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The Rockwood Files: Dear Greg

rockwood files colorBy Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Dear Greg,

April sucks. It really does. Each year as the calendar creeps closer to April 20th, the knot in my throat gets a little bigger each day until I’m nearly choking on the reality that I’ve missed you for another whole year.

It’s been 14 years now since I got that phone call that changed everything for me and for Mom and Dad. If I let myself, I can almost replay the conversation line by line. I can hear exactly how the police officer sounded when he told me you’d died.

“That can’t be right,” I said. “Are you sure? Are you sure?”

“We’re sure, ma’am. I’m sorry, but we’re sure.”

The days and months after that phone call are still a grey blur in my memory. When you’re 28 years old, you’re not supposed to write your brother’s obituary, so you try to block out as much of the shock and pain as your mind will allow.

The only things I remember clearly are a handful of moments that felt like some kind of text message straight from Heaven – a little sign here and there that made me feel like maybe you were still around, even though I couldn’t see you.

People who haven’t experienced a major loss might think those “signs” are just wishful thinking, and there’d be no point in trying to convince them otherwise. You believe it when it happens to you and not a moment sooner.

gregpic3Losing you has taught me so much about life and loss and grief and joy. I’ve learned that “getting through” a loss is the thing we have to hope for because the loss doesn’t really have a finish line, which makes “getting over” it impossible. When my kids do something funny that reminds me of us when we were growing up, I want to tell you about it so badly.

I want to sit around the table again with you and Mom and Dad and watch you eat more lasagna than any human should ever consume at one sitting and be partly grossed out and partly impressed at the same time. I want to hear the jokes you’d make about all the crazy things that have happened in the world since you left it. Nobody made me laugh the way you did.

Every time something happy or sad or funny or unbelievable happens and you’re not around, I feel the loss again – like a thousand little cuts that pierce deep enough to remind me about the grief that lives just under the surface.

But here’s the thing that makes it better. Now and then when I see something ridiculous on the news, the joke you probably would have made pops right into my head. So I just say it for you and take the credit. And my oldest son – the one who just turned 13 – he rolls his eyes almost exactly the way you did. Our middle kid, Jack, has hair that looks like yours did, and his little sister, Kate, hums while we’re in the car and it annoys her brothers the same way it annoyed you when I used to do it.

Gosh, I wish you were here to see it. But I also have a deep sense that you’re not really missing a thing – that you have a ringside seat to everything that happens and that you nudge a guardian angel in our direction any time we need it. Thanks for that. You always were a protective big brother. I’m lucky that way.

Love,

Gwen

gwen-headshot-2014Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

Maddi’s Fridge book to help ‘friends who have empty refrigerators’ in NWA

Maddie's fridge, girl with snackpack

Every week, Samaritan Community Center sends over 8,000 Snackpacks to preschools and elementary, middle and high schools throughout NWA to be distributed to children who are at-risk for hunger over the weekends and school breaks.

While school attendance provides them the security of meals through the Federal school nutrition program, weekends and breaks bring anxiety to these children as to when food may or may not be available.

The Snackpacks for Kids program stands in the gap for families living in poverty by eliminating the need to trade one necessity for another: nutritious food for rent, utilities, transportation and healthcare. The children are able to face Fridays free of hunger anxiety, no longer worried if there is enough food at home to stretch until their next healthy meal at school.

While the Snackpacks for Kids program allows children to arrive at school on Monday morning healthy, attentive and eager to learn, Samaritan Community Center knows some of their greatest allies are their friends and school community.

How do they equip kids to encourage their friends to hope and dream beyond their circumstances? It starts with awareness.

maddi's fridge bookWhen a Samaritan staff member discovered Maddi’s Fridge, she knew it was the perfect resource to bring awareness in a way that children are able to relate and respond.

Maddi’s Fridge weaves the reality of childhood hunger into a story of friendship and community, encouraging young readers to “help friends who have empty refrigerators.”

Now Samaritan wants to share this book with children across NWA. Their goal is to have two copies of Maddi’s Fridge in every elementary school library in Benton, Washington, Carroll and Madison Counties (164 books total).

Samaritan is asking that WE join them in empowering a generation to aid in the fight against childhood hunger.

You can donate online through May 10 at www.purecharity.com/scc-books. A $10 donation will purchase one book while $20 will supply one school library and $250 will empower an entire school district! You can even select your gift to go towards a specific school. Who’s in, Motherlode mamas?! Click here to donate :) 

maddiMORE ABOUT SAMARITAN COMMUNITY CENTER: Samaritan Community Center has served Northwest Arkansas since 1989, originally as a local church outreach and since 2002, as an independent, non-profit organization. Their mission as a grace-driven organization is to serve the hurting and hungry through a compassionate community of staff and volunteers. Using a relational approach to operations, they encourage client families to access multiple services to meet immediate physical needs (food, clothing, health care) and to work with licensed social workers and counselors to make positive change towards financial independence and healthier lives.

One out of four Northwest Arkansas children face the physical, emotional and behavioral challenges related to hunger and food insecurity. SCC serves these at-risk children through the Snackpacks for Kids program. Each week 8-10 healthy snacks packed into grocery bags are discreetly placed in participating children’s backpacks for them to take home and consume over the weekends. This program promotes improved nutrition, increased self-esteem and a positive education experience.

For more information, visit www.samcc.org, on Facebook www.facebook.com/samaritancommunitycenter or call Samaritan Community Center at 479.636.4198.

Five Minutes with a Mom: Laurie Miller

Laurie Miller's family, cropped

Name: Laurie Miller

Kids’ names and ages?

Ashley is age 12, and Michael is age 11.

How long have you lived in NWA and what brought you here?

10 years; We came for my husband’s job with Walmart.

Can you tell us about your new ministry for moms with chronic illnesses?

It’s a group for moms with chronic pain or illness that meets regularly for food and friendship.

Having a chronic illness is very isolating, as you tend to disengage from the community around you. Friendships can fade because you no longer have the same things in common, and you can’t participate in as many activities any more.

I wanted to create a group where women with chronic illness can make friends with other moms who understand life, parenting, and being a wife with chronic illness.

What prompted you to start the organization?

Eight years ago I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. When researching for help and support, I found that there were a lot of resources for physical wellness with chronic illness, but not a lot for emotional and spiritual encouragement and resources. I started writing articles about life with different aspects of chronic illness that were published in an online group that I had joined.

Eventually I started a Facebook page called God-Living with Chronic Illness. More recently I created a website with the same name where I will be focusing on providing spiritual encouragement and resources for people with chronic illness.

For several years, I have wanted to have intentional friendships with women who also lived with and understood chronic illness, so that is how the group “God-Living Girls” was born. We chat online regularly and meet when we can for fellowship and just good, plain fun.

We want to open this group up to any mom in the area with chronic pain or illness, whether that illness takes the form of migraines, diabetes, chronic pain, autoimmune issues, or something else, all are welcome.

When is your next public meeting and what will happen at the event?

god living with chronic illnessFriday, May 29th, from 6-9 pm we will be having a Meet & Greet at Panera Bread at 1320 Walton in Bentonville.

We are going to enjoy food and fellowship, and will also have a massage therapist giving 5-minute neck messages to anyone who wants one. All are welcome, and are asked to RSVP to me at 479-381-5347 if they can attend. We will be meeting every 4th Friday for food and fellowship.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

I get the kids up and off to school and then on Mondays, Tuesdays, and every other Wednesday I go to work at Washington Regional Medical Center as a Diabetes Educator. I am an RN and work part-time. When I am not working, I rest a lot so I can have energy to work and spend quality time with my kids and husband. Somewhere in there, I try to keep up with laundry and the housework.

Where do you enjoy hanging out with your family in NWA?

We eat out a lot and go to Barnes & Noble, and the kids love High Rise, of course. My daughter plays soccer, so we go to her games. We play a lot of board games at home, too, and have Nerf Gun Wars.

Which songs are your favorites for getting motivated?

I love KLRC, and am especially encouraged by the song “Blessings” by Laura Story. It is about how God can use the most difficult of circumstances in our lives to bring us blessings. I have definitely found that to be true in my life.

What’s the best part of motherhood for you?

Getting to know the people my children are becoming and getting to invest in their lives for good.

If you could vacation anywhere in the world this summer, where would it be?

London– I love the castles and palaces, and I love getting to know people from a different culture. And the shopping at Harrods!

What’s something you have always wanted to learn?

To play the piano and sing. I love to sing, but I don’t know if other people love to hear me sing!

What three things do you always have with you?

Purse, cell phone, and lipstick.

What’s one of your favorite guilty pleasures?

Shopping! I can spend money with the best of them. (Not always good for the budget, though…)

One word to sum me up …

I wasn’t sure how to answer that question, so with fear and trepidation, I asked my daughter and braced myself for her answer. She said “loving”, and I hope that will always be true in my life. I want to show others the love that God has shown me.

People with chronic illness or other difficulties tend to think that God is harsh and must be punishing them, but I think that God’s tears mingle with our own when we go through tough times.

He cares about us and tells us in the Bible that He collects our tears in a bottle. He also tells us that He will provide for us and take care of us and that we can bring all our anxiety and worry to Him.

That is the message I want to hold up like a banner to those who are hurting. God loves you, has not abandoned you, and wants to provide you hope and joy despite the difficulty in your lives.