Friday, May 30, 2014

Bits & Pieces: T.E.A.M.


I saw lots of evidence of team work taking place throughout Grove in the last few days as various members of the community pulled together to respond to the water crisis.

From city employees working tirelessly to get the repairs made, to community members finding resources for folks in need, Grove residents did what they do best – pulled together to help others.

We even had a bit of teamwork happening in The Grove Sun’s office.

Christian Favalora, our new sports editor, caught the scanner call regarding the barge accident while I was out of the office.

He jumped right in, tackled the story, and kept up with things throughout the two-day process.

It let me stay in the background, work on other stories for today’s issue, and update readers on Facebook.

He did a great job and definitely earned his “stripes” in his second week in Grove. I’m excited to have him be part of the team.


Things taking place this week remind of a favorite anocrym involving the word TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More.

When the dust settles, and the immediate crisis is over, we’ll bring you more information about the incident and how it will impact different aspects in the community.

But for now, kudos to everyone – from local non-profits, businesses, community leaders and city officials, for pulling together during this crisis.

We were fortunate. It could have been much worse.

* * *

During last week's graduation, several things blessed me in the midst of the ceremonies.

One image which continues to resonate with me, involved two young men in wheelchairs with ginormous smiles.

Honestly thought, I'm not sure whose smiles were bigger - the young men, or the women who helped push them into the ceremony.

Kudos to everyone who worked as a team to help them achieve this moment in life. It was awesome to see the happiness shine through their smiles and eyes.

* * *

In the last year, I've had an opportunity to meet and talk with numerous members of the Class of 2014 who have some amazing stories.

One of which involved a young man named Matt Cordero.

To say that Matt impressed me is an understatement. I, and others, expect amazing things to take place in his future.

Matt's managed to not only support himself, and help his mother while attending Grove High School.

He's held down a job, served as a member of the student board at the hospital, balanced volunteering with academic demands, and set a goal for himself - to pursue a career in oncology.

Matt's dad, you see, died from brain cancer. It's made Matt a bit passionate about pursuing a career to help do something about the disease.

He plans to attend Northeastern A&M in Miami and Grove, to get his basics before transferring to Oklahoma State University. He's received several scholarships and honors, which will help get him off to a good start to his higher education goals.

He's even taken the lessons he's learned from the adults mentored him, and worked in the last year to pass them along to freshman in the AVID program - hoping to help them make the right choices in life.

Matt Cordero. Remember that name. I know we'll be hearing it again.

Congrats to the grads. Remember it takes a T.E.A.M. of voices to make it through life. Choose your team wisely.

Editor's Note: This was originally published in the May 30, 2014 issue of The Grove Sun.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Bits & Pieces: Changes

Life is a series of changes.

I love this quote: "Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like." - Lao Tzu

Change is never more so apparent, than on the eve of graduation.

On Saturday, I'll travel to Fayetteville to see three girls I've watched grow into amazing young women, walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.

The three were members of a middle school small group I led (or better yet, they led, I was the "adult" in charge) oh so long ago.

It's bittersweet and yet exciting to see Tanna, Biz and Connor on the brink of adulthood.

On Saturday I'll watch Siloam Springs (Arkansas) High School seniors Elizabeth "Biz" Reisbeck, Tanna Eiland and Connor Bedor (far right) graduate from high school. They are shown along with Tanna's younger sister, Tabitha (second from right).
Tanna plans to be a librarian, Biz, something "math or science" related is my best guess and Connor, well, I'm sure she'll have something with music in her future (she just won a huge music award from the state of Arkansas.)

Hard to imagine the obnoxious squirts who have brought so much joy and laughter to my life for so many years are old enough to be high school graduates.

I'm proud to have them in my life, and proud to be part of this milestone weekend.

If they are reading this, and thinking I'm getting to mushy, here's something to make them laugh - I might just hand you my phone on Saturday and say "have fun calling China."

(Tanna and Bizzy tried without success one day, while we were traveling back from a youth event - I was driving and had to just listen as they giggled in the back of the van.)

Other changes

Speaking of changes, next week we'll be adding to the staff of The Grove Sun.

We will formally introduce him on Tuesday, but beginning Monday Christian Favalora will join the news team as our new Sports Editor.

Let the rejoicing among sports fans begin. I'm excited to have Christian join the team and to bring some new ideas from his time on the staff of the Oklahoma State University's newspaper the O'Colly.

Christian is just one new face you'll see around this summer. The Grove Sun will host an OSU intern thanks to the Oklahoma Press Association's foundation.

Taryn Sanderson, a journalism student from OSU, will be here during June and July learning the ropes of community journalism. We'll tell you more about her in her first week - but I'll tell you this, I'm quite excited to "pick" her brain for some new ideas.

In the meantime, we're still looking for a place for Taryn to live during her eight-week time in Grove. She's bring her car, clothes and cat. So if you have an idea - or know of somewhere we can house her for the eight weeks - let me know. I'd appreciate any housing leads you might have.


It's a season of change. To all of the graduates - high school and college - I'll leave you with two thoughts.

My favorite Bible verse to give to graduates is this "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." - Prov. 3:5-6.

Or this quote from Kate Morton in The Forgotten Garden. "He had the vague sense of standing on a threshold, the crossing of which would change everything.”

Y'all are standing on the threshold of life. Enjoy the changes - the good and the bad - because all together, they make life quite sweet.

So here's the bits and pieces for this week. Have a great weekend, be safe and enjoy the sun!

Editor's Note: This column was originally published in the May 16, 2014 issue of The Grove Sun.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bits & Pieces: Lessons

Have you ever had one of those weeks when little "life lessons" kind of jump out at you in a variety of ways?

You know those lessons. Things that make you "snap" out of a rut and make you stop and go "hum."

Here's a few of the lessons I've been learning.

Take time to relax

Ok, it's no secret - you can probably drive by The Grove Sun office at any given time, and see my car.

In the last year, I've poured a lot of energy and time into the paper. That's a good thing. I like what I'm doing. Really. (To paraphrase from Sally Fields, I "really, really like" you guys.

But now, after a year, I'm learning to take a bit of time for myself. I'm delegating a bit more, having a few stringers we're developing cover a few events. It's not that I don't think that everything is important, it's just that, well, sometimes I need to unplug and shut my brain off.

On Sunday I did that.

Last weekend, I was gifted with a couple of tickets to the Renaissance Festival in Muskogee. It was unexpected and it meant that I got to go to something that's been on "my bucket list" of sorts for years.

I mean, I've heard about the festival for years, but never took the step to go.

Let me tell you, it wasn't what I expected, and it was a whole lot of fun. It's a bit like "dress up" for adults. I won't "out" my friend who gave me the ticket, but let's just say, she really gets into character at the fair.

It was a chance to unwind, relax and well, just have fun with a friend. It was a needed time away.


This quote popped upon my Facebook feed in the last couple of days.

"Show respect even to people who don't deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours." - Dave Willis

Let's face it, we all have bad days, and sometimes we're not perfect. I see this as a reminder that no matter what life tosses at us, we should always reflect what we want to see, not what the person deserves.


It's always cool when people of faith gather to worship. Spending time with people in the community at the National Day of Prayer service, organized by the Grove Area Ministerial Alliance, was quite moving.

It's amazing (I'll probably say this a lot in the next few columns) to see how many people I have met in the last year - this was my second NDP event.

Thanks to the alliance for pulling the service together. I'm glad we live in a community where denomination differences are put aside, and members of the community can gather to worship together.

For those who had to listen to me speak (someone had to talk for the media right?) my deepest apologizes. As I said, with a laugh, I'm a writer, not speaker. Thanks for not throwing tomatoes - and for the encouragement post speech.

This weekend is Mother's Day. If you haven't purchased something nice for your mom, put the paper down and head to the store. (Just kidding.) Take time to tell your mom, grandma, aunt or really, any woman who has played a significant role in your life, how much you love them. It's a funky holiday that reminds us to do something we should do on a daily basis - so use it as an excuse to say "I love you." I promise you won't regret it.

So here's the bits and pieces for this week. Have a great weekend, be safe and enjoy the sun!

Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the May 9, 2014 issue of The Grove Sun. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Bits & Pieces: Pits and Peaks

I have a thing I've used with students I've worked with called "pits and peaks."

Primarily used during the prayer time, or when I asked them to share about their day, I encouraged them to share at least one "peak" - happy thing, and one "pit" - something they are worried, sad or mad about.

I've thought a lot about this, as different things began swirling through my head this week.

It's pretty easy to get caught up in only thinking about "pits."

Let's face it, at times, life is hard. One only has to look at the weekend events in Quapaw, Okla., Baxter Springs, Kan., and Vilonia and Mayflower, Ark., to see that in action.

Life is hard.

But then, like the sunshine at the start of a new day, the "peaks" began to emerge.

People who reached out to help their neighbors in need. Items lost and returned to owners from miles away. Friends pulling together to support the people they love.

There are peaks in life. Sometimes we have to be willing to look up and past the pits to see what is ahead.

So while I could list a few pits here: the messed up execution here in the state, Sarah Palin's statement equating baptism (something I hold very sacred) to a form of acceptable torture, and the way the Christian community at large has seemed to eaten Dan Haseltine (lead singer for Jars of Clay) alive after he posted a series of questions struggling with faith on Twitter - I'm choosing to focus on some peaks.

But on a side note, I hurt with Hasletine and the backlash he is experiencing. I think, from reading his accounts, his questions were meant to simply struggle through the issues - especially after watching 12 Years A Slave and participating in a roundtable discussion in Australia.

While Twitter probably wasn't the best place to struggle with the moral questions plaguing the church, I'm glad that he's at least struggling and asking questions and looking for the grey in a not-so black and white world.

So here they are in no particular order.

1) The Superhero 5K

I forgot to mention last week that I not only took part in the anti-bullying 5K sponsored by the Wyandotte Nation, but I finished - in less than 60 minutes thank you very much.

My "walk/run" time was extended a bit, thanks in part to the train that decided to stall part of the participants mid-race.

Thanks to Vanessa and Missy for encouraging me at the start, and thanks to Cheryl and Jeanie for catching up with me, and then staying with me through the bitter end of the course.

The pair were an inspiration - they are in training to walk a marathon together in November. Cheryl said she can walk one in six and a half hours. No, I'm not there yet, but maybe. Someday.

2) A new cat

A friend and I have "adopted" a cat together. My friend will have "primary" custody, while I'll have visitation rights to Alibi or Ali for short.

Who knows, apparently since I can keep a plant alive, I've graduated to joint ownership of a calico kitten.

It's funny, the girl who never had an indoor cat is writing this column while Alibi is asleep in a newspaper paper box, at her feet.

It's amazing how your stress level decreases when you hold a little bundle of fluff in your arms. I promise not to become one of those "crazy cat owners" and to keep the photos at a minimum on Instagram.

3) Relief

I'm grateful that some ministry colleagues in Arkansas rode through Sunday's tornado without bodily injury. I'm also grateful for friends who have responded to the situation in Vilonia, Ark., to help as needed.

My prayer continue to be with friends at Vilonia United Methodist Church. Buildings and stuff can be replaced. The congregation will rebuild - and my guess be stronger than ever.

Here's a couple peaks I'm looking forward to this weekend: the third annual GRDA Lake Launch on Friday night and Saturday's Burning of the Socks. Both were fun "first events" for me to cover last year, and I'm looking forward to seeing them again as a slightly "seasoned" Grand Laker.

So that's the bits and pieces of this week - a look at my pits and peaks. Have a great week and be safe!

Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the May 2, 2014 issue of The Grove Sun.
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