Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Time to say goodbye


I continue to look in the mirror and wonder, “what the hell happened?” As I sit here on the first day of 2009, trying to pull words out of the air, I know that turning Sahara’s blog into a permanent memorial is the right thing to do.

However, it’s also difficult to close the book when you’re still searching for answers. Sahara loved the messages sent to her via the blog…they made her smile on so many rough days. I’m eternally grateful for all of you who were so faithful to our family as we faced the unthinkable…before, during and afterward.

As a Cancer Mom, you find yourself constantly searching and reading about the journeys of other families fighting the same battles. You rarely meet the people, but feel as if you know them, as you keep up with the raw, honest, often daily entries they make in their blog journals. You laugh at the funny times; you ache with them during the awful times. You hang your head and sob when their children are lost. You get so angry and hurt so badly for them… because until some serious major medical breakthroughs are made, you know how the stories will end.

I’ve come to realize that we Cancer Moms are in one tough sorority. I found the following on Gunner Gillespie’s site (we CM’s pull and post a lot of information from each others’ sites). It was helpful to me and I wanted to pass it along to you.
By Erma Bombeck

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a
few by social pressures, and a couple by habit. Did you ever wonder how mothers of children with life threatening illnesses are chosen?

Somehow, I visualize God hovering over Earth selecting His instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As HE observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger....

"Armstrong, Beth, son, patron saint Matthew, Forrest, Marjorie, daughter, patron saint Cecilia, Rutledge, Carrie, twins, patron saint Gerard."

Finally, He passes a name to an angel and says, "Give her a child with cancer."

The angel is curious. "Why this one, God? She's so happy."

"Exactly," smiles God. "Could I give a child with cancer a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel."

But does she have patience?" asked the angel.

"I don't want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she will handle it."

"I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I'm going to give her has its own
world. She has to make it live in her world and that's not going to be easy."

"But, Lord, I don't think she believes in you."

“No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect. She has just enough selfishness."

The angel gasps. "Selfishness? Is that a virtue?"

God nods. "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she'll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take anything her child does for granted. She will never consider a single step ordinary. I will permit her to see clearly the things I see....ignorance, cruelty, prejudice...and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life, because she is doing My work as surely as if she was here by My side.”

"And what about her patron Saint?" asked the angel, his pen poised in mid-air.

God smiled. "A mirror will suffice."

As a Cancer Dad, you’re often on the sidelines. You’re keeping the home fires burning, working yourself to death and trying to keep your head on straight as you spend so much time alone. Normal family life becomes a distant memory, as in so many cases (including our own) the Cancer Mom must take the child far away for treatment, for great lengths of time. Unless you’ve lived it, you cannot fathom how difficult it is to work all day, then go home and receive the nightly phone calls that often bring lousy news…MRI reports, bad reactions to medications, sickness, mouth sores, weight loss, hair loss…but, if you’re really lucky, you might hear about something funny that she said or did that day that made everyone howl with laughter. We were fortunate that Sahara was blessed with a riotous sense of humor and often did make those doctors and nurses laugh. Cancer Dads, the world should salute you. I know I do.

I envision this web page becoming a virtual “curio cabinet,” where I can stash memories, photos and maybe even the occasional announcement if anything of real interest or value is happening. Come back and visit from time to time.

We will continue to support the good works of MVTH and have some ideas for fundraising in the coming months. I also ask that you keep Pediatric Brain Tumor Research and Ronald McDonald House Charities at the top of your giving lists; they are so very, very worthwhile. One of my goals is to support the research of Dr. Michael Edwards and his staff at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. They are working so hard to find the answers we need. I pray that within my lifetime a cure will be found for the horrific cancers that take the lives of so many precious children.

I really don’t like goodbyes, so let’s just say “so long for now.” Thank you for honoring our sweet Sahara with your presence here on the blog and in the million other ways you’ve supported us. Please remember how funny she was…remember her smile, her beauty, and her love for her family, her friends, and LIFE.

Until the world stops turning
Until the wind doesn’t blow
Until the sun stops shining
Until the river doesn’t flow
Until my heart stops beating
The legend lives on
Remember the name
Sahara “Hoops”, 21

With much love,
Amy and Shannon

Almost 14 months ago, after a long day of celebrating Sahara's life surrounded by her family, her friends, her church community, by Rick, Packy, Matty and Ronnie and her collection of animals, Shannon, Amy and I took a deep breath and had a quiet conversation about how and when to end this site.

I told them we'd know when it was right. So when Amy came to me earlier this month and said "I'm tired of living in a fishbowl," it was clear. This morning we took some first steps to turning this living tribute to beautiful Sahara into a permanent memorial. The thing is, no one ever forgets. But at some point, a headstone is carved, and that's it.

This finality bothers me immensely, especially because we're forced to connect it with such an amazing child. Her life was bold and vibrant, played out at full speed, top volume, heart pounding enthusiasm. It was her truth from day one. She knew what she wanted and what she didn't. She was astutely aware of herself, and her place in the world, and unlike most adults, she was entirely comfortable there.

There are thousands of Sahara stories here, capturing the last months of her life on earth--and the first year of the rest of us learning to live in a world that still doesn't quite make sense.

But this blog is not about us...from the very first day, it was meant to be about our darling Sahara, about her fight and her journey and the miracle she would undoubtedly pull from her pocket.

As proud as we can be for all the miracles she accomplished, for all she inspired and still inspires today, we all know the story itself has ended.

For more than two years, you readers have surrounded us with a blanket of support and love and hope that has brought warmth and comfort on the darkest nights and joyful laughter on the days we needed it most. Thank you for that. It meant the world. We started the blog to keep you informed--and discovered that instead, you kept us sustained.

Letting go of that is hard, but it's the path out of the woods. And so, on this cold, snowy morning, we are taking those first steps, our breath forming white clouds in the air, our cheeks pink with anticipation for what lies ahead.

With love and heartfelt gratitude,

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas

I hope this finds our dear readers well, happy and enjoying the holiday season. It's all a bit much anymore and it's sad that we're assaulted by Christmas trees and carols beginning in SEPTEMBER, but such is our world. Our economy is in shambles and still we see people fighting in the stores. It's just crazy. He who has the most toys doesn't necessarily win. Sigh.

Shannon and I will be on the beach on Christmas day. We're off to Mexico for a few days in the sun and it can't get here soon enough for me. When I left the house this morning, the temp was 8 degrees. I was not meant to live in a climate that reaches 8 degrees. UGH!!! Thank God for warm locales and soft sand beaches. Feliz Navidad!

Over the last few weeks I have been thinking about how to do something that will be difficult. It will mean removing a constant from my life, something that has been with me since July, 2006. Sahara's blog has been such a blessing...originally set up by my dear friend, Pamela, to help us stay in contact with our friends and family as we set out on a journey we wished we did not have to travel. It has served its purpose a million times over and I don't know what I would have done without it. It has provided contact, support, love and self-therapy. It has brought people together from around the world. And it made Sahara's fight very personal to everyone who kept up with it as part of their daily routine. It's just time to put it to rest and begin putting our once-private lives back in order as best we can. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for everything you have contributed to our family. There are not enough words to express the depth of our gratitude.

All we can ask now is that you help keep her memory alive by sharing your great stories about her with each other, that you will support pediatric brain tumor awareness and research, and, if you can, keep supporting MVTH in their mission to help disabled riders enjoy some freedom.

I'm working with Pamela on a final memorial page that will be posted sometime before the end of the year. We hope it will honor Sahara's memory forever.

Thank you all...

With love,
Amy and Shannon

Friday, December 05, 2008

Vegas Rewind

Hello everyone,

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. We spent a quiet day at home, eating and watching the Titans crush the Lions. :) Holidays will never be as joyous as they were when Sahara was with us, but she's always there in spirit.

I need to back up and post a bit about our trip to Vegas in October. We had so much going on that I simply got sidetracked and forgot to say anymore about it. We had a very nice anniversary vacation. It was sunny and hot, just the way I love it!!!

We stayed at Planet Hollywood, which is now one of my favorite hotels. It was wonderful from beginning to end. While we were there, I took Shannon to as many places as I could, trying to hit all of the spots that Sahara loved so much...the Krispy Kreme factory at Excalibur, the walkways of New York, New York, the MGM, with the lions and Wolfgang Puck's, M&M's World, Caesar's Palace and the Forum Shops, Treasure Island and the pirate show, Hamada, the Fashion Show Mall, and just some good long walks on the strip. I love Vegas. I feel good when I'm there. So many good memories, good friends, good food and good times.

We enjoyed spending time with my dear friend Packy and her boyfriend Gregg, and her sweet mom even joined us for breakfast one day! It was so great to visit with them and we had some wonderful times. We were also able to take in a couple of shows, "KA" at MGM and "O" at the Bellagio. They were both great and I highly recommend that you see them if you get the chance! And if you want to see the most beautiful flowers and holiday decorations, the Bellagio is the place to be. It defies description. Just go!

On our last night, Shannon surprised me with a lovely necklace that he'd had custom made for our 24th anniversary. It is beautiful and so special to me. (if you ever need something spectacular for a special occasion, talk to Peg at Edward Bernard Gallery in Cape!)

Unfortunately, time always passes too quickly when you're in Vegas. Our three days went by in a flash, then it was time to fly back and get back to work on the benefit concert!

Our next goal: to be someplace warm for Christmas!

Love to all of you,

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

One Year Later

The moments are winding down, ever closer to Wednesday, almost like a doomsday clock. How can I describe the first full year that passed without Sahara? Words like ‘hollow’ and ‘empty’ are fairly accurate, yet barely scratch the surface. After devoting over 13 years of our lives to her, making sure she was safe, healthy, self-confident and happy, to lose her to forces beyond our control remains the ultimate kick in the head. We still ask, “WHY?”

As I recall, November 5 used to be a fairly bland day, part of the anticlimactic post-Halloween period and far enough away from Thanksgiving to matter much. Now it’s known as the day Sahara died. Funny, that clear November Monday started out as such a good day, a productive day with no problems. Little did we know that it would also be the day that destroyed life as we knew it.

The niceties are worn, if well-meaning. “She’s in a better place.”
Yeah, well, I still think that here with US was the best place. “She’s not suffering anymore.” Undoubtedly. “All of this happened for a reason.” That doesn’t help much. “You are so strong.” Oh, please. Sahara was the strong one…we were the ones who did what had to be done. We were parents, doing what parents do: we took care of our child to the best of our abilities. If anyone took away something good from our experience, we only have Sahara to thank.

There is no question in my mind that Sahara was sent here to be a teacher. For one thing, she always gravitated toward those folks who chose teaching as their life’s work. She followed teachers (and the occasional principal) like a puppy, shadowing them wherever they would go. She would never admit to being a teacher’s pet, and she really didn’t want to be…she just wanted to be part of their world. I’m sure she drove them crazy at times, because she never gave up on whatever “cause” she was trying to sell. Sahara loved her teachers and she loved going to school, more for the social opportunities than the educational value. I think every one of Sahara’s teachers, from preschool forward, can tell funny stories about her.

Admittedly, she wasn’t the most studious child; she hated homework with a passion and raced through her assignments at breakneck speed, with a devil-may-care attitude that would not quit. There was too much fun waiting to be had to spend a lot of time worrying about science and math. Her response to a report card riddled with C’s? “Well, at least I didn’t get D’s.” How do you argue with this kind of logic? She had an answer for everything, spinning on one foot and flouncing away before I could come up with an appropriate response. The worst arguments we had seemed to always involve schoolwork, but I could never stay mad at her for very long. It wasn’t possible!

What a teacher she became in the short span of only 13 years! She taught me what unconditional love really means. She taught me about the joy of being a mother and the pure happiness that comes at the end of the day with a goodnight kiss. When someone would hurt her feelings, she would tell me to remember, “Oh, mom, they don’t know any better.” She was so quick to forgive, a trait that I was most grateful for, as I felt I let her down so many times. I would get so frustrated when she was sick; frustrated with the medical system and the lack of options, frustrated with myself, even frustrated with her. June Cleaver, I am not. If I had a day when I was at my worst, somehow I always remembered to ask her to forgive me, and she always did. Then she would demand something from Sonic to make up for it. LOL. Her last Butterfinger Blast is STILL in the freezer. I don’t know if I will ever be able to throw it away.

She taught Shannon the joy of being a great dad, coach and friend. He always wore the same look of pride whenever she did anything, from hitting a three-pointer to calling her mother “such a nerd.” Daddy’s Girl??? OMG, yes, was she ever. She wrapped him around her little finger the first second he laid eyes on her – as it should be for every daughter.

She was SO many things…sweet, funny, goofy, kind, loyal, infuriating, silly, witty, clever, athletic, competitive, considerate…I could fill a “Sahara Dictionary” with words that describe her personality and spirit. I miss every single one of the things that made her who she was…a truly bright spark who touched lives around the globe. She was a girl whose zest for life and unquenchable love of adventure led to an incredible existence on this earth. Sahara could make someone, even one not particularly fond of kids, think, “Wow, if I could have one like her, I’d do it in a heartbeat.” She was a girl who collected friends and kept them close to her heart; friends who honor her today by remembering the good times they spent together.

A year later, we still have no idea what we are supposed to do with the rest of our lives. We go about our daily business in a routine, predictable way, so different than the way it used to be…because, with Sahara, you NEVER knew what was going to happen from one minute to the next. She taught us about spontaneity and getting the most out of every day. “Let’s shoot some hoops!” “Let’s go on a picnic.” “Let’s go to the mall.” “Let’s go to VEGAS!!!”

Has anyone noticed the explosion of orange in Cape Girardeau? The trees are changing rapidly, and everywhere I look I see vivid shades of the color that she loved. Seems like there’s more orange than ever this year, and it is truly the most beautiful fall I’ve ever seen. For me, it’s almost like a vast illustration for an Emily Dickens poem, such beauty tinged with such great pain.

There are good things happening. We are glad that we are able to help MVTH and will continue to do so at every opportunity. Upward Basketball evaluations begin next week, which means the season is right around the corner. I’m taking some classes and exploring different hobbies, trying to find a good fit. Even our silly dog, LuLu, is starting school soon. If she simply learns to walk on a leash it will be worth the cost of “tuition!”

We received the most wonderful letter this week from Tiffanne Ryan, one of the superstars of the Lady Redhawks Championship Team. (and YES, they will always be champs in our eyes…what a season…) She was one of Sahara’s all-time favorite players and she looked up to her so much. Thank you, Tiffanne, you made our day. Sahara was crazy about you.

It was our privilege to be her parents; to love her and teach her all we knew about life. Upon her birth, how could we have ever expected that she would do that and more…a zillion times more, for us? She taught so much to so many. What a blessing, what an honor, what a gift she was, to all who loved her, now and forever.

We love you, Sahara. We’ll see you on the other side.

Mom and Dad

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Prayers for Gunner

Hello all,

I'd like to ask you to take a moment this afternoon to visit Gunner Gillespie's site at If you could leave his family an encouraging word on the guestbook, I know it would be much appreciated.

I've told you about Gunner...he is a precious little boy in Benton, Kentucky who has bravely fought a brain tumor, one very similar to Sahara's, for just over a year. Today is not a good one and he and his family need your prayers. My heart aches for his parents, as I know all too well what they are feeling at this difficult, mind-numbing time.

Godspeed, sweet Gunner...

With love,

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Hello, everyone!

Sorry it took me a week to sign in and give you the total raised last weekend! I have been sick and finally gave up and went bed on Thursday evening, where I've been ever since. I missed the most beautiful weekend of fall, no doubt, because I haven't left the house. I'm starting to feel a bit better now, thank goodness. Anyway...

I was all ready to post that the grand total raised was $22,093. Isn't that simply out of this world??? But wait, I opened an email from Rhonda, photographer extraordinaire, which informed me that I should add another $28 from photo sales. It floored me to read the new total:

Yes, Sahara had to throw in her contribution by making sure we had some 21's in the total. Two of 'em!!!!! WOW!!!!!

We began our Saturday at MVTH, where Rick and Matty got to meet the riders, their parents, and of course, the horses. It was "Rider Appreciation Day," but in my eyes, there was appreciation all around...appreciation for the kids, the parents, the staff and volunteers, and for Rick. Visiting MVTH is heartwarming, inspiring and breathtaking all at the same time. We had such a wonderful visit (with Rick and Shannon ending up in grass skirts...lolol). I am so glad that we had the opportunity to show Cowboy Rick what the program is about, how much Sahara enjoyed attending lessons there, and why we love MVTH so dearly. He got it. Everybody did. Rhonda worked her usual magic and took the most incredible photos. You can check out her photos from the entire day at

I hope that many of you had the great fortune to meet Grayson, Sahara's instructor at MVTH, my benefit partner and all-around Energizer bunny. Could Sahara pick great people or what??? I continue to be amazed by the great choices she made in so many ways. Grayson epitomizes what MVTH is all and concern for her riders. Sahara picked up on that immediately. Grayson and Kandy gave Sahara such joy and we are forever grateful. Now, we are blessed with friendship with Grayson and her wonderful husband Larry. I believe we all have Sahara to thank for that! We had so much fun putting the benefit together week by week over the summer. It's weird now that it is over...but we definitely have some ideas for fundraising projects in the future. I can't wait to work with them again!

The signing at PMac was great fun, with Shannon playing the part of Ronnie for the afternoon. (I thought he did a great job!) Thanks to everyone at PMac for all of their hard work, from ticket sales, putting up with hundreds upon hundreds of phone calls, and for hosting the signing. We appreciate all of you!

Rick was feeling rough but put on a great show as always. I don't know how he does it. I think it was purely his love for Sahara and her ever-present spirit that gave him the voice to sing that night, because he certainly didn't have much left! It was amazing. As he finished singing St. Sahara, barely making it through at all, the entire place stood up and applauded. I just stood there with tears running down my face...what a precious moment. To everyone who was there...our guests, our silent auction donors, our many volunteers, Sheryl and Don Henley, Crystal Britt, Mayor Jay Knudtson, Phil and the staff of Buckner's...thank you.

Our meet and greet was fun but Rick was fading fast. He managed to take photos with everyone but was definitely ready to hit the hay at the end of the evening. Thanks to everyone for your patience and respect for Rick as we tried to make things go quickly. And even more thanks to Rhonda for photographing the evening! I know that everyone is loving their photos.

As we drove the guys back to the airport on Sunday, we kept talking about how great the previous day had been. Rick and Matty truly had a great time and support our efforts more than ever. We thank them for giving us their time and talents as we continue to give it our all for MVTH.

If you were present for any part of our wonderful day, I hope you'll take a second to post your experiences. We hope you had as much fun as we did!

More photos to come as I slowly come back to life and get them uploaded. I'll also fill you in on our trip to Vegas for our 24th anniversary!

With love,

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Let's Get this Party Started!

Is everybody ready? This weekend is going to be a blast!

Details about Saturday:
Rick has graciously agreed to visit PMac Music from noon to 1 pm! He will only be signing items that are purchased at PMac, so get there early, pick up a cool Rick cd or dvd, and grab your place in line. Remember, he is only able to be there for one hour, so arrive as early as possible to make sure you get your chance to meet Rick! Doors open at PMac promptly at 9 am!

Enjoy the Show:
Parking downtown can be, well, interesting. There are a lot of spaces on Water Street, behind Buckner's, as well as on Broadway and Main Streets. There is also a free parking lot behind the Convention and Visitor's Bureau, which is directly catty-corner to Buckner's on the opposite side of Broadway and Main. Get downtown early if you want a spot close to the club!

About Buckners:
Doors will open at Buckner's at 6:30 pm. We encourage everyone to get there early - have dinner, drinks, check out the silent auction items and get ready to have a great time. If you have standing room only tickets, please line up outside at the Broadway entrance as early as you can so you can claim the best spots when the doors open! Only the Broadway entrance will be open that evening.
Bring Identification that Proves Your Age. Even You, Gramma Dooley!
At the door, you WILL BE CARDED. Have your ID and your show ticket ready. After you're verified to be 21, you will be provided with an armband, which you must wear for the duration of the show, with colors corresponding to your tickets as follows:
VIP: orange, FLOOR: blue, BALCONY: yellow, STANDING ROOM ONLY: green

Once You're Inside Buckners:
An usher will show you to your seats or direct you to the designated standing room areas. VIP orange armbands will be required for entry to the Meet & Greet!

Event programs will be handed out as you arrive. You'll find some great information about MVTH, Sahara's story, and you'll be able to check out ads from all of our generous show sponsors.

PMac Music will have a booth set up on the left as you enter Buckner's. If you still need to pick up your copy of Venus in Overdrive or one of Rick's other great titles, this will be your chance!

Mississippi Valley Therapeutic Horsemanship will have an information booth set up directly across from the silent auction room. Please stop by, chat with the volunteers, take a brochure and find out what you can do to help after the night is over!
Silent Auction:
The silent auction will open at 6:30 pm. You may pay by cash or check (so long as it's good!). We have a fantastic selection of items waiting for your HIGH BIDS!
  • Gorgeous red Fernandez guitar autographed by Rick
  • Brown shirt Rick is wearing on the show poster and on the inside of the Venus in Overdrive cd
  • Handwritten lyrics to Jessie's Girl
  • Gift certificates to EDen Spa
  • I-Groove Digital Music Speaker System
  • GPS system
  • Free oil change cards from Bening Mazda
  • Cracker Barrel Gold Card
  • Super Stars of the 80's cd box set
  • "Rock of Life" clock
  • Beautiful selection of books
  • Rams/Bears tickets for November 23 (or Bears/Rams tickets if that sounds
  • Vintage bottle of Scotch
Donations are still coming in! The silent auction will be located in the room directly to the left of the main bar. Bids will be accepted until 7:45 pm. At that time, the room will be closed and winners will be determined. Winners will be announced immediately following Rick's performance. The room will then reopen for winners to pay for their items. Best of luck to you!!!

Wait'll you see the t-shirts we have for sale! They will be $20 each and are a must-have souvenir to commemorate this very special occasion.

Raffle Tickets:
We will have volunteers conducting sales for a 50/50 drawing. The tickets will be $1.00 each, or 6 for $5.00.

Enjoy the Show:
You simply cannot miss the pre-show, which begins at 7:30 pm. We have some very special guests and great things planned for you to see. Be sure to be in your seats when we get started!

Rick will take the stage at 8 pm. How excited are YOU??? The show will last approximately one hour. Make Rick feel welcome as he comes back to Cape for the love of Sahara.
After Rick's performance, the great local band Midlife Crisis will take the stage. While they are setting up, our volunteers must move the tables and chairs from the VIP section back to their original places in the restaurant and Ragsdales (downstairs). Buckner's has been so very kind to allow us to configure their club to meet our needs for the show, and we've promised to put their chairs, tables and barstools back where they started! After the VIP section has been cleared, the floor seats must also be moved back to their original locations. We appreciate your patience as our volunteers put the place back in order. You are welcome (and encouraged!) to stick around and party with Midlife Crisis but your location will likely change due to seating restrictions. If you're in standing room sections, party on! We'll work around you. :)

VIP Meet & Greet (orange armbanded guests only)
The VIP Meet & Greet will be held on the third floor in the Riverview Room. After the silent auction winners are announced, VIP guests should line up on the stairs leading to the third floor. We will have ushers standing by for assistance. When the door is unlocked for the Meet & Greet, proceed as directed to the Riverview Room. Rhonda Hunt from Reflections Portrait Studio will be there taking professional photos of your meeting with Rick. She will provide a card with instructions for downloading your photo from the web. Each guest will be allowed one autograph and one photo. A cash bar will be open and snacks will be provided. Mix, mingle and enjoy this special once-in-a-lifetime experience! The Meet & Greet is scheduled to last for approximately one hour.

Do Not Drink and Drive. Now, or EVER!
We want everyone to have a great evening, and we also want everyone to get home safely. If you don't already have a designated driver in your party, you can make arrangements for a ride by calling Designated Driver at (573) 200-3388. They will pick you up and deliver you back to any location in Cape Girardeau. It's easy, inexpensive and a very smart choice! Please don't drink and drive!

Have a Great Evening and Let's Help A Great Cause
I think that's about it - all you have to do now is show up on Saturday and have a fantastic time with Rick! The weather is supposed to be picture-perfect; welcome to a beautiful autumn in Southeast Missouri!

We'll see you at the show!

Amy and Shannon

Thursday, September 18, 2008

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Please, tell me I’m dreaming. It just cannot possibly be mid-September. The last three months have flown by at warp speed. One year ago last week, we took Sahara to Stanford for surgery. I still remember it all so vividly: the initial call from Dr. Edwards telling me that he could indeed operate, the difficult journey to Palo Alto, the amazing people we met there, a very successful surgery, big hopes from rehab, watching Sahara actually walk again in physical therapy, the excitement of going home. She only got to enjoy being at home for 11 days, but she was so very glad to be in her own house again.

I apologize for taking such a long time to post. It has been a busy summer with a lot of things going on in many different directions. I’ll try to do a respectable job of recapping my favorite season of the year. Sahara and I both loved summer; we were constantly on the run, traveling, swimming, zipping around from place to place, enjoying the warmth and beauty of the days.

Shannon and I delivered a check for $2150 to MVTH on Sahara’s birthday. I’ve included a photo of Shannon, Sahara’s Kandy, Grayson and me on the slideshow. I am so proud of the work he did and the number of shirts he sold. We again want to thank everyone who bought a shirt or donated to the cause. It was indeed a fitting tribute to Sahara’s memory to be at the barn on that day. She spent her last birthday there. It was a perfect summer afternoon, and she got to ride Kandy outside in the pasture near the barn. I was so proud of her for having the strength and desire to ride, even though it had become increasingly difficult for her. But as always, she was a champ,
and had a great time on her special day. The volunteers at MVTH brought cupcakes to celebrate. I still have the little Hello Kitty decoration from Sahara’s cupcake in my kitchen windowsill.

Sahara’s birthday was a struggle for us in so many ways. We really didn’t know what to do with ourselves. After we delivered the check to MVTH, we literally drove around for about half an hour trying to decide where we should have dinner. We ended up having barbecue at The Branding Iron, one of Sahara’s favorite places. It was good, but somehow food just doesn’t taste right when you’re so freakin’ sad. I wonder which one of us cried the most that day; probably a tie for that honor.

The next day I left for New York. I flew to LaGuardia, where my precious friend Pamela picked me up in the Sparklecar! We had such a wonderful visit. I finally got to meet her husband, John, who is witty and a great conversationalist. She and I went to Rick’s show on Long Island, which was literally only about 20 minutes away from her home. It was so good to be at a concert again! I finally had the chance to meet Rosie, Theresa and several other wonderful gals who have followed our story for so long. (Thank you all for helping to make the trip so special for me!) Even though we were several rows apart, both Rosie and I noticed the lone butterfly fluttering around the venue before the show started. That butterfly dipped and dove for at least a couple of minutes before finally coming to rest right in the middle of the top of the rigging that held the lights. (Perhaps “she” had the best seat in the house. LOL.) Butterflies seem to float around in my world quite often, and I like to think that they’re little nudges from Sahara.

Pamela and I had long talks, great food and so much fun. I just loved the variety of restaurants on Long Island – wow! I think I had the best burger and fries of my life at a tiny little place called The Sweet Shop, in Hicksville. Thank you, Pamela, for chauffeuring me around the island and for making me feel so welcome in your home. I really needed that weekend.

I spent the next three days in the whirlwind commonly known as Manhattan. Thanks to my adopted locals who gave me such wonderful guided tours! We drove past Ground Zero on our way to the South Street Seaport; it was spitting rain, and the barricades prevented me from seeing the area, but just knowing what happened there seven years ago made me shudder. I simply cannot imagine having been in that area on 9/11. We all watched it unfold on tv, but driving past it I could not fathom how terrified everyone must have been, running in all directions, down chaotic city streets, screaming, crying, not knowing what was happening in their city. The Rick Springfield online community lost one of their own that day. Her name was Marni O’Dougherty. She was so vibrant and funny, and even though I had only spoken to her via typed words, my heart ached for such a loss. (I have a photo of Sahara standing in front of the New York New York hotel in Vegas, beside the photo of Marni and her husband that someone placed at their makeshift memorial. It’s one of the few photos in which Sahara looks genuinely sad.) Today, it’s hard to find many visible reminders of what happened on that awful day. I still remember all of the American flags flying afterward, and how this country banded together. I wish we could always have that kind of unity, no matter where you may stand politically. I can tell you this…the printed flag that Sahara taped to her bedroom door after 9/11 remains there to this day.

I walked through Times Square at night, which is the very best way to see it! The lights, the billboards, the Broadway shows…it defies sensory definition. What an amazing thing to see for myself. I spent just about every New Year’s Eve of my childhood with my grandma. We always had pizza and snacks as we celebrated with Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, and watched as the giant ball descended slowly to the ground. I never dreamed that I would actually stand beneath that ball one day. Now, THAT was cool.

Monday was insane! Up before daylight and off to Good Morning America to watch Rick and the guys perform. It was so much fun to be there and see how the show is produced. I loved seeing everyone having such a great time. After that, it was a day filled with running all over town, from one radio station to the next as Rick did interviews. We visited WPLJ, which I learned has a rich history in NYC. It was cool to see the station, and I met their star DJ, Race Taylor. He was very sweet and it was a pleasure to chat with him. We went to more places than I can remember that day! I think the last interviews were at Sirius Satellite Radio. Mark Goodman did a very good, very thorough interview for his Big 80’s show. I sat there as they talked, remembering how I used to see his face on MTV every day way back when. He showed great interest in “St. Sahara,” and when Rick introduced me as her mom, he got very emotional. (I think I made too many people cry in NY. I swear I didn’t mean to!!!) He was incredibly nice and I’m thrilled that I got to meet him. I also met Vinny Pastore from The Sopranos…how cool is that? It was such an exciting day, but I have to tell you that I literally passed out from exhaustion that evening!

Tuesday morning did not have quite as early of a start, thank goodness! We went to Live with Regis and Kelly for Rick’s performance. Honest opinion: Kelly is just as cute and sweet and funny when the cameras are not rolling. Seriously. Reege was very funny in his curmudgeonly way and seemed to have a good time working the crowd. It was great fun. After the show was finished, Rick had a lot more interviews to do. I wanted to do some sightseeing, so I took off and packed as much as I could into that day!

I still can’t believe I was able to get this photo. I was standing in line, waiting to get a ticket for the Circle Line cruise. It was very crowded, with lots of people mingling about the area. I glanced to one side and someone caught my eye. It was a man walking toward my line, obviously looking for something or someone. As he got closer, I noticed the type on the front of his shirt. The shirt was blue, and there was one word printed in block letters: SAHARA. I could not believe it…I tore my camera out of my purse and snapped a photo. He didn’t even notice. He apparently didn’t see what he was looking for, and as he came about ten feet from me, he turned around and disappeared into the masses. I would challenge anyone who would argue that Sahara was laughing, letting me know that she’s keeping an eye on me, telling me hello and giving me a wink every now and then!

The cruise out to the Statue of Liberty was both exhilarating and relaxing. It was truly awe-inspiring to approach her, imagining what the immigrants must have been thinking as they entered this country. It was a warm, sunny day, just perfect for seeing Manhattan from the water at a leisurely pace.

After the cruise, I walked…and walked…and walked. I scaled as much real estate (very, very pricy real estate, at that) as I could in one afternoon. Some of the highlights: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, the Plaza Hotel, FAO Schwarz and the NBC Studios. WHEW…

Following one last spectacular meal, it was time to pack my clothes, souvenirs and great memories. Wednesday morning came all too soon and I don’t think I really woke up until I got on the plane. I loved my visit to the city, but was also very glad to get back home. It was truly the trip of a lifetime and I am very grateful for the experience.

August 1st was Shannon’s birthday…it passed without much fanfare, I’m sorry to say, because I was up to my eyeballs in an office transition at work. Ask him about his Rocklahoma book, which turned out to be an excellent present, if I do say so myself!

On August 23rd, we did our very first 5K walk, sponsored by Lynwood Baptist. We walked with Jen and Dan Hecht on a really hot, muggy morning, and it was a great time. Apparently we didn’t take our stride seriously enough, because we were blown out of the water by just about everyone else in the race. LOL. No matter, it was fun and I’m glad we did it. Who knows, maybe it will become a new hobby!

A postscript to Sahara’s birthday: on the afternoon of July 24th, my nephew Darrin and his family took a bouquet of 14 balloons to Cape County Park and released them. Attached was a card that said happy 14th birthday to Sahara, gave her website address, and asked the finder to please let us know where the balloons landed. Well, a few days ago, a gentleman named Kevin from Melber, KY contacted Pamela. He found the balloons while hunting in Ballard County – then took the time to look up the blog and read Sahara’s story. He was touched and sent kind wishes. We were so excited to find out that the balloons traveled over 60 miles, and that someone took the time to let us know they were found. Thanks, Kevin, you made our day!

Last week was the annual SEMO District Fair. I cannot remember the last time I went to the fair prior to Saturday night. I know Sahara was with us, so it had been at least three years ago (wow). We went to the Styx concert and had a blast, rockin’ out to the songs from our high school years. They still put on a super show! We also saw so many friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. That’s one of the things I love most about the fair; it almost always turns into a reunion. It was so good to see everyone.

Please keep in mind that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Here are some sobering statistics that everyone should know:

Brain Tumors in Children and Young Adults

Brain tumors are the second most common cancer of childhood, and comprise approximately 25% of all pediatric cancers. Over 3,400 children are diagnosed in the U.S. each year; of that, about 2,600 will be under the age of 15.

Brain tumors are the leading cause of solid tumor cancer death in children; they are the third leading cause of cancer death in young adults ages 20-39.

The types of brain tumors found in children are different from those in adults. Further complicating treatment is the fact that children's developing brains are more susceptible to damage from toxic treatments. Although more than 70% of children now survive their tumors, they are often left with long-term side-effects, including:
- Learning problems due to cognitive, neurological, and psychological changes.- Vision and/or hearing impairments that can contribute to problems in school.- Increased risk for second cancers due to the late-effects of treatment.

Only two new treatments for brain tumors have been approved in the past 25 years.

Childhood Cancer Facts
· Childhood cancers are the #1 disease killer of children — more than asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and pediatric AIDS combined.
· One in every 330 children will develop cancer before the age of 19.
· The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) federal budget was $4.6 billion. Of that, breast cancer received 12%, prostate cancer received 7%, and all 12 major groups of pediatric cancers combined received less than 3%.
· Childhood cancer is not a single disease, but rather many different types that fall into 12 major categories. Common adult cancers are extremely rare in children, yet many cancers are almost exclusively found in children.
· One out of every five children diagnosed with cancer dies.
· Common cancer symptoms in children — fever, swollen glands, anemia, bruises and infection — are often suspected to be, and at the early stages are treated as, other childhood illnesses.
· Three out of every five children diagnosed with cancer suffer from long-term or late onset side effects.
· Childhood Cancers are cancers that primarily affect children, teens, and young adults. When cancer strikes children and young adults it affects them differently than it would an adult.
· Attempts to detect childhood cancers at an earlier stage, when the disease would react more favorably to treatment, have largely failed. Young patients often have a more advanced stage of cancer when first diagnosed. (Approximately 20% of adults with cancer show evidence the disease has spread, yet almost 80% of children show that the cancer has spread to distant sites at the time of diagnosis).
· Cancer in childhood occurs regularly, randomly, and spares no ethnic group, socioeconomic class, or geographic region.
· The cause of most childhood cancers are unknown and at present, cannot be prevented. (Most adult cancers result from lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet, occupation, and other exposure to cancer-causing agents).
· Nationally, childhood cancer is 20 times more prevalent than pediatric AIDS, yet pediatric AIDS receives four times the funding that childhood cancer receives.
· On the average, 12,500 children and adolescents in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer each year.
· On the average, one in every four elementary schools has a child with cancer.
· On the average, every high school in America has two students who are a current or former cancer patient.
· In the U.S., about 46 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer every single school day. That's about the equivalent of two entire classrooms.
· While the cancer death rate has dropped more dramatically for children than for any other age group, 2,300 children and teenagers will die each year from cancer.
· Today, up to 75% of the children with cancer can be cured, yet, some forms of childhood cancers have proven so resistant to treatment that, in spite of research, a cure is elusive.
· Several childhood cancers continue to have a very poor prognosis, including: brain stem tumors, metastatic sarcomas, relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and relapsed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Here are some things you can do this month (and ALL YEAR ROUND, for the most part!) to support Childhood Cancer Awareness.
None of these things involves any financial burden of any kind (except for eating at Chili's ... but hey, ya gotta eat, right??)
· join team unite to become part of a unified voice against childhood cancer
· join people against childhood cancer (PAC2) to learn of efforts being made around the world to find a cure, raise awareness, and lend support
· tell everyone you know (and even those you don't know) how you, or someone you love, has been touched by childhood cancer
· donate blood
· eat at Chili’s on Monday, September 29th, when Chili’s will donate 100 percent of profits from participating restaurant sales to St. Jude’s
· WEAR GOLD FOR THE KIDS (you really don't need to click that link -- I know you've got SOMETHING gold in your closet!!!!!)
· register to become a bone marrow donor
· let a family that's been touched by childhood cancer know you STILL CARE and haven't forgotten about their struggles ... let a family of an angel know their child remains in your heart
· read this article on
· offer to volunteer at a local childhood cancer center

Sign the Petition to Raise Awareness at (and ask your friends and family to sign, as well!)

Lastly, big thanks to everyone who has purchased tickets to the Rick Springfield show in Cape, benefiting MVTH!!! And thanks to our incredibly generous sponsors from our amazing community…we appreciate your support in these rough economic times. 100% of the funds raised for this event will go directly to MVTH.

In our area, you can designate MVTH as a recipient on your annual United Way pledges!

I’m sure I’ve left out some very important things (which Shannon will quickly bring to my attention). Please know that we appreciate that so many of you continue to read the blog and keep Sahara’s memory alive. We love you all!

Our best to you,
Amy and Shannon

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sold out show

Excuse me, what happened to the last month? Whip, whirl, and there it flew, in a cloud of fresh roasted corn, juicy peaches, and sunflowers. The kids are back to school, and half the world's pretending that winter is not coming in a few short months.

Speaking of whirlwinds, Amy has been quite the dervish getting ready for the Benefit in Cape Girardeau next month. Thank you to all of you who jumped in quickly--it sold out in a heartbeat. For those who didn't get tickets, we truly wish you could join us, but every inch of the space is full. We can't cram another person in.

For those who are miffed that children cannot attend, we understand...but the law is the law...and to quote that nasty lady in the Wizard of Oz, "Ya wouldn't want to go against the law!"

The event benefits Mississippi Valley Therapeutic Horsemanship, one of the wonderful local service organizations that made Sahara's last year on the planet a little more tolerable. The volunteers and horses there gave that girl so much joy--something to get excited about, and something to hope for.

They need our help--and Sahara would undoubtedly look you in the eye and tell you the same thing. And whether you give $21 or $2100, know that you are giving southeast Missouri's sick and disabled kids a truly healing experience.

Send me an email if you want to give.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Lots of cats out of the bag

We're coming up for air! We all got thru Sahara's birthday (with more than a few tears, I'll admit) and Amy and Shannon loved the stories about Sahara. Amy told me a great one involving handcuffs and a construction crew--only Sahara!

For those of you who didn't spot us in the crowd, yes the rumors are true: Amy flew to NY on July 25! It was her first time and she managed to eat a dirty water dog without keeling over. Go Amy!
In a few days we'll give you the scoop on all she did and saw--let's just say Rick was involved in a big way. She spent the first few days with me on Long Island, and then headed into the city for some great adventures.

Speaking of Rick, she's got some news...

Get Ready, Cape Girardeau!!!

All right,'ve been patient as I've teased you about something amazing in the works, so here we go!

Please join us on Saturday, October 4 as we welcome Rick Springfield back to Cape Girardeau! Rick has generously agreed to perform a very special solo acoustic show, intimately set at the Buckner Brewing Company, by the river in downtown Cape. All proceeds from the evening will go directly to Mississippi Valley Therapeutic Horsemanship.

There will also be a silent auction, including a guitar signed by Rick, and many other unique items.

We are so excited and we hope to see you there! Come enjoy this fabulous evening with Rick and support a wonderful cause. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

Tickets are available EXCLUSIVELY at PMac Music, 2500 William Street, in Cape Girardeau. Seats are very limited and are selling fast, so if you want to go, be sure to head out to PMac and pick up your tickets today! See the show poster for full information.

PMac is also Cape's headquarters for Rick's new CD, "Venus in Overdrive." If you don't have it yet, run, don't walk, to PMac Music!!!
I have a ton of stuff to tell all of you about the last couple of weeks, but I wanted to get the word out about the benefit first! I had a wonderful time in New York City. It was a privilege visiting with Pamela and John, meeting Rosie, Theresa, Colleen, Brenda, Roxann, SO MANY WONDERFUL PEOPLE...thank you all so much for making me feel so welcome. Next time I post I'll include a bunch of photos and the scoop on my trip.

NOW GO OUT AND BUY YOUR TICKETS TO THE CAPE SHOW! We can't wait to see you there!

With love,

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Birthday girls

By the skin of my teeth (in this time zone anyway) I'm sending a huge bucket of birthday wishes to the lovely Gramma Dooley. Frances, I think about you every single day.

In just a few minutes, the clock will tick its way into a new year for me. This is one of the semi-big ones: it has a 5 at the end...though not at the beginning...yet. I don't have to tell you what I wished for last year, or the year before. Thinking about it now really smacks my priorities into place. This year, my wishes are just as ambitious. And a little more scary, because now I know they don't always come true. But nonetheless, I throw them up into the air, like so many dandelion seeds or butterflies. I see them as a good sign.

Thank you to everyone who shares their Sahara stories today. (And yes, the Cannon family gets special dispensation--you can tell your tales anytime.)

In Sahara’s honor, Shannon has sold t-shirts over the last couple of months, raising money for MVTH. We have only a few shirts left, and we have been stunned by the response. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has purchased a shirt! The total collected is…drumroll please…
$2125.00. Can you believe it????? $2125!!!
(Susan F. – your generous donation put us over the top!!! Thank you!!!)

We will present a check to MVTH, hopefully on her birthday, which is on Thursday. I am so excited and so proud of Shannon. He worked so hard on this and it was a total labor of love. Thanks again to everyone who participated!

I thought the attached photo was one of the wonderful things I’ve ever seen. This fantastic family is very special to us. Sahara attended daycare at Christian School for the Young Years and Community Day School. Ms. Kathy, Ms. Jennifer and Ms. Liz continue to be special friends, very near and dear to our hearts. They recently took a family vacation in Kansas City – and the entire family bought Sahara shirts to wear! I just bawled when I saw this picture, but then I smiled, because I know Sahara would absolutely LOVE it!!! Thank you, Jennifer, for giving us this wonderful gift!!!

I suspected that the weeks preceding this one would be tough…and I was right. Everything from random crying spells to sleepless nights (and nightmares when I do sleep). Over the last few days I’ve found myself reliving all of the events that happened two years ago, when this unthinkable journey began. The weird symptoms…the loss of balance…the subtle differences in Sahara that prefaced her death sentence. The first MRI that showed a large mass. The crushing reality of a brain tumor. The biopsy and subsequent days of sheer terror, punctuated with the diagnosis of stage 4 cancer, glioblastoma multiforme. Houston. Stanford. The next seventeen months of doctors, chemo, radiation, surgeries, steroids, scans, alternative therapy, physical therapy, tumor resection…then a glimmer of hope, but ultimately the loss of our precious daughter. My mind presses “play” and the story unravels yet again, every night as I attempt to surrender to slumber.

Shannon and I have done our best to channel our grief into productive and meaningful things, and so far I think we’re doing okay. Neither of us are the types to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, even though I can understand how easily a parent could slip into the oblivion that sorrow can create. No one who has not lived it can ever truly understand, yet so many miss her as much as we do. Several people have come up to us as time has passed, giving us a hug or pat on the shoulder, and assured us that time will help…that it will get easier…and that they can say this because of their own experience. It is such a sad surprise when this happens, because we did not realize that this person had lost a child. It is difficult to be a member of this club, but we know that we are not alone.

That said, we are most assuredly able to remember time after time after time that Sahara gave us enough memories to fill many pages. She was so funny, with a well-developed sense of humor that went far beyond her young years. I think anyone who knew her could tell something funny that she said or did. She delighted in embarrassing me in any way possible and at every opportunity, and I could never stay mad at her because she would make me laugh about whatever had happened. Pamela asked for posts about funny stories…and I can’t wait to see what comes up. I have a few favorites of my own.

Once, when she was in 6th grade, there was an event at school that parents were invited to attend. One of the DARE officers was present, and was taking questions from the students. Of course, Sahara’s hand shot up at the opportunity. I cringed, wondering what her question would be, and with good reason. He pointed to her and she jumped up. He asked what she’d like to know. Her question, with a sly smile: “So. How old do you think my mom is?” He was very gracious and said something sweet, I think, but I wanted to crawl under her messy desk. (You know, the desk that was so full of crap that it could only be shut on the first day of school, and never again thereafter.)

She once told everyone that I was pregnant and that she couldn’t wait until her new brother or sister got here. It was fun explaining that one away.

She threw a pitcher of ice cold water on my head while I was showering one morning. A most inspiring way to start the day. Very nice.

She took a special, evil joy in cannonballing into the pool while I was dozing on my float. She would always claim total innocence, swearing that she didn’t mean to do it. Yes, she DID.

Once we truly blindsided Shannon on April Fool’s Day…we put a rubber band around the faucet on the kitchen sink…he turned it on twice before he figured out why it was spraying him in the face. We were rolling around and laughing hysterically in the living room as he got soaked.

She dearly loved to dress her cat, Semo, in clothes from Build-a-Bear. Semo did not enjoy this as much as she did. She had the scratches to prove it.

Every time we stayed at a hotel, our ritual was to run in the room and jump on the beds. I still do it. Shhhh.

She loved seeing if she could get a free dessert at a restaurant by telling the server it was her birthday. She would do this on ANY day, not just her birthday…and she would call them cheapskates if they didn’t offer anything.

I could go on and on…and it always makes me smile to think of these silly things. They still overshadow all of the sickness and bad times. The good times weren’t just good, they were awesome. What a blessing she was.

I still keep a pair of her favorite Skechers by the back door, as she would have left them. Her last Butterfinger Blast from Sonic is still in the freezer; I guess someday I’ll have the fortitude to throw it away. The canvas that is our refrigerator still holds a thousand different photos, papers, awards, all the stuff that we put there over the last few years. I think those things will probably stay. I have a photo that she took of herself at front and center, so I’m able to see that big smile first thing every morning. We still wear our orange bracelets. We hold on to what we can, both tangibly and what’s in our minds.

Shannon and I took a vacation trip to Oklahoma recently. We went to Rocklahoma (a five-day 80’s hair metal festival…LOL), in Pryor, OK. I don’t think much happens in Pryor when the music festivals are not in town. (They also host Country Fever, the twangy cousin to Rocklahoma, in June. There’s Bikelahoma, too…something for everyone) The weather was wild while we were there; pouring rain, intense heat, scary storms, you name it (it even made our local news and scared the heck out of my sister). We came out unscathed, thank goodness. The two side stages, however, were flattened. We nicknamed the place Mudstock. Anyway, one of our favorite bands, House of Lords was there. Some of you may remember a Sahara trivia bit, as she was named after their song and album of the same name. As the band came on stage, the rain began to come down in buckets, but the die-hard fans didn’t care. We heard the familiar beat…and the very first song they played was, “Sahara.” It was SO GREAT. Nobody even noticed my tears because we were all soaking wet from the rain. J She absolutely was with us that day. What a cool experience. The rest of the days were fun and we had a great time, but for me, that was the highlight of the week.

We’ll survive her birthday, just as we have survived all of the other firsts, holidays, and days filled with memories. I want the world to remember how much she LOVED her birthday, calling the days before and after the actual day her “birthday week,” how she loved to get cake all over her face just to aggravate me, how she loved ripping the paper off of her presents, and how she loved singing “Happy Birthday” to herself at the top of her lungs. She truly got maximum enjoyment from the blessed event. It was soooo hot on the day she was born, and it looks like it will be again this year. She was a summertime girl in every sense, thriving on sunshine and being outdoors. Maybe when you feel the sun on your face on Thursday, you’ll feel her in its warmth. I know I will.

Next Tuesday, July 29, Rick’s new CD, “Venus in Overdrive” will hit the stores! There are three songs on it that were inspired by Sahara. It is an amazing effort on his part and I know you will all enjoy it immensely! Get ready to pick up your copy! Rick will also be appearing on several morning tv shows next week. Check out for more information.

Thanks to all of you who continue to read the blog. Keep checking in…we’re working on something EXTREMELY cool and will post more very soon!

Oh, and please don’t forget to send Pamela best wishes and chocolate on Thursday as well!

With love to all of you,

Monday, July 14, 2008

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming

We're back on the air. Sorry about the momentary blip. I changed hosts for the website, and in the interim, the main site was down. The blogspot address was still working, but I needed to tug and pull the rest of the site in a little red wagon.

I've got a request for all of you. As many of you know, next Thursday (July 24) would have been Sahara's 14th birthday. I know that's going to bring up lots of emotions, and some of them will be on the sad side. Feel what you feel, I say. It's all good. Tears are a healthy, natural cleansing mechanism from the soul.

But I've got an idea. Rather than posting here that day about how much Sahara is missed, let's do something to really honor her. Let's tell wonderful, funny Sahara stories. I'm giving you over a week to think of something. If it's something her parents didn't know about, all the better.

Think of each tale as a candle burning brightly on her birthday cake. Imagine her laughing so hard, she can't blow all the candles out. I'll open up a birthday thread the night before--and for those 24 hours, we'll go hog wild.

I can't wait to read what you're going to write.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sahara Shape

Two posts in one weekend, kids. Try to control the excitement.

Couple of things before I turn this over to Shannon.

Rosie and Julia, thank you--what a great thing you did. Amy and Shannon were just so proud and honored. Big tears all around.

I believe Rick's new album is called Venus in Overdrive. It's coming out next month; mine is reserved on What are you waiting for? And hey, if any of you are planning to see Rick on Long Island this summer, let me know.

And now, Shannon has important things to say:

Sahara Shape

Hey, y’all. Well, today is Father’s Day, and there have been ups and downs. I want to wish my Pop, Darrell Prim, a Happy Father’s Day. I love you, man.

I’d like to thank everyone who has bought a shirt over the last month - shirt sales are strong and I hope they continue. Yesterday Amy and I went out to MVTH for their first annual horse show. We got to see all the riders and trainers, and they are truly doing some amazing things. When you see those kids smile when they are riding, it proves what MVTH is all about. You’ve got to check out their updated website at Sahara’s on the front page!!!

One of the things I’ve begun notice over the last few months is that the number 21 is everywhere. Seems like I run into it almost every day. I like to think this is Sahara saying “hey” to me. I also think she says “hey” to several friends who are also noticing the number 21. So if you see that number, she’s saying hi to you too.

In May of 2006, I was overweight and decided to lose 50 pounds. One of the reasons I did this was because Sahara was in such great shape. But then in July, she got sick. You can’t even believe how fast weight falls off when you have a sick child. I ended up losing 121 pounds and 21% of my body fat. I now work out 6 days a week, three days on cardio and three days on strength training. This is hard work but it is worth it, because what I call it is “Sahara Shape.” I want to be in as good of shape as she was. So if anyone out there reads this and needs the motivation to get in shape, tell yourself you want to be in Sahara Shape. Maybe that will help make it a little easier.

See ya,

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Oh no, it hasn't really been nearly a month since we popped our heads up to say hello, has it? Tempus fugit, my Latin teacher used to say, and back then, I'd sit in class, staring out at the waving grass, frisbees whizzing by in the air, dogs yapping along bicycles, barking at the spokes, and I'd think "Not in this class, it doesn't."

Well, it does now. Amy and I have both been super busy at work lately, and now that summer weather is here, we're both spending time admiring the roses and floating away in our pools. She and Shannon are well; and we're all good here in New York, after a couple of scary moments.

For those of you celebrating father's day tomorrow, make it meaningful in Shannon's honor. I know we pick on Shannon here now and then (and he secretly loves it, I'll bet) but the one unwavering thing I can tell you about him is this: the man is an exemplary father. He gave Sahara such a powerful start in life--running alongside her for every step, giving his full A-game. That's how it should be done.

This is a man who won't look back and say "I wish I had____________." So follow his lead. Talk with them, play with them, read with them, pray with them--and love those kids with everything you've got.

Friday, May 16, 2008


For all of you who want the back view of the shirt, here you go. Once again, this is modeled by the lovely and vivacious Elise. What are you waiting for?

You can download an order form here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hey! Help a Hungry Horse

Greetings, fair readers in Saharaland,

We have shirts at last! Let the MVTH fundraiser begin!

Shannon came up with this great idea a while back. He had a couple of shirts printed, and everywhere he went, people started asking how they could get one. The lightbulb over his head started shining (it's so cool when that happens) and he thought the shirts would be a great way to raise some money for Mississippi Valley Therapeutic Horsemanship. So, to do just that, and to honor our sweet girl's memory in this sixth month since her passing, HERE WE GO!

Sahara's darling cousin Elise was kind enough to be our spokesmodel.. (Thank you, Lisey!!) We think the bright orange shirts with black lettering are truly symbolic of Sahara. And of course, they bear her number, the eternal 21.

We're selling them for $21.00 each - we thought that was an appropriate amount!. :) Full details (and a front/back view) are included on the order form. Shannon will have shirts with him most of the time, so if you see him he'll be glad to sell you one - or more! If you wish to order by mail, please print out your order form, fill it out according to your needs, and send your payment to the address shown at the bottom of the form.

All profits from the sale of the shirts will go directly to the good folks at MVTH. We hope to help them out as much as we can. It's something we've wanted to do for a long time, and now we are ready to get started!

Thank you for continuing to read our blog...for continuing to care about us...for keeping Sahara's memory alive and strong...and for helping us support a cause near and dear to our hearts! We love you all!

Have a great week!

With love,
Amy and Shannon

Friday, April 25, 2008

What happened in Vegas...

Time to catch up...and give you a peek at Amy's photos of Vegas. The ones we can share, anyway...hee hee. Just kidding, husbands.

Most of these need no explanation...except perhaps the pink cake. Turns out Amy has a sweet tooth! We had lunch at the Treasure Island buffet one day (love their custom salads!) and while I was jonesing for the COTTON CANDY and the hot miniature donuts (and I only had one of each), Amy made friends with the pastry chef and he fixed her up with that jumbo slice of Pretty Pink Princess Cake and other delectable goodies.

All a ball, and I can't wait to go back. As for the rest of life, both Amy and I have had super busy weeks, and everything is well. Please join us in sending get well wishes to Amy's colleague Corinna, who is out recovering for the next few weeks.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Playing in the desert

Alas, it had to end. I keep waking up, wishing I were back in the warm sunshine, listening to upbeat music (it seemed to be 80s week in Vegas) and sipping on a girly frou-frou drink. But NO. Grown-up life and reality beckons. Sigh.

This is the first of several photos we'll share with you...I'll toss the wicked ones into a slideshow over the weekend so you can see what really went on in the land of sun and sin. Hee hee. Just think pink! The trio here is, of course, Amy, Packy, and me (pamela), just after our yummy lunch at Wolfgang Puck at MGM. Of all the things I consumed in Vegas, their potato chips with blue cheese are what I'm missing most.

Here's Amy's take on things...and like a proper New Yorker, I might just chime in:

The Money I Took to Vegas Stayed in Vegas

There is nothing, NOTHING like a few days in Vegas to make you forget about the real world for a while! A few weeks ago, Pamela invited me to join her for a girls' getaway. She had a ton of comps and miles, and I found a great fare on Frontier Airlines (which is now tied with Southwest in my eyes with regard to customer service and on-time flights!). We flew out last Tuesday and spent the rest of the week in the bliss of the desert. Ahhhhh, SUNSHINE!

Vegas was Sahara's most favorite city. It was so strange to be there without her...I saw her everywhere I looked. At one time I stood alone on the sidewalk in the middle of the strip and looked north and south, seeing all of the places we liked to go and remembering the fun we had there. Seeing Rick do EFX at MGM so many times. Late night desserts with Packy at Wolfgang's. The lions and the magic shop at MGM. Donuts and chocolate milk at the Krispy Kreme factory in Excalibur. Hot dogs at New York New York, and Sahara being furious because she wasn't tall enough to ride the roller coaster there. Buying stuff for Shannon at the ESPN Zone. M&M's World and the wonder of turquoise M&M's. The Forum Shops at Caesar's, home of the world's best chocolate covered gummi bears. The Eiffel Tower at Paris, which we scaled on a day that was no less than 110 was SO hot in there! The Secret Garden at the Mirage, where I swear the dolphins and she were literally talking with one another. We did it all. I got tears in my eyes several times while I was there, just taking it all in. She never stopped smiling when we were in Vegas.

Let's see...Pamela and I had dinner at Mon Ami Gabi at Paris on Wednesday night. It was chilly and windy, but we still enjoyed our lovely meal on the patio, which banks the strip and has a great view of the fountains at Bellagio. Quite a backdrop for dinner, I thought!

Amy was very brave here. I don't get cold (it's the extra padding I carry around) and I was freezing. I swear, by the time our dinner was done, my poulet grandmere (high-falutin roast chicken) was frozen. I went into the casino and asked the cocktail waitress for hot chocolate.

Thursday night we saw "LOVE" at the Mirage. If you have the opportunity, definitely see this show. It's a Cirque de Soleil production based on the music and story of the Beatles. The performers were so exuberant...and almost superhuman at times. It was great.

I'm now considering a new career in covert operations, because Pamela and I pulled off the best surprise ever last Thursday. Pamela had arranged to have lunch with Packy at Wolfgang's at MGM. I waited, oh-so-stealthily, in the slots areas until I saw Packy walk to the table where Pamela was sitting. I let them say hello and get seated, then I sneaked up behind Packy and ta-daaaaaaa, surprise! She was so shocked and the look on her face was truly a Kodak moment. LOL! We had the greatest lunch. We were also lucky enough to hook up with her a couple more times during the week, including a fabulous Japanese dinner at Hamada (Sahara's fave restaurant) on Friday night. I am SO BLESSED to have such good friends as these was wonderful spending time with them and I'm so glad that I had the chance to do so. We reminisced about so many great times.

Before dinner on Friday night we saw "KA" at MGM. It's another Cirque show, which guarantees spectacular sets and unbelievable I couldn't believe how huge this production took the place of EFX, and I was amazed at how they transformed the theatre for the new show. Everything in Vegas is larger than life!

We otherwise filled our days with sunning, shopping and assorted slot play. It was revealed that Pamela is much, much luckier than I am. I think I'm pretty much cursed in the gambling department. Evil one-armed bandits! LOL. I had a blast, though, and wouldn't trade a single moment of my vacation.

Luckier, perhaps, but I have just as much bad luck as good. I didn't return home with the buckets of cash I'd envisioned. Sigh.

I took advantage of every second I could in the sun, primarily at the pool at Treasure Island. I stayed there until at last our trip was over and I had to catch a cab to the airport. Pamela and I said our sad goodbyes and vowed to go back again soon.

One minute I'm basking in the desert sun, the next minute I'm getting off the plane in St. Louis, greeted by freezing temps and spitting rain. YUCK!!!! Bless Shannon, he had my sweet tea waiting in the car. (Vegas has a lot of great food and drinks, but the tea situation is sorely lacking!)

We had a very late meal at Waffle House on our way home from the airport. I'd forgotten how, um, "interesting" that place can be in the middle of the night. We breakfasted with the drunken dregs of humanity and soaked up the local ambience. The experience was made complete by two highly inebriated females fistfighting on the sidewalk outside. Good, good times.

Speaking of Shannon, he did a secret project of his own while I was gone. When we got back home and I walked into the house, I nearly passed out - he'd had hardwood flooring installed in the kitchen, dining and living room areas! WOW!!! It is so gorgeous. What a fantastic surprise. I was just blown away and so impressed that he was able to get it all done while I was out of town. It makes such an incredible difference in the house! Thanks, Shannon, you rock. :)

Now it's back to reality...back to work, and back to trying to fill my days with something worthwhile. We're almost ready to announce our plans to raise a bit of cash for MVTH; just a few more details to iron out before we get this thing rolling.

The forecast for Vegas is sunny, with highs in the low 90's. In Cape, not so much. WAHHHH!

Have a great week!


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Running away to join the circus

We're back! The palm trees were gorgeous, the skies were blue and sunny, and after five minutes in the hot Vegas sun, I turned pinker than a giant wad of cotton candy...which I indulged in, too. Yum. It was a wonderful vacation, filled with good conversation and company, delicious food (fish tacos!), excellent shows, and just a few frou-frou drinks with little umbrellas.

And if you notice I said we, that wasn't an accident. Amy and I ran away to Las Vegas for a girls' week in paradise. We laughed, we cried, we told Sahara stories, and we surprised her dear friend Packy who thought she was just meeting ME for lunch. What a treat to watch her face as Amy strolled up to the table.

It was terrific...but I flew home on the redeye and I'm still on Vegas I'm crawling into bed. Photos later!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Meet Aidan

Direct from his adoring Gramma Dooley, may I introduce Aidan. I think he looks a lot like Jen.

Congratulations, all you wonderful Dooley people. He's a beautiful boy.

Girls, girls, girls

Good morning! Just a quick check in to say hello and let you know everyone's doing just fine. Gramma Dooley has a new grandson! I'll see if I can't wrangle a photo.

I'm on my way out of town for a multi-part vacation. Can't tell you about ALL of it just yet, but the first chunk involves hours and hours with my best boy friend in the world (yeah!), the christening of my youngest nephew, Landon, and time with my parents, brothers, and their families.

Part two takes me to sunshine, palm trees, great food, excellent entertainment, and did I mention palm trees? Not to mention...well...I will hush. But PALM TREES!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Hello, everyone,
After a lengthy bout with a very nasty cold, I think I'm getting healthy again. Why is it that so many folks have been so sick, so often this year? Germ warfare, I tell ya.

The grass is getting greener, the Easter flowers are popping up, and there is hope for actually surviving this awful winter we've had. I loved the snow, but the ice really did me in...I hope we never, ever have another ice storm.

Earlier today, Shannon (who has also been fighting another cold...I think he caught the leftovers of mine) began raking up some of the eight million twigs that have littered our yard since the storms. What a mess. This is the time of year that we look at our house and yard and think, wow, we have a lot of work to do. Perhaps we'll actually be able to tackle some of the larger projects now...everything that has taken a back seat for so long.

I'm looking forward to having a serious garden this year. I'm tired of paying two bucks for a red pepper and getting tasteless tomatoes at the grocery store. Digging in the dirt and seeing the benefits later this summer will be therapeutic, I think.

We went up to the MVTH horse barn a couple of evenings ago...we had a few checks for them, plus we wanted to see the progress that has been made on the barn since we were there last. I was teary-eyed as we drove up the lane, remembering how much Sahara loved to go riding at the barn.

When we walked inside, it was so wonderful to see so many freshly finished walls and new facilities (including a bathroom that Sahara would have been SO happy about!!!). The donations that all of you have made are definitely being put to good use, and you are providing so many blessings to the kids who attend lessons there.

It was so good to see Grayson again! She told us about some great things that are in the planning stages for MVTH, and we hope to be a part of them. They have so many needs and we truly want to help them out any way we can. I'll post here when I have more news of fundraising plans.

I suppose that every year at this time I'll be remembering the last spring break trip that Sahara and I took together. We always enjoyed planning all the fun stuff we wanted to do. In honor of that last spring fling, I'm including one of my favorite photos of her in the blog this time. Our trail ride in the desert was so great - and you can see the pure happiness on her face. I think this photo will explain why MVTH is so dear to our hearts. Sahara lost the use of her two legs, but they gave her four...and a bit of the joy and freedom she used to have.

Have a wonderful week.

With love,