How Can My Friends’ Worst Phone Call Ever Lead To Someone’s Best?

How Can My Friends’ Worst Phone Call Ever Lead To Someone’s Best?

Joy.

Today, I’m thinking about joy.

Joy, the name of the wife of good friend, Brian.

Joy, the emotion instantly drained from Brian’s heart when he received that phone call a couple weeks ago.

Maybe you’ve gotten one of those phone calls, Dear Reader.

One with the worst news possible.

While Brian was working out of town, Joy was involved in a single-car accident.

He was on the next plane back home, staying by Joy’s side for 10 days.

Stayed there until doctors said there was nothing they could do, explaining that it looked like his wife was there, but she wasn’t. Her brain had no activity. There was no Joy.

But there was something he could do that would change at least four lives.

Would he, could he, give permission to donate Joy’s organs?

What might seem like an obvious answer for you, wasn’t so easy for Brian.

Of everything they had discussed in their 20 years together, they had not gotten clear on organ donation.

“There’s a chance she wouldn’t have wanted to do this,” he shared with me.

She was also the woman who couldn’t turn away a rescue dog or cat.

Who couldn’t say no to that kind of life.

So, Brian said, “Yes,” choosing to make Joy the ultimate rescuer.

“They know for sure they had people waiting for her heart, pancreas, and kidneys,” he shared looking for some glimmer of meaning his tragedy.

“The phone call,” I said. “Maybe we can think about the phone call.”

“As awful as the phone call you got a couple weeks ago,” I offered. “Can we think about the phone call at least four families got this week?”

One with the best news possible.

I reached out to a wonderful family who knows both calls.

My neighbor’s niece, Camden, died in a car accident in 2000. “Her brain injuries were irreversible and we too had to decide whether to donate her organs or hold her when she took her last breath,” her mom, Maury, shared with me.  “We chose life. For others. We donated her organs.”

There’s another chapter to their story.

Eight years after the death of their daughter, Maury’s husband, George, was gravely ill, the one in need. It was as if losing his only daughter and slowly, literally broken his heart. Now, he was the one waiting for a heart transplant.

That’s when they received another midnight phone call, the one telling them there was a new heart for George.

This time the miracle was theirs.

“There’s nothing you can say that’s going to make this all right for Brian,” Maury counseled me. “With grief comes so much guilt and the ‘if only’ and ‘what if’s.’”

I know that.

I prefer for life to feel tied up with a neat little bow instead of the mess of tangled spaghetti it so often does.

Maybe you understand.

Maybe even in the mess, you, too can appreciate how much can change with a single phone call.

Maybe today, you, too, can think about Joy.

Find more stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

My Dog’s Getting The Last Laugh; The Chapter I Didn’t See Coming

My Dog’s Getting The Last Laugh; The Chapter I Didn’t See Coming

Let me say, Dear Reader, that you are amazing.

Wonderful.

Clearly, you’re an over the top dog lover, like myself.

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The emails have been flooding in ever since I shared the latest chapter of my sweet Darla’s life in the column, “My Dog Is Teaching Me A Final Lesson.”

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I shared how my dog has been showing signs of slowing down, how she’s preparing me to let her go after more than 15 years together.

I know, you can’t even think about that with your own dog without pulling out a tissue or a bucket or swimming pool to catch your tears.

You’ve been so sweet to share with me the story of your dog. Of the great love you shared. Of his or her final days. Of how hard it is to say, “Goodbye,” to your best friend.

You’ve also been wonderful in offering advice. Ways to have the vet come over, books to read, videos to watch, poems to read.

The time you’ve taken to help me cope and ultimately grieve has been humbling and overwhelming.

Which leads me to the thing I feel compelled to share this week.

Something I need to let you know, because, well, you and I have that kind of relationship.

See the thing is, my dog is alive.

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Not just alive. Very much alive.

Yes, she’s still over 15 years old. Still deaf. And was definitely having some struggles.

But it seems since I wrote that column a couple weeks ago, Darla has undergone a renaissance of sorts. It’s kind of like when you call the dishwasher repairman and have him show up only to watch the darn machine work just fine.

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I wake up to emails, texts and phone calls bemoaning Darla’s passing, only to see a dog scrambling to get to the front door for our daily walk.

It’s as if she’s living the old quote, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Darla gets the last laugh.

And why not?

We’ve been laughing together since she was a six-week-old puppy and I took her over to a friend’s house for their one-year-old’s birthday party. They freaked out thinking I was gifting them and their baby with a puppy. The punch line was I just didn’t want to leave her home alone.

Darla was probably giggling as I had to email my sweet neighbor, the one who dropped off a condolence card the other day. I explained that he shouldn’t be freaked out if he sees Darla prancing down the street on one of our walks.

She still spends most of the day snoozing behind the couch. I do that thing where I tip toe over to watch, feeling that lump of joy and relief rising up in my throat each time I can see she’s breathing.

Your efforts are not wasted, Dear Reader. The calendar tells me this renaissance cannot last forever. I’ve tucked your email away for the time I will need them.

For now, I’m happy to give Darla this last laugh.

Darla Catches Snowflakes With Her Tongue

Find more stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Is It Just Me? Why Do I Always Do This On Airplanes?

Is It Just Me? Why Do I Always Do This On Airplanes?

I am that lady in Seat 12B.

Maybe even stuck in that middle seat of 27D.

I’m that lady you’re trying to discreetly poke your travel partner. “Check out the woman over there,” you whisper. “She’s crying her eyes out.”

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Dear Reader, what is it about airplanes?

The altitude?

The recycled air?

The isolation 36,000 feet above the ground?

Whatever it is, I’m a goner.

Just say, “Boo,” and I’ll start crying.

Watching a movie, that on the ground would bring a tiny tear to my eye, inspires a flood of water works.

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Recalling a simple, pleasant memory leaves me a mess.

Working on some of my more heartfelt columns— well, forget about it.

My friend, Tricia, who is good at making me not me feel not entirely crazy, confessed one day that she is equally tear-challenged on airplanes, as well.

Now, when either one of us takes a trip, we text, “Safe travels!” along with that particular emoticon face with tears streaming down the cheeks, because we know what’s coming.

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I find myself thinking about this particular condition as I fly back from a trip with my baby sister.

A few months ago she called me and said, “Come join me for a Sisters’ Trip in the French Alps after I wrap up a business meeting!”

There were only two things to say, “Mais oui!” and “Husband, could you please cash in some miles?”

Sister and I had a grand time. We hiked, we laughed, we shopped. We ate. We took care of no one but ourselves.

It was simply bliss.

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As I fly home, I’m thinking about the lifetime gift that is my sister.

I remember our parents telling my brother and me they were going to have another baby.

I remember my brother hauling me in the backyard and threatening me to beat me up if I told any kid on the block that our mom was pregnant. He was 8, I was 7. The difference of that one crucial year meant he understood what our parents had done to create this situation and sure wasn’t going to spread news like that around the neighborhood.

I remember her being born, winning the bet with my brother that the baby would be a girl, as this was back in the day when you had to wait to find that out.

I remember creating slumber parties for her friends, driving her carpool, being her protector, so many of the things a tired older mother is happy to pass onto an older child.

And here we are a zillion years later, married, living in different countries, still able to giggle like we are kids.

Her world knows her as a big time entertainment executive.

I know her as my little sister.

I’m so proud.

So, thankful,

So…

Wait, I better head to the plane’s bathroom for some Kleenex. Either that, or ask to borrow the sleeve of the stranger sitting next to me.

Surely, it must be the air up here.

Find more stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

My Dog Is Teaching Me A Final Lesson

My Dog Is Teaching Me A Final Lesson

Darla Louise on a recent afternoon
Darla Louise on a recent afternoon “walk,” where she plops down on the grass and lets the various smells waft her way, instead of chasing them down. Smart dog.

My dog is getting me ready.

She knows what’s coming in the way dogs know before we do.
About a dangerous stranger, earthquakes, or bacon.

She’s gently letting me know it will soon be time for her to go.

It’s one of an infinite number of brilliant conversations I’ve had with my best friend.
The friend who has never uttered a word in our more than 15 years together, but has taught me so much.

“She’s not going anywhere,” Husband tries to soothe and reassure me.
I appreciate this man who is wise in so many things. I also know he doesn’t speak Dog.

She’s letting me know in the way she’s eased me back from three, to two, to one walk a day, like weaning a toddler from multiple naps.

The way her back legs get a little weaker every day.

The way she’s had a few accidents.

Hers is not a straight decline.

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She’s had some senior moments followed by some almost puppy like days, well, moments actually, if I’m being honest.

More than anything, it’s the look in her eyes. The look that says, “You’ve done so much for me these last 15 years, but you’re going to have to do one more. I didn’t sign up to be here as long as you did. You’re going to have to let me go.”

I know she’s not the dog who will want heroic measures.
The folks down the street are paying huge vet bills to give their dog chemo. I get it.
I’ve had that pet.
My first 3-legged cat was that way. A trip to the vet was an excuse to go for a ride in the car and get cuddles from the vet techs. He was up for every treatment to keep him here 20 years.

Not this dog. She has hated the vet since her first puppy shots. Any trip there has always been agony.
Even my wonderful vet reminded me of this when I called him a couple weeks ago when Darla was having a bad day.
“I’m happy to look at her,” he said. “But if you’re clear she won’t want anything done, why are you bringing her in?”
Thank God for a vet who turns away a chance to make a buck, who helps save Darla from my selfish wish to keep her here forever.

I know there’s a chance, you understand, Dear Reader.
That you’ve had to say, “Goodbye” to your best friend, too.

If you’ve done it before, like I did with Tripod, you can see signs you denied the last time.

Now, I can listen.
The master teacher is giving one last lesson.

Make her comfortable.
Enjoy every single walk, snuggle, and slurpy kiss.
It could be our last.

I look deep into her cloudy chocolate brown eyes, pools of love and wisdom, for the strength to give her the gift she’s earned a million times over the last 15 years.

The strength to let her go when it’s her time.

Find more stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Mother’s Day Panic Button: I’m Messing Up Big Time; Help Me Fix It

Mother’s Day Panic Button: I’m Messing Up Big Time; Help Me Fix It

You know those warm, fuzzy gushy feeling columns you read around Mother’s Day?

I’ve written a few myself. (Like this and this.)

Yeah, this isn’t one of those.

Oh, it’s about motherhood, all right.

But this one is more like hitting the motherhood panic button.

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A button I hit the other day while, don’t get too excited, sewing on a real button.

A button that had fallen off one of my girls’ school uniforms.

That’s when I realized–

These children,

Scrap that,

These teenagers,

These young adults—

Don’t know how to sew on a button.

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Don’t even know how to thread a needle.

Holy Worthless Parenting, Batman! I’ve forgotten something so basic, so elementary, so important about motherhood.

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I’m supposed to be raising humans.

Humans, as in people who are one day, all too soon, supposed to be functioning adults in this world.

I’m not the only one, am I, Dear Reader?

The only one who has been so busy building self-esteem, creating moments, acting as chauffer ensuring these precious beings arrive safely at each social opportunity, each after-school activity?

So busy, I forgot basic life skills.

Talk about major fail.

And so I started scribbling out The List.

Can my girls sew a button?

Cook?

Figure out how to get from here to there?

I’ve started shoving my precious baby birds out of their comfort zone.

Last week, I dumped them in the middle of the grocery store.

“You guys are making spaghetti dinner tonight,” I announced. “You need to go buy all the supplies you need. Oh, and here’s your budget.”

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Momentary panic set into their teen brains, but they figured it out. Well, I think they did. Husband and I went out to dinner that night just to be safe.

Then, there is Daughter who is learning to drive.

“How are you going to get there?” I asked the other day as she got behind the wheel to get to her friend’s house.

“I, well, you go, then,” her eyes crossed and her brain scrambled as she actually didn’t know how to get to the block 10 minutes away where she used to live.

Turns out you don’t have to think about how you get somewhere when you sit in the passenger seat madly texting your friends while your mom does the driving and the thinking.

We got there, eventually, with a few bonus left turns.

Of course, there is this—

This column is written by a former kid, the one whose dad cut her pancakes right up to the time I went to college.

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I’m not sure what it was about a knife and fork, but I couldn’t seem to master it.

I was clearly no Einstein in the life skills department, myself. Yet, I somehow grew up to be a functioning, pancake-cutting adult.

This is my Mother’s Day gift I’d like from you—

Please add to The List.

What other basic, human life skills do my kids need to know?

Please help me raise functioning humans with your comments below.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Social Media Peer Pressure: I’m Gagging. The Thing I’ll Say That I Bet You’re Thinking

Social Media Peer Pressure: I’m Gagging. The Thing I’ll Say That I Bet You’re Thinking

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I’m slow.

Hopelessly behind.

Out of the loop.

How about that for some fine negative catty self-talk?

I figure it’s not catty, if it’s true.

Simply reporting.

I don’t have to go far to confirm and reinforce my theory.  It’s a close as my computer.

My computer, where years ago I joined Facebook.

Facebook, where I post pictures of my life, links that I love, stay connected with “friends,” most of whom I don’t really know.

Sounds like a huge time investment.

It is.

Sometimes sucks time out of my day like an airplane door opening at 35,000.

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And is often about as useful as that, too.

No matter, for I came to find out simply being on Facebook wasn’t enough.

So, I signed up for Twitter.

More, they said.

Okay, I added a second public Facebook page.

“More! More! More!” the media experts yelled like an over caffeinated toddler on the merry go round. “Spin me faster, faster, faster!”

Okay, okay, okay!

I can do this!

I can be hip, modern, connected!

I have my website, DarynKagan.com, my blog page on WordPress.

Go visual! Sign up for Instagram!

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Go crafty! Pin on Pinterest!

Go professional! Make sure you’re LinkedIn.

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What about the young people? You’ll find them on SnapChat.

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Is it just me, or does it seem the more you sign up for, the more they tell you you’re not with it?

And don’t get me started on passwords.

Surely, somewhere deep in Silicon Valley there is a convention of evil Password Police snickering and conspiring to come up with rules that make you have a different password formula for each website, insuring only one thing—that you can’t remember any of them!

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My question is, with all this social media I’m supposed to be on, how am I supposed to have time to be, uh, social?

Are you as equally unhip, behind, and frustrated, Dear Reader?

Figuring there has to be a better way, off I went last week to a two day seminar on Word Press, the blogging site.

“Word Camp” was my chance to find online peace, to consolidate, to get this thing down.

I have to say that I did learn a ton.

The price, besides the screaming deal of $40, was learning I’m also supposed to posting video from my iPad every day and if I was a really good blogger, my site would’ve made $60,000 last month.

It didn’t.

Shameful, I know.

Oh, had I considered rebuilding my website on WordPress.org instead of .com?

There’s a difference?

Oh yes.

As big a divide as the popular and unpopular kids in my 7th grade lunchroom.

A divide I never did conquer, yet still turned out kinda okay.

So, this is me, throwing in the towel on trying to keep up with the popular online kids.

I’ll post what’ll I’ll post, when and where I choose to make time to post.

Otherwise, you’ll find me doing that thing.

I think they used to call it—

Living life.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution,the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.

Cindy Crawford’s Most Beautiful Body Part

Cindy Crawford’s Most Beautiful Body Part

Did you see The Photo?

Jaws are dropping around the world!

It’s a supposedly unaltered photo of Supermodel Cindy Crawford wearing her bra and panties.

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“Unaltered” as in no Photoshop enhancement to add shading or erase of imperfections.

Of course, I had to look.

And when I did, I saw two things.

One, I was staring at body I’d love to have.  “This is without retouching?” I marveled doing the math wondering how many zillions of stomach crunches it takes to get abs with ridges like that.

Then, I looked a little closer where I really stood in awe.

It’s probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen on a super model.

Slightly, and by slightly, I mean squint your eyes and tilt your computer screen to see what I see, slightly wrinkly skin on the upper part of her tummy.

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This has to be from one thing and one thing only—the two pregnancies that created her children.

This is what I want to know, Dear Reader–

Why is something so incredible not celebrated on the cover of a magazine?

Why do we women live in our bodies, punishing ourselves on a daily basis trying to shove them back into a package that looks like we’re 14?

And let’s be honest–Unless you’re Cindy Crawford, you probably didn’t look like that when you were 14, either.

Is it possible for us women to bear our battle scars with pride?

A woman could boast, “See here? These are the stretch marks from carrying twins for nine months. Do that math—this body knew how to make two human brains, four eyeballs, and twenty perfect toes.”

Take that Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition!

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Another would shout, “See these eye crinkle lines? Those are from pulling all nighters to get through that impossible statistics course in college, which I paid for myself, by the way.”

You want to talk beauty?

A gal brags, “This somewhat saggy muscle sits next to the incision where my chemotherapy port when in during my treatment for breast cancer.”

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High Five!

A lady adds, “I earned these bags under my eyes when I spent the night caring for my ailing mother.”

It’s not such a foreign concept, this idea of boasting about body battle scars that show a life well-lived.

Just look at, well,

Men.

The man who says, “Here’s the scar through my eyebrow where I took 12 stitches in college.”

Or the man we admire for his limp. “Wounded in the last war,” he explains.

How about the striking gray hair that catches your eye? “Shows his wisdom, experience and maturity,” you decide.

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Can you and I take on some of this?

I say, “Yes!” to Photoshopping.

Photoshopping our attitudes.

Changing our focus.

How about enhancing our flaws?

Talk them up big!

How about erasing our imperfect appreciation for our bodies well-lived?

How would that change how you see your body?

Me? My jaw would truly drop and my heart would soar.

Find more uplifting stories on my website, DarynKagan.com

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.