Goodbye, little buddy

Edmund, our very special little friend has passed away a couple weeks ago.  We miss him, and we can tell that his 2 cage mates are missing him as well.  Rats are very friendly, social little critters.  Edmund was a WONDERFUL pet!  He was always happy to dress up for our photo shoots.  

I've been promising Ringo's we'd create a memorial about Edmund's life.  So, here it is.  There's an interview with Ringo at the very end....  

I interviewed Ringo about his favorite things about Edmund, and his time with us:

1)  What was your favorite thing about Edmund?

How he would let us dress him up in clothes and silly outfits.  He was so cute and he was the best rat.  I liked him because he was a very, very good rat.  

2)  Lots of people don't like rats.  If you had to convince someone to change their minds, what would you tell them about pet rats?

Rats are very clean.  They clean themselves all day long.  You can lift them upside down and their tail will turn round and round, it looks like a helicopter.  They never ever bite.  They are just like a dog because they like to play and chase you, and they know their names.  They are super smart!  Sometimes they chase their tales.  They like to snuggle, but you have to be careful not to squish them.  They like to ride in your pockets. 

3)  What do you miss the most about Edmund?  

I miss dressing him up and taking silly pictures and feeding him yogurt snacks.  I loved to watch him pretend like he was fighting with the other rats.  I loved to watch him snuggle and clean the other rats.  He was always friendly.  He liked to play peekaboo with the blankets.  I loved Christmas day when we let him run around in all the boxes and wrapping paper.  He was so tired at the end of the day and fell asleep in daddy's shoe.  I will miss all that stuff.  I can't wait to see him in heaven.  

4)  What was your favorite dress up/photo shoot experience with Edmund?  Click below if you'd like to see what he's referring to:

When GI Joe wrestled with Edmund:

And the Star Wars one:

A tribute to my little brother

In Loving Memory of Travis Allen Whitaker 

My brother, Travis, died unexpectedly on February 14th.  He leaves behind a wife and 3 beautiful children.  The grief is overwhelming, but I wanted to do something of a "memorial" to him on this blog, especially since we had many pet rats and mice during our childhood.  

Just a quick ramble about Travis: 

Travis had such a beautiful and simple sense of humor.  He died at 33 years of age, but was still very much a child in his heart.  We had an almost idental sense of humor.  We loved to see animals dressed in ridiculous outfits and we'd often write silly stories in which we gave them human personalities, jobs, real life problems etc....   We would laugh at the most bizarre things and delight over the fact that the rest of the world didn't "get it".  Even as adults, we held onto our private jokes, silly memories and mystery nicknames for one another.  Travis loved to make people laugh.  His children were so precious to him; he was a very proud papa.  He encouraged his kids' creativity, passed on his love for nature, animals, and his WACKY sense of humor!  Travis was also a dare devil and his curiosity knew no limits (see EXTREME photo below).  

The photo below was taken just a few weeks before he died.  This is the story (as I understand it):  The city he worked for had plans to outsource a job re: a small repair to this tower.  The other guys didn't feel safe making the climb, or just didn't want to.  My brother laughed at them and said, "I can do that, it's no big deal at all."  Even though he'd never done it before, he began climbing immediately.   His coworkers were shocked and took this photo.  The "tiny" little person at the top of the tower is my brother, having almost reached his destination....

I vividly remember this moment.  It was Christmas Eve and we were anxiously awaiting Santa's arrival.  We had no clue how he was going to come in our house since we didn't have a chimney.  We were discussing all the various possibilities, and hoping like crazy he wouldn't forget to bring our presents!

Travis loved music.  Each day after work, he'd pile his 3 kids in his lap and listen to a song (The Cello Song) by his favorite musician, Steven Sharp Nelson.  We played this piece at his funeral, and it's now my favorite song as well.  It moves me to tears, and inspires hope at the same time.  This musician is absolutely brilliant, he revised the original and instead of playing one cello, he plays 8 cellos' and uses them very creatively.  Please watch the Youtube video and listen to song.  Turn off the t.v., sit down, put your phone on silent and really listen to it.  
Here are a few of my favorite photos of Travis:
We lined up the chairs on our lawn. Travis was the bus driver, eagerly waiting for his first hop on (maybe some of you will get the Arrested Development reference.  Haha!)
2nd grade photo, probably my favorite picture of him.  
Travis doing what he loved best - enjoying nature!
The photo below is from our wacky phases.  I was all punked out, looking like a Vulcan with pink hair and nose ring.  He was all about the Goth life - black fingernails, black hair, black crosses around his neck, etc....I thought he looked silly, and he thought I looked silly.  Looking back, seems we were both right.

And, a few more of my favorite pics....

The next image is a collage that I made for Travis' birthday last year.  It's silly, but it has deep, personal meaning that represents very good memories and some very bad memories in our relationship.   The collage is based on an excerpt from a book called The Reason for God, by Tim Keller.   This (in my opinion) is the most profound sentence in the entire book. "....everyhorrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater."  
Today, a good friend sent me a very sweet email.  She validated my grief and reminded me that even though Travis' death is agonizingly painful, it will get easier over time. She reminded me that there is still beauty in the world and that I will continue to see the beauty Travis brought into this life.  I burst into tears after reading it.  I've never thought of it like some ways, he's not really dead.  His wife and children will always be reminders of Travis.  Because of her email, I wanted to update my "Travis Memorial" with some recent pictures of our beach trip with them.  This was only 2 months after his death, and I clearly see Travis' life in this photos.  
Solomon's 1st interaction with the ocean....he LOVED it! 
This is Isabelle's interaction with the water! 
 The final photo is Malachi (the oldest son) playing with his mom in the water.  Malachi was "undunkable", until his mom got a hold of him.  She's a strong gal!

For Wiley

I'm hoping this post will put a smile on my friend's face during a sad time.  I don't know if your brother will be able to read this, but I wrote a note to him as well...


Dear Wiley, 

If you feel well enough to read this, I want you to know I read the touching article about how you've dedicated your career to serving and protecting your community!  What an amazing life of service you've led!  I don't know you, but I'm grateful to be reminded that there are people like you out there in the world.  Your sister is an amazing woman.  She's compassionate, honest, and very intuitive.  I have a feeling you're both very similar in that regard.  If I knew you felt well enough for a visit, and that it wouldn't freak you out...I'd come straight to you, give you a huge hug and some sweet smelling flowers.  I may be a stranger to you, but I don't care!  All you have to do is say the word and I'm there.  I can read funny stories to you guys (David Sedaris?), bring a favorite food, listen to your favorite adventures about life as a cop, or whatever you guys want!

With Love,

Angela, Ringo, Jeff

A note to anyone else who reads this:

The article about Wiley truly touched my heart; he is a fascinating man.  Reading about him made me grateful for the people who work hard to protect us.   Next time you're out and you a see a cop (even if he just pulled you over for speeding), take a moment to say thanks for what they do!

Miss Annie Kate

A couple of our friends have waited so long for their first child, and she is FINALLY here.  This post is for Annie Kate and her parents!  Congratulations!!  Enjoy every minute your time with her.  As a friend once told me, "The days are long, but the years are short."  And that is so true.

Rare Disease Day

My husband (Jeff) has had a rare disease since childhood.  It's becoming more aggressive and he's required several surgeries in the past 6 months.  Most doctors know so little about it that they aren't even aware of its potential to spread into the lungs.  His disease is generally considered to be benign, unless the lungs become involved.  Then, it becomes high risk for cancer.  By the time this was discovered in his lung, cancer was already in place.  Pneumonia and a collapsed lung turned out to be a blessing in disguise, leading to his cancer being discovered at an early stage.  The tumor was removed via lobectomy in January.  While the cancer is hopefully gone, he'll require frequent and invasive procedures since the primary the disease is incurable and keeps him at high risk for future cancer.   

Because our lives have been overwhelmingly impacted by such a rare disease, I've decided to try and raise awareness and ask people to be advocates for patients with rare diseases.  There are several ways to do this:

1)  Support research and vote accordingly.  Stem cell research and similar issues are a hot topic, I know...but until you've had a loved with life threatening illness, you can't begin to imagine the lengths you'd go to to save their lives.

2)  Donate to support research for specific diseases.  Pick one at random, or donate to a cause you've been impacted by.  Go to this site to learn about various diseases that need research funding.

3)  If you're a parent, a concerned spouse, or friend, and you feel deep in your gut that something isn't right about your loved one's health...keep pushing for answers until you're satisfied.  Doctors are very limited by time and it's been proven that patients who have advocates gets better care.  Don't be intimidated by doctors!  Every patient has a right to understand their symptoms and/or illness and to be sure that appropriate measures are being taken to secure their well-being.

Three rare diseases have had a personal impact on my life.  They're all worthy causes for donations and research.  I've included links to their information.

Click here for info re: my husband's disease (Recurring Respiratory Papillomatosis)

Click here for info re: my god-daughter's disease (Spinal Muscular Atrophy)
* Also, check their personal blog for more information.  They're going to be raising money for a much needed handicap equipped vehicle...also a worthy opportunity for donations!

Click here for info about a friend's disease (CdLS)
* Check their personal website and blog to learn about their awareness campaigns.