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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:

Peaches

 

 

Peach Cobbler for Breakfast

surviving a life-altering event

By Sheila Moore Thornburg Dobbie

 

Introduction

 

“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.

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 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.

What can we learn from the Newtown tragedy?

 

Eye with tears

What can I say about the Newtown tragedy that hasn’t already been said? The nation is shocked and stunned with the slaughter of innocent young children. We try to make sense out of this tragedy but can’t. We are left with many questions and those questions may never be answered—all those who might know the answers are dead.

Like the rest of you I have heard countless discussions of the tragedy and a few points stand out to me. The first is that these mass killings are becoming even more frequent and each one is more horrifying than the last. I heard a psychiatrist say that the killings have some similar threads—most are done by society misfits and there have been warning signs. He said this is their way of gaining recognition. Each must be shocking and worse than the ones before to gather that recognition.

Similar threads and contributing factors

He said there are several factors driving these killings. One is the constant coverage by the 24 hour news channels. The perpetrator knows he is guaranteed to receive the attention he craves—he will leave his mark on society. Another factor is the dehumanization of our society driven by violent movies, TV shows and video games.

How can we avoid future mass shootings? The most obvious is the debate over gun control. Even conservatives are beginning to say something needs to be done. Yes, we have the Second Amendment right to bear arms but I don’t think anyone has ever said they want to take away all our guns, despite the fears the gun lobbyists from the NRA have tried to create.

I grew up with guns and learned to shoot at an early age. I’m not sure how young I was but I know that before the age of 12 I was hunting and target practicing with a .22 rifle. It was a rite of passage when our father took us hunting for the first time and taught us to respect and shoot a gun.

I believe we should have the right to have weapons and to defend ourselves but do we need assault rifles with the capabilities of firing multiple rounds consecutively? Do we need something of that magnitude to kill a deer?

We need guidelines for the Second Amendment

We need a limitation of the Second Amendment. We also have the right of free speech but we do not have the right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre. We cannot incite a riot and cause panic in a public place. The more powerful weapons should be limited to the military and police and kept out of the hands of the ordinary citizen.

The president has started a national conversation of the assault weapon problem. Hopefully, legislation will result that will allow gun ownership but take the powerful weapons off the streets.

Secondly, if the people doing these mass shootings are crying for recognition, then we must find a way to deny them that attention. Once the shooter is identified then we should impose a blackout of referring to that person by name.

Are we dehumanized?

How do we solve the problem of dehumanizing society? If everyone refused to attend violent and gory movies, watch brutal TV shows and refused to buy vicious video games then the problem would solve itself. If there is no demand then it is not profitable to continue producing such material.

We need to look at the mental health system of this country. In some of the cases family members recognized there were problems but were not able to get the proper help and support before their loved one turned to drastic methods.

There are some islands of light beginning to show through this dark time. Some retailers are taking the assault weapons off the shelves. A teacher’s union refused to invest with a company that invests in guns. People across the country are offering their support to the Newtown community, including bringing in therapy dogs to help ease the tensions. Others have sent Christmas trees and fresh wreaths in honor of the victims.

Mr. Rogers said it best

A quote many in the media are turning to at this time of need is one from an old friend. Mr. Rogers was every kid’s friend and teacher and it is appropriate that we should turn to him for guidance during a time of tragedy involving so many children. Mr. Rogers said:

“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.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

Let us look past this horror and take a cue from the helpers in Newtown. Take time to hug someone, or sit down and listen to what a troubled child is trying to tell you, or give a stranger a smile. You never know how far that smile will go.

And, finally, let us join hands and pray we find a way to stop the insanity.