceries, giving restaurant and Target gift cards, free babysitting, and just good old gifts of cash have been provided too many times to count simply because they want to help us.  These things, when all added up, contribute to us saving money so, in a way, our precious congregation has allowed us to seek better medical care through their gifts.

I am especially blessed because I married a man who believes in providing for his family.  I did not marry a bum! Ryan is very fortunate to have a job that allows him the time off to go all over the US in search of the best doctors for our children without risk of losing employment.  At the same time, Ryan has two other jobs to help provide even more cushion in our budget that again enables us to have more choice in our healthcare options.

We have adjusted our lifestyle in several ways to accommodate our medical expenses.  We used to have a housekeeper and weekly yard service.  While I am fully aware that neither of these are necessary expenses, we eliminated them from our budget in order to have more money available for healthcare. We got rid of cable. We have done things like downsizing houses, having garage sales, and selling things on ebay and Craigslist.  We rarely go to the movies or have date nights that cost a bunch of money.  We're much more likely to stay in and watch Netflix.  I think most of you are aware that I have a serious addiction to books.  I knew my Barnes & Noble expenditures needed to go so I have become a very frequent visitor to the library.  Our philosophy has always been that every little bit helps.

The point I'm trying to make here is that while I'd love to still have a cleaning service or go buy a book without ever thinking twice, I would rather go without those things if it means that we can seek treatment from the best medical specialists in the United States.

Some of you may not be able to travel as much as we have, but it does not mean that you have to accept mediocre medical care.  Every single town in the world has doctors that are better than others - that listen better, that are more knowledgeable, that are willing to do some research for their patients.  If you can't even travel an hour from your home, then make sure that the doctor you do see is the absolute best one for you in your area.

And seek second, or even third, opinions.  Even if it's just in your own town.

When we went to Boston thinking we were going to discuss a different kind of kidney surgery, that particular trip ended up saving us thousands of dollars because Lily didn't need the surgery that the local doctor had insisted she have before her first birthday.  If we hadn't sought another opinion, albeit for other reasons, she would have had an unnecessary expensive and risky major surgical procedure, along with another large scar for the rest of her life, that would have cost much more than our trip to Boston did.

And thankfully, every hospital we've ever used has allowed us to set up very reasonable interest free payment plans.

Since Bird has joined our family, I've become aware of many organizations that are out there specifically to help families with medical needs.

Groups like Miracle Flights, Mercy Medical Airlift, and American Airlines Miles for Kids in Need program can provide free flights.

Ronald McDonald Houses, Healthcare Hospitality Network, Joe's House, and Hospitality Homes provide temporary accommodations for people seeking medical treatment away from home.  Many hotels and motels also offer greatly reduced rates if you let them know you are there because of medical treatment.

In fact, on our upcoming trip to New York City next week, we are the lucky recipients of a completely free four night stay at a hotel right by the hospital provided by a generous non-profit organization for families with children just like Lily Bird.

One of the reasons I blog about our experiences with Lily is not only to have a record of her life, but to hopefully offer some hope, some light-heartedness, and some practical help to others who find themselves in a situation similar to ours.

So I hope that when you read about our journey, it does not discourage you and make you think we are doing things you could never do.  Yes, we are blessed beyond measure.  And from multiple sources.

But I bet you are, too.

At the end of the day, if you are loving your kiddos unconditionally and doing the very best you can possibly do for them, then you are doing enough.

Right where you are.

image courtesy of

Thursday, August 1, 2013

An Open Letter to Doctors...

An Open Letter to Any Doctor Who Will Listen.  

Dear Medical Establishment,

I first want to thank all of you for the work you do.  Where would we be without dedicated doctors, nurses, and all of those who support them?  Some of the most amazing, compassionate people I know are doctors and medical professionals. The church where I pastor is blessed with some of the best. That gives me reason to believe that the many I don’t know are likewise great people.

I appreciate the sacrifices all of you make, but events in recent days have caused me to shake my head at the way some of you do things. And the way you do things has become very personal to me. My six-year-old daughter’s life depends on it.

Lily was born with a host of medical problems, but we discovered over time that almost all of them were solvable problems if we could only get in front of the right physician who would listen long enough to improve her health. Lana (her mom) and I have learned through painful experience to listen skeptically and push back – regardless of whether you roll your eyes or shake your heads.

We have never tried to be the kind of know-it-all parents who spout off Google findings to you, but we have found that we can understand a lot more than you think we can. We may not know everything you do, but we know the entire breadth of Lily’s medical history, and we know our daughter - better than any doctor could be expected to know her. And that is why we are asking you  - pleading with you – to listen more.

This is where the breakdown seems to happen. We believe your world is full of brilliant doctors who are hindering the progress of their patients because they have tunnel vision when it comes to treatment. You tend to have one – and only one – protocol for solving a certain problem. If our issues happen to fit your profile, we are headed for healing! But if we have any unique detail, well, that’s our problem. I could write a book of examples, but let me briefly offer four:

- Our oldest daughter Ryley was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was five years old. At the time, we felt like life was over. Now that she is a vibrant, healthy nineteen-year-old, we have learned that she can live a full life with the condition. In the first year of her diagnosis, we did extensive research to find the best treatment possible.

We became convinced that this would be insulin pump therapy – something that was relatively new technology at the time, but used almost exclusively when blood sugar regulation was deemed critical. For example, pregnant diabetics were almost always placed on a pump. We determined that, if we wanted the best treatment for our daughter, we wanted a pump. But our doctor said he thought it was “overkill,” that we as parents would end up having to manage the pump (as if we weren’t having to manage the shots of a five year old!), and that it wasn’t going to happen. It seems ridiculous now, but we were declined for pump therapy by multiple doctors in multiple states until we found a doctor in Charlotte, North Carolina who was on the cutting edge of pump therapy for children.

Looking back now, this journey really prepared us to ask the hard questions and keep trying until we got the answers we needed – a lesson that has proven to be very significant in our lives. She’s been on an insulin pump ever since, and it has been life-giving to her. Incidentally, most child who are diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes today are strongly urged to consider insulin pump therapy. Pump therapy for children was just as logical in 1998, but doctors were used to moving in a different direction.

And they weren’t listening.

- Our youngest daughter Lily was born with a large hole in her heart. The Cardiologist who treated her said that she would need surgery as soon as possible to repair the defect in order to survive. However, he shared with us that it would be even more dangerous to do the surgery until she weighed at least eleven pounds.

So we found ourselves in a race against the clock, with a child who couldn't gain weight because her little heart was working so hard to stay alive. And painstaking weeks passed until we sought a second opinion in Houston, with a surgeon our research had shown to be among the best in the world. He immediately scheduled the surgery – sharing with us that they could accommodate for her small size with technology, and openly questioning whether she would have ever lived to attain the eleven pounds we were waiting for. The first cardiologist wasn’t necessarily wrong. In fact, he was a very nice man who we have kept in touch with through the years. He just didn’t have all the information. But couldn’t he have done what we did - a little more research? We asked whether there was any other alternative to waiting, but he had his timeline to maintain.

And he wasn’t listening.

- On another scary occasion, Lily couldn’t hold down any food. She was admitted to the hospital for constant vomiting and concerns over dehydration. Lana and I had a deeper concern, as this seemed to be more than just an average illness, and it appeared that she wasn’t able to keep any food down at all. The attending physician in the hospital explained to us in very condescending terms that “new parents usually misunderstand the volume of substance that is being spit up.  It’s probably only a tablespoon of liquid.”  Of course, the fact that we weren’t “new parents” and had raised two others was not important to him. He moved on to the next patient with his “collaborative team,” leaving us begging nurses – anyone! - to please probe further. By the grace of God, Lily projectile-vomited that evening in front of one of the residents on the floor, and he was shocked at the magnitude of what had just happened. He started researching, and by the next morning, returned with orders for an intestinal ultrasound to verify his suspicions. Sure enough, Lily had Pyloric Stenosis, which is a closing off of the intestines. The food could only move so far down the line before being forced right back up. All of it – not a tablespoon. One would imagine that someone would have listened before she died from malnutrition or potassium poisoning, but we’re grateful for one man who listened before we got to that point (even if he only listened because he finally saw what we were reporting with his own eyes.)  Lily was scheduled for immediate surgery. The first doctor may not have been wrong about spit-up volume and new parents.

But he wasn’t listening.

- In that dramatic first year, we learned that Lily also had Grade 5 Kidney Reflux – the most severe degree of the condition.  This can cause all sorts of complications, infections, and eventually kidney failure. We visited a specialist in Houston while we were there for Lily’s heart surgery, by now assuming that the secret was just to go to doctors in the bigger cities.  It’s not that simple, though. An older specialist brought in all of the charts and x-rays and then explained to us that “with such a severe condition, there is only one option. As soon as she recovers from open heart surgery, Lily needs to have kidney surgery right back here in Houston.”  This was not the news we were hoping for, but we were also ready to do whatever it took – so long as it was necessary.  Lana’s concern seemed silly to the doctor, but makes sense to every mom we’ve shared with since.  She wanted to know about the scar.  Lily was already going to have to go through life with a massive verticle scar on her chest from the heart procedure, and now she was destined for a matching horizontal scar on her abdomen.  So when we got back home, I went to work searching the country for less invasive surgical procedures on kidneys.  That led us to a specialist in Boston, Masachusettes who was using an innovative robotic process to fulfill the same need as the Houston surgeon.  Off we went to Boston to meet with an amazing doctor who also taught at Harvard. Except we didn’t talk about the robotic process. Instead, this doctor said he had read her entire report (what a great idea!), done some more research related to the possibilities, and concluded that we didn’t need to do anything for at least a year. Instead, he proposed that we place her on an antibiotic to prevent infection in the meantime and see whether Lily would grow out of it. And guess what? Nearly a year later, when we went back for the follow up exams, Lily didn’t have Grade 5 Kidney Reflux anymore.  She didn’t even have Kidney Reflux anymore. But we would have done an unnecessary third surgery in Lily’s first year had we not located one doctor in Boston who listened to us, and who gathered as much information as he could. The first doctor may not have been wrong about the severity of Kidney Reflux, but he seemed to be marking off boxes on a checklist rather than looking at the details of our daughter’s condition. And when my wife asked about the concerns over surgery, he was too busy with his flow chart.

And he wasn’t listening.

To make a long story short, Lily is now a beautiful, six-year-old fireball who has been navigating for five years what turned out to be the biggest challenge of her life.

At about eighteen months of age, after getting through all of the physical demands mentioned above, she began to develop normally. We read books with Lily. We sang and played “Itsy Bitsy Spider” with Lily. She called us “Ma-Ma” and “Da-Da.”  We treasure the way she should say, “Hi dare!” when she greeted people who walked in the room.

And then she stopped talking. She stopped relating. And she retreated into a world all her own.

Prayerfully, we started a new journey of doctors and fact-finding and tests to discover the problem and accompanying solution. The answer that kept returning was a common one today: Lily must have Autism.

But when we did our homework, we found major discrepancies between Lily’s condition and Autism. Most importantly, Classic Autism is a condition, from birth, that causes children to have an inability to connect in many of the ways Lily had connected.  She had been a typical child, and then she regressed.

But no one seemed to be listening.

We asked our Pediatrician how Lily could somehow lose abilities and then be labeled with a disorder characterized by, “the disruption of normal brain development early in fetal development caused by defects in genes that control brain growth.”  She responded that, while it might seem that she was losing abilities, she likely was just “moving on to other skills.” Does that make sense to anyone? We responded by “moving on to another doctor.”

One who would listen.

We have since learned that some of the amazing children who have been given the Autism label may clearly have an issue related to the spectrum.  They are vibrant people who will adapt in life and make life for everyone around them richer.  We do not seek to demean or dehumanize those who really own the diagnosis.

However, we’ve grown convinced that thousands (perhaps millions) of children are given the diagnosis of Autism because it’s a convenient label that explains away symptoms and requires no attempt at recovery by the doctors who treat them. It’s a disease that doesn't require the doctors to listen. While I seriously doubt it after years of learning more, Lily may very well have some form of Autism. And if she does, we will embrace who she is and what she can become. We will not, however, surrender to a lazy label given by physicians who are in too big of a hurry to look further into her needs.

Since Lily regressed in 2008, we’ve been on a journey that has included over 200 blood tests, 100 doctors, 12 specializations, four states and 10,000 miles of travel, dozens of therapeutic strategies, and at least six special diets in search of something that might help. Lana has read or studied over 150 different books on the various issues that Lily has presented.

As a result of a relentless search, we’ve come across some really great people in the medical field for which we are grateful. Dr. Michael Goldberg was the first doctor who openly questioned her Autism diagnosis and set about seeking treatment.  While he didn’t get her to where we hoped, he opened the door to new and innovative questions to ask from a scientific perspective.

And now, we have found Dr. Souhel Najjar, our Neurologist from New York. Dr. Najjar is the Head of the Neurology Department at Staten Island University Hospital, and the Associate Professor of Neurology at New York University Hospital. He’s written extensively on diseases of the brain, and become famous for solving some seemingly incurable cases in the past decade. And Dr. Najjar, through an immense five-day battery of tests last month, has already gathered more useful information about Lily than we had to this point. He shared this with us in a conference call yesterday:

- Tests indicated that Lily has dangerously low levels of IgG and IgM immunoglobulins in her blood – essential elements in our immune system that help us fight off infection. We knew this already, but he was the first one who showed why this could not have been circumstantial evidence, nor the result of a birth defect. Something is causing these levels to drop.  He demonstrated how it is causing her body to react with corresponding low levels of white blood cells, “p-cells”, and manifested infections of skin conditions and brain dysfunction. She will travel to NYU Hospital again next week for a week’s worth of IgG ifusions through an IV, and then we will follow up with additional IV IgG’s every two weeks for the next two months – finally giving our little girl the tools she needs to fight infection.

- We will continue with the same medication she has been on to help with symptoms related to her condition, but because he is a brain specialist, he wants to address the issue at the source. Apparently most meds never impact the brain, because of the powerful BBB (Blood Brain Barrier) that is intended to protect our control center from foreign bodies. So he immediately prescribed a drug that is specially designed to cross the BBB.

Dr. Najjar was careful to say that he is not guaranteeing this will be the correct treatment, but said he felt strongly this is what we should try first. He said that he would do everything he can to help her – and if this doesn't work, he has next steps in mind that would be based on what we observed between now and then. In the meantime, he would be closely watching and listening.

Much of Dr. Najjar’s published journal research is available online, and I had already read through parts of it. When I asked if there was one in particular that we should go over to get a better understanding of what Lily was going through, he said something that I can’t get out of my mind because it is so unlike what we’ve heard all these years:

“You can read them, and there are a lot of interesting papers.  But there is no reason to get caught up in any one of them.  Because every brain is different. And Lily’s needs will be different from anyone else’s. There is only one Lily.”

And that’s when it dawned on me. Why is this one New York Doctor so adept at finding answers and solving complex medical mysteries when no one else can?  Why has he appeared on The Today Show and Katie Couric and Oprah because of what he’s done?   Is he a genius?  Maybe so.  But his VERY BEST attribute is the one that many doctors seem to have forgotten…

Dr. Najjar listens.

He pays attention to every detail.

He ties those observations all together.

And he bases treatment on the patient rather than the protocol.

So if you are in the medical profession, I have one plea for you: you may have all the degrees in the world, and you may have brilliant ideas.  But until you learn to listen to your patients, you may be robbing them of exactly what they need.

I’m hardly a perfect listener myself, and in my own work as a pastor, I am trying to apply these same principles.  But if Lily begins to recover in the weeks ahead, I will be tempted to pay a visit to a Dermatologist who said Lily just had ordinary skin issues rather than looking for an underlying diagnosis for why they were constant and pervasive.  And I will go see an Immunologist who never did IV IgG’s because she decided that, while Lily obviously had low levels, she “seemed to be adapting to those levels okay.”  And I will go see a Pediatrician who said Lily was just like lots of other kids who seemed to be progressing normally but never really had the ability to function to begin with.  And then I’m going to write to anyone who will listen that their condition, like Lily’s, may not be as hopeless as they thought.  They only need to find a doctor who will do the one thing that can change everything.

They need to find a medical professional, as busy as he or she may be,

who will listen.


Ryan and Lana Rush

Proud Parents of Lily

What I Learned in July

Emily Freeman over at Chatting at the Sky, ends each month with a blog post sharing what she learned during that month.

In her words, "Sometimes it's educational and informative but usually not. Usually I've discovered a quirk I didn't know I had or a fascinating-to-me celebrity connection.  It's a mishmash of ordinary life stuff, things that may go unnoticed if I didn't decide to write them down."

I thought it would be fun to link up with her this month.

Sidenote here - Since we spent two weeks of July in New York City, a lot of what I learned this month relates to that.

1.  I learned how to purchase a Metro card, how to check the balance, how to add more money to it, and how to go through the turnstile like a boss.

photo courtesy of

2.  I learned that while it is important to get on the correct subway, knowing if that correct subway is going uptown or downtown is just as important.  Remember how I looked like a boss going through the turnstile?  Well, I didn't look like much of a boss when I rode the downtown train over the Brooklyn Bridge while trying to get to the Upper West Side.
photo courtesy

3.  I learned that in a city full of people trying to "get discovered", I can entertain people in NYC simply by opening my mouth and speaking.  Evidently, my Texas accent is my special talent there.

4.  I learned that despite their reputation for being rude and impatient, every single New Yorker I encountered was kind and helpful.  You New Yorkers just want the rest of us to think you're mean but the secret is out - your bark is worse than your bite, you big softies.

5.  I learned that I love Mexican hot chocolate, especially in those big white bowl mugs.  With real whipped cream on top.  I really prefer someone to make it for me but this will do in a pinch:

photo courtesy of

6.  I learned that when the weather is sweltering, dresses are the best thing to wear.  Unrestricted air flow is a key component to staying cool.  Sorry, fellas.

7.  After our Brooklyn Tabernacle experience and our own Austin prayer service, I am continuing to learn that my baby girl is uniting people of all faiths and denominations and causing a stir in God's kingdom - a miracle in and of itself.

8.  I learned that my longing for a simpler, slower life is not found in a certain place but rather a certain person - Jesus.

"I know of no greater simplifier for all of life.  Whatever happens is assigned... Are some things, then, out of the control of the Almighty?
Every assignment is measured and controlled for my eternal good.  As I accept the given portion, other options are cancelled.  Decisions become much easier, directions clearer, and hence, my heart becomes inexpressibly quieter.  
A quiet heart is content with what God gives."
Elisabeth Elliot

Click here to go visit Chatting at the Sky and see what others learned this past month.  I promise you're going to find some great new blogs to read and love.

Have a sweet, quiet, and content day, my friends.

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