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Dying young... 7.27.2007 |

Today, I wrote an article about a student at Gardner-Webb who died after a battle with cancer, Jer "Skip" Thao.

Jer loved music. In fact, it sounds like music was an inseparable part of his life. I spoke with his roommate, Mark Houser.

"He would take naps in the afternoon," Mark said. "He'd wake up, sing a song, and then go back to sleep."

"He heard music in everything, he said. In conversations and traffic. Everything had musical quality for him," Mark said. "He had so much music in him. He was part of the music."


Writing the article brought up a lot of difficult emotions for me. During my time at Gardner-Webb, I was privelaged to know Pamela Darnell. During the summer between my junior and senior year, Pamela passed away from cancer.

Early in her illness, she was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. We lived in the same dorm during that time. I was part of the small fellowship group Pamela led. I was dealing with a very bad time of Rhuematoid Arthritis flare-ups that semester. Like Pam, I was in a lot of pain, I couldn't eat very much and I was on a lot of meds that often made me sicker. Unlike Pam, I was often moody and self-pitying. Pam handled her illness with grace and poise and knowing her taught me about the simple virtue in that.

We'd go on "bland-dates" and "plain-dates" in the caf. Our diets were very similiar and very, very limited. We had to be creative or suffer the consequences later. We'd joke that while we may have not been born with "old souls" we definitely were born with "old bodies." But the most important things Pam ever taught me were during the times we'd talk at length about what being sick meant and how it could affect one's faith.

As my illness shook my faith like a brass cage, Pam's illness allowed her to soar and become an even greater testament to her faith and her God. As the illness took it's toll Pam's friends got to see something truly amazing: a beautiful soul. Because even as her cheeks lost their color and her already petite frame lost another 5 pounds, Pam's inner-beauty and strength became visible in ways I would have never imagined.

Pam's death still seems terribly unfair to me. Did she fulfill all that God had planned for her? Was that why her body passed away? How could the world possibly be better withOUT her? Did we need her death to teach us a lesson? Perhaps. Had she been just another sweet, smiling face -- of which there were many during my time at GWU -- I would have known her, loved her and then let her slip away as we both went on about our lives. But her death...her death taught me as much as her life ever did.

Pam crosses my mind often and I find myself searching my memories of times with her for every bit of wisdom she gave me. God knows I was too immature at the time to understand everything knowing her offered me.

Jer touched many lives, too. I hope those that knew him best will know him better than ever as they catalog every memory and remember what made Jer who he was and what will ultimately make him so unforgettable.

Coming up this week... 7.16.2007 |

Here's some of the stories I'll be working on this week...

  • Kidsenses, in Rutherfordton, will be celebrating it's 100,000 visitor. Hopefully, I'll be there to cover (and partake) in the festivities!
  • A local teacher has received statewide recognition for her work to keep students safe
  • The Lumina Foundation, the YMCA and GWU have gotten a grant to study certain populations of college students
  • Background checks...what do you get? How far back does it go?

Have I missed something? Any questions you'd like answered? Leave a comment or email me to let me know!

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Destroy The Star... 7.13.2007 |

Checkout www.netdisaster.com and you too can destroy all sorts of Web sites! Have fun!!

This is Mars Attacks!!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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97% like Ms. Dunst? I guess that 3% makes all the difference... 7.06.2007 |

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KidSenses confirms my geekdom... 7.05.2007 |

KidSenses Museum in Rutherfordton is aimed at children age birth to 10 years old. I'm a little older than that but let me tell you -- I had a blast.

Of course, I went with adult supervision...Photographer Jeff Melton. Jeff is used to seeing me run around a little crazy. It may come as no surprise that I have a reputation for being easily amused and highly excitable. Add to that Kidsenses' lethal combination of bright colors and interactive exhibits and I'm hooked.

In some museums, there's a feeling of being overwhelmed as soon as you walk in the door. But KidSenses -- since kids were in mind during the design -- is artfully laid out. There is a sense of much to do, make no mistake. But there is also the feeling that it's all doable and rushing through it all wouldn't be very wise.
The entrance is packed with all the props a kid could need to have a fulfilling make-believe experience. A fire truck, a grocery store, a news studio, an art studio...I'm missing something, no doubt. Unfortunately, I'm too tall to convincingly play in the fire truck and I dwarfed the kid-sized grocery store. Jeff might tell you that fact didn't stop me from trying out everything but Jeff is just jealous he was definitely too tall do play in any of the exhibits.
There was a room dedicated to bubbles! You CANNOT go wrong with a room dedicated to bubbles. Big bubbles, too. You should not bring your kids to KidSense with the anticipation that they will be gazing, chin raised at various exhibits explaining tectonic plate movement and moving begrudgingly down the Hall of Early Man. It's interactive to the nth degree.
At $5 per person (though I recommend a season pass...) it's a nice way to beat the heat (or dodge bad weather) and keep the kids from vegging out. If you're a nerd like me, it's a great place to take the special kid in your life...cousin, niece, nephew, little sister... and surreptitiously enjoy your visit, too.

I did find at least one thing that fit me...a throne. That's no coincidence. I want this to be my new office chair.

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More than meets the eye... 7.03.2007 |

Managing editor Alan Jenkins plays with Transformers while the rest of us work.