Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Sunday after church, Alex and I left for Birmingham. He had an appointment with a new doctor on Monday morning. We had a nice trip up. Had a fine supper at Cheesecake Factory....o.k., we had some dessert, too. We then stopped by Barnes and Noble to see what was new, bought some books and mags, and headed to our motel. We both were tired, so we climbed into bed and looked at our new books. Ian came over to visit when he got off work at 10:30, but he could only stay for a short while.

We got up in time to partake of the breakfast at the motel, then headed downtown to the Kirklin Clinic. Didn't have to wait long for the doctor. We both liked her very much. She read Alex's previous reports, and studied his MRI scans. She was very thorough and knowledgeable. Her finding were not much different from what we had been told before, however. She said basically what we had been told by other doctors. His disease is progressive and there is no treatment. She did , however, stress to Alex that he MUST get into an exercise program to strengthen his muscles and prevent them from atrophy, as well. She wants to do some follow up nerve conduction tests on his leg muscles as well as another MRI on the neck and spinal cord. Because there are several types of cerebellar atrophy, it would be of benefit
to us to know exactly which type he has. Then IF there is a breakthrough in research, we will know immediately if it would be appropriate for him. She had nothing to offer us in the way of help for his pain. She said that unfortunately, the pain goes along with some types of the disease. It is real and excruciating she says, but there is no treatment other than what we are already doing. They did a series of blood work while we were there, and we will get the other studies scheduled ASAP.

This is not the news that we were hoping to get. As far fetched as it seems, we hoped to hear that was some great new idea or treatment we had not tried yet. But, I guess we both really knew it was a long shot. This is a hateful disease, and it strikes as it wills. There is no rhyme or reason...it just is. She said that he has had it from birth. You know, that is scary, he had this disease for 12 years and we didn't even know it. Even though he started having migraines at age 4, we never dreamed it would escalate to this. I suppose it's good to be in the dark about some things. But, now that we know he has this, we want to know everything, and that is not possible. There are far greater and more learned minds than ours who study this area of the brain, and THEY don't even know. That, however, frustrates me even more. It's bad enough to watch someone you love suffer, but to not be able to understand and grasp the workings of this cruel thief is beyond despair.

I know that there is one who knows...and understands. God knows why He allowed Alex to carry this burden. And He, alone, knows the outcome. I know and trust in the wisdom of God. I know and trust that in this universe He created, he knows Alex by name and by heart. He holds his soul in His hands and He will give him the strength to deal with it. Because we believe that NOTHING can happen to us without God allowing it, we believe He has a purpose for Alex to fulfill on this earth. God has allowed Alex to have a brilliant mind in spite of the effects of the Cerebellar Atrophy. He expects Alex to use the gifts he has given him even though it may be harder to do than for the average man. However, we also believe that whatever task God gives us, He will equip us with all we need to carry it out. Now having said all that, it's only fair to say this, "IT IS NOT EASY!" It is so much easier to lay in bed and try to sleep and get away from it all...to let the world go by and not join in...to get angry that you have to deal with this. So I ask for your prayers, for this family. We want to help Alex in any way we can...but it comes down to him. He has to pull from his own strength and willpower to get through this trial. We can lend a hand, and offer support and encouragement...but it ultimately is his call. He is not angry, I do not want to give that impression. But he is not as forceful in fighting back as we would like. And it is probably not even fair for me to say that, because it is not me, and I can only try to understand how he feels. But, I love him with my whole heart and I want to best for him. And, I want the Father to look at him one day and say, "You did a good job, Alex." Which is what we should all strive for.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Hi friends...I'm back. We just returned from our week at Santa Rosa Beach and Destin, Fl. It was wonderful. God has created such a beautiful world and his beaches are my favorite. The sun, the sand, the ocean, the air,...it's the best!

We rented a house and Don, Alex, Suzanne, Adam and myself were there all week. Ian got to come down for 3 nights. Then Don's sister and husband and daughter came for 2 nights. So we were able to have lots of good family time. We played in the pool, and on the beach, we read, I did craft projects, we sun bathed, we ate, we shopped, we slept, we played Sorry(our fav family game)....we just had a real vacation. I feel very blessed to have had this time with my family. God is good to us. Alex was able to be up and out some of the time...that was an added blessing, and I am so grateful to God for giving him some relief.

I was able to have another GREAT ADVENTURE! I got to meet Kat! Oh, this was fun. We talked first on the phone, then made plans to meet for lunch. I knew her immediately...but she's even cuter in person! I felt at once that I had known her forever. Our conversation flowed so easily...from one subject to another. When you meet another kindred spirit who has the same values and beliefs as you, it's as if you are sisters already. And that's the way I felt with Kat. I know she shared a picture with you, and that will have to do...because my camera had an unfortunate meeting with a sand dune. It is in therapy even as we speak...and my hope is that it will live to record beautiful events again. So, even though I do not have actual pictures of our visit...I have wonderful memories in my heart...that I can play again and again.

I posted some pics for you to see. These were made just prior to the untimely demise of the event recorder. So, that was the last of the pics. And even though my oldest son, the professional photographer, the one with whom I shared my artistic talents, had his camera...he said HE was on vacation, too...and that included taking pics. Oh well...that's the way it goes.

I am going to go and check on all my buddies now and see what you have all been up to. Catch you later...

Cute Boys...Front Porch

Cute Boys...Front Porch
Originally uploaded by Tonja Owens

Tonja and Don #2

Tonja and Don #2
Originally uploaded by Tonja Owens
Me and my honey.

Tonja and the Beach Boys

Tonja and the Beach Boys
Originally uploaded by Tonja Owens

Suzanne and Adam #1

Suzanne and Adam #1
Originally uploaded by Tonja Owens
Cutest couple on the beach!

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I want you bloggy friends to know that I love you girls so much...I'm taking time away from the glorious sunshine to blog. 'Cause inquiring minds want to know. Yes, I did meet the famous person...and it was all I thought it would be. And Jean, it WAS Kat!!!! We had such fun and she was just as great as I imagined. I am using my son's computer and the internet is in and out...so I will sign off and fill you in on all the details later. Hope you have a sunny day.....hope I do,to!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Santa Rosa Beach

Santa Rosa Beach
Originally uploaded by Tonja Owens
Today, my family and I are heading out for a beach fling at Santa Rosa Beach (near Destin). We have a house rented for the week. It's walking distance to the ocean and has its own private pool. We are all so excited! Alex is going with us, as are Suzanne and Adam. And Sweet Ian is coming down from B'ham for a few days. Don's sisters and families will be joining us for the end of the week. I plan to go to Publix when I get there, and buy stuff for sandwiches, a cook-out, potatoe salad and brownies...then I am off duty. It's every man and woman for themselves! Mom made us one of her Best in the World pound cakes...so all is well...no one will starve.

I heard a very famous person will be making an appearance in Destin while we are there. I've confirmed that it is indeed possible. So my plans are to be at the right place to at least catch a glimpse of said person...and maybe even get to exchange a few words. I'm not gonna jinx it telling you the name...but you know you can count on me to fill you in when I get back. Wish me luck.

Here's hoping you have a great, fun filled week ahead. I'll report in when I return.



Friday, July 20, 2007

Award Time

These two awards were given to me by Lynne at Lynne's Little Corner of the World.

Here's what they mean:

The Creative Blogger Award is for those who bring unique and creative elements to their blogs. For those who incorporate art, music, creative writing, photo's, and other beautiful visual effects into their website. For those who put a unique spin on things and come up with new ideas. This award is for the artsy, the funky, the inventor, and even the rebel. This award is for those creative individuals who stand out from the crowd.
The Thoughtful Blogger Award is for those who answer blog comments, emails, and make their visitors feel at home on their blogs. For the people who take others' feelings into consideration before speaking out and who are kind and courteous. Also for all of those bloggers who spend so much of their time helping other bloggers design, improve, and fix their sites. This award is for those generous bloggers who think of others.

Well, I'm speechless. And humbled. Thank-you so much, Lynne. My desire is to always be thoughtful in all I do. I believe that as Christians we are called to do that. I'm afraid I fall short at times, but as I've gotten older, I've tried to look at things from both sides and try to see the other person's viewpoint. It's really OK if we don't all agree on everything. God did make us all different, didn't He? But, I can respect your feelings and thoughts, as I hope you respect mine. The way we view the world comes from our individual experiences...which are so varied. If we had all lived the same life , we may all think alike. But, as it is, I think we are to use our experiences and life lessons to help others and to learn from one another.

Now, as for the creativity award. Being creative, I think, means that you are not content to see things just in black and white. You want to see it in every color possible. And in as many different shapes as possible. It means that there is always something you can add or take away. It means that what you think and dream...can be done...if you want it bad enough. Sometimes, it means frustation and aggravation when others don't want to bother to try something new...or listen to what you think. Other times it means being proud that you really did find a new and better way. I love to do things with my hands...to try and bring what is inside my head out into the open for all to see. And there is great satisfaction in that. I think all of us bloggers are creative people. It is our desire to share our thoughts with the world. To share our lives with the world. To share who we are with the world. And so we create our blogs and wait and hope and pray that someone will read it, and enjoy it and affirm our part in the universe. God, I think, put that desire into us. And we are blessed to have a way to share it. When someone comments...that's a person who 'gets us'. And, doesn't it feel good? We may paint, or collage, or make music or design jewelry, or sew or decorate. We may teach or preach or cook or build beautiful buildings. We may be able to understand great thought, or write great books. We may build grand highways or care for animals. We may practice the healing arts or we may have perfected the art of listening. Whatever your gift of creativity is...use it. It's a gift from God...the ultimate Creator.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

More Sweet Smiles

More Sweet Smles
Originally uploaded by Tonja Owens

Sweet Smiles

Sweet Smiles
Originally uploaded by Tonja Owens

A Kiss for Granny

A Kiss for Granny
Originally uploaded by Tonja Owens
Alex and Granny

2 Great Minds

2 Great Minds
Originally uploaded by Tonja Owens
Pop and Alex


One of my favorite verses is: "Because of God's great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

Alex has been having some really hard days lately...he has been in so much pain and along with the disappearance of his meds...it's been a hard couple of weeks. Today was his regular visit to the doctor. Adam was going to take him, but he had some computer problems he had to work on, so I got ready and took him. Alex does not see well enough to drive. He was feeling pretty rough when we left home, (pain level 10) but later on...he began to feel better. After his visit, I asked him if he'd like to do something else before we went home. " How about Books-A-Million?" he said. So, off we went. (His pain level was down to a 6.) And for the next 2 hours, he looked at books. He is quite a lover of books and the books on tape have been wonderful for him when his eyes are not focusing well. He was able to get 3 books and several magazines. And his balance was good enough that he didn't need my help. I picked up a book that I had been wanting to buy...but would not spend $39.95 for...and sat down and looked through it. I'm glad I didn't waste my money. When we checked out, the cashier even told him to go back and get another one free...they had a 3 for 2 special.

We left there and went to pick up his meds, and started home...when he said,"Let's go see Granny and Pop." So, we surprised them. They had just finished supper [they eat at 5:00, ya'll], so we all sat down and had a nice visit. Alex does love his Granny and Pop. They had been watching some old VHS tapes that Pop had made when the boys were young, and they all enjoyed reliving some of those fun times. Alex called his Dad and the 2 of them just left to go out to eat and to a movie. I think they are going to see Transformers...UGH!

Friends, God has a way of throwing these good days at us just when we do not think we can go on. I have not slept much the past 2 nights, and have been really tired, but God gave me a renewed strength to do all that Alex wanted to do. "Thank-you, God." Alex got to feeling better and was able to spend some time doing what he enjoys. "Thank-you, God." We were able to visit with Mom and Pop and talk about 'old times' and sweet memories. "Thank-you, God." And Alex and Don are able to spend some guy time tonight enjoying each others company and having fun. "Thank-you, God."

I can testify that just when we need it most...when we think we are going to "be consumed," He comes through with His "compassions that never fail..." "Thank-you, God". His words are true...His promises never fail. "Thank-you, God for giving me today...just an ordinary day doing ordinary things...but, oh, so sweet!" Today, I have "rejoiced in the day that God made."


Little Bird
Originally uploaded by Tonja Owens
Every happening----

is a parable
where God speaks to us.

is to

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Jesus and Satan were having an on-going discussion about who was better on the computer. They had been going at it for days and God was growing tired of all the bickering. Finally, God was fed up and He said,"THAT'S IT! I have had enough. I am going to set up a test that will last for 2 hours, and from the results I will judge who does the better job." So Jesus and Satan sat down at their keyboards and typed away. They moused. They faxed. They e-mailed. They e-mailed with attachments. They downloaded. They did spreadsheets. They wrote reports. They created labels. They created cards. They created charts and graphs. They did geneology reports. They blogged. They did every computer job possible. Then 10 minutes before their time was up, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, rain poured, and of course, the power went off. Satan stared at his blank screen and shouted every curse word known to man. Jesus just sighed. Finally, the power came back on, and each of them restarted their computers. Satan started searching frantically, screaming "It's gone! It's all GONE! I lost everything when the power went out!!!" Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing out all of His files from the past 2 hours work. Satan observed this and became irate. "WAIT!"
he screamed. "That's not fair! He cheated! How come he has all his work and I don't have any?" God just shrugged and said, "JESUS SAVES!"

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


What an honor! Thanks to Dianne, at Glasses of Grace, who has chosen me for this award. I found sweet Dianne through some other bloggers I met and it seems as if we are on the same wave length about many things. I adore reading about her adventures with her neices. She has an awesome relationship with them. They both are blessed to have each other in their lives.

When I think of the word "reflection", I am reminded that a reflection is a picture of who we really are. In this internet world, I have chosen to be the "reflection" of the real me. The one that does not try to act smarter or wiser than I really am. The me that is dumfounded by some things and in absolute awe of others. The me that loves to make people laugh and feel comfortable, and the me that needs private time alone to regroup. I am so honored that Dianne thought enough of my feeble attempts at communication to share this award with me. I hope my "reflection" always leads my readers to see my love of the Lord, my appreciation of the beautiful world He provided for us, and my love of the people He chose to put into my circle of life. I thank God for these blessings with much humility. I have the sweetest group of friends in this bloggy world that I count on daily.....thank-you for your reflection of true friendship! Love you all!

Click on the award to read about the origin of this award and the thought behind it.

I have put much thought into the blogs I list on my blogroll. I choose to list only those whose values and lifestyle are similar to mine. Ones who I can feel comfortable with recommending to others. So, since so many have already been chosen for this award, I offer to you as my nomination those who appear on my blogroll. Thanks, ladies for enlightening me daily.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Yesterday my Sunday School class took a ladies trip to see the musical, MENOPAUSE. We travelled to the Shakespeare Theater in Montgomery, had a lovely dinner at Olive Garden, and got seated a few minutes before show time. Let me just say this..."best return for my money in a long time." It was hilarious! I laughed and clapped and hooted and hollered and laughed and sang along and laughed and clapped and shouted and laughed. That was for the first song....there were about 25 more. The best 2 hours I've spent in a long time. The show features 4 women ...over 40...and nearing or into that "special time of change." Then they parody songs from the 50's, 60's, 70's. They cover it all...hot flashes, night sweats, forgetfullness, weight gain, sex or lack thereof, irritability, etc. You know...all those things us "seasoned ladies" deal with on a daily basis. I urge you to go if it comes anywhere near you. There is a national website:
www.menopausethemusical.com . Here you can find the tour cities. You can also order the CD and songbook and other stuff. Just to listen to the CD is fun. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, July 13, 2007


While looking around in the vast internet world, I came upon the neatest site. It's a quiz of sorts that asks about your living preferences. Things like climate, culture, medical facilities, sports, etc. I answered all my questions with abandon...exactly what I would pick if I could design my own city. After you finish, it then lists 24 of the places in America that are most suited to you and your wishes. My #5 spot is the place I live now!!!!!! How funny is that!! I guess sometimes you have just what you want and don't even realize it! That could be said for lots of things, couldn't it?

Anyway, try it out and see where your spot is... You may already be there!!!

http:// www.findyourspot.com

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I am very sad today, my friends. I am having trouble understanding life and the way things happen and why people do what they do.

As I have told you, my middle son Alex has a very serious disease which causes him to be in severe pain almost constantly. He is under the care of several doctors and sees a pain management specialist for pain control. As such, he is taking some big time pain meds. This is a very tightly controlled substance. He gets his prescriptions a month at a time, and each pill has to be accounted for. Alex is very conscious of this and is very careful of his medication. He has enough to get him to his next doctors appointment exactly, and no more. Usually, the doctor will take him off of this every year or so to give his body a break, but to do so means he has to go through withdrawal, which is a very bad thing. But this is the safest way for him to continue to take this medication. And this is the only thing that works for him.

Over the last 3 or 4 months, he has mentioned that he has seemed to be short a few pills. We chalked it up to just a mistake in counting or negligence in putting it away. But, on Monday night, as he was counting out his meds for the week [he puts it in boxes for each day a week at the time], he discovered about 20 pills are missing. That means that he would be going almost a week with no meds. And, we have wracked our brains trying to figure out what has happened. There is no way, he could have taken too much. And we know he got the proper number from the druggist when it was filled the last time. Don and Adam counted it all out to be sure. We always do. But, still 20 of this pain med is gone. And we are confused. Several people have keys to our house, family, and 2 friends. But these all know how much Alex suffers and I can not imagine that anyone who knows Alex would willingly cause him to suffer. It is possible some one else may have gotten hold of a key, and came in, but how did they get by Scooter. He is a fox terrier, and is extremely protective. No one can imagine him letting a stranger in the house. We have had the same locks for 20 years or so, so maybe we have forgotten about a key or something. Anyway, for the doctor to give Alex meds to make up for the ones he's missing, we had to file a police report. Which is o.k., because this needs to be reported. They came and said that it probably is someone we know, who has gotten a few along and figures that since they haven't gotten caught, it is safe to take more. Also, I have realized that a bottle of pain meds I have for my arthritis was missing last month. I thought I must have just misplaced it, because I do that quite often, but now, I'm not so sure. We have not found anything else missing, and my jewelry has been here and other valuables also. I had to take the police report to the doctor and give it to them before they could legally give Alex any more meds. But, we've done that now and all under control. We have also bought a safe for Alex to keep his meds in...which means he has to go into the safe three times a day to get it.

So, here I am..... angry, and hurt, and disappointed. I just can not wrap my mind around this. Who would do this to us...to Alex? I feel violated...someone has violated my home, my family, my trust. I just don't understand. We should not have to lock up things in our house in order to properly care for our son. This is just not right. What kind of person would do this? Alex is the sweetest, kindest, most gentle person you could ever know...anyone who would willingly hurt him is vile. He suffers so much and he is only able to cope with the pain because of this medicine. He doesn't complain and doesn't bother anyone...in fact he is always ready to help anyone any time he can. I do not even know if I want to know who did this, because I do not think I can take it. I so hope it is someone I do not know. Our locks are being changed, but even this is expense we shouldn't have to deal with.

So, I did not get to go with Don to Birmingham. I missed celebrating with Ian, and I missed going to the doctor with Don today. There was no way I could leave yesterday, and they both knew I had to be here. Ian had a nice birthday. Don took several of his friends out to eat and then his roommate had planned a surprise party for him when he got back home. Don's scans showed that everything looks the same as before. So, the doctor feels good about everything. He is going to do some comparing and call us with more definitive results.

Please pray for me. My heart is broken, and I am having a hard time putting this in its proper place. I trust that God sees and knows all that happens to me and my family. I trust Him to lead us in the right direction. I know, too, that nothing happens to one of His children without going through Him first. He sees and knows and He will help us as we deal with this, but right now, it sure is hard.

Monday, July 9, 2007


Ian, Granny, Pop
Originally uploaded by Tonja Owens
This week has several special days in it for our family. Sunday, july 8, was Mom and Pop's 56th anniversary. Today, July 9, is Pop's 81st birthday. And, tomorrow, July 10, is Ian's 24th birthday. So, HAPPY DAYS to you all.

We are going to Birmingham tomorrow to see Ian for his birthday. Then Don sees the doctor on Wednesday morning for a follow-up MRI on his brain. But, I feel very good about that...I think that all will be well.

So, I'll catch up with you, my friends, when I return.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Button Purse

Button Purse
Originally uploaded by Tonja Owens
Wanted to share with you the cute purse I got in Maui. It is an almost metallic copper fabric and the buttons are mother-of-pearl. I bought it in a little art gallery in the town of Paia. I think it is beautiful, and a wonderful souvenir of my trip.

Of course, now I'll have to buy an outfit and shoes to match! :)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

IAN...Part 2

As time came for the second surgery, we were excited about the possibilities this would open up for Ian. He was still having to eat every few hours and still choked quite a bit, so he had to be watched constantly. But, we were managing fairly well. We checked into the hospital when Ian was 14 months old for a cleft palate repair and a lip revision. They would completely close the palate and do some refining work on the nose. FYI: When we are being formed in the womb, our faces form from the outside by the ears and meets in the middle, and closes together along the 2 lines above the upper lip and the middle ridge in the palette. When there is weak muscle or some other problem, instead of the 2 sides closing together, they grow up to attach to a stronger tissue. This is why the lips of a child with cleft curl up. Everything is there that is needed for a perfect lip, it's just not in the right place. In the palate, the tissue that is needed to close the palate, rolls up along side the gum. As in the lip, all the tissue that is needed to cover the roof of the mouth is there...it is just a matter of unrolling it and sewing it in place. Sound easy? Imagine doing all this in the mouth of an infant. These doctors are truly miracle workers. When I asked his doctor how he was going to work in a mouth so tiny, he told me that I did not want to know. I asked no more about that. Ian was taken to surgery, and we were told that as soon as he could drink from a cup and keep liquids down, he could leave the hospital. [We were so blessed in the fact that my mom's family all still live within 2 hours of the hospital. We were able to stay with my Aunt Marie for all of these surgeries, and still be close enough to get back to the hospital if needed. She has been a Saint to open her heart and home to us all these years.] When Ian came out of surgery, we were shocked. He looked awful. He was swollen so badly and there was a long string attached with a stitch running through his tongue. This was in case of swelling, his tongue could be pulled back to keep his airway open. He was again in arm restraints...and he was mad! Drink from a cup..".no, thank you. I will have nothing. Just do NOT touch me!" All he wanted to do was lay in our laps...but nothing to drink. We started by giving him chocolate milk( his fav) through a syringe. He would swallow a few drops but nothing else. Now this hospital stay was particularly nerve racking...he could not use a sippy cup...he had to drink from a regular cup! Mercy! We went round and round for a few days and then I decided I had had enough. I was secure in the fact that if I could get him back to my aunt's house, I could take care of him and see that he drank. So, I'm ashamed to say...I lied. Yes, I did. I told them that he was drinking from a cup, and he wasn't. Now, I do not recommend this, but I also knew that I had sense enough to take him back to the hospital if I could not do it at home. So, off we went. Back to my aunt's house. Now, Ian was not cooperating with my plan, and I knew he had to drink. CAUTION: This may sound a little drastic, but it worked, and we all lived to tell about it.

Please don't judge me. In some situations, you just have to do what works until something better comes along. The team of three, Don, Aunt Marie, and myself would lay him on the floor. Aunt Marie would hold his legs, Don would hold his head still, and I would straddle his chest with a syringe full of chocolate milk. When he would open his mouth to cry, I shot in a little milk. It worked. The milk stayed in...but he was not a happy camper. We managed to get a few ounces in every few hours and we did this around the clock for 3 days. Finally, I think he just gave up and decided it was going to be the cup or the floor feedings. From then on, he drank from a cup pretty well. He was still in arm restraints and unhappy...but at least he was eating. After 2 weeks, the doctor said we could come home, and could start on some soft foods. And life became much easier after that. He still had a few places in his palate that would leak, but for the most part...all was well.

He started in speech therapy at the age of 2...he was ready to talk. And he has never talked with a nasal sound. Don and I felt that it was as important for him to sound well as it was for him to look well. Since the cleft extended through the gum line in the front of his mouth, much, much orthodontics had to be done. He has had bone grafted into gum twice and began wearing braces when he was about 6, until his second year of college. Can you imagine? As I said before...everything was there, it was just in the wrong place. Teeth came in in the strangest places and had to be moved or pulled. It was always one procedure after another. All along the way, we would continue to shape his nose or refine his lips. He had one of his hardest surgeries while he was in high school. They took cartilage from behind his ear and used it to build up his nose. More bone grafts. In total, about 10 major surgeries....visits to UNC every year and countless trips for orthodontia treatment with a doctor here who, bless God, knew the doctor in N.C. and was able to keep within their guidelines and time lines. His last surgery was in November of last year when the oral surgeon tried once again to close up that last little hole in his palate. But, it still didn't work, so Ian is just going to have to live with that. The doctor said that He could straighten his nose a little more, if he liked...but Ian decided that he was happy with his look, and did not want more reconstruction. He had veneers put on his teeth last year and they are beautiful! Talk about a MILLION DOLLAR SMILE!!!!!!

His heart condition has given trouble off and on since the beginning. Eventually, we had to have surgery for it. First, in Birmingham. This procedure did not seem to help, so he had to have it done again, but more drastic. He is much better now, but will still have a few break through attacks, but these are usually managed by meds.

Now, it is devastating when you see your baby for the first time and you see anything less than perfection. But, our prayer to God was that He would give Ian a personality that would outshine his facial imperfection. That he would be outgoing and happy, and never let this defect be a hindrance to him. I am here to testify to you that God answered our prayers abundantly more than we asked. From the very beginning, Ian has been the kind of child who was going to be your friend...whether you wanted him to or not. People were drawn to him and he has never had a problem talking to anyone. We tried to give him all the tools he would need to deal with this as he grew. Even talking about what others may say to him. I was so proud when his kindergarten teacher shared this with me.... " several of the kids noticed Ian's scar and started asking him why he had a scar on his face. Of course, as kids do, when one starts something, they all join in. Soon, they were all talking about Ian's face. The scar and the nose, which was crooked. He asked me if he could talk to the whole class at one time, and I said yes. He stood up boldly and said, "when I was born, my face did not finish growing. So the doctor had to operate on me and put it together. That is why I have a scar. Now, don't ask me about it anymore, it just like any other scar." And with that, he sat down...and nothing more was ever said. He has always had many friends and been a leader among his peers. He loves the Lord, and seeks to serve him in all he does. He has finished college at Samford University and is in grad school there now. God has blessed us all with the gift of Ian. He has been stubborn and willful at times, but as a Mom, I can say that I have never worried about him getting into trouble or taking the wrong path. When he would go out as a teenager, I did not fret or worry. He has always surrounded himself with the highest caliber of people. He has friends of all ages and has always been one to stick up for the underdog...even when it was not the most popular thing to do.

I have to give thanks to my wonderful family. My parents , and my late Mother-in-law, have always been at the ready to help in any way. With 2 other boys, there was always much to be done. And my sister, Joy, has stepped in numerous times to do whatever was necessary. Even though our lives were turned upside down so often, God provided a built -in support system to always be there for us. I also have super friends that I can call at a moment's notice.

O.K. This is getting mushy, but I wanted to say all of this as a testimony to God who blesses us so richly above what we deserve. Even when things start out uncertain...He can work it all out to perfection. "He has made everything beautiful in His time." Ecclesiastes 3:11

When I asked Ian about including early pictures of himself, he did not hesitate. "Sure, " he said.

So, I offer you this link to see some of the changes he went through.


Tonja and Ian

Today, I will tell you the story of my youngest son, Ian. He will turn 24 on the 10th, and I would like to celebrate his journey on the planet.

When, my second son Alex turned 1 year old, I got an uncomfortable feeling. Something familiar...like,"I've been here before." Sure enough...I was pregnant. This was totally unexpected, and since I'd had to resort to fertility drugs to get pregnant with Alex, I was not prepared to have this happen so easily. We were not unhappy in the least...just surprised.

I never had easy pregnancies, and this was no exception. In fact, my doctor had told me that this had to be my last baby. So, making it through the 9 months was not exactly pleasant. I began to suffer from anemia close to the end , and was on iron. My water broke one day at home, and soon we were off to the hospital. When I went in and they checked my blood counts, they decided to stop my labor and give me a few pints of blood before I could continue. So, it became a long, drawn out process. I had the best doctor ever, a friend, as well as my o.b. He pretty well let me call the shots as to the way I wanted to do things. I decided to do this birth with just some demerol, as I had my previous birth. So, I was well aware of what was going on. We knew some of the nurses, too, so the delivery room was a lively place. I told the doctor I wanted to be sure to get a picture of the baby being born. So, he called Don down for a picture,and as I felt the baby emerge, the room grew still and quiet. And Don did not take a picture. I leaned up to ask "why?", and I saw my baby......with a hole in the middle of his face. I immediately went into shock. I felt like the world stopped for me at that point. I was well aware of all that was happening around me...but it was as if I was observing it from somewhere else. The nurse was calling the doctor...she was slapping my face, and my doctor left the business end of things to come up to my head. Leaning over me, he shouted,"come on back, Tonja, this is going to be fine." They gave me several drugs and suddenly, I was back in the room with them. But, I was very upset and crying. He finished up with me and had me transferred to a room, where they gave me 2 more pints of blood. He ordered No Visitors and told me to rest. The pediatricians came and they said that the baby was healthy except for the cleft lip and palatte. That did not seem healthy to me. For a few hours, I could not even bring myself to hold my new boy, Ian David, but all that changed when a verse started running through my head..."I will lift up my eyes unto the hills. From whence cometh my help? My help comes from God." I felt as though God could not do this to me again, I was still dealing with the cancer of my oldest son.....but, God did not DO this to me. It happened and He was going to help me deal with it. So, that was the end of the self pity. Now to find a way to take care of this child. No one could really give me much advice...most of the nurses had never seen a cleft child before, let alone know how to feed one. But there was an older nurse, who was a member of our church, and she made it her personal mission to find a way to feed him. She ordered all sorts of things from Birmingham and we just tried the trial and error method. Finally we found that using a preemie bottle with a hole cut into the nipple worked the best. He could not suck, so the formula had to be squirted onto the side of his cheek. There was a hole in the palatte going through to the base of the nose...what was there, and so most everything put into the mouth came out of the nose. It was a MESS. But, you could see, even from the beginning, that Ian was a fighter. He was tested for several syndromes, but he passed all tests with flying colors. We stayed in the hospital for about a week. The doctor said I could stay as long as I wanted, until I felt confident to take him home. Finally, we decided it was time to go. As we were preparing to leave, God did a marvelous thing. He sent me a special visitor. Our pastor at that time was Dr. Samuel Maddox. He was an older man, probably in his 70s, with snow white hair and the kind of smile and demeanor that left no doubt that you were in the prescence of a godly man. He walked in and took my hand and said these words to me, ''Oh, I'm honored to be here with you. You are highly favored by our Lord. He has chosen YOU to be the mother of this baby. How He must trust you!" Well, I felt what he said down to my toes and knew at that moment that God had sent this child to us on purpose...he had chosen us to parent, and guide and nurture him. All was well with my heart from then on. And home we went. Adam thought he was "cute", but little Alex said his "face was broke."

So began our journey with Ian. And it was not easy. Because he would tire so easily, he could only take an ounce of milk at a time, which meant feeding him every hour. And he took in so much air, that he had terrible gas pains...all the time. And since he choked so badly, he could not be laid down flat...he had to sit in an infant seat all the time. Oh, the days were long...and the nights were long and they ran into one another. Most everyone but myself was afraid to hold or feed him, so most of his care was from me. We did begin to find a routine, though. And Ian was a little trooper...he would fight along with me. We began to search for a doctor to take care of him. Our first stop was to a plastic surgeon in our town who said to me, "Now the first thing you need to know is that he is never going to look normal.'' This was not the thing to say to me, so we gathered up our stuff and left. Never went back to him, either. I called one of Adam's surgeons in Birmingham and told him about the clefts and asked for his guidance. He said the top 2 places in the country at that time were University of North Carolina and Miami. We called the doctors at UNC, since we had relatives fairly close by, and they agreed to take him on. We made our plans to see them as soon as he turned 3 months old. We were not prepared for what happened next.

I was sitting in our bedroom one morning feeding Ian, when he suddenly went limp. He was white as a sheet and cold and clammy and I could not rouse him. His heart rate was very fast. Calling my neighbor, I left Alex with her, and tore off to the doctor's office. They hooked him up to a heart monitor quickly and sent us to the hospital. Turns out he had a heart condition called Paroxymal Atrial Tachycardia, or PAT. Which means that his heart would beat so fast, that it would not pump oxygen through his blood. We stayed in the hospital for several days and they found a medicine to regulate his heartbeat. Thus began a long struggle with regulating meds. But, we were able to go back home and deal with it there. Thank goodness for my medical training.

Soon the time came to go to the hospital in North Carolina. We were excited to see what they would do to fix our boy. We fell in love with the doctors and their approach to this condition. Because having a cleft involves so many different areas, they used a team approach to care for his needs. When ever we would go, we would see several doctors,: psychologists, ENT, plastic surgeons, dentists, orthodontics, oral surgeons, speech therapists, audiologists,and breathing specialists. After we had seen them all, they would meet together and plan out the next phase of Ian's treatment, and then a representative would meet with us to fill us in. They did all the coordinating of care, so we did not have to. It has been a wonderful system and has worked well for us these past 23 years. Plans were made at that first visit to close Ian's lip. That was done when he was 4 months old. He sure looked different. We could tell who he looked like finally, his big brother, Adam. The after care was horrendous. How do you keep a baby from touching his face or turning over on his face or rubbing his face on a blanket? It is not easy. First, he had to wear arm splints, so he could not bend his arms, and touch his face. Secondly, someone had to stay beside him 24/7 to keep him from turning over and disturbing the sutures. And he had to wear a metal brace over the lips. Oh, and he could not attempt to suck on a bottle. He was 4 months old! We had to feed him through a syringe. and a long piece of rubber tubing until the lip had fully healed. But, we made it, and were able to come home and wait the next big step, which was to close the pallet. This was not done until he was 14 months old. So there was still this hole in his palette and food still came out his nose. But, he soon learned to take his bottle himself. Still, he could not suck, but he would lay the nipple of the bottle along the side of the mouth next to the gums and bite down on it to squirt the milk out. He wanted to do it himself. Told you he was a fighter. Feeding him baby food was a trip in itself. Put it in his mouth, it comes out the nose, scrape it off the nose, put it back in the mouth, and so on and so on and so on. We were counting the days till the next surgery. Oh, how naive we were.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

JULY 4, 2007

Originally uploaded by Tonja Owens
My DH, Don, had an urge to cook today, Of course, that was just fine with me. So, he went to the grocery store last night and bought ribs,pork tenderloin, fixins for baked beans, coleslaw, and corn on the cob. He also bought fresh shrimp. He got up cooking , and has cooked all day. He marinated the pork tenderloin all night and grilled the ribs, and the tenderloin. He also grilled the corn and the shrimp. I made the cole slaw and baked beans and the cornbread...but all according to HIS recipes. Mom made cookies and a pound cake. She and Pop, my sister, Joy, and BIL, Tommy came, as did my neice, Lori and her boyfriend, Ben. Alex was feeling well and was able to be up with us, too.

We had a great time just visiting with each other...the food was great, and we celebrated the 4th in style. What a blessing to have such a wonderful family. We can always get together and laugh and play and have the best time. And even laugh about the yucky coleslaw!!!

Pop managed to get his pic made with all the girls!

Hope you enjoyed your day as well!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Monday, July 2, 2007


Yesterday, at church, we had a patriotic service due to the upcoming July 4th. It was very inspiring to me, in many ways. At this time, we do not have a minister of music on staff. We have a terrific man who is a professor of music at Florida Baptist College who is our interim. He is very gifted in music selection and presentation. Yesterday, the choir sang several selections, and we had the pledges to the American and the Christian flags. But, the most moving to me was when the choir sang a medley of the 5 different branches of service: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard. As they sang the official song of each branch, the men who served in that area stood. The congregation just burst into applause as each group stood. My dad was there, and he stood with the Navy. But, as I looked at all these men, so many of them in their 50s, 60s, 70, and 80s...I realized what we take for granted so much of the time. These men were willing to give it all to protect what I enjoy today. When I looked at some of these elderly gentlemen, it was hard to imagine they were ever young boys going off to war, just like the young men who go today. And they each had family that worried and prayed till they came home, as do the families today. I just had to acknowlege that I appreciate the sacrifices made on the country's behalf by each of these men. I honor them with my thanks and admiration and I thank God that He still places in young men today the same sense of loyalty to God and country.

I mentioned this at lunch of Sunday with friends, and they said that we had done this before at our church. I do not remember. Either I was not there, or my heart was not open to recieve the message. Whatever, it made a terrific impact on me yesterday, and I will not forget.