Sometimes we forget how fragile life really is

IRON MOUNTAIN — My husband and I recently went back to Chicago, and while we loved our mini-vacation, we both lamented on the fact that we’re so happy we no longer live there. It doesn’t take us an hour to get to work each morning like it used to, there’s always parking when you come back home or go to the store, traffic isn’t at a stand still at any given hour, and prices are drastically lower.

This week, however, I was even happier we were no longer there, and yet saddened that I could seemingly do nothing to help. On May 9, the sister of one of my previous students was fatally shot. She was 15. She was waiting at the bus stop when a car pulled up and opened fire. As I learned of the shooting from past co-workers, I sought out the article online detailing the horrific event, and learned that on that same day, 17 shootings within 17 hours had transpired — she was just the first to die.

When I was teaching on the South Side, shootings were expected. The students had become numb to the violent acts of war that surrounded them on a daily basis, but I never seemed to get used to seeing the email highlighted in red declaring a casualty of gang war.

During my time on the South Side, seven of my school’s students were shot; two died. For our school, these numbers were low. While in the U.P. I love the arrival of spring, in Chicago it is dreaded by educators everywhere, because with the warm weather comes mischief, and the crime rate and murder toll sky rocket.

Rob is proud to call me his wife and boasts of what he calls his “dream catch,” but the reality of our dating saga was that I made the first move. Almost immediately after meeting him I wanted to know more. He was tall and built, with dark hair and a beard and kind eyes. He made anyone who encountered him laugh, and the kids loved him, which to me was more important than anything else. We talked for a few weeks in the hallways and in between periods, but eventually I grew tired of flirting with no results, so I gave him my phone number. We then proceeded to text daily for weeks, yet he still would not make a move, and so again, I stepped up. I told him I was interested, and that he seemed interested, but he wasn’t doing anything about it. It was then that he revealed he’d been talking to someone else before meeting me, ironically named Sam, and that if he wasn’t he would “totally be interested.” To this day I tell him that was a player move, but he insists that he was just really that dumb.

Naturally, I was disappointed, but I understood, and told him if that was the case we really shouldn’t be talking as much as we were, and it would be better if we just stayed friends. He agreed. However, he kept texting, so eventually, I gave him the cold shoulder and stopped talking to him all together. Later I would find out it was the punch in the gut he needed to realize what he was giving up. He told me that one day, he realized he missed me, because his roommate asked how his “teacher friend” was, and he had to reply with “I don’t know”, and in that moment, he said he knew. At the time I was unaware, but he cut communication with the “other Sam,” as she’s so infamously known, but I was still not talking to him.

Then, one day, one of our students was shot. It was the morning after Halloween that the dreaded email was sent out, and I immediately started crying. Just like the young girl recently killed, he was waiting at the bus stop, but when he saw the barrel of a gun from a car driving by, he pushed his younger brother out of the way and made himself a human shield. Every time a student was shot was hard, but this student was one I was close to — one I had mentored and molded and helped become better than he thought he was — and so on that morning, I felt my stomach drop. He had been shot 17 times, and was in a coma at a nearby hospital. I officially broke my silent treatment and texted Rob, asking if he would give me a ride to the hospital after work so that I could visit him.

Together we went and saw him. We had to wear masks and gloves because he was in the ICU and put on gowns and slips over our shoes. He wasn’t awake, and they weren’t sure if he could hear us, but his mother could. We prayed with her and talked to her about how we both loved her son. The following week, we went back again, and took a few students to see him as well. He had to have multiple surgeries on his legs, completely reconstructing them, as well as surgeries to remove bullets and bullet fragments left in his body.

Several weeks later, he woke up. For the remainder of the year, he retaught himself how to walk, and still kept up with his studies from home. Every week I would send him his English assignments with notes of encouragement from me and his fellow classmates, all the while wondering if it ever made an impact.

During the final week of the school year, when the halls were quiet because testing only took up half a day, I began tearing down my bulletin board when I heard a very quiet voice speak my name. I turned around, and there was my student, standing on his own two feet, with his head down.

I gave him a hug, told him how happy I was to see him, and he said, “My mom told me you and Capo (Rob) came to see me in the hospital. I always got your notes too. Did I pass your class?” I smiled bigger than I have in most of my life and nodded. The following year he returned to school, still catching up on work he’d missed and making up the time so that he could be in his actual grade, but he came to see me almost every week, even though he was no longer in my class.

Rob and I always credit him for bringing us back together, but if either of us had any kind of choice, we would’ve gladly stayed apart if it meant him not being shot. People joke about how if you miss your target at the range, or hit a tree instead of the bottle, then you must be from Chicago, because shooters in Chicago never actually hit their target.

While people laugh or nod their head in agreement when things like this are said, the reality of the situation is that innocent bystanders are caught in the crossfires every day, and the young lives that are taken are done so carelessly. Why do I bring this up? It’s a depressing subject and a lot of people would rather not talk about it. Is it to promote gun control? No. Is it so that I can bring awareness to gun violence? Maybe in a sense, because being informed obliterates ignorance, but that too, is not the main reason.

The reason I loved teaching on the South Side of Chicago, despite all the violence and deprivation that ensued, was because I was surrounded by students who felt that they had no way out, and were shown time and time again that the world thought they had no way out, but I could show them one. They complained about having to read Shakespeare all the time, and continuously tried getting out of work, but the students who graduated, and made it out of Illinois and onto degrees were brilliant examples of pure passion and perseverance.

Life is short. It’s said all the time, but some people understand it better than others. My kids in Chicago certainly did, and so did the educators who worked there. In the U.P. we’re blessed to be surrounded by a surrounding that doesn’t evoke fear. We don’t have to worry about walking home at night alone or forgetting to lock our cars when we run into the grocery store, and every day, without thinking about it, we take for granted these advantages. It’s easy to forget that U.P. living is rare living.

Hearing about the tragedy that took place this week reminded me of how no matter what is going on in my life, I can’t ever lose sight of my passions and dreams, because sadly, life is short, and some people are taken far too soon. You have to live life with as much authenticity as possible, and if you’re able, help those in worse situations than you.

Every morning after a shooting, when the kids were distraught and forlorn, we talked about how one day our lives would be better, and every time, my kids picked themselves back up and kept moving forward. Despite it all, they kept living.

Ask yourself what the most important thing to you is, and then have the courage to build up your life around your answer. As Colin Wright says, “You have one life in which to do everything you’ll ever do; act accordingly.” Live life out of intent; do more than just exist.

——

NURSING HOMES

Freeman

Kingsford

Scenes and sounds, 11:45 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Sunday: Mimosa, noon; Uno, 1 p.m.; dunking donuts, 2 p.m.; church, 2:15 p.m.

Monday: Pretty nails, 10 a.m.; staff/resident trivia contest, 11 a.m.; wheelchair deco, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; ice cream social, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Crochet and craft, 10 a.m.; car wash and root beer floats, noon to 4 p.m.

Wednesday: Room visits, 10 a.m.; rosary, 11 a.m.; tiki bar, 1 p.m.; Golden Throats entertain, 2 p.m.; movie and popcorn, 3 p.m.

Thursday: Reading buddy, 10 a.m.; Bible study, 11 a.m.; what’s that word?, 1 p.m.; bingo with Carol, 2 p.m.; guess how many, 2 p.m.

Friday: What’s cooking?, 11 a.m.; cook out, noon; Mass, 2 p.m.; sing a long, 2:30 p.m.; happy hour, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Meet and greet, 10:30 a.m.; spinning records, 11 a.m.; Daily News, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.

Iron County Medical Facility

Crystal Falls

Room visits, 1 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

Exercise, 11 a.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

Sunday: One-to-one church visitors, 8:30; room visits, 9 to 11 a.m.; reminisce, 10 a.m.; bingorama, 2 p.m.; Church of Christ, 3 p.m.

Monday: Coffee social, 10 a.m.; black out bingo, 10 a.m.; room visits, 1 p.m.; VIP social, 2 to 4 p.m.; Sunshine Club, 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday: CF library, 9:30 a.m.; book club, 10 a.m.; prayer, 10 a.m.; wildlife film, 1:30 p.m.; matinee with popcorn and snacks, 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Coffee social, 10 a.m.; Travel Club, 10 a.m.; bowling banquet, noon; Apostolic Lutheran, 1:15 p.m.; pass the prize, 2 p.m.; night bingo, 6 p.m.

Thursday: Puzzler, 9:30 a.m.; bowling, 10 a.m.; travel film, 1:30 p.m.; United Lutheran, 2 p.m.; happy hour, 2:30 p.m.

Friday: Crafts, 9 to 10:30 a.m.; room visits, 1 p.m.; casino day, 2 p.m.; romance movie, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Puzzler, 10 a.m.; how do you feel?, 10 a.m.; geri-gym, 11 a.m.; intergenerational social hour, 2 p.m.

ManorCare

Kingsford

Wet your whistle, 9:30 a.m. daily.

Movie, 10:45 a.m. daily, and 3:15 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Gathering place, 11:40 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 11:40 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Popcorn Day Fridays.

Protestant Church service, 3 p.m. Sunday.

Exercises, 10 a.m. daily.

Sunday: Mother’s Day social, 9:30 am.; morsels and more, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant church, 3 p.m.

Monday: Did you know?, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; pokeno, 5:45 p.m.

Tuesday: Who am I?, 10:15 a.m.; Resident council/food committee, 2 p.m.; movie and a manicure, 5:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Remembering when, 10:15 a.m.; monthly birthday party/Jim Edberg entertains, 2 p.m.; flip five, 5:45 p.m.

Thursday: Crosswords, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; Randy’s magic moments, 5:45 p.m.

Friday: Finish lines, 10:15 a.m.; Catholic Mass, 2 p.m.; chips n’ chatter, 2:30 p.m.

Saturday: Current events, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; movie, 3:15 p.m.

Maryhill Manor

Niagara, Wis.

Rosary, 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Parachute, 1:30 p.m. daily.

Monthly support group for grief and loss, 2 p.m. second Monday of the month.

Weekend pet visits.

Sunday: Rosary, 8:30 a.m.; Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; penny ante, 10:15 a.m.; Mother’s Day social, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant service, 2:30 p.m.

Monday: Derby day, 10:15 a.m.; nickel jokereno, 2 p.m.

Tuesday: Men’s breakfast, 7 a.m.; bingo, 10:15 a.m.; pamper and polish, 2 p.m.; Yahtzee, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Pamper and polish, 10:15 a.m.; monthly birthday party, 2 p.m.; movie and popcorn, 6:15 p.m.

Thursday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; Scattegories, 10:15 a.m.; prayer shawl, 2 p.m.; Spring Fling Dance, 6:30 p.m.

Friday: Rosary, 9:30 a.m.; trivia, 10:30 a.m.; happy hour, 2 p.m.

Saturday: Baking, 10:15 a.m.; pamper and polish, 2 p.m.; coffee social, 2 p.m.

Maryhill Manor, Alzheimer’s Unit

Niagara, Wis.

Bread making, noon daily.

Chicken soup, communication program, 4 p.m. daily.

Sensory Group, 6 p.m. daily.

Movie, 6:30 p.m. daily.

Sunday: Table ball, 9 a.m.; puzzles, 9:45 a.m.; Bible stories, 10:15 a.m.; sing-a-long, 12:15 p.m.; bowling, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; balloon ball, 3:30 p.m.

Monday: Table ball, 9 a.m.; spelling bee, 9:45 a.m.; Bible stories, 10:15 a.m.; old TV shows, 12:15 p.m.; Animal Kingdom, 1 p.m.; pamper and polish, 2 p.m.; kickball, 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday: Play dough molds, 9 a.m.; puzzles, 9:45 a.m.; table ball, 10:15 a.m.; sing-along, 12:15 p.m.; foot soaks, 1 p.m.; creative art, 2 p.m.; balloon ball, 3:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Play dough molds, 9 a.m.; spelling bee, 9:45 a.m.; coloring, 10:15 a.m.; old TV shows, 12:15 p.m.; through the years, 1 p.m.; pamper and polish, 2 p.m.; golf, 3:30 p.m.

Thursday: Table ball, 9 a.m.; puzzles, 9:45 a.m.; Bible stories, 10:15 a.m.; sing-a-long, 12:15 p.m.; foot soaks, 1 p.m.; men’s group, 2 p.m.; parachute, 3:30 p.m.

Friday: Play dough molds, 9 a.m.; spelling bee, 9:45 a.m.; coloring, 10:15 a.m.; old TV shows, 12:15 p.m.; creative art, 1 p.m.; happy hour/music and memory, 2 p.m.; kickball, 3:30 p.m.

Saturday: Table ball, 9 a.m.; puzzles, 9:45 a.m.; Bible stories, 10:15 a.m.; sing-along, 12:15 p.m.; foot soaks, 1 p.m.; bowling, 2 p.m.; parachute, 3:30 p.m.

Victorian Pines

Iron Mountain

Exercise, 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Coffee clutch, 9:30 a.m. daily.

Shopping days: 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, must sign up.

Sunday: Bible study, 1:30 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Monday: Bingo, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Music with Pastor Jim, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Wednesday: Birthday party, 2 p.m.

Thursday: Bingo, 2 p.m.; Rosary, 3 p.m.

Friday: Ladies tea, 2 p.m.

Saturday: Movie and popcorn, 2 p.m.

Florence Health Services

Florence, Wis.

Sunday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; Mother’s Day tea party, 2 p.m.

Monday: Poetry, 10 a.m.; bingo with Bette, 2 p.m.; room visits, 3:30 p.m.; Family Feud, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday: Balloon volleyball, 10 a.m.; painting self-portraits, 2 p.m.; one on one time, 3:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Magazine collages, 10 a.m.; music by Larry Jankowski, 2 p.m.; room visits, 3:30 p.m.; music and movement, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday: Lutheran service, 10 a.m.; manicures and massages, 2 p.m.; comedy hour, 3:30 p.m.

Friday: Catholic communion service, 10 a.m.; lunch outing to the tavern, 11 a.m.; tic-tac-toe tournament, 2 p.m.; ice cream sundae social, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; matinee with popcorn, 2 p.m.

Pinecrest Medical Care Facility

Powers

Life connections, 9:45 a.m. every Monday.

Busy bee, 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Rosary 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Sunday: Grace Church, 10 a.m.; Mother’s Day beauty shop, 10 a.m.; mind joggers, 2 p.m.; Lutheran service, 2 p.m.

Monday: Worship and communion service, 1:30 p.m.; bean bag toss, 3:30 p.m.; kings corners, 6 p.m.

Tuesday: Casino games, 10 a.m.; bingo, 1:45 p.m.; Pictionary, 3:30 p.m.; one to one visits, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: One on one visits, 10 a.m.; birthday party, 2 p.m.; Rummy, 3:30 p.m.

Thursday: Life stories, 10 a.m.; bingo, 2:15 p.m.; cards, 3:30 p.m.; one on one visits, 6 p.m.

Friday: Celebrating stories, 10 a.m.; sock hop, 2 p.m.

Saturday: Karaoke, 10 a.m.; exercise, 10 a.m.; trivia, 2 p.m.; sensory, 2 p.m.

Victorian Heights

Crystal Falls

906-874-1000

*Activities director is out on leave. Call the home for additional information.

SENIOR CENTERS

Note: All centers ask for 24-hour advanced reservations for lunch. If you have meals delivered and will not be home, notify the center.

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Meal noon every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Lunch at noon.

Bingo on Tuesdays.

Free meal drawing on Thursdays.

Breen Center

906-774-5110

Meals Monday through Friday.

Pasty sale every third Saturday of the month.

Cards and games available 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 2 p.m.

Hostess on duty Monday through Friday.

Treats and coffee, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Center retail store is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday; volunteers and donations are welcome.

Birthdays acknowledged every day.

Evening meals are on the first and third Thursday of the month. Salad bar opens at 4 p.m., with dinner at 5 p.m. Donations are $4 for those 60 and older and $5 for 60 and younger.

Blood pressure and blood sugar testing every fourth Wednesday.

Crystal Falls Center

Head Cook, Lucy Korhonen

906-875-6709

Meals will be served on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 5 p.m., with the salad bar opening at 4:30 p.m. The dinner donation is $5 for those age 60 and older and $6 for those younger than 60. There is a $1 charge for take-out containers. All are invited.

Cribbage will be played at 1 p.m. Wednesdays and be concluded in time for dinner.

The center is closed Thursday through Sunday.

Monday: Soup, salad, beef roast, carrots, potatoes, gravy and homemade dessert.

Tuesday: Soup, salad, chicken parmesan, noodles, veggies and homemade dessert.

Wednesday: Soup, salad, grilled burgers, calico beans, macaroni and cheese, and homemade dessert.

A site council meeting takes place at 3 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month.

A blood pressure reading can be taken by request at any time while the center is open.

Crystal Lake Center

906-774-5888

The center is closed on weekends.

Monday: Woodcarvers, 10 a.m.; mahjong in dining hall, noon; Les Artistes Art Club, noon; bridge club, 12:15 p.m.

Tuesday and Thursday: Pinochle, 12:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: Billiards, 9:30 a.m.

Wednesday: Spinning Spools Quilters Guild, 1 p.m., crafters, scrap bookers and others also welcome; knitting and crocheting class, 1 to 3 p.m.

Friday: Smear, 12:30 p.m.

Last Saturday of the month: Music jam starting at 1 p.m. Admission is free.

Dances take place from 7 to 10 p.m. on the second and fourth Fridays of the month. Admission is $6; coffee is free.

The Photo Club meets 1 to 3 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month.

Evening meals are usually on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month. Salad bar opens at 4 p.m., with the meal served at 4:30 p.m. A donation of $4 is accepted for seniors age 60 and older but not required.

Home-delivered meals are for seniors 60 and older can be delivered seven days a week. Suggested donation is $4 per meal. For information, call Chris Tramotin at 906-774-2256, ext. 235.

Transportation is available from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call the center to book a ride.

Felch Center

906-246-3559

Meals served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Wednesday.

Bingo after lunch on the first and third Wednesday of each month.

A congregate jigsaw puzzle is done daily.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County

715-528-4890

Director: Tiffany White

Suggested donation for seniors older than 60 is $4 per meal. Residents younger than 60 must pay $7. Reservations and cancellations needed 48 hours in advance.

The ADRC can assist area seniors and those with disabilities with transportation Monday through Friday. Transportation reservation should be made with meal reservation.

Four senior dining locations are listed below:

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980

Meal at noon Wednesdays only. Reservations are requested. Cribbage and cards are available.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

715-528-4261

Meal is served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Jigsaw puzzles, cards, cribbage and board games are available. The coffee is always on as well.

Senior Dining Center-NWTC, Aurora

715-589-4491

Serving lunch at 11:30 am, Monday through Thursday

Tipler Town Hall

715-674-2320

Serving lunch at noon on the second Thursday of the month.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

715-589-4491

Meal is served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday. Jigsaw puzzles, cribbage, cards and board games are available. The coffee is always on as well.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

Meal is at noon Monday through Friday. Suggested donation is $3 for age 60 and older and $7 for those younger than 60.

Morning coffee is available daily.

Fifteen games of “fun bingo” are played each Tuesday and Friday, along with a 50/50 drawing.

Tuesday: Bingo, 12:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Cards played in the afternoon. Call ahead to see if a game will be going on.

Friday: Bingo, 12:45 p.m.

Monday through Friday: Walking in the gym, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A treadmill also is available.

Friendly interaction with other crafters.

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

Meals served 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; a $4 donation is encouraged from those 60 and older, and a $5 payment is required from those younger than 60.

Thursday meal, 4 p.m. salad bar, with dinner at 4:30 p.m.

DICSA operates all meals and transportation out of the Iron River Center. Rides are $2.50 donation for age 60 and older, and $3 required for younger than 60. Call 906-265-6134 to schedule a ride

Niagara Northwoods Senior Cafe and Center

Corrie Maule, Meal site manager, 715-251-1603

Jill Anderson, senior center director, 715-251- 4154

Noon meals served Monday through Thursday.

Transportation to the meal site from the Niagara, Wis., area is offered.

They welcome any senior groups that would like to use the meal site as a meeting place — join them for lunch and then stay for a meeting or social time.

Wii games, cards, puzzles and board games are available to play.

Other activities are in the works — suggestions are always welcome.

Those who have not been at the meal site/senior center are invited to give it a try. Those who haven’t been here in a while are encouraged to come back.

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining

906-563-8716

Monday through Thursday: Meals served at noon, with salad bar. Soup also is available at 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Milk, juice, bread, fruit, tea, and coffee served daily. Meal donation is $5. Reservation for the meal should be made in advance.

Two special-themed meals take place each month, with bingo, prizes and a 50/50 drawing.

Two evening meals offered at 5 p.m. on the first Monday and third Wednesday of the month, with bingo, prizes and a 50/50 drawing.

If Norway-Vulcan are schools are closed due to snow days, so is the senior center. If the schools are on a two-hour delay, the center remains open.

Cards are played daily after the noon meal.

Craft and exercise classes: Mondays and Thursdays.

Ceramic and art classes: Wednesdays.

Puzzles always in the works.

A senior coloring class meets daily. All are welcome. Some materials will be provided.

Monday — Center board meeting at 10 a.m.

Wednesday — Blood pressure clinic, 11 a.m. to noon.

Wednesday — Noon meal with turkey and rice casserole, mixed veggies, salad bar, fruit, juice, and dessert.

Wednesday — Dinner at 5 p.m. with BBQ rib dinner, mashed potatoes and gravy, veggies, soup and salad bar, and dessert. Bingo and prizes with 50/50. Sign up early.

Thursday — Birthday club meal with breaded pork chop, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, soup and salad bar, fruit, juice, and birthday cake.

Note: Ask about the Medicare Savings Program. This program helps people pay their Medicare part B premium. You may be eligible. The local MMAP counselor can be reached at 1-800-803-7174, or dial 211.

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

Meals: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11:45 a.m.

Cards: Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday.

Commodities every other month and quarterly commodities are every three months.

A puzzle table is available to enjoy.

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