Saturday, August 28, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Our Appearance on Animal Planet

Having never been on television, it was a unique experience to see myself and my family on the screen. I looked way too old on high-definition TV (do I look that way in person?) At least the analog televisions didn’t show every wrinkle. Now I know why people spend so much time in make-up. Yeah, I know, vanity, vanity! They should have sent one of those miracle workers along with the cameramen and interviewers. I heard comments from my kids like, "That doesn't look like you." What is that supposed to mean?

There were also some scenes needed that weren't shot in Gainesville. I did a double-take when another woman appeared on the screen impersonating me. Where did she come from? And a lot of events were omitted for the sake of brevity. Really, I am not that paranoid about headaches—except my father and aunt died of a brain tumor. If you know that bit of information, my initial concern about Manisha’s head hurting makes more sense.

But I am thankful for the opportunity that Animal Planet gave my family to share the story and disseminate the information about the pork tapeworm in the brain. It is the most common parasitic infection of the nervous system in the developing world. Six percent of the population in Asia, Africa, and South America are infected. More knowledge about this condition will help doctors and the public to be aware of and prevent this sometimes fatal malady.

I also appreciate the time and effort of all those who were involved in Manisha's care, the filming of the show, and who helped to bless us with a successful outcome. I want to thank the family with the eight-year-old adopted daughter from Nepal who played Manisha in the reenactments. She was a real trooper. I want to thank Joy for allowing us to use her bedroom for Manisha's interview. And lastly, I want to thank Manisha for being willing to share her story on national television. Not every teenager has the guts to do that!

This whole experience has touched each of us in significant ways. Hopefully you have vicariously shared in this journey on “Monsters Inside Me” and in my book Children of Dreams. May God receive the glory for His healing touch on Manisha.

If you want to read the full story, as they say, usually the book is better than the movie, please check out my book Children of Dreams, available at, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstores. I am also available for interviews and speaking engagements within the Gainesville area (and maybe outside the area if I have the time).

If you missed the airing yesterday, “Shape Shifters” will be shown again on Animal Planet on August 31st at 8pm and 11pm. When it’s available on the Discovery website, I will post a link to the episode here.

Lastly, if you would like to follow me on my blog, click on the “follow” just a little ways down the page on the right, and click again there. I do not send out an e-zine for all my blogs—so there will be more there you might enjoy reading. Plus, I would love to get a hundred people on my “follow” list. I have been told that makes you look good, and since I want to publish another book someday, I guess I better get started.

My thought for the day: Life is too short–may we focus on the moment since that’s all we have and give it our best. No complaining allowed. Try it. And then thank God He gave you one more day. Life is a gift—share it.

Don't forget to leave a comment so your name will be entered in a drawing for a free copy of Children of Dreams on September 1. Check back here for the winner.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Animal Planet's "Monsters Inside Me"

Manisha's story will be featured on Animal Planet's show "Monsters Inside Me" on Wednesday August 25, 10-11pm EST. The episode number is 210, Shape Shifters (unless they change it between now and then, but this is what they emailed me today).

To celebrate her adoption and healing from a devastating illness, I am offering a free copy of Children of Dreams on each of my websites from now until the end of August. Here is all you have to do. I just posted a devotional on my website and blog, "Many Lessons for a Life Worth Living," and if you will leave a comment -- a quote, Bible verse, something the devotional spoke to your heart, I will enter your name into a drawing for a signed hard copy. If you go to both websites and enter a comment in both places, your name will be entered twice.

My website is:

My blog is:

The drawing will be September 1. Winners will be posted on my websites.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Many Lessons for a Life Worth Living

Every summer we have a nesting pair of birds to set up residence in the birdhouse in our backyard. For many years, it was a purple martin house, though purple martins never used it. Great crested flycatchers found it and returned year after year. We knew they had arrived when we heard them in the trees. If they thought I was watching, they would fly away. Toward the end of the summer when the babies had fledged, the squirrels would move in and stay. When I took it down I found one large hole in the middle. The squirrels had remodeled the interior and the flycatchers had enjoyed a mansion for a home. 

I replaced it with a bluebird house early spring last year. I wasn’t sure if we would attract any bluebirds. When I saw a scout checking it out a few weeks later, I thought we might get lucky. After all, the birdhouse is located on prime real estate, what I would consider Park Place on a Monopoly board. It has a bird’s eye view of our pool; the canopy of honeysuckles, red tips, cassia, and water oak; and a small flower garden of shrimp plants, milkweed, pentas, and philodendrons.

This spring, I took a peek inside the house. I knew I should buy a new one. The base it rested on was warped and it was only secured by a plastic bag tie; but I was busy and soon forgot about it.

The bluebirds arrived and began rebuilding their nest. I watched as they carried leaves, moss, and twigs into the hole. A few weeks later, the faint sounds of babies could be heard. I was excited once again to watch the back and forth ritual of the parents feeding them. However, when a few days passed and I didn't hear or see them, I became concerned. Did a predator get to them? I looked around the front yard to make sure I didn't see a dead bluebird.

I gave up the search when I saw the mother and father working on the nest again. They appeared to be undertaking a rebuilding project. Something had gone awry and they had started over.

Several days later I went out for my daily swim. When I glanced at the wooden house, I was greeted by two beady eyes staring out of the dark hole. They were much too big to be a bluebird’s. Surprised, I examined the front of it and noticed the hole had been enlarged. It was big enough for one determined squirrel to squeeze into, though it was a tight fit. She was scrunched down as she stared out. She had usurped the bluebirds and now considered it her home.

It would have been comical if I had not seen the birds bringing in nesting material the day before. But what could I do? I got in the pool distracted and concerned. Was the squirrel sitting on the eggs, or worse, smothering the babies?

After a while I watched the male and female fly over to their nest. At the last minute, they halted their approach in midair. They backed up and flew over to a tree. It appeared they had no idea there was a squirrel inside their quarters. I was upset because the squirrel had the entire canopy in which to build her house.

I climbed out of the pool, grabbed the pole that I used for skimming the water, and angled it up to the birdhouse. The squirrel jumped out like she had been stung by a hornet. Wild eyes flashed as she scrambled past me, jumped from the fence into the thicket, and scurried off faster than a startled fish.

My job accomplished, I dipped back into the pool and swam to the far end. I hoped to see the bluebirds reclaim their territory, but they didn’t return. Perhaps they were waiting for me to leave. It was getting dark anyway, so I got out, dried off, and went back inside to change.

Then I heard Joy’s frantic scream, "Mamma, the bluebird house fell over."


I ran out the backdoor. The box was partially burst open lying on the ground. The squirrel broke the plastic tie when he scrambled out of the tiny hole. Or maybe the birds had returned and knocked it to the ground. The house was destroyed beyond repair. Some nesting material had fallen out of the sides where the wooden boards had separated. I peered through the hole searching for baby birds or eggs, but to my dismay, instead, there were two baby squirrels inside. I did a double take because I expected to see baby birds. They were very small with no hair and couldn't have been more than a few days old.

Would the mother return? How could the squirrel have been using the house at the same time? The babies didn't appear to be hurt. At least they were moving around a little, as much as baby squirrels with their eyes closed can.

The nesting debris had cushioned the fall, though I wondered how so much “stuff” could fit into such a small space. We needed to figure out how to put the birdhouse back on the post. The base of it had rotted away and there was nothing to which we could mount it. I managed to force the sides of the box back together.

I set the house on the table by the pool and went out to the garage to find something we could use. Joy later told me she saw the mother squirrel return and leave. That was a good sign, I hoped, that she would come back. I found a roll of sticky blue tape that we had used to cover the windows during the last hurricane season. We could use a screw to latch it on the post and run the tape around the sides and underneath it.

Joy and I climbed on top of the wooden fence and took turns pulling off tape and wrapping it like a band-aid. When we finished it was nighttime and we went back inside to watch.

A bluebird arrived immediately, but he refused to go in. He just sat outside the opening. We got tired of watching the perched bird, and he was in the shadows anyway. I went to bed thinking about baby squirrels, feeling guilty for my part in the disaster. I wondered what I would do if the mother did not return.

The next day I kept an eye out for her, but the birdhouse just baked in the sun with no squirrel to be seen. By late afternoon I had to do something. I took Joy to gym and went to visit a friend who takes care of orphaned animals.

I asked her if she would take them if I retrieved them. She reassured me she would. I ran home, climbed up on the railing once again, and brought the box down. I set it on the table and looked inside, but to my dismay, it was empty.

My friend said it was possible the mother might have returned that night or early in the morning. She explained that squirrels make several nests, so if one nest is overrun by ants or she is scared off, she has another one to which she can carry her babies.

I still felt sorry for the birds. I went to the store and bought a brand new bluebird house—one that a determined squirrel couldn't gnaw through. My neighbor come over later that evening and anchored it so it couldn't get knocked over again. My biggest regret was that I didn’t do it sooner.

Sometimes God paints pictures of life lessons that can have many meanings. If I was a bluebird, I would have doubted my ability to raise a family. Would I have the strength to try a third time?

If I was squirrel, I would have learned it doesn’t pay to steal someone else’s home. I needed to build my own.

But God had a different message for me—things may not always be as they appear. While I was expecting bluebirds, God delivered squirrels. How many times have I been so sure of myself only to find out later I was wrong? And maybe, just maybe, God wanted me to dive into the pool, enjoy a swim, and let Him take care of the animals.