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.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Happy Birthday Boy 1.

Six years ago this month I was laying in a hospital bed praying with everything in me to just make it through another day, another week of what had been a horribly scary pregnancy.

Things changed on April 10th. That day, my doctor decided things were getting a little too risky and that although still 4 weeks early it was better for everyone to go ahead and deliver.

After many tears, phone calls, prayers, and two units of blood I was taken to the O.R. In what seems like only minutes later, I was kissing the head of my sweet baby boy.

He was here.

He had all ten fingers and all ten toes.

He was early, but for the most he was okay, just the expected breathing complications.

He was taken to the NICU where he could be given oxygen and the monitored care he needed. We expected an NICU length of at least 3 weeks, but even as a newborn he had his own way of doing things. After a terrifying Code Blue call, and an emergency baptism with our family priest things started getting better. We left the NICU after only 17 days with a note from the doctor declaring him to be “a healthy, hard-headed handful”.

I’m happy to say in the last six years that doctor’s report hasn’t changed much. My sweet boy is very much still healthy, hard-headed, and man is he a handful.

    In honor of this new milestone, I’d like to share one of his favorite things to make.

It’s “semi-homemade” because sometimes that’s just how we roll in the non Betty Crocker or Martha Stewart world.

        Dirt Cake

You’re going to need
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1 8oz container of Cool Whip
1 package of Oreo cookies
2 packages of vanilla pudding mix
1 8oz container of cream cheese
1 cup powered sugar
3.5 cups of milk

Start by creaming the butter, cream cheese, and powered sugar together.

Now, in a separate bowl whisk the pudding mix, milk, and cool whip together.

Once that’s whisked together well, combine it with the cream cheese mixture.

This is his  favorite part: Crush the Oreos. It doesnt matter if you do it in a bowl with a cup, or  in a ziplock bag with the a rolling pin just as long as you get them crushed up.

Now all that’s left to do is put it together.

You can either mix the cookies in with the cream cheese pudding mix and serve it in a pail like my kid likes to do, or if you want to be a little “smancy” as he says it, you can make layers in a glass cake pan or serving bowl. To do that you just rotate a layer of crushed cookie and a layer of cream cheese pudding mix, and repeat.

This dessert you have to store in the refrigerator.

So, here’s to my baby's latest trip around the sun. Here’s to the doctors and the nurses that keep things calm and have steady hands in times of crisis, and to the teachers that love my boy in spite of his hard-headed ways.

Happy Birthday baby, I love you to the moon and back!
Now, dig in! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

An Easter Side-Dish Or Dessert

Can you believe that Easter Sunday is just around the corner?

I can’t hardly wrap my head around it already being here, even with the daily reminders I get from the kids.        

This will be the first Easter that Boy 2 is really big enough to enjoy decorating eggs and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

I’m sure you know by now that my kids are pretty competitive and they make everything, even egg decorating, into a challenge. They always try to out do what they did the year before. I think it’s going to be pretty hard to top the Harry Potter eggs that were made last year. Regardless of what they come up with I’ll love it, and they’ll love doing it. And, that’s all that really matters.

When I think of Easter Sunday, I think of three things: Easter Service, Egg Hunts, and Church Potlucks.

So, I’d like to share an old but favorite recipe for an Easter side dish or dessert, depending on how you see it, that’s perfect for a church potluck or your kitchen table.

Watergate Salad

You’re going to need:

1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
1 pkg. (3.4 oz) Pistachio flavored instant pudding
1 cup of mini marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups of cool whip
Start by combining the pineapple (with juice), pistachio pudding, marshmallows. and pecans together in a large mixing bowl.
Once that is all mixed together really well you just stir in the cool whip.
Now comes the hard part, you need to let it refrigerate at least one hour before serving.
If you’re as impatient as me I suggest you grab an ooey gooey Cadbury egg to hold you over while the salad sets.

Trust me, it’s worth the wait. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

New Year, New Job, New Beginings and a New Recipe

Man what a year so far!

I started a new job. It’s been great so far. It’s always intimidating to be the newbie, but they’ve made me feel pretty welcomed. In addition to my new job and the new hours, Sam started daycare. That’s been a bit of a challenge. Well, for me anyways.  He’s in good hands and he really likes playing with kids his age. So, I just keep reminding myself that he loves it.

With the new job came new co-workers, and with new co-workers came new food request. Not recipes, they wanted the actual food. Since I can't really keep samples on the ready, I figured I'd just see if there was a way I could help them help themselves. You see, if I can give them some more recipes, especially ones for the Crock-Pot, then there is no reason why they can't feed themselves. 

This is easy, inexpensive and perfect for football; you can double or triple the recipe for more servings. Plus, it’s Weight Watchers friendly. The filling alone is 4 points plus, with the bun and cheese it comes to 8. It’s a filling complete meal; perfect for lunch or dinner.

It takes about 10 minutes of prep, but 10 minutes of prep to avoid an hour at the stove later is all right by me.

You’re going to need

1 lb Italian turkey sausage, removed from casing
1/2 cup chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/3 cups crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
salt and pepper, to taste

To serve it try

6 whole wheat potato rolls
6 slices reduced fat provolone
And, you may want to top with baby spinach

Start by cooking your sausage over medium to high heat.

While it’s cooking, roughly 5 to 6 minutes, you want to break the sausage into smaller bits; kind of what you would do when cooking ground beef or turkey.

Now, add in the onions and garlic, and cook another 2 minutes.

After that, you are ready to transfer it to the Crock-Pot and add the bell peppers, crushed tomatoes, rosemary and pepper.

Cover and cook on low 4 hours.

Just make your sandwiches and you are ready to go.