Treasure life, it goes so fast

It went so fast.

Each day he was robbed of something. One day he was walking fine, the next he needed a cane. The day after that a walker. And after another day a wheelchair.

My dad rarely did anything small. He negotiated traffic like a half-crazed lunatic. He once fearlessly pretended to be a roadie at a Buddy Miles concert just to get himself backstage — and totally pulled it off. He met my then-boyfriend for the first time ever wearing a child’s tutu on his head.

Now, this larger-than-life man was losing his battle with a monster — the cancer that had started in his liver less than a year earlier and had spread everywhere.

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We knew what was going to happen. The hospice people had explained to us that death was a process and that by being with him in his final days we would help him accept what was happening, and in turn be able to accept it ourselves.

Still, it went so fast.

I left work on a January afternoon with plans to be gone for a few days, spend some time with him and then go back to work. I never made it back to work before he died.
It went that fast.

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Me and my dad

Me and my dad

Yet when it did finally happen, those last breaths … it went so slow.

That morning we sensed it was coming so we all piled into the hospital bed in his makeshift room — the office space that had for so long been his sanctuary. He was surrounded by all of his music and sports memorabilia, family pictures like the one of my sister Sarah and I hanging baby faced from the monkey bars at the park, his pet lizard Cassidy, tchotchkes from family adventures.

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None of us had slept much in days. The hours all kind of ran together. My mom hadn’t left his side, afraid even to blink lest she not be there for him. It had been a rough morning; his pain was intense. The hospice aid had just arrived, helping us convince our mom to take a few minutes, brush her teeth, change her clothes, have a moment.

It went so fast.

Sarah and I were still lying next to him in bed when what had been labored breathing suddenly turned into fighting, struggling breathing.

“Mom,” I shrieked up the stairs.

She came running down, toothbrush still in her mouth.

It was time.

We all huddled together crying and telling dad we loved him. It was OK. He could go.

And he did.

It went so fast.

It’s so hard to describe that moment. My grief was unbearable. We were devastated. The idea of going on without dad seemed impossible, unfathomable. But — and this is that thing no one feels like they can say out loud — there was relief.

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Watching someone you love suffer is excruciating. I know our pain couldn’t hold a candle to what dad was going through. But it was so difficult. I was grateful his pain was gone. I was thankful that I could be there with him, along with my mom and sister, in those final moments, helping him say goodbye.

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The past five years have zoomed by. So much has happened since Jan. 28, 2011.
I’ve had both of my boys, my sister her own son. Michael and I bought a house. Mom bought a house and moved to Newburgh. I’ve taken a new job. Sarah became a CPA.
There are the little things — we’ve taken family vacations, created new and silly family traditions, sent Miles off to school for the first time … things that I never imagined doing without my dad.

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Although we’ve lived the last five years without dad here, he’s continued to impact all of us. When faced with difficult decisions, I’ve often asked myself what dad would do, what advice he’d give. I’ve talked things out with him, listening for and looking for signs of his thoughts. It’s hard to get together as a family without laughing and sharing stories about dad. We miss him so much.

And my 30 years with him, well, they went so fast.

Never alone; thanks mom

This time of year is tough.

In just 15 days it’ll be five years since we lost dad.

This day a couple decades ago (I won’t say how many) my amazing, strong, resilient and rock star mom was born.

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It’s so hard to look at any of the days this month without having the countdown to Jan. 28. And, selfishly, I hate that amazing days — mom’s birthday, my sister and I’s birthday, my nephew’s birthday — are almost marred with this terrible, unimaginable thing.

But that’s life, right?

I fear sometimes that in my desire to honor and keep my dad’s memory alive — because let’s get real, he was an out of this world, over the top, loving, caring, awesome dad, husband, friend and advocate — that the stellar, shinning status of my mom is overshadowed.

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So, today, on the anniversary of the day of her birth, I’d like to shout from the rooftops — MY MOM ROCKS! I, without a doubt, would not be here today without her. And when I say that, I’m not talking about the fact that she birthed me (which she did, along with my twin sister in natural birth super star style.) What I mean is, I wouldn’t be the functioning successfulish adult that I am today. I wouldn’t be the loving, caring, trying to be patient, fun and rock star in training mom that I am today. I wouldn’t be a committed and passionate community advocate/volunteer.

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Yep, without her I would never be where I am today with my amazing family, a great job and an over-committed (but great) life. She’s been an incredible example for me showing me what it takes to be a powerhouse in the workplace and supportive, loving mom at home. She’s shown me the importance of having hobbies and passions and following through on them. She’s shown me how rewarding a life of service is and always modeled an accepting and tolerant sensibility.

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Without her unending support — emotional, financial and physical — I would have never graduated from college, become a peace corps volunteer, have a rewarding marriage and amazing children and countless other things.

Phone calls, tear-soaked shoulders, boxes and boxes of “just because I believe in you and love you” cards, silent but clear signs of support and encouragement… I truly have no idea what life would be like without her.

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I’m lucky. I celebrate. I love.

So as these next few weeks drag on, and I’m flooded with the memories of those last days with dad that I simultaneously want to never let go of and also bury far away, I’m going to try to remember that this month isn’t all bad. It gave me a lot, and most importantly, it gave me my momma.

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This note in a card — the woman has single-handedly kept Hallmark and the U.S. Postal service in business — sums up her never-ending support and dogged belief in me, even in my jerkiest of childhood/teen years:

“Nothing would be the same without you being in my life. Be the special person that you are. Let everyone see what I see! Love Mom”

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Blast from the past

My mom called me a while back, talking through fits of laughter.

“I found this box of yours that said, ‘Do not open,’ with threats of death if I did. Of course I didn’t open it, but I really want to know what’s inside!”

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It turns out, she exaggerated a little — the box threatened a surprise attack by a cow (what was I thinking? It wouldn’t be much of a surprise with the warning proclaimed in purple marker.) I was kind of a strange kid. In addition to the cow warnings (which I put in three separate places) I had drawn my childhood dog Molly, a giant rainbow, two hot air balloons, a unicorn …box

Inside was an amazing collection of items dating back to at least 1991, though I suspect many are much older.

There were silly things like rocks, a plastic spoon (still in the plastic bag) and two straws from McDonald’s, buttons cheering on my alma mater, postcards I’d collected since elementary school, letters from friends at church camp, memorabilia from church youth trips, newspaper clippings mentioning my name, a hospital bracelet, my first-ever hair color box (Glints, gingergold), a papier-mâché bracelet I made from a cereal box, pictures from a million years ago including some terribly embarrassing prom pictures, stickers from every imaginable environmental group (I was a tree hugger even then) and a Biore pore strip (unused, thankfully) with Lilith Fair branding. Those all made me laugh, a lot, and cringe a little. box4

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But under all those silly treasures and memories was some incredibly important stuff — things I thought I’d not ever have again.

It’s been a year and a half since we lost many of our belongings in a fire. I was frustrated and angry about the loss of furniture, clothes and other valuables. But I was devastated by the loss of memories — photos, keepsakes from my adventures overseas, cards and letters (including from my dad who had passed away three years before then), photos, my son’s baby book and all of the mementos from his first two years of life … None of that can be replaced, and emotions were intensified by the fact that I was about six months pregnant with Owen at the time of the blaze.

So this treasure trove of unrelated items of “junk” is the best Christmas gift I could have ever imagined. I’ve been given some physical reminders of my amazing childhood memories.

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In the box, there were about a dozen cards and letters from my mom and dad. Some of my favorite tidbits from the letters and cards from my dad: 10/31/91 “Hi honey. I have been very busy at the workshop, but not so busy that I don’t have time to think about you. I realize how important you are to me when I go away. I realize how much I love you. Remember, it is who you are that I love and am proud of, no matter what you do.”

In that same envelope — written on stationary from an Omni hotel — was a nomination letter: “After long and careful thinking, the board of directors and I have decided that you would make the best choice as Daughter of a Lifetime. We decided this based on how frequently and effectively you prove how wonderful a girl you are. Your honesty, sensitivity, intelligence and beauty set you apart. Your mother and I are lucky; we love you. Respectfully, Daddy, co-chairman of the Brown Family Board.”

Card upon leaving for camp: “Show those girls what you’re made of, play tough, be fair, have fun.”

A just because card: “It’s amazing to me how often I tell somebody else how lucky I am, how great you are, how you are more adult and responsible than I am, how I wouldn’t know what to do without 1/3 of the best family a guy could have. You’re special, you belong here and I do love you.”

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I am incredibly lucky. I was, and still am, so loved. And, thankfully, my parents were willing and able to illustrate that love. The impact of these cards on me now — decades after they were written — are more powerful than I think can be imagined. And obviously they affected me when they were first written or I wouldn’t have had them tucked away and protected by an imaginary attack cow.

These were a reminder of how important it is for me to do the same for my boys. I heard my mom and dad tell me how special I was, how loved I was. And I truly heard those words; I felt their hugs. But reading it, being able to turn the cards over in my hands back then, today and decades down the road — it’s an incredible reminder of those facts when real life self-doubt and hate inevitably creep in. I am special. I am loved.

In this digital age I need to be sure I’m putting these same kinds of things onto something my boys can squirrel away in their room. So 20 years down the road I can give them their metal Paw Patrol lunchbox sealed shut with duct tape and a “do not enter” message.

And they can have those same laughs, tears and cringes and be reminded just how important they are to me, their dad and the world.

They are special. They are loved.

Wordless Wednesday

Merry Christmas from the Doyles. I made three Christmas cards (people only received one of each, I’m not that silly) because I couldn’t pick my favorite. And if you are on my Christmas card list… queen of procrastination didn’t get them out in time for pre-Christmas delivery. But they are, as the saying goes, “in the mail.”

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Miles’ angel boy

Raising a grateful child is so important to me. Raising a generous child is a priority. And raising an empathetic child is a must.

And those three things are extra important this time of the year but it seems as if during the holiday season it is even more difficult to instill or renew those values.

The “I wants” can be overwhelming when what I wish I could hear was, “I’m grateful for…” or “I want to help…”

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I’m sure that as a kid I was the same. I vividly remember sitting on the floor with a giant Sears catalog atop my knees and an ink pen between my teeth poised to circle ALL OF THE STUFF I wanted. But I also, with ease, can recall shopping for less fortunate children with my parents and combing through our toys and clothes to find things that we no longer played with or wore to donate to area charities.
Those lessons — the ones about how there were many who went without — stuck with me. I remember getting a warm, gushy feeling doing that shopping with my mom and dad or packing up some items to take to the Salvation Army.
I am hopeful to pass that message, that greater meaning to this season, on to my own children. So this year Miles — the only one of my two kiddos who’s capable of saying, “I want, I want, I want” — and I chose a little paper angel off of the tree at our church filled with children in need of some help for a brighter Christmas. I looked for a child as close to Miles’ age as possible — we found an 8-year-old boy.
Yesterday afternoon we decided to go shopping, but before I left I picked Miles’ up and pulled him on to my lap.
“Let’s talk,” I said, in my serious tone.
“What mom?” he said in his goofy tone but doing his best to look me in the eye with a serious face (it looked more like a rabid dog, his eyes all wild and crazy and his jaw set.)
“We are going to go to the store but we aren’t going to be buying anything for Miles or Owen or anyone else in our family, OK?”
“Aww, man!”
“Now wait, listen,” I say, pleading he’ll hear this message. “There’s this little boy, and he might not have any presents under his tree for Christmas this year.”
“That’s so sad,” Miles said, truly looking forlorn, his eyes even wetting. “What can we do?”
“We are going to buy him some presents and clothes and food. Do you want to do that?”
“Yes!”
So we took off with our paper angel cut-out in tow. Miles gripped on to it tightly, repeatedly telling nearby shoppers we were shopping for his “angel boy.” Toys, clothes and a food essentials as well as a stocking and some candy and other snacks, that Miles proceeded to stuff inside the stocking. He kept holding the angel cut out up to the bright, blue, oversized sock saying, “He wants to see his stocking!”
When we checked out, Miles plainly explained to the cashier what we were doing.
“My angel boy, he didn’t have presents under his tree. So we got him some.”
I’m not going to lie… We didn’t make it out of the toy section without a few protests over why Miles couldn’t get something too. But, after a few deep breaths (on both of our parts) and a reminder of why we were there, he was OK with it.
It’s just one tiny part of a lifetime of lessons about privilege, the joy of giving, civic responsibility and empathy. But I definitely walked out of the store feeling like we’d made some progress. And Miles, even hours later, talked about his angel boy.

Thankful thoughts

I try to do a pretty good job recognizing how good I have it in the moment. And I’m pretty blessed that I have it pretty good most of the time.

Even with that, though, I could use a reminder about gratefulness, appreciation and acknowledgment.

And what better way (and day, since it is THANKSgiving today) to do that than offering my fellow Features staffers a chance to talk about what they are thankful for and for me to do the same.

IMG_4904Kids — I really hit the lottery with this one. And I’m not talking about the cursed lotto either where you squander your riches and find yourself sad and broken in the corner. I am so lucky. As crazy as my boys can make me feel sometimes (it is very difficult raising a mini-version of my hardheaded, strong-willed self), I am the luckiest woman alive that they lovingly (usually) call me Mama. There are days when mere thoughts of them make me cry from overwhelming joy.

IMG_2842Family — I am so lucky that I have a husband who not only loves, but also (mostly) tolerates the me who completely overbooks and overcommits herself and hurriedly comes home greeted, many nights, to dinner. You love me, and you love our boys. It doesn’t get much better than that. The rest of my family is also pretty amazing, with my super heroesque mom who can pretty much do anything and has spent 34 years putting up with me (we’ve started the sainthood process already.)

Meet our toddler chicks -- Mocalotive, Choo Choo, Stella, Olive, Foghorn Leghorn and Chicken Little

Chickens — Yes, they can be stinky (you were right, Michael) and being a chicken mom in the pouring rain and freezing winter hasn’t been awesome, but I’m so grateful that I finally have them. And I’m kind of a farmer now, which is awesome.

Co-workers — It’s been nearly a year since I took this position. I’m thankful to have amazing co-workers that not only make the job easier but who also make my day better just by being a part of my life. I am grateful to my former boss who helped prepare me for this position and championed me to others, and most importantly, to myself.

New opportunities — There are several of these on the horizon. And I’m stoked. It will mean good things for me and my family, and I’m thankful. And while I’m aware of a few opportunities in the works, I know there are many, many more to come — that’s one of the best things about life!

Comfort — When I roll down my window handing a dollar to the homeless man, see a family waiting at the bus stop in the freezing rain or hear about families who are juggling whether to pay their electric bill or buy groceries, I’m smacked in the face with my own privilege and comfort. It shouldn’t take those reminders, or even worse the never-ending stories from across the world of need, to be thankful for things as simple as clean water or shoes.

I’m thankful.

Features writer Kelly Gifford is thankful, too.

“I am thankful for the new beginnings that my family has been through in these recent months. My parents said goodbye to our childhood home in Bloomington and now live just down the street from my sister and her family in Newburgh. This move has taken a toll on our whole family but has given us a new chapter that will be full of memories and experiences with one another.

“I’m thankful for having met a pretty neat boy, who’s introduced me to a large and wonderful family who resembles my own in many ways. I’ll be forever changed by them all, especially him.

“Lastly, I’m thankful for having spent the first year of my journalism career at this paper, in a newsroom full of journalists who are dedicated to informing our community with the best reporting and writing around.

“It’s been a great first year.”

Features intern James Vaughn is grateful, also.

“I am thankful, first and foremost, for my opportunity to receive an education. I am thankful for friends and family who never fail to support me or lift me up when I’m down. I am thankful, especially this year, for the sense of freedom and hopefulness that I enjoy the comfort of, but too often take for granted. I am thankful to live day to day without immense fear. I am thankful for the roof over my head and the food in my mouth.

“I am thankful for my dog, Gigi, whose pure love gets me through most days. And last but not least, I am thankful for the opportunity to be telling you, our readers, what I’m thankful for, including this platform to share your stories.”

Please share what you are thankful for @abbeyrd99, @kelgiffo or @jamesrlvaughn on Twitter.

New found love of traditions

By Michael Doyle

Growing up, my family didn’t really go gung-ho for Thanksgiving.

Sure, we enjoyed it well enough. But when it came to getting everyone together — the big extended family event — we saved the major hoopla for Christmas. Thanksgiving was nice and all, but it was really a preamble to the “real” holiday.

So when I got married and became part of a new family, it was pretty interesting to get involved in a different set of traditions. First and foremost, that’s Thanksgiving.

For her family, Thanksgiving is, as the kids say, a Big. Freaking. Deal. I never realized it was possible to get that psyched up over a plate of turkey and no presents.

And honestly, that thing where you all stand up around the table and tell everybody what you’re thankful for — I thought that was just something they did on those corny holiday special TV episodes.

But these people do Thanksgiving — all of it. The turkey, the football, board games around the table, the whole shebang.

And somehow Thanksgiving has come to be my favorite holiday too. The cool thing about Thanksgiving, I’ve come to realize, is that it is actually NOT Christmas. You don’t have all the stress of gift shopping or trying to write the perfect Christmas letter or card — and you still get to eat whatever you want without remorse.

There’s a saying with my in-laws: “If you do it once, it’s tradition,” which is commonly just shortened to “It’s tradition!!!” — emphasis on the exclamation point and usually accompanied by some manner of jazz hands.

And it’s kind of true — we do the same things every year. It evolves and changes a tiny bit, but for the most part, this extended Thanksgiving weekend is pretty well planned out to the hour.

A big traditional dinner on Thursday, with everyone gathered and the kind of shenanigans you would expect when you have 40-plus people who (mostly) get along in the same house.

For those brave enough, Black Friday shopping at some unspeakable hour in the A.M. (not my cup of tea, but I’m not too proud to send a wish list).

Something called “guy’s day” on Friday, which I can’t disclose too much about, but includes the kind of things you might imagine would happen when you get 15 or 20 adult males together with nothing much to do. It’s not quite Norsemen plundering Europe, but it’s not far off.

On Saturday, something called either “girl’s day” or “arts and crafts” day, which I suspect has a somewhat more nefarious purpose than what the name might imply, but at the very least almost certainly consists of all the women sitting around complaining about how much money their stupid husbands spent on beer and electronics the day before.

I am sure a big factor in my newfound love of this holiday is that I’m unable to participate in my own family gatherings in Louisiana anymore since we are so far away. But it’s also because, as I get older, I find that traditions are becoming more important to me.

It is also knowing that our kids are building a lifetime of fuzzy holiday memories for themselves, and understanding just how lucky I am to be a part of two very special families.

I do have an awful lot to be thankful for.

Michael Doyle is a stay at home dad to Miles, 4, and Owen, 1, a freelance writer and married to Features Editor Abbey Doyle.

Great weekend, I think

Expectations.

I know I’ve written about this before (and banged my head on the wall over them about a million times,) but I’m hopeful that maybe doing it again may help me breath a little better then next two days.

I can’t possibly be the only person on the planet who envisions things as being amazing, perfect and blissful, shoving nearly all of my eggs in this vision basket and hoping for the best. Right? Tell me I’m not the only one …

This gal right here does this A LOT. I stay too busy most of the time, and my quality time with my boys — the husband, the biggest of my boys, included — is pretty limited. So when this time includes something more than the rote “getting everyone fed and snuggled into bed,” I get pretty excited.

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Exhibit A:

A couple months ago I took a Friday off work when Miles had that day off school. I researched ahead of time what hours were open swim for the YMCA so all four of us could go swimming together. Afterward we’d go to Sam’s and get frozen yogurt. And then, depending on the level of nap need, we would go to the park. Perfect day, right? Kind of day that dreams are made out of for 4-year-old boys, right?

Apparently not this, not for this little boy.

At every turn I was struggling with Miles. There were so many tantrums, tears, protests.
About 20 minutes into the struggle to get the kid dressed into his swim trunks — and I should note, he WANTED to go swimming — I stood in the hallway in tears myself nearly shouting, “I just want to have a special day.” After finally getting him, the baby and myself dressed and the million necessary accessories packed, we piled into the car and headed toward the Y. There was more tears and protests when we pulled up to the Y because it was the “wrong” Y; he wanted to go to the other one (which didn’t have open swim, mind you.)

Finally in the pool things calmed down, we all had a good time. Leaving after two hours of swimming went surprisingly smooth with the promise of frozen yogurt. But once we arrived at Sam’s the outbursts continued. I can’t even pinpoint what started them, not because I can’t remember but because there was no real reason. But before we even made it into the story Michael and I turned to each other, once again my eyes filled with frustrated and sad tears, and decided we just needed to go home.

Spur of the moment Christmas trip.

My expectations were of this perfect day — sunshine, rainbows and ice cream. What could be better, right? But nothing went as expected. Looking back — several months later — I still can’t really pinpoint what happened to create the chaos. He’d gotten a good night’s sleep, he ate a good breakfast, he wasn’t sick. What I can pinpoint is that he’s four. Yep. That’s about all I have to say, AND I have to remind myself of this ALL the time. He’s still working on figuring out how to express his emotions, frustrations, feelings. Maybe he was just having a bad day; I have them too. But I’ve had the privilege of nearly 30 more years on this planet to figure out how to control, process and deal with that than he has.

So, with all that said … I’ve been spending the more responding to the standard, “What are you doing this weekend?” excitedly talking about my “perfect weekend.”

I know, I know, wanna laugh with me about that!

My expectation: Tonight we are all going to camp out on the living room floor in cozy jammies and watch “Polar Express” and drink cocoa and eat homemade cookies that Miles and I made a couple hours earlier. And then Saturday we are all going to giggle and smile and ride the “Polar Express” in French Lick.

It’s totally going to go just like that, right?

Making a difference in small ways

In life, just like in television, there seems to be themes that rise to the surface every now and again. Sometimes I don’t think I always sense or recognize what they may be, and other times it is like someone is hitting me over the head with them.

This past week or so has been a time where I have to keep rubbing that same spot because, man, is it ever clear what this “episode’s” theme would be: making a difference.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is the message floating around in my life right now, considering today would have been my dad’s 61st birthday. That guy was certainly one who knew how to make a difference. And nearly six years after his death, my family and I are still learning about the impact he made on people’s lives.

Me and my dad

Me and my dad

 

I give both my dad and mom most of the credit for my drive to do the same in my own life, to make a difference in my little corner of the world. Sometimes, though, I get so busy with the minutiae of life that I forget about that mission, or I tell myself that I’m just too busy to step outside of my own world to make an impact for others. I get this mindset that it’s only the grand gestures that really make a difference.

Part of that may be that when I had initially planned my life out, I didn’t picture myself with a husband, two kids and living in Evansville at 34. Right now, in that plan, I am living somewhere in Africa or Southeast Asia with my husband, whom I’d met during my travels post-Peace Corps, and we are talking about the possibility of kids (Stella and Oliver, we’d name them). We would of course raise them there. I work as an international correspondent covering social justice issues.

That’s a life full of grand gestures, one I was on track for — serving in Bangladesh as a Peace Corps volunteer at 23. But my “perfect plan,” like all plans really, didn’t go perfectly. I got very ill during my service and was medically evacuated home where eventually I was diagnosed with a heart condition that necessitated a pacemaker. Life took a different path — my post Peace Corps travels included the tropical and exotic destinations of Alabama and Louisiana rather than Bali and Nepal. While I didn’t get to stay in a tiki hut or do some peak climbing, I did meet my husband and realize that this path was the one I was intended for all along.

But in this current life I often feel it’s not possible to make much of a difference. Then, sometimes I have weeks like these last few, and I’m quickly reminded of the impact that each of us can have, even in the smallest of ways.

As a journalist, you don’t often hear from readers unless they are unhappy. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the day-to-day of doing our job — reporting and writing your stories — that we forget that you guys are reading them.

But every once in a while, we get one of those treasured things — a positive comment, a sign that someone was impacted in some way by something you wrote. I made them smile. I made them aware of an upcoming concert they are now attending. I alerted them to a program that will really benefit them. Way to go, me!

Sometimes those signs are even bigger. Last week a fifth-grade teacher reached out to me, saying she was touched by a story I wrote in August about an Evansville native, now living outside of St. Louis, trying to raise funds for a service dog to help with the PTSD he suffered after six military deployments in seven years.

Before that August story, the soldier had raised $400. Since the publication of the story, more than $10,000 has been raised toward his $15,000 goal. That story made a difference. It made people such as this Highland Elementary teacher and the dozens of others who donated aware of this soldier’s need.

The teacher, Barbara Lynn, shared the story with her students, who were moved to do something. They’ve started a coin drive — underway through Tuesday if you’d like to contribute — with a goal of pushing the soldier past his goal. It was so invigorating for me to talk to those students. I just got this note from Mrs. Lynn: “It feels to the students like they are changing the world — at least part of it. I am grateful beyond belief for the chance to work with you.”

Thanks for the reminder, life, about how I still can make a difference — how everyone can. And thanks, Dad, for instilling in me the desire to leave my corner of the world a better and happier place.