Notes from the Pond

My book is finally finished!

Book Title

Dear Friends,

I have finally finished writing my book—Peach Cobbler for Breakfast—surviving a life altering event. It has been a twenty year labor of love. It is not a recipe book but the story of my journey through self-discovery to recovery after the death of my first husband. You might say it is my recipe for positive living. Don’t think of this book as a downer because of the subject matter, there is a lot of humor included. I couldn’t have survived without humor.

I began writing Peach Cobbler for Breakfast shortly after he died and have worked on it periodically over the years. As I have talked with others who have suffered losses (either through death or divorce) of a spouse, parent, friend, or even a job, I discovered that almost everyone experiences similar feelings, emotions, and transitions. Life will never be the same but it is how we face those changes that define us and make us stronger. I hope my observations and experiences will help make the journey easier for others facing the same uncertain future.

Peach Cobbler for Breakfast is now in the hands of a publisher and, although nothing is definite yet, my agent thinks it should be out in time for holiday shopping. To give you an idea of what the book is about here is an excerpt from:




Peach Cobbler for Breakfast

surviving a life-altering event

By Sheila Moore Thornburg Dobbie




“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 speeding train and now I needed the strength of a superman to survive.

When I was in my 40’s 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.


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 to Moon 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 60’s 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 the 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.

Dream High


Dream #2

Just Believe












All I Need to Know I Learned in Music Class

Music #1

Those who know me know that I am passionate about the arts and have even worked as a lobbyist for the arts in the schools. Unfortunately, when school budgets are tight the first cuts are to the arts. Many schools no longer have art classes but have resorted to “art on a cart” which consists of a cart loaded with art projects and supplies which a traveling teacher wheels from class to class.

I hate to think what life will be like 100 years from now if the arts disappear completely from schools’ curriculum;  artist add beauty and meaning to our lives. Where would we be without paintings, music, architecture, books, plays, movies, TV shows, etc.? Art is a reflection of who we are, it tells where we have been, and where we are going. It would be a very dull life without art.

The article below, written by a music major turned businessman, is one of the best I have read to advance the argument for the need for arts and music in school. It seems one can learn practical lessons in the arts which can be applied to everyday life.

Save the Arts!

Please click on the link below to read Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Music Class.



Kennedy Odede: A Love Story

Kennedy Odede

This story, written by our friend Linda Studer, is about a remarkable young man, Kennedy Odede, born among the poorest of the poor who overcame poverty, prejudice, and ignorance to enrich the community he loves. Here is a young man, born in the slums of Kibera who loved his family, friends and community so much he vowed at an early age to get an education so he could help others live in a safe and clean environment.

But, how could a young boy from the slums of Africa get a good education? This is where the loving hand of God enters the picture. A chance meeting of a young man on a church trip and a pen pal changed not only Kennedy’s life but also the lives of those so far away touched by his energy, enthusiasm, dedication, and determination.

Kennedy’s story is a love story in the truest sense of the word. It is everything from agape love to romantic love. Like his namesake, Kennedy is a remarkable young man destined for greatness.


The Pen Pal

Back in the late ’90’s, my daughter’s friend, Alex, went to Nairobi with some other young people affiliated with a Catholic Church organization in order to help out with the youth in the area and to sort of hang out with them, talk to them, try to give them a little hope.  While there, he briefly met a young boy named Kennedy Odede.  Alex was impressed with Kennedy’s friendliness, and he showed him my daughter, Maren’s, picture and asked if he would like to have her address so they could be pen pals.  Of course Kennedy accepted and one day Maren received a letter in the mail from Nairobi, Kenya.  Another world!

As we read this letter from this boy, we started forming a picture of another way of life, almost a parallel world, where the basics of our everyday lives are almost nonexistent.  Living in a tiny little shanty made of paper, mud and bits of metal, foil, anything lying around they could find?  Not having running water?  To go to the bathroom you use a plastic bag and fling it out your door into the street?

Men and fathers have no work so they hang out drinking “battery acid” type alcohol and return home to beat their families?  The life of girls is so bad that rape is very common in girls as young as four and they have almost no prospects of making a future for themselves.  The life described in this letter sounded so dismal, so void of any hope; yet the young man writing this letter was anything but hopeless.  Kennedy Odede was not about to lie down and take this, not by a long shot!  He was not going to accept this as an inevitable way of life, and he was going to do everything possible to help the young people around him to see that their fate did not have to be sealed by this status quo; he was determined that they could all make other choices — other paths to follow in life.

 A Fight for a Better Life

Kennedy had to take to the streets as a young boy in order to try to help feed his siblings.  He would go to school when he and his mom could scrape together the tuition, and he would also work odd jobs to make a little money.  At one time he had 25 cents in his pocket so he decided to buy a soccer ball.  He brought together the youth in the Kibera slum, where he lived, and they began hanging out and playing soccer.  A way better alternative than crime on the streets.

Over time, Kennedy not only worked with these kids but he organized women in his community and helped them to get computer training and to start learning how to make goods to sell in the markets.  Through this process he ended up founding SHOFCO (Shining Hope for Communities).  SHOFCO is a strong, growing, vibrant organization today, you can read about it on their website.  Today they operate the Kibera School for Girls, founded by Kennedy and his now wife Jessica Posner, a health clinic, a sustainable food garden and clean water to sell to the Kibera community.  This is a huge deal, as clean water has always been a major problem.


But as we read his letter, I became interested in Kennedy, just fascinated by this kid who, although he lives in the most horrid conditions, shows a spirit, an optimism almost unparalleled in people I see every day in our land of plenty.  I began to write to Kennedy too, and eventually he was able to obtain an email account and we started emailing back and forth.  My husband and I decided to assist him in getting through high school and after that, obtaining a degree in computer training.  It was still very difficult for Kennedy to find work; there is much prejudice against people from the slum, and unfortunately, those in a position to hire also have these prejudices.  However, Kennedy never, ever gave up.  He would sometimes find a small job so that he could make a little money.  He also continued to work very hard as a community activist.  He would help write plays and put on skits about life and making good choices.  Kennedy poured himself into working for his community – a community he loved.


So very much happened during these years, I can only give you a brief accounting of what I know and can remember.  But one thing I can tell you for certain:  the period after he finished school, when he had so much trouble finding work, I felt so helpless sitting over here in the U.S., not being able to do anything for him.  I think that was one of the worst periods in my life; I felt absolutely heartsick because I could not do anything helpful.

By the Grace of God

Well, by the grace of God, that heartsick feeling did not last forever – a young woman named Jessica Posner from Wesleyan University in Connecticut traveled to Nairobi one summer for work connected to her college.  She and Kennedy met up – and the rest is history!  One day I received an email from Kennedy saying, “Mom, I have some very big news for you, I will get back to you very soon and tell you what it is.”  I waited for a few days, not knowing what to expect, and then came the email:  Mom, I’m in love!!!   🙂

He and Jessica fell in love and although she had to return to her home in Denver and then on back to Wesleyan, Jessica wasted no time in working hard to get him an opportunity to apply for admission to Wesleyan.  The college finally did offer to read his application and consider him for admission.  Now in the meantime, when Kennedy was preparing to write his essays to submit to Wesleyan, Kenya had its presidential election.  Presidential elections in Kenya often are followed by tribal violence, and this election was no exception.  We all saw on the news how killings were taking place and we all saw pictures of the bodies piled up in makeshift morgues.  And during all this, Kennedy had to flee to a neighboring country for a few weeks, because some thugs were after him!  He was not safe in his own home so he had to lay low for a while before returning to Kenya.  Then he had to ask Wesleyan for an extension so he could finish up his essays!  Of course he was granted the extension, and was ultimately given a full scholarship to the school!

A miracle, in my books.  How in the world did this come to be?  How did the fates, or God, or karma, put these two people from two different worlds together?  And what a power team they became!  Together they founded the Kibera School for Girls.  Jessica appeared on VH1’s Do Something Awards and won $100,000 for the school.  They have won competitions from the Newman Foundation and many other foundations that award money to innovative enterprises that are doing great things in the world.  Kennedy has appeared with President Bill Clinton at his Clinton Global Initiative.

 Love Conquers All

This past June, our family attended Kennedy and Jessica’s wedding in Denver.  It was absolutely wonderful, a beautiful blending of Kenyan and Jewish traditions.  In May, Vogue magazine did a four-page article about Jessica and Kennedy’s love story.  I have such affection for them and for all the work they have done.  These two people are very unique – you just don’t run into young people like that every day – and again, I must ask, how in the world did they find each other?  How did it all come to be?  But find each other they did.  And I must add that I am to this day astonished at the spirit of Kennedy Odede.  He has a genuinely sweet soul.  I continue to be amazed at how this young boy overcame and never, ever lost his optimism, his love of life in spite of the daunting obstacles.


There is even so much more to his story.  I remember how, when he needed to obtain his visa to come to the U.S., he requested a meeting with Kenya’s prime minister and actually sat down and talked to him about what he wanted to accomplish while at Wesleyan so he could return and help his people, and the prime minister made sure he got his visa!  And I will always be mindful of a human spirit that soared when it should have been beaten down, and of a soul so determined to rise and prevail – and I will always – always – keep in my heart this unique and wonderful sprit and soul named Kennedy Odede.


Linda Studer      

Kennedy Odede #3


For more about this amazing young man please click on the links below: