Apr. 15th, 2009

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My dad's getting inducted into my hometown's Hall of Fame

From the announcement


Through his efforts for children, his church and his community, the late Marty O’Neill was a tireless volunteer.
From coaching girls’ softball to his caring church work, through his participation in the Park Forest Area Chamber of Commerce, O’Neill was a solid and consistent force for good in the community.

He served as a mediator for St. Irenaeus Catholic Church called upon by Fr. Daniel O’Sullivan to solve conflicts among parishioners. Marty lead through fairness and patience to establish a peaceful atmosphere within the group. He was instrumental in helping an organization assisting alcoholics and their families locate in Park Forest.
Fr. O’Sullivan supported Marty’s nomination, calling him a “man of character.”

As an extraordinary volunteer in the Park Forest Area Chamber of Commerce, O’Neill gave his time, talents and strengths to enable the organization to prosper prior to its merger with the Matteson Area Chamber of Commerce.

As a coach, he helped build character and served as a positive role model to his charges, being especially supportive to those who needed it most.
He and wife Georgia O’Neill, now a Park Forest trustee, raised three children. O’Neill, a 35-year resident of Park Forest, died in 2005 after a three-year battle with cancer. Before his death, he received a Leadership Certificate from Barack Obama.

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Dec. 7th, 2008

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Putting a cute face on cancer survival

My inspiring and adorable young cousin was profiled in a story in her local newspaper:

"I used to think if I ever got cancer I would lay down and roll into a ball," she said. "But you can't. That is not an option."

During the tests, she continued her tumbling lessons. She dreamed of being a cheerleader her senior year of high school. But when she was diagnosed with cancer, the doctors said the lessons had to stop.

But when doctors told her she likely would not be able to attend the first day of her senior year, she told them, "Miss my first day of school my senior year ... I don't think so. I am going, straight up."

She's hilarious. And as you can see from the picture I borrowed from her Facebook pics (hope you don't mind, Megan! :) ), utterly adorable.

Sep. 18th, 2008

sad face, baby clyde, sorry

Big diagnosis for my sister-in-law

Johnny & Terry DI haven't heard any detail, really, but I spoke with my mom briefly and found out that my sister-in-law(ish *) was just diagnosed with MS.

This is certainly serious news, but it isn't too much of a surprise; though I wouldn't have been able to predict the diagnosis, per se, she's had so many discrete health problems in the past few years that a broader diagnosis seemed somewhat inevitable.

You all have been so generous with the good wishes for me during my surgery and recovery; my bandages are now off and my stitches trimmed. I'm definitely on the mend. If you're the good-thought-thinking type, please send any spare good thoughts you now have to my sister-in-law Terry. I know she'll appreciate it.

*This links to a filtered post, sorry - the gist of the post is that my brother and his girlfriend couldn't really get married for reasons relating to the benefits they receive, but they had a commitment ceremony and are regarded by my family as effectively married.

Aug. 9th, 2008

sad face, baby clyde, sorry

Sad news about Karsten's dad

Karsten’s father passed away yesterday. He was 84, and he’d been dealing with a variety of illnesses including emphysema (despite having never smoked a day in his life) and prostate cancer (which he beat — it was the treatment that led to complications). So while his death was not entirely unexpected, it was still rather sudden.

He hasn’t decided if he wants to be present for the visitation, but I think he’s leaning towards going. I’m navigating this as carefully as I can, because even though I know Karsten and his dad had a complicated relationship, I think Karsten is more affected than he expected to be.

We’ve been through so many shades of loss in the ten years we’ve been together, from the long, drawn-out, excruciating loss of my own father to the abrupt and devastating loss of Karsten’s mother, and now the sudden and emotionally puzzling loss of his father. We could really write a book. I suppose it would be more appropriate if we just wrote a song. Maybe that’s the project for this week.

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Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

Mar. 23rd, 2008

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Grace or casseroles? A non-believer’s musings on prayer

I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” on one of my flights a few weeks ago. (It’s a wonderfully insightful and beautifully written book; I highly recommend it.) There’s a passage where the author, having recently developed a personal relationship with prayer and a self-styled spirituality, is describing an exchange with her pragmatic sister, Catherine.

A family in my sister’s neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy when both the mother and her three-year-old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, “Dear God, that family needs grace.” She replied firmly, “That family needs casseroles,” and then proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing the family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this is grace.

Karsten and I got talking about my father’s death. My father was a popular man, loved by many in his town and with a wide circle of friends and family across the country. Many people were praying for him as he waged his fight with cancer. Some people would probably conclude that the prayers must not have been very effective since the cancer ultimately won. But even as a non-spiritual person, I think that’s an unfair characterization of the effects of that praying. I would never attempt to claim that there is no power in prayer. I just don’t think it’s the only vehicle for the conveyance of caring, and it’s loaded with religious affiliation, which has no appeal to me. But I have no trouble accepting the possibility, perhaps not as a direct result of prayer, but perhaps resulting indirectly from the quantities of people who simply told my father and the rest of his family that they were praying for him, that my father died with more awareness of how loved he was, and that we, his family, could accept his death with more comfort because we knew how loved he was.

Maybe you wouldn’t call that the power of prayer, per se. And I would agree that it’s something different, but I think — and this is a non-believer attempting to understand the minds of believers, so I may have it entirely wrong — but I think there’s something uniquely potent about prayer to a believer that is somehow not present in the offerings of “thoughts” or “good vibes” or “positive energy,” or any number of alternatives you or I might suggest.

That’s the struggle I have as a non-believer who wants to offer comfort to my loved ones. I wish I had something I could offer my cousin’s family as they’re dealing with my 17-year-old cousin battling lymphoma. I have told them I’m thinking about them, but I feel acutely that that’s not as powerful a statement as telling someone you’re praying for them. To my eyes, as a non-believer, that’s the power of prayer: a communication shortcut that says you want to intercede for someone; that you feel their situation merits grace, and you’re looking to powers bigger than yourself to provide it.

But without that communication shortcut, I guess I find myself in the role of the pragmatic sister, trying to think of when and how to make the proverbial (or literal) casseroles and hope that they are received as grace. (Here I should mention how humbling it is to have a sister who is both a praying person and a casserole maker in the most active sense — she was recently awarded Citizen of the Year in her hometown for her efforts in setting up a non-profit organization that helps the poor and needy in her otherwise well-to-do suburb. She’s a double-helping of grace.) What I lack in spirituality I make up for in plain old compassion, but how can I be of much practical use to a family hundreds of miles away? There’s a missing ingredient that could help bridge the distance, and to say “I’m thinking of you” sounds hollow.

I suppose it’s relevant in some way that I’m musing about this on Easter morning. I have no real ties to Easter: nothing about its religious implications carries weight with me, and the childhood chocolate-fest is behind me. Even the pagan traditions offer little to the pragmatic, so it’s simply a Sunday when more businesses are shuttered than usual. But there is something about the hope of renewal, the rituals of rebirth that carry through from the pagan to the Christian traditions, in welcoming spring and recognizing the cyclical nature of life — something about that does appeal to me. (Maybe it’s the gardener in me.) I know I’m looking for a chance to discover something in myself — some offering I can provide to those who need comfort that feels as powerful as prayer and does as much good as casseroles.

I don’t expect to find the answer today. But I’m asking the question, and questions are more important than answers.

Happy Easter, happy March equinox, happy Sunday, happy day. I’m thinking of you.

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Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

Feb. 13th, 2008

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Wondering what to do for Valentine’s Day? (In the Nashville area, that is)

I bet there are a lot of posts out there that offer suggestions for how to spend your chilly February 14th, and ordinarily mine would be “stay snuggled up in bed” but since my mom is going to be in town, I needed something a little better suited to mixed company. So here’s my suggestion:

Valentine Celebration

Matraca Berg - Suzy Bogguss - Raul Malo - Gretchen Peters
with Orchestra Nashville - Paul Gambill, conductor

Grace Chapel
in Leiper’s Fork

We’re actually going to the Friday night show, and I’m sure it’ll be amazing. Gretchen, as I’ve mentioned once or twice before, lives in our neighborhood and is a fantastic songwriter. Matraca Berg is, well, only one of my songwriting heros, and Suzy Bogguss and Raul Malo are wonderful singers and songwriters whom I respect and admire very much.

And what’s even more wonderful is this: the publicist for the show has offered a 15% discount for folks using the promo code ‘honeybowtie’. Seems he saw my link posted a few weeks ago and wanted to reassure me that it would indeed be “something good to do.”

I told my mom, and she’s excited. Karsten and I can’t wait.

And I hope to see you there, too!

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Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

Jun. 17th, 2007

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Long term relationship = communication shorthand

him: I need to see a movie with lots of explosions and death.
me: Oh, did you call your dad?

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Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

Nov. 11th, 2006

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Veterans Day ponderings

It’s Veterans’ Day, and it’s my niece’s birthday. Prior to last year, that was a point most often acknowledged by the joke about how, the day my niece was born, it was also Labor Day for my sister. Last year, the overlap gained new significance as my dad — her grandfather — had just died (on 11/5), and was to be buried in a veterans’ cemetary. The funeral was on 11/10. I thought a lot that day about how hard my niece’s birthday the next day would be for her. In fact, one of my most daunting challenges all that week was trying find a birthday card that said the right variation on “hope you have a happy birthday anyway.”

= = =

My dad’s service in the Army back in the ’50s was as an Arabic linguist, so his work was in Military Intelligence. We didn’t discuss it often when I was growing up, but we knew it. I’ll never forget the first argument we had after 9/11. He’d been visiting me and Karsten in Portland on 9/10 while traveling on business, and then had to go on to Vancouver, BC. Following the restrictions of 9/11, he was stuck in Canada for a few days. When he came back a few weeks later to complete his business trip, we walked along the Cumberland River and got into a heated argument about why. If I could have it to do again, I’d shut the hell up and listen to him. I didn’t have to agree with him, but he was an expert on the region (albeit with dated expertise), and I just might have learned a thing or two instead of presuming he was coming from a place of conservatism and closed-mindedness.

= = =

Here’s a bit of trivia: I almost joined the military myself; did you know that? I was all set to follow in my father’s footsteps, as a military linguist. I scored very well on the ASVAB and absolutely rocked the DLAB. Highest score ever recorded in the state of Illinois, they told me. When I told my dad, he beamed and said he’d scored the highest ever recorded in the state of Maryland when he took it, and then he hugged his little language-learning-freak daughter. Over the next few weeks, though, the Army stalked me. Recruiters called me morning and evening, recruiters tried to give me rides home from school, recruiters made a nuisance of themselves. And I felt positively cornered. So I told them to get lost. It took a lot of repeating myself to get the message across, but eventually they did give up and go away.

So, this is embarassing to admit, but on 9/11, one of my first feelings was guilt. With my score on the DLAB, I knew I may very well have been an Arabic linguist, and there may very well have been something I could have done to better prepare us as a country. I know, I know, it’s a ridiculous, arrogant thought. Like I said, it’s embarassing to admit. But it was an honest reaction, and a well-meaning one.

= = =

My boyfriend during the first few years in college was an Army Ranger. He was in the reserves, though, so after basic training, he only had to report for duty one weekend each month. He came over to see me on a break from his duty one weekend, but there was a miscommunication and no one knew where he was. He was actually AWOL, which both freaked me out (AWOL? just to see me?!) and amused me greatly. The scariest part was when his grandmother found out. She got really mad at him. The Army should have recruited her as a drill sergeant. She was terrifying.

= = =

After writing all this out, all that’s left is to sincerely thank the people who’ve actually put up with the recruiters, gone through with enlistment, and who’ve done something for our country. There are many ways to serve a concept you believe in, and the military is one dangerous way to serve the concept of the greatness of the USA. It’s a concept that we don’t always live up to, but I deeply appreciate the work of those who believe in it enough to risk their lives for.

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Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

Dec. 23rd, 2003

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Sisterly love

This post is password protected. You can read it at The Bee Hive, where it was originally posted. Please leave any comments there.

Nov. 13th, 2003

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Update on Dad from my sister

Her messageCollapse )

I hope this e-mail reaches everyone in good health, and happy! Dad finished his radiation last week in time to accompany my mom to a business conference in Galena, IL. Unfortunately, he became very ill during the time they were in Galena. Delayed effects of the radiation. My mom said it was tough to concentrate on the business matters with him being sick in the room. She, and those with her, tried to make him as comfortable as possible.
We visited with them yesterday, for [name of Kate’s niece]’s 16th birthday. He is skinnier, but feeling better. In fact he will be traveling today through tomorrow for business. His first trip away in quite awhile. I asked him if he remembered how to do that, he said he thought it would come back for him.
He does not have an appointment with his oncologist until Dec. 1st. So we will eagerly await some morsels of good news upon that visit.
Again thank you for your prayers and support. That has lifted my mom and dad up to battle this disease with strength and determination. Thank you!
Peace, love, and prayers for you and your families!
[sister’s name]

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Originally published at The Bee Hive. You can comment here or there.

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February 2011




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