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Rick Lakin

Peach Cobbler for Breakfast – Introduction and Chapter 1

Peach Cobbler for Breakfast – Surviving a life-altering event.

Sheila Moore Thornburg Dobbie lived the experience of loss, came up with a plan for survival and achieved her recovery.

Peach Cobbler for Breakfast is a story of love and loss. It is laughter through tears and overcoming fears. It is indescribable grief and pain beyond belief. It is joy and recovery through new discoveries. It is survival.

The author suffered the loss of seven family members in a two year period leaving her without a father and husband. This is her story on her road from the depths of grief and loss back to healing and thriving. This is the story of growing up in West Virginia, establishing a career, finding a life partner, losing it all and then beginning a rebuilding process.

Peach Cobbler for Breakfast is a beautifully written love story, biography, adventure, self-help, and spiritual book. The writing flows, is rich with description, provokes thought, touches the emotions, and takes one on a journey. It is interesting that even though the author lost her husband, she didn’t give up on love; lost her friends, she continued to make new ones; and lost the church, she didn’t give up on God. Sheila Moore Thornburg Dobbie has woven a beautiful, rich, and inspiring tapestry.

Judy Rehl, Retired Teacher

 “A well-told story of loss and resilience that will inspire many readers.”

Richard Lederer, verbivore.com

“Peach Cobbler for Breakfast will speak to the heart of anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one, and particularly women who have lost a long-time partner. Her practical advice is woven into her personal story in such a way that positive steps seem more do-able, and hope seems close at hand.”

Louise Fericelli, coachinginnerwisdom.com

 

Introduction

PeachCobbler Cover“Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive…” This quote is immediately familiar to Superman fans of all ages; but, these were the only words I could think of as I heard the diagnosis of cancer time and again in a two year period.

This disease had invaded our family faster than a bullet and had decimated it with the force of a powerful locomotive and now I needed the strength of a superman to survive.

When I was in my 40s I went through the worst time of my life. In a two year span I lost six family members, including my father and husband within six months of each other – my father to a brain tumor and my husband to bladder cancer. It is difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t been through a similar experience what it feels like to lose the center of your universe.

I will spare the reader and myself the pain of reliving every detail of that time. At a time when my friends were planning high school graduations, colleges, and weddings for their children, I was planning or attending funerals. I was angry at the world, afraid of the future, and confused.

Much of the time I was in a state of shock, numb to both joy and pain. I seemed to live day to day in a haze trying to cope with each crisis as it came along. Once you have been hit by a speeding train and endured the pain of impact you become numb to repetitive shocks. I do not mean to minimize the magnitude of the events but rather to put everything into perspective. Things, literally, could not get much worse. Everyone I loved had been touched in some way by the catastrophic events surrounding us.

Perhaps our bodies learn to insulate us against pain, death and sorrow so we can carry on. We learn we can make it through one day and then the next and we continue living our lives one day at a time until we eventually make it out of the dark valley. It may be like living as a zombie but it works.

An old Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” I repeated this to myself many times when the journey looked too difficult or I didn’t have the energy to continue. I reminded myself that I didn’t have to do the whole journey in one day and, if all I could do that day was take one step, then that was all that was needed.

I kept the pain to myself and put on my happy face when going out into the world. I did my crying in the shower so my husband didn’t know how worried I was. I tried to keep positive for him and others. A morbid curiosity surrounds people with a debilitating or fatal disease. It’s almost as if people are searching the faces of the patient or his loved ones for any sign things are getting worse. I wanted to be sure people saw only signs of hope in my face so I applied my smile each morning along with my makeup and faced the world with a façade of confidence.

Background

David and I met at church when I was 15 and he was 17. We dated throughout high school and college and then married after dating for seven years. We fell in love toMoon River by Andy Williams and Today by the New Christy Minstrels, held hands during My Fair Lady and Sound of Music, cheered our losing football team at Marshall University and stole a kiss whenever possible. When we finally did get married there was a large clap of thunder just when the minister pronounced us man and wife and everyone said it was the man upstairs saying, “It’s about time!”

It was during the turbulent 60s and it seemed that our lives were in as much turmoil as the rest of the world, but we finally realized our goals of graduating from college. There were the pressures of college, work, integration, bussing, demonstrations, drugs, flower power, communism, the bomb, and the ever-present and growing disruption of the Vietnam War (or as some preferred–conflict). It certainly “conflicted” our lives because if the guys didn’t keep up a certain GPA, dropped out of college, or didn’t finish within the expected four years, then there was the draft to look forward to. One professor said almost daily, “You guys better study or you will be slogging around in the rice paddies.” We swore he was a recruiter for the draft board.

After graduation and a brief stint with Uncle Sam, we were finally free to strike out on our own. We headed for the big city of Columbus, Ohio, which seemed perfect for us. It was three hours from home, which meant it was close enough so we could get home quickly in case of an emergency, and far enough away so relatives couldn’t drop in unexpectedly. I think those were my Dad’s words.

My first visit to Columbus was something right out of The Jetsons’ cartoon when my family, David, and I attended the Ohio State Fair in 1962. At the time it was perhaps the largest state fair in the country. We drove into the city on one of the first interstate highways I had ever seen and whirling above the city were helicopters whizzing by. This was all very new and exciting for a kid from the hills of West Virginia. As we left late that night, fireworks were bursting over the city and I felt as if I had been to the City of Oz. I immediately fell in love with Columbus and when David and I married a few years later we decided that was the place for us.

Armed with our degrees and naïve enthusiasm we headed for the big city – he to become an architect and I a teacher. We found jobs and changed jobs, we made money and lost money, we started and closed businesses, we loved and we fought. We had the usual ups and downs and disappointments most people go through but, through it all, we said that the only thing that mattered was that we had each other. We felt we could survive and conquer almost anything as long as we were side by side.

All too quickly 23 years of married life passed and it became apparent that David would not survive the bladder cancer that had stricken him at age 45. As I watched him during those last days in the hospital I thought of the good times we had but also of the hectic life we had led. Where did it get us? I would gladly give up everything to know he would continue by my side forever. Why hadn’t we taken more vacations or weekend trips? Why hadn’t we found more time for just us? Life is too short.

For the first time I had to face the world alone. I may not be Superman but I will survive this hell.

1      The Premonition – dark storm clouds

Become a good noticer. Pay attention to the feelings, hunches, and intuitions that flood your life each day. If you do, you will see that premonitions are not rare, but a natural part of our lives.

Larry Dossey

The Power of Premonitions: How Knowing the Future Can Shape Our Lives

It was a wonderful vacation with our good friends, Kevin and Margie, filled with sun, fun, surf and turf, and margaritas. But I can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong. Maybe it’s just the eerie darkness preceding the storm coming in from the mainland.

As we cross the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge leaving our favorite beach island to return home, it looks as if we are spiraling directly into the storm clouds. I can’t suppress the shudder that suddenly shakes my body. “This is silly,” I tell myself. “You are being overly dramatic with the dark clouds ahead.” Little did I know that my reactions were, perhaps, a premonition of what was to come. There would be a time I would long to return to this moment.

Life is good. David, my high school sweetheart, and I have been married for 20 plus years. We live in our dream house that he designed, he has a promising position with a leading engineering/architectural firm, and plans are in the works to make him a vice president. We have many good friends, a church that feels like our home away from home, and a loving family.

Life has not always been so fulfilling. There were disappointments with several failed businesses, job changes, money problems, and the inability to have children. But, we all have our problems and we viewed ours as no different from anyone else’s. We can weather anything together.

Shortly after returning from vacation, David complains of a recurring bladder infection he has had since spring. When he calls in a refill for the antibiotic, he decides to revisit the doctor for a more thorough exam. The doctor orders a brief surgical procedure called a “cystoscopy” and we schedule it for the upcoming Monday. The procedure will be done as an out-patient but will require some sedation as they insert a scope through the penis and into the bladder.

Long ago we had planned a last hurrah, warm weather get-away for the upcoming weekend with Kevin and Margie to take in the fall colors around Lake Erie. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful weekend. The weather was warm with a slight tinge of autumn in the air – one of those rare perfect days. The trees were brilliant colors of gold, orange, yellow, and florescent green splashed against a sapphire sky while Lake Erie glistened in the background like an array of Swarovski crystals. We laughed so much our sides hurt as we bounced around Kelly Island in a golf cart. On our return trip we stopped at local farmers’ markets to stock up on pumpkins, apples, Amish cheeses, and apple butter.

Kevin and Margie are good friends we met at church. We sing in the choir together, enjoy going to restaurants, and vacationing together. David and Kevin hold down the bass section and usually find some kind of mischief to get into and Margie is secretary to the minister, Rev. James. In addition, Kevin is treasurer for the church and I am president of the Board of Trustees. The one rule we have when we travel together is no church business allowed.

Early Monday morning I drive David to the hospital and we hope to be home by lunch time. I wait in the overcrowded and overly hot waiting room. I wait and wait. It occurs to me that I have never met this doctor and perhaps he called for me but I missed him while trying to avoid the noisy and rowdy kids playing on the floor. The hospital is remodeling and it seems that most of the hospital’s population has crowded into this dusty, dirty, dingy 12’ x 12’ room.

Finally my name is called and a short, foreign doctor rushes up to me and begins talking. I don’t understand his accent; but, since he does not take me into the conference room, I expect to hear that everything is fine. But, different words are coming out of his mouth.

What did he say? Did he say the word “tumor”? Surely that is a mistake. Did he say they are keeping him overnight for observation? When and where did he say I could see my husband?

The doctor is gone just as suddenly as he appeared and I’m left in a daze. I feel faint and confused. I have to get out of this room and away from the chaos. I’m shaking and suddenly feel hysterical. I have to calm myself. I begin walking and taking deep breaths.

Although I want and need some comfort, I decide not to call my parents and upset everyone until I know more (both of David’s parents are deceased). I call Margie and she and Rev. James rush to the hospital. While waiting for them to arrive, I am directed to another floor where David will be admitted. I wait. I notice it is raining and the drops running down the dirty windows match the ones running down my cheeks.

Rev. James and Margie soon arrive and it is good to see their friendly faces. Rev. James is a former college football lineman and a big man with broad shoulders (literally and figuratively) and curly white hair. They are a welcome sight and exactly what I need right now.

By the time they bring David to his room the initial shock has worn off and we are there with smiling faces to greet him. Rev. James always has words of comfort and a joke or two so by the time they leave I am fine, David is OK, and the world is back on its axis.

Tomorrow David’s company is having a big reception to announce some re-organizational changes and among those changes is his promotion to vice-president.

I arrive at the hospital early to bring David home. We wait and wait. We begin to get uneasy because David needs time to get ready for the reception. I’m beginning to think I don’t like this doctor. Finally the doctor comes and, with the door wide open, he flings the covers back exposing David to all the world to remove the drainage tube from his penis. Now I know I don’t like this doctor!

Because he can’t drive for a short time I drive him to the reception. I watch him walk in and am very proud of him. It looks like our hard times are almost behind us.

About a week later we return to the doctor for the test results. He calls us back and we stand in a hallway as he casually leans against a file cabinet and tells us there was a mushroom shaped tumor; but they removed it. He tells us they will watch David every three months and if it recurs they will use a laser to remove the mushrooms.

I’m confused and am not sure if this is a good thing or not. Is it cancer? I ask about chemo and he says chemo is not needed. The atmosphere is easy and relaxed and the doctor seems upbeat and positive. We are not worried and we go to a Japanese restaurant to celebrate our good luck. I wish I had kept the fortune from the fortune cookie that night.

 

 

I MISS THE FRONT PORCH SOCIETY

Lasanga. Tasty.

Image via Wikipedia

My niece called last night very upset. She had taken a break in her hectic holiday preparations to spend the day devoted to her neighbors. Her thanks for all her efforts was a simple “thank you” and the door slammed in her face.

Neighbors on both sides of her had had babies within the last several weeks. Wanting to be a good neighbor, she went shopping for appropriate baby gifts and a package of diapers and then made a pan of her special home-made lasagna for each neighbor. She even included baking directions and the recipe in case anyone had food allergies.  Arms full of goodies, she and her three-year old son went next door to make her first delivery. The husband/new father met her at the first home, took the offerings, said “thank you” and closed the door. Ditto for the second delivery however he included a “God bless you”. There was no offer to come in and see the baby or even a friendly “how ya doin’”. Even her young son observed the cold reception.

In trying to analyze what happened we looked at several possibilities. In both cases it was the husband/father who answered the door so was it just a guy thing? Also, in both cases they were of different races so was it a racial or cultural thing? Were they so shocked that someone was actually reaching out and trying to be a good neighbor they didn’t know how to react?

During our discussion she made a comment that really made me think. She said she was used to sitting on the front porch and waving and saying “hi” to everyone who passed by that she thought everyone did the same. Yes, we were raised in a front porch community. We knew all of our neighbors and spoke to people walking down the street. Even if we did not know the people we would smile and nod.

Front porch communities are now a thing of the past. Most new homes haven’t had front porches for many years. We retreat into our environmentally controlled homes and many times don’t even know our next door neighbors. Gone is the Norman Rockwell world where children can play freely. Today we are afraid of molesters and drug addicts roaming the neighborhoods. We are caught up in our own busy lives and fail to think about those around us. But what kind of community do we have when neighbors don’t know neighbors? What kind of world are we creating? This isolationism only opens us up to more crime. If no one is looking after us we are vulnerable to those of bad intentions.

My disappointed niece said, “I don’t get it, I was just trying to be a good neighbor.” In this holiday season let us all try to take time to be a good neighbor. Smile and say, “hi”. Offer to look after their place while they are gone for the holidays, offer to take in their mail and newspapers. Take them a batch of homemade cookies. We will be much safer if we take time to look after each other.

It seems we are light years away from Norman Rockwell’s ideallic world but bring back the front porches and perhaps we can recapture a portion of that world. A simple smile and, “Hi neighbor” can do wonders. The next time someone brings a batch of cookies or pan of lasagna to your door at least invite her in. It could be the beginning of a great friendship.  As the Good Book says, “Love thy neighbor.”

MY CALENDAY COLORING BOOK

BRONZED NOVEMBER

To have something bronzed means to preserve it by dipping it in a mixture of tin and copper. Bronze is also a color defined as yellowish brown or reddish brown to olive. All of these definitions describe November; therefore I will color this month in my imaginary coloring book bronze.

The last remnants of summer linger on and are temporarily frozen in time like an old pair of bronzed baby shoes. The autumnal sun glints off coppery leaves and dried summer grasses looking like scarecrow soldiers swaying in the breeze. Nature’s autumn dance, so brilliantly attended by maidens dressed in rustling jewel encrusted gowns, is over and the trees stand nearly naked with only a few bronze leaves clinging to the branches. We have now entered the time of darkness filled with dread and depression as we keep watch while all of the natural world slows down and prepares for a long restoring sleep.

A winter chill is in the air and the world takes on a harsh brassey feel. It will be a long time before our skins will take on the bronze glow of summer but we can rejoice in the bronzed skin of the turkey coming out of the oven for the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Our attention is turned indoors with the warmth of the fire in the fireplace casting a bronze glow about the room. It is now time to bring nature inside with the harvesting of nuts, stacking firewood, and storing foods to take us through the cold months ahead.

Yes, for one last time nature desperately tries to preserve the warm memories of times spent outdoors by wrapping itself in a bronzed glow of winter sun framed by the dimesions of my picture window.

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LIFE IN PONDVILLE:

MYSTERIOUS BEE HIVE COLONY COLLAPSE IS EXPLAINED

 The fun of having a blog is that I can express myself freely. No committee to choose the topic or editor peering over my shoulder, I can say anything I want without being told what to write or how to write it. So, here it goes…

I write about my observations of nature or something that is currently on my mind. Well, this week I have been preoccupied with the actions of the board of our homeowners association. We live in a condominium and are governed by a board elected by the homeowners. If one judges our homelife according to the beautiful picture of our pond at the heading of this column and by the accompanying photos found throughout this blog, one might think we live in utopia. Yes, our surroundings are beautiful but the atomosphere here in Pondville is far from ideallic.

Let me introduce you to some of the characters who live in Pondville. Some are worker bees who drive to and from work daily and sit in offices. Some are self-employed and work from their home, like myself. Others are retired worker bees who have exchanged the hectic office life for a life at the pond where they keep busy with hobbies, family and friends. Others don’t have enough outside interestes to properly occupy their time so they  pass the time watching the grass grow and snowflakes accumulate. This second type of retired worker bee can create havoc within the community by complaining and micro managing. Like any active hive, most worker bees are busy bees and don’t have time for home improvements and community management. That is why most bees chose to live in a communal hive.

 Although all come from varied backgrounds we all share a pride in our neighborhood. This statement sounds like it should be a uniting force, however, it has become a devicive point because each has a different concept of what is best for the community. Ideally, all the bees in the hive should be able to come together and work for the good of the community; but this only happens when the Queen Bee and her board will listen to the worker bees and then act accordingly. When all decisions and actions are done from the top with no regard to the community as a whole we have colony collapse. Colony collapse has been much in the news the last several years. In the spring, when the bees emerge from wintering in the hive scientiest have found that the numbers have been greatly reduced. Scientists are trying to figure out what causes the phenomon of colony collapse but I have the answer.

Our Queen Bee and her close sister bees and drones usually winter south while most of the worker bees are left to face the cruelty and dirty jokes of Jack Frost. While the decision-making bees are mostly absent during this trying time, many daily decisions which affect the safety, health and general welfare of the whole population of the hive are either ignored or made with little or no regard for the general population. Once spring arrives and the population reassembles at the pond, the worker bees who braved the winter weather are angry and the newly arrived bees are not in touch with the general mood of the hive. When it comes time to make decisions about repairs and budgeting the Queen Bee and her inner court blindly blunder their way through, ignoring the pleas of the lowly worker bees.

Statements such as, “we can do anything we want” and “this is not a democracy” (and therefore we can do anything we want) only serve to create more dissension. If only the Queen Bee and her inner court would stop buzzing long enough to listen to the common worker bees they might find that some of the lowly bees actually have good ideas. Not all brilliant ideas come from the top.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Do you know the origin of the jack-o-lantern?

Pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, candy corn, apples, bobbing for apples, bonfires, hayrides, kids in costumes begging for candy, spooks and spirits, witches, and folk lore all are part of Halloween. What a strange holiday this is, but where did it all begin?

Come with me on a short historical journey to discover the beginnings of this holiday. This traditional fall festival is perhaps one of the world’s oldest holidays with roots going back thousands of years. According to History.com, its origins date to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived throughout Europe but primarily in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Highland Scotland, and Northern France celebrated their new year beginning November 1. That was an important date because it marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the long dark days of winter and a time associated with death. They believed that at this time the lines between the living and the dead were blurred and the spirits of the dead walked the earth. They also believed that this was a time when the Druids, or priests, would make predictions about the future.

Huge bonfires were built for sacrifices of crops and animals to appease the Celtic gods. The people wore costumes of animal heads and skins and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. After the celebration they went home and relit their hearth fires from embers from the sacred bonfire to protect them from misfortunes during the coming winter.

During the 400 year occupation of the Romans beginning in 43 AD two Roman festivals were combined with the celebration of Samhain. The Romans observed Feralia, a day in late October when they honored the dead, and the celebration of Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The apple symbolized Pomona and it is believed this where the tradition of apples and bobbing for apples began.

When Christianity spread to the Celtic lands in the 800’s the holiday also incorporated All Saints Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs, on November 1. It is believed that Pope Boniface IV attempted to replace the festival of the dead with a related church sanctioned observance. This celebration was called All-hallows or  All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints Day) and the evening before, the night of Samhain, was called All-hallows Eve which eventually became Halloween.

Around 1000 AD the church designated November 2 as All Souls’ Day which honored all dead. It was celebrated with bonfires, parades, and costumes featuring angels, saints, and the devil.

When the Europeans came to this country they brought their Halloween traditions with them and when the Irish began immigrating in throngs during the Irish potato famine in the mid 1800’s they seemed to cement the traditions. The Irish, with strong ties to the Celts and their priests, the Druids, took the celebration one step further with the introduction of the jack-o-lantern.

The jack-o-lantern comes from an old Irish myth about a man named “Stingy Jack”. According to the tale, Jack tricked the devil into not claiming his soul when he died; but, when he eventually did die he was not allowed into heaven because he was considered an unsavory character. The devil, true to his word, did not claim Jack’s soul but would not allow him into hell. He sent him into the night armed with a single burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved out turnip and has been roaming the earth ever since. The Irish referred to this figure as “Jack of the Lantern” and then it was shortened to “Jack O’Lantern”.

In Ireland and Scotland people made their own versions of Jack’s lantern by carving scary faces into turnips and potatoes and put them in windows and doorways to keep away Stingy Jack and other evil spirits. In England, large beets were used. When these people came to America they soon found that pumpkins made the perfect jack-o-lantern.

I find it curious that every year when Halloween comes around some people don’t believe in celebrating it because they say it is the devil’s day. Actually, after reviewing the history of the day, nothing could be farther from the truth. It has always been a time of some religious significance and celebrating the harvest. True, it did not begin as a Christian holiday but it was a sacred observance to the people of the ancient world. Later it did take on Christian significance as a time to honor saints and those who have passed on.

It is interesting to note that the same themes of celebrating the harvest and honoring the dead are found around the world. It is a time of preparation for the long winter ahead and a time of parties, parades, and costumes. Today, we find ourselves at the crossroads between summer and winter, warmth and cold, plenty and famine, religious and secular. October 31 is an interesting blend of the ancient Celtic practices, Catholic, and Roman rituals which are both religious and festive.

Just as the Celts lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off roaming spirits, let us join the fun. Today it is a time for children, families, and neighborhoods to come together for some fun and craziness before we must face the long cold winter days of slogging through snow. So, in a few days when we see the neighborhood kids dressed as roaming goblins remember we are continuing an ancient tradition. TRICK OR TREAT!