Friday, June 7, 2013

Arkansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial

    The Arkansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial celebrated their ground breaking on Saturday, March 23, at 2 p.m. at the Capital in Little Rock. Daniel and I are so excited to be a part of bringing this memorial to life. What better way can we honor the families of those lost in service then to see this dream through.

    On September 20, 1975 Daniel’s father, Davey, and two of his fellow McGehee firefighters were killed while answering a call. At the time of his death Davey was only 27 years old and Daniel barely two.

    Our friends, family, co-workers, and the strangers we’ve met along the way  can all attest to the man Daniel has grown up to be. A man his Mother, Marilyn, is proud to call her son, and the son his Father is equally proud to watch over.

    Daniel was never given the chance to know his Dad, the relationship they could’ve had was lost in that fire. Many other families, too many to name, know this hurt and pain. Daniel in a sense is fortunate; his Mom kept his Dad’s letters, journals, and other personal things so her son could know the man she will forever love. Other families are not as lucky; other spouses, children, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles need their something. Some have only a picture, some just the name, but for the majority of these families a memorial in honor of the one they loved is all that they will have.

    The Arkansas Fallen Firefighter Memorial has a current list of The Fallen that stands at 99. The list dates back to  April of 1889. That’s 99 families that all deserve our heartfelt thoughts, prayers, and help.

    The memorial is being funded through donations. They Arkansas Fallen Firefighters memorial Organization has done their best to give those of us willing and able multiple ways to support the project. There have been Boot Fest Concerts to raise awareness and funds. There are things like lapel pins or bracelets that can be purchased with the proceeds going directly yo the Memorial. There are granite pavers being sold. The state offers Fallen Firefighter car tags, and or course they always accept cash donations.

    If you’re interested or would like more information I encourage you to visit their website, Together we can give Daniel, his family, and the members of the other 99 Fallen firefighters’ families our thanks for their sacrifice, the respect, honor, and Memorial they deserve.

Second Chance Miracles

10 years ago this May, my family received a gift that we will never be able to say enough thank you(s) for.

    A young man, Nathan, had just passed away and in the midst of his parent's grieving they were asked if they would consider donating their son's organs and tissue, so that others may have a chance to live.

     I don't know how many of you are currently Organ and Tissues donors, and I don't know how many of you are parents but, I do know that for me, that would have been a tough question to hear let alone answer.

    However, for Nathan's parents they knew what they wanted for their son's memory. They wanted him to always be remembered. They wanted no one to forget the lively, intelligent young man he was. So, although losing their son was a heartbreaking pain only they could express, they answered the question with a yes.
    My brother Michael was 32 years old. He had battled heart troubles most of his life. The doctors and nurses all knew him by name and often talked about what a miracle it was that he was "still here". My brother had been off and on the transplant wait list for the majority of his adult life. We were also hopeful, but also always prepared for the worst.

    I still remember the day our family got the call. May 20th, at 7 a.m. Julie, the transplant nurse called my brother Michael and asked him how long it would take him to get to the hospital. He told her he could be there in 20 minutes. He called our brother Billy and cried, "I have a heart! They've found me a heart!" Billy then picked Michael up and drove him to the hospital. They like to brag that they got to the hospital in a little under 10 minutes, not 20.

    When they got to the hospital Michael was taken directly to the Cardiac Care Unit to be prepped for the transplant. Once checked in, Michael noticed his best friend Alvin. Alvin was receiving his Last Rites. His family had gathered and were spending what was presumed their final moments together. Alvin was also waiting for a heart transplant.

    For years the two had gone back and forth as Priority One and Priority Two on the transplant list. They were same blood type, but different in stature and age. Alvin was 28 years my brother's senior.
    What happened next is somewhat unbelievable. My brother who had for the most part been a fairly cold, or un-compassionate man told the doctors and hospital staff they he wanted Alvin to have the transplant. He was refusing. He argued that Alvin was a better man than him. Alvin was a better patient. Alvin always listened to every direction the doctors ever gave; Michael had not. In Alvin my brother saw a man with 3 daughters that would never be able to have their father walk them down the alia at their wedding. He saw a kind soul that deserved a second chance at life.

    The doctors insisted that the heart wasn't right for Alvin. They tried pleading with my brother, but still he refused. Alvin heard the Michael yelling at the doctors, he pushed his call button and asked for Dr. Ensley to please bring him to Michael. In a desk chair with no monitors attached Dr. Ensley and Alvin made their way to my brother's room. Alvin leading with Michael. He begged him to have faith that this was the heart for HIM!

    As families we gathered together to pray and it was then that my brother felt at peace with the transplant. The doctors asked my brother one last time if he would proceed with the transplant, holding Alvin's hand my brother said yes. My brother was then wheeled to the O.R. where they began the transplant.

    Alvin's family decided to wait with us during the transplant operation. They had joined us in the waiting room, and about two hours into the operation a doctor came in and asked to see them in the consultation room. We all thought the worst. Alvin's wife asked if we would join them so they weren't alone for the news. We did.

    It wasn't the worst. It was in fact the best news ever! For the first time in hospital history a second heart of the same blood type had been found and was on its way now for Alvin. Yes, you read that correctly. The had found a transplant match for Alvin!
    Our families will forever be grateful to the miracles God gave us. The answered prayers for both families. We will never be able to  say thank you enough to Nathan's family or to Alvin's donor's family. What we can do though, is honor them. And, we honor them by educating others about the life saving gift of Organ and Tissue Donations, and by sharing our stories.
    My brother is 10 years "clean" meaning no rejection. He has since married and is now the proud daddy to a beautiful little girl. He has turned his life around completely. It's as if his new heart not only gave him a second chance at life, it also gave him a new amount of love to share. When I hug my brother and I hear his heartbeat I think of Nathan. Nathan's memory will forever live on because his parent's made the choice to give life in his death.

    So, I ask this of you today, for Nathan, for his family, for my brother and his, for Alvin, his donor's family and for all of those who are currently waiting, please consider being an Organ and Tissue Donor. Give life.
    And, if you pray, say a little prayer for the donors’ families. For while we celebrate the gifts they give, they mourn.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Look For The Helpers

There is really no easy way to start a column like this. How do we open a conversation about tragedy easily?

Some of you may know I am a transplanted Arkansan; born and raised in Oklahoma. I still consider Oklahoma my home. I probably always will.    

The tornadoes that have devastated my “home” are nothing short of heart wrenching. Lives have been forever changed.

 As I write this some families are celebrating the safe return of their loved ones, some are still waiting to know and all of us are grieving. Right now my home state is shattered, but we will be okay. We will always be okay. Thats just what Oklahoma does.           

There is a fairly popular quote from Fred Rogers that is often highlighted in times like these. It reads: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”"

Most of us are already thinking about the basic needs that the residents of Oklahoma no longer have i.e. food, clothing, shelter, diapers etc. I would suggest we hold off on clothing drives or food drives for now. They’ll let us know when they are ready to accept things like that. There isn’t even a structure to house the donated items as of yet.

How do we help in the mean time? What do we need to do to be “the helpers”? 

I would ask that you all consider donating blood. And, if you are able, find a reputable charity like the Red Cross or the Salvation Army and make a monetary donation. You can donate to the Salvation Army by texting STORM to 80888. Doing this will add a $10 charge to your cell phone bill, and give a $10 donation to them. You can also visit to make a donation. If you would like to donate to the Red Cross you can do it the same way via text by sending REDCROSS to 90999 or by visiting The United Way of Central Oklahoma also has a disaster relief fund set up and you can donate to it by visiting their website

If you’re not able to donate in any of the fore mentioned ways, could I ask you a favor? Could you give every Oklahoman a moment of your time and pray for them, all of them.

Governor Brad Henry once said “something called 'the ‘Oklahoma Standard' became known throughout the world. It means resilience in the face of adversity. It means a strength and compassion that will not be defeated.”

Resilience is woven deeply into the fabric of Oklahoma. Throw us an obstacle, and we grow stronger. My heart aches for Oklahoma. You’re in my daily thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hiding In My Closet Crying

Prom has come and gone, and with no incidents thank goodness.

It’s a huge weight off knowing our kids all made it home safe and sound.

With the school year fastly wrapping up, we now have to start preparing ourselves for graduation.

I don’t think it matters much if you have a senior graduating or a kindergartener graduating, they’re still your baby and it’s still harder than any of us would like to admit.

When we aren’t hiding in our closet crying over our babies growing up and rational thoughts return we should all take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate that comes with a graduation.

Now is a chance to pat yourself on the back for a job well done; you and your graduate have made it through another year.

Plus, end of the year field trips are only going to keep us busy for so long. Family and friends are much better than that.

I want to share a recipe that’s good for any graduation party; be it in the backyard or a rented banquet hall.

Green Grape Dessert Salad

You’re going to need:

4 pounds of seedless green grapes
1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese
1 (8 oz) container of sour cream
1/2 cup of white sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
4 oz chopped pecans
2 tablespoons of brown sugar

First things first, you want to wash and dry the grapes.

Now, in a large bowl you want to mix together the cream cheese, the sour cream, the sugar, and the vanilla. 

Once you have that mixed together add in your grapes and stir till everything is evenly distributed.

Next you just sprinkle in the brown sugar and the pecans and mix it a little more.

I like to serve mine in a bowl other than what I mixed it together in, but you don’t have to. 

If you do want to serve it in another dish now is the time to move it over and then let it chill for a little while before serving.

So, there you have it; an easy but crowd pleaseing recipe that still allows us time to cry in the closet.