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Be Still & Wonder 12 min read
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Be Still & Wonder

Warning: This passage contains some really yucky photos, sweet and tender videos, and may cause emotional reactions. Read at your own risk. Dad had a framed picture of Earth suspended in the heavens captioned by the famous Job verse. How does the Earth hang upon nothing? He was in awe

By Beverly Anderson
Warning: This passage contains some really yucky photos, sweet and tender videos, and may cause emotional reactions. Read at your own risk.

Dad had a framed picture of Earth suspended in the heavens captioned by the famous Job verse.

How does the Earth hang upon nothing? He was in awe of this miracle. It made him Wonder.

As I reflect on the past two years since our last update, I find myself drawn to the most notable moments which commanded Awe and Wonder. Moments made poignant by the force of stillness and often spawned from paradox. Moments such as brute Strength amidst Weakness. Viral Attention from Quiet. Life near Death. And the ability to just Be instead of Do.

Brute Strength Amidst Weakness.

He’s Tough & Tender. Both things can be true.

Brene Brown talks a lot about straddling tensions. She frequently voices a favored Carl Jung quote “Only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life.” And in a tweet, @BreneBrown shared, “Not only are tension and contradictory pieces OK and normal — they're the magic sauce.”

Magic sauce. I want to believe that. But in the middle of really hard and difficult times, the sauce can be a stinky, gooey, unpleasant, nauseating mess. Take Preston’s foot surgery. January 13, 2022 Preston had an orange-sized fluid sac surgically removed from his right ankle (see Big Foot).

We’ve often found it difficult to navigate medical care for Preston, especially in his adult years. Let’s face it. Most of the world does not live in Preston’s world. Therefore, most - understandably - just don’t know what to do, how to act, and accordingly how to adapt treatment and procedures to a non-verbal intellectually-challenged adult. And in life, most people don’t really listen. As in when we say that Preston can’t be still for a millisecond for an MRI, that he needs full sedation, we mean that the Valium you’re prescribing will not do the trick. Three specialists and two MRIs later, the medical community is finally convinced. But when you find a gem – and we’ve had several through the years – it’s like striking gold. It’s magic sauce. Dr. Anna Wallace, an Orthopaedic Surgeon specializing in oncology and trauma, was amazing. She. Was. Magic sauce.

It was a stinky, gooey, unpleasant, nauseating mess.

While surgery was a success, post-surgery was a nightmare. It was a stinky, gooey, unpleasant, nauseating mess. It was harder than the original diagnosis. Harder than the first time I heard the “R” word after Preston was born. Harder than open heart surgery at 8 weeks and a day. We thought we had a fail-proof plan. We ignorantly convinced ourselves that casting his foot would make the post-surgery period a breeze. Boy were we wrong. Kurt and I took a combined five weeks off work to manage the unexpected. We learned a few lessons.


Never say Never. [warning:this section contains yucky photos]

11:00 am: The preoperative care nurse meant well. When responding to our concern over inadvertent cast removal, she confidently responded, “Oh, he could never take that off.

2:20 pm: Twenty minutes after arriving home and with Mom less than 12 feet away incorrectly thinking he was sleeping off his anesthesia, there stood Preston in the doorway…..cast off…blood and gauze everywhere!

4:00 pm: Return trip to hospital, securing a Big. Red. Cast. This one proved to be brute-strength resistant!

Brute-strength resistant, but not waterproof. Unfortunately, the recommended waterproof sock did not withstand all water from entering his cast which we discovered when the cast was later removed.

He’s Tender. Just as fierce as his brute strength is his capacity to show love through his sweet, gentle spirit. He will gaze into your eyes, cock his head ever so slightly to the right, stare through to your soul and then subtly lift his hand towards my face and caress, ever so softly two up and down motions with slight pats then whisper, “Awe….Ma-Ma-Ma-Mamma….” In that Still moment, I’ve died and gone to Heaven.


Viral Attention From Quiet.

Quiet in nature is understood to be a good thing. Quiet in people can often be misunderstood.

Quiet Sparks Viral Attention.

Quiet in nature is understood to be a good thing. Quiet in people can often be misunderstood. Take Nathan as an example. At three years old, we enrolled Nathan in preschool. On day one, I was greeted by the no-nonsense director at pick-up. She strongly suggested in a worried tone that we should get Nathan tested; that he may have some delays in his development. “Delays in his development?” I’m thinking…I know I’m not an expert in childhood development, but Preston’s taught us a thing or two about delayed development. I politely responded with, “Nathan’s an observer. He quietly stands in the background and soaks in his environment before he interacts. You’ll see.” Day two at pick up? The Director walked back her previous comment, “Oh - you were right. There’s nothing wrong with Nathan. That kid’s amazing. He’s gonna be President one day!”

Creativity can lie deep within a quiet soul. Nathan continues at where he enjoys adventures that allow him to use his creative talents. Talents such as web development, front-end designing, systems analyst, digital marketing and video editing. In his spare time, he volunteers at church in A-V production and middle school boys’ youth. Additionally, he continues to hone his craft of photography.

To that last point, he found himself the object of an article in Paris. One might say that his posts made many Wonder. Specifically, an illustrator in France found one of Nathan’s Instagram videos and a few interviews later, a story was published in Le Parisien, one of the largest newspapers in France. The article (Google translated here) tells the story of Nathan’s journey to bring his grandfather’s photos to life.

It chronicles the curation of and other social media posts which have garnered an impressive number of reactions to the vintage photos. I’m not a guru when it comes to all things SMS, but I’m thinking when your posts get thousands of views (4441, 5426, 6205, 29.6.K, and 92K+) then that equates to a LOT of folks resonating with his message. You can watch his TikTok videos here (even if you don’t have an account).

One of my favorites is this one, because I get to see the determined focus and Wonder in my son.

One of my favorites is this one, because I get to see the determined focus and Wonder in my son, but this post garnered over 92K views. To learn more about Nathan’s vision for, go here.

Nathan’s also in love. I’m not talking about the 24 pound blue merle mini Aussie from Missouri (Aswhin), but a lovely authentic gal from Davy Crockett’s homestead and the storytelling capital of the world (Jonesborough, TN). Preston also happens to love Emily which makes this relationship all the more heart-warming. When they took him to their church youth’s Jingle Jam, Preston thought the stage was his and he returned oh-so Merry and Bright!

Google Photos
Emily is my Barbie animal spirit.

As for me, I think Emily is my Barbie animal spirit. After I had to miss a considerable amount of the movie to accommodate Preston’s urinary output needs (which, by the way, appears to be 30 times the average person’s duration in the Loo), Emily insisted that I watch the movie again. I had missed the most powerful part of the movie: America Ferrara’s discourse about straddling the tensions of being a woman.

The monologue is a reaction to Barbie - the one and only Barbie - stating that she’s not Enough. Not Enough?! Barbie?! A sentiment that too many of us feel too often - men, women, children, teens, leaders who seemingly have it all. After that, our matching Barbie shirts were born.

Life Near Death.

He's Kurtough

While he may not admit it, there’s no doubt that Kurt had a tough 2023. If you know Kurt, traits such as pessimism, negativity, or melancholy are rarely if ever witnessed in his nature. Good thing he’s Kurtough. I’ve outlined a brief rundown below but as Kurt would want, I’ve sprinkled in a glimmer of happy dust to dampen the chill.

  • Despite me telling him that he was Enough, Kurt had two neck procedures and a full hip replacement. His Orthopedic surgeon claims that Kurt’s right hip “Has a new Corvette rod in a 55 Chevy!” Kurt likes that analogy.
  • In the months leading up to her death, Kurt saw the vibrancy of his mother be replaced with agonizing pain. This was not the mother he knew and he was in anguish as he watched her demise. Nathan created a video tribute to honor Jo’s life. The manner in which Nathan captured nostalgic moments which painted the essence of Jo reduced Kurt to a puddle of tears. Bearing witness to these moments made Kurt even more appreciative of the enormous impact she had on his life.
  • As you watch this memorial video you’ll see a devoted wife’s love, the beauty of a mother’s endless patience, and her ability to cultivate a sense of Wonder in her children as she masters all the ING things. Break out the tissue. Kurtough sure had to.
  • Two days before Jo’s celebration of life, Kurt was in a car wreck. At 10:00 a.m. on his way to a Physical Therapy appointment he was T-boned on the driver’s side, pushed into and then wrapped around a telephone pole. He survived. Let me say that again - he survived! Praise Jesus!
  • As if the wreck was not alarming enough, after we got home from the hospital I went to a walk-in clinic and learned why I felt so miserable. Not only did I come inches away from losing my husband of almost 36 years, but I had COVID causing me to miss Jo’s Celebration of Life. I felt awful - literally and emotionally - as this seemed to be an event that no living spouse should be AWOL from. Preston knew exactly what Kurt needed in the way of comfort and was able to calmly sit through five plus hours of ceremony offering the requisite amount of charm, comfort and compassion.

Traumatic events tend to make one reexamine life. As such, Kurt reflected on Everything that happened Everywhere All At Once in 2022-2023 and decided to retire. Thus, after 33 years and three months, Kurt concluded his tenure with Knoxville Utilities Board.

If you’re like me - or rather if you’re not like Kurt - you’ve probably been in a workplace situation that makes you uncertain of how to behave. The setting is a social gathering but in a work context. Maybe you're at the University President’s home or in a workplace training space converted into a reception hall with workplace people and guests. People who you may or may not know well, may or may not be especially close to, but still there is an understood level of respect. You may quietly ask yourself, “What are the rules in this context.…. Am I obligated to act professional or am I supposed to break loose and have fun?” Preston doesn’t pause to question.

At Kurt’s retirement party - which clearly Preston thought was Preston’s par-TAH - Nathan set up a video photo booth. Set to Rachel Platten’s “Better Place,” this video illustrates just how persuasive a non-verbal adult but one who is full of Joy and Wonder can unite even the most shy of grownups and transform us from an awkward silence to a most happy and better place. Enjoy.

The Ability to Be Instead of Do.

As for me? This #3 on the Enneagram (one who is prone to productivity, enjoys making and crossing off lists, thrives on accomplishments and is often described as a workaholic) had a crystal clear realization not soon after Kurt retired. If you’re not an E3, you may find this next statement difficult to understand: It’s hard for E3’s to have an identity outside of their work and achievements.

But just like I knew Kurt was The One soon after we started dating, and just as Ken discovered in the movie that he was Kenough, I discovered that I was Enough. That We were Enough. That Life was Enough. Not my titles or duties or tasks in which an E3 can so often get entangled. And so, on October 13, 2023, I retired!

As an E3 often likes to boast about their accomplishments, I feel obligated to report that I've successfully fallen into retirement without missing a beat. A cherished morning moment is sitting here, in my backyard, with the view of a Still field, a Mountain Laurel, and just quiet - peace and quiet - no rush. Nowhere to be. Just time to Be in the moment. Time to share the moment with my hubby and talk about important matters. We often joke that “retirement is so hard!” but not because we have trouble adjusting; rather, because there’s just so many moments to savor that we can’t find enough hours in the day.

An added benefit of not having a 9 to 5 has been to research and enroll Preston in some adult programs for persons with disabilities. To his delight, Preston has something every day whether it’s the ACE program at Christ Covenant Church, the BLOOM ministry at Central Baptist Church Bearden, or Bowling at Strike & Spare, Preston is a new man. It is evident that while we pulled him from all social and community gatherings during COVID to protect his health, he really, really, really missed being with like peers. Witnessing his excitement when we announce, "It's time to go to ACE, BLOOM Center, or Bowling!" is quite heart-warming.

Pay It Forward: A greenhouse with a cause
A new greenhouse is not only focusing on helping plants grow, but also people.

No sooner had he started the ACE program did he insist that his morning entrances be sans Mom. What? I can’t escort this 30 year-old into the program like he’s a 3 year-old walking into preschool? No. His non-verbal communication was loud and clear. When he turned around and held his left arm out in a “halt” pose as if to say, “Mom…..I’ve got this…Go Away!” I knew we’d made the right decision.

What made Yoda so wise? I Wonder.

But what if that was your family?”

In addition to his awe of Earth’s hanging upon nothing, my father was also quite gifted at seeing all sides. Maybe it was the learned questioning habits of an IRS/Criminal Fraud agent, or his innate eminence as a private investigator. When hearing of a situation which may cause strong diametrical opinions (racial unrest, same-sex partners, basic human rights) I’d frequently hear him say, “But what if that was your family?” He had a tendency to stick up for the little guy. I think he was the master of all things Golden Ruley. As such, he taught me to pause and think about the other side. He often made me Wonder. I appreciate this lesson.

Questions I can hear my Dad ponder. Questions that make me Wonder.

As I wrap up the holiday season, I find myself drawn to lyrics which take a unique or perhaps untold perspective. Questions I can hear my Dad ponder. Questions that make me Wonder. Such as Why did He choose a simple man of trade? Why just an ordinary girl? What was Mary feeling when she learned she was chosen? How can One bring so much joy to our world? What did the innkeeper feel after he turned them away? What if Fathertime had a daughter? How can we treat Elves more fairly? What if Meghan Trainor and Earth Wind And Fire made a Holiday song? And what exactly was Ken’s struggle? Whether you’re like me and your tree is still up and you don’t want Christmas to end, or you’ve experienced great loss this year and Christmas Hits differently - meaning you desperately just wanted the holidays to come and go - I hope you enjoy this BeStill&Wonder23 playlist. Give it a listen!


Wishing you and yours many moments in 2024 to . . . . . .

Can't open the Spotify list? The link below is for YouTube and/or below is a list of the songs.

Like what you've read? If it made you Wonder, drop me a line - I'd love to hear from you!