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May I Brag about My Brother?

sibling rivalry turned pride

My brother won an award, and I feel like bragging about it. This is a big deal.

The award is a big deal, sure. It consists of recognition for teamwork – and a designated parking space – at the hospital where he works.

But the biggest deal about the deal is that I’m genuinely happy for my brother – and not jealous at all.

Anyone who grew up in a house peppered with sibling rivalry, heady competition, and racing to see who could do what first might know how absolutely glorious it feels to actually be happy – instead of jealous – when a sibling does something cool.

Sibling Rivalry

I’m not sure when our sibling rivalry began, but I’m guessing it was the day my younger brother was born. I don’t recall being pushed aside for my new baby brother, but I do recall thinking I was the queen of the world. That meant anything that had the potential to take attention away from me could be cause for alarm, whether the potential was actually realized or not.

While you might expect rivalry from a batch of sisters like the Kardashians, where they’re all competing for fame, fortune, and the biggest butt, it’s not something you would necessarily expect from me and my brother.

That’s because we:

  • Are four years apart
  • Have totally different interests, dreams, goals, styles. He kayaks. I paddle board. He paints saints. I paint skeletons, dogs and spiders.
  • Are pretty much on opposite sides of the personality scale (aside from our matching sarcasm and wit)
  • Are fans of different football teams
  • Took totally different paths in life, with totally different results. He went to college and medial school immediately after high school and eventually became a surgeon. I hopped on a Greyhound bus bound for New York City and eventually realized my dream of making a living through writing, art and creation.

Despite our massive differences, I still felt the need to compete. I wanted to be the first to call Mom on her birthday, send Dad a Father’s Day card, book my plane ticket for a family visit, or get dibs on the last corner piece of deep-dish Buddy’s pizza.

Competition seemed to always be part of our relationship, at least in my head. This competition sometimes reared up mightily enough for me to turn into underlying envy. I’d look at everything my brother had, which included many things I didn’t, and want to use some of that sarcasm on him.

When I heard about this latest award, however, my heart didn’t harden with jealousy. It opened with love.

What the Heck Happened?

I can pinpoint several factors that are likely to have contributed to this glorious change of heart. They include:

  • Keeping a daily gratitude list for the past year, which makes me grateful for what I have instead of what I think I lack
  • Realizing there is enough God, love, money, fun, and everything else in the world to go around for everyone to enjoy, reassuring me that I won’t get less if someone else gets more
  • Being part of a supportive community that actually cheers for people to succeed rather than secretly hoping they’ll fail
  • Stopping the dang comparisons. Someone will always be smarter, younger, richer or have fewer dental fillings – but only I can be me.

No doubt I’ll be keeping up the above practices. The daily gratitude list comes with illustrations, has spawned several art projects, and consistently obliterates negativity. The realization that there’s enough of everything for everyone helps me revel in abundance.

Supportive communities that actually cheer you on are like getting a big hug every time you’re in their presence. And stopping the comparisons helps ensure we’ll enjoy the unique person we were born to be.

Not only that, but I can merrily brag about my brother and his award, instead of groveling and wondering why I didn’t win one. I can be happy for who he is, what he does, and that he’s my award-winning brother. But that still doesn’t mean I’ll ever give up dibs on the last corner piece of Buddy’s pizza.

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There’s still hope for a Tucson truck driver’s ‘widow’


Never mind the thought of your beau rambling in a big rig through a tornado zone or the fear that truck-stop hookers, known as “lot lizards, ” will be swarming around him like maggots. The worst part about being a truck driver’s so-called widow is having Willie Nelson constantly run through your head.

“On the road again ….”

This trucker gig is a new thing for my beau since his old career hit a roadblock. Like funeral directors and garbage collectors, truckers will always be in demand. Stats show the demand for commercial truckers is up 20 percent, with more than 230,000 trucking jobs listed in the first three months of 2013 alone.

People want stuff fresh. They want stuff now. And they want stuff that has to be hauled from Oklahoma City to Jersey City or Salt Lake City to Kalamazoo.

Continue reading There’s still hope for a Tucson truck driver’s ‘widow’

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Tucsonan discovers how a severed arm can haunt you (even when it’s not your arm)

freaky cat 2Being young, drunk and stupid can come with lifelong consequences. And those consequences can come even if you weren’t drunk. Just ask a Tucson guy we’ll call Sam.

Twenty-something Sam was an upstanding person: a former soldier, an intelligent and compassionate chap who was aiming for grand things.

“I wanted to be a lawyer to help people, ” he writes in an email. Sam instead found himself on the other side of the law as a defendant in a crime that got plenty of press due to its grisly nature.

The crime involved a severed arm.

Continue reading Tucsonan discovers how a severed arm can haunt you (even when it’s not your arm)

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Horrors turn to hope when you give a vet a pet (and go for holistic pet care)

pet veteran

Photographing dead bodies in Vietnam, undergoing 37 operations and suffering from head-to-toe disabilities may make some of us kind of disgusted with life. Heck, stubbing a toe can make some of us disgusted with life.

Unless, of course, you happen to have a pet.

Getting free pets for military veterans is the mission of the new Pets 4 Vets Program launched by the Tucson nonprofit 4-Legged Friends Inc. Once the program is up and running, the group hopes to help provide free pets for any vet who wants one but can’t afford the adoption fees.

“When a vet gets a free pet it gives them hope!” group co-founder Lee Vork writes in an email. The exclamation point is all his. Vork’s enthusiasm comes easily despite his 37 operations, his 100 percent service-related disability status and his being pronounced dead in 2002 after a heart attack.

Another group co-founder is Tucsonan Bill Wilson, a vet who spent four years taking pictures of dead bodies in Vietnam, and whose experiences there include being shot down in a helicopter. His 100 percent service-related disability status is still pending, although he currently rates at 90 percent.

Vork and Wilson both grew up around animals on Midwest farms. They met in Tucson in 2005 and 4-Legged Friends was born a few years later. While the Pets 4 Vets Program is new, the group has been helping animals since the get-go. Continue reading Horrors turn to hope when you give a vet a pet (and go for holistic pet care)

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Knock, Knock … Who’s there? Yet another person who wants to sell you something

get lost sign

The next time you hear a knock at your door, it might be a bleeding young woman. If it’s the same one who came to my door, she’ll be standing there, apparently in anguish, with bright-red droplets plopping from her face onto your porch.

As a true crime junkie, I knew well enough not to let the woman inside. Her gang of bandits hiding in the bushes would have taken that opportunity, of course, to barge in with semi-automatic weapons and steal my favorite lamp.

I instead offered the woman a paper towel to stanch the bleeding and more water for her empty water bottle.

It turns out she had not been beaten, raped or thrown in a wash and left for dead. She was suffering a nosebleed, which happens when she’s under a lot of stress. And, boy, was she under stress. Continue reading Knock, Knock … Who’s there? Yet another person who wants to sell you something