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Posts Tagged ‘Loss’

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An EF-5 tornado ripped through the town of Moore, Oklahoma on May 20th in the afternoon. Twenty-three people died and hundreds were injured.  Another person died of something related to the tornado.  And as I started writing this, I read in the paper that a 25th person has now died due to injuries related to the tornado.  We are constantly reminded of the tragedies that occurred that day.

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Homes and schools were destroyed. But the town and the courage and resiliency of the people live on. Moore is like so many towns in the Midwest. The people are strong. Nothing will beat them down. I knew this from watching the news and seeing the people helping absolute strangers clear their property that had been destroyed by the tornado.  And I saw it in the eyes of the parents, struggling to comfort their children or the children of others as they awaited news of their own.  It was heart-wrenching.

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Watching the news reports, I felt that I needed to do something.  Yet, who am I?  I am just a single person…no organizations backing what I choose to do.  And I live over 8 hours away in south Texas.  Yet, I still felt I had to DO something.  I didn’t mean donating money.  I always wonder just how much is actually helping those who need help.  And how much is lining the pockets of those running the organizations.  So, I stewed over it and decided there WAS something I could do.  I could donate Pampered Chef products so the families can start making meals again.  Food is comfort.

So I spoke to my mother.  And she said a friend she has in Oklahoma City has a son who lost his home.  And they know other families who’ve lost everything.  I knew then that I was going to send packages to them.  And then it steamrolled!  My mother placed an order and so did I.  The packages arrived at the home of my mother’s friend and they were thrilled to hand over all the goodies inside to those families.  But then I mentioned to other Pampered Chef consultants I know that I was trying to help 3 families.  And they donated extra products they had…cookware, tools, plates, cookbooks…on and on.  And I remembered a full-size afghan I had.  It was thick and plush.  I donated that.  And I found more products in my cabinets.  Suddenly, I realized it was going to cost a fortune to mail all of that.

My sweet husband suggested we drive up on a Saturday and deliver it, spend the night in a hotel and drive back on Sunday.  He gave up his weekend of relaxation to hit the road with me.  We both felt humbled to be able to take all of the wonderful donations my friends had provided and deliver them to Moore.

On July 6th, we left early in the morning and drove all day.  My mother’s friend called us and asked us to come to dinner at her home.  Although I had never met these people, they made us feel so at home, treating us like family.  And after dinner, they took us on a tour of the devastation in Moore.  They showed us the path of the tornado and the freakish destruction.  Houses were demolished on one side of a street and almost fully intact on the other, with just a few shingles missing from the roof.  Businesses were destroyed.  Memorials to the lives lost were everywhere I looked.

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And then we visited the site of the Plaza Towers Elementary School.  My heart broke.

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The memorial grows and grows with each passing day.  And the townspeople of Moore will rebuild.  And their will remains strong.  God bless Moore and the families who were affected in so many ways.  I still feel the need to do more.  And I will.  It makes my heart feel just a tiny bit less broken.

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“Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.” – Unknown

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Almost 14 years ago, in Independence, Missouri, I was on my way to an appointment to see a Persian kitten.  I had recently lost my beautiful cat, Casper, who had lived a full 18 years.  I missed him and was lonely for the whiskery love of a cat.  For years, I had thought Persian cats were gorgeous and was not thinking beyond that.  I wasn’t sure how to get to the lady’s home and this was pre-GPS days, so I took note of the directions and started out early – I don’t like to be late.  I got to the area a full half-hour early, but saw a PetsMart near her home and wanted to look for a few cat toys.

And that decision to stop at PetsMart changed the course of what was to be and began my love affair with my new cat, Rascal.  When I went into the store, I realized they were running an adoption program for pets from the local animal pound.  I saw an adorable litter of kittens with their tuxedo mom.  Wanting a male cat, I asked if there were any males in the litter and they said, “two”.  I started playing with the male tuxedo kitten and all he was interested in was going back to play with his sisters.

I then asked which other one was male and they pointed out the little mackerel tabby sitting in the corner of the litter box, watching the rough and tumble play of his siblings.  I wasn’t sure he was a cat I was interested in, but I said I’d like to see him.  And that was it.  They placed him on the table in front of me and he ran to me, climbed up my shirt and snuggled at my neck.  I laughed and my heart melted.  I set him back on the table and he did the same thing…purring in my ear and snuggling in for life.  I called the lady with the Persian kitten and apologized that I would not be there.  But I knew I had made the right decision.

Rascal was a one-person cat.  He adored me and hissed and growled at almost everyone else, especially the vet – and anyone who worked there.  He purred like a motor-boat if I looked at him.  When I stroked his lovely chin and forehead, he squinted his gorgeous, green eyes and purred louder.  He loved me and I loved him.

My beautiful boy, Rascal.  His nose was reddish brown, with a dark outline.  It almost looked like a heart shape.

My beautiful boy, Rascal. His nose was reddish brown, with a dark outline. It almost looked like a heart shape.

Rascal spent the next two years with me, keeping me company and we were happy to hang out on the couch, curled up with a book or watching television.  His adventurous spirit was limited to hanging out on the windowsill, watching the birds, other cats and some squirrels playing in the yard.  He didn’t like the outdoors at all and if the door opened, he ran to the bedroom, hiding under the bed.

When he was two, my new love, Beau came to visit my house for the first time.  I expected that Rascal would hide until he was gone, but my shock could not have been bigger.  Rascal walked over to him and the doorway, rubbed against his legs and purred.  And when Beau sat down on a chair in the living room, Rascal hopped up behind his head and curled up, content to hang out with him.  My sweet, one-person cat had just become a two-person cat.  And that would last for the rest of Rascal’s life.

Beau and I were married several months later and Rascal and I flew from the United States to Germany to live with my new hubby while he finished the last bit of his 5 years working for the US Government in Germany.  Rascal thrived in Germany!  He loved the marble windowsills and the radiators that heated them in winter.  His favorite places were on those sills, watching the birds, the comings and goings of the neighbors and the distance he maintained from our landlord’s beagle and sitting in front of the balcony door.  But our time in Germany ended and we hopped on another plane, back to the United States and Texas – our new home.

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Rascal’s next nine years were years of love, contentment and his happiness being a two-person cat. His favorite window was in the patio door. He pushed the curtain aside and would stare out – and panic if I was outside. I think he couldn’t quite comprehend why anyone, ever, would want to be outdoors. He’d watch every move I made until I came back inside.

And then he seemed to get hair balls all the time, started losing weight, and I knew that something was wrong.  His frequent visits to the vet began last May.  We dealt with treatments for the hairballs, he had a few bad teeth removed and he seemed to stabilize.  And then he began to lose more weight.  At first, we assumed it was because we had changed his diet to accommodate his fewer teeth, the need to keep his food more moist.

But then six weeks later, he was sick again.  And we returned to the vet…again and again.  Finally, I realized there was something much more wrong with him.  I saw him every day, but even I knew he was losing a lot of weight.  My once fat, fluffy cat who had weighed in at one point over 17 lbs was now at 11 lbs.  And that was when he was diagnosed with an intestinal tumor.

Our wonderful vet removed the tumor and sent it in for a biopsy.  We were told that Rascal’s tumor was cancerous, but that of the two types, it was the lesser and the margins were clean and it had not progressed to lymph nodes.  My optimism returned.  I thought we were going to still keep my baby with us for a few more years.  A month later, we discovered more issues and then the diagnosis that there was likely another mass in his intestines.

At that point, we took him home to enjoy his last days.  To the bitter end, my sweet, loveable Rascal looked at me with love, wanted to be held, snuggled and purred whenever I looked at him or stroked his beautiful face.  I adore him still and miss that face and the love he gave me from that first day at PetsMart.  I will never love a cat the way I loved him.  He was there for me during my time alone and accepted my husband into our life unconditionally…and with no hesitation.

“What greater gift than the love of a cat.” ~ Charles Dickens 

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Not necessarily a good sound.  Splish, Splash!  Can be a fun lyric, a great time at the pool, or…the sound you hear as you dunk your cell phone in a cup of cranberry juice cocktail!  I know I have done some stupid things in my life, but this is a prime example.  Evidently, I’m having a problem with short-term memory as I age.  Or maybe I can blame it on having things on my mind.  I hope that’s it.  Yeah, I’m sure of it.  Lots on my mind. 

Anyway, I was in my car just leaving work one day last week and had some left-over cranberry juice cocktail in a glass.  So, I placed the glass in the cup holder in the center console and started the car.  That’s when I also remembered I needed to charge my cell phone, too, so I attached the power cord and, as has become a habit, dropped the cell phone into the cup holder, so it wouldn’t slide around in the car (trying to be safe and protect the phone, you know). SPLASH!  I felt something wet on my fingertips.  A little late, I remembered the cup of juice.  I pulled the cell phone out of the juice as I was driving down the road and knew that it was going to have to wait for a clean-up.  I was already at the highway merging into rush-hour traffic.  As I wove my way through and stopped and started with the heavy traffic, I reached into my purse, hoping for a handi-wipe or some miracle cleaner.  Yeah, right.  I found some Kleenex and wiped the phone off the best I could.  Now, I had a sticky, semi-wet, fuzzy phone. 

When I got home 30 minutes later, I cleaned off the phone the best I could and tried to figure out what to do.  Fortunately, the phone had only been immersed half-way, so the number keys still worked, the camera was working and I had hope the rest MIGHT work again someday.  A friend recommended putting the phone into some dry rice to draw the moisture out of it.  YES, I can do that!! 

Not much of a rice eater, I had to rummage through the cupboards to find some.  Aha!  A free sample of rice we had received at some festival in town.  So, I dropped my phone into a bowl and ripped open the package and dumped the contents over the phone. NOOOOOOOOO!  It was seasoned rice!  Yep, now I had fake saffron seasoning coating my wet phone.  I grabbed the phone out of the bowl and wiped it off (again) and then dug through the cupboards again.  Score!  Minute Rice!  Very old Minute Rice.  So, I cleaned out the bowl, put the phone in again and dumped in a full bowl of rice.   Now, if only I could be patient.  As the night progressed, I kept checking the success.  Things were improving SLOWLY.

The camera works…the internet access works…the Walkman works…the ringer works…I can access my pictures…I can access my contacts…but I can’t hear anyone talking! 

Well, after a couple of days, I have still got a problem with my phone.  Everything works…but the microphone that allows me to hear who I’m speaking with.  A minor problem with a phone!  And then, lo and behold, I see something in the speaker!  There is something dark yellow.  I use a sharp pin to dig it out…SPICES…from the rice.  Now I can hear!  It’s still a little crackly, but I can hear.  So, I’m hoping the phone will hold out long enough for me to decide what kind of new phone I’m getting.  I hate trying to pick a new phone…it involves a new learning curve and starting over on the ringtone downloads. 

“Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better.” ~ Richard Hooker

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There are people in our past who made such a huge impact on us that we will never be the same after having met them or having an event take place that was precipitated by something they did or said.   Sometimes, these people cause what Oprah calls “Aha moments” or sometimes their actions created such an incredibly high point or low point for us that they stand out.  And sometimes it was just a feeling we had about that person or an emotion or idea that filled us up in an almost consuming way.  Every once in a while, I look back on the last 50 years and think about those people.  Each left a mark on me.  The earliest recollection of someone who had such an impact was my first grade teacher.  Sadly, I can’t remember her name, but even if I did, I wouldn’t have included it.  I was frightened of her.  She was one of those teachers who pushed and pushed students to excel.  I tried my hardest always and never felt good enough.  I did learn a lot from her, but at that young age, it was a little hard to cope with.  Maybe THAT is why I don’t remember her name.  And I did gain a certain determination to excel.  She also gave me a solid foundation in reading skills that have impacted my entire life.  I love to read. 

Another person who had such an impact was my fifth grade teacher, Miss Blumquist.  She, however, was very positive in her dealings with students.  She very carefully taught me to hold my hand, wrist, and pen in a mirror image of right-handed people when writing.  She didn’t want me to curve my wrist around or turn the paper sideways.  Most people don’t even realize I’m left-handed when they watch me write.  She cared deeply that her students were successful in so many ways, but the little things she did also helped us.  And I wanted to be just like her. It was then, in fifth grade, that I decided I wanted to be a teacher.  And I was.  I hope there is at least one student out there who feels like I made a positive difference in his or her life. 

In high school, I belonged to a youth group at church.  The man who lead the group was an officer in the Army, had a family of his own and his own life to lead.  But he gave so much time to the dozens and dozens of young people who belonged to that youth group.  He inspired us to be giving of our time and to care about others.  So, Col. Hammond is another person who touched my life…and I will never be the same.

While I was in college, I met so many people of different backgrounds.  Each one of those people had a hand in teaching me who I am.  I was lucky enough to have a professor who didn’t put up with my procrastinations, didn’t want to hear any excuses…he wanted me to be successful.  And not long before I graduated, he told me I reminded him of his daughter.  It explained a lot of why I felt he was always pushing me harder to be a better person and a better teacher.  I found myself doing the same thing to my students…wanting them to be successful.  No excuses. Thank you to Dr. Downing!

The man who killed my father also has had a huge impact on me, but in more subtle ways than the obviously enormous way that comes from losing a loved parent to a violent, uncalled-for death.  He taught me to stand up for my rights.  He taught me persistence.  He taught me that eventually good does win out.  He taught me to cherish every day, because we never know how long we have with those we love.  I will not list his name, because he doesn’t deserve to be publicized.  He deserved to die in prison for what he did.  And he finally died last year without receiving the parole he requested.  I never gave up fighting those requests.  And my persistence paid off.  Good won out.

My students changed my life.  Some in very positive ways and some in negative ways, but each one had an impact on who I became.  I do remember some more than others, but I taught approximately 1500 students while I was a teacher.  Mike, Shannon, Amy, Sally, Matt and Mike (the twins), Lisa, Tara, Shay and Laine…the list goes on and on.  They are special people.  I hope I taught them even half of what they taught me.

Friends through my life have taught me loyalty, understanding, the need to have friends even when one is married (a spouse cannot be everything to you, no matter how loving and caring he is).  My friends have been there for me when I needed a different perspective.   They have taught me that my creative side needs an outlet…And I need an outlet for fun with the girls.  My dear, sweet hubby doesn’t like to paint pottery, scrapbook or watch chick-flicks.  They do.  And I appreciate them for that and so many other things.  Without them, I would never be the same.

I look back on someone I knew in high school.  Missy Etheridge.  She was Missy back then.  Now she’s Melissa.  And she taught me to reach for my dreams.  Never give up.  And to be who I am.  No apologies.  No regrets.  And for all of that, I will never be the same.  Her music was her dream.  Like I dreamed of being a teacher.  She reached her goal and so did I.  And we both have lived our lives in the way we chose to.  I hope for her a fearless love.  I have mine in my wonderful Beau.         

“I Will Never Be The Same”

So you walked with me for a while
Bared your naked soul
And you told me of your plan
How you would never let them know
In the morning of the night
You cried a long lost child
And I tried oh I tried to hold you
But you were young
And you were wild

But I, I will never be the same
Oh I, I will never be the same
Caught in your eyes
Lost in your name
I will never be the same

Secrets of your life
I never wanted for myself
But you guarded them like a lie
Placed upon the highest shelf
In the morning of the night
When I woke to find you gone
I knew your distant devil
Must be draggin’ you along

But I, I will never be the same
Oh I, I will never be the same
Caught in your eyes
Lost in your name
I will never be the same

And you swore that you were bound for glory
And for wanting you had no shame
But I loved you
And then I lost you
And I will never be the same

But I, I will never be the same
Oh I, I will never be the same
Caught in your eyes
Lost in your name
I will never be the same

~ Melissa Etheridge

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War Widows

We always hear of football widows, basketball widows, and such, but we laugh…this is such a temporary state of affairs.  After all, we know husbands can be sucked into the black hole of sports, not to be heard or seen again until the game is over…or even the season.  But we diminish the word “widow” when we talk of being a sports widow.  I mean, after all, he’s still there to sleep with that night, to talk with over breakfast, to bring in a paycheck, to kiss good-bye as he heads to work.  But what about all of our war widows (or widowers, for that matter)?  They won’t have a spouse coming back to the conscious world after the game is over.  They don’t get to talk over breakfast anymore.  No more quick phone calls during the day to touch base.  They’ve given up all they treasured, for our country. 

Today, I was reading an article about one war widow, Hotaru Ferschke.  She and her baby boy are living that nightmare of knowing her husband and his father isn’t coming home.  And with all of that grief and the normal struggles of being a new mom, Hotaru has another struggle…trying to stay in the U.S.  She and her husband had a proxy marriage while she was in Japan and he was in Iraq.  And though the Marines recognized it as a legitimate wartime marriage and are now paying her death benefits, the U.S. immigration department doesn’t recognize the marriage.  It’s like that old saying, “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.”  Well, I for one think the immigration department needs to wake up and smell the coffee.  If the marriage is recognized by one branch of our government, it should be recognized by all branches.  After all, his family is welcoming her into their home, so she has a place to live, she has income of some kind coming in and she’s the mother of a child whose father served and died for our country.  And I’m sure she isn’t the only one fighting other battles while grieving.  We need to support our war widows and widowers emotionally, legally, and morally.  And, if possible, financially.  They’ve already lost too much.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” ~ C.S. Lewis

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Yesterday

Yesterday, people were so caught up in their lives and things going on around them that I didn’t hear anyone reference 9/11. It was sad. Already, so many are forgetting. I wonder how long it will be before they also no longer place signs on the front of their businesses and no longer appreciate our soldiers. Then it makes me wonder what those people who survived Pearl Harbor felt when passing time put that day in history not quite in the forefront of people’s thoughts. And what about the people who survived catastrophic weather? Whole towns were obliterated. When did people forget to remember the lives lost?

As a population, we need to keep remembering. Because otherwise, we are doomed to repeat history. We need to remember our horror as we watched the towers collapse. We need to remember our fears as we saw the plumes of smoke rise from the Pentagon. We need to remember our tears as we heard the recorded messages to 9-1-1 on 9/11 from those in the twin towers or the Pentagon or on that plane crashing into a field to stop the terrorists’ plan.  We need to remember the loss of life from the responders who gave it all to try to save those who had survived.

It should be a daily honoring of those who were lost. Their contributions to our future are gone. The potential leaders who could have been born to them, the potential healers, the potential teachers, the shear loss of all of that potential. It’s gone. We can’t get it back. And I cry for our loss. I grieve for those families…not just on 9/11, but through the year as I see reminders. When I see an injured soldier, when I see our flag fluttering in the breeze, when I hear the National Anthem.

“Of joys departed, not to return, how painful the remembrance” ~ Robert Blair

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