This Week's Column:
Placing Blame is Too Easy
By Melissa Toothman
Today, my heart goes to the Gilmer County family grieving the loss of a 10-year-old boy, following a tragic accidental shooting incident in Troy.
This loss has affected Lewis County, as well. The student attended Leading Creek Elementary School in Linn, a campus that splits the borders of Lewis and Gilmer counties.
This tragedy struck at a horrible time, the eve of a holiday, Nov. 23. On the day family is meant to come together and celebrate, a family instead was morning the loss of a child.
With this, and the recent news of an armed gunmen at Ohio State University, we could get up in arms about gun control and gun safety regulations, but instead, I ask the community not to place blame for the child's death.
The blame game is easy to master, but reflection and sympathy take effort. If you pray, pray for their comfort and for the strength to move forward. Trust law enforcement to make any determinations in that regard.
Casting blame only deepens the wounds of the family and friends who already are grieving. Police are investigating, and unless any new details emerge, it is out of our hands, and it's not our responsibility to judge.
Unless you have personally experienced the loss of a child or grandchild, it's impossible to know what the family is going through. Even if you have experienced it, every experience is unique, and this family's experience could be worlds different from your own.
However, try to imagine, even for a second, what you would do in this situation. How would you feel? What would you think? What must this child's siblings be going through? It's as close as you can get to understanding.
For those of you who are not close to this situation, I hope the holidays went well for you. They were nothing out of the ordinary for me.
I suppose it's either a blessing or a curse that I had four family dinners to try to go to for Thanksgiving.
Every year is a struggle to decide whose holiday dinner to go to, and whose to miss out on, and each year, my husband and I end up unable to spend quality time with some family on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
We might just have to start keeping a chart and organizing whose dinner we went to, for what holiday and which year.
His side of the family usually has two dinners (his mother's side and his father's side), as does mine. Some might look at it as an opportunity to have plenty of holiday meal options, but the reality is we pop in for roughly half an hour or so, and then cut out to race to the next place to try to avoid disappointing one side or the other.
So far, depending on what times we can convince family members to organize their meals, we have been able to manage going to three. We are very thankful to have such a large family with many people who enjoy our company, but very exhausted after the holidays. Combine the holiday stress spending my first week working for this paper in a holiday week, and I guess you could say I'm running on empty.
The silver lining of this situation is, unless I am able to bring a covered dish, I don't have to do the cooking.
Last Week's Column:
Death Has a Way With Life
By Melissa Toothman
I intended my first editorial as the editor of the Weston Democrat to be an introduction of myself, my background and my interests. However, fate had something a little different in mind.
Within the past couple weeks, I have lost two people who have played key roles in my life, growing up in Lewis County: my childhood neighbor, Karen "Susie" Kerns, who was like family, and my middle school art teacher Mr. Richard Woofter, who was always an inspiration to me.
Both of these people have been an asset to me and to others in their own ways. Their passing has jerked me to remember their teachings, characters and passions in life. I'm thankful this year for having known them.
Sometimes we just flash through life without stopping to see the beauty in front of us, without slowing down. Death is funny that way.
It makes us remember that beauty. It forces us to take a moment. It's turbulent, throws us off course, and doesn't care what else we have going on, but I see now why it's so necessary.
It puts everything back into perspective and, even if only for a short while, it makes us remember what is really important in life.
It's like jump-starting an old car battery. We don't realize how fast we were trying to go until we're forced to sit still and wait, no matter where we are going or what time we want to be there. Then, we let the motor charge a bit, put the car into gear, and head off slowly, just in case. That's where I am today, waiting to recharge and get going in a new direction.
With Susie, I shared a love of birds. I have raised cockatiels since the age of 8, and now I have the honor of caring for Susie's two African Grey parrots, while she no longer can.
Susie was always there for
everyone. No matter what the subject was or what else was going on, she'd listen. She had a deep love for people and animals, even the digital ones on Farmville back in "the day." She didn't let life run away from her, and she always stopped to enjoy the view and to lend a hand.
As a 2008 Alderson Broaddus University graduate with two Bachelor of Arts degrees, one in visual arts (with an emphasis in painting and photography), Mr. Woofter's passing has reminded me why I fell in love with art to begin with. He has taught me so much in that regard, and never stopped challenging me. He also put up with all those bird drawings for my four years at Robert L. Bland Middle School.
His lessons were always fun and filled with new techniques, which translated very well into college, despite being taught in middle school.
However, it wasn't just about what he could teach us about perspective and color theory, or not being afraid of coloring outside of the lines. Mr. Woofter also taught good character, before it ever became a "thing" in curriculum, by showing us his kind heart, his encouragement and, most of all, his support. He was always challenging us on more than one level.
I've seen an outpouring of comments on Facebook since his passing, many about his impeccably skilled and highly creative, artful holiday displays. When driving around to see Christmas lights, my family used to make it a point to drive by his house to see what Mr. Woofter had done each year. It was always unique and different. He'd even decorate for Halloween, and he didn't hold back.
Over the years, despite my major, I have faded away from art to focus on journalism. I have made a drawing or painting here or there, taken photographs for family or friends, but my main focus has been on my career.
I have spent countless hours from the time first I became a professional reporter to where I am now as an editor. I'm at a transition in my own life. I just transferred from the Mountain Statesman in Grafton, where I served as the editor, while living in Buckhannon. I often worked weekends there as well.
I am thrilled to be back home with this career, working in all the places I am familiar with and with all the faces I know and love. Weston is where I first succeeded, and failed. It's home, no matter where I am.
Now that I'm here, I estimate that I will save roughly 12 hours a week, just in travel time. I think it's time to refresh some old hobbies, and dust off some old skills, with all that extra time on my hands.