Today I want to talk about someone very special to me.
She’s my best friend. Has been for a few years now.
There is nothing easy about writing this post. I hold so sacred all of your trust in me. Please believe me that today’s entry doesn’t come lightly or without a lot of thought behind the decision to do it.
Tobi needs our help, and I hope that you’ll give me a few minutes of your time today.
She would never ask for my help. She would never ask for your help. Her greatest desire is to never be a burden to anyone. I know this because even as her best friend, and even as someone who has the ability to make certain things happen, I often have to dig through incredibly thick layers of false smiles, insincere declarations of “I don’t need anythings,” and all that stuff that struggling strong people do.
But before we get to all that, let’s start with who Tobi is.
She’s a good woman. Just a few days ago, I watched as she wiggled a couple hours into her incredibly impossible schedule to meet with one of my friends because my friend needed advice and Tobi was the one who had been there done that. The one evening Tobi spent with this woman was enough to give her exactly what she needed to deal with a very tough life situation.
That’s one example of thousands. I’ve seen Tobi sit next to homeless people and share what little she has as she learns about their lives and their journeys, sincerely interested in them as human beings. I’ve seen her forgive in the most difficult of circumstances. I’ve seen her bake for her neighbors, share her time and talents with those who need it, actively volunteer at her children’s schools. I’ve seen her go without so her children don’t suffer. I’ve seen her give up sleep, and money, and comfort and I’ve yet to see her expect anything in return.
One night a few months ago I was at my rope’s end. It was about 1:30 in the morning, and I had a problem that I couldn’t mentally and emotionally get past on my own. She drove thirty minutes to see me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She stayed for almost two hours.
She made signs with her children and joined us at the protest of love. She rarely goes a day or two without asking how I am doing. She loves. And she loves with all she has. This includes her friends, yes. Also her fiancée. And also her children.
Tobi has seven of them.
Four are from her previous marriage. Two from her fiancée’s previous marriage. And one amazing baby they had together.
Her oldest son was born with a severely disfigured face. He had a cleft lip cleft palate and has had more than 20 surgeries now. He’s ten. He needs many more. I have watched her weep every time she prepares for another trip to the hospital every time he has to go. She would do anything for that boy.
All of her children are amazing. All of them have a very big need for time, attention, and love from their mother. She gives it to them all, unending and with very few breaks in between.
Every Sunday she prepares an amazing lesson for her children. She teaches them to love and accept others. She teaches them to think for themselves. She walks them through my Beautiful You posts and challenges them to find something beautiful about every person they see. As mothers go, she is probably the most involved mother I have ever met, and I don’t say that with bias.
Tobi is amazing. She is always there for me. Always there for everyone. And she never asks for help. She never wants to put anyone out. She never wants to be a burden. Even when she qualified for government assistance, she refused to take it, desiring to always be someone giving and never taking from her country. That’s just who she is, and there’s no talking her out of it.
The only vacation she’s been able to take her children on in years was to a hotel with a swimming pool. It was as good as being at Disneyland for those kids, that’s how well she’s raised them. They know gratitude. They have things in perspective.
And now I need to help Tobi.
She really doesn’t have family to turn to, even if she would. Tobi left the Mormon faith a few years ago (which is how we originally bonded and became best friends), and much of her family more or less ostracized her and refuses to accept her unless she “gets back in line.” Coming from a Mormon family like mine who has been incredible to me, it breaks my heart every time I see another email or another text telling Tobi just how conditional their love really is. Yet she believes in something else and had the courage to leave her biggest support group behind in the chase for authenticity. She’ll probably be upset with me for sharing this. Even with their behavior, she loves and protects them.
But her loss of family support is nothing compared to the real reason I’m coming to all of you for help.
Tobi has multiple sclerosis. She was diagnosed in her early twenties, if I remember correctly. And this mother of seven is becoming more crippled by the day.
Christmastime was the first time I actually saw her dragging her leg as she walked. When her MS flares, her legs don’t work properly. Her neck writhes in pain. That night she came for just a little while, her head tilted to one side, unable to straighten it. She would barely acknowledge that anything was wrong even though the pain was so evident in her eyes.
Some days she can’t get out of bed.
Some days she cries herself to sleep because of the pain.
And, this is where Tobi’s true greatness comes into play…
There are two major things that trigger her MS episodes. Cold and stress.
We live in Utah. It is not uncommon to see wind chills below zero several months of the year.
She could move somewhere warmer, but she doesn’t because…
She loves all her kids. All seven of them. And two of them are AJ’s (her fiancée), and they are here in Utah. So here in Utah she stays, even though it is beginning to cripple her beyond function.
That’s the cold.
But there’s also stress.
AJ’s ex-wife came out of nowhere several months ago and tried to take his kids away. AJ is a good dad. A really good dad. He came into Tobi’s life and barely blinked taking on her four existing kids, even though he knew it would drain his finances and energy for at least the next 17 years. Then they added another one. To watch him with their baby is inspiring. You know when a father is truly in love with his child. I have never seen AJ not enamored by that boy, or by any of the other six.
And yet his ex-wife started a battle to take them away. I have no idea why, still. As a good fatherhood advocate, the whole thing tends to madden me. But she did. She wants to take them away from a good father. A good man. A father who wants to be involved more not less. A father who wants to teach his children good things, not bad ones. A father who wants nothing more than to be there. For his kids. For his fiancée. He is as selfless as Tobi is when it comes to his family.
And it has broken my heart to watch this custody battle. This couple has pushed every penny they have and then some to protect their family and to keep it intact. They have watched their bank account dip in and out of red repeatedly (more in the red than the black lately), all to fight this battle that shouldn’t even be happening in the first place.
And remember how I said this is where Tobi is amazing?
In order to try and fight for her family, and for her fiancée, and for her children (all seven of them), she took on a job waiting tables so that AJ would have what he needs to protect his fatherhood rights.
Her new job cripples her. She can’t even make it through the night sometimes. It is so hard on her body. She sometimes can’t walk the next day. Sometimes the pain is so bad she throws up. But still she goes, four nights a week, because she loves her children and would do anything for them.
Yes, her job is crippling her. This custody battle is crippling her. The money stress from it all is crippling her. And I don’t know how much longer she can go. I don’t want to see my friend suffer the way she is. Not when I have the power to do something about it.
One of our mutual friends and I pitched in to take Tobi and AJ to Cabo a few weeks ago.
We thought a vacation away from kids and life for a few days would be the juice these two needed to keep going. And it was wonderful for everyone involved. But it was short-lived, and these two amazing people walked back home into even more stress and more problems than before they left. Tobi’s landlord likely sold the house they are living in, and they are going to have to unexpectedly find a new place to live in a hurry. AJ’s ex-wife unloaded even more of her seemingly unending arsenal against them, dragging this thing out even more.
And my dearest friend Tobi, the woman who has helped me through my hardest times, is at her end. Take my word for that. This was the text I got from her tonight.
Trust me when I tell you that I know Tobi enough to know that that text was the end. The end of everything she has to give right now.
And so I wonder if you’ll trust me enough to help Tobi. Spring is coming. That will help with the cold. And a generous buck or two from a bunch of you will help with EVERYTHING else. To not have to cripple herself further and further just to get through this… that would be an enormous gift to her, yes. It would be an even bigger gift to her children. It would be a gift to the man she is doing it all for. It would be a gift to me, most definitely. And it would be a gift to every warm spirit she always finds a way to somehow touch.
Will you please open your heart to Tobi and AJ and their seven children? Will you send them a buck or two or twenty? For me? For them? Do it because they are good people, good parents, and because all she wants is to see her children make it to adulthood.
I don’t know how much you know about multiple sclerosis. I know enough to know that if she doesn’t get help, there’s a very good chance she might not make it that far. Tobi was diagnosed so young. She has a very tough, long, difficult road ahead with her disease. At the very least, will you help me help her through this immediate battle so that she can focus on what matters? Staying healthy for her kids. That’s all that matters. And we, as a group, have the power to do that. We have the power to take care of one of our own. Our friend, neighbor, sister, and fellow human being.
If you’re willing, all the money will go straight to her via PayPal. I’ll never see a dime of it. Simply fill out the form below to send via PayPal, check, or credit/debit card, or send a PayPal donation to [email protected]
I don’t come to you all for needs like this often. Thank you for letting me do so today. Thank you for letting me do it on behalf of a personal friend. She does not know I am doing this for her. She wouldn’t want me to do this for her. Which is why we have to do this for her.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
Oh, PS. Your email receipt will show that the donation is going to Anthony Farish. That’s AJ, just FYI. 🙂