Tag Archive | leap-for-a-cure

Thinking Out Loud

“Why does God make it cold?”

My boys and I have had a lot of talks about God lately. My eldest, Easton, started Religious Formation this fall, (formerly known as CCD for my 30-something Catholic friends..), and so God comes up a lot, either by me referencing Him or by them asking. We’ve discussed how God makes it rain to give the plants and animals a drink. The other night, Easton told his brother it was dark because God painted the sky black. When the temps dipped 40+ degrees in 4 days, it was only natural Evan would question why God would make it feel so chilly outside.

“So we appreciate when it’s beautiful outside,” I replied. “If it was nice and warm and sunny everyday, we would get used to it after awhile and it wouldn’t feel as nice.”

My husband and I had just had a similar conversation not a week beforehand.. spending a few days on the glorious beaches of Destin, Florida. Everyday, we saw the ‘chair protector’ move into position right in front of our condo. From 9-5, he sat in the sun and made sure people didn’t use the fancy chairs unless they paid to rent them. Brian commented, “after awhile, you wouldn’t even appreciate the beach. You’d be so used to it, just sitting there all day every day.”

But how could you not appreciate this?

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The constant, soothing roar of the waves coming in. The intoxicating aura of peace and happiness. Watching toddlers confusedly wobble on the sand, already trying to tackle walking without this new, strange squishiness under their toes. Seeing older couples, hand in hand, walking slowly past.. and wondering how many years they had been walking together just like that. No hurry. No to-do lists. Brian and I walked around in a daze for the weekend, grinning nonstop and almost drunk on life itself. Even Sunday night, when a thunderstorm blew through, it was beautiful and exciting. I was legitimately depressed when it was time to leave, almost tearful.

I knew why, too. Because all too easily, all too often, I let all of the other noise drown the good out. I am addicted to my phone. I can literally feel my blood pressure rising when my boys argue. I have probably 3 notepads with duplicating lists of things I need to do, would like to do, hope to do, should do. I think about bills, about projects, about people, about what people think.

Why.

Teri Donoho

Last month, Westside Community Schools lost a teacher who devoted herself to education and to the teenagers she worked with. Teri Donoho’s husband, Jay, told me about how hard the love of his life fought to beat cancer.. and they thought she had. The night before she was supposed to leave the hospital, Jay went home for the evening to take care of their dogs. She called him to say good night, I love you.. and she died a few hours later.

Kaelia, Kamie Stephen

Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

Over the weekend, we got news that one of the young women who competed for Miss Nebraska last year, Kaelia Nelson, died. I remember thinking two things when I met Kaelia: “dang! She’s TINY!” (Kaelia, a stunning woman, was MAYBE 5 feet tall), then later ‘wow.. this girl is the real deal.’ Poised, so striking, an amazing dancer, and CONFIDENT. Kaelia had several tattoos, and proudly showed them during Miss Nebraska week.. they were a part of her, and not something to hide. We need MORE strong, vibrant, positive leaders in our world today.. and losing ONE is a terrible tragedy. My heart is broken, especially when I think of Kaelia’s parents. They have been in my prayers for days.

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This weekend, we should be celebrating Cody’s birthday. We always did – his birthday and my husband Brian’s were within a few days of each other. A big party at Jack’s, a dinner with friends at Kobe, and moments we’ll never forget at the bar later on. One year, another wife and I were badmouthing one of the guys’ girlfriends. Cody, after a few moments of listening, looked at us and said ‘ya’ll are being bitches.’ …. Yup, he was right. I don’t know anything about that couple or their relationship.. I was being a bitch. And what I love about that memory is that it was classic Cody. He was CODY ‘WARDO’ WARDEN’.. and didn’t give a damn if you liked him or not. He was a big, loud, hugging, teddy bear of a man.. and if you were his friend, you never had to question if you had someone on your side.. because he was TRUE, honest and real. Cody beat all the odds, defeating brain cancer when first diagnosed several years ago. Exactly one year ago this month, the tumors came back. We celebrated Cody’s birthday at Jack’s again, knowing he had a tough road ahead. We lost him this summer.

Why? Why does this happen? What is the meaning of all of this? Why. Why. Why. Why. Why. Why.

Because if we lived everyday at the ocean, we would take it for granted. Because God makes it cold, so the sun and warmth feel even better on those perfect days. That’s the easy answer.. easy for all of us feeling grief and sadness indirectly. But for Jay Donoho, for Shardel Nelson, for Darbi Warden… it’s not enough. It doesn’t explain WHY them. Why did Teri and Cody get cancer – twice? Why won’t Kaelia be here to get married and have babies, to live a long, happy life? I don’t have the reasons. I don’t have any poetic, rationalizing theory WHY. For Jay, for Shardel, for Darbi… I am so, so sorry. I literally cannot imagine being in your place because it emotionally breaks me down to even think about it. I don’t know how I would continue through each day, each SECOND, if I lost my family. I pray that peace and strength surround you and help you every second of this terrible journey. Your loved ones MATTERED, they HAD PURPOSE. They were so very loved, and they each made this world a better place. Teri, Kaelia, Cody… their legacies will continue through their time here, and through their loved ones still here.

I tell myself that I will go home, and hug my amazing husband a few seconds longer. I will say a prayer of thanks I have a loyal, selfless, devoted partner in my life, a guy who still dips me back to kiss me on the beach, 12 years after our first date.

I tell myself I will watch my boys.. REALLY watch them and try to lock every moment into my memory, instead of looking at my phone. Their smiles. Their laughs. The things Evan says, and how they still want to snuggle and play. When they fight, I will close my eyes and thank God I have healthy, happy, smart boys who can talk, move, think for themselves, and yes, even argue with each other like brothers.

Still, I forget… I listen to all of the noise, I focus on the crap that’s not important, I let the less than perfect overshadow all of the good. How do I not appreciate what I have EVERY, SINGLE DAY??? How do I forget that my ocean IS my home.. and the second I walk into that door, nothing else should matter??? Please, God, let me remember this EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT. that I have here.

Today, it’s dark and gloomy outside. It’s so very cold. The ocean seems far away right now. But I know I will see it again soon. I pray everyone else does, too.

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For Teri Donoho

Please consider a donation to Crossroads Clinic or to the American Cancer Society

For Kaelia Nelson

Please consider a donation to a mental health awareness organization, to the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program in Kaelia’s memory, or to the Peru State Dance team, of which she was a proud member.

For our dear friend, Cody Warden

Please consider a donation to Leap-For-A-Cure, the local organization fighting every day to help defeat brain cancer, of which Cody and Darbi were proud advocates.

 

She Don’t Coast

Complete disclosure: I’m a former Miss Omaha.  I’m a current volunteer with the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County pageant, hoping to recruit outstanding young ladies to compete every year.  As much as I’d like to be at every local pageant across the state, Miss Omaha is often the only one (other than Miss Nebraska) I can attend.

I was front row for this moment..

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..when Miss Nebraska newcomer, Megan Gould, was crowned Miss Omaha 2015, along with Miss Douglas County 2015 Alyssa Howell.

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MISS OMAHA 2015 MEGAN GOULD

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“Literally, this was a dream come true,” Megan told me recently.  “I had watched pageants for as long as I could remember and finally getting to be a local titleholder for the MISS AMERICA system was an absolute blessing.  Little did I know at the time just how much of a blessing it would truly be.”

Megan, an Alliance, Nebraska native and University of Nebraska Lincoln student is now spending more time in the eastern part of the state she likely ever has before.  She includes Children’s Miracle Network, Leap-For-A-Cure, Pediatric Cancer Action Network and others among the charities she’s worked with since that crowning moment last fall.

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“I have booked myself for more appearances I can count and put in a large number of hours in preparation for Miss Omaha,” said Megan.  “I have done appearances ranging from hosting events at bowling alleys to reading to children to Children’s Miracle Network fundraisers to platform presentations.  Each appearance is as exciting as the next.”

That platform is Megan’s mission to promote constructive use of social media, or as she calls it, ‘T.H.I.N.K. Before You Post.’

“I see posts on social media sites that have no need being broadcast for the world to see,” explained Megan.  “The problem is many social media users do not understand the effects their posts can have on their lives.  T.H.I.N.K. is a list of five questions I hope all social media users will ask themselves before making a post on social media: T-is it true? H-is it helpful? I-is it intelligent? N-is it necessary? And K-is it kind?”

Megan notes she’s been traveling across the state to talk about her platform, and the ramifications of poorly using social media.  In addition, Megan updates a blog with tips about responsible social media use. (Click here to check out Megan’s blog: My Journey As Miss Omaha 2015.)

“During presentations I emphasize how social media users can use social media to their advantage to market themselves,” said Megan, a Business Marketing major at UNL.  In addition to her studies, Megan is also active with her sorority, the Kappa chapter of Chi Omega, and she’s a Nebraska Cornhusker Cheerleader.

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“I can be seen on the sidelines of Memorial Stadium in front of 92,000 of the greatest fans of college football, or courtside in the Bob Devaney Sports Center or Pinnacle Bank Arena cheering for volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball,” said Megan.  “[We] participate in a collective 200+ hours of community service visiting various schools, nursing homes, grand openings and charity events throughout the Lincoln area and all of Husker Nation.”

So why add to that already busy schedule by adding Miss America to the to-do list?

“One reason is the tremendous amount of scholarship opportunities provided as the Miss America Organization is the #1 scholarship provider of young women in the world,” said Megan.  “Another reason is that I love performing and being a titleholder with the Miss America Organization provides me with unlimited opportunities to perform and share my love of dance with others.  Additionally, I am given the chance to be very involved with various charities and causes dear to my heart.”

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 Omaha’s motto is ‘We Don’t Coast’.  Here’s a young lady who, like thousands of other college students, could be partying every weekend, napping between classes and simply kicking back for four years.  Megan Gould is a cheerleader for life, spreading positive energy and inspiring people around her.  SHE don’t coast, and she couldn’t be more proud to represent this city.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity not only to be a representative and ambassador for the Omaha area but also to get to promote the Miss America Organization,” said Megan.  “[To] make appearances throughout the state and have the opportunity to compete for my dream job, Miss Nebraska, this coming June.”

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(Photo courtesy Steph’s Studio)

Follow Miss Omaha 2015 Megan Gould

on Twitteron Instagramand via Megan’s blog: My Journey As Miss Omaha 2015.

To contact Megan about appearances and events, and for more information on the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County Scholarship Pageant, click here to visit the organization on Facebook, visit the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County Pageant website, and follow on Twitter.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Executive Director Marianne Grubaugh at 402-330-8033 or by email at missomahapageant@yahoo.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

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To read more about the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.