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My Special Boy, Obi – An Inspiring Story by Ashley Howland

What an Incredible Dog!

Obi and Ashley

Ashley Howland lovingly portrays Obi, her intuitive golden Lab, so smart and loving that you just wish your could reach out and hug him.

Obi influenced the lives of all whose lives he touched through his work and play both at school, at home and in a Labs ‘n Life program back in Ashley’s home in Australia. Obi also touched many hearts, and once you read this story, it is bound to touch yours as well.

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My Special Boy, Obi, a 2014 Tales2Inspire winner, is now published in
Tales2Inspire ~ The Sapphire Collection
Stories that Echo In The Mind

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Lois W. Stern
Bringing you one inspiring story at a time,
From Tales2Inspire
http://www.tales2inspire.com

* NO SUCH WORD AS CAN’T by Lois W. Stern

It’s easy to recognize dramatic acts of heroism, acts of great courage and selflessness. But what about the unsung heroes amongst us – the ones who think of themselves as absolutely ordinary while quietly living their lives with worthy acts of purpose. Enter Gerald and Sharon Bricker, for it is through them that their daughter Jennifer Bricker has reached unfathomable heights.

In 1987, Gerald and Sharon Bricker adopted their baby daughter Jennifer. Although they already had three biological sons, Sharon yearned for a daughter, a little girl she could dress in pink ruffles with trailing ribbons and bows. They adopted Jen, sight unseen, when she was 3 months old. She was a tiny baby, only 13 ½ inches long, but to Gerald and Sharon she was perfect.

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Jen as a baby

Luck shone down on this infant from the moment she entered the Bricker household. She felt the unconditional love of her parents and three older brothers, all with solid values that helped her grow into the remarkable person she is today. As a young woman reflecting back on her childhood, Jen says with admiration:

They are amazing and they don’t even realize it, they are just good people. I don’t know how, but they always managed to handle each situation exactly the right way.

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Jen with her parents, Mr. an Mrs. Bricker and friend Dave

From early on the Brickers told Jen that there was no such word as “can’t.” Instead they taught her how to go after the things she really wanted. With their guidance, Jen’s indomitable spirit and confidence soared. She vigorously dove into sports, meeting each challenge head on with confidence and the expectation of success. More often than not, she realized her dreams. Jen led a happy, rewarding life, playing softball, basketball and volleyball. But her passion was gymnastics. When she was 10, she won fourth place in the Amateur Athletic Union’s Junior Olympics in Hampton, Va., and was Illinois state power tumbling champion in her division.

Jen grew up idolizing popular gymnast Dominique Moceanu. It wasn’t just that the two girls shared a common Romanian heritage. They shared the same good looks: dark hair, sparkling eyes. ready smiles. Jen felt a magnetic attraction to Dominique, becoming her biggest fan. At fifteen years of age, Dominique was catapulted into the limelight as the youngest member of the “Magnificent Seven”, the U.S. gymnastics team that won gold at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta. As she stood in line to receive her gold, the name Moceanu rang a distant bell. The Brickers quietly reopened the adoption papers they had signed years earlier. What it had taken them nine years to realize was that Dominique wasn’t just Jen’s idol — she was also her biological sister.

This story continues in Tales2Inspire™ ~

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The Emerald Collection

* THE GIFT OF FAMILY by Donna Surface

When I was introduced to Pat Surface he was sitting down. Then he stood up to shake my hand, and it seemed like he just kept going . . . up. I am only 5′ tall and at nearly 6’8″ Pat’s stature, and his story, both really impressed me.

Pat’s future didn’t look very promising in 1957. He was abandoned as a newborn infant and brought to an orphanage in St. Paul, Minnesota. Little Pat was placed in a series of foster homes, where, he later learned, he was treated pretty badly. After the last family brought him back to the orphanage, he was completely traumatized. As a result, he ‘acted out’ in ways that made him, well, less than ‘adoptable.’

But in every happy ending story there is a turning point, and in this story it started with a phone call from the orphanage to Lillian and A.J. Surface, a couple who had already adopted two children from their agency. ”Would they consider adopting one child more?” Well, they honestly couldn’t afford a third child, so this was not an easy decision for them. But an inner voice whispered to them and, fortunately for Pat, they listened. Pat says he was ‘rescued’ instead of adopted when he was brought to Grand Rapids, MN to live with his new family. He thinks of his adoption date as the day he was born.

A surprise for Pat’s parents – he grew tall. Very tall. They struggled to keep him in clothing that fit. Pat didn’t stop growing until he reached nearly 6’8″, a natural basketball star in the making. Actually he did become a college all-star, a MVP of the largest amateur basketball team in the country, a member of a semi-pro exhibition team, and eventually a college basketball coach. But he yearned for more.

Pat grew up with his brother, Jim, of Korean and Hispanic heritage, and his Native American sister, Linda. The gift of being included in this blended family fueled his appreciation of diversity. It never occurred to him to view anyone as ‘different.’

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Pat and his beloved guitar

 Pat’s future didn’t look very promising in 1957. He was abandoned as a newborn infant and brought to an orphanage in St. Paul, Minnesota. Little Pat was placed in a series of foster homes, where, he later learned, he was treated pretty badly. After the last family brought him back to the orphanage, he was completely traumatized. As a result, he ‘acted out’ in ways that made him, well, less than ‘adoptable.’

But in every happy ending story there is a turning point, and in this story it started with a phone call from the orphanage to Lillian and A.J. Surface, a couple who had already adopted two children from their agency. ”Would they consider adopting one child more?” Well, they honestly couldn’t afford a third child, so this was not an easy decision for them. But an inner voice whispered to them and, fortunately for Pat, they listened. Pat says he was ‘rescued’ instead of adopted when he was brought to Grand Rapids, MN to live with his new family. He thinks of his adoption date as the day he was born.

A surprise for Pat’s parents – he grew tall. Very tall. They struggled to keep him in clothing that fit. Pat didn’t stop growing until he reached nearly 6’8″, a natural basketball star in the making. Actually he did become a college all-star, a MVP of the largest amateur basketball team in the country, a member of a semi-pro exhibition team, and eventually a college basketball coach. But he yearned for more.

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Pat, center, with his sister, Linda and brother, Jim

Pat grew up with his brother, Jim, of Korean and Hispanic heritage, and his Native American sister, Linda. The gift of being included in this blended family fueled his appreciation of diversity. It never occurred to him to view anyone as ‘different.’

Another gift from his family was his love of music. His mom was born a LaPlant, a family with a strong musical heritage. Her mother, Bessie LaPlant, was related to William Boyd, known as Hopalong Cassidy, The Singing Cowboy. She passed her musical legacy on to her eleven children. Years later, Pat wrote the song, “Belle of the Ball”, to honor her.

The LaPlants have been fiddle champions for decades, best known for their gospel and bluegrass music. They are also well-recognized for their instrument building skills with LaPlant crafted instruments, described by The Minnesota Monthly Magazine as “exquisite guitars and flawless mandolins of national note”. Pat remembers the day he received his first LaPlant guitar – he was 19, it was Christmas, and the gift changed his life. To this day, Pat plays the guitars hand-built by his eighty-two year old Uncle Lloyd LaPlant – the master builder whose amazing guitars and mandolins are used by famous bluegrass performers even today.

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Uncle Lloyd, Pat, his mom, and Uncle String

Music was calling Pat, and in 1987 it became his full-time commitment.

This story continues in the Tales2Inspire™  

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Emerald Collection

* THE FLOWERS – by Cheryl Stewart

She was a beautiful woman who left her home state of Washington to move to Alaska. She and her husband had a dream of moving north. They packed up their belongings and drove to this territory of the United States. Alaska was not yet a state and they settled in the small town of Anchorage.  She was a woman with a pioneer spirit, but never left her house without her signature Coco Chanel red lipstick.  This woman whom I speak of was model perfect in every sense of the word. She even appeared on TV every Wednesday afternoon for a local show called “The Women’s Touch”.

This woman was my mother.

Even though she was a stay home mom, she was the busiest person I ever knew. She loved her newly founded state and became a socialite and was involved in multiple committees that ranged from the PTA, local causes, and church functions. Once we children had left home, she volunteered once a week at the Anchorage Visitor’s Center. The Visitor’s Center is a log cabin originally built in 1955, complete with a grass-tundra covered roof. It used to be one the original houses of an earlier time, and now stands in the middle of the financial district of downtown Anchorage. It is a landmark building

Loreane Rose’s philanthropy won her the Mayor’s Moose Award, 2003 Log Cabin Volunteer of The Year

Every Thursday while walking to the center, she passed a Native Alaskan homeless woman sitting on a park bench asking for money. My mother never gave her money, knowing all too well where the cash would be spent. Instead she brought her coffee in the morning and soup or a sandwich in the afternoon. My mother was curious about this person and her story, and started arriving downtown earlier. She sat with her to get to know her.

This homeless street person was initially intimated by her questions, but my mother eventually made her feel at ease.

When asked her name, the native lady replied “Violet”. With her signature smile, my mother responded that her name was Loraene Rose. Without skipping a beat, she told her that they already had something in common. Both of their mother’s decided to name their daughters after their favorite flower. A friendship had blossomed.

Over the summer, they got to know each other better. Violet was an Inuit lady from Western Alaska in a small village on the Kuskokwim River Delta. She revealed her difficult life and that she had a daughter.  For some undisclosed reason, she had left her village and her daughter as well. The last time she had seen her daughter, she was 13 years old. My mother listened to her story, and then shared her own.  Loraene Rose had lost her mother to cancer when she was 13 years of age and didn’t have a second chance of ever seeing her again. Violet still had the opportunity of providing her daughter with that second chance. Not unlike most Native Americans, they have a predisposed affliction to alcohol. Once experienced, difficult to stop. Violet missed her daughter, but knew her daughter was ashamed of her. She redirected her shame and blame, and became helpful with other street living native people in Anchorage. She was the matriarch of the fallen natives. Autumn came and the weather began to change. In Alaska, weather changes without hesitation or anyone’s permission.

Inuit Family

It was a particular cold morning and my mother had purchased Violet a new hat and gloves. When she turned the corner onto 5th Ave, approaching The Visitor’s Center, to bring Violet her coffee and gifts, something was missing. The park bench was empty. Violet was not there.

It was not uncommon that street people froze to death during a cold night. My mother quickly ran to The Visitor’s Center and started making phone calls to the local missions and hospitals. Her colleagues stopped her and said, “Violet was here earlier and left you something.”

This story continues in the Tales2Inspire

RUBY Collection

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Lois

finalist Finalist – 2012

* PROOF OF LIFE by Melissa Dallago

My father was patient and kind. He did not envy, nor boast. He was proud of his wife and daughter. He was never self-seeking, was never rude and never easily angered.  He kept no record of wrongs. My father’s love never failed!

I modified 1 Corinthians 13:4 as a tribute to my father to read at his funeral. That day was the second hardest day of my life; the first being the day my father died. My dad’s name was Justin. He came into my life as my step-father when I was sixteen years old, and exited it as my dad.

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Author’s Dad, Justin

Dad’s health issues began in 1995 when he underwent heart bypass surgery. Shortly after that he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease which led to kidney failure. He began dialysis in 1997 and it became the mainstay of his life, and ours, for the next 17 years.

Dad had a remarkable amount of strength and “never say die” attitude in dealing with his health; he never gave up. Each time we faced a critical diagnosis, and there were many, Dad did whatever was needed to survive, come hell or high water. For 17 years he fought. For 17 years we weathered the storms as a family and pulled enjoyment from life and each other. For 17 years Dad was the patient, Mom the caregiver and I the witness.

Dad was a lively, energetic, compassionate and loving man. He had a quiet dignity about him and was well respected. Dad had volunteered to serve in the army as an engineer during the Vietnam War and carried that military bearing for the rest of his life. He was precise and organized; his favorite motto was “measure twice, cut once.”

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One of  Justin’s “measure twice, cut once” drawings

There was a time when Dad did not “measure twice, cut once.” I can remember when I came home from work one day to find that Dad had hung shelves in my bedroom. As I began to put my knick knacks on the shelves, they promptly fell onto the floor. I took a closer look and saw that the shelves weren’t level. I told Dad that my shelves were crooked, and he said that there was no way they were crooked because he had precisely measured before he hung them. To demonstrate the crookedness, I placed a small item on the lower shelf and watched as it slid to the floor. Dad gave me a nasty look as I giggled. He got his tools to re-measure and re-hang the shelves, this time perfectly parallel to the floor, straight as an arrow. For Christmas that year I found him a Gary Larson “Far Side” comic that pictured an art gallery in which all of the paintings were hung crooked and wrote “Justin’s Gallery” in the corner. The reason for the paintings being hung that way was because the curator had a kinked neck and to him they looked straight, but to the non-kinked neck people they clearly leaned to the right. Dad scoffed at me when he read the comic, yet had a twinkle in his eye just the same.

The most important lesson I learned, and one that may help others, is that the emotions you experience, and the pain you feel in grief are proof of life. Every breath you take, everything you experience, and every moment you are aware of your unbearable pain is proof of life. It is proof that you are alive and living in a beautiful, vibrant world. You are not wonderful, but you are healing, and joy and happiness will return in time. The experience of grief will not be easy, it will not be over quickly and you will not enjoy it, but embrace the grief as proof that you are alive. Dad’s death taught me about proof of life, and it is something that I will never forget.

THIS STORY CONTINUES IN THE TALES2INSPIRE™

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TOPAZ COLLECTION

 

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FINALIST – 2013

* SNOW PATROL AND WHAT THEY MEAN TO ME by Melissa Dallago

As part of the human condition, we try to forge connections and patterns with the world around us. This may be due in part to our need to have a semblance of balance and order in our lives in what is often a chaotic and ever changing world. As we travel through life, our brains are assimilating information and creating connections between the external and internal worlds. Music, I believe, is the strongest example of these connections.

How often have you found yourself listening to the radio and a song begins to play and you have a strong, visceral emotional reaction to it, whether it be a lyric, melody or thumping bass line, something in that song reach into you and shakes you, hard.

Upon being confronted with this reaction, your mind begins to form connections and you may find that the song relates to some facet of your life, either a moment of sadness, a moment of joy, or even a good time in a dance club.  Once that connection has been forged nothing can break it, and whenever you hear that song, you will smile knowingly and remember that moment of epiphany. Even more, that song may become your personal mantra, a source of strength; a part of the soundtrack of your life.  The band that I have forged such a connection with is Snow Patrol.

Snow Patrol has been together for 17 years. I was fortunate enough to find them in 2005 when they played at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida. When the band stepped onto the stage and the guitarist hit the first chords I felt myself come alive as the vibrations went through my body. This was my first time hearing their music, but instantly, I felt that I had known their music forever and that we were very old and comfortable friends.

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The very next day I tracked down their album Final Straw. I listened to the album continuously and I sang along trying to match harmonies and failing miserably. I forged connections with the songs and they altered my perspective on some of the events that were then occurring in my life.

Snow Patrol’s songs have masterful lyrics. You can listen to the songs over and over again, and while the lyrics may appear simple, if you listen to the tone of voice the lead singer Gary Lightbody uses and the open, poetic nature of the lines, you can infer a much deeper meaning from the song. Their lyrics are amazingly flexible, yet intimate; each person listening can take away an entirely different meaning. This lyrical ability is what, in my opinion, makes Snow Patrol so special. There are so many levels to their songs, some simple, others deeply complex, yet all true to life and comforting. They may sing about painful experiences, yet in each chord, each utterance, they offer hope and light.

At every juncture of my life Snow Patrol’s music has been relevant. When someone told me to “Open My Eyes” to the troubles of my three year relationship, their album Eyes Open played continuously. Upon opening my eyes I saw that the man who I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with was, in fact, an alcoholic who was not only destroying himself, but me as well. Snow Patrol’s music gave me the courage to make the painful decision to end my relationship and move into my first apartment. Their soft lyrics calmed and embraced me as I cried and mourned the loss of my relationship.

Their steady bass line urged me down the path to truly discovering my inner strength and determination in learning who I really was. The “Lightening Strike” happened after I successfully conquered my inner demons and met my true self for the very first time. The song “Take Back the City” celebrated with me as I reached a pinnacle moment in my life when I discovered that I was a strong, amazing and fierce woman. Snow Patrol’s album A Hundred Million Suns echoed my shining happiness and joy in learning to truly accept and love myself.

Yet the happiness did not last as I began to “Run” after my father died in 2010. I grieved his passing for two long silent years when Snow Patrol’s songs were not played. During that time I experienced a darkness and depth of sadness that I never thought possible. Yet over time my pain eased and Snow Patrol’s music was there to welcome me back and reminded me that “This Isn’t Everything You Are.” Their album Fallen Empires gave me the reassurances that “Called Me Out of The Dark” as “Those Distant Bells” of life beckoned to me.

As my “Life-ning” began to happen I met my true love David. As we developed our relationship Snow Patrol’s song “Make This Go On Forever” was always on my mind. As the “Engines” of our love began to fire I sensed that my Dad had a hand in helping me to find David. Dad always said “You Could Be Happy” with the right person, and I am truly happy for the first time in my life. Snow Patrol’s music played when David and I decided to “Just Say Yes” to beginning a life together.  We moved in together last year, and a day does not pass without my being thankful to my Dad and the powers above for helping me to find a man who is my lover, my partner, and my best friend to share my life and “Chocolate” with.

Snow Patrol’s music has always played at each “Finish Line” in my life. Their music has become an affirmation of my life, love and existence. As Snow Patrol’s music and talents have evolved, so have I.

Seven years after our original meeting, Snow Patrol returned to St. Petersburg, Florida and blazed onto the stage at Janus Landing on March 31, 2012. Their concert was a homecoming for me and a musical review of how I have grown and how far I have come. At the end of their amazing concert, I was hopeful for a brighter future.

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Snow Patrol is an amazing band and I look forward to having their music as a part of my life for the next 7 years. It would be nice if they came back before that, but whenever they come back I will be there cheering them on again. This is why Snow Patrol means so much to me; their music is my touchstone, my anthem, my soundtrack.

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* MAINTENANCE FOR MY SOUL: THE MAN FROM NOWHERE by Cami Ann Hofstadter

“Better be careful with that little bundle of yours.”

The voice startled me as I cradled my 6-week old son, “Toots,” while tiptoeing to my car from the neurosurgeon’s office in a small, one-story building. Leaving the usual puddles as its calling card, a typical Florida storm had come and gone quickly and made me mindful of each step. Tears partially clouded my view of a broom and pail at the edge of the parking lot. I stopped.

 “E-e-a-sy now.”

Towering over me was a burly, dark-skinned man in a white shirt and dark blue pants which I assumed to be the uniform of some maintenance crew. A large set of keys hung from his belt and he held a squeegee in one hand, as if getting ready to do something about the wet patches. I didn’t bother with a response because my mind was in the grip of fear over what was going to happen to my baby.

When “Toots” was born, my mother-in-law took to calling him “doll boy” because he was as perfect in her mind as a baby could be. His round face was topped with a wisp of blonde hair and his eyes were as blue as the waters surrounding Miami where we lived. He ate and slept like a champ and showed early signs of being a good-natured, easy-to-care-for baby. The pediatrician had declared him “perfectly healthy.” There was just one thing he wanted to have checked out by a neurosurgeon, he said, and that’s what had taken me to the small building I knew so well from our old friend Zacharias, who had his long-time dental practice in the same place.

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Toots at 4 months of age

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Growing s-o-o big

“Wait…,” the man said when he saw me turn away. “Why are you crying?” His voice was both insistent and surprisingly velvety for such a big man. You can tell me.

“N-n-no,” I stammered. The thought of sharing my despair with a stranger made my stomach churn. I come from strong Scandinavian stock and we’re all about not showing vulnerability in the face of adversity.

At first I hadn’t been alarmed when our pediatrician felt something unusual on the top of my baby’s head. “We want to make sure the bones aren’t growing together prematurely,” he said in his usual, calming way. I completely trusted this old-timer in the community, this man who was often called “the doctor’s doctor.” It wasn’t until the recommended consultation that I understood the life-threatening situation. First I watched in amazement as the specialist laid his hands on the head of “Toots” and almost instantly pronounced, He needs surgery. Then he said the plates he’d have to put into the skull were part of a procedure that he often performed but – and, somehow, I already sensed there was going to be a “but” with this doctor – the real danger was in the anesthesia. He rambled on about statistics and low percentages of survival as I stoically tried to take it all in, till it hit me. Toots was going to die.

I don’t recall how I got from the doctor’s office to the edge of the pathway. I just wanted to get into my car without having to talk with anyone, but then that man seemingly appeared from nowhere.

“Is it the baby? Something the matter with him?”

I was surprised when I heard myself speak, but somehow the look of genuine compassion in the eyes of this stranger made me feel as if he already knew what I was going to say. “My baby is dying… he won’t survive the operation… I’m going to lose him …”, I whimpered.

He put his hand on my arm and, strangely, this gesture made the words that followed stick in my mind. “I’ve been around a long time; never missed a day of work”, he said slowly with great tenderness. “Believe me, your baby’s not dying; he’ll be fine. Just have faith.”

Normally, if somebody talked about faith I’d recoil. Personal statements like that cut into the very core of everything ingrained in me from my Scandinavian upbringing, particularly when they had to do with spiritual matters. Embarrassed, I mumbled something and hurried into my car. But in the flurry of the coming weeks his words stayed with me. When the pediatrician agreed with the surgeon and everyone decided the only chance for a normal life was the operation, I suddenly thought of the maintenance man and I was surprised by an overwhelming wave of hope. But hope turned to self-recrimination. What kind of mother was I? What foolish person would listen to somebody like that talk about a life-threatening matter? Who was that man, anyhow? With stubborn resolve I finally managed to push the stranger out of my mind.

Two hours before the scheduled surgery one of the nurses called for us.

THIS STORY CONTINUES IN THE TALES2INSPIRE

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Emerald Collection 

winner_mintWINNER – 2013

LEGACY OF LOVE by Micki Peluso

 I stood in the small church, supported by the prayers of loved ones, mantled with the soulful whine of the church organ playing its dirge of death. I felt a separation of mind and body.  Someone was standing here, but it couldn’t be me. The smell of incense permeated my senses, overwhelming with its cloying scent. Next to me, covered with a shroud, stood the casket of my child. I would not look at it, could not.

The words of the priest droned on and on, completing the Mass, and the ceremony finally drew to a close, but I was lost in a sea of unrelated thought. I heard nothing; I felt nothing, except a desire to be done with this, to be free to face my grief alone.

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 Remembering Noelle

The ride to the cemetery was torturously slow. We climbed the long winding mountain road to the top of the cemetery, surrounded by grotesquely beautiful tombstones, the only proof of former lives.It was over at last. We walked, my family and I, down the endless aisle of concerned, tear streaked faces, united in a mélange of emotion, following the one who would never again walk among us. Then out into the overcast day, whose sun had the dignity not to shine, we entered the limousines and headed for the cemetery to say our final goodbye.

Surely this was just a dream. I would awaken soon and rebuke the nightmare that enveloped my senses, sighing with relief. Oh God, please let this be a dream. But no, the grass was too lushly green. Tear shaped droplets of rain hung precariously from misted, succulent leaves. The dark gray clouds swirling in anger as the sun tried vainly to push them aside in a futile effort to dominate the day, were too real. Yes, this was actually happening.

There were over a hundred people standing behind me; their silence bearing down upon me like the crush of ocean waves. I fought the compulsion to slide into oblivion and let this travesty proceed without me.

There was a small crucifix on top of the darkly ominous box which was now my daughter’s residence. I tried to focus on that one object in an effort to retain my sanity. The voice of the priest, overflowing with empathy, broke the silence with, I was told later, a moving and beautiful eulogy. His words rained down over me, covering me with compassionate warmth, but I comprehended no meaning. Closing my mind to everything around me, the box and I stood alone together in the macabre stillness of a lonely mountain top, whose residents, except for birds and trees, were all stone cold and unfeeling.

There was no life here, not even serenity, just the vacuous emptiness of space and time, devoid of animation. What a cruel, unlikely place to leave one who was so vivacious, so seething with spirit, so very much alive. I had to leave this place. My daughter was not here.

After the funeral, our family unit was forever altered. Yet life went on and swept us along; children had to be fed and cared for, careers had to be maintained.

The ten-day wait in the Intensive Care Unit was over. Family, neighbors and friends moved on with their own lives and we were forced to continue ours, in spite of the gaping hole left by the absence of Noelle. There would be no more hovering by her bedside, praying for the miracle that would heal her severed spinal cord; broken by the thoughtless drunk driver who struck her down in broad daylight miracle that was not meant to be. Noelle’s fourteen years of life were over and her two brothers, three sisters, her father and I had to somehow face the future without the child who had lit up our lives and had given us constant pleasure.

The other children reacted in different ways. One became bulimic and suicidal, another, anxious and panic stricken. Yet another raced his car at high speeds, defying death to take him too, while his brother became withdrawn, depressed and barely spoke. Our oldest child, at twenty one, left home to deal with her grief away from us; we caused her too much pain.

Two years later, our oldest daughter had married and was bearing her firstborn child. She had a long and life threatening labor and did not, nor did the rest of us, notice that when she finally brought her son into the world–it was on the day that Noelle died. Upon realizing this, she was horrified and sobbed as she lay in recovery. The rest of us were equally appalled and awestruck by what by what we perceived to be one of life’s cruel ironies.

And then the miracle happened. During the next few years the tragic day that claimed the life of Noelle became, instead, the birthday of a beautiful little boy. Noelle had somehow sent us the gift of healing. Today, as we continue to celebrate that day, our grief is temporarily put aside, and the memories of Noelle have become sweet, bittersweet, yet softened by the little boy born on the date she died. Ian was two years old when he told his mother, Kim, that “when I grow up and become Noelle, the truck will miss me.”

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Ian’s son. Seth at age 2, visiting Noelle

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Ian’s son. Seth at age 2, departing gravesite

At 14 years old, he traveled with his grandmother to Rome and in a narrow alley, a car whizzed by and the rearview mirror (like the one that severed Noelle’s spinal cord) missed him by inches. Other grandchildren seemed obsessed with Noelle as well, even though we did not speak of her often. Nicole’s two year old son, Nicholas told his mother that Noelle was in the room with them. His mother thought he meant her picture but he insisted he could see her. It was her birthday. Kelly’s son, Brandon pointed at the ceiling and babbled until he could talk and then reported seeing Noelle everywhere, once in the front seat of the car next to his mother. He claimed that Noelle had told him not to play in the street with the big boys. He also claimed that he could not see Noelle as often around Christmas because the sky was filled with angels. There were many instances like this. As I lay dying from back to back heart attacks, Noelle came to her father, smiled and gave him the thumbs up—I lived. These visits we believe were Noelle’s way of assuring us that her soul was alive and well, her way of easing our grief–her legacy of love.

 

 

* NEW LIFE IN THE COUNTRY – by Luke Potter

Building your own home can be an incredibly satisfying journey, particularly as you see your dreams take shape and become real. This is the story of my wife Leanne and me in following our dreams to build a kit home in the district of Budgeree at the foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges of southern Australia. Starting with practically nothing, we were amazed at what we were able to create using a good plan, some basic skills and a clear idea of what we really wanted.

Once you have lived in the country, it is difficult to return to the boundaries of suburban life. However, like many, that is what Leanne and I did at differing times of our lives. Leanne grew up in Budgeree – a place of rolling grassy hills that in the closing decades of the 19th century was cleared for dairy cattle and is now the home to an eclectic mix of beef cattle, market and hobby farmers, and simply those seeking a quieter life. She left for Melbourne to study teaching in her late teens, but home was never far away. A two-hour drive would see her at the kitchen table of her parents, with coffee in hand, catching up on local news.

I had but fleeting experiences of the country compared with Leanne, but those experiences have stayed with me. Most memorable was living in the hinterland of northeastern Australia whilst in my early teens.  Pineapple farms, friendly people that would treat you as one of their extended family, bare feet, and living most of the day outside made me feel as though I was truly home.

This yearning to return to the country grew inside Leanne and me to the point where we were unable to ignore it any longer. So we made the decision to sell our home in the suburbs, and move to that part of Budgeree where Leanne grew up.

We arrived in Budgeree in January 2007 to a bare paddock, and a shipping container filled with our personal belongings from our previous home. Our only refuges were our caravan and a rickety and breezy shack. Built in the 1880s as the original district schoolhouse, the shack was pulled down on bullock dray from the settlement of Budgeree in 1901. It was then converted into a house, and mid last century was turned into a hayshed. In its current form, it offered some protection from the rain and no protection from the wind and cold, but did sport two working fireplaces.

We had just returned from a trip around Australia financed from the sale of our home in the suburbs, towing the camper van that would be our home for the next 4 months. Leanne and I are people that love to explore roads less travelled, filled sometimes with excitement, sometimes with apprehension of what the next bend in the road may bring. And, it was in these extremely remote places that we got to know each other all over again and found a sense of contentment in living simply. Thoughts of self-sufficiency and to living more in-tune with nature crystallized into ideas for our new home.

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The TALES2INSPIRE™  topaz reduce_1  Topaz Collection

 

finalist FINALIST – 2012

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Luke is an Electronic Systems Engineer and Computer Scientist with a passion for sustainable technologies that can help make our life easier and reduce our impact on the planet. Luke seeks to challenge our thinking about sustainable building and living. It is not about spending a fortune to achieve a meagre gain. Rather, it is about living a comfortable life, lowering your dependence on consumption, and living in harmony with the earth and all things around you. Luke lives at Budgeree House with his wife Leanne, and his three children – Lauren, Ryan and James. Click here to visit his website. 

* UNLIKELY CONNECTIONS by Anne Knorr

I smiled as I hung up the phone from my conversation with my sister, Nancy…the universe really can be quite generous at times. Not only would I be able to sneak away for a coveted weekend with her in St. Louis but on my return flight to Denver International Airport I would be able to see my cousin, Clark.

Clark was the youngest in a group of cousins separated by only a few years. Most of us were born between 1952 and 1958 but he was the straggler, arriving in 1963. As a child, Clark was known as the ‘pest’, the five year age gap glaringly obvious to those of us over the age of eight. In time, he outgrew us all, reaching 6’-7” in stature and obtaining a doctorate’s degree in mechanical engineering. As a kid he had designed a rubric’s cube with an extra row and column to make the game a bit more challenging. My method was to simply pull off the colored squares and place them where they all matched if I got stuck. Perhaps this is why he has a mathematical theory named after him and I do not.  In contrast to his height and intelligence was a child-like naiveté and gentleness that was endearing.

As children our paths crossed every year or so when the sisters (our mothers) reunited in Alliance, Ohio or St. Louis, Missouri. When the reunion was in St. Louis, the three sisters and nine cousins would gather together for a ride on the river boat named the Admiral. It would mosey up the Mississippi river for a leisurely afternoon while we danced to music, played cards and pinball machines or just wondered around the boat taking in the scenery. Our encounters have been less frequent in recent years; weddings and funerals or an occasional conference here or there, so the chance meeting at the airport was a welcomed surprise. Clark would be in Denver for a two hour layover as he waited for the flight on the last leg of his epic journey.  After several weeks in Ethiopia, he was returning home to his eight-month pregnant wife and two blond haired, blue eyed, pre-school daughters. Accompanying him were four new family members, Elsa, Yeshi, Sintayehu, and Kasanesh. What began as a simple desire to relieve the plight of an orphaned child grew into the adoption of four teenage girls from Ethiopia. The five sojourners had trekked across the world enduring grueling hours on airplanes and endless waits in airports as they moved closer towards their home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Clark and his family

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TALES2INSPIRE™ Emerald_RD EMPIRE COLLECTION 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anne Knorr is a licensed architect in Colorado and has been the principal of an architectural firm for over 20 years designing homes. She is also a practicing spiritual director and writer.  Anne has written and lectured about the connection between architecture and spirituality and offers workshops and retreats on the topic. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband where she enjoys hiking the trails near her home.

 

Get more info, ‘how to’s’ and ‘what if’s’ about Lois’ Tales2Inspire project

 

 

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