2017/09/18

This Much I Know is True

Da Goddess @ 10:41

Chronic pain, chronic illness, depression, isolation… All of these things can make life unbearable. It happens to many people. For some, medication helps. For others, medication only barely gets them from one moment to the next. There’s no ONE answer for everyone collectively.

For one man, he found hope in a Broadway musical based on a hit movie. Groundhog Day the Musical. I happened upon his post and it not only touched me, it spoke deeply to the broken parts of me and the life in which I find myself.

Life is difficult for me these days. I’ve been without ads here, which means I have absolutely ZERO income. True, the revenue generated by the ads I did have was miniscule, but it was just enough to help with 1) paying a bill or two, 2) help buy the kids a gift for birthdays/Christmas, and 3) gave me a sense of security that at least there was *that*.

Aside from the ads, my back and neck have grown even more painful, leaving me wondering how that’s even possible. It weighs on me more each passing day, each passing year. I find myself asking, “is this really how I want to spend my life? Is this who I really want to be?”

Because this was an injury that occurred on the job, I’ve been at the mercy of a system that favors the insurance company, not the patient. I’m stuck in an endless cycle of praying an adjuster will approve my medications or a treatment the doctors feel will help me get control of the pain. Time after time, though, my hopes are dashed and it takes a toll on every part of my being.

Twelve and a half years of living this way has left me more cynical and dejected than I’ve ever been in my life. Despite the medications, my pain has become what identifies me, what defines me. I don’t like it: I don’t want to this person!

Because of the treatment I’ve received from the insurance company, my life has become a roller coaster without a safety bar or seatbelt…that goes underwater and I have no air tank.

I’ve spent the last month without the majority of my meds. Where some patients simply pay for them out of pocket and then submit receipts for reimbursement, I don’t have that luxury. With a VERY deep discount the pharmacist gave me, my monthly tab for my meds would be over $700. That’s WITH the discount! King Arthur and I just can’t afford to pay it. I don’t know anyone who could. So I’ve tried to make do with the bare minimum, which doesn’t do much of anything other than keep me from crying 24/7. I cry, but not ALL DAY LONG.

My attorney drove up here Friday and handed me $500 to help pay for the medications. I was gobsmacked. What lawyer does that? Yes, it’ll need to be repaid, but still, what lawyer does that, I ask you. I’m as grateful as I am stunned. And even with his generous loan, I’ve had to adjust my prescription order so that I get the most bang for the buck. I won’t be getting full prescriptions of several drugs, though I will be able to get the meds that are vital for me to function as your basic bitch.

While my lawyer was here, I signed a new retainer agreement because he’s filing a lawsuit against the insurance company. This is not the norm for a work comp case. However, because they’ve continually played fast and loose with my care it’s our only real option. My brilliant attorney has also filed a formal complaint against the insurance company with the state.

We’re in uncharted waters here. In my attorney’s almost 50 years of practice, he’s never had to do this. He’s never come up against a company that’s so reckless with a claimant.

I doubt there will be a big payout from the lawsuit. I doubt they’ll be run out of the state. But at least we’re DOING SOMETHING! It’s my little glimmer of hope. My only glimmer of hope.

And this is why a total stranger’s post about a musical has given me pause. I’m lucky enough to see a new day, to still be breathing, to fight for my rights to adequate healthcare as the law dictates for injured workers. Maybe my case will save someone else from my nightmare. That thought is enough to make me keep looking at the horizon, hoping to see the first rays of sunshine each day.

All of this… all of it comes down to a Broadway musical I haven’t seen, but whose very message has had a ripple effect on the lives of enough people that its message has been spread far and wide.

I’m off to look for my sun today and tomorrow and the next day and the next and on and on.

2017/09/10

The Lump in My Throat

Da Goddess @ 23:50

Tomorrow is a difficult day for me. For many of us. I always feel a tightness in my throat and my chest this time of year. But this year we have so much happening that makes everything more… agitated and frantic feeling.

I’m talking about these damned hurricanes!

Harvey sucked big donkey balls and put dear Joni in danger. She assured me she was okay and that made my heart stop racing so much. But then that bitch, Irma, had to get in the game. Now Pam and her hubby, as well as other friends, are in harm’s way.

WHY?!!? Isn’t it enough to have a few million people in dire straits? We have to have more? I’m talking to you, weather gods! I’m pointing my finger at you!

And there are the wildfires across the western part of the United States. And an earthquake in Mexico.

I think we’ve had it. The very fabric of our souls have creases from all the worry and frowning.

Those in the midst of these horrifying events needs a break. A really big break.

I’m not asking for a miracle, but I am asking for a respite from disaster for those who’ve been slammed, battered, sizzled, and shaken.

Please.

My prayers and thoughts are with everyone stuck in the middle of all this mess (these messes).

2017/08/15

Golden Girls Meets the Crocodile Hunter

Da Goddess @ 08:10

So much excitement here this morning!

I’m out on the porch just enjoying the cool, overcast morning. It’s been far too long since we’ve had a morning like this and it’s beyond glorious.

Suddenly, I’m staring down into the eyes of a beautiful coyote. He/she is not afraid of me in the least. I ‘ssssttttt’ and shoo the coyote and off it jogs. About three seconds later, there’s another one! Again, I make noise (while simultaneously admiring the animals) and this second coyote walks away quite casually.

Thirty seconds later, two of our neighbors walk up and I give them the coyote warning. They tell me there are actually three coyotes out and about and they’ve been keeping an eye on them.

Following not too far behind the couple is another resident who asks which way the animals have gone. As she’s asking, one coyote makes another appearance. This lady starts yelling her loudest and chasing it away. She yells to various neighbors to keep their dogs inside, all while flailing her arms about and yelling at the coyotes.

As soon as everyone disappears around various corners, one coyote walks into the middle of the street, looks at me as if to ask, “what the hell?” And then quickly disappears between homes.

I think the drama is coming to an end when our friendly little spectacular hummingbird pops up right in front of my face, hovering as it often does. Then it zips away, zips back, hovers, lather, rinse, repeat a dozen times. It’s telling me it does NOT approve of how our ficus was trimmed yesterday (hacked low and tight).

Here’s the thing about the tree: it housed dozens of birds each night. Just as dusk would begin to fall, birds of all kinds would come to the tree and settle in for the night. There was this cacophony of birdly conversation that was, at times, deafening. Hummingbirds, finches, mockingbirds, wrens, etc., would gather and do their thing. And then, quiet. Occasionally, there’d be rustling and chirpy murmurs, but then absolute silence.

But the one hummingbird let us know right away — as soon as the tree trimmer was gone — that it was not pleased. There was no place for it to hide any longer! How dare we!

So this morning, it continues with its complaints. And then another one joins in. Right up in my face.

Between the birds and coyotes, it’s as if nature is sparking its revolution right here and now.

And one of the Golden Girls has gone Croc Hunter on the coyotes.

What a way to start the day! The only bad/regretable thing is that I’m not down there in the fray. (Grumble, grumble, my damn body, grumble, grumble.)

2017/07/04

Happy Independence Day!

Da Goddess @ 10:26

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…

Celebrate our hard won rights and remember those who fought for those rights.

Be safe and have yourselves a beautiful day!

2017/06/16

This Is How You Do It: Body Positive Message

Da Goddess @ 02:57

A mom on Instagram had this discussion with her kids after her daughter called her fat:

My daughter called me fat today. She was upset I made them get out of the pool and she told her brother that mama is fat. I told her to meet me upstairs so we could chat. Me: “what did you say about me?” Her: “I said you were fat, mama, im sorry” Me: “let’s talk about it. The truth is, I am not fat. No one IS fat. It’s not something you can BE. But I do HAVE fat. We ALL have fat. It protects our muscles and our bones and keeps our bodies going by providing us energy. Do you have fat?” Her: “yes! I have some here on my tummy” Me: “that’s right! So do I and so does your brother!” Her brother: “I don’t have any fat, I’m the skinniest, I just have muscles” Me: “actually everyone, every single person in the world has fat. But each of us has different amounts.” Her brother: “oh right! I have some to protect my big muscles! But you have more than me” Me: “Yes, that’s true. Some people have a lot, and others don’t have very much. But that doesn’t mean that one person is better than the other, do you both understand? Both: “yes, mama” Me: “so can you repeat what I said” Them: “yes! I shouldn’t say someone is fat because you can’t be just fat, but everyone HAS fat and it’s okay to have different fat” Me: “exactly right!” Them: “can we go back to the pool now?” Me: no.

Each moment these topics come up I have to choose how I’m going to handle them. Fat is not a bad word in our house. If I shame my children for saying it then I am proving that it is an insulting word and I continue the stigma that being fat is unworthy, gross, comical and undesirable. Since we don’t call people fat as an insult in my household, I have to assume she internalized this idea from somewhere or someone else. Our children are fed ideas from every angle, you have to understand that that WILL happen: at a friends house whose parents have different values, watching a tv show or movie, overhearing someone at school — ideas about body image are already filtering through their minds. It is our job to continue to be the loudest, most accepting, positive and CONSISTENT voice they hear. So that it can rise above the rest. Give me a (high five) if this resonated w u! Just do you! Xoxo Allie

When we stop allowing media or other people define beauty for ourselves, when we consistently teach and remind our children that true beauty comes from within, we will have stronger, more well-developed kids who’ll spread that message, who’ll grow up avoiding fad diets and unhealthy practices, who’ll grow up with stronger, healthier senses of self, and who will be advocates for body positivity.

God created each of us to be unique and that’s what we are. Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Beauty comes from within. It’s something we all have innately. But we forget. We allow media to dictate the definition of beauty and that must stop. We don’t need to have people who have long forgotten that beauty is about the light and love we have within us rather than some airbrushed image they paste on the cover of their magazines. We are more than what someone who’s never met us tells us we are or should be!

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL! WE ARE BEAUTIFUL. Just as we are. Remember that. And help others believe that.

2017/05/16

#15: The Blogiversary

Da Goddess @ 10:29

In the past 15 years, a lot has happened.

I’ve moved ten times (more if you count the times I’ve had “transitional housing” in between stops), I’ve made some lovely friends, I’ve lost three of my favorite bloggers (death can suck it), lost several offline friends, finalized a divorce, lived with one blogger, broke up with that blogger, met the love of my life, had to say goodbye to the love of my life, moved forward, lost a career, gained a new perspective on life (one I wouldn’t wish on anyone), have taken THOUSANDS of pills in an attempt to fight pain, had two kids graduate from high school, had one kid get married, met a swell guy whom I love a great deal, became a “grandma” by association, became a crazy cat lady mommy to two​ lovely cats, had one cat die, have doted on remaining cat, taught remaining cat a number of tricks, fallen in love with hummingbirds, done some traveling, complained a lot, cried even more, had poop bark, laughed, cursed, found joy and sadness, and just kept on living life one day at a time as best as I can.

It’s been strange and occasionally exciting, fun and delightful, heartwarming and heartbreaking, and I still survive.

There are no deeply profound lessons to be found here in this post. It’s just the verbose version of making a mark on the door jamb as a means of recording the passage of time and the growing pains that come with the territory. I’m here. I exist. My blog still rambles along with me.

You know, when I began blogging, I had no idea where it would lead (I still don’t) or how much it would change my life, but I’m glad I started this journey. Fifteen years seems an eternity. Fifteen years seems like the blink of an eye. Either way, it happened and the archives offer some smidgen of proof that it did.

Thanks to all who’ve stuck around for the ride.

2017/04/29

Mr. Mockingbird Goes to Town

Da Goddess @ 00:21

Mr. Mockingbird’s patterns have revealed themselves.

We get the lion’s share of his nightly operatic endeavors, but he does share the love with others, thank God.

Mr. Mockingbird, henceforth known as MMB, now spends time in other trees in our neighborhood. He moves down the street one big tree at a time. Thankfully, some of the trees are slightly further down the street than others, giving me a most fantastic break from his endless racket!

MMB also takes a week off. I’m hoping this time, however, will be a permanent break because — fingers crossed — he’ll have a mate. That’s my wish for him. And for me. Mostly for me. Only slightly for him.

Say a prayer for me MMB that his songs​and effort have finally paid off for the little guy.

2017/04/16

Christos Anesti!

Da Goddess @ 08:52

Christos Anesti! He is Risen!

Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

Before the dawn, Mary and the women came and found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They heard the angelic voice: “Why do you seek among the dead as a man the One who is everlasting light? Behold the clothes in the grave! Go and proclaim to the world: The Lord is risen! He has slain death, as He is the Son of God, saving the race of men.”

Thou didst decend into the tomb, O Immortal, Thou didst destory the power of death! In victory didst Thou arise, O Christ God, proclaiming “Rejoice” to the myrrhbearing women, granting peace to Thy apostles, and bestowing resurrection to the fallen.

The angel cried to the Lady Full of Grace: Rejoice, O Pure Virgin! Again I say: Rejoice! Your Son is risen from His three days in the tomb! With Himself He has raised all the dead! Rejoice, all you people! Shine! Shine! O New Jerusalem! The Glory of the Lord has shone on you! Exalt now and be glad, O Zion! Be radiant, O Pure Theotokos, in the Resurrection of your Son!

Happy Easter, my friends!

2017/04/11

To Kill a Mockingbird

Da Goddess @ 03:00

Atticus Finch said it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, but he never met the asshat living in my tree. He also didn’t live during the time of car alarms, which are the preferred call of this particular miscreant.

I won’t actually kill the mockingbird, but I’m not opposed to serving up a big ol’ heap of “shut the fuck up!” on a silver platter.

This mockingbird in our ficus, well, his current occupation is night singing. Every night. Hour after hour, he continues with his nutso shrieking.

In addition to the car alarm impression, he does a particularly annoying crow, parrots, DUCKS(!), and he’s even managed to kind of hit upon meowing.

WTF is with this bird? Why our tree? Look, I get that he’s looking for a mate. And I get that he’s trying to “outsing” the other local males (which can be heard just down the street). I just don’t understand WHY our tree! Yes, our tree is lush and full of other birds, but whyyyyyy us?!?

I have no answers. I have a headache, but no answers. And my patience are running thin.

We’ve tried shaking the branches while he’s mid-song. He stopped singing for 30 seconds. We’ve hissed at him. He trills and squawks back. I’d let Fletch at him but 1) it’s dark and 2) Fletch would likely come away with more damage than the bird.

At this point, I’m open to suggestions from anyone and everyone.

Please. Please help end this nightmare.

2017/02/26

Closed Borders

Da Goddess @ 05:11

Back when the bookstore, Borders, was still around, I’d often take the kids over for storytime and to just look at/read books. It was a wonderful way to spend the day. It was a treat for all of us.

Borders was brilliant in that they always had carts and racks of books on clearance set up at the entrance of the store. I always stopped to take a look. ALWAYS. And 99.98% of the time I’d end up with a stack of books to sort through and purchase.

Best part? I’d find so many $2 books for the kids that I’d always have a special treat/reward for them at the end of the day or week or after they accomplished something special.

Two of my favorites were “Showdown at Lonesome Pellet” and a book of mazes. A long time ago I blogged about “Lonesome Pellet” and I may have even mentioned the maze book. I’ve found where to get a copy of “Pellet” but haven’t yet solved the mystery of the maze book.

I don’t recall the name of the book (which, of course, makes finding it nigh on impossible) but I recall quite clearly the look and premise of it. It was colorful, inside and out, and to get from one page to another, you had to “jump” through a hole. A literal hole. In the page. There was always more than one, too. Sometimes you went through to the next page, sometimes you went through a few. No matter, it was FUN! Each hole took you somewhere new, kinda like a choose your own adventure story.

I’ve tried googling the book using every description under the sun to no avail. Why can’t I find it?! Why did Borders have to close? WHYYY?? They were so helpful and informative when it came to researching even the vaguest book description.

Someday, maybe someday, they’ll be back.

A girl can dream, can’t she?

2017/02/25

Bathroom Ban

Da Goddess @ 17:31

In my home, there will NEVER be a ban on who may use which bathroom. If you’re in my home, you’re my friend or relative and I love you for just being YOU.

But there is now a ban in place for myself. Why? What? Am I mad? Frankly, yes, but that has nothing to do with the situation at hand.

Henceforth, I am no longer allowed to let Fletch or my cellphone into the bathroom at shower time.

I have to do this. HAVE TO. Because if I don’t, my shower time becomes epic in proportion.

1) Fletch is too entertaining. He climbs into the linen cupboard (second shelf is completely clear just for him) and bats around a hairclip. He’ll bat it around inside and them knock it out for me to pick up and toss back in. We do this for at least 15 minutes. He usually waits until I’m completely naked before he decides to play, so that’s kind of a comedy in and of itself.

2) If my phone is with me, chances are I’m forehead deep in Twitter blackhole. I do a lot of reading on my phone these days (and I’m currently writing this on said phone) and sometimes the best finds come via Twitter. Yeah, yeah, I once said I’d never do Twitter, but that ship sailed back in 2010. Needless to say, it’s just as bad a time suck as anything else, but I’ve been extremely pleased with the vast majority of my Twitter experiences. Because of Twitter, I’ve had conversations with Carrie Fisher (God rest her soul) about hummingbirds. I’ve won some sweeeeet prizes (Black Sails has been very good to me lately!). And I’ve been able to stay in touch with some friends who don’t do much in the way of email/text/blog updating.

The phone is allowed to come to the bathroom with me ONLY if I’m in need of entertainment while my gut isn’t playing nicely or if I’m showering and am expecting an important call. Otherwise, I’m going to abide by the ban.

2017/01/24

I Meant to Write More

Da Goddess @ 08:38

I really meant to write more this month, but I’ve obviously failed. Spectacularly.

Part of my problem is the fact my life is rather boring. Other than doctor appointments and various therapy sessions, I’ve done close to bupkis. Maybe not even that.

So, um, yeah. Boooooorrriiinnng! That sums up my life in a single word. You want a second word? Pain. Or painful. Either way, you can imagine how much fun that’s been.

Uh, we had a lot of rain over the weekend. So, I guess, there’s that. And watching (or trying NOT to watch) Fletch “love” on his stuffed rhino buddy. He basically goes into kitty biscuit making mode atop the rhino and it looks more than a little sexual. He can’t help it. He’s just doing what cats do.

And that, my friends, is why, despite my best intentions, I’ve failed to write.

P.S. I also did a bit of reading. Or maybe a lot.

2016/10/18

Ramblings of a Failed (yet Successful) Parent

Da Goddess @ 21:32

I didn’t blog about L.D.’s birthday back at the beginning of the month. I thought about it. A lot. But I still managed to not post a single word. Perhaps it was my way of denying that my baby was no longer a teenager. Maybe it was just because I was finding it difficult to admit I missed him terribly. It was likely a combination of the two. Reglardless, I should have posted something and celebrated it with the few of you who still read the blog.

So, yeah, my Little Dude is now officially out of his teens. 20 is just the beginning of his adult life. I’m both immensely proud of him for being the sweetest, gentlest young man I know while simultaneously worrying about what comes next for him. He’d had his heart set on a military career only to have his hopes and dreams killed by a single hearing test. While the military’s test is admittedly inadequate, his documentation from his doctor that proved his hearing was fine wasn’t accepted. Since then, I’ve been full of concern over what will become of him, where he’ll find new inspiration for a new dream or two. He’s so smart, so creative, so thoughtful. He’s really a great kid…er…man. I wish so very much for his happiness and contentment, for him to find his path to a satisfying life, doing something that fills his heart and soul with joy. In other words, I fret like every other parent does as their children grow up.

Then there’s Mojo. She’ll be 24 in a couple weeks. She’s living so far from home, married to a wonderful man, and, yet, I still think of her as my baby. It’s just so wrong that we can’t shake those images of our children as infants. On the other hand, I never want to forget. I never want to forget the wonder I felt as I heard her heartbeat for the first time. I never want to forget the overwhelming love I had from the moment I first laid eyes on her. I never want to forget how she felt in my arms when I first got to hold this tiny miracle that somehow came from me. I feel that way about both kids, but I think it’s especially potent with Mojo because she was my first absolute and truest love. You never get over that. Nor should you.

I’m proud of her. Proud of how she’s followed her heart and found a man who truly loves her, believes in her. Mo’s educated herself (though I wish she’d go back and get a bachelor’s in something!), she’s filled her heart and home with love. She’s bright, funny, loving, generous, and all around swell. What more could I ask for? Turns out, I want more. For her and her brother, I want everything. I want the sun to always shine upon them. I want fortune to always favor them. But that’s what I ask of the universe, not of them. From them, I want only to know they’re trying and giving their best — to themselves and to others.

I hope they’ll forgive their old mum for my lackluster performance. I hope they’ll know that I’ll always love them. And I hope they’ll know — forever and always — that they are the best things I’ve ever done and ever will do.

I may have failed in a myriad of ways as a parent, but I’ve never failed in my love for them, nor have I ever regretted having them. As I said above (and many times before), they are the best of me, my greatest loves, the one thing I’ve ever done with the clearest mind and fullest heart. My failings should never be thought of as theirs. And their successes are theirs alone. One day, when my time is done, I will be able to say, with nary a bit of exaggeration, I’ve done something wonderful and left the world a better place if only because of them.

2016/09/11

15 Years After: Life Post-9/11

Da Goddess @ 05:39

After 15 years, my heart still beats a little too fast, my chest feels too tight, and I remember that sense of disbelief as if it were yesterday.

I also remember my neighbors gathering, not so much to talk, but more just needing to be together with others.

My children had questions. I had questions, too. But parents had to be strong and talk the kids through the scary news. We could only panic or cry in private. The kids needed us adults to be their safe haven. So we were.

I remember Mr. Rogers saying during times like these, when you’re frightened or feeling lost to look for the helpers. I keep thinking about that now. How many of us remember that? How many of us have become helpers?

I’ve been a helper and I have to say, helping others during terrible moments makes you stronger. It truly does.

I try not to be one who needs a helper now. I do what I can to be there for those who have no one else, who don’t know where to turn, who maybe just need a hand to hold onto.

I try. And I try very hard to support the helpers whose jobs require the support of the community. Whatever we can’t do, they are out there making sure it gets done. They work harder and longer than everyone else. And they need us to be there for them when all is said and done.

Today I think of the lives lost 15 years ago. I think, too, of those who have since died because of the work they did to put out fires, find survivors in the wreckage, or to reclaim the remains of the dead. I think of those who have flown over, sailed around, or walked in foreign lands in the name of securing our freedom, chasing down the evil minds behind the attacks on us. I think of all the innocents who’ve been caught in the crossfire.

Mostly, I think. I remember. I hurt. And I give thanks for all that remains.

Some far off day, long in the future, there will be no one left alive who remembers the attacks on American soil. It’ll be one more story in a history book. Until that happens, I will remember and I will speak of that day. I have to. I cannot forget, nor should I.

Never. Forget. Never forget. NEVER FORGET. NEVER. FORGET.

2016/09/04

On This Day 10 Years Ago: September 4, 2006 — Steve Irwin Died

Da Goddess @ 00:00

Over the years, I’ve written about the impact Steve Irwin had on the lives of my family. Below is a repost of something I wrote in 2009, which still rings true. I’d like to add a few thoughts.

Steve may be gone, but we’ve witnessed new generations carrying on with his mission. Irwin daughter Bindi is officially an adult and continues to talk about the need for conservation, advocates for the animals, and has become a true global ambassador for wildlife. His son, Robert, does the same. Though his younger years perhaps limit his visibility, he aims high and reaches or exceeds that mark with pure, unbridled enthusiasm. Both Irwin kids are passionate, educated, and very well-spoken, which is a testament to not only their mother, Terri, but to the foundation of keen interest and the solid work their father did in the name of wildlife conservation.

As I mention below, my own interest in wildlife began early. My parents were the leading contributors to this, but I was also intrigued by the work of Marlin Perkins, who was pretty much all my generation had in the way of a wildlife educator/promoter. There were others who followed, of course, but that was the start of my budding curiosity. I’m so very grateful for the path Perkins paved because it brought us Steve.

I’m grateful my children grew up in the Age of Irwin. I’m grateful for the first class shows they had, to see the world through khaki colored glasses, to see wildlife conservation as something exciting and important.

For those reasons alone (though there are many more), I continue to mourn the loss of the great wildlife warrior named Steve Irwin.

I’ll never forget the year LD turned two and on Christmas morning he went crazy when he saw one of his presents was a three or four foot plastic crocodile. He immediately jumped it, covered its eyes, called for Terri (his sister given a co-starring role in his funny little world of Croc Hunterdom) to get his shirt off and wrap it around the croc’s head. Yes, LD was two and had absorbed enough Irwinisms to run his own fake rescue and relocation in our living room.

Dressed in his regular uniform of khakis (the boy wanted what he wanted), we headed over to my sister’s house for more Christmas activities. The croc came along. Anyone speaking to LD that day had to address him as Steve. To this day, there are probably a few people who were dating relatives or friends of my sister and brother-in-law who really believe this is my son’s name. We probably should have considered it, but for the simple fact that the ex’s brother carries the same name and they weren’t on speaking terms at that point. Still, my little 2 year old had made his stand about the name and his goals for the day: he would be Steve and he would be on croc patrol. No cats, people, or food would go missing if he could help it! (Okay, maybe a little food, but that was only if it was near enough to a chair he could climb up to get at it.)

And he did it all with an Australian accent. My American born baby boy sported a fair dinkum Aussie accent. Because that’s how his hero spoke.

This was how it went for two and half years, give or take. Halloween costumes were, naturally, khaki and sported fabric paint representations of Australia Zoo’s logo, with the name Steve below that. We’d attached frogs, lizards, and snakes to his shirt (all plastic, of course…our collection was immense…still is) and his shorts or pants, and his hat, although the hat was from the Norwich Gators (close as we could get at the time). Our pumpkins were carved with crocs and “Steve” and occasionally a panda or regular jack o’lantern pattern. But they still represented The Man.

When the news broke during the early hours on Sept. 4, 2006, I was awake and editing for Blogcritics.org at the time. I heard it. And everything stopped. Then I started flipping channels and it was everywhere. It didn’t seem real. Finally, I emailed my friend Pat who lived at the zoo and received the sad confirmation that it was, indeed, tragically true — Steve Irwin was gone.

What unfolded after that was beyond anything most anyone anywhere would have ever expected. Despite the popularity of the Crocodile Hunter series and other spin off shows, no one could have predicted just how widespread this man’s infectious enthusiasm reached. Straight out admiration, parodies, and even a handful of naysayers…the man, his mission, had stretched around the globe and back a million times. He made the scariest animals important, even lovable (except leeches and I’m afraid I’ll never laugh as he did about them), he made us care about the animals he encountered, taught us why they were special, why we should want them around. His plans were grand and he was making great strides in realizing many of his dreams, which ruffled a few feathers and caused some backlash, but Steve did it all for one reason: to protect the land and the animals, and give our children more than just picture books filled with photos and drawings of animals and trees we once encountered on land. Careful management could and can preserve habitats and healthy populations of animals if we can find a way to work together — from land management, husbandry, careful community planning, caring individuals, and sensible care plans from government agencies to help keep nature a viable and valuable part of our heritage.

It’s a message I was taught by Marlin Perkins, local Native Americans, and even by my parents (except snakes, but that’s a cause I took up on my own). To me, what was the point of keeping the forest if there were no animals? What was the point of loving the animals if they had no home? I learned it early and have always carried this with me. My conservationist roots run deep and likely always will. I guess my kids came by it honestly.

And then one day, Steve and Terri Irwin showed up and echoed what I’d grown up hearing. They even went far beyond what I’d learned and gave me new ideas, a new means of understanding, new hope! It spread quickly. I wasn’t the only one looking for a way to learn. It became part of our watercooler conversations.

Then we got that punch in the ol’ solar plexus we never wanted to hear. Yes, Steve Irwin was a celebrity and we often roll our eyes when a celebrity dies. But this seemed to run a bit deeper. Here was a young man actively, passionately chasing the dream of educating the world about our natural resources. He wasn’t famous for kicking a soccer ball or wearing the latest styles or releasing a record of music he had little to do with. He was out getting dirty and conducting research that continues to this day to enlighten us on the habits and lives of creatures we previously understood little about. He gave us tools to learn and set us upon a course of caring.

It’s been three (er, now 10) years and it still hurts. Thankfully, there are people everywhere who have picked up the mantle and carry on.

It may mean nothing to you, but it continues to mean a great deal to this family. Each of us, in our own manner, have found a way to carry on educating friends and strangers about the animals we encounter, the land upon which we live, the land that surrounds us, and how important it is for all of us to work together to keep it working.

Steve Irwin may be gone, but plenty of people in this world are carrying out his work, sharing the knowledge, spreading the word.

We miss you, Stevo.

Gone But Not Forgotten

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