Tomorrowland is a movie that takes characters to another dimension, a world that doesn’t exist, at least not yet. While we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we do have the ability to influence our future...through our actions. While isolating ourselves or using socially directed distances in public spaces in an effort to keep ourselves and each other free from spreading COVID 19, we can engage in many activities. I’m so grateful to those who’ve shared their stories.
So blessed to deliver the eulogy for a great patriot. Big thanks to the Scoggins family for sharing their father, brother, grandfather, friend with me. 💕
First, let me just state – out loud – how honored and humbled I am to be here today. I feel quite blessed to be among the many loved ones of a beloved man who I believe had been put on this earth with one simple goal in mind:
TO MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE … for YOU and for ME!
So let me begin HERE.
I was meant to meet Robert Scoggins.
You see, he and I have much in common. We love our country, we enjoy serving the citizens of our community, and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to make the world a better place. While some of you are nodding your heads in agreement that this is the Robert Scoggins you know and dearly love, I can attest that such is the case based on my limited interactions with him.
I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Scoggins at a veteran’s event. Frankly, I can’t recall the event because the two of us attended many: Veterans Day events, Gold Star Mothers celebrations, Memorial Day parades, county fairs, among others. I would spot him in an instance. There he was with his white shirt and bright gold tie, his navy cover adorned with American Legion 492 and HONOR GUARD insignia. A smile a mile wide and a gentleman by every definition of the word was before me: chivalrous, courteous, and honorable. Without fail, he would greet me with such genuine kindness, always including my name along with an intentional – "It’s nice to see you, How are you doing, Lori?" ❤
Did he ever bring out the best in others … in me! SO let me share what comes to mind when I think of Bob Scoggins…
When I think of Bob I can’t help but think of a man with an exemplary work ethic
Whether enjoying a hobby or working like one from his times worked – HARD and with every bit of energy and motivation one gives – Bob took pride in all he did and for those things he worked so hard, whether a meticulous lawn or shiny vehicles. He even joked that he would mow the lawn every 72 hours whether it needed it or not!
I can only imagine how Heaven’s grounds will look now…
When I think of Bob, I think of one proud patriot whose love for his country was ever so apparent in all he did during and after his time of service.
March along, sing our song, with the Army of the free.
Count the brave, count the true, who have fought to victory.
We're the Army and proud of our name.
We're the Army and proudly proclaim.
Bob proudly served his country as a soldier in the United States Army beginning June 1955, and honorably discharged in June 1958 (Vietnam War).
He continued serving as a member of the American Legion Post #492. Recently he shared with his grandson, Jordan, that one of his best days was participating in the Honor Flight and casting his eyes on good ole Ole Glory, a sight that made him misty-eyed. I can only imagine.
I’m crediting Bob’s daughter for this beautiful story that I get to share: He had a group of friends I will soon mention, but one in particular is featured in this story and the theme emphasizes the importance of relationships.
At the conclusion of Bob’s military stint, he was at a processing facility in Germany, awaiting transportation orders to return home when he heard a familiar voice. It was that of his lifelong best friend from the Kane Connection, Benny Abbott.
(nearly 5000 miles)
The two of them were on the same ship back to the United States. They stayed up for days, yes – even ignoring their cleaning assignments - to catch up as best buddies do. No doubt that buddy Benny was first to greet him as he arrived at the pearly gates of Heaven. ❤
When I think about Bob, I think about the importance of family and friends…
Tennessee Williams describes the value of excellent friends: “Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.” No doubt, Bob chose his friends well, creating the most beautiful memories with Benny and Monie Abbott, visiting battlefields and chatting about history about which he had extensive knowledge. “And if his girls failed to remember a certain General or a detail pertaining to that historical moment, he would give them “the look.” I think we are all well-versed in THAT LOOK?
And he had lots of friends, some of whom included those from his Kane Connection - Carol, Ann, Margie, Joann, Barbara, and Darlene, his American Legion Honor Guard comrades, and no doubt I could go on and on. With such a big and genuine heart, countless friendships are longstanding – and Bob made many along his earthly journey.
"Life is beautiful. It's about giving. It's about family." I think Walt Disney pegged the Scoggins way of life. Living a most beautiful life in a giving sort of way with family close. Daughters and Son-in-law Lisa, Mark, and Angela; Siblings and Sister-in-law Roberta, Ruth, Roy & Roma, & Sandra; And his most precious grandchildren and step grandson: Jordan & Leah, Paige & Eric, Reahn & Zach, and Bryan; And those sweet little ones who affectionally refer to Great grandpa as PaBob: Landon, Cora, Cade, Elliot, and that sweet lil’ blessing on her way in March.
I would be extremely remiss if I failed to mention the love of his life: Jeris. 53 years of marriage. 53 years before her passing in 2012. A lifetime of beautiful memories made and shared, which is what keeps all memories alive. After 53 years they are joined together once again.
When I think of Bob, I do indeed think of the Greatest Generation
Momentous Changes – Work Ethic – Frugality – Sacrifice & Honor
I reflected for a bit on the many life transitions that occurred in Bob’s lifetime. Times have certainly changed. When Bob was born, one could purchase items at a much lower rate:
But let me go back to …THE LAST LIVING MALE FROM HIS CLASS AT KANE SCHOOL.
I’m always saddened when I hear the words…The LAST, as it signifies the end of something. I think I share the belief that I’m not ready for the last of Bob’s kind, the last of the gentleman, the last of the courageous, the last of the committed, the last of the diligent, the last of the honorable, the last of the American hero ~ the last of the Greatest Generation.
And because of the example set by Robert Scoggins, there never has to be a last, as all of you, his beautiful family and friends, will continue his legacy in the manner he modeled and taught – every day of his life.
I can’t help but echo my earlier words. I believe with all my heart that Bob had been put on this earth with one simple goal in mind:
TO MAKE THIS WORLD A BETTER PLACE – for YOU and for ME.
I would say he achieved the goals God intended for him, for the life of Robert Scoggins remains the most amazing gift with which we have all been blessed. ❤❤❤
I have to admit I was quite interested in the topic of the influence of social media or just media influence in general. I always knew media could impact greatly in a number of ways, some positively and others, well quite negatively. Media influence is real. How it affects people really depends on their ability to differentiate credible information from opinions, reality from fantasy, and the good stuff from the noise of negativity that some media bring.
Admittedly, I'm not sure my brain is not wired for today’s times. There’s just way too much noise. Everywhere I turn there’s noise. News outlets, social media, technology applications, work expectations, personal responsibilities. Everything just runs together like a beautiful painting, water leaking onto its canvas. I wonder how many others are experiencing the same challenges of moving and grooving through all this noise. Your colleagues perhaps? What about your family? Do we stop and think about how this noise is affecting our loved ones? Our parents?
A generation that didn’t have the latest, greatest innovative stuff are now completely immersed in stuff, all kinds of it. In some ways it’s maddening. I observe the elderly at stores that only offer self checkouts, and unfortunately many retail stores ONLY offer self checkouts. Where there once was a checker to bag the goods and transport them to one's car, now there's no one. In my world where relationships matter most of all, I find this to be just nuts! And what about these new wave quick shops. No one approaching their vehicles to our parents and grandparents pump their gas. And they better know how to insert that credit card and operate the pump, because that's the only way to pay - unless they go into the shop to pay in advance. I still long for the world where we helped our elderly navigate this very complicated world in which we all live.
And what about our children? Do we even think about how all this noise will influence their very being as future adults of our world? We discuss how we must change to keep up with the technological shifts occurring all around us; after all, staying globally competitive requires our workforce to continually shift to more innovative ways. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves whether these significant technological shifts in all areas of our lives are paths we want to follow.
It's shocking when I think about the amount of information available to human beings today, comparatively to the that which was accessible during my formative years.
I was a quiet child who would work and play independently. My verbal skills weren’t developed until a bit later but I would learn about the world as I experienced it, taking in every piece of information I discovered. This would begin molding me in ways that established my whole being.
Conceptualizing terms and operations in procedural ways created substantial challenges for me as a high school student. I was a big picture thinker who depended heavily on the use of imagination and the arts to gain understanding of the world. Breaking ideas apart in pieces and examining how they could fit together differently intrigued me.
Through the lens of multiple experiences, I began seeing the world differently and thus dreaming of what could be became my new way of planning for the future. I was definitely a dreamer! Confidence was reared through relationship development, as working with others and taking note of their style and adding some of those various pieces to my own personal repertoire established the leader in me.
Driven in a selfish sort of way to contribute more greatly to the community became my motivation. The realization that I could do more for others and feel more satisfied with myself was a critical factor in my personal and professional growth. Establishing big goals with aspirations of achieving each one became my driving force. Building relationships and delving into my hobbies with others along the way was an essential step in finding success.
Placing those I served first was the professional path to which I strictly adhered. It also became my personal mission. If success is measured by promotions and titles, I found it. Maintaining an organized professional and personal life was a struggle. Balancing family and work was a goal never achieved- and I erred greatly along the way, both professionally and most definitely personally.
Too much noise with limited interaction in a world where building and maintaining relationships are central to who I am as a professional, an educator, a leader, a wife, a mother, and a friend is deafening and defeating. Navigating this new normal creates sleepless nights. My thoughts are overtaken by those little neurons that fire off sounds in the mind at warp speed that resemble a mac truck backing up, creating undeniable brain static.
I can’t help thinking only too often: I wonder if anyone else feels this way. Actually, I know, without a doubt, others do. The question is this: how do they navigate today’s times in a way that calms their mind with no overthinking, overdoing, overstimulation, which causes their thoughts to be clouded- which in turn affects everything.
Fortunately, I found some answers, those that work for me. I put them into play to help my life make sense. Perhaps they are not fitting for everyone, but my hope is one can walk away after reading this with something that is helpful in navigating the craziness of life as a result of this extraneous noise.
First, Just say no! Say no to social media and media influence. Take a break from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn. Step away from the television. Perhaps read books or listen to the audio versions. I mean think about how many hours you spend on social media or watching television. You can be an influencer without being on these platforms 24/7. Instead, build relationships, help others, send cards, texts, emails as a way to check in with others. Reach out via telephone. Dial away. Let others know you are thinking of them.
Take some time to read Dale Carnegie's "How to win friends and influence people." The art of communication is a fine art, indeed. Establishing competencies in communicating with finesse will lead to professional success and personal growth. Sometimes turning to classic works with traditional self-help cues is just what is needed to change the world or, at the very least, change yours for the better.
Take time to view the following videos. They provide some deep insights to the influence of media:
Second, Exercise daily. It’s the potion, the prescription to better health, as it reduces stress and calms the mind. Beginning the morning with a walk outside will increase blood flow to the mind, calming it and improving one's thought process and memory.
Train your mind to adopt this simple idea. Love others. How do you do this? Start reading. In fact, listen to audio books while walking- unless you find a walking partner. Books like The Secret, The Alchemist, The Greatest Salesman in the World, Tuesdays with Morrie, among so many others inspire greatly.
Get out of the rabbit holes and start meeting new people, enjoying all experiences. I began challenging myself by meeting as many new people as possible. My mantra - One person a day, hey whatta ya say - motivated me completely. Whether on the shuttle to the airport, on a plane or train, or visiting schools or hotels, I would approach different folks, introducing myself and asking questions. Did I ever meet some interesting and fun people! Explore the landscape and visit new places, embrace a new hobby, or meditate. Whatever you decide to do, make your activity meaningful and worth every bit of your time, for time is your most precious gift.
We all communicate in our own way. I depend on emojis. If you ask my family, my friends, and even my colleagues, they would ALL say, "Oh yeah, she’s a big time emoji user!" All you have to do is view my Twitter profile and you will know without a doubt...I USE EMOJIS! In fact, I overuse them. And on purpose. One who reads any sort of narrative I post on social media or email I send out will find these cute ideograms and bright yellow faces with expressions that reflect how I'm feeling at that very point in time. They are dropped here and there throughout the text. If you see my Facebook posts, you might find a heart emoji embedded in the message when communicating my own thoughts about the GOOD STUFF. Gosh, I really LOVE posting about the good stuff. And when I do, you will see the heart emoji EVERYWHERE! I hit that heart button again and again and again when responding to posts, most definitely if it includes kids, puppies, accomplishments, amazing dishes from new recipes, feel good stories, and the like. I click on that 'ole heart to illustrate my LOVE of the message or my LOVE for the people featured in the post. Maybe even both. So why is it I'm addicted to using emojis? It's simple. Let me explain. 🤷♀️
We have become a society that uses verbal communication in written form by way of texting, messaging, posting on social media, or emailing. 🤦♀️ This is how we communicate with our friends, families, acquaintances, colleagues, clients, bosses, businesses, and so on. Rarely do we pick up the telephone and make a call. Only when we know someone, really know someone, will we understand through written message one's heart, motive, or disposition. And if we don't have a close relationship with the individuals with whom we are communicating then misinterpreting their written words is likely simply due to the fact that one's writing style is very different from one's person to person interaction. Not everyone is great at written communication, which has resulted in and continues to create relationship challenges both personally and professionally. There is a fix, however, and it's an simple one. 👇
Yes, we do have a means for helping others understand our true feelings when using written communication. It's using emojis. And that's exactly my WHY for using them! Perhaps you will try them out, too! It's a way to brighten up your messages and make written communication that much more fun! 💕😍😊
I remember a time when simple defined my life. I was young and carefree but longed to be busier, to have lots more to do. I recall not caring for this simple life, but do I ever long for it now. 💕
When I was growing up in rural Batchtown, Illinois, I finally scored that perfect job, one that would provide me with some money in my pocket so I could purchase my own snacks at the local church picnic or ballpark concession stand. It felt good, you know, to make my own money. I felt so accomplished. With the sweat that came with hard work and a tired body at the end of a work shift, I took delight in accomplishing my goals. I was ten. That's right, ten years old. I'll never forget my first day. A very young and naïve girl arrived at the barn where this sturdy, confident gentleman greeted me and my brothers, ready to share what would be required of us. His name: Otto "Butch" Klaas. He was the owner of one of the local apple orchards. I really liked him. He was patient and kind, taking time to show us the expectation and answer questions. He would explain and model our work responsibilities multiple times until we clearly understood our assignment. I learned that my brothers and I would be charged with picking up apples from the ground, those that fell off the apple trees. Let me be clear. We were not picking apples from the trees. That was a job saved for the adults and older teens, as you had to be a bit taller to reach the limbs and sometimes you had to stand on a ladder. We were just kids, responsible for filling crates with those ripe apples that simply fell onto the ground when the fierce wind blew. With every filled crate, we would earn fifty cents. One crate of apples would get me five fire Jolly Rancher sticks or Pixie Sticks or two small candy bars. I was so motivated to fill those crates. I generally filled about twelve, which would earn me five dollars and some change considering taxes and all.
I'll never forget that experience, my first job. Yep, picking up apples! Did I ever learn a lot during my childhood employment. I learned the importance of placing value on things that often get overlooked. Who would've thought all those apples that fell to the ground would be worthy of being picked up and saved and cleaned and packed to be sold. What I learned was those fallen apples are synonymous to the pennies we drop, the people we disregard, and the jobs or tasks in which we fail to engage. Thus, we could have more money if we placed value on all those pennies, for they add up. How many relationships we can make to improve our lives if we take time to get to know those who can do nothing for us from a materialistic point of view. The knowledge and skills we can learn if we humble ourselves to do the work that some believe isn't worthy of their time.
Every opportunity is a blessing. I say...value your pennies, enjoy chance meetings, and grab that opportunity that appeals to you, even if it doesn't involve a possibility for career advancement. You get one life to build a repertoire of positive experiences. Make 'em all count! 💖
So I was invited to serve on a board for a college program. Well truth be known, a really good friend passed on the invitation to me. She thought I’d be the perfect person to serve. After reading through the description and with each new sentence I was growing more and more excited about this opportunity. Serving on this board would provide experiences to network with like-minded professionals who absolutely believe in the importance of the customer experience. The director of the program who sent the invitation to my friend followed up with an invitation to me, asking that I schedule an appointment on her calendar. I must admit I thought that was a bit odd. I thought she’d want to talk with me and learn a bit more about me before investing thirty minutes in a conversation. I went ahead and scheduled for later the next week and when the time came I jumped on the call. I thought I was hopping on ZOOM, but actually it was a telephone call through Zoom. Again, I was a bit taken aback by this. This college director was looking for a professional to serve on this program board and you have access to Zoom, an application that allows an interviewer to see the interviewee. Isn’t this important, especially when selecting the viability of a board candidate? When I jumped on the call, I was greeted by a young professional. I immediately responded by offering a friendly hello followed by the name of the director.
"Hello Lori. I’m not actually the director. She has tasked me with speaking to you."
Really? I was deeply saddened by this director's behavior. She actually assigned OUR talk to one of her assistants. Immediately I knew I was no longer interested in this program, serving on the board, having this conversation, nothing. I was completely done. The assistant's greeting communicated her director's opinion: YOU are not important enough for my time so I'm passing you off to my assistant.
Of course, I was respectful and gracious to the young lady on the phone. It certainly wasn’t her fault. I answered her questions. She then explained the program, which is when I learned that I not only would be required to participate, but I would have to pay a fee to do so. Of course, the fee is significantly lower than what students would pay.
"Say what?" was my immediate internal response. I declined and thanked the assistant for her time.
I'm still shaking my head after participating in that conversation. If I could offer one piece of advice it would be THIS: If it's important and involves people, make the call, have the conversation, take the time. If the program is worth it, make sure you put the same amount of worth in the people you are attempting to recruit.
I always told my girls, when you search for the job of your dreams, you are interviewing your future employer as much as they are interviewing you. Find out what drives your passion, find THAT place that sets every bit of it on fire, and then lean in and learn all you can! ️Focus on the learning and build your repertoire of knowledge and skills. Most importantly, don't give up and do whatever it is you're going to do with all your heart! Believe in yourself, letting go of all the noise that enters your head. YOU have the ability, skills, and drive to make a difference in this world. Just be you and go for the gold!
My Hope, My Truth, I Stand with You was inspired by today's times. So encouraged by what I see in others, I thought it was a time for me to use my voice and limited skills by writing a song that emphasizes the behavior I hope to see in others. I am committed to stand with any person who experiences being treated in a way that lacks compassion and concern for others, and, most importantly, LOVE. ❤
The only word that comes to mind when thinking of child abuse is WHY? Why would any adult harm an innocent child? I found myself reflecting on the WHY behind child abuse so often. It's my motivation for enlisting in the United States Marine Corps as a military police officer. This experience would provide me with the training I needed to practice law enforcement. Concluding my military stint, I could then transition to civilian life with the experience necessary to land a job with a police department. I soon discovered that serving as police officer would allow the opportunity to react to child abuse cases after they had already occurred, meaning I could help with an investigation and follow the cases, but ultimately I had limited to power to do anything at all. I desired to do more, to be more impactful by serving as a protector, an advocate who might recognize this behavior early and prevent abuse from happening - before it is too late. This is when I decided, without a doubt, that education is for me, I worked as teacher, school leader, and district superintendent. I've been privy to information no one would want to hear or know. I've seen too much, which is the motivation behind this song. What follows are words from an onlooker who recognizes the abuse is occurring, speaking on behalf of the victim and revealing the actions of the perpetrator. Ultimately, peace, love, and justice are found. 🙏
In support of suicide prevention, I'm sharing my heart again...💕
When it comes to putting my heart on paper, I am intentional in posting positive messages, but this one is quite different. This is so out of the ordinary for me. Not that it won’t include a positive spin, but this message goes beyond my comfort level...until now. The reason for posting is twofold. First, I want to share an experience, one of which many are unaware. It needs to be written and read, for I know there are others who need this. And second, I want to send a strong message from the voice of a friend, a mother, a teacher, one who has been relatively quiet about personal challenges and why addressing them now can be healing, especially today, this day: September 10, 2020 ~Suicide Prevention Day.
So let me begin here. While at my brother-in-law’s for Thanksgiving a few years ago, our middle daughter, Delani, called her dad from our home in Shipman. She was completely distraught, unable to be sensible in her communication. She said those magic words, basically “I’m tired of this life; it's not worth living.” Upon realizing she overdosed on something, Scott immediately called 911 and traveled back from Columbia to meet the ambulance at the hospital. I stayed with our youngest daughter, as she was unaware of the unfolding events. I was unsure who responded to our home but later found out the names. Do I ever appreciate our Shipman Volunteer Fire Department. I can’t begin to communicate my gratitude! They left their family on Thanksgiving to help mine. That's selfless service. 💖
Delani was transported to Jersey Community Hospital where she was admitted, evaluated, and what followed were several tests to determine treatment. Her liver enzyme levels were high and she was being monitored in Intensive Care. She participated in a lot of reflection, received visits from some special friends, and after several days was released, quite the blessing. The ICU staff at Jersey Community Hospital was incredible as well. I remain so very grateful. 💖
Why would a young, beautiful girl with a bright future ahead of her decide life isn't worth living? Well, Friends, that remains the big question!
Why? Why? Why? How many times have I asked myself that very question over the years?
I find myself reflecting on my own tragic experience from years gone by, a sad circumstance about which I rarely talk, but it’s necessary no longer to stay silent, for others need to know.
Nearly 25 years ago, my boyfriend and I discussed our future together, which didn’t look promising for a number of reasons. The specific details do not matter and I’m not sure I can remember them anyway, as so much remains a blur. What does matter and what I clearly remember are the grief, struggle, and guilt that followed his actions. After our talk, he drove to our home, wrote out a letter to his parents and me, set up a shrine of pictures in our living room, and then shot himself.
The big question remains unanswered...WHY? His actions have haunted me - even to this day! His family that was once mine never spoke to me or Shayelle again, even though we were family for two years-plus. It was as if we never existed.
The act of suicide is costly to so many. Some describe it as an act of selfishness. I don’t see it that way. Fact is, those who engage in this act are experiencing indescribable despair. They know of no other way to relieve their own pain. They do not plan out the extreme hurt they will cause others. It just doesn’t work that way. I know this...now.
I have asked myself several times, as I reflected on Delani's actions that day: What kind of a mother am I? I worried what others might think of me, especially after they come to realize we don’t have the perfect life. Could I have done more, parented differently? All these questions filled my head. I also think about my former student, Briley. I had seen him at the high school musical. He looked great, seemed to be doing amazingly well. He was laughing and cracking a few jokes. He smiled and said it was good to see you. Oh, if I could only go back. What happened? What if I had reached out? What if I had done more?
So many questions...
Fact is, I’m sure I could’ve done many things differently but the past is the past and living in the past is not healthy - and it's not my way. This reality in front of me is the one I have chosen to live. How I approach THE NOW is what matters. What I've learned along the way is this: Addressing others with love and compassion is what's truly important to me. I love my daughters and will support and love each of them for who they are and what they bring to this life. My family too. I also remain a big fan of kids, and adults. I want every person to know that he or she adds value to other's lives and when life gets seemingly too tough, I pray each one knows to turn to a loved one. Talk to someone. I’m here as well. I'm available! Just a phone call or a trip to the country away.
God has blessed me so, gifting me with a heart that is truly moved by supporting others. I’m uninterested in engaging in people talk unless it centers around the good or what I can do to help another! I have my own challenges, remain imperfect, and know life is hard. So, if you need me, call me. No judgment, no shame, no guilt, and all in confidence. If you are willing to offer the same, please stand up and speak out! One statement: I'm here for you! 💕
I remain thankful- so very thankful - for those who’ve offered to lend a hand or communicated a kind word during my own trying times. I learned a long time ago: People matter. Kindness counts. Love wins. 💖
#suicideawareness #peoplematter #kindnesscounts #lovewins
I provided musical entertainment at a local fair several years ago. My girls, at an age of innocence, were seated in the stands. When the set was over, I walked over to get them. They both walked toward me, seemingly defeated. Delani, no older than seven, which would’ve made Korrie four, looked up at me and said with deep sadness, the ladies behind us said bad things about you while you were singing. They were not nice. They said you couldn’t sing at all!
I still remember both girls’ facial expressions and words, and felt the hurt in my heart knowing they discovered at such a young age the poor behavior of adults who should be the models of exemplary character. Immediately, I felt something move inside of me. Without much contemplation or reflection or even hesitation, my response fell from my lips.
I immediately replied. “Girls, some people just don’t think about their words - even though they could be hurtful to others around them; they just don’t think about it. Let this be a lesson to you. Always choose your words wisely. Most importantly, use your words in a way that is classy and kind - to motivate and inspire others, ALWAYS! ️For it's your words and behavior that define your character. Never forget: Words really are THAT important! 💖
I know the importance of human connection. 💕
Thirty-two years ago I gave birth to Andrew, a beautiful little boy who, while receiving his two month baby check, was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot, a heart defect requiring him to undergo immediate open heart surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. I learned to navigate the hospital ins and outs pretty well considering I stayed at Andrew’s bedside for his two and a half month recovery stint. Over that time, I got to know his sweet roommates. We shared a large room with three other infants, one of whom shared the same name, Andrew. This Andrew suffered from a less severe condition but there was one distinct difference between the two that is too important not to share.
During those months I saw the other Andrew’s parents three times, maybe. Dad was a military enlistee and Mom stayed at home to care for their toddler. When visiting, they never stayed too long and not one person from that family ever stayed the night. I tried to understand this, to empathize. Caring for a toddler and only having one vehicle made visiting the hospital nearly impossible. They lived roughly an hour away and the mother found it quite challenging to drive in the city. I know it was a hardship for them.
During my Andrew’s hospitalization, I learned from the staff that I could not hold or touch another patient, although I longed to hold the other Andrew while my Andrew slept. He desperately needed some love and attention. I did manage to lean over his crib and chat with him every chance I got, but no holding, touching, or loving on him.
Mid-August 1988, Andrew was released from the hospital, nearly two and a half months after his surgery. The other little Andrew never checked out. With great sadness I learned he had died. It was a devastating blow! How could this be? I reflected for weeks, wondering what had gone wrong, but I knew the answer. I knew the answer without a doubt. That sweet baby died from a lack of love. He experienced limited interactions from humans, little touching or talking or holding - few smiles and rare talks. He failed to experience the joy of the human experience. I could go on and on about this sad occurrence, but today I’m stressing this point:
Kids (adults too) weren’t made to be isolated, working in cubicles, alone with only a computer with which to interact. Kids were meant to play, act, manipulate, communicate, touch, hug, hold and most especially LOVE.
There will come a time when a sense of normalcy returns. I’m not saying that everything will return to exactly how it once was before Covid 19. But what I am saying is this: The need for teacher/student and student/peer interactions are essential, now and in years to come. You see, I’ve seen the outcome when it doesn’t exist. To LOVE and to BE LOVED ~ well, it's ESSENTIAL! 💕
I became a fan of Charles Dickens after being blessed with inspiring, kind professors and a cooperating teacher who brought joy to the art of reading and interpreting literature. This passage rings true today in many ways:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. (Tale of Two Cities)
One’s viewpoint about the world today can be seen through two different lenses. How do you see it? Yesterday I engaged in conversation with my sister-in-law who just so happens to be an educator, an incredible educator, by golly, and I am not biased at all. A teacher of the year candidate on multiple occasions with a disposition that screams elementary educator, as she is kind, loving, happy-always, compassionate, patient and fun, really fun! She truly is the kindest person I have ever known and the epitome of a primary teacher. We chatted about our kids, the health of our parents and husbands, and then the topic transitioned to education. We would swap stories often, but today was different. The stories were not funny as in tell me about those moments when kids would say the darndest things or how inspired we felt when a student caught us out at Walmart, making us feel like celebrities. I mean, Come on! Teachers really shop for groceries?
But instead of laughing and reminiscing about the best job in the world and how serving amazing kids and swapping stories about them and their interesting, curious ways, I found myself lost in her words, listening intently to this exemplary educator for quite some time discuss the challenges that lie ahead. While leaning in to her every statement, I realized she was different: she didn’t appear to be her bubbly self. She seemed a little anxious. How could that be? I mean, she’s taught for 29 years! This is year 30! She’s a pro and could do every bit of it with her eyes closed. She walked me through what the first week of teaching all the way through to the beginning of the first day of school during this pandemic would look like. It was eye-opening! Yes, even for me, someone who served as a school and district leader and one who still works in the field, it left me questioning education during this crazy time.
Interestingly, this sister in law began her career in education in St. Croix. She was assigned 24 students from various walks of life, three of whom didn’t speak English. She would write three different lesson plans for every day and had only a trunk of education goodies to use to teach students whose grade levels ranged from first grade to fourth. Oh, and she often taught right on the beach! Seems like a bit of Heaven, right? Well remember, while holding class on that white sand in the sun with a beautiful ocean view right in front of her, she was charged with keeping each child engaged in the lesson with limited resources. And not every child was on the same page or spoke the same language. This was a challenging year in education, one that she didn’t really long to repeat.
As she dove into the start of this year, she was reminded of those significant challenges in her first year of teaching, realizing that “this too shall pass.” But until then, she had to put all her amazing, seemingly traditional teaching methods aside and implement an entirely new style of teaching. And then she began to describe the start of this year.
She began with her first week back to her old friend, that one school at which she spent so much time over the years but left well before the conclusion of the 19-20 school year, and she didn’t step foot into the building again until today. How she missed it, departing in March when the pandemic struck after the Governor ordered every school closed. The rest of that year would be such a learning transition, teaching students using a modality for which she and her colleagues were greatly ill-prepared. But here she was in August, back at school, ready to light a fire in the hearts of her students while gearing up for the most unusual school year in all her years of teaching second grade students.
Week one included a week’s worth of training. Five full days learning about the latest greatest technology that will be necessary for remote teaching, the modality that will be used for delivering instruction to all students. Five days of training! No integration of technology into instruction, no try a bit of this in context to see how it actually works, no research best practices to be implemented and measured for results, just training on application after application after application- tool after tool.
Google Classroom was introduced, a web based platform that integrates Google tools and other classroom based applications in one place. A teacher can post notes, check email, assess student work, and make announcements, among other uses. Another tool some teachers would be required to learn is Teacher Ease. While some have proficiency using this application, many other applications can be integrated with this one, so more training is necessary. There’s also Loom, not to be confused with Zoom. Loom is a video recording tool that allows teachers to record lessons and share through the technology platform provided by the company. How about Google Meets, an application that provides a venue at which students and parents can meet with the teacher and chat about progress or challenges or whatever. Then on to FlipGrid. This application allows teachers to facilitate video discussions through grids that serve as a sort of message board which is interactive. Questions can be posed and discussion can follow. Another application that is definitely a favorite is Bitmoji Classroom, which can be described as an engaging, interactive application for teachers to create a virtual classroom through which creative ways to deliver instruction can occur. Using animations of the teacher, this classroom experience gives students access to links, videos, and other content with the click of a mouse.
But wait! That’s not all. There are other initiatives in the works that must be continued. What about those that have added a new reading or math program or initiated the transition to standards-based reporting for their grade level. When would they spend time talking about and planning for these initiatives?
Whew!!! I can’t imagine participating in that many trainings without having the opportunity to use in context, one at a time. I taught the Integration of Technology in Education Curricula to preservice teachers at Blackburn College. Students were assigned approximately five projects using five different applications over a semester. They had five months to learn five applications and were able to discover, research, try, revise, complete and submit. I also have experience with implementing a new program and even a standards-based reporting process. It would be necessary to provide professional development for educators and hire subs in advance, as this teacher training would run throughout the school year for adoption the following year. Today, this is neither plausible (as subs would need to be trained) nor possible (not enough subs). What is occurring now in education is beyond challenging.
So let me share an example of the first week back with students using the remote modality. The learning day begins at 8:00a. Teachers are on the job in their classrooms, delivering their “welcome to my classroom” at 8:15a and will teach until 12:15p. They will use their video applications to connect with students who we hope are out of bed, dressed for the day, breakfast consumed, and super pumped about learning while patiently sitting in front of their computer screens. The connecting begins with the teacher introducing herself followed by each student. Sounds perfect, right?
As I was reflecting on how this will work, I began throwing lots of questions at my sister in law, the “What Ifs?”
I’ve heard these questions before so I was anxious to hear her answers, but frankly there aren’t any concrete answers to share. Why? Because there will be students who cannot access the Internet, or parents who must work and can’t sit with their children until after they return home from work. There will be students who miss the instruction and will need to make it up. Some will and some will not. There will be teachers who leave school at the end of the day, arrive home only to jump on their computer to deliver instruction to those students whose parents work and are only available after hours. So many unanswered questions.
This is where I see the many challenges. Let me begin with teachers:
They will provide active instruction using remote learning and then spend the afternoon editing and uploading videos (instruction for the day). If you are wondering why editing must occur, I will share that no students’ names or faces can be used in instruction due to privacy. This is problematic, as the first week teachers are learning names and building relationships, which is the most important step in teaching students. Remember… “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” ~John Maxwell. So teachers will be calling on students, providing encouragement, making corrections, and even disciplining those who are talking out of turn or being disrespectful, because this is the reality of schooling. These teachers then must take an extra step and go through every instructional video and delete sections that include students’ names and pictures. They also will use this time to attach any additional work or create interactive instructional elements that support that day’s learning. It’s definitely time-consuming but necessary to ensure students have what they need to learn the concepts introduced. Students will use this time to participate in practice activities and complete assigned work.
At this time I have to share a conversation I had with my brother who was playing teacher last year to his kindergarten-aged granddaughter. His question for me: “How do you keep a five-year-old child in her seat for six hours each day?” He emphatically followed with, “It’s impossible!”
Of course, I laughed at any consideration of such a thing. She is only five years old! “You don’t,” I quickly responded. “The attention span of primary students is minimal, so you have to include several breaks throughout the day, and the expectation for time in seat for instruction should be anywhere from 15-30 minutes, TOPS.”
We continued to chat about some strategies that would be helpful for a grandpa to help teach his very young, very energetic granddaughter.
I still giggle a bit when I think of this conversation. However, the fact is parents and grandparents aren’t necessarily supposed to be the teachers of their children, teenagers, grandchildren. So for those parents who are supporting their children or grandparents supporting their grandchildren or anyone else supporting children, I am attaching a link to a resource that can be used as a guide during this challenging time.
Back to teachers. In loco parentis rings true for most educators with whom I’ve worked. I know many and they love the students in their care. They become “like family,” as they spend so much time together. They want the very best for them and will do whatever in their ability to ensure they are serving in their best interest.
The point of this article is this: Please give teachers some grace. This is a difficult time to be an educator. There are no answers that make sense. NONE! And there is nowhere to place blame for our current set of conditions. It stinks BAD but all educators affected must act in a way that makes as much sense as the times in which they are serving their students.
My next point: Please give parents some grace. People must work to provide for their families. This is a fact. What challenging times for parents who have young, school-age children! It’s impossible to work and help support students in their education. It stinks BAD but they must act in a way that allows them to support their family while doing the very best they can to support their children who should be in school.
My next point: Please give education leaders, both district and school, some grace. I’ve served in those roles. They aren’t easy jobs in the best of times, but now? Now is a whole new set of very challenging circumstances. These leaders have worked around the clock to brainstorm ways to make school safe and supporting and engaging and fun. They realize students should be at school, especially those who come from the worst circumstances imaginable. But sometimes it is impossible. Again, it stinks BAD but they must act in a way that serves in the best interest of ALL students, ALL educators, ALL support staff. ALL families. They must think of ALL.
After reflecting on my conversation with my sister in law who is struggling to find ways to educate all her students who aren’t accessible at the same time during the day; my husband and other school and district leaders who are attempting to work with their stakeholders to make the best decisions for ALL; my advisory committee members who serve as leaders from various states who are working around the clock to update their stakeholders on constantly updated guidance and mandates at the state and local levels; parents who are struggling to find childcare so they can work while also doing everything in their power to support the education conditions in which their students must engage; board members who serve as volunteers to support and serve their constituencies in the best way they can… I can only offer this: my thoughts and prayers – truly – are with every one of you.
Yes, it is the best of times and the worst of times... But while experiencing this difficult journey, please view through the lens of hope and give grace to those - in the words of Brené Brown - who are doing the best they can, for THIS TOO SHALL PASS (Zen Thinking). ❤
The year is 2020. How many times I reflected on the voices of our most important stakeholders within our school system: our students. In the latter portion of August 2019, most seniors were preparing for the most exciting year of their school careers, noting “we” are the BIG DAWGS, the leaders in our schools, senior students who are approaching the high school finish line. These seniors, so close to adulthood, preparing for a promising road ahead with one big question to which many of them would be looking ahead to find the answer –“What’s next for me?”
Excited about what the future will bring, many seniors were engaged in this reflection while also making post-secondary plans, participating in signing days as scholarship athletes or academics, visiting prospective future schools, meeting with military recruiters, working in their jobs to help support themselves as they dig in to prepare for the future of an exciting career or make college plans. While some students were grappling with the what ifs, many were still thinking about this senior year, the fun times ahead with the thought of graduation several months away. Never in their wildest dreams did high school seniors believe that in March, weeks before those really exciting events and experiences become real, really real, all students would be ordered to hunker down at home, leaving school, friends, activities, athletics, and-most importantly--education as they had known it, behind.
Now that these students are engaged in their next life journey proceeding an unlikely, unusually crazy school year, I think it’s time to share a few of their thoughts, stories told through the lens of 2020 high school seniors, now graduates.
Back in the midst of COVID 19 when students were sent home to participate in learning, my curiosity got the best of me, and I couldn’t help but reach out to a few to examine their views and get their feedback. I wanted not only to know the perspective of a high school senior who experienced the challenges brought on by COVID 19, but also to learn the heart of the 2020 graduate. What would they have to share about which I would want to write? QUITE A LOT is what I discovered. Most importantly, how could I frame their thoughts in such a way that would get to the heart of their emotions and provide insight into their unprecedented journey from high school senior to high school graduate, all while in isolation.
Thus, I had the privilege of speaking with some pretty amazing 2020 seniors now graduates who shared with me their unique perspectives and how the closing of their senior year brought some distinct challenges but also some hidden rewards from which they have learned and grown in a way that has added to their repertoire of life experiences, ultimately making them grittier and more appreciative of who they are and what they can truly accomplish! 💛
Unsurprising, navigating the concluding months of the 2020 school year in isolation, away from friends, teachers, and all who support the educational journey was demanding, as a new kind of persistence and motivation was necessary. Learning from some of those who were seemingly most affected would be the starting point.
Southwestern High School graduate, Bailee Nixon shared that the experience of going home in March and never returning to Southwestern High School again just didn’t seem real. Of course, I asked about working remotely to complete homework and participate in learning using a virtual modality, and she responded that she, her peers, and her teachers did the best they could under the current circumstances, but it certainly wasn’t ideal. I must admit it was her vivid description of her walk to and from her high school classrooms that really struck my heart.
“I’ll miss the kids I pass in the hallway. My teachers, too. I mean, I might not ever see them again. These are the things you take for granted until they’re taken way.”
I think the reason I was so taken aback by this statement is its relative meaning. I mean who really thinks about walking the school’s hallways and feeling a sense of joy? Think about that: walking a high school hallway and realizing its value. Well Bailee did. In my conversation with her, she showed strength, knowing this unfortunate situation would make her stronger; compassion, realizing the current state of conditions wasn’t positive for all and she would always be happy to help others; and gratitude, thanking her teachers, principal, and school staff for making school a good place to be. She also mentioned graduation. Yes, they had one, although unique and different. It took place from vehicle to stage, one that was constructed right outside the school next to the parking lot. She was very grateful for the work done by so many to make her and her classmates’ graduation memorable. And was it ever memorable!
Bailee also shared her sadness about her softball season being cut short. Even I knew this could have been an amazing year for the Southwestern Softball Birds, as they were state-ranked and had made it to the super sectionals last year. The good news? Most players were returning this year.
“This was our year,” Bailee shared. I’m sure all the players felt this, and the coach, especially! Heck, I thought so too! We all did! There were many across our community super stoked about this year’s season! Parents and fans alike!
Unfortunately, the 2020 Piasa Birds softball season was over before it ever started, but fortunately, Bailee’s softball career would continue. She signed her intent to play at Drury University and has begun her new journey. No doubt, she will rock that pitcher’s mound and her academic/professional pursuit. She endured before, and this experience has made her stronger and given her perspective to know what really counts in life. In a nutshell: how you do life matters, so do it ALL with passion! Bailee models this in all she does. No doubt, she will ROCK this journey, too!
East Alton-Wood River High School graduate now Illinois State University student, Audrey Robinson admits that she really believed they’d be out a few weeks and then return to normal, meaning all students and staff would return to the high school and school would continue as before. When she learned that no student would most likely return to her high school, she felt “caught off guard, a sense of shock,” realizing there would be no closure.
As with all the seniors to whom I spoke, Audrey was no different in placing a positive spin on all she would be missing: pep assemblies, the ice cream social, the senior assembly, prom, graduation, and other events. Instead of focusing on the former, she chose to focus on the good stuff: people. Her goal was not to lose contact with everyone. Maintaining connections by ensuring she collected up to date emails, phone numbers, etc. was a goal.
We also talked a bit about having “Mom” as her high school principal for every one of her high school years. I asked if she ever felt awkward or uncomfortable with her mom at the helm. Her mom, Principal Leigh Robinson should be glowing, as Audrey see her mom as an amazing role model, sharing that her mom has worked especially hard through all of the Covid challenges to give all seniors as much as possible considering the circumstances.
“This is absolutely not how I imagined ending my senior year but this has made everyone stronger and given us all the realization of just how blessed we are.” Audrey was an academic scholar and standout athlete in high school, earning several accolades. Having excelled in high school, she is committed to doing the same at Illinois State University where she is enrolled and currently pursuing nursing, a field that requires compassion and patience and understanding, dispositional attributes necessary for every nurse. What I have witnessed through Aubry’s actions are an exemplary work ethic and kind, compassionate demeanor. Just think how many patients will benefit from having Aubry Robinson serving as their nurse!
I was fortunate in my current role to meet and become friends with an amazing leaders, Carole McCammon whose son, Andrew is a 2020 graduate of Dover High School, Dover New Hampshire. Having the privilege to communicate with him, he shared his greatest challenge for the end of the year: the realization that some of the curriculum he missed included necessary content for helping him to transition to his college major. Being prepared while pursuing professional goals is important for Andrew. Working remotely while teachers delivered content in a manner with which they weren’t the most familiar will most definitely result in missing curricula and learning gaps for most if not all students. The fact that he recognized this and worked diligently in his studies will pay dividends in the future.
Andrew confessed that with all the difficulties brought on by Covid, there is a silver lining. Spending time with family became more constant, resulting in learning more about himself. He also actively participated in enjoyable pastimes for which he didn’t really have the time or make the time before, like drawing, photography, and even hiking.
Many 2020 high school seniors have faced ups and downs, but Andrew believes the sacrifices made will only prepare those who experienced them for obstacles they will face in the future. While facing obstacles is an unavoidable reality, Andrew will meet them with courageous confidence as he pursues a bright future ahead at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Worcester, Maine.
Another exemplary Southwestern High School student with whom I had the opportunity to speak is Shelby Oertel who revealed her heart. She shared that a chapter in her life ended without all the bravado for which one often plans. What about a high school graduation, those meets as a highly likely Scholastic Bowl State Championship, the honors banquet, the high school musical, and prom. She never thought she would be concluding her senior year experience in such a humbling manner.
A high achiever who was heavily involved in school activities, Shelby admitted to finding herself going down a path of struggle. Once Covid hit, she made a pact with herself. She was committed to using this time to focus on an area of her life that’s most essential: her mental health, which allowed her to re-center and prepare for the exciting journey ahead.
I was blessed to interact with Shelby, as she asked if she could shadow me at some point during her senior year. Definitely humbled by such a request but also feeling a bit inadequate in my current role to provide what she needed, I procrastinated, waiting for the perfect time to have her join me in my work office, on a road trip, or something I thought would be worthwhile. And then Covid!
Shelby offers meaningful advice to her school-aged peers, but it’s especially beneficial for all, especially me. Make educated decisions. This is crucial because today’s generation will have additional insights, many that will expose a new way of thinking, creating a different world in which we must all learn to navigate. Those decisions should include the sharing of knowledge and skills with generations to come. Let our youth learn from us, but always remember, we can learn from them, too. Shelby offers another piece of advice for all: VOTE!
Having begun her journey of college life at the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign, Shelby is pursuing Learning and Education Studies with a concentration in Workplace Training and Development. No doubt, she will contribute greatly to our world.
I also had the pleasure of speaking with a 2020 graduate of Pattonville High School, Eden Sullivan. She shared her sadness for her school year coming to a close, as hanging out with people, those closest to her would be the unique struggle she didn’t see coming. Eden was at the top of her class, but her greatest academic strength came with collaboration. Engaging in study groups and participating in debates and conversations with her peers are from where her true intensity for excellence comes. She admitted that teachers would give her and the other students notes but “we would have to figure it out.” This is when procrastination would rear its ugly head because “I’m just no good at teaching myself.”
Eden loved sleeping in but admitted that it was hard on her mental health. With so much free time, she decided to add hours to her work schedule, surround herself with positive people, and run, a hobby that would prove beneficial to the mind and body.
While missing graduation, prom, and all those coming of age celebratory events that occur at the conclusion of the school year, Eden found herself focusing on the year ahead. She enrolled at and began attending Colorado State University. She has high hopes that her college experience will engage her mind and enhance her passion for school. Most important to this experience is to “learn something new” and “get exposed to sunlight often!” Also, “surround yourself with supportive people” and “engage in spiritual things,” which will allow her to see the good that exists in our world.”
Like each one of the other graduates, Eden is off to a great start, as she’s identified her strengths and is cognizant of her challenges and how to address them, which is an amazing skill often never realized. She has many talents and will be successful at whatever she chooses to pursue!
Although the 2019-2020 school year will not be soon forgotten, it’s that ONE year that has undeniably created a most inextricable force of young people, resilient and positive, who have been forced to learn differently, which will positively and powerfully impact the world in which we all live and love.
In addition to the 2020 graduates featured in this article, I’ve spoken with or observed from afar many others. I’m impressed with them and believe with all my heart the future is bright. The resilience of kids never ceases to amaze me. I learned a long time ago to never forget that those (kids) we think depend on us (adults) are the ones upon whom we will be totally dependent in the future. Thus, let them experience life, learn as much as possible, grow in unimaginable ways, and become the influential beings who will truly CHANGE OUR WORLD. ❤
She was one amazing woman, teacher, and friend! Ann Reichmann never ceased to amaze me. I met her when I was employed at Blackburn College, serving as the Director of Clinical Placements and Student Teaching. It didn’t take long to know her, as her reputation preceded her. Described as quite the firecracker, she captivated her audiences, telling stories like none other. If a student in her class, your eyes would be glued on her, following her every little step as she pranced quickly around the room in those heeled pumps. When she walked in the room, by golly you knew it. Her laughter, her demeanor, her bouffant hair, she totally owned the classroom, the stage, or the social gathering of which she was part.
I learned a lot from Ann Reichmann. I learned the importance of proper planning and preparation. I learned the critical nature of analyzing one’s audience before speaking (not that I always practiced this ;-)). I learned that building relationships with students comes first before ANYTHING ELSE! She modeled the importance of never judging students (anyone really) based on the opinions of others. “Let your own experiences guide you,” she would say. She also brought joy to her work, loving the job of teaching AND learning, AND always learning! Most importantly, she loved her students, her colleagues, and most especially her family, always sharing stories, so proud of them and their accomplishments. Ann Reichmann was a class act and a most amazing role model educator. I aspired to be more like her. In fact, I still do.
Obituary available HERE.
Dr. Bob Denby served as my college professor and supervisor for the English education portion of my student teaching experience. I held him in the highest esteem, as he was a man of extensive knowledge and exemplary character. He was soft spoken, but all the more reason to listen up. He modeled care, concern, compassion in every interaction, attributes that every teacher should embrace and practice if they’re not already part of who they are. Dr. Denby asked questions, lots of them, always interested in knowing more about you. Definitely a listener, one of his most recognizable traits. But his desire to provide and promote opportunities for aspiring educators was known by all. A college professor, he was committed to serving his students with fidelity and most especially, heart! He was a class act, a professional educator who truly walked the talk. A most loyal and dedicated public servant to the many professional educators he supported, Dr. Denby leaves a legacy of hope, the belief that one can change the world.
Obituary available HERE.
Many know Karley Christopher! Karley has been a trauma ICU nurse for about six years and is currently studying to become a family nurse practitioner while working as a full time nurse. Her friend, Tiffany Kline, recently accepted a short term travel nurse position in New York City. She will be there for about a month before returning to Kansas City. Both women are currently working in the COVID-19 unit at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. They work extremely hard, putting in twelve hour night shifts. They and so many like them are going to work each day to serve the sick, putting themselves in harm’s way. We would like to send a BIG TIME THANK YOU to Karley and Tiffany and ALL healthcare professionals for their unwavering service to others, a description of a HERO, indeed! PLEASE know you are appreciated by so many!
One person a day, hey, whatta ya say?
It’s difficult meeting new people when you are isolated in your home, working. Or so I thought. But I happened to meet one incredible teacher on social media. Twitter of all places?!? Let me emphasize the fact that we have not met in person! I was drawn to her because of her posts, always centered around her lil’ kiddos and her belief that they can be whatever they aspire to be! Her name: Mrs. Ryan!
I knew she was great for kids simply because she was always posting pictures of kids having fun in her classroom. Eventually I came to learn she is a kindergarten teacher. Well of course! Her demeanor, even in social media, matched one of a primary teacher perfectly. How do you know? Well you just do! I can spot one in a heartbeat! A primary teacher is a most patient and loving teacher. Compassionate, giving, fun, too! A cheerleader type who shows enthusiasm in all she does is another way to describe those teachers who spend the day with 'lil ones. And these characteristics? Well, they perfectly capture Mrs. Ryan!
Not too long ago, Mrs. Ryan posted a sweet video of her student’s mother who came to visit school to serve as a guest reader. She read in her native language while her daughter sat next to her. It reflected the very spirit of education in America: the importance of literacy, equity, parent engagement, hope, freedom, opportunity, love, pride....and I could go on!
And anyone who was Mrs. Ryan’s twitter friend would find picture after inspirational picture of her kiddos learning and growing- and loving, really loving school! Mrs. Ryan continues to motivate, inspire, encourage and love, exactly what comes to mind when one thinks of a kindergarten teacher. ️
Out of the blue, my friend Mrs. Ryan sent me the most incredible gift: SOCKS! Yup, that’s right, SOCKS! But not just any socks, #pinksocks! And with these socks comes a vision: “WE’RE CENTERED AROUND PASSION, EMPATHY, CARING, & CONNECTION!”
Was I ever excited to receive these, for they were special because they came from my new awesome friend, Mrs. Ryan, AND I just happen to love the mission and message behind them! BY THE WAY, they look great with heels!
I must emphasize the fact that Mrs. Ryan and I have yet to meet but we continue to interact through Twitter. While a person who values personal interaction, I understand the importance of social distancing during these times. I’ve also come to learn and appreciate that making friends with exemplary people is - without a doubt - possible without meeting face to face. I do plan on meeting Mrs. Ryan in the future, however.
Truth ~ Our Earth is Full of GOOD!! I found some of that goodness on Twitter! You can too: @mrsryan310
Please meet Victoria Hargrave. She serves as a Family Nurse Practitioner at Jersey Community Hospital in the Illini Clinic when she is not serving in the Army reserves as a 66P, which is her MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) and the same role in which she works in her civilian profession. Victoria serves with the 811-1 Urban Augmented Medical Task Force (UAMTF), a unit recently established during this COVID 19 crisis. Members of her unit and she were given little time to report, roughly 48 hours for most. They traveled to the east coast.
Currently, her unit is housed in Stamford, Connecticut which is close to New York City and the Bronx. They are staffing two units at Stamford Hospital with military personnel caring for all COVID 19 positive patients. A few days ago, leadership identified Victoria's unit as a joint task force, comprised of not only Army reservists but also active duty Navy providers and Air Force Reservists. The task force is new to the Army Reserves, so they are indeed making history! You can learn more about Victoria's unit and their mission HERE.
Having a family makes one's time as a service member extremely difficult. Victoria has an eight-year-old daughter, Aubrey, who is in the second grade. Her husband, Dr. Brad Hargrave serves as a dentist in his hometown of Jerseyville, Illinois. While Victoria feels blessed to serve her country, leaving her daughter and husband behind is challenging, as one can only imagine. Her husband is also an essential provider, which creates a great burden on the family, as their daughter had to leave home to stay with family due to the high risk jobs held by both parents.
The sacrifice made by our military active duty members and health care providers is great indeed. Please keep these hometown heroes in your thoughts and prayers. Their service on behalf of OUR country and communities is commendable in every way! We look forward to Victoria's safe return home and having this incredible family together again! May God Bless!
Please meet another hero, one of our own from Shipman, Illinois: Taylor Dunham, Tate as many of her family and friends refer to her. If you would have asked family and friends a few years ago what Taylor would be doing today, not many would guess she would be leaving the rural area at which she lives and serving her country in the big city of New York!
Tate is a member of the 932nd MDS Airlift Wing out of Scott AFB. Her role when on active duty in the Air Force is as a medical technician, trained to practice at the level of an LPN. When not active in our military, you will find her serving patients as a CNA at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon.
Tate’s unit mobilized to New York recently to assist the medical staff during this pandemic and, unfortunately, do not have a return date planned. She shared a few words about her deployment and anyone who knows her would not be surprised by the kind statement that reflects the Taylor we know and love, “I am very happy to be here and do my part to help keep everyone safe and healthy.” You can learn more about Taylor's unit and deployment HERE.
Please keep Tate, Robbie, and her family in your thoughts and prayers. We are so grateful for Tate’s service on behalf of her country and look forward to her safe return home! May God Bless!
Shipman resident, Michelle Verity took a break from her in home childcare work to bring a little good cheer to community members, those who are continuing to serve others during these unprecedented times. ️
It all began with combining the love of baking with the appreciation for people who continue to go to work each day to support the needs of others. ️
Let’s begin with the most incredible ladies who serve our children every day. The cafeteria staff at Shipman prepare meals each day for students. These meals are distributed to students throughout the Southwestern region. Featured here are Dawn Ansell, Tammy Graham, and Sheila Thornton, Shipman Food Service Professionals. Big thanks to them and Diane Milner who took the photo. They continue to serve our children daily! So here's a GREAT BIG SHOUT OUT to ALL food service workers who continue to prepare and serve meals for our kiddos! We are so grateful for you!
Our AWESOME Marathon service station mechanic, Kevin Praither also continues to serve others, providing the best service to the community. From oil changes to fixes to our automobiles, Kevin is a community gem who remains open for service. Prior to COVID 19, the Marathon station was the gathering place for community greats to gather and solve the world's problems. It will be that again - SOON!
We also appreciate having Pammy’s in town where one can pick up products from a gallon of milk to a fountain soda or even a six pack of your beverage of choice. It's the convenient quick stop shop for local residents or even those passing through our GREAT small town of Shipman!
So thankful for our farmers and those who serve them, from the incredible employees at CHS (Shipman Elevator) to the fab John Deere employees, like Dave Nord. Meeting the basic needs of humankind requires food! Thus, a BIG TIME THANK YOU goes out to our farming community!
While our world seems to be put on hold due to unprecedented circumstances brought on by COVID 19, many continue to do good work, providing exemplary service to their community. It's always nice to celebrate people. Reflecting on the good that others continue to bring to our communities is important. Big THANKS to Michelle for combining baking skills with gratitude to share a little love with others!
We are seeing amazing community connections at work every single day. While living in isolation or following social distancing practices, showing support and love to family and friends who’ve lost loved ones during the time of the COVID 19 crisis is challenging but very necessary. Goodness shows up on all fronts. Citizens from small communities and large cities are figuring it out. They are inventive, finding creative solutions to pay tribute to close friends who’ve passed during these difficult times.
Gathering in the neighborhood he built were friends of Paul Rose. One could stand on the doorstep and glance into the neighborhood to find residents standing in front of their homes to bid farewell to their friend. A moving, picturesque sight to see, a entire neighborhood lined with people who have been directly impacted by Paul. He was extremely influential to them. After all, he built the house they have made their home. While a gathering at the local funeral home where stories could be shared would have been optimal, the former is the way it has to be for now. But WOW, the community responded just as expected: with heart and love!
In the small town of Shipman, first responders assembled to show their support of one of their own, Larry Pittman, who passed during this unprecedented time. Saluting their comrade, fire department chiefs and volunteers from the region lined the street with their equipment: fire trucks, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles. Our American flag is displayed with honor, giving credence to the comradery that is ever so present in times such as these. It was quite a site to see. (Photo compliments of Andrea Powers).
Congregating on State Street in Jerseyville were many farmer friends of Joel Randolph, paying their respects to the family, as gathering at the funeral home is simply not an option at this time. No doubt Joel was loved by so many, as farm trucks and equipment could be seen far and wide as the procession traveled through town. (Photo compliments to Michelle Verity).
So many challenges that no one could foresee as a result of the response to COVID 19; however, the loving and supportive response by communities is nothing short of AMAZING! It’s simply a reminder that people are good, really good! They will find a way!
While we wish the current circumstances weren’t the current circumstances, all those who’ve suffered the loss of a loved one during this time, please know you are in the thoughts, hearts, and prayers of so many.
Struck by the signage posted on Brighton's North Main Street (111), I immediately felt a sense of community spirit and hope. So much hope! While these times are challenging, they are bringing out a whole lot of good stuff, too. So here's to the individual(s) who created and posted this sign for all to see! THANK YOU! What a beautiful way to remind others to keep things in perspective. Be kind to each other, indeed! God Bless ALL!
What do you get when you combine skills and heart? Amazing mask-makers, that's what!
Let's give a big SHOUT OUT to those who put their skills to work to benefit so many others. Friends Forever members, Peggy Cheney and Helen Reed sat down at their sewing machines to fill mask requests from family members, friends, and colleagues. Dennise Crotchett was contributing to the Helping Hands in Jersey County requests from community members across the region. Teresa Muntz went to work as well, making so many masks, she had to replace her sewing bobbin! Teresa's masks can be picked up at the old Radio Shack south of Jerseyville.
Big thanks to these ladies and ALL others who have shared their talents by creating masks to keep others healthy and safe! You are appreciated more than you know.
A show of kindness can have an effect that lasts a lifetime! YOU are ALL Difference Makers!
Meet Cathy and Mitch Reynolds. They are active members of the community and all but something beautiful and truly amazing occurred during the start of this pandemic when Cathy went to the store to shop for meals for the week, knowing she was going to be isolated in her home with her family for quite some time. Upon arriving home after grocery shopping, she realized she had forgotten an ingredient for a meal, which got her thinking. How many have forgotten items from their grocery list? How many don't have the means to go to the store to prepare for the quarantine? How many shouldn't be going out during this time due to their fragile health or weakened immunity? Upon reflection, Cathy acted with HEART! She created a Facebook account to respond to the needs of those in her community: Helping Hands in Jersey County.
She reached out to her friends in the community, and never - in her wildest dreams - would have realized the response she received. I spoke to Cathy recently to get the scoop, and she responded exactly how I expected she would - with these statements:
Cathy shared the story about an unusual request she received from a community member who couldn't go out. She requested some hamburgers and orange juice, which were available. She had asked, too, for French fries. Cathy knew this was not an item in stock but would see what she could do. Not long after that conversation, a community member had dropped off a donation on Cathy's front porch (which is the means for receiving donations and picking and picking them up for delivery). She messaged Cathy to ensure she knew the items were there. What was included? You guessed it: French fries. God Winks...
There are so many stories to share about Helping Hands. It really took the deliberate action of one with the courage to ask for the assistance of others that created a movement that has impacted the lives of so many, even kids. Pictured above is Cathy's son, Walker, who is seen helping out too, delivering goods. He is an eighth grade student at Jersey Community High School. "Let the kids feel this giving spirit." It's all about the modeling and the feeling that giving back generates.
It's important to mention that Mitch is a Jerseyville police officer and Cathy runs a preschool out of her home. You might see Mitch at the local library, taking part in a read aloud for kids. Although not currently holding preschool in her home, Cathy provides activity packets for her lil’ ones. She also records videos that her kiddos can view at their home so learning remains a part of their routine.
The Reynolds Family continues to give back, serving the community in which they go and grow with a whole lot of HEART! They also wish to thank the community for their continued support. To sum it up, I’ll use Cathy’s own words: “We are ALL neighbors in Jersey County."
Upon observation and reflection, I’ll simply offer my two cents ...️
This COVID-19 precautionary period stinks! No doubt about it! And YES, our way of life has significantly changed now that we have:
An airport without travelers.
A business without clients.
A carpool without passengers.
A church without parishioners.
A concert without followers.
A game without spectators.
A gym without members.
A home without visitors.
A hotel without guests.
A mall without consumers.
A meeting without attendees.
A rally without supporters.
A restaurant without customers.
A school without learners.
A theater without fans.
A nation without normalcy.
And while we are unimaginably impacted by what we don’t have in our community, what we absolutely, indisputably do have is:
While the challenges are great, the blessings I am observing are far greater. ️