being renewed.

Subscriptions. Memberships. Reward cards. Starbucks cards. These are things you think of being renewed. Not coastlines and bayous and neighborhoods and bridges. But since 2005, that’s been the case here in the Gulf Coast Region. The road that runs from New Orleans East along the bayous up to the Mississippi Gulf Coast winds through the path where the winds and water of Katrina left their mark. In this area, you can find the actual aftermath of the hurricane herself, not just the flooding she caused afterward, like in New Orleans.

To put it into context, here are two pics I found that my Dad had mentioned to me. The first was taken by a power company worker who rode out the storm at a power plant in the area. The pic is of the 28 foot storm surge that swept through an area from New Orleans East to Gulfport, MS (an area about 45 or 50 miles wide). The wave swept away everything in its path through the bayou and flattened everything in its path for over a mile inland along the Mississippi Gulf Cost.

Katrina Storm Surge

The second picture is an example of the aftermath from the surge. This is a picture of what remained of the I-10 bridge between New Orleans East and Slidell. The bridge spanned a six-mile stretch of Lake Ponchartrain just north of where that lake meets Lake Bourgne. The western side of Katrina’s eye passed through there as did the surge that toppled the bridge.

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Now that we have the context of our chosen travels, here are some pics I took today (Tuesday, May 26th) when Dad and I decided to get away and breathe some fresh air and catch a glimpse of all the gone-ness and new-ness and renewed-ness along Hwy 90 between New Orleans and Gulfport.

By the way, I took all of the pics with my iPhone. Not bragging about having an iPhone, just saying I can’t believe the quality of pics it takes sometimes. Also, thanks to my friend Adam, I enhanced a few pics with iPhone  apps that I downloaded last night.

Once we got out of New Orleans East and into the bayou area between Lake Ponchartrain and Lake Bourgne, this was one of our first stops – rebuilt lake homes in the midst of abandoned pilings that once supported pre-Katrina lake homes:

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Here is a shot of those abandoned pilings that I took with the “Pano” app that takes panoramic shots:

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This pic was wild! Only one room of the washed-away home remained:

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This is a pic of the old waterpark and wavepool that Erik and friends and I would drive over to have fun at when we were growing up. Nothing but a slide is left:

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This was Dad feeling the ocean breeze through the opening in his neck collar while preparing to iChat on his computer with Jen and my kids. I took it with the panoramic app, too, and blurred it a bit for effect:

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Here are leftover pilings with a rebuilt home in the background:

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Here is a pic of a “Katrina Cottage.” Many of these were pre-engineered, sold, and brought in for people to live in while they cleaned up and rebuilt:

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Here are several very nice rebuilt homes, all brand new:

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Here is an example of a very common scene – a washed-out plot of land with a for sale sign:

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Here are some pics of a washed-out plot we drove upon. Great opportunity for some great pics, including one really cool panoramic shot I took with the “Pano” app:

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Here are a few pics of a church building and steeple that were impacted by Katrina’s winds. Remember, all of this happened almost five years ago:

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Here are four pics that I took and then enhanced with the app “CameraBag” before I downloaded them:

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The drive ended with a visit to O’Charley’s. Dad and Mom have stopped there in the past for a meal several times when they have been traveling through this area. Here’s Dad before we ordered:

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After supper, we headed back to New Orleans to get Dad to bed. He told me that he really enjoyed the drive and the afternoon. He said it was the most restful and refreshing day he’s had in quite some time. I told him we needed to do a lot more of these in the future. Life’s too short.

I was excited to get Dad out of the city and out among some fresh air. I knew he would like the look back and the look ahead of the “ground zero” corridor for Katrina. I was praying and hoping that he would feel refreshed. I think he was. Especially once the Magic won game four. 

Speaking of being renewed, Dad is definitely being renewed since the accident, in many ways. His neck and arm and legs are getting better and better. He used his walker today more than his wheelchair. He did really well. 

Mom is being renewed, too, little by little. You can read about her day by going to the Caring Bridge site we have been keeping for Mom and Dad.

Thanks for your prayers and support. Hope you enjoyed the pictures!!!

Drago’s at last.

Dad got to eat oysters at Drago’s. Erik and I had promised to take Dad to his favorite restaurant as soon as he was able to get out and go, and as soon as the three of us were all in town together to do it. Well, last night (Thursday) it happened. Erik and Dad and one of Erik’s friends, John (in town on business), and I had supper at Drago’s.

Like usual at Drago’s, Dad ate char-grilled oysters. Like usual at Drago’s, they were good. At least he said so. Personally, they are not that good. But that’s just me. Erik ate one or two. John ate a few, I think. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember him eating one. But of course, Dad ate plenty for all of us. Check out the pictures below. 

Erik and his wife and kids got into town around 5:00 yesterday evening (Thursday). Dad was super excited to see Erik’s four boys. I was, too. I absolutely love their smiles and energy and questions and red hair. They are super special. Erik will be with Mom and Dad over the weekend while I fly home again to see my family. I can’t wait to seem my beautiful wife, my amazing boy, and my enchanting girls. I will be back Sunday night.

Dad seemed like he had a good day yesterday. We awoke yesterday morning in time to make it to his Ortho appointment at the Ochsner Clinic. Great visit. They affirmed that Dad is making good progress. They affirmed that his left wrist is healing well. They affirmed that his right leg is handling weight well. They affirmed that Dad needs to get on with out-patient rehab and aggressively move forward in his occupational and physical therapy. 

What really excited Dad was when the doctor told him that he could begin to progressively put weight on his left leg (WHILE STILL IN A LEG BOOT, THOUGH) while he is walking with his walker. This was good news, and meant that his left leg is beginning to heal. One concern was the angle at which his ankles were healing. The doctor said it was too early to tell at this point, but he may need to address it later if it causes major pain in his ankles and knees when he walks. 

With regard to concerns,  the only one was Dad’s elbow. The doctor said the repair job that the University Hospital surgeons did was awesome, especially considering “the bag of bones” that his elbow and the lower part of his upper arm was (bag of bones was his exact words). He told Dad that it was definitely calcifying and healing, but part of it was coming together where it was not together before. That part was forming a “door stop” of sorts that hindered Dad’s extension and flexion. It will probably have to be surgically repaired in about 6 to 9 months. We will have to see.

After the appointment, Dad and I headed over to see Mom. She was really tired and unresponsive. Dad was discouraged. We sat down together in his room, and I tried to recount to Dad the pattern I had seen in Mom over these almost-seven weeks. I was discouraged, too, I told him, but there has definitely been a pattern of Mom being responsive for about 4 days, and then taking a day to rest. About every fourth or fifth day since she woke from the coma, she had done this – kind of hit the pause button to have a day of rest. If God needed one every seven, then someone with a traumatic brain injury needed one at least every four or five days. That’s what I figured, at least. I reminded him (and myself) that we have to take this a month at a time. Looking back over this past month, Mom has made progress. However, her infection and her fatigue definitely was a cause for rest.

We are trying to get Mom moving forward with treatment. The Brain Injury Rehab Center in Orlando is reviewing Mom’s files to determine whether they will accept her soon. A local hospital here is reviewing them, as well, to see if they will accept her as a transfer if the BIRC in Orlando is not ready for her. We will see. Please pray for wisdom for both those reviewing Mom’s records and for us as we make these decisions. 

After we left Mom’s place, we crossed the river and stopped at Super Wal-Mart to pick up a few items, and then headed to the Cafe in the Student Center on the Seminary campus. Dad enjoyed some Ethiopian Harrar coffee, and I enjoyed a white mocha. We also enjoyed hearing that the police report from the accident was finally descriptive of what actually happened. This will definitely help with logistics as we move ahead. Thanks so much to Chester Douglas and Jim Parker for all their hard work in pursuing truth with regard to the report. Y’all mean so much to us.

We sipped coffee and sat and talked for a few minutes with folks who walked up to offer welcome’s and get-well’s to Dad, while waiting for Erik and Erin and their kids to arrive. They did, and boy did Dad light up. They are the best medicine – his grandkids.

Joshua and James Christofer helped Dad exercise with his walker, walking around the atrium of the Student Center. It was fun to watch. Then, each of the four boys wanted a ride in Pop’s lap in his wheelchair, respectively. The older two took turns pushing. It was great to see them. I really love those nephews and my sister-in-law and my brother. 

After getting Erin and the boys settled into the apartment, Erik and Dad and I headed to Drago’s. It was special. Watching Dad gloat about how good his favorite restaurant’s oysters are. The only thing that would have made it better would have been Mom, who is a vegetarian, sitting there with us eating a baked potato or something. Smiling at her man enjoying oysters at Drago’s. 

That day will come. 

Tonight, I get to see my bride and kids. Speaking of Jen – she absolutely amazes me. She already did, even before all of this. My love and fondness grows daily as she loves on the kids and keeps things moving at home without me, without complaint, with a joyous heart. I love you, babe.

Erik and Dad and I just finished some coffee together, this morning. I am uploading this from the Cafe in the Student Center. We are about to upload him in the truck and head across the river to see Mom. I am hoping she makes Dad gloat this morning more than those oysters did last night. I am hoping he will be encouraged. 

Thanks for your continued prayers and your many notes. I AM TELLING YOU – THOSE NOTES GRIP DAD AND LIFE HIM UP. HE BRAGS ON THEM. Please keep them coming. He pulls them up, reads them, takes a break to wipe his eyes, and reads some more. You are encouraging him so much in that way. I am thankful for this site. 

Erik will probably post at you over the weekend. I will fly back in Sunday night and post at you Monday. Love y’all.

-jason

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my daughters.

Jen shared with me tonight a conversation she and Katey had today. Katey feels slighted at school by one of her little girl-friends. It had come to Mommy’s attention, so Jen wanted to intentionally encourage Katey this morning before school.

“Katey, you are so special. No matter what anyone ever says, you are so precious and beautiful and special.”

“But [so-and-so] doesn’t think so.”

We can all relate, I am sure. Jen went on to ask Katey how it made her feel. Katey’s response and the rest of the conversation went something like this (as best I can remember what Jen told me):

“Sad. It makes me feel sad. And it makes God feel sad, too.”

“For sure. How did you know that,” Mommy asked?

“I just know. I have special eyes and can see that kind of thing.”

Oh, Katey. May you never lose that vision. May you never lose that insight into what God sees. Especially about yourself. May you rest assured in His view of you, in His declaration of your worth (you are worth dying for), and in His perception of your beauty.

I should be in bed. But that conversation stuck with me. I was about to put the computer up and hit the hay, but I just couldn’t let it go. So, I stayed up way too late and put this video together. I put it together not so much for my daughters now, but for the day when their perception of themselves has been clouded by the dark haze of enhanced bodies and touched-up photos causing them to forget their God-given beauty and their declared worth. For the day when Katey may have come to believe that the seen is more real than the unseen. For the day when she no longer looks through the eyes of a little girl.

Katey, Abby, and Ella, please promise me you will watch this again at 13 and 18 and 21 and beyond. 

I love you more than life. You are pictures of profound love and unending beauty to me. And you are to your Heavenly Father, as well.

Here’s the video. No sound at first. Just words to read. Then the song and pics kick in. Hope it encourages you and the beauties of our life.

my son Caleb. my dad Pop.

Read the latest update on Mom and Dad by clicking here.

Here is a gallery of images from Caleb being with me this week so far and Pop having therapy. I am so thankful Caleb is here. I am very, very proud of and pleased with my son. He is a joy to me. I am also so proud of Pop. He is amazing. Very driven to get back on his feet, literally.

Caleb and Pop and Pop's therapist Jennifer at therapy.

 

Pop pushing his wheelchair on his own. Caleb following close behind.

Pop pushing his wheelchair on his own. Caleb following close behind.

 

Caleb walking with Pop and Jennifer and a PT student.

Caleb walking with Pop and Jennifer and a PT student.

Caleb is counting Pop's steps. He walked 155 steps in this session.

Caleb is counting Pop's steps. He walked 155 steps in this session.

 

Pop is determined.

Pop is determined.

Pop practicing going from his walker into a car that sits as a prop in the rehab gym.

Pop practicing going from his walker into a car that sits as a prop in the rehab gym.

He got in!!!

He got in!!!

Caleb and I at a New Orleans Zephyrs game.

Caleb and I at a New Orleans Zephyrs game.

 

Caleb with Boudreaux, the Zephyrs mascot.

Caleb with Boudreaux, the Zephyrs mascot.

it’s amazing what a little Caleb can do.

It’s amazing what a little Caleb can do. If you meet my son, you typically and immediately know two things: he is a focused, pensive kid and he is a confident kid. 

Probably could throw a third in there, too – he likes NASCAR. He has gotten Dad into it, BIG TIME. In fact, Caleb created a book (seriously – a book with like 32 pages in it) he sent to Dad early on after the accident about a NASCAR race at Talladega that he imagined. He illustrated the book all by himself, with the story in his head. Then, he dictated the story for each page to his mommy, who penned the words beneath his pictures in her A+ penmanship. Did I mention he is 7? Oh, wait…7 and a half. Did I mention I am proud of him?

My dad is proud of Caleb, too. And proud of the book. He shows it to everyone who comes into the room. Everyone! Visitors, nurses, doctors, techs, therapists, cockroaches, pain-medicine-induced ferries who visit him during the night, people who wander off of Jefferson Hwy asking for directions. Everyone. And why not? Dad has always loved talking about the people who mean so much to him. 

You should have seen him smile when Caleb walked into his room Sunday night. 

Caleb flew back with me Sunday evening to see his Ammaw and Pop and hang out with me for the week. His teacher gave me his school work, which we began doing yesterday afternoon at Starbucks. I have really missed him and his sisters and his mommy while I’ve been here. It is great to have him here. After we take supper to Pop tonight, I am surprising him with a New Orleans Zephyrs game. They are the AAA minor league team of the Florida Marlins, and their stadium is about a mile from Dad’s hospital. Tickets were $10 for me and $9 for him. The lady said we would be resting our feet on the top of the dugout. I can’t wait to see his face! Maybe we’ll catch a foul ball to bring back to Pop.

We flew in Sunday evening, in time to cross the river and wish Mom a Happy Mother’s Day. She smiled so big when she saw Caleb. She didn’t notice him at first when I walked in, but then she did. Her smile is so beautiful. Half-smile that is. I asked her to wink at him. She did. He smiled. It was very obvious he was thankful to see his Ammaw, and she was thankful to see him. We couldn’t stay long, because visiting hours end at 8:30. We stayed until the clock read that exactly, and headed real quick to stop and see Pop. We had to grab the key to the apartment, too, which Erik had left there in Pop’s room.

I wish I had taken a picture of Pop when he saw Caleb. He gave Caleb as big of a hug as someone can give with a neck collar and a broken arm and a wheelchair.

We stayed for a minute, grabbed the key, and headed toward the apartment. Since we had not eaten supper yet (it was 9:00), we stopped for a quick bite at Serrano’s. Caleb wanted some cheese quesadillas. We ate and watched the end of the Celtics-Magic game. It didn’t end like I wanted, but Caleb actually cheers for both of those teams – the Magic cause they are in Orlando, and Boston cause they are green (his favorite color).

After a short but restful night’s sleep, we hit the ground running yesterday (Monday). A Tall Decaf was delivered to Dad. He had already eaten breakfast. We helped him take a bath and change clothes. Then, we watched him do his therapy. 

Caleb and Pop and Pop's therapist Jennifer at therapyCaleb was so interested. You can see from the picture that he was excited to see Pop upright. And Dad did so well. He walked with his walker 106 feet in his morning session and 150 feet in his afternoon session. You should see him. Pretty amazing watching him utilize that walker to keep the weight off of his left leg, while using his right leg as tolerated. 

Then, the therapist brought out the game Connect 4. She wanted Pop to play Caleb in it while standing up. She raised a table up, and the competition began. These are two competitive dudes, now. Pop won two straight games. Then Caleb won one. I think Pop let him win, though. I don’t remember him ever doing that to me. Grandchildren are special. 

The last part of therapy was Caleb and Pop throwing a soft, cushy, orange ball back and forth to each other. Caleb really liked that. 

When therapy was over, Caleb and I crossed the river to see Mom. We hung with her for a while. She nodded and shook her head at stuff. She still has the tracheotomy. Still can’t talk. Still not moving her arms, although moving her right arm would be tough anyway with the big heavy cast on it. We are hoping that they will remove the cast this week. It should be healed by now for the type of fracture that was in her wrist.

Now the therapy gets intense – physical, respiratory, and speech. We are not sure they have started speech therapy yet. I am trying to get that going for her today. Some friends of ours who do that told us that it is important to get that going and get her weaned off the tracheotomy as soon as we can.

Thanks to the people who have made suggestions. And, thanks to the people who are trying to help us get Mom and Dad transferred back to Orlando. Lots of logistics have to line up for that to happen. Please pray for “The BIRC” (Brain Injury Rehab Center) there to accept Mom. Please pray for the neurologist here to communicate with us about Mom’s latest condition and to give us a plan for when they will put the skull piece back on. Please pray for logistics to move forward and work out for Mom to be flown by “med-flight” to Orlando. She will need trained folks and a plane that is equipped to hold a hospital bed or at least an ambulance-type of stretcher. Please pray for her bedsores to heal. Please pray for her infection to be controlled and eradicated. 

MRSA is a big deal. I am taking big precautions with Caleb seeing her. He is wearing med gloves (which look funny on him they are so big). He is washing his hands before we leave. He is using anti-bacterial wipes when we get in the car. He is not touching anything in the whole hospital where Mom is. Please pray for that MRSA to go away. It’s not good for anyone.

Please pray for Pop to be conscious of when he has taken his pain meds. I ask all the time, but we are not there all the time, either, going back and forth. He really needs to stay ahead of the pain now that he is doing such hard therapy. Please pray for him to continue to be patient with this long process. Pray that his mind will be active on the things he is dreaming of and working on with work. Pray for his left leg in particular. It has a lot of healing to do. And, most of all, please pray for his heart not getting to see Mom. We are hoping to take him back over soon. We will see. 

Well, I really can’t say it enough, but THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR CONCERN AND FRIENDSHIP AND SUPPORT AND PRAYERS. You all have been so significant in this process. We really do have a long way to go. Especially with Mom. Please keep praying. 

Thanks for your love. We love you and appreciate you.
-jason

standing by each other

After an amazing dinner last night with Don and Trisha Richard at Bistro Daisy on Magazine, and after Dad ate his crawfish ravioli take-out from there, Erik and Dad and I sat in his hospital room and watched a movie. I set up his laptop where we all could see it, and we watched “The Bucket List” with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Great movie. We highly recommend it, especially the scene about Kopi Luwak coffee. You might even laugh until you cry. 

After the movie, I told Erik and Dad something I am sharing with you, not because I want you to think we are circumstantially sentimental, but only because I hope you will do it, too. I asked them, “Will yall commit to something? As we move forward, let’s keep doing it together. Let’s do it with no regrets.” 

They agreed. Doing life together with family and friends is what matters. Experiencing the fullness of life matters, and it is only truly full when we experience it together. I love my wife and kids and brother and sister-in-law and nephews and Mom and Dad and friends. I am thankful for how we all have walked together so closely in life, and I am grateful for how all of you have walked with us through this. And there will be more life yet to live abundantly together. So, let’s do it. And let’s not require random accidents to be necessary as reminders of how precious life is. 

Check out this video and website our friend, Tom, shared with Dad and me the other day. It was recorded in multiple places across the planet over several years and then edited together. A beautiful picture of the beauty of togetherness as we blend together in deep relationship and “stand by” one another through this life. 

Following Jesus makes life together the ultimate and makes it everlasting. May you follow Him if you don’t already. It’s more than a religious choice. In fact, it’s no religious choice at all. It’s a choice for life. Abundant life. Life in the now and forever. In relationship with the God who loved us first, and whose love transforms our relationships into the love and togetherness that we can only know in Him. 

Love yall. Thankful to be doing life with you in this way. I’ll post at you Monday. 
-jason 

an “appointment” at West Jeff

Watching Dad and Mom see each other again today was unforgettable. Here are four pics to give you a glimpse of Dad’s special “appointment” away from his hospital over to Mom’s.

superman-going-to-see-wonder-womanWe cleaned Dad up and rolled him downstairs to hop in the car. He slid into the car from his wheelchair across his sliding board, I stored the chair in the trunk, and we were off. We crossed the river and headed to West Jefferson hospital, stopping briefly to grab Mom some lip balm. Dad waited in the car. Once we arrived, we found a parking place and headed in. Here’s Superman in front of Mom’s hospital.

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Here is Dad beside Mom’s bed. They were both smiling. If you know them well, to catch them both smiling in a picture is rare. Not sure why that is. Today, though, they were definitely smiling.

 

 

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 I threw this one in for fun. It is for those of you who still haven’t seen me with a beard, but have said you want to. Not sure why you want to, but here you go. Weird huh? Mom likes it. So does Jen.

 

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Here’s Dad and me coming back across the river on the Huey P. Long bridge. He was on the phone. I was taking the picture. He was telling all about the special “appointment.” Fun stuff.

 

 

Oh yeah – before we got there, Mom’s physical therapists got her limbs moving and even SAT MOM UP!!! They had to support her body and neck, but what an awesome step in her recovery!!! We’ll see where we go from here. Here’s two pics:

 

moving Mom's broken arm.

moving Mom's broken arm.

sitting Mom up...with a lot of help.

sitting Mom up...with a lot of help.