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3 year transplant

The life you save may be your own.

I’m not your average three-year-old.

I’m 2-1/2 feet taller than other girls my age. My vocabulary is 20 times bigger. And I don’t nap in the afternoon. Well, not every afternoon.

Today is my third birthday, transplantically speaking. And as such, is the focus of my August 5K in my year-long “5K for Awareness Quest.”

I’m 1,096 days out from the stem cell transplant I had on Aug. 12, 2015, to force me into remission from multiple myeloma. I didn’t actually reach remission until September 8, 2016, but transplant patients celebrate their “second” birthdays on the annual date of their transplant.

An average of over 20,000 stem cell transplants are performed in the United States every year to combat blood and bone marrow cancers like leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Success rates are as high as 90% or more.

Over 55% percent of stem cell transplants are autologous, meaning the donor and the patient is the same person (which was my situation). The remaining transplants are allogeneic which rely on an outside donor, either a sibling or family member of the patient or a volunteer who’s a match.

In an average year, 8,500 people are needed to donate stem cells. Small number with a big impact. Want to be one of them? Find out more at cancer.org and bethematch.org. Donors are also needed for other types of transplants, like organs, eyes, and tissue. Get the lowdown at donatelife.net.

Since you’re learning about stem cell transplants today, I’ll leave you with this quirky fact: if during your stem cell transplant, the room smells like creamed corn, that’s you. Or rather, the preservative used on your stem cells. Don’t worry, the smell goes away…eventually.

Four monthly 5Ks left. Where should I be walking and for who or what in September? Leave me a comment with your ideas and suggestions.

The difference between sounds and words. Their name. Gestures. How cause and effect works. These are things a baby learns in their first year.

baby waiting

Kid can’t wait forever for you to figure out what to do!

That their baby is unlike any other baby ever born anywhere. How to function on limited sleep. That a diaper doesn’t hold as much poop as a baby can poop when they really have to poop. These are things a parent learns in their first year.

Not everyone gets the privilege of being a mom or dad but for those lucky people who do, you should want to be the best at it that you can be. A lot of parenting is on the job training but if you could go into those first few years knowing a little something about what you’re doing, wouldn’t you want to have that knowledge?

The focus of my monthly 5K for July is where you can go to get it: Growing Up Together.

Growing Up Together is a non-profit organization in central South Dakota that provides classes for parents, families, and caretakers who have small children or are getting ready to have a baby. They cover the physical part of parenthood with prenatal, childbirth, and breastfeeding classes. But once the child is born, you have to know how to raise it. They have classes for that, too.

Their Sibling Readiness Class helps prepare the small kids you already have to be big brothers and sisters (which as someone who was pushed off a changing table as an infant by my then 2-year-old sister can tell you is very important). Courses are offered for teen parents who face their own challenges going from being kids to having kids. And the Common Sense Parenting Class emphasizes the use of positive interaction with your kids to help them grow up happy and healthy, mentally and physically.

I like that Growing Up Together realizes that today’s family unit is much different than it was 30 or 40 years ago when a family was a dad, a mom, and a couple of kids. Now it may be a single parent raising a child, a multi-generational household with grandparents added in, or a couple living together with a mixed family. Whatever your situation, you’re welcomed there.

Their class fees recognize that a new baby can mean a tighter budget. Most of their classes are $20 or less, and scholarships are available.

Although I’ve babysat countless times in my life I’ve never had the honor of being a mother myself so I’m very careful not to tell people how to raise their kids. Growing Up Together doesn’t do that either; they give you the practical knowledge you need for the job. What parents and families learn in those first years can determine what happens in the next 10 or 20 years. Nobody wants to screw that up.

Find out more about their classes and services at growinguptogether.org.

Seven months done on my 5K quest. I know exactly where I’m walking and for what in August. Want to know? Join me next month.

In 2014, according to the L.A. Times, the average American house contained 300,000 items. That means two things: we keep more than we need, and the “organizing the perfect closet” tips on Pinterest must really work.

We’re in the process of decluttering our home, partly for financial reasons but also because of the desire to be surrounded by less stuff. Or more specifically, to keep and appreciate more meaningful stuff.

My sister started me on this track several years ago when she and my brother-in-law sold their belongings and made a motorhome their permanent residence (follow their adventures at Road Trip with John and Cathy). Helping her with the downsizing process redefined for me what makes where I am “home”.

Aside from family pictures, these are the 5 things that tell me where I live:

Dreamcatchers

dreamcatchers

My husband Jeremy is an enrolled member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. When we were married 25 years ago, Paul Bad Moccasin made and presented us with a pair of Lakota dreamcatchers to bring good dreams and a positive spirit to our family. They go where we go.

 

 

Books

booksIneed

When we moved into our current home, the heaviest boxes were labeled “Books”, “Yes, more books”, and “Seriously, more damn books?” I try to keep my collection manageable but if I were forced to keep only the bare minimum, they would be The Stand by Stephen King, The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, City of Thieves by David Benioff, Nam by Mark Baker, and National Geographic’s Complete Survival Manual. The first five I can read over and over and never get tired of. And if the Zombie Apocalypse ever does come, the last one will help me make it through alive.

Crucifix

crucifix

I received this crucifix when I made my First Communion in the 1970’s and it’s hung over my bed ever since with the exception of the two years I lived in the dorm in college. Which was probably the time I could have used the extra spiritual guidance.

Radios

transistorradio

My radio collection consists of three pieces. A 70-year-old cabinet radio that was left by the previous owner in the first house my parents owned. A 60-year-old tabletop radio shaped like a microphone that was used to promote the radio station where I’ve worked for many years when it first signed on. And a 40-year-old transistor radio that I picked up at a thrift store when I got my first radio job. Two of the three still work.

Cookbook and Cookie Cutter

cookbook chicken

When it comes to cooking, there are half a dozen things I make pretty well and another 10 that won’t make you sick if you eat them. The 1960 St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church cookbook has some of my late mother’s recipes in it from when she was still in high school. I use it every time I make her biscuits, even though I probably know how from memory. And my chicken cookies are famous. They don’t cut themselves.

 

These things I need to be “at home” would fit into a single box, one that will never be marked “For Sale”, “To Thrift Store” or “Trash”. I don’t need 300,000 things to be happy. Who has time to dust all that stuff anyway?

What 5 things define your home for you?

For seven years, we lived in a tiny house halfway down a side street that ended in a cul-de-sac by the river.

Our neighborhood had old houses and trailer houses and empty lots, young neighbors and old neighbors, and one crazy guy on the corner who cavorted in his garden naked at night and yelled a lot. Not kidding.

One hot stormy night there was a tornado that uprooted the big cottonwoods and took out the power lines and left our street piled with debris. We were standing in what was left of our yard when the news came down the line that an old woman in a trailer by the cul-de-sac had had a heart attack and the ambulance couldn’t get down the street to get her. Within minutes, in the pouring rain, neighbors were wielding chainsaws and dragging tree limbs and pushing cars out of the way so the ambulance could inch its way down the street and get her.

What neighbors do in times of trouble is what my June 5K is all about.

I don’t know Chris Boxley personally but I know his mother-in-law. I’ve known Sarah Deters since she was a teenager. One lives in my community, one used to but doesn’t any more. But I still feel like they’re part of my neighborhood, an area in which I live that while it may not be geographical is still some place where you help people when they’re in trouble.

If you live near my actual neighborhood, there are a couple of special fundraisers coming up for Chris and his family: Thursday, July 5 at the Bill of Rights Brewery in Pierre, SD and Wednesday, July 11 at the Pizza Ranch in Fort Pierre, SD. Donations can also be made through the family’s GoFundMe page and at Oahe Federal Credit Union in Pierre, SD.

Want to show your support for Sarah and her girls? Take part in the Love Her Back event.

I’m at the halfway point of my Year of 5K’s with six months to go. I’m also on the lookout for a cause, event, or place to walk about for the month of July so if you want to point me in a new direction, post your suggestions in the comments.

 

smiley oil 0316

How important is it to be happy where you work?

No, I wasn’t fired.

Just about a year ago I quit being a Director of Advertising and Public Relations to become a Senior Secretary.

When news spread that I was making the move, I got the firing question a lot. Legitimate ask. In the sector in which I work, people seldom go from management to the secretarial pool unless they lost the upper job and had to settle for the lower one. That wasn’t my situation.

I’d had the Director position for 8 years and while there were many things I liked about it (and some I still miss), overall I was enjoying it less. The paycheck was great but I worked damn hard to get it, and physically and emotionally, it was taking its toll. My oncologist said it best: “You didn’t survive cancer to kill yourself working, did you?”

No, I didn’t. So I started thinking about moving on.

Then three things happened. The opportunity came up to buy into the shop where my husband Jeremy worked. There was a chance to go back into radio full-time (my first love, as you’ll note from previous posts). And I hit my one year anniversary of being in remission from cancer.

So I took the leap.

The landing was not as soft as expected.

The seller backed out of the shop deal and eventually closed the business, putting Jeremy out of work. The radio station gig went to someone else (who recently quit and I’m just bitchy enough to find that funny). And three months into my new normal hours/less stress job, Jeremy got cancer.

When you jump off the cliff, you don’t think about how to climb back up it. You’re already in the valley – why not just walk out? Poised to make a leap like I did? Do these things:

Have some money in the bank. Less hours and responsibility meant a hefty pay cut for me, and the shop situation suddenly made us a one-income household. Fortunately, we had savings and investments to fall back on. Don’t underestimate the importance of a nest egg.

Take a good look at what you can do and where you can do it. I thought I was leaving to go back to radio. When it turned out I wasn’t, I had to consider what else to do. Being a secretary had never crossed my mind. Just because you’ve always used your skills and experience for one type of job doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable for something totally different. Be open to possibilities.

Realize that who you are in your new position is not who you used to be. It’s been harder going from a manager to a worker than I thought it would be. I don’t miss the management headaches. I do miss having the authority to make decisions without asking, to lead a team, and to voice an idea without vetting it through a higher-up. The lesson here? Look for ways to make a positive impact with whatever power you’re given.

Understand that not all benefits are tied to a paycheck. My wallet is now leaner but my life is richer. My Director job had long hours, too many meetings, a work cell phone I constantly had to monitor, and a combative work environment. Now I have time to spend with those important to me, I’m not up all night trying to solve work problems, my mind is clear at the end of the day so I can get back to doing things I LIKE to do. And my friends and family tell me I’m nicer. I THINK that’s a compliment.

“Never leave a job unless you’re going somewhere better”. We think that means a bigger paycheck, fancier title, roomier office. If those things don’t make you feel better about who you are, maybe climbing a few rungs down the corporate ladder will put you in a place that does.

Have you ever stepped back from a bigger career? Was it the right move for you?

The first veterans memorial I remember seeing was a statue of Francis Marion on the lawn of the courthouse in Marion, South Carolina. His nickname was “the Swamp Fox”, which as a kid I thought was funny so the memory has always stuck with me. Marion fought in the American Revolution not the Civil War but I thought of the statue again when war memorials began being removed from public places in recent years. I asked my dad, who was born and raised in South Carolina in the 1940’s thru early 1960’s, what he thought of the removals. He said, “I suppose it depends whether you think a statue memorializes the event or the person.”

Since 1971, on the last Monday of May, we memorialize the men and women who died in service to their country as members of the U.S. military. We also honor and celebrate others we have lost in our lives, friends and family, but Memorial Day became a national holiday to honor fallen soldiers.

The remembrance and recognition of the holiday takes place largely in cemeteries but in many places the sacrifice of our military men and women is acknowledged every day. Which is the focus of my May 5K as part of my “Year of 5K’s to Raise Awareness”.

Veterans memorials in our part of the country likely don’t face the same controversy as in other places but are really meant to memorialize the people. Men and women who join the service do so knowing they may lose their lives as a result. The families left behind know that, too. But if that possibility became the sole focus of the decision, no one would sign up and their families wouldn’t let them go.

When you’re at the cemetery today, look for the American flags. Think of the people buried beneath them. And if you want to remember them after today, visit your local veterans memorial. To find them in South Dakota, go to vetaffairs.sd.gov.

Next month will be the halfway point in my 12 months of walks. Got an organization, event or cause you’d like me to highlight? Post a comment with your ideas and details.

Happy Memorial Day.

 

 

When I was a kid, misbehaving could get you a swat on the butt, and mouthing off, the threat of tasting soap. It was considered discipline and the practice was fairly common among everyone we knew. We considered ourselves punished, not abused. Abuse was breaking a child’s arm, burning their hand, leaving them out in the cold with no jacket. That wasn’t happening to us.

Under the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, child abuse and neglect occurs when a parent or caretaker takes an action (or fails to take an action) that results in the death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation of a child.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and it’s why I was walking the streets this morning:

I cannot conceive of the horrific things parents are doing to their children in our world. I’ve known since I was 20 that I couldn’t have children and I’ve often wondered why God has granted that privilege to monsters that hurt, maim and kill their kids instead of to someone who would love and protect them.

Despite not being a mom, I’ve been fortunate to always have special kids in my life – nieces and nephews, the children of friends, kids I’ve come to know through where I live, work and volunteer. When I hear the terrible stories of children being neglected and abused, I think if anybody did that to a kid close to me, I would beat the hell out of them. I get the irony of that statement – punishing violence with violence. But it’s hard not to feel that an abuser deserves the same treatment they’re dishing out.

So how can we help? Pay attention to the kids you know. Watch for signs of abuse. And if you see them, report it. If you missed the numbers in my video, the National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-422-4453 and in South Dakota where I live, you can also call the Department of Social Services, Division of Child Protection Services, at 1-877-244-0864.

I’ve no shortage of causes to walk for in my “5K A Month” challenge for 2018, but if there’s a group, organization or event you’re passionate about, give me a shout and some information and I’ll add it to my list. Logging miles that have meaning is kind of my thing and I’m happy to help.