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- Chris Fabry
- Married to Andrea since 1982. We have 9 children together and none apart. Our dog's name is Tebow.
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When I talked with my mother over the weekend, she took the call from the bathroom. My father who is 89 was watching the Reds game in the other room. I don’t know if I’ll be watching baseball at 89. I hope so.
So baseball has this mythical hold on me, and when I told the kids about the Rockies and their 14th inning comeback against the Giants last weekend, I felt the passion rising. There’s something about a comeback I can’t resist.
Two years ago Reagan had severe ringing in his ears. It was constant and getting worse. We thought it was tinnitus, which many people have. But when vertigo came, mind-numbing, brain-searing vertigo that did not let up, we went to more doctors, tried more medication. The vertigo led to severe vomiting. Reagan lost weight. His eyes would shake in his head. They would roll to the left, then reset in the middle, like a computer that’s lost its hard drive. It became so bad he couldn’t walk. We had to carry him to the bathroom so he could vomit. He would sit on the couch, look out the window at his siblings, and weep because he just wanted to get up and go outside to play. He wanted to be normal.
The doctors… I can’t go there. We had several doctors who said we were the problem. We didn’t push him enough. He couldn’t have constant vertigo. He needed a psychiatrist. Andrea finally talked with a doctor who believed her and said something was going on that wasn’t what had been diagnosed. Rabbit trails led to questions about our environment. The mold exposure. What mold can do to the brain, especially stachybotrys.
Wednesday night I took Reagan to his first baseball practice here in Tucson. I worried that the coach might push him too far. He’s not full strength. He’s skin and bones, really. But I let him go, knowing he has severe hearing loss on one side.
Another member of the team is deaf. He’s very good—he just can’t hear. You have to make sure he’s looking at you when you throw the ball to him. He just loves baseball.
So I watched Reagan run and throw and catch and do the drills the coach put them through. I remembered carrying him downstairs. The tears. The helplessness we felt each day his body withered. The prayers we prayed.
And now the hope we feel. He’s not there yet. Neither are we. But we’re on the field. We have a good coach. And a lot of people cheering. Maybe that’s why I keep coming back to baseball.
The nosebleeds returned with a vengeance yesterday. But we think it may have been caused by some ant traps we put out. One bathroom and a bedroom had these tiny ants crawling around. Andrea put Borax down but the ants put on skis. Megan put down Apple Cider Vinegar and I sprayed them with soapy water. I think the ants are getting the hint.
There are other niggling things that make life harder, but I won’t go into those. I just want you to think of what my friend wrote me after he heard the litany of angst in my recent email. He wrote back and said, “I wonder how God is going to use the ants?”
I had to think about that a minute. He added that he does not believe things like this happen without a purpose. God can even use ants for his glory.
At the same time that email came in, I was having send issues with another email. I wrote my friends in IL, the Parmelees, about a person I tried to reply to but my email was blocked. They looked into it and solved the problem.
This morning I got an email from Sherry saying she was so glad the email came to her, she’d been praying for the listener who wrote and wondered if we could put a request on the “Make a Difference” page on my website.
It struck me. God is using that problem to alert others about this dear lady who’s struggling.
I wonder how he will use the ants?
I’ve dreaded this move for months. I arrived back in February with eight new mattresses and box springs. I lugged every one of those inside a nice home in Tucson. There was a pool in the backyard. The kids swam in it on Saturday. Then they began reacting to the house. On Monday we moved out because chemicals had been sprayed inside. We didn’t know we were chemically sensitive back then, but the stinging eyes and the blotchy skin left us no alternative but to leave. And we left the new mattresses. We slept in hotels and searched for a new home for weeks. Finally, we found a 3 bedroom house with all tile. It was still scary, but we had a home.
I knew then that we would need to move in six months. As the family adjusted and we crammed eight of us into one bedroom, Andrea began thinking of the next house. We had hopes of turning around physically and heading back to Colorado. It became clear the desert is our home now. I had no idea how hard, scary, or rewarding this move would be.
Even though we don’t have that much stuff, we still have stuff. It doesn’t take a U-Haul to move air mattresses. But when you add the baskets of clothes and the camping chairs and three small TVs and stools and a card table—it’s depressing to write this, to put down the true state of our existence, but I learned long ago that the truth sets you free—and a box that holds everything Colin owns and insulin supplies and dishes…we needed a truck for all of that.
I rented a U-Haul and began the task of loading up the desk and filing cabinet we’d been given for my office, Andrea’s small desk, my office chair, and then the big deal, the washer and dryer. Our neighbors back in Colorado pitched in and bought us a brand new washer and dryer. If there’s anything that scares the mechanically challenged, it's hooking up a washer and dryer. But we got it in the truck, hauled it to the new place, and I managed to put the hoses on without much problem.
We slept in the new house Thursday night. Most of our stuff was in by Friday night. It is Sunday morning and the sun is coming up over the cactus. The coyotes are running through the wash with fresh kill. We have had no nosebleeds so far, a true miracle. Megan and her friend, Beth, were here to air the house out and they cleaned and cleaned and cleaned some more. That’s a big reason we haven’t reacted. I’m sitting in my new “studio,” a rather large closet at the eastern-most point of the house, a lot more secluded than the previous studio.
And last night, after I cooked onion-filled burgers on our electric grill, the kids got on their scooters, Ryan pulled out his skateboard, and we walked the neighborhood. Everyone was gone or doing something inside, or maybe it was too scary to come out to meet the tribe. I waved to one jogger who wore a Texas Longhorn shirt. The Ohio State hat must have been the reason he continued and just waved.
A walk around a neighborhood is foreign to our lives. We have been so consumed with the next step, the next treatment, trying to get better, trying to get the toxins out, switching electric and water companies, searching for answers…a walk in the neighborhood at sunset is what normal people do. And we have felt anything but normal.
It feels like we have turned a corner. God has given us a desert place to rest and recuperate and rejuvenate. He has given us laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, and baseball.
I almost forgot. In the midst of the move, Colin and Brandon’s final game was Saturday. I wish you could have been there. We won one game all year. One measly game. One wonderful game. The most players we ever had was six, while other teams were filled to overflowing. The boys progressed in their fielding and understanding of the game. We got some hits, played through the injuries, and survived the sweltering heat. And I survived as a coach, along with some great help from my friend, Jaime, and in the end it was all about the kids.
Tomorrow, one of our daughters is actually going into the local high school to her drama class. She has one class in the school. The kids will be taught at home the rest of the time by tutors provided by the local district. We don’t know what will happen with the house in Colorado. We don’t know how long this will take. We don’t know how much we’ll be affected by the toxins or if something will turn up in this house and we’ll have to move again. But we do know that today we have a place to sleep. A safe place with running water and three full bathrooms. And beautiful sunsets. And mountains. And wildlife. And rest from moving.
Thanks for journeying with us.
A watch is a friend. On your arm. Ready to tell you the time. Ready to beep at you when you need a beep. For some people a watch is a status symbol. For others, it’s a fashion statement. To me, my Casio Databank is a tool I use, something I miss if it’s not there.
I found this picture on my daughter’s Facebook account. She snapped it as Andrea and I were walking in an undeveloped area, all paved and ready to go, but the builder ran out of money and abandoned the place. The kids ride their scooters and we walk on the paved circle and talk or don’t say anything. Here, I’m rubbing the back of Andrea’s neck, which she likes.
I discovered the Casio Databank through my friend, Wayne Shepherd. He had a silver one, but I preferred the black. It cost less. It boasted 150 contacts in its databank, but I never even put one in. I use it for the stopwatch (when I record timed spots), the alarm function (which awakens me easily without overdoing it), the calculator (I add up all the money we’ve lost), the light (at 4:30 I can tell what time it is and won’t awaken the whole room), the “world time” function that lets me know the time in Bangkok, and its sleek design.
If I were to wear a Rolex, my arm would look like a matchstick. But the Casio Databank doesn’t care that I’m not buff. It just rests there on my wrist like a friend.
I think I bought my first one back in the mid-1980s. I’ve owned about three since then, and the only reason I’ve bought a new one was when the battery install fritzed the display. Once, it happened in Walmart and they gave me a new watch. It felt like Christmas.
My watch is like that wedding band about five or six inches away. It’s always there, always working for me, always ticking—even if I don’t realize it. I’ve worn it so long it feels like a part of me. I’m not trying to impress anyone with it. It’s just part of who I am.
Maybe someday I will get a fancy watch that makes me look important. If so, I’ll probably put it in a drawer. My Casio Databank works for me. I don’t need a watch to make me feel anything. I need it to do what it’s supposed to do.
Still, there are things to be thankful for. When we first moved into this house it was scary. We were worried about neighbors and their pesticides. We were worried about a hole in the bathroom tile and mold growing in there. We were worried.
But something happened last night that was pretty neat. I’ve been reading to the little kids from a book by Cathy Gohlke titled William Henry is a Fine Name. She won the Christy award for it last year in juvenile fiction. It’s a story set just before the Civil War and the follow-up has the main character and his life during the war.
We’re about 80 pages into it. The younger kids are on their air mattresses, listening. The older kids are reading something of their own or listening to a book on CD or their iPods. Last night we get to a particularly tense part of the story. The slave master is coming back, a mean man named Jed Slocum. I closed the book and said, “We’ll pick up from here tomorrow.”
Brandon, 8, sighed and put his head on the pillow.
Kaitlyn, 11, sighed and pulled the covers up over her arms. “That was a short chapter. Can we read another one?”
The answer was no. I had just bought a new novel I have been waiting to read for more than a year. The anticipation is killing me. But before I could say anything, another of the kids, and I will protect that person’s anonymity here, raised up and said, “Yeah, can we read another chapter?” I didn’t even think he/she was listening!
I gathered myself and said, “No, we’ll have to wait until tomorrow.”
I pulled out my new novel, opened it to cover my face, and smiled. Tonight we’ll find out about Jed Slocum.
All of us.
We met while I was in college. She had graduated UVA the same year I graduated high school. When she moved to West Virginia to take a job at a local radio station, she decided to get involved with the youngsters over at the University because she had been spiritually affected by a campus ministry (FCA) while she attended school. (She was an accomplished tennis player.)
I still remember seeing her that first night as I led songs for our InterVarsity meeting. Those blue bell-bottoms and the blue shirt with the stripes. Ahhh. She was lovely then and she hasn't changed much at all, even after bearing nine chirren.
Our wedding was on the anniversary of our first date. (Gary Chapman would not have approved of such a short engagement.) We've lasted 26.5 years and if I had known what we would have to go through, I could not have picked a better person to be my wife. Adaptable. Giving. Loves to laugh. Empathetic. Interested in my favorite subject: me. Always looking out for the interests of others. Has a heart that yearns for God. Loves her children, long walks in the desert, and birds. Has become an expert on mold because she had to. Saved our lives with her tenacity. I could go on and on.
This is her first birthday without her mom, so I know it will be bittersweet. Join me in wishing her a Happy Birthday.
Bob and I talked about how to choose a person to date or court. Is your boyfriend a Boaz or a Bozo? Is your girlfriend a Ruth or a Ruse? That was the content and we had a good time discussing the qualities we should look for in the character of a prospective spouse.
At the end of the program, right as I concluded, Tricia McMillan said in my headphones, “We have a caller on the line you have to talk with.”
I know her name and where she was from, but I’ll make her anonymous. She said she had hit the scan button on her radio and came upon our conversation. She had never heard our program before. It was by “coincidence” that she tuned in.
She was in the parking lot of the airport waiting to pick up her fiancé. They’re getting married this Saturday. At least, they were before today’s program. She described her situation, the conflicted feelings she felt about her future husband, the good things about their relationship and the problems. In the end she had to admit that she just couldn’t go through with the wedding.
“But what about the family?” she said. “What about those plane tickets and all the money spent?”
As Bob said to her, many people get married to save face. They don’t want to upset people. And then they pay for their mistake in the following years. Bob and I encouraged her to do the difficult thing and live with the problems she will face in the next 48-72 hours. Much better to call a halt to this now and spend some time thinking, praying, and getting help for their relationship than just going through the motions. Sure, people will be mad and hurt and angry. But to ignore these facts (and I won't go into them) and feelings would be disastrous for her.
Pray for our friend who, moments after she hung up, had to meet her fiancé and talk about what she had just heard. Pray for the family that they will understand. Pray for the prospective groom who is going through such heartbreak and is probably wondering what yahoos on the radio turned his future wife against him.
It’s easy to make people mad in talk radio. Hosts do it every day. It’s much more difficult to listen to the hurts and give good advice that will lead to hope and healing. I pray that happens for our caller. I pray it happens for her fiance. And I pray that no matter what hard decision you face, there will be someone there who can walk and talk you through the problem.
Sometimes, it's as easy as hitting the "scan" button.
I helped write The Winners Manual after a month and a half flurry of interviews and back and forth emails with Coach Tressel. When it was completed I was exhausted, but it felt like we had accomplished something that would help a lot of people.
The hardback has sold more than 100,000 copies. It is out in paperback and I just received my copy in the mail yesterday. Because of the situation with our house, all of my copies have to be destroyed, so I’m glad to have access to this material again.
I was paid in a lump sum for my work on the book. It was like a gift from God. We had some emergency fund money, something to stash away, a cushion. A month later, we again found mold in the house. The cost for the remediation ate all the cash. At first, I was really upset. Then I saw the book as a gift God provided to take care of our needs.
I had no idea the adversity would continue, the kids would get sicker, and we would eventually have to leave that house and everything in it behind.
Today I picked up the paperback and flipped to the section on adversity. I wanted to see if there was something there for me. I wanted to see if I had learned anything over the past year. I came upon a story that is one of Tressel’s favorites called “Woohitike.”
“The ancient Lakota hunter warriors handcrafted their own bows from seasoned ash wood. There were two ways to acquire the proper wood. The conventional way was to find a young ash tree, harvest it, and let it dry for at least five years. But the hunter warriors were always on the lookout for a mature ash tree that had been struck by lightning. Such a tree had been dried and cured in an instant by the awesome power of lightning, and any bows made from it would be much stronger. Such trees were rare, but they were preferred because they had suffered the ultimate adversity, and ultimate adversity produces ultimate strength.”
The other team only had 5 players. We have not won a game all year. I had a good feeling about this game. But as we scored a few runs, I rooted for the other team to get a hit. To get on base. After all, it's about the kids. It's about them learning and growing and having fun. Our team beamed afterward talking about the win and the runs scored. It feels good to have at least one win under our collective belts.
The rest of the day was spent recovering from the early game AND going to a new Walmart I heard about from our assistant coach, Jaime. It was crowded but nicer than our regular Walmart.
Ryan made dinner and afterward Andrea took Kristen to a bookstore and some of the other children and I went to the park. We threw the baseball, tossed a football, walked, and played.
A mom and dad and two young girls came near us with two small dogs. One of them barked at me and edged closer on the leash. (The dog, not the girls.) The little girl wore a pink nightgown and let him come over. I held out my hand and the dog, a Miniature Schnauzer, submissively sniffed it and put his ears back. I petted his fur and he licked at my hand and I couldn't help thinking of Pippen and Frodo. I'm still having a hard time with the memories.
"What's his name?" I said.
"That's a good name. It fits him. He looks like he just got a haircut. Did you cut his hair?"
"No speak Englais."
"Oh," I said.
I petted Jack some more until she took him away. I don't think she understood any more of my words. I think Jack understood. His lick and the wagging tail spoke volumes to me.
The sun set on another desert Saturday. Only two more weeks of baseball season for our team. And August is here with many miles to go. Thanks for taking this journey with us.