Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tornado's and Technology

I have always had a love/hate relationship with technology. In so many ways I feel that it has ruined us as a society. It has made us hide behind our computers, cell phones and gaming systems and changed our world view, not necessarily for the better. However, technology does have it's good points. In today's technological world, it has kept us more closely connected as a people and we are able to communicate even in the worst situations. In my opinion technology is a double edged sword, being able to both ruin and save lives. I guess you just have to take the bad with the good.

On May 25, 1955, a tornado roared through Udall, KS leaving near complete destruction. It was an F5 that took out almost all of the town buildings and homes and in all 87 died and 200 were injured. It was touted as The Night Udall Died in reference to the fact that as a once thriving town pre tornado, Udall never fully recovered after that fateful night. Now, jump ahead to the Moore, OK tornado, also an F5 that hit last year on May 20, 2013 and killed 24 and injured 377. As tornado's go, they were actually quite similar in terms of destruction, however there were huge differences in outcomes, thanks to technology.

In 1955, weather radar and even meteorology were rudimentary at best. Weather conditions were not tracked days in advance and weather warnings such as sirens were sparse. Even if your town had a siren, by the time a tornado's presence was known, the sounding of the siren at best gave only minutes and sometimes just seconds to react. Part of what left Udall in such devastation that night was the time the tornado hit, which was after 10:30 p.m. and the location of Udall, a rural town, about 26 miles due south of Wichita, KS. There was no expectation of an F5 hitting that night. In fact at the time, no one had ever even heard of the Fujita scale for tornado's. They just knew of storms and tornado's and that some were worse than others. Little did they have a clue that night, that one of the worst tornado's was going to hit Udall head on. Storms were expected but certainly not a storm that would wipe out an entire town under a veil of darkness. It was because of this darkness, that those outside the town were not even aware that it had been hit until the light of day, leaving people injured and dying and unattended for hours in the aftermath. Phone lines and power lines were destroyed and roads leading in and out of the town were blocked by debris. I have heard the horror stories from residents of the time, who said people were hurt, bleeding and wandering aimlessly in shock seeing what had just happened to their town, their homes and in some cases their family and friends.

The first few minutes after a storm such as Udalls, are crucial for search and rescue and also for getting  medical help for any victims. Without this help their is inevitable death. It was hours before the residents of Udall could take care of the victims or even find victims. They were in the dark and trying to make sense of it all.

Think how differently it all might have gone for Udall if there had been spotters out in the days prior to this storm, watching it and keeping an eye on the sky and the town. It makes one wonder....what if warning had come soon enough for people to actually find shelter that night? In the aftermath, camera's would have already been on the town and teams would have been preparing all over for the "just in case" scenario as the storms continued to brew. If there had been cell phones perhaps at least one person could have called for help. Instead though, Udall remained in devastated darkness throughout the night. Yes, technology could have made Udall a very different story.

On May 20, 2013 at approximately 3 p.m. an F5 tornado, not unlike the tornado that hit Udall all those years before, loomed over Moore, OK as it took a direct hit. While the devastation of homes and property were great, after all....even technology cannot protect you from a 210 mph beast, the people of Moore had something Udall didn't. They had warning. Days in advance meteorologists had been watching this weather system carefully. They saw the signs and knew that the potential for this to be a dangerous Tornado Alley outbreak was great. Spotters had been sent out to the area hours and even days before the storms hit, watching and waiting and reporting back to Norman, OK letting them know their first hand views.

As this deadly monster geared up and bared down on Moore, the residents had already been warned. This warning was the difference between school kids being let out at 3 p.m. and being kept inside. People knew it was coming thanks to radio, TV and computers, sadly though the storms timing was horrific and the ability to protect yourself from an F5 is limited.

Thanks to technology though, in the aftermath help was there immediately. People had the ability to let loved ones know they were okay and search and rescue was almost instantaneous as the tornado resended. Medical help began the second victims were pulled from the rubble and lives were saved because while technology could not stop an F5, it could make us the best prepared we could be for the aftermath. Yes, without technology, this could have made Moore a very different story.

There are times when I am totally not a techno fan. I feel that in a lot of ways we have lost our innocence and our way because of  technology which has filled our minds and our days with useless stuff. However, I am not an idiot and I realize that with the less positives sides of the techno world, there is also a positive side that simply cannot be denied. Sometimes the very things I don't like, such as cell phones, can make the difference between life and death.

Udall and Moore happened 58 years apart and while the destruction was comparable, the situations were very different. Thanks to technology,  in the hours that it took for the outside world to even realize that Udall was devastated, people had been found, helped and cleanup was already under way in Moore. What a difference technology made.

Like it or not, technology is here to stay. Love it or hate it, it is part of our present and will undoubtedly be a part of our future. There will be things that make our world a better place and things that continue to make us lazy and unsocial. My hope though is, that instead of having to warn people over storms, someday technology will make it possible to actually defuse these horrific forces of nature so that never again will we have to suffer through a Udall or Moore.

In remembrance of the the victims and casualties of the Udall, KS tornado, May 25, 1955

In remembrance of the victims and casualties of the Moore, OK tornado, May 20, 2013

May God Bless Them All

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Vacationing in Sucktopia

So if you look to your left, you will see Sucktopia which is smack dab in the middle of Pity Town, just next to the island of I Don't Give A Damn Anymore, which is off the bay of I Give the Hell Up! That's right, this afternoon I am vacationing in Pity Town and as you can probably tell, I am taking the scenic route.

I know! I know! I usually try to make my Sunday blog posts uplifting or spiritual or at the very least.....NOT about how much my life sucks right now, but today the only word that is all encompassing about how I feel about pretty much everything is.....SUCKS!!!!!!!! Frankly, about the only thing that doesn't suck right now is the fact that a local church group came over and cleaned out my pool so that soon David can start PT in it. That I am eternally grateful for. Other than that though.....everything else sucks! I ask you to please humor me during this pity party right now and I promise afterwards to take a flight straight back to Who the Hell Cares? obviously a suburb of We All Have Problems and I will put my big girl panties back on and quit the whining.

So now, let the party begin:

My life has sucked in various stages since the day I arrived home and Z who was five at the time, met me at the door and said, "Daddy is dead!" Since that day, my life has sucked pretty consistently and if it wasn't actually in suck mode at the time, I was fairly confident that the next wave of suck was just around the corner.

Of late, life has been a roller coaster of ridiculousness that at times bordered on life and death. I have only actually tantrumed once during the last six months and that was in the form of an anxiety attack. The rest of the time I have just tied knots in my quickly fraying rope and prayed that I wouldn't end up falling into the molten lava of suck that always seems to boil directly below me. Dramatic? Maybe, and perhaps I need outside perspective. Anyone want to walk in my shoes for a week? Day? Hour? Five minutes.......and tell me if I am being dramatic or not? I would love to find out if I am just imagining all of this or if my life truly does just SUCK!

Someone told me the other day to take an inventory of my life and that they were sure I would see a lot of positive things. Perhaps I should have taken that inventory two days ago before this vacation. Nope. I waited until about half an hour ago and let the inventory begin. She was wrong and I was right. It all sucks.
Kids stress
House interior
House exterior
Taking a stand with hospitals, schools and for sucks, sucks and sucks!
What friends, family and neighbors think of me........She sucks!
Doing this all by myself with no help, no understanding and a whole hell of a lot of judgement from others.......SUCKITY SUCKS! SUCKS! SUCKS!
So there you have it. Straight across the board. It all just sucks!!!!!!!

As usual, I try to focus on what I can control, but darn it....that sucks too. I can't control the physical issues and it sucks that the stress levels in our lives have been so over the top that now they are also becoming issues for everyone. I am stuck financially which has a direct effect on everyones health and also limits my ability to attend to the interior/exterior issues. The small things can't be addressed so then they become big things and quite sucks. And then there is the ability to just get away from it all and relax, think about something else, or just to have some fun. That ability simply doesn't exist......oh and have I mentioned how much this all sucks?

Life is currently crumbling in Lisaland and we are all holding on to both stability and the tiny bits of our sanity that are left. It is no longer a case of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Now we are just praying that when it doesn't just crush us all. sucks!

Today, once turned inside out and upside down in a matter of minutes. In the midst of this upheaval.....the 60 lb dog decided to use the top of my foot as a spring board for the stairs. It is black and blue and painful and I am almost sure a bone is broken. If that didn't suck all on its own, I can't go to the doctor because I am a financial pariah. I can go to the ER, but my foot would have to fall off before I did that. Yep....that sucks too!

As if I hadn't had enough fun today, I was told by a "friend" that I was the current talk of the town. Obviously a slow news day. There was a whole lot of judgement involved in my "friends" statement. Perhaps people are talking because the bottom is visibly falling out of my life or maybe because I have been trying to give others a voice of late, or maybe it is because others think they can live my life better than I do. If that is the case....then please refer to paragraph #4 of this blog. It just sucks and what sucks more is that a "friend" felt the need to even bother telling me this. there you have it. The party in Sucktopia at Pity Town, although fun is now about to end. I am booked on the next flight out. Until then though, I think I will spend the time basking in the glow of all of this suck and pray that my next vacation is a little more fun....say the dentist office for a root canal or perhaps cleaning the toilets at the county jail. At any rate, it is done. I am all sucked out. Yes, I went there.....don't judge me.

Here's hoping that your Sunday sucked a whole lot less than mine.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Just Another Day in Lisaland!

Lawdy! Lawdy! Lawdy! What a week! A lot of things were surely packed into it, however looking around me, house cleaning was not one of those things. Having the windows open and gale force winds blowing through, it appears that my dust bunnies have procreated and have been working out to boot. One just blew by me and it was bigger than my hand. I would say it is time to clean. Anyone want to clean my house?

In other news, I am sitting here debating whether I should go to a doctor or not as I think I have a spider bite on my hip which is now causing my entire hip area to hurt. I have been nursing this stupid thing for several days and its ever changing look keeps me wondering as to what I should do. Sometimes it looks angrier than others and sometimes it hurts worse than others. Right now it is not as red as yesterday and it is really itchy feeling, but it hurts all around it. Being persona non grata at Via Christi doesn't leave me with a lot of options other than Wesley ER and quite honestly.....that will be my last resort, especially since I was just there yesterday with David. I guess I will wait and see if it starts looking worse, hurting more or if my leg starts to separate from the rest of my body. If that happens, then I guess I will go.

My yard finally doesn't look like a jungle anymore thanks to a very kind individual who used his
riding mower to tame the overgrowth and mow down my brightly colored dandelions and various weeds. That's right, I no longer have grass, just weeds. At least now they are short weeds. I have my pool drained and provided our winds stay below 80 mph tonight and the pool is still standing tomorrow, I have people coming to help me clean it out and then I will start filling it and pray that my pump still works. If it does, then it is just a matter of time (and some 80+ degree days) and soon David will be doing his physical therapy in the water. I think that is a therapy we can all get behind and enjoy.

Speaking of winds.....I have noticed on facebook and our local weather stations, that there are pretty frequent warnings that my part of the world maybe gearing up for some nasty weather this afternoon, tonight and tomorrow afternoon. The temps are suppose to hover somewhere between the high 80's and the low 90's and I notice we already have a hazy tint to the world outside. Hazy, hot days always remind me of the Andover tornado in 1991, so I wouldn't be surprised if we do in fact have storms tonight. I heard we have national weather spotters already in place in anticipation of today's possible storm/tornado outbreak. Gosh, no one wants to miss the rarity of a tornado outbreak in Kansas. (That was sarcasm by the way!)

And speaking of tornado season, every year at this time, I miss our yearly KAKE TV (at least I think it was KAKE) tornado awareness film. It was literally a part of my yearly childhood experience for as long as I could remember. It was on every year in late March or early April, usually on a Saturday afternoon. I think it was in black and white and it always showed the sky being clear and everyone going about their business and then SUDDENLY.....there were storms, black skies, sirens and of course....a TORNADO! My mom made us watch that faithfully year after year. It reminded everyone that we lived in Tornado Alley and that any time from March on, we needed to be aware that in a moments notice we might have to run for shelter. Yeah, it was a bit dramatic and with the radar of that time, we didn't really have much time to react during some storms, but it set the stage for the season and it was apparently effective enough that they ran it every year for many years. Man it would be fun to see it again, just for a fun walk down memory lane. Not to be outdone by my mother, I personally like to keep the tradition of reminding my family that we live in Tornado Alley going, so every year come March.....I make them watch Twister. It gives you all the drama, a great reminder of what tornadoes can do and you get Bill Pulliam and Philip Seymore Hoffman as an added bonus. So there.....take that 1950's tornado film!

Okay, now we wait. Will I end up in the ER this weekend? Between David's seizures and the possibility of my leg falling off.....survey says.........DUH! IT'S THE WEEKEND OF COURSE YOU WILL! Great! Will we have big storms? Of course we will. Mother Nature would never think to disappoint all these storm spotters? Will my pool actually stay in my back yard until we get it filled? Let's pray it does. And finally......Do you think anyone still has a copy of the old tornado awareness film? If so.....put it on youtube and let us watch!

Well there you have it. Nothing exciting here, just another day in Lisaland.

Friday, April 25, 2014

My Closing Remarks

Okay, this is my last blog on this subject.....I PROMISE! My closing remarks if you will. The journey of these last few days in reference to the shared facility has been quite eye opening to me on many levels. As I said before, when this bond issue was in the works and people were discussing this gym, the only info I had on the subject was quite honestly town gossip. I don't take the local newspaper (not a slight to the paper as I don't take any paper) and my info came from happen stance conversations with other locals. One day when I was at the rec center, I did ask how it would work out being shared by both the school and the rec center and I was in fact told that the rec center would have access to the facility after school hours, weekends and during the summer months but not during school. The exact words said to me were...
"Sharing the gym during school hours would be much too distracting for the kids and much too loud for those from the rec center."
Perfect! It made sense to me, besides my mind as always was on other things. As the person behind the desk excitedly told me about the new facility that day, I remember "state of the art" was a statement used several times and I was thinking....."Why?" Yeah, it shows you that my mind wasn't really into spending that kind of money in this manner. I saw no real need or purpose to have this new gym, especially when a brand new outdoor track was also in the works. Granted, after attending last nights BOE meeting and listening to people talk and seeing the gym for myself, I realized that I really wasn't thinking about the seniors or anyone for that matter with bad joints or those who had trouble when conditions were too warm or too cold outside. The new track is amazing and I am sure it is going to be the difference between someone sitting on the couch and actually getting up and walking comfortably. Admittedly, I did not vote for the gym and obviously I was in the minority. We now have a shared facility beautiful though it maybe, that divides both the space between the grade school and the rec center and also now a good portion of our community. No track or matter how wonderful or cushy it is, is worth that. 

Apparently it never pays to leave a party or in this case, meeting too early. In the aftermath of  last nights meeting and in my hurry to get home to my kids, I seemed to have missed the off camera feelings of some of those in attendance. Hearing this, I have to admit killed my optimism that this town could quickly and easily come to a compromise. The dreaded "us against them" mentality seemed to be invoked as the first speaker took the mic and the divide widened from there until long after the meeting was adjourned. It didn't help that some seniors took the moments following the meeting to speak out loudly about their disdain even having to be put through this ordeal. To them this was much ado about nothing and a direct slam against both their good standing and their good intentions in this town. Parents felt shut down, disrespected and deflated after the 90 minute meeting. Apparently, at least where the town folk are concerned, the issue is at an impasse and the likelihood of a willing compromise coming from both sides at once is looking pretty iffy.

Yes, there are those like myself that have concerns for our kids, but we also have concerns for our community too. We are making the effort to come together to discuss this, but once we are together.....the heels are dug in and both sides seem to end up feeling offended, disrespected and down right mad. These kids that we are trying to protect are watching their parents, grandparents and neighbors talk bad about each other, call each other names and ultimately turn on each other. How is this helping our kids again? 

I thought a lot about this last night and some things occurred to me. I know that there are other towns throughout the country thinking of building shared facilities such as ours, but are there facilities like ours already out there? Surely both the city and the district looked into some prototypes before they came together on this matter and if an old article from the city newspaper, as well as the information I and others received back before the bond issue vote are any indication, original plans were that this facility would in fact be shared, but not during school hours. The decision to have this open to both the school and the rec center during school I firmly believe came later on after the vote and when planning and construction were under way. However, rather than keep head butting over the "what ifs" and the valid concerns of parents, I wondered who currently had actually done any research on other towns like ours, who might also be sharing facilities? Lucky for me, I had some ER downtime this morning so I decided to do a little research. Now I say a little because I was on my phone, I hate to Google on  my phone and my searches weren't bringing up much. Once home I did a little more research and this is what I found:

1)Apparently there aren't a lot of shared gym facilities like what we have. Especially there aren't a lot of new construction facilities. However, this type of thing appears to be the new wave of the future and because of costs and space many other towns and even inner cities are looking into this same type of new build or use of space on already existing facilities. Because we seem to be mavericks in this area, it is hard to find much good or bad info on our exact situation.

2)What many areas are currently doing and have been for the better part of a decade, is sharing playgrounds, tracks, and existing gymnasiums with the public, as a lot of areas are not fortunate enough to have rec centers. In all cases that I found, these shared areas were ONLY shared in non-school hours because of safety issues for the kids. Communities seemed to bond over the ability to share these spaces and were more than willing to compromise time in order to put the kids welfare first. By doing this compromise, some schools allowed groups such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and senior groups to use the school during non-school hours for meetings and events, free of charge. Boys and girls clubs as well as other community members could also use the gym for after school, weekend and summer activities, workouts and events and the groups and associations would pay a minimal rental fee. It seems to be a system that has worked well for other communities and most see not allowing outside individuals to use the facilities in non-school hours as just a common sense safety move.

Okay, so we are on the forefront of this new frontier and with the media attention that we have gotten over this issue, people will be standing back across the country waiting to see how we resolve the issue and how this brand new shared facility works for the rec center, the seniors, the school, the kids and the community. It will be especially interesting to those who are contemplating a similar facility in their area. Yes guys, eyes are on us and we can set the standard or we can actually embarrass ourselves. How? By refusing to act as an educated community and refusing to compromise. Plain and simple.

So here are my final opinions on this whole situation. Remember, these are MY opinions and no one elses. I am not claiming ultimate wisdom in this matter nor am I forcing anyone else to agree with me. I am simply stating my views as I see them after processing all the information that I have gained in the last few days. Again....just my opinions.

1) Those parents that brought their concerns to the forefront on this issue in the first place, should be commended for doing so. Their concern was not just for their own kids, but also for all the kids who will be sharing that facility with the rec center. Whether you agree with these parents or not, you should respect the fact that they do actually care. All you have to do is turn on the local news and you will realize that there are a lot of parents who really don't care. Our community is fortunate.

2)We have an amazing community of senior citizens. They are active, caring and very involved in all aspects of our town. They are a close knit group and they are the back bone of our community. They have been our leaders, teachers, neighbors and friends and they deserve our admiration and respect...and yes.....a cushy walking track. Again....our community is very fortunate.

2) As I understand it.....the shared facility was bought and paid for by the school bond issue and therefore I assume is considered a school building. Now I don't know law very well and I am no expert on how bond issues go, but I am thinking that the prospect of a "shared" building was a huge incentive for some (seniors included) to get on the band wagon and help pass the bond issue which hadn't previously passed in an earlier vote. Knowing that they would have a spiffy new walking track was a big motivator in getting some of our older citizens to get on board and to use their influence in the community to ensure a YES vote on this issue. However, in the end like it or not, the facility belongs to the school district and therefore should fall under all the guidelines, rules, security and privacy acts that the other school buildings currently practice. If that means no non-staff members or non-parents on site during school, then that is the rule. That right there should be the end of the discussion. The only way the discussion should be opened back up would be if:

     a)A fair compromise was made  that kept and followed all the current safety measures such as a curtain hung so the walkers can't see the kids and vice versa or something equally fair to both sides and yet protecting the safety of our kids.

Or if

     b)The current rules, security and privacy acts in the district were completely revamped changing the rules and allowing non-staff and non-parents into every school building in the district without back ground checks whether they were known to staff and students or not.

Like it or not, if a compromise can't be met, then I have heard this issue will be taken further and you get the right representation in here and they see how things have been as far as safety, privacy and security go up until the first of April as compared to how safety might change when the possibility for the district to make money off the seniors becomes a factor, there could end up being state issues for this town and district to deal with. If that happens, then win or lose, this community will be further divided, possibly irrevocably. Doesn't it seem like a whole bunch of time and trouble could be saved if the community just acted like a community and compromised?

3)Finally.....we have been presented with a great opportunity no matter how unintentionally it was thrust upon us. We have the opportunity to show the state and the country how a little town in Kansas can be innovative, building a new shared facility, and how we can work as a close knit community to work out the inevitable bugs in the situation in a way that benefits everyone involved. We can show how truly wonderful this new facility and yes, how state of the art the track is as well as beneficial for everyone especially the seniors. We can show that the seniors in their infinite wisdom are willing to compromise in order to insure peace of mind for parents and ultimate safety for the kids and we can show that in our town, parents really do care about our kids, their safety and also the well being and happiness of our seniors. We can teach the country how small town folks come together and are willing to compromise in a way in which all can benefit and no one is left out. Mostly though, we can show that rather than emotionally dividing our town like it physically divides the school and rec center, this new facility can bring us together and help us show the world that it can be shared by all, enjoyed by all and still insure the safety and security of everyone involved.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

In the Best Interest of the Kids, Part 2.....The Meeting

I guess I should have put, To Be Continued....... on last nights post. So tonight I continue. Tonight I went to the special Board of Education meeting that was held at the new gym/track to discuss the safety issues and concerns of parents  and the community.

Perhaps I should back up here a moment and say that today was an interesting day on facebook where this issue was concerned. There were those that have true concern, those that have no concern, those with implicit trust with the school district and the BOE, those with no trust at all and then there were those that I don't really think care one way or another but they surely like to stir the pot and call people out. Tensions were high today and because of this, man did facebook take a beating at the meeting tonight. It was mostly by those who are not really of the facebook generation, but you could tell they were not fans.

I almost was not able to go tonight because I had developed the headache from hell this afternoon and David was having some seizure issues. Somehow though, when the time rolled around, my head was better and David seemed to be too. My intention going tonight was not to say a word, but to just sit there and listen and gain information. I really went with an open mind, so you can imagine my surprise as I caught myself signing my name to speak. I really didn't have a clue what I was going to say but my name was down so no backing out now.

As I entered the new gym, I was more impressed than I thought I would be. It is a beautiful facility that any kid would love to play basketball in or just run from end to end. I counted three doors or maybe four on the main level and then up above is a lovely track with an additional door or two. I really didn't know what kind of turnout I would see, but was pleasantly surprised to see the bleachers completely full on one entire side of the gym. I recognized representatives of the rec center as well as the grade school staff was in full force wearing their staff shirts. Watching people walk in, I saw people I went to school with, teachers who taught when I was in school, teachers who taught my kids, people from the community and a great many of the senior citizens of our town who have been fixtures here long before I became a resident. I purposely sat alone to ensure that I would pay attention and gain as much information as I could. I wanted to hear it all from both sides and everything in between.

Sitting there and watching all these people, I couldn't help but be reminded of why I love this town and why I chose to come back here and raise my kids. All these faces were my past, present and my kids future in this town. These were people I had grown up with, people I knew and some were even people that I cared a great deal about. Regardless of how anyone felt about this issue, they were part of my community and I knew we were all there to hopefully come to a compromise and possibly get a few more facts on this issue.

The BOE began on time and instructed that each speaker who had signed up was to keep their comments to 5 minutes. Crap! Speaker #1, a senior citizen, began the comments by praising the BOE, the adminstration and the new gym. I heard someone behind me say, "Seniors 1, Students 0." I hated hearing that as right off the bat it felt like an us against them situation And then....they called my name. I prayed I wouldn't stand up there and draw a blank. I touched on my concern about who might be walking the track and watching our kids. I tried to make it clear that I wasn't pointing fingers or accusing, but I was concerned because of the familiarity kids might gain seeing these faces everyday and the potential for making the kids victims especially when privacy/security was so tight in every other aspect of the district. I said more, in fact shock of all shocks, I talked the entire 5 minutes. Did I impact anyones viewpoint? Doubtful. Once my piece was spoken, I then sat back and prepared myself to listen.

Many of the seniors spoke and two things were abundantly clear. One, I was closer to being a senior citizen than most of the parents there and two, some of these senior citizens really are displeased with how they feel they are being viewed by the concerned parents as well as they are a bit ticked off that they worked for that track and now they feel they are being told they can only have limited use of it. perspective. As one man said, after all of his years of paying taxes and working and living in the community, by all rights he owned the grade school along with the other schools in town. He had a point, as did the rest of the seniors. Apparently this walking track is a state of the art track. It is cushiony which most of their doctors as well as their feet, legs and hips like. Some of these seniors had anxiously awaited this track since the bond issue was passed and they were the first in line for the open house to view the new facility. What's more, unlike some of us younger whipper snappers, they didn't rely on second hand information when this came up for the vote. They were well versed in ever aspect of what it was for, how it would be used and some had even worked on the bond issue itself. To top it off, some of these seniors have or have had kids and grand kids grow up in the district so they too want only safety for the kids,  only their view of safety and the younger parents view of safety were two different things.

If ever I have seen a generation gap, I saw it tonight and I was in the unusual position of being just young enough and just old enough to clearly see both sides of the issue. All the seniors who spoke loved their new track. They also understood and respected the concern parents had for the safety of their kids, but being old school, most viewed the younger parents version of safety to be a bit extreme. In fact a couple of seniors could barely hide their contempt at the fact that parents would view someone in our home town (especially a senior) as a threat to our kids. Each also pointed out the safety measures that the rec center put in place to protect the kids so that the seniors and the kids would have no more than visual contact with each other. Several also made the point that when they are walking, they are either visiting with each other or concentrating on getting around the track their required number of times. Waving or making eye contact with the kids below is not on their agenda. In the end it was obvious that these seniors felt that they had worked for this track and now they were being chastised because of a bunch of over protective parents. Okay....point taken.

Then there were the younger parents who still had concerns about this shared facility and who were very upset one, because they felt that they had originally been mislead by being told that the seniors would not be using the track during school hours and two, because they knew that even though 99% of the seniors would never harm a hair on their kids heads, there was always that 1% who had the potential to step on to that track and put their kids at risk. It dawned on me as these parents spoke that they were indeed from another generation and yes, there was in fact a huge generation gap. These parents grew up at the tail end of the era when our town had no fences on the playgrounds, open lunches and kids could roam all over the place without fear of abduction, abuse or God forbid....death. Truthfully, some probably didn't even catch the tail end. These parents are a product of the Columbine, Oklahoma City Bombing, 9/11 generation. They don't know anything other than schools being locked to the public, fenced in school yards, privacy policies, school lock downs and on sight police resource officers. They spent a good many of their growing years in an unintentional atmosphere of fear created the first time someone walked into a school and opened fire on the staff and students. Because of this, their fears are not ridiculous, they are not being over protective, they are just carrying on what they have been taught. Danger is everywhere and it is up to them to protect their kids at all costs!

Quite honestly, I blame the schools/district/administration/powers that be.....for some of this fear these parents have. We live in a fear based society right now and our schools inadvertently tell us that we should be afraid by the security policies they have in place. The very fact that everyone is suspect so they are locked out of the schools until buzzed in says we should be afraid. When a lost grandparent walks onto a playground for directions and the school goes into immediate lock down, we as parents are told we should be afraid and the kids are taught to fear. When a child can't have a picture taken or be talked about because of privacy issues because they fear the wrong people will hear, again the school is showing us we should fear. It may be society as a rule (because I am fully aware it is not just our schools, our town or even our state) but parents and kids are force fed fear and then when an issue like this shared facility comes up and people outside the school are able to view our kids as they walk the track, these parents go on high alert because this is contrary to everything they know about safety for their kids. Especially when they know very well that these same seniors who can watch their kids as they are in gym would cause a lock down if they happened onto the playground at recess time. The school is sending a mixed message and these parents can't comprehend the double standard. Can you blame these parents for being concerned, frustrated and down right angry? I certainly can't.

After all who had signed up to speak on the subject spoke, then certain resource speakers spoke. There was the head of the rec center who gave actual numbers of the seniors who walked and the times they walked which suddenly became less alarming to me as most like to walk early of a morning and are out of the gym before the kids even get to school. Then the principal of the grade school spoke, explaining how safety measures were handled while the kids were in the gym and then the director of district safety spoke, explaining the safety and security training the district does on a weekly basis. In the end, I felt that both sides of the issue (and yes I hate that there are sides) were well covered and eloquently presented as well as some facts from the resource speakers that I didn't know about.

As I listened to it all I realized that there is no right or wrong here. No one wants the kids put in danger, but there is a slight discrepancy about what each side views as danger. I kept thinking to myself as I listened, that with all these amazing people in this amazing town, surely we should be able to find a solution or a compromise that would benefit both the kids and the seniors and neither group would lose the facility, feel cheated and the parents minds would be put at ease as to the safety of their kids. I even asked questions after the meeting as to when the kids used the gym. Do they use it all day every day? I wonder if it is possible for the school to make the compromise to consolidate all their gym classes into all afternoons or perhaps just on certain days and for the seniors to compromise using the track on the days the kids weren't using the gym? Is it possible to curtain off the walking area so that the visual between the kids and the seniors is gone? I even thought that if during construction someone had thought to build a solid 6' wall around the track instead of wall.....rail....wall....rail, then this wouldn't even be an issue right now. Hindsight is always 20/20. Sigh!

So walking away from the meeting tonight, I will say that I left with a different perspective on the entire issue. I personally am not nearly as concerned about safety issues as I was going in, but I do know there are those that don't really see a compromise in sight and therefore,  feel as if their concerns are just being dismissed. Sadly, I think that if that happens, we will be losing some students in the district and there are going to be some unhappy community members. Having a different perspective does not mean that I still don't respect and understand the concerns of the parents and I feel as vital members of this community raising our next generation, their voice should be heard and their concerns respected, and a compromise should be actively sought after. Will it happen? I guess will know come Monday.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In the Best Interest of the Kids

Small towns. They are amazing. They are the best and the worst of America. They are the best because of the kinship and feeling of community and the worst because you can put your shoes on the wrong feet at 8 a.m. and the entire town knows about your faux pas by 8:45. It is just the way small towns go.

My small town is a wonderful place and I have called it home for well over 40 years. We have four schools, a grocery store, three restaurants, fast food joints, umpteen churches of different denominations and an honest to goodness main street that runs through the center of town. If you live here for more than five minutes, then you know that everyone either knows everyone else or is related to at least one other person in town. Yep, folks...this is small town America.

Not to be outdone by the big city though, we are not without our issues and sometimes we become infamous for things other than our high school sports teams or our yearly Old Settlers Days. We are currently dealing with one of those infamous moments right now. A few years back, we built a grade school which resides next to one of the main thoroughfares connecting our small town to the city. On the back side of that school is the old junior high school which has been made into district offices and a recreation center. As rec centers go, it is small by most standards, but it does serve its purpose. Then a bond issue was passed and in that bond issue, a huge gymnasium was put into the works. The gym sits directly between the grade school and the rec center. It's purpose was to be shared by both the school for PE classes and as a early morning gathering spot for students and then also by the rec center, as the gym has a walking track that goes around the upper level of the gym. When this gym was being voted on, some voted for it without doing any research, some researched it and did not vote for it, and people like me asked how this would work having a shared gym and were told that it would be used by the rec center in the early mornings before school and in the afternoons and evenings after school and then during the summer. I was told that it would not be used by the rec center during the school day as that would be too distracting for the kids using the gym. Great! However, I did not vote for it because I felt that the money could be better used elsewhere. After all hadn't we just refurbished the football field complete with new bleachers, changing area for visiting teams and a brand new entrance to the field? I was thinking that perhaps we could actually use some money for....I don't maybe. 

Jump ahead to the last couple of months. The long awaited gym is finished and now parents are not happy that both the rec center and the kids are sharing the space at the same time. Yep, I and others were misinformed about when the rec center would use the facility. Now there seem to be a lot of parents very upset about this. Some are the parents who originally objected to the gyms use and others are arriving late to the party and just now realizing what they voted for. I have one word for these folks....EDUCATION! Don't vote on something if you don't have all the facts. It is because of this kind of uninformed voting that the American people keep getting scr@wed. But I digress....... 

So now we have a big beautiful gym, with senior citizens (apparently they are the only ones allowed to use the new facility) walking the track at the same time kids are in there during school. Parents are not happy about this. Some parents are up in arms because it makes their kids feel uncomfortable having people "watch" them while they are in PE and others are upset because of the safety issue. Now in my opinion the safety issue is two fold. One is the fact that in order to get into any school in this town, you have to ring a bell, give your name, explain why you are there and I think give a urine sample in order to be allowed into a building where your child spends 7 hours a day/ five days per week. The school is crazy about their privacy issues and will not let teachers or anyone else take pictures of a student or breathe a word about a student outside the confines of the school, however.......they are fine with complete strangers watching everything these kids are doing in the gym. Double standard you ask? Ummm....yeah! Now the rec centers position on this is that their walkers have no access to the kids. They get to the track through a door that never allows them physical contact with the kids and when they are finished walking the track, as they leave, the door locks behind them so that they cannot re-enter. Great. That for the most part solves the issue of one of the walkers just grabbing a kid and walking off school grounds with them, however, I find there to be a much bigger problem that I don't think the district in their infinite wisdom thought about.

I hate to say this but as much as I would like to deny it, my town, small though it not Mayberry. We have crime, death and the word that sends a chill down every parents offenders. If you check out the sex offender list, there are a number that live all over this town and scarily enough, some that live within a block from my house. Now, I am not some crazed over reactive person. I am semi-educated, after all I graduated from here, so I do realize that being labeled a "sex offender" does not mean that someone is automatically a pedophile. Sometimes the label is put on a 16 year old for having sex with his 15 year old girl friend. Back in my day that was called growing up, now a days its a felony. However, some of those sex offenders are the real deal. They are predators that prey on kids and have earned their title again and again. These are the individuals that parents fear and have every right to worry about. Predators don't usually just grab a kid, they do their homework. They watch, research and then act. What better way to pick a child than to simply watch them and what better cover to do that than a "harmless" daily walk around the track? From that vantage point a predator can watch and learn what kids are shy, what kids are friendly and from there, choose their prey. It is also dangerous as kids like adults can get familiar with seeing the same faces walk everyday. What was once a stranger is now a familiar face. All it takes is for a parent to be late once or a child to be alone for just a few seconds and suddenly the unthinkable happens. It is a real possibility and in my opinion, the real concern about this gym being shared.

Some parents became so concerned over this issue, that a facebook page was started. At first it was parents airing their opinion and sharing information, but like always seems to happen, it went from civil to heated in the midst of all the posting. Some parents are angry because other parents who voted for the gym are suddenly just realizing the reality of it all. Other parents are angry because they feel that people are worrying for nothing and thus making a big deal out of it. People are trying to call the schools and the district and they are learning where the real power in the district lies. Sadly there are many complaints of parents calls and concerns being ignored and dismissed, and the heat is rising on the subject.

Last night one of the local news stations (undoubtedly called by a concerned parent), did a story on our new gym. A couple of parents were interviewed as well as someone from the district office. Of course the districts position is that they are in the right, but if parents voices are respected, the district maybe forced to reconsider this position. It has been my experience though, that the district likes to talk a good game about respecting the parents voice but when it comes down to it, not so much. Of course, maybe that is just my experience.

This morning someone who chose not to use their own identity made up a fake facebook profile just so they could post an opinion in the facebook group. It basically stated that parents were over protecting their kids and over reacting to this situation. He called himself Joe Commons and portrayed his comment as the voice of the average person in our town. It had condescending overtones which obviously stirred an already boiling pot and it struck a lot of people the wrong way. Truthfully, I found the sentiment behind the fake persona to be quite nice. It was about people walking, adults among kids, people not living in fear and kids having a real childhood, not constantly having to be hovered over or their actions constantly second guessed. Ahhhh yes. I think that was my childhood he was referring to. What a wonderful world that was. And yes, we all want that for our kids.

I remember growing up in this town and walking all over it both day and night unsupervised. I remember walking to the pool, on my own or in a group of friends, spending hours swimming, again....unsupervised and then walking home. My neighborhood was my boundary and no one called for me until it was meal time or the street light came on. I had no cell phone to tie me to my parents and my parents never gave my whereabouts a second thought. I was always somewhere around and usually within yelling distance. Parents walked freely in and out of our schools and no school would have ever gone on lock down over a grandparent walking onto the playground. Kids on the playground rushed to the fence to wave at their parents if they drove by and if you needed to leave school, with a quick call to your parents, you could actually walk home on your own. No one would have given a multipurpose gym shared by town folk and school kids a second thought and the school district actually used to listen to what the parents had to say. However, all of this was before Jonesboro, Columbine and Sandyhook. This was before crazy divorced parents would try to steal their kids off the playground and before we got daily Amber Alerts on our cell phones, computers and tv's. This was before bullying was a no tolerance policy that no one follows and when kids could actually have a fight, be pulled apart, shake hands and go back to class. This was when both parents and teachers had a right to discipline our kids and our kids spent time playing baseball, kickball and playing outside instead of being doped up on ADHD meds and spending their time glued to video games. This was when people said what they thought and didn't hide behind political correctness or call everything they didn't agree with "hate speech." This was before the newspaper, the internet and the nightly news was full of horrible things happening to innocent children in a world much different than when I grew up. That was when we actually were Mayberry.

Are parents over reacting to this gym situation? I don't know. Shall we ask the parents of the Derby kids who were playing on their own front porch last week and the person tried to abduct them? How about if we ask the Columbine parents or perhaps the parents of the latest child gone missing in our area? In this day and age, society and life dictate that we must be vigilant with our children. If we allow our kids to go walk on their own, their safety is on us, but when our kids are in school.....then our kids safety is on the teachers, the administration and the district. Do I think these powers that be are making a decision based on the best interest of the kids and their ultimate safety? Not really. I think they are inadvertently setting our kids up to be victims and it is time the district listens to our concerns.

Yes, it is a shame, that like Joe Commons pointed out, that we can't let our kids be kids. It makes me sad that my child can't roam the neighborhood, play out all day and come in tired, dirty and happy at the end of the day. However, my kids look to me as their parent to take care of them and protect them from the things they understand and know about and the things they don't. If my child gets hurt because I didn't do everything in my power to keep them safe, then where does the blame lie?

We do live in small town America, but just like anywhere else in the world, we have good people, bad people and yes, even evil people. Our Mayberry days and ideals are long gone. They have been replaced by the knowledge that even in our own front yard our kids can be in danger. I think the district needs to listen to our concerns and respect that we as parents have the right to speak up for the safety of our kids, and even more than that, the district needs to act in the best interest of the kids. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter and A Brand New Life

Easter....for the Christian world it means a new beginning full of hope. For the rest of the world I suppose it just means bunnies, baskets and candy. For me this year, it means one journey has ended and another is beginning.

The time between Christmas and Easter this year (coincidentally the two most important religious feast days of the year) has proven to be one of the lower points of my life, more so than in any recent years. While good things have happened, tough times seem to have ruled my world putting me into a darkness that I can't even begin to describe. It affected not just myself but my kids too and left us all in a place of loss and pain. I was beginning to wonder if this was to be our life forever as I held onto every shred of faith that I could muster.

In the last couple of weeks, life has taken some nasty painful turns for all of us. It felt as if we were all slipping away and even outside forces seemed to be closing in on us and making things that much worse. I honestly felt as if I was living inside a nightmare that I could not wake up from. The question of "how much more can we really take?" kept racing through my head and when I would look in the mirror, I no longer even recognized myself. I look old, tired and absolutely worn down. By Thursday of this last week, I felt as if things were just about as bad as they could be and it looked as if things might only get worse with each passing hour. I didn't sleep much Thursday night and when I got out of bed Friday morning (Good Friday), I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders as a human, a mother and a Christian fighting to keep my faith. The only thing that got me through was thinking about the original Good Friday and how those that watched Our Lord suffer and die must have felt that day.

As a child, my mother taught me the Good Friday Prayer that was to be said 33 times between the hours of noon and 3 p.m. on Good Friday for every special intention you put at Our Lords feet. It is a powerful prayer which Mom said God always listens too and always answers. This year, I had some powerful intentions that needed to be addressed and I started praying at noon. I finally finished just before 3 p.m. With each prayer I prayed that God's will be that life would take a upturn for all of us, as I wasn't sure any of us could fall any further and survive.

Once said, I tried hard to keep myself busy and to keep my mind clear. I didn't want to think about what I couldn't change. I was waiting to be shown what I could change, what I didn't need to change and what God was taking charge of. By 6 p.m. the first change began. There was communication that I thought was lost. There were tears and hugs and most of all.....hope. By 8 p.m. there was a huge change. By 10 p.m. another line of communication was opened that had for a very long time been non-existent. It was still contentious at best, but it was an opportunity to break the ice and extend the tiniest of olive branches. It was done and now we wait. Friday night this mom slept better than she had in awhile.

Yesterday was a good day. There was more communication from others that I didn't even know I needed to communicate with. I laughed like I hadn't done in quite a while and I actually got out of the house with both my boys. We all truly enjoyed it. However, the best part of it all and the thing I found to be the most miraculous was when we all returned home. Z brought David into the house and sat him on the living room floor. I was bringing in groceries and as I turned around, I saw David immediately roll onto his knees and begin crawling to the stairs. Now this might not sound like much to someone just reading my blog for the first time, but trust me.....this was huge! After four months of surgery, recovery, a leg break, more recovery and numerous and almost fatal setbacks......this is absolutely phenomenal. First he started trying to stand on his own and now this. He in fact did make it to the stairs and made it up the first three stairs before his muscles and his strength gave out. He ended up crying in frustration that he could make it no further which was heart breaking to say the least but certainly not devastating as we know in a very short time he will be making quick work of those stairs. It was amazing and joyful and the first time in months that I have felt as if life was taking a turn for the better.

Don't get me wrong. I still have monsters to slay, finances to figure out and life is far from easy, but this weekend, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and now Easter Sunday have been nothing short of the miracle I needed and that we as a family desperately needed. I can see a change in all of us. The change is a renewed faith and hope for our future. Yes, I think I can finally say that the journey of the last four months is finally at end. The chapter is closed and now today, Easter Sunday, not only is it the beginning of renewed hope for Christians world wide, but for this family it now begins a new journey, a new chapter and maybe even a brand new life.

Happy Easter everyone!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday, Blogs and God Bless Oklahoma

Just a few thoughts today. On the Christian calendar, today is Holy Saturday. It is a day in history when there was great grief over the death of Jesus Christ. His friends, mothers and followers were in mourning on this day. Today, we know how the story ends and we use Holy Saturday as a day of thought, meditation and preparation in expectation of Easter Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. In just three short days, we were saved. And how amazing is that?


I had a message on facebook the other day asking me about how I post my blogs. The person asked why they saw my blogs reposted several times a day. Was I just doing this for attention? Ummmm......well yes and no. Yes, I want my blog read. Every blogger blogs to have their blog read, so yes, I want the blog to get attention, but there is a reasoning behind reposting several times. With the new way that fb is set up, they are actually moving towards having a pay system from those who are on fb. I am sure of late you have noticed that you see some of your friends posts but not all of them and the same goes with yours. Some of your friends see some of your posts, but not all of your friends see all of them. They say you can adjust your settings so that they can be seen, but the fact is, all your friends are still not seeing all your posts.

There is a method in this madness and a lot of it is directed at those who have fb business pages as well as blogs. In order for all of your friends or even all who like your page, to see what you post, you must pay. This insures that your posts get distributed to everyone. It is something that fb has been moving towards since fb first skyrocketed into fame. Lets face it, we are a money hungry world and fb is no different. First there were all the ads, now they are edging toward charging for use. Currently, for those on fb who want their posts widely seen (businesses and bloggers mostly) fb is giving the gentle nudge and the carrot on the stick. You want everyone who is suppose to see your stuff to actually see it, then you must pay. I want my stuff seen but I can't afford to pay for it. That is why I post multiple times. Each time different people see the blog. Unfortunately, sometimes the same people get to see the post multiple times too. It is not a perfect science and fb likes it that way. Of course, the other way to make sure you are notified of my blog daily is to follow my blog(s). By doing that, fb is no longer in the equation. I have several that are not on fb that do it that way and never miss a blog and don't have to deal with either seeing it posted five times or not seeing it posted at all.

So there you have it. The mystery of the multiple posted blog is solved.


Finally, today is the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. It hardly seems possible that it was
19 years ago. I still remember everything about that awful day. The shock, the disbelief and the fear from something like that just doesn't go away.

My family roots are deeply set in Oklahoma and knowing that it was a homegrown terrorist with the explicit intent on killing as many men, women and children as possible still stirs up great anger inside me. This was personal on so many levels and it left this country speechless and in the moment, devastated.

For days we saw gruesome pictures of a scene that went from search and rescue to simply a recovery of those still missing. In the end, 168 were confirmed dead and they included three pregnant women and people ranging in age from 3 months to 73 years. The building was targeted because it was a federal building, the fact that it held a day care center or that children would die meant nothing to these terrorists.

The country stood shocked as the Oklahomans moved into action. They are a strong breed of people. They did not let this act destroy them even as they pulled body after body from the rubble. They mourned their losses and then they moved forward and each year on this day at the memorial erected in memory of this tragic day, they remember. They remember that on April 19, 1995 at 9:02 a.m. their world changed forever. They were sucker punched and knocked down, but they got back up....stronger, wiser and ready to fight another day....and they have fought...again and again.

Today, on this Holy Saturday, I ask you to remember another day in history, when a country stood in shock and mourned. But again, we know the rest of the story......God Bless Oklahoma!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday....A Mother's Suffering

Today is Good Friday. It is the last Friday before Easter. The last Friday during Lent and the Friday that Christians who observe Lent both fast and abstain on. Fasting meaning we eat two small meals and one large meal and nothing in between and Abstain meaning that we eat no meat. It is the day we honor the sacrifice God gave to us by giving us his only son and letting him die so that our sins maybe forgiven. It is also about the sacrifice Jesus Himself made. He gave his own life so that we could have life ever lasting. It is a solemn day if we truly reflect on it's events and meaning. If you  think about it, it is this one selfless act that sets the believers apart from the non-believers.

The one thing about Good Friday that seems a little overlooked to me though, is Mary, the mother of Jesus. Yes, God gave his only son, but so did she. Mary had such faith in God that when she learned that she would be carrying His son, she never faltered. From the moment when the angel spoke to her, her life was not an easy one. She was pregnant and unwed (an act punishable by death), she delivered her child in a stable after a horrendous journey while pregnant, and as a family they had  to run from those who wished her son dead. Still, through it all, she never faltered in her faith in God nor her love for her son.

Mary had to know that carrying the Son of God would not be a walk in the park and she really knew no more about this child's life than any parent does. She knew who his father was and that this child would grow to be a great man, but she knew no more than that. I am sure that Mary had times of domestic happiness being married to Joseph and raising her son. I am also sure that she was of such great faith that rather than wonder and worry about the future, she knew that God's plan was unfolding as it should, in the time that it should. What mother wouldn't give anything to replace worry and fear about their children, with the complete faith that it was all part of a bigger plan? I know I try, but I am no Mary. 

As Jesus entered manhood, Mary like all mothers had to let go. Her son took off on long journeys to fulfill the life destined to him and there were no cellphones or even a postal service for her to keep in touch or know that her boy was safe. Again, she had to rely on complete faith in the fact that....her son was part of a much bigger plan. God's plan. Although Mary was especially chosen by God to be the mother of his son, she was still very much human and as a mother, you know that she thought of her son often, prayed for him and yes, I would imagine worried too. It is part of the mother code. We can't help but worry and I know she was no different.

When Good Friday rolled around, I can't imagine the pain that Mary felt seeing her son beaten, bruised and bloodied and know that He would soon be put to death. Watching the torture and seeing her son fall and get back up, all the while knowing that somehow this was God's plan had to be excruciating. It was not only God's son suffering it was also her son and her heart had to have been breaking into a million pieces over and over again. Then, she watched him die. For anyone to watch their child die, would be almost more than  a mothers heart could take, but to watch your child be tortured and then murdered while others looked on and cheered and to know you were helpless to change this course of events would have had to have been devastating.

Yes, we know that on the other side of this, Mary's son became the greatest Man of all time. His death ensured life for all Christians until the end of time, but regardless of the outcome.....on that day.....she suffered. She suffered the pain and agony of a mother losing a child in such a cruel and heartless way and I am sure knowing that it was God's will still didn't take away the pain of it all. I wonder if she ever felt as she watched Him die, that she had given her life to God and now she had lost the most precious piece of her earthly world and she was left to go on alone? It might be how I would feel in those moments of unprocessed grief as a mother who had just lost her world. Perhaps though, Mary's faith was so strong that she knew that in God's hands there was a higher purpose for all of this and all would soon be as it should. Again....what I wouldn't give for that kind of faith. 

So yes, when I think of Good Friday, I do think of the Passion of Christ, his torment, torture and suffering until his moment of death. I think of God, giving the life of his beloved Son for all of us so that we may have eternal life. However, I also think of Mary. I think of her sorrow, her pain and her agony over watching her beautiful son be brutalized, tortured, ridiculed and ultimately murdered. As a mother....I can only imagine that pain and pray that in my times of despair my faith can be a tenth as strong as hers.

Today, as the clock nears 3 p.m. and as you reflect on this day, please don't forget Mary. Remember her sorrow, her strength and most of all....her faith!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Uncle Kelly

Francis Kelly Dougherty, Sr.
2-1-1925 to 4-12-2014

Before I went to sleep last night, while waiting up for Z to return from prom, I learned that my Uncle Kelly had died. He was my mothers second to the oldest brother. I knew he had been ill but I seem to drift in and out of the loop, so I was not aware that he was that ill! Maybe he wasn't. Maybe it was just his time. The news gave me a familiar empty feeling in my stomach. It was the same empty feeling that I had felt seven other times as seven other siblings of my mother had been there and then were gone. Now there are only three left. Three out of eleven. 

As I went to sleep last night, my mind drifted off to heaven. What must it be like right now with Uncle Kelly now joining what has become the majority of his siblings as well as his parents up there? Yes, I am confident that each and everyone of them are in heaven as my Grandma Grace wouldn't have had it any other way. It is really hard to feel sad at the thought and yet the emptiness remained.

I began thinking back about Uncle Kelly and trying to remember what I knew about him, what I remembered and when was the last time I saw him. As I stated before, this family of 11 siblings, although close in their own way, spent the better part of three decades immersed in their own immediate families. The occasional letters and phone calls were shared but for the most part, I didn't meet a lot of my mom's siblings until I was older. However, when I did meet them, I already knew their history, their likes and dislikes and who they had grown up to be, thanks to the hours of stories my mother would tell.

What I knew about Uncle Kelly was that he was the second of the boys and I believe the sixth child born to Ray and Grace Dougherty in Hinton, OK. He was named Francis Kelly Dougherty after the Catholic Bishop of Oklahoma City, Francis Kelly. While I don't know a great deal about his childhood as he was a decade or better older than my mother I did know he was a severe asthmatic, on hot nights in the summer time he was one of the boys that had to sleep on a cot out in the yard due to space constraints and overheating and he was what the family considered one of the big kids. Even with the age difference though, Mom did have some memories of him. Mostly she said he was ornery. The family had a horse and Mom by all history available and being the youngest.....was a princess. Pretty much she got what she wanted and Mom wanted to ride the horse. Uncle Kelly for whatever reason was assigned to Mom duty and instructed to let her ride. I am sure there were a thousand other things that he could have been doing and probably should have been doing, but instead he was stuck with a demanding little sister. Being the dutiful son, he put her on the horse and being the ornery brother, he would slap the horse on the back side and make him buck. Naturally mom would fall off. Stubborn Mom would dust herself off and demand back on and ornery Kelly would have her bucked off again. Perhaps he was training her for rodeo bronc riding or perhaps he was trying to deter her from the horse. If the latter was his goal, it back fired as he only made her more stubborn. In fact, knowing the Dougherty stubbornness first hand, I would almost guess this game of ride and buck ended in a stalemate with both parties calling it a draw.

When Uncle Kelly graduated high school in Hinton, he eventually went on to Southwestern Oklahoma State and became a pharmacist. At some point he met and married Mary O'Dell. Together they had six sons. For a time when the boys were young they lived in Lubbock, TX but eventually moved back to Oklahoma and lived in the City where Uncle Kelly worked as Director of Pharmacy at St. Anthony Hospital. It was at this point in life when I think I got to know this part of the Dougherty clan.

Kelly and Mary's boys were: Kelly Jr., Kevin, Brian, Shawn, Tim and Brett. Whenever we went to visit Grandpa on the farm, Uncle Kelly and his crew usually came out to see us. I think I have stated before that my mother was a bit on the overprotective side when it came to my brother and I. Before we even pulled into the driveway, my brother and I were given a laundry list of things we could NOT do and the top five of that list was always....."Keep your hands at your sides and don't touch the dog!" Grandpa was notorious for having mean dogs, after all they were farm watch dogs and he didn't want some happy hound escorting an intruder into the house. So his dogs would bite. Most of them apparently weren't fond of kids either (or so Mom said). We always had to get out of the car and walk with our hands by our sides into the house, otherwise the dog might think we were being aggressive and we could NEVER walk outside without Grandpa with us. So early on, the Dougherty boys became my first hero's. The first dog I remember fearing and I actually think he was one of the meanest, was Bruno. Bruno was a shepherd mix and had a reputation for both biting and chasing cars. Bruno would chase escort our car into the driveway and then sit there and watch us wait for Grandpa before anyone dare even roll down a window. As we unloaded, he would just sit and stare. I am sure that dog knew he had his bluff in on us and probably smelt the fear in that car all the way from Kansas.

The Dougherty boys though seemed to have no fear of Bruno. Why I even watched a couple of them run and play with him. Perhaps Bruno was not near the menace that Mom said he was or maybe those boys were really that brave. I think Mom was just scared of him and projected that on to us. I often remember Uncle Kelly telling Mom to relax and let Andy and I have some fun. She never listened. 

One of the greatest and most empowering times in my life happened when I was about 8 or 10 years old. We went to Uncle Kelly's house in the City for an afternoon/evening barbecue. I had never been there before and I was amazed at the house and the boys. Aunt Mary ran that house like a well oiled machine and each boy had his job whether it was mopping floors or cleaning bathrooms. I was so impressed. I didn't know boys knew how to clean.  I remember laughing at my cousin Brian because he had just mopped the kitchen floor and one of his brothers walked on it. He chased him out with the mop saying, "Don't track dirt on my clean floor." Because of that moment......all my boys learned to clean a house!

What was especially great about Uncle Kelly's house was that they had an above ground pool in their back yard. It was summer and hot and that pool looked like heaven to me. HOWEVER, Mom was afraid I would drown, get sick, swallow water.......pick one! So as my cousins all jumped in and swam I had to sit back and watch. Well, I am not much of a watcher and with just a little nudging by the boys, it wasn't long before I was in the pool fully dressed and playing Marco Polo. When Mom finally came to look for me and saw me in the pool, her first reaction was to yank me out by my hair for disobeying her. Luckily, Uncle Kelly was right there to reassure her that my cousins, all but one older than myself would keep an eye on me and make sure I was fine. For once she backed down and my victory was glorious. I can still remember that day and how much fun I had. The best part was that Mom actually realized that I would not die if I was out of her sight for five minutes. I will forever be grateful to Uncle Kelly for giving me that moment of freedom and independence. I don't think he ever knew how much it meant to me.

In later years, after the boys were grown, Uncle Kelly and Aunt Mary moved out to a farm just down the road from Grandpas. They had a house moved from the City put on a foundation and they went to work on remodeling it. It was a glorious house with a porch that wrapped around it. They had beautiful blue healer dogs, land unobstructed as far as they eye could see and donkeys. Mom road one of those donkey's once and it seemed to be the horse incident all over again, except instead of bucking, the donkey took off with Mom holding on for dear life. It was the type of story that family legend is made of. Mostly though, the thing I loved about their house was the ability to see the stars at night. I remember looking up and feeling so small standing on that bit of Oklahoma clay. I didn't ever want to leave.

While my memories of Uncle Kelly aren't abundant, they are clear. He always wore a straw cowboy hat. His laugh was hardy and full and of all the boys, I think he looked most like my grandfather. He could also be stern and if he needed to he would call you out even if you were a niece or nephew. Thankfully I dodged that bullet but I remember a couple not quite so lucky. Funny thing was, they were wrong, he was right and they respected him all the more for it. I remember the brothers and sisters sitting around the round oak kitchen table and telling stories. Uncle Kelly's were always the best because he had an amazingly dry sense of humor and this added to every story he told. I loved hearing those tales, sometimes slightly embellished, as they always gave me a different view of my mother, the farm and the family.

Since Mom died in 2002, I have been to one family reunion. I saw Uncle Kelly and Aunt Mary and I remember thinking that while others seem to age, they seemed to remain the same....almost timeless. It is sad to know that was the last time I would see Uncle Kelly.

In recent years, Uncle Kelly and Aunt Mary moved back into the City. The boys they raised all grew up well, married wonderful women and had beautiful children and now they are having grandchildren. They have all remained close to each other and thanks to facebook, some of their cousins too. I talked to Kelly Jr. probably more than the rest but we are all there.....reading each others posts and keeping up with each others lives.

It was through facebook that I learned Uncle Kelly had not been doing well and again how I learned of his death. Cousins connecting with cousins in a way the original 11 could never have imagined.

So if I could say one last thing to Uncle would likely be "thank you." The reasons are many and most having to do with Mom. I am so blessed to have known you, to have called you Uncle and to be a part of this family that we call Dougherty!

RIP Uncle Kelly!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I Am Here, Adele and Hadley

"You are gone and I don't like it!" was a message in my fb messages. There were a couple of more all along the same line, basically asking the same question. "Where are you?" This tells me that perhaps I am too vocal on fb if of all the people on fb, I am missed. It is both amusing and baffling. The truth is though that I am not gone. I am here. I just simply ran out of things to say or maybe more accurately I focused what I did have to say on what was most important in my life right now. Social media simply falls short in the big scheme of things.

There is much going on inside of me at the moment. I am still trying to slay big beasts, trying to organize both my life and my thoughts, trying to figure out how we will survive financially after the first of June, wondering if David will ever walk, preparing Z for prom tonight and graduation in a couple of weeks and then dealing with some new stuff which has both caught me off guard and honestly at times......left me speechless. Shocking....right? I figured when I am rendered speechless then it is really time to step back and re-evaluate the big picture. 

I actually have much to say but it is all bunched up in my brain. Some of it will eventually come out in one blog or the other and some will stay within me, be fixed.....or not and then put away in a place deep inside that no one dare touches. I guess today is the first day of me testing the waters of blogging to see what breaks loose and makes it onto the blog. 

If you remember there are two little girls that I have been praying for and writing updates on from time to time. One, a little girl named Adele , who at the young age of 18 months and right at one year ago, was diagnosed with a very rare brain tumor. With the rarity of the tumor and her age, the odds have been against her this entire journey. Adele is the youngest of four kids and for the last year her parents Melissa and Pete have divided their time traveling back and forth to KC, St. Louis and OKC getting treatment for their little girl while still keeping the home fires burning and making sure the other kids don't feel left out. They have refused to let cancer rule their lives. 

Adele spent much of the last year having surgery and receiving both chemo and radiation. The side effects often are almost worse than the disease and Melissa and Pete were warned that they could have one very sick little girl on their hands. Time and again though, Adele beat the odds and when the doctors said that they didn't think the treatment would actually shrink the tumor, she beat them again as it shrunk about 70%. I attribute all of this to prayer, as Melissa and the family never stopped praying and she was never shy about begging for prayers from others because at a time like this, you could have all the money in the world and it would not change the outcome, but one selfless prayer could bring on a miracle and that is what this family is looking for. After the first of the year, Adele finished up the last of the trial. What was left of the tumors which originated in the brain and spread to the spine, were smaller and stable. Now they waited. 

The family was all under one roof again and if Melissa and Pete had learned nothing over the last year, they learned that life was precious and to live each moment. To Melissa this meant being present in all of her children's lives and activities and getting back to normal things like grocery shopping, sibling arguments and simply hanging out as a family. This family being able to achieve this in the face of such fear is amazing and one of the reasons Melissa is my hero. Her faith has inspired me through this ordeal. Then, about two weeks ago, Adele began crying with her leg and having trouble walking. Melissa's heart stopped knowing this could be a sign that the cancer was active again. After an MRI, Melissa's fears were confirmed. Her two tumors are still stable but another one is growing. This is devastating news especially when the doctors once again are warning the couple that Adele's chances of surviving this are very small. They are currently looking for a new trial and Melissa is very well aware that this means more time away from her other kids, more time in hospitals and the need for many, many, many more prayers. She is begging and I decided to help her beg. No child, no family, no human should have to go through this disease. Please, before you go to bed, when you wake up or while you are reading this, say a little prayer for Adele.....for her life, her future and for her family. 
Then there is the other little girl....Hadley. Hadley was a bit older than Adele and I believe her tumor was abdominal. It is a more common childhood cancer than Adele's but common does not mean a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. Hadley is the granddaughter of a girl I graduated high school with. Just a few years ago the family had gone through cancer when Hadley's grandpa both battled the disease and won, so you can only imagine what a gut shot to the family it was when in the mid part of last year Hadley was diagnosed. 

Like Adele, Hadley and her family have traveled all over for her treatment and their final destination was NYC. This is where she has had surgery and is currently undergoing treatment. Her last scans were clear but the follow up treatment is rather rough on her, both raising her blood pressure and her heart rate. I know it is a scary ordeal for her parents and family, but Hadley looks to be kicking some cancer butt! Again, I don't believe this would have happened without prayer. So if you have been praying for Hadley.....please keep it up and if this is the first you have heard of it, please say a little prayer that this little girl has a long and happy life ahead.

So this is what fell out today. Interesting, because I had no idea what I would blog about as I sat down to type. Two little girls, only months apart fighting two different versions of the same beast. Both families are walking the line of fear and hope while looking for the normal that was left behind a long time ago. Why do babies have to suffer, intimately know the inside of hospitals or endure sticks, test and procedures that would make an adult cry? Why do their families have to live in fear that they will out live their child, watch their child suffer and feel the guilt of not being their for the rest of the family? Perhaps the answer is that these little girls and their families are being used as an example of faith and hope. Both families beg prayer and yet both families also know that God's plan may not be the outcome they desire and yet still they pray. They continue on with life trying to find the moments of joy, happiness and peace when they can...... and looking life straight in the eye and facing it straight on.....the rest of the time. 

We hope for the best. We pray our hope is justified......and when a miracle occurs.....and trust me, there is ALWAYS a miracle.......we know that we have been heard and that we are not alone!