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This Phoenix Speaks

Seven years in the making, my first published book, This Phoenix Speaks , is now a reality. The tireless and tiring work invested to ma...

be brave

There are very few people in the world who are brave like this girl. She knows no guile. She gives her all to everyone around her. She faces the unfaceable—and smiles while doing so (sometimes).

My daughter has severe autism and epilepsy. These two factors make our life very different from many other people's. There are things we have to go through that are just extra special in very non-special ways at times. Her EEG testing that is happening this week is one of them. But before I talk about that, I want to tell you another story:

Over Christmas break, we went for a little trip to the hospital for dental work. This girl can't hold still properly for x-rays neither can she hold her mouth open well enough to get her teeth worked on normally, so we just head to the hospital every couple of years for them to take care of her. It's like a day spa for her mouth where they put her to sleep until they finish. Or something like that!

So we arrive at the hospital, get checked in, and I help her get into her hospital gown. Then we wait but not for long. After just a few minutes, the oral surgeon and his understudy (can't remember what they are actually called), along with two observing students from some university in California, all crowd into the tiny room with the large hospital bed that she's on, and we begin talking about what will happen. In the course of this discussion, they each get to know my daughter a little bit because she decides that they all need knuckles and high fives, and the resident (understudy, not sure) got a mini back rub on his shoulder that she could reach. All the while, she's acting like she's at a party as the one guy is putting in an IV, for crying out loud! But that's not the best part.

The best part is when she starts telling her knock-knock jokes. Her two knock-knock jokes. Over and over and over.

They didn't understand her the first time she said it, so I translated for her, and they all gave a courteous laugh. And then . . . she says her joke again . . . and again. She mixes in one other every so often, but she definitely has her favorite. So what happens next is hilarious. These four grown men begin to take turns telling knock-knock jokes because she assigns them turns saying, "You turn" and pointing. She makes certain she gets to tell her joke after each one, but the turn-taking goes viral. One guy turns out to be an avid knock-knock joke teller from his high school days. Another has his phone out doing searches to be able to one-up my daughter and these other guys. And you know, she won the contest. I know this for sure because when we all were laughing when the punchlines came around as we were walking down the hallway to the surgery room, one of them turns to me and says something to this affect, "You know what makes it so funny? She says it like she's telling the joke for the very first time every time. That makes the joke genuinely funny—every time."

Her delivery is on point every single time. And that's true across the board. That girl is so sweet and happy and wanting to help. When she's having a hard time, she's not, but everyone has their moments. But she is quick to recover.

After they wheel her through the surgery doors, I was consulting with the dentist, and some time later, one of the observing students came out to the waiting room to tell me that she was telling her knock-knock jokes until she could no longer speak from the anesthesia putting her to sleep. That girl!

So back to the EEG.

She does not like getting poked and prodded. And really, who does?  It took over an hour to mark her head and glue the electrodes to her scalp. This proved to be a real struggle for her since she had to stay awake for it. I bribed her with the promise of a treat, and then the tech got smart, and she bribed her with a future treat too. And after that, it wasn't totally smooth sailing, but this brave girl found courage, patience, or strength, whatever it was, to work through her autism struggles and make it possible to get the job done without us feeling like she's being tortured.

While she didn't get to telling her jokes, she did find her smile again before we left the hospital.

There are things we don't like going on around us and being thrown at us, but that shouldn't keep us down. I can't always find my smile, but today, she taught me that I need to work harder at that. I need to be brave and smile sooner than later.


Here's her most favorite (most repeated) joke:
Her: Knock-knock.
Anyone who will reply: Who's there?
Her: Boo.
AWWR: Boo who?
Her: Dont' cry. It's just a joke.


  1. Your story telling was filled with love. The knock- knock joke competition was unexpected. At the same time it told so much about your daughter and about the medical personel in that room.

  2. From the loving way you told the story, I can already hear your brave smile. You probably wear it more than you realize.

  3. Beautiful! I love the theme of bravery. It sounds like she is more than brave - she is funny, friendly, and happy in this story as well. I'm sure the jokes made the doctors' day!

  4. This is beautiful!! I love how you told this entire story! Your daughter sounds amazing and definitely would be a blessing to have at school! You and your daughter are so brave! Thank you for sharing this slice!

  5. Thank you for sharing your daughter's story. We get a kick out of her.


  6. Laura, this is so beautiful. As I read, I not only saw your daughter and her heart, I saw yours! Full of life, love, and joy. I concur with your final sentence. I, too, need to remind myself to "smile sooner than later." Thank you for sharing.

  7. Oh I miss her sweet face and her backrubs. Can't wait to see you guys in June, I will make sure to brush up on my knock knock jokes <3

    Here's my slice: http://joolimammoth.blogspot.com/2017/03/these-words-are-not-my-own.html#more


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