Memorable highs and lows in 2013

KLM on Packers game day last season.

KLM on Packers game day last season.

Facebook has a Year in Review feature that allows you to find out your “20 Biggest Moments” on its site.

Imagine my eyebrow furrow when I learned my biggest Facebook moment of 2013 was switching out a profile picture. At least it was a good one: This “Digital Native American” sporting a Clay Matthews jersey on Green Bay Packers game day.

With so many Best of 2013 lists out there, I’m sharing a few moments from my personal page. I’m including a few never-before-posted photos.

I had some wonderful highs as exIMG_0928ecutive editor of The Daily Advertiser and the Daily World. In April, my publisher at the time (whose name – coincidentally – is Karen Lincoln) threw a surprise party in the newsroom to celebrate three accomplishments: 1) Carrying out a smooth transition to a new content management system, 2) winning awards from the Louisiana Press Association and 3) scoring high in a reader satisfaction survey in which The Daily Advertiser surpassed the companywide average in eight categories.

Just before the surprise party, I was finishing a meeting in the advertising department when my publisher walked in and told me to stay put, but didn’t say why. About the same time, she sequestered my staff in another conference room while her helpers hung a gigantic banner on the wall and strung helium balloons everywhere.

Some staffers, along with a visiting Pakastani journalists (front row, middle), gather for a group photo.

Some staffers, along with a visiting Pakastani journalist (front row, middle), gather for a group photo.

When she finally released my staff and me, we walked backed into the newsroom to the sound of live music. She toasted us with fake champagne and had a meal catered in from a local iconic restaurant, Blue Dog Café (one of my favorite eateries in Lafayette, La.).

That’s not all. She had her assistant take our hot beverage orders to be filled at a local coffeehouse. Later that afternoon, she spoiled us with cake and our favorite drinks from CC’s Coffeehouse.

I told her that in my 20-plus years in the news business, I had never seen anything like it. And I’m sure I never will again.

Karen Free, 1953-2013.

Karen Free, 1953-2013.

Anyone who has a lost a close friend to cancer can relate to the heartbreak in saying good-bye. My friend of 30 years, Karen Lynn McCutcheon Free, was diagnosed with cancer in late April and left this world on June 11. It happened so quick, it was stunning.

I met Karen in the early 1980s. We worked together at the Nebraska Indian Community College, now Little Priest College, in Winnebago, Neb. We bonded quickly. Though we had very different upbringings — she an East Coaster with Irish heritage and myself, a Native American from a rural Wisconsin community — we shared similar views and interests. We both had journalism backgrounds, personal commitments to social responsibility, love of Native people and culture, reliance on faith in God and a knack for finding humor in the mundane.

Along with our close friend, Miriam Chapman, who also worked at the college, we were a trio. We eventually moved away, but remained close and managed to see each other almost every year.

Karen once said she considered our gatherings a “carrot” (as in a dangling carrot used to entice an animal to move). She dubbed our trio the Carrot Society, which has since grown to include more like-minded friends.

Quincy Bass and Jessika Free stand at the altar on their wedding day, May 25, 2013.

Quincy Bass and Jessika Free stand at the altar on their wedding day, May 25, 2013.

I flew to Nebraska to see her during the Memorial Day weekend. I had called her regularly, but couldn’t believe how the cancer progressed. Her eldest daughter, Jessika, was getting married on that Saturday and Karen was too weak to attend. She asked me to go in her place so that Jessika could look out and see someone who was there for her. It was an honor.

Jessika, soon to be Mrs. Bass, poses with members of her bridal party.

My friend Karen said she wished she could be at her daughter's wedding, but was with her in thought and prayer.
My friend Karen said she wished she could be at her daughter’s wedding, but was with her in thought and prayer.

On the morning of the wedding, I picked up a mother-of-the-bride corsage for Karen and pinned it to her hospital gown. Her youngest daughter, Kiarra, fixed Karen’s hair while I got ready in the hospital room and put on my makeup. I wanted her to feel a part of her daughter’s big day as much as she could through her physical and emotional pain.

I was grateful to see Karen one last time. My husband and I altered our vacation plans to be with her. I’m told that when I said good-bye to her, it was the last time she responded. We had already said everything we wanted to say to each other, and all that remained was the deep love between two friends. It’s still with me, and always will be.

The two Karens at Winnebago Powwow, July 2012.

The two Karens at Winnebago Powwow, July 2012.

Here is my Facebook post from June 11:

“I lost one my closest friends today. Karen Free, pictured in my profile photo taken from Winnebago Powwow last summer, left us this morning. I

am so thankful to the Creator for blessing me with a wonderful friend and letting me experience the love of a true friend. My thoughts are with Karen’s three daughters, two sisters and her many friends. I praise God for her life and for giving her eternal rest. I got the chance to tell my friend last night that I will see her in the next life. It was a moment I will always remember.”

Among my top Facebook posts was a visit I made to the cemetery in Winnebago, Neb. Many of my relatives are buried there, including my eldest brother, Carl, who died in infancy. On my recent trips to the reservation, I have stopped there to check on my brother’s grave. This past Memorial Day weekend, my sister, Helene, and I planted flowers there and also visited the graves of our great-grandfather and great-great grandfather.

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Marker of my great-great grandfather, Fishtail Lincoln.

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My sister, Helene, fixes up the grave of our great-grandfather, Edward Lincoln.

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A cloudburst erupts as Roberto and I stop for a picnic along the Mississippi River in New Madrid, Mo., in June 2013.

This last Facebook moment I’ll share is the story behind this photo, which I’ve been using as the cover photo for my blog.

Roberto and I were traveling back from our vacation in June and stopped for a picnic in New Madrid, Mo. We had just gotten situated when huge gusts of wind came along. The sky was partly sunny to the west and cloudy in the east. Suddenly, a cloudburst poured rain over the Mississippi River. I took it as a sign from the Creator, a symbol that He continues to shower His blessings on us.

Looking forward to what 2014 holds in store.

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