Saturday, September 29, 2007

Chasing thunder

It takes one heck of a man to share his 23rd anniversary message to his wife with the world. But since Shannon's at home with the sweet tea and good barbecue and Amy is in Haw--I mean Ore--I mean Namibia, yeah that's it, with Brad and Angelina...I'm working a little electronic magic tonight and sharing his words with all of you.

On the count of three, 1, 2, 3, ahhhhh.

For all his macho, sports-loving exterior, I do believe the man is a softie at heart.

For the past 15 months, we have been chasing thunder, until about three weeks ago, when we finally caught up to it. Since then things have started getting better. Every day in rehab, Sahara does something she couldn't do the day before.

Today, on our 23rd anniversary, she walked...for the first time in nine months. It took a lot of help, but she did it. She remains strong in spite of everything she's been through and she is still able to push herself to keep going. It's amazing to see the fight and determination still alive in her after all this time.

In my eyes, anniversaries are more important than birthdays or holidays. That's what makes it so hard to be apart for the second anniversary in a row. It's been nearly 25 years since the first time I kissed Amy. It was just like in the movies. My legs went weak, my stomach turned and I saw fireworks. And I knew it was true love. But I had no idea at that time how strong a woman she is. She is the strongest person I've ever met in my life, and she is truly the love of my life. Happy year we'll hopefully be able to do something really special.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Even the dogs love Sahara

Part of Sahara's treatment includes checking dogs for bad breath. Oh, all right. We've got the giggles a bit today. Giggles are good! This is L, a "magnificent" therapy dog, according to Amy, who met Sahara and immediately fell madly in love.

For those of you surprised by Sahara's close trim, no, she did not join the Marines, and no, she's not on chemo. The surgeon needed to shave part of her head to get at the tumor, so Sahara ordered him to shave it all off. She's hoping that the new hair that grows back is soft and bouncy, instead of the post-chemo hair that was dark and wiry.
I'm hoping she'll be a redhead! All that independence and spunk would be perfect with fiery tresses. What do you think?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The magical mystery tour

You would not believe the stories that are flying about Sahara. For example:

  1. You know that story about Sahara and her family going to Hawaii for a long family vacation when all this is over? Um, ALOHA, people...she's already there! And they replaced part of her brain with a pineapple!
  2. Sahara has been in a coma for five days. Now seriously, people: can you imagine Sahara being quiet for even five minutes? Trust me; she is wide awake and not lying there waiting for some prince to wander in and smooch her into oblivion.
  3. Sahara is working in a Starbucks in Seattle, inventing teen-friendly chilled coffee drinks, and taking the pennies from the tip jar to contribute to brainstem tumor research.
  4. Amy has charmed all of the nurses into obeying her every command and they now take turns bringing gallon containers of sweet tea to the hospital...which they serve to her in a Tiffany highball glass, with no ice. And afterwards, the hospital's trained therapy chimpanzee brushes her teeth. This makes Sahara giggle.
  5. Dr. Noah Drake observed Sahara's surgery personally and the neurosurgeon let him tie two sutures on the back of her head.
  6. Mrs. Hecht has taken up kickboxing and has threatened to "go medieval" on anyone who picks on Sahara...oh wait. That one is true. I said last weekend, please.

Here's the mini-scoop, straight from Amy, who was doing laundry tonight. Sahara is doing great in rehab. She's remastering lost skills--she's standing with a walker, pulling herself up to sit, enjoying long showers...and get this! This afternoon, she wheeled herself across the room to get gummy bears.

Amy and I talked about her attitude and determination, and tonight, we'd like to thank every single person who ever coached this child. She's facing rehab like a champion athlete who trusts her coach implicitly. No pity, no whining, just a total commitment to making her body work again.

Once again, kicking ass. And we love her for it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mama bear roars... and gentle requests for your prayers

Amy and I are clearly sisters from another life. As I was bellowing on the site early this morning, she was sending me this message for all of you. I know it may seem harsh and that people mean well. But it is critically important that everyone do the right thing here.

I've got two people I want to recognize here: first, the jackass who is sending hundreds of spam emails from this site. May you rot. And second, the fool who started the email chains claiming she knows where Sahara is... and sharing that misinformation. The stinkeye for you.

One last thing: during Sahara's journey, we've become aware of so many kids who are fighting brainstem tumors. One of them, a darling little girl from southeast Missouri named Brooke Williams, lost her battle yesterday morning. Brooke's mom was sweet enough to keep Sahara in her prayers and even posted here when Sahara had surgery. For those of you who have a moment, please stop by this family's site and leave a note of support. The website is:

Thanks, everyone. Here's Amy!

Hello everyone,
I feel I need to address something...there's some misinformation floating around (again). First of all, we're still asking that folks respect our privacy for the time being as we work our way through this journey. We're not ready to divulge everything yet, but we eventually will, I'm sure.

However, I want to let you all know that we are NOT in LA, and that Dr. Lazareff did NOT perform Sahara's surgery. As we have mentioned before, if you don't see it here on the blog or hear it directly from Shannon or me, you may or may not be getting factual information. Our only family representative, if you will, is Pamela. So please, realize that if you don't get it from the blog or from the Aldridges, it may not be accurate. It is very frustrating to us when this happens.

Our hearts go out to the family of Brooke Williams in Perryville, MO. If you have an opportunity to support this family, please do...they lost their beautiful daughter Saturday morning to a DIPG brain tumor, which is what Sahara was diagnosed as having initially. Little Brooke no longer suffers, but her family will never be the same. Please lift them up in prayer.

I "officially" met a really sweet gal today. She's from Memphis and understands my sweet tea addiction. :) It's so funny...we've said hi in passing and given each other the knowing smile that parents give each other when their kids are in surgery or in the ICU. Yesterday she posted on our blog, and today I went back to the PICU and had a real conversation with her. I knew it was her even before I saw her sitting there...beside her precious little 4 month old girl.

You see, Macy had surgery the same day as Sahara, only hers was open heart surgery. This little angel has been hospitalized for 3 1/2 months of her short life. So if you don't mind, and have an extra moment, I'd like to ask for the magnificent prayer chain we have for Sahara to offer up some words for this little girl. She deserves the opportunity to grow up and have a wonderful life...just like so many others we know. All of our children need constant prayer. Thank you. :)

On the recovery front...we're moving right along and Sahara's doing better each day! Today was tough at first, though. Shannon flew home early Saturday morning. Sahara just bawled when he left - first time she's cried in ages. That was hard to watch, but she got better as the day progressed. He made it home safe and sound. It's so weird without him here...we've all become this solid unit, working together side by side in all we do. We miss him and can't wait for the day we can go home.

Last night Shannon and I went out for our anniversary dinner. It's not technically until the 29th, but he won't be here then. It's the second time we've spent our anniversary apart. We had a really nice meal at PF Chang's, and really enjoyed our little break. It was great. :)

The verdict is in about what comes next for Sahara. The words all parents of sick kids hate: watch and wait. We're going to get another MRI in in a few months to see what's going on. It is our hope that they got all of the bad cells...the ones that could cause this monster to start growing again. Maybe, just maybe, it will wither and die. But if it doesn't, they say at that point we can consider other treatment options. We just don't know at this point. Our doctor as well as the oncology doctors concur that they do not want to "overtreat" her at this point - they want to get her healthy again, get the weight off, get her off of the decadron...and get her walking again.

We like that plan. So for now, our focus is to thank GOD that she made it through the surgery, is healing incredibly fast, and is making improvements more quickly than anyone here can believe. Next stop: rehab!

On Monday, Sahara will begin a hard core neuro rehab program. They are telling us that with the strides she has made in healing that they see no reason that she shouldn't be able to walk again! We are so excited for her, and she's starting to have more hope herself. I can only imagine what's it's like to feel as she does...when so many things have been taken away from her, it must be so difficult for her to believe that she can get them back. We're trying to get her to set some goals...she says she wants to to to the mall with her friends, play in the yard with the dogs, and walk off the airplane when we eventually go home.

What happy days those will they are lofty goals, but in a few weeks' time, I bet this girl will reach them.

Today was a first for was the first time the two of us have ventured out by ourselves to explore the hospital. I took her for a long ride in the wheelchair and she really enjoyed it. Today the hospital...someday, HAWAII!!! (That's one of our future plans...a long family vacation in Hawaii. :)

That's about it for now. This week should get really interesting, so I'm looking forward to posting more good things soon. Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers; we appreciate them now more than ever!

With love,

People, PLEASE

I don't have children of my own, but writing for Sahara has brought out the natural mother-bear instinct inside of me. There are so many facets to her healing, and her parents and health care team bend over backwards to keep everything moving in the right direction.

As we posted just a few days ago, keeping Sahara's location private is critically important. There are reasons for this I am not going to explain. You've trusted me (and them) all along; I need you to trust me here. It benefits her healing process. Period. When the time is right, we will tell where she was, because the surgeon, the facility, and the people who've been caring for the entire family ALL deserve the highest praise.

So here's the deal in plain English, again. If you know, or think you know, where Sahara is, keep the secret. Don't talk about it, and for goodness' sake, don't post it in a comment on this blog.

To everyone else, thanks for your love, support, and prayers. People have stepped forward with extraordinary kindnesses both here and privately, and Amy is so, so grateful. It really does mean the world.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Oops! I promised to give you a link to information about Ganglioglioma, and I didn't. So, for those of you who are curious about Sahara's Mighty Morphin Tumor, here's a clean and simple explanation:

The weekend can't come too soon this week. I've got a couple of new books to devour, and I'm hoping Amy will head out to the parking lot with her tin foil antenna and Rick Springfield secret decoder ring so I can call her up and get the latest scoop on Sahara.

Last night I dreamed I was watching her running on a country road, her stride steady, her hair pulled back in a pony tail, the corn stalks rustling as she moved past. And then she saw me, slowed down, and pulled a little scissors from inside her jersey. "I don't need this anymore," Sahara said, barely out of breath. Her eyes were clear and bright. And with a flash of silver, she snipped her orange bracelet off her wrist and kept running.

It's funny how the world changes, isn't it? In less than 10 days, we've gone from hope to belief. It's a glorious distinction. I have a feeling that over the next few months, we'll discover many, many more reasons to believe.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Stand and deliver

Wow! As you'll see below, it's all good news, and now the tumor has an official name. It's a mouthful, but I say we "gang" up on it and stomp it into mush. I've got a good page with clear information on this type of tumor; I'll post it tonight because right now, I need to jump in my Beetle and head to work. Happy Wednesday!

Hello, everyone,
After waiting for so long for a room to open up, tonight we got lucky. We're now in a semi-private room, much to Sahara's chagrin, but at least we're out of the the ICU. I seriously don't know how nurses do many things going on, so many different patients with different needs. Arrrghhhh...I'd lose my mind. Thank God for NURSES!

We got the final word on pathology today. Sahara has a ganglioglioma with anaplastic features. What a mouthful that is. It is a grade 2 tumor. Although we were hoping it was a lump of dead nothingness, it's still FAR better than the grade 4 diagnosis she was given originally. Normally, a ganglioglioma is a grade 1 tumor, but in Sahara's quest to be different, hers has every type of cell imaginable floating around in it. Dead cells, slowly dividing cells, and rapidly dividing cells. The presence of these bumps it up to grade 2. We are hoping to have a new plan of action in place by the end of the week; a lot of work has to be done to figure out what will serve her best. We're also going to be working on getting Sahara into an intensive pediatric rehab program. Lots and lots to do, that's for sure.

In the meantime, she's doing so well it's almost too scary to type it. Today she was sitting up, standing with help, and was able to get out of bed and sit in the wheelchair for a while (with assistance). PT and OT are working with her each day and they are really great. They had her washing her face and brushing her teeth this afternoon, which she hasn't been able to do in ages. I've done that for her for so long. The PT told her today that she definitely has enough strength in her legs to be able to walk again. WOO HOOOO! That really brightened her day. I can't wait until she gets into some serious therapy again...I think it is going to work wonders.

Sahara wasn't wild about this evening's dinner selection (baked cod), so I smuggled in some S'mores Pop Tarts for a late snack. LOL. She LOVED them and ate every crumb. (The docs are all so pleased with the fact that she's been eating basically whatever she wants since two days post-op!)
I'm excited because I now have a bed to sleep on and can sleep in my jammies. Oh, the great small pleasures of life. LOL. Sahara's excited because they removed one of her IV's, and she's not hooked up to as many monitors anymore. We had one in the ICU that beeped connnnnnstantly. EEEEE. Tonight should be a much better night of sleep.

Shannon and I are lucky to have had the opportunity to get out at least once a day and have a meal together. It's always at some weird hour, either early or late, but it's nice to get outside the hospital walls for a while. It's kept us sane.

The last couple of weeks have been a complete whirlwind. So much has changed, and so far, all of it has been for the better. We miss home so much, but we are really in a great place and Sahara is getting the very best care. That's the number one thing.

Our cell phone reception is pretty lousy here, unfortunately, so if we have missed your call or owe you a call, please be patient with us. Basically, you have to go out into the parking lot, stand in the middle on one foot, cross your eyes and hold up your arms to form a human antenna in order to make a phone call. LOL.

Sahara's snoozing peacefully beside me, and all is quiet around here. Her roommate at the present time is much younger, but he's sleeping too. They try to put kids near the same age together in the rooms, but sometimes it's not possible. This floor is dedicated to kids who have had neurosurgery, so it's a specialized group.

Shannon's gone back to the room this evening, and we'll trade shifts sometime tomorrow morning. It's worked out really well. I've always been the night owl so it doesn't bother me to be here. When he comes in, I'm able to go take a nap and catch up on anything that needs to be done, etc. We hook up again in the afternoon, and hang out with Sahara until we can find that moment to get out for a bit. We're always here for the doctor's rounds and to help her with her meals. The system seems to be working so far. :)

So, another good day for sweet Sahara. Time to catch a few zzzz's while she sleeps!

Monday, September 17, 2007

You give me fever

Good morning and happy Monday,

It's 7 am and I'm watching the neighborhood kids walk to the bus stop (the blog is on Missouri time, but I'm on the East Coast so it's really an hour later here). Two things strike me: how many of the middle and high school students are accompanied by their mothers...and how healthy and agile the girls are. They bounce as they walk. Now and then, they run back home to get something, while their mothers wait in a cluster on the sidewalk, tapping their feet and agitated.

I see them and I think, If you only knew.

Hello, everyone!
Sahara continues to improve each day. This should be her last night in the ICU...we were supposed to get out yesterday, but there were no beds available yet! She also had a very low grade fever, so it's probably just as well that we stayed here. Just in case. Other than that, she's eating well and says she feels stronger. This evening she enjoyed a Pacific salmon filet (nice menu here...LOL). She hasn't been coughing as much, which is great. The cough she's had for the last month has been driving her bonkers. It's incredibly frustrating to try to eat as you cough every 10 seconds.

Although we've been stuck in the ICU since Wednesday night, the environment here is such that it keeps the stress level surprisingly low. We have had really nice people helping us every day. Anything Sahara has needed has been taken care of immediately, and they have been so helpful to Shannon and me as well. We've made some great new friends because everyone is so kind and eager to help.

At least we have the Disney channel and ESPN in here, thank goodness. Shannon got a few looks today because he wore his Titans jersey. You can tell that we're a LONG way from home on game day. LOL.

My only complaint about this experience so far? There is NO SWEET TEA here. None. Nada. Nowhere. ARRRGHHHHH...I've been addicted to McDonalds' sweet tea ever since they introduced it earlier this year. The hospital cafeteria sells Snapple Peach Tea, so I'm surviving on that!

Hopefully by the time I update the blog again we will be in our own room. Oh, what a happy day that will be. LOL.

Have a great week!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

High voltage

Sahara's world is expanding rapidly, and she's doing so well, Amy was able to jump on the laptop to update all of us. The last few nights, her phone calls have been crackling with energy and joy. Tonight, y'all get your own dose of Aldridge-Power.

One more thing--some of the parents of kids who are fighting similar tumors have asked for information on the surgeon. This will be revealed soon--we want to shout his wonderful name from the rooftops. If your child has a website or blog and I can contact you privately there, then send me an email and I'll see if I can help. All I ask is that you maintain Sahara's privacy until she and her parents decide to go public.

Hello, everyone!

WOW...thank you all soooo much for your prayers, wonderful posts and constant support. We are so blessed to have all of you thinking of us and helping us to keep going! I'm so grateful to Pamela for taking my babbling phone calls and turning them into great blog posts for me. :)

Last night, Sahara was taken off the ventilator and began breathing on her own immediately. She has not had any trouble at all and truly looks better and better all the time. This evening she was finally able to have something to eat, and she was really happy about that, considering that she hadn't had anything since Tuesday evening! She has to start slowly, with pudding and jello and juice, but she was glad to have it. She says that the orange jello from St. Francis is still the best, though! LOL!

The transformation this week has been nothing short of amazing. When we arrived here on Sunday, she was so tired from the trip...and all of the testing she had on Monday and Tuesday exhausted her even more. This will be hard to believe...but she looked better after the surgery than she did when she went into the operating room. She was a bit swollen, which was expected, but her face already looked more symmetrical. It was so weird...and exciting. When we saw the before and after MRI's side by side on the computer screen, it literally took our breath away. So much of the monster is now GONE...eradicated. Outta there! Her brain already appears to be compensating and healing, with the areas that had shifted moving back to where they belong. It's more than we can begin to comprehend.

Now, two days post-op, she has stunned everyone here with her strength and progress. Her eyes are bright and wide open. She can drink through a straw with the left side of her mouth. People, she could NOT do that on Tuesday...only the right side was working. She can lift her weakened right arm at the elbow now instead of having to move her shoulder to shift the whole arm. Her lungs are clear, her vital signs are strong. She's giving Shannon a hard time already. It's wonderful. LOLOL.

She even had her first rounds of physical and occupational therapy today! She really got a workout, and we're so proud that somehow, SOMEHOW, she still has strength in her limbs. We just have to get them working in sync again. They were very pleased with how it went with the exercises.

We are still waiting on an array of pathology to come back...lots of tests are being performed on the tissue to determine exactly what kind of tumor has been haunting her for 15 months. We know what it is is NOT a glioblastoma multiforme, grade 4. I won't go too deeply into how I feel about that right now...but suffice it to say that I am LIVID at thoughts of an initial misdiagnosis, continued misdiagnosis, the wrong clinical trial...chemo and radiation geared toward GBM...a tumor that was called "inoperable" keeping residence in Sahara's head for well over a makes me sick. Absolutely SICK. Shannon and I keep shaking our heads...and hating all of this...but now we must continue doing what we have always done...MOVING FORWARD. With more hope now than ever!!!

Our surgeon's hands were guided by God, of that we have no doubt. He has the skills and courage to operate on an area of the brain that very few surgeons will touch. Now that so much of the tumor has been removed, she has a much increased chance of surviving!!! PRAISE THE LORD!!!

I'm watching Sahara sleep; I've always loved doing that. She just giggled...I wonder what the heck she is dreaming about! I hope it's about having fun with her friends, going back to school, so many things that she has missed for so long. She knows that they are waiting for her, and I think that will be the biggest motivation of all. :)

Thank you again for praying us through...we ask that you keep it going...

With love and SO much hope,

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Up up and away

More good news: this morning's MRI showed the surgeon got 70% of the tumor out of Sahara's brain yesterday. 70% of ugly tumor has officially been kicked out...and the balance? It's a scared little bit of wee-wee tumor.

Sahara continues to do beautifully. Her labs are all excellent. She's still on the ventilator, which is perfectly normal, considering how traumatic this sort of surgery is to the body.

So far, she's handling everything like a champ. No 3-point shots just yet, but she did have several victories today.

  • She blinked on command.
  • She responded to questions.
  • She wiggled all 10 toes.
  • She wiggled all 10 fingers.
  • She accepted one dose of morphine, and refused all other pain meds.

After brain surgery, every last one of these is miraculous. And yet, I have no doubt that if Sahara were here, she'd grin and give us all a look like "Well, what did you expect?"

Amy and Shannon are doing well, too. They love the warmth of the hospital staff, and are especially impressed by some of the parent-friendly services, including complimentary Starbucks. And massages. Despite those goodies, I know they miss home, and everyone there. But they know we're all right here, cheering every little step that brings Sahara back to health.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Joy to the world

She's out of surgery...and the surgeon came out smiling. And, I might add, wearing an orange swirl bracelet!

They got a LOT of that nasty tumor out of Sahara's pretty head today. She did beautifully--her blood pressure was steady throughout, and although she's still on a ventilator, her lungs are strong and healthy.

Amy and Shannon (and I) are overjoyed. They haven't seen her yet--she was on her way to the ICU. She probably won't wake up until tomorrow sometime, but all the rest is exactly what she'll need to heal.

Ugly tumor is being tested in the lab, but they confirmed it is not a glioblastoma.

Over the next few days, Sahara will have another MRI to determine just how much tumor is left--and how to make it shrivel up and die.

But for now, this is the best possible news in the world. Tonight, when you say your prayers, thank God.

Pins and needles

I just talked with Amy. Sahara is still in surgery, and it's all going well. It will be several more hours before the doctors are finished.

Amy sounds great--and she is so touched by the fact that so many are praying, wishing, and hoping that this procedure will be the miracle Sahara deserves. I promised her we'd keep it up.

Sahara has completely enjoyed the last few days--not only did she get to feast on P F Changs, but she finally got what she's been craving since she started her healthy low sodium cancer-kicking diet: bologna. And she loved every bite.

I just love her capacity for joy.

I will share the news as it comes in. For now, keep praying. And eat your bologna.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Everybody hang on tight...we're going in!

This is probably the second best post I'm going to put on this blog...and with any luck, it's going to lead to the best one very soon. You all know we've lived through bumps and miracles along the journey, but right now, we are breathless with hope and excitement. I'll let Amy reveal everything below, but first, a couple of things from me:

If you know where the Aldridge family is, please do not mention that in any blog comments. We are creating a circle of absolute privacy around them for a while.

Thank you for all the thoughtful comments about accessible parking--one by one, we can change our own communities...and yes, that WAS my little brother popping in. Hey Davy! Want us to send a little karma to your foot?

And, finally, thanks for the prayers for Greg. He's doing much better and was very moved that Sahara's devotees added him to their Godtalks. I'm going to keep the focus here on Sahara, but tell you what: on the 24th of each month (because Greg also shares a 24 birthday!) if you feel so inclined, ask God to help him heal.

Now, keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle, and please secure small items, because the ride is about to take off. Hold on!

Hello everyone,

By the time many of you read this, we will be well on our way to the west coast, where we will begin the next chapter of Sahara's journey. After searching for what seemed like an eternity, we finally found the surgeon we've been looking for...the one who is going to take that evil tumor out of our sweet girl's head.

Her surgery will take place on Wednesday, September 12.

We would like to ask for your strongest prayers- for Sahara, for the surgeon and his team, and for Shannon and me, that we'll all make it through this together. We're nervous, but so excited. After being told for over a year that her tumor was inoperable, this surgeon is confident that he can get most or all of it out.

He agrees with me...this tumor has not behaved like a typical GBM, which grows and spreads in a rampant fashion. It is contained and has defined edges that are visible on the MRI's. He believes it could be a lower-grade astrocytoma. And I think he's right.

He has a great deal of experience with brainstem tumors, and has saved the lives of literally hundreds of children who have come to him with tumors of all types. We are so lucky to have found him, and are so blessed that he worked us into his schedule this week. He's a real go-getter!

For the time being, we would like to keep our location private. We will be spending all of our time together until Sahara goes into surgery, and focusing all of our energy on taking the very best care of her that we possibly can. I'll post when I can and try to keep all of you informed.

We appreciate your love and prayers so much...thank you for everything you continue to do for us. It means the world.

Special thanks to Cindy and Gunnar...the pizza was fantastic! Sahara hasn't taken off her Livestrong bracelet. And Jennifer, Sahara enjoyed those cheesesticks so much! Tina - we had Outback takeout tonight for our last meal at home! Thank you! Jill, the cupcakes were delicious!! Brenda, thanks for everything you brought us!

(We stopped Sahara's IV treatment after we found out she was having she's been able to eat some "real food," as she calls it! LOLOL!)

Caroline, Lexi and Morgan - I'm so glad you came by today. The platter is beautiful and SO special. Sahara was soooo happy to see you all. :)

So that's all for now, folks. Our greatest hope is that after the surgery, Sahara's able to start rehabilitation and get her life back. She wants so badly to go back to school and be with her friends. Pray, pray, pray.

With love and HOPE!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Just a minute

Sahara, Amy, Shannon, and their collection of critters are all doing well...very well. And next week, with the Jewish New Year, we may have more to tell...

Don't you LOVE a good mystery?

Now that I've got you all interested, I'm going to lecture, beg, and tap dance for a moment so that all you soldiers in Army Aldridge can conquer a problem in your part of the world. As you know, Sahara uses a wheelchair (a very funky red one!) to get around her world. Her parents have handicapped parking permits for when they're driving her to important places like Target. Or the mall. Those up-front, wider spaces not only make it easier to take people with disabilities where they want to go, they often make it possible.

Unfortunately, in this season of busy-busy back-to-school, some people without permits feel justified in parking in those spots, because they have a million excuses: I have the kids! It was only a minute! There's no one handicapped who needs them! There was no other parking!

None of those are valid. I got into a virtual shouting match with someone yesterday who gave all those excuses because her car was towed and she had to pay a $108 ticket, and she lost her cool in front of her kids, screaming and cursing at the store and the tow truck driver.

To my shock, many people defended her reaction. I tried being nice and asking her to imagine what it would be like to not only have all those excuses, but be in a wheelchair, or on crutches, or unable to walk far... and now not be able to go to the store at all.

She didn't get it, and that makes me mad, and sad. My old boss used to tell me "You can't get into a pissing battle with a skunk." I guess so... but I can gently remind the world that doing the right thing can remove so many obstacles for those of us who have challenges.

So today and always--even if it's raining or icy or there are 50 spots for people with disabilities and you're going to have to walk 300 feet with 12 kids, all of whom are hungry and have 67-item school supply lists and no shoes--don't park in the accessible spots without the permit. Please.