World Immunization Week 2016

April 24, 2016 is the start of World Immunization Week 2016, a week when WHO and other global health advocates highlight recent gains in immunization coverage, and focus on further steps countries can take to “Close the Immunization Gap” and meet global vaccination targets by 2020.

On Saturday, April 30, 2016, I will be hosting a FUNdraiser at Nuberri on Blairstone Road here in Tallahassee. Nuberri is donating 25% of the pre-tax amount of the checks for any customers who mention Shot at Life!

Having participated in three Shot at Life Champion summits, a Social Good summit, and other immunization-related trainings, I am well aware that the process of getting a vaccine to a child in a developing country is not as simple as, say, pulling down on a pump and getting a delicious cup of frozen yogurt. Still, there are similarities:

Worldwide Immunization Advocacy

Immunizations: The need is clear. One child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine-preventable disease.

Yogurt: Well, OKAY – this is a want not a need but … FROZEN YOGURT PEOPLE!

 

Worldwide Immunization Advocacy

Immunizations: Planning is paramount in order to have the right vaccinations, in the right amount, at the right time.

Yogurt: A business has to plan in advance for what people are going to choose and when they are going to choose it.

Worldwide Immunization Advocacy

Immunizations: The process of manufacturing vaccines for developing countries involves a dizzying array of details.

Yogurt: That deliciousness doesn’t happen magically. Someone has to mix up the components of the tasty treaWorldwide Immunization Advocacyts!

Immunizations: Many vaccines must be stored at cool temperatures in order to remain viable. This is not simple.

Yogurt: It’s called FROZEN yogurt for a reason! You have to chill it to keep it refreshing!

Worldwide Immunization AdvocacyImmunizations: Finally! With immunizations, children are more likely to make it to their 5th birthdays!

Yogurt: Nom nom. All that work pays off as we share sweet desserts and sweet time with friends!

More About April 30

I think we would all agree it’s easier to get a cup full of delicious frozen yogurt than it is to get a rotavirus vaccine to a child in Pakistan, but with the April 30 Share Day you can do both, thanks to the generosity of Nuberri Blairstone Road. They are donating 25% of the proceeds from that day for anyone who mentions Shot at Life to help children around the world have access to immunizations! How cool is that?!

Details:

Date: Saturday, April 30, 2016, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Location: Nuberri, 101 North Blairstone Road (in the Governor’s Crossing shopping center)

To Help Shot at Life: Mention Shot at Life at checkout. You will be asked to sign your receipt.

If you want to participate but can’t make it: You’ll be missed! Please feel free to donate by clicking here.

Giveaway!

I’m giving a $10 giftcard to Nuberri to one of my readers. Use it at the Share Day or use it whenever!

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Note: For winners who do not have access to Nuberri, I will donate $10 to Shot at Life in your name instead.

I have the good fortune to live in a place where it is as simple for me to ensure my children have necessary immunizations as it is to indulge in a delicious frozen yogurt treat. Millions of mothers worldwide are not so fortunate.

That’s why, this World Immunization Week (and year-round), I am using my voice to make Need * Plan * Make * Chill * Serve apply to more than yogurt. It’s also about giving children around the world a Shot at Life!

Worldwide Immunization Advoacy

Worldwide Immunization Advocacy

Sinking Our Teeth Into Eldercare Dental Issues

When we returned from our family trip to Orlando on April 4, one of the first things Dad said was “I need to see a dentist.” (My father-in-law lives with us due to medical and cognitive issues that make it impossible for him to live alone.) He was complaining of a toothache. It was the beginning of a crash course in eldercare dental issues.

For the past decade (probably longer), his approach to dental issues has been to get the offending tooth pulled. Apparently he has never been big on dentists (family history says this is an understatement).

He has had these extractions done at a place called Affordable Dentures, which basically does two things: 1) extracts teeth and 2) prepares/installs dentures. No other dentistry (cleanings, fillings, etc.).

We have already done this drill once in the time Dad has been with us, so I called the extraction dentist first thing on Tuesday. They did not have availability until the following Monday. I made the appointment but asked them to notify us if there was a cancellation. It was clear his pain level was already uncomfortable (which is saying a lot for someone on constant percocet and fentanyl). We tried other options:

  • Seeing if a family member in a nearby town had a personal relationship with a dentist. That wasn’t an option because he is apparently difficult to get into. She suggested oils such as tea tree to relieve his discomfort.
  • Calling his PCP, who suggested a local dental clinic. Their first opening was in late May. Not an option.
  • Asking my friend who has a connection with the VA about options with the VA. He gave me a name (even having a name is a start!). That individual said Dad would have to be in the system, which involved paperwork (of course!) and the potential of a longer wait while he qualified.

That left……..waiting. Anbesol. Liquid motrin on top of his usual pain relief. Trying to find things to eat that wouldn’t be irritating or exacerbate the pain.

The Saturday morning prior to the Monday appointment, he woke up extremely disoriented. He refused to sit in his chair, choosing the couch instead, which sounds like a small thing but for an individual who has sat in the same exact place pretty much every day for two years, it was … odd. I had to leave for a commitment so told my husband, who was still in bed, that I didn’t think Dad should be left alone in the living room given his disorientation. When my husband came out, he noticed what I had completely overlooked: the fact that the side of his face was grossly swollen. There was going to be no waiting for Monday.

My husband took him to the ER. At the ER, they examined him, did a CAT scan to make sure his circulation in his brain was still okay (the incoherence was troublesome), rehydrated him, prescribed penicillin, and told him to keep Monday’s appointment for an extraction (and to reassure the dentist that he had been on antibiotics for 48 hours). The bullet dodged for the time being, Dad came back home and we waited for Monday, thinking a simple procedure on Monday would take care of everything.

Very Few Details About Eldercare Dental Issues are “Simple”

I was so relieved when Monday rolled around. The swelling in Dad’s face had gone down a bit. On Sunday, Wayne and I discussed how he had to take a shower to deal with how he smelled (he is not a consistent daily showerer … a topic for a different day). Wayne had him take a shower, but Monday morning you could barely tell; the smell persisted.

We got to Affordable Dentures. When we made it back to a treatment area, the assistant pulled his x-ray from his visit almost two years ago. When the dentist arrived and started reviewing that x-ray, I reminded him that it was not an x-ray that reflected his current status. They had him do a new panoramic x-ray. Once Dr. Amundson started looking at that, and I explained that he had had radiation for neck cancer early last year, he explained that this was not going to be the case of a simple extraction.

He explained that with an infection that appeared to have spread beyond the tooth/teeth involved, an oral surgeon needed to be consulted. The oral surgeon would not necessarily do surgery but would be better able to evaluate the connected anatomy (the neck musculature, the lymphatic system, the components of the mouth, throat, and neck that could be affected).

We left dental stop number one, headed home, and waited to hear from dental stop number two.

On To the Oral Surgeon

We got home, I gave Dad his pain medication that he was due for, ate a bit of lunch, and heard from the oral surgeon’s office that they could see us at 1:20. My husband was not able to leave work, so it was going to be Dad and me (as it had been that morning). The oral surgery office called to review the price for a consultation and x-ray. I am sure they do this partially so that patients are not surprised, but I appreciated the customer service and knowing what to expect.

We arrived at the oral surgeon, and what I had started the day thinking would be a simple extraction rapidly escalated into a much bigger and more complex issue.

Having heard that Dad had been treated with radiation to the neck area, he explained (after the general observation that all of his teeth were in horrible shape, something no one disagreed with) that ideally part of the pre-treatment briefing for the neck cancer would have been a discussion of dental health. This is because once you radiate the jaw area, the bone is much less prepared to recover from dental procedures. In addition, Dad is on a steroid for blood pressure/balance issues, and steroids exacerbate this bone/healing issue. He said many patients choose (or are advised) to have all of their teeth out before radiation treatment. Since Dad is one year post-treatment, we had missed the window to pursue that option. (I was not at his pre-treatment briefing, so I can’t confirm if it was discussed or not, but clearly he did not opt to have his teeth taken out and I am sure that possibility was not discussed).

He then began discussing measures you can take to try to preserve the jaw once it has been treated with radiation. These include HBO (hyberbaric oxygen) dives to force the blood flow to improve. At the point the conversation turned to “without this very expensive dive treatment there is a possibility he will lose his jaw due to necrotizing fasciitis,” I asked to get Wayne on speakerphone. (Pro-tip: the word “dive” does not transmit well via speaker, especially when the recipient of the call started the day thinking all that was needed was for a tooth to be pulled.)

Eldercare Dental Issues

Oral Surgeon’s Office

When the conversation was over, the dentist took a more extensive look at the x-ray we had brought from dentist number 1, said the bulk of the immediate problem appeared to be in the top four teeth on the right, and proposed taking those four teeth out, there in the office.

I am not sure if this write-up is conveying the dizzying speed with which this progression was occurring. Even though Dr. Bower was explaining everything well, part of my head was back at “you should have had the teeth all taken out before the radiation,” part of my head was at my own berating myself that “you should have made this man do better oral hygiene over the last two years,” part of my head was “what on earth can we do today to quell this infection and save his life?”. Oh, and as had been the case on Saturday with the ER visit, a part of me was praying we didn’t get reported to eldercare services for neglect. Honestly.

The dentist said no amount of “proper oral hygiene” could have prevented the situation we found ourselves in. That was a relief.

As I said, he decided he could take the four teeth out that were causing the immediate infection. That’s when I discovered that (warning: this is gross) the smell we had detected was not a lack of showering, it was the putrid smell of facial infection. Gross.

The dentist administered a lot of novocain and let it take effect (prior to that his staff administered a lot of paperwork and the price tag escalated far beyond what we expected at the start of the day). When he came to extract the teeth, things got, um, dramatic. I can only imagine how uncomfortable this was for Dad, even with the anesthetic. Due to the infection, he could barely open his mouth. Being in a dental chair is especially hard on him due to his back issues, and everything about it (the suction, the people in close proximity, the physical pressure of it all), was overwhelming, He sounded like he was miserable. At the point that the oral surgeon considered stopping (I think dad’s mumbled words around the suction appliance were “you’re killing me”), and we discussed our options.

Being “just the daughter-in-law,” I really wasn’t sure what to advise. I was torn between wanting to make sure Dad fared okay and the certain knowledge that he would be so much better off having those four teeth out, that going under general anesthesia would carry risks for someone in his status, and that removing the source of the infection was critical. I essentially said, “I know he sounds bad but I think if you can get through it here, you should.” This is where, honestly, I invoked the last tool I could think of. I prayed without ceasing to the spirit of my late mother-in-law to calm him down and allow this procedure to be completed. It may sound weird but I was out of other ideas.

She must have done her job because the procedure ended (yay!) with four teeth gone. We remained at the office until it closed so they could keep him under observation. They prescribed a different (more powerful) antibiotic and scheduled a follow up visit two days later.

The Follow Up

The morning of the follow-up visit, Dad said “I have a dentist appointment today? Let’s cancel it.” Ha! Not likely.

At the follow up, which Dad passed with flying colors (this man amazes me in his physical resiliency despite his cognitive issues and general lack of interest in the positive points of life), the oral surgeon informed us that our next step should be to secure a regular dentist for dad. (Dentist number one from Affordable Dentures is not an option because, like I said, he only extracts/puts dentures in. The oral surgeon is essentially a very highly skilled pinch hitter, but is not the guy for routine care or to develop a long-term plan.)

He needs a dentist who can:

a) Evaluate his dental health

b) Evaluate the effects of the prior radiation and its impact on his dental health

c) Determine if HBO treatment is needed

d) Extract the remaining teeth when his mouth/health are ready for that

We need to pursue the administrative parts of this. Will his insurance cover any of it? Medicare? His supplemental coverage? Will the VA cover it? If he needs HBO treatment and they the VA has the facility for that (and he is physically capable of tolerating it), getting it “free” from the VA would be far preferable to a price tag that could approach $60,000.

One of the biggest challenges was the fact that dad’s neck/back pain make so many procedures uncomfortable. The dental chairs, being hard, made his lower back hurt. All of the manipulations (the panoramic x-ray, the handling of his head to get him in position, etc.) exacerbated the chronic pain which never goes away.

The Takeaways

Cancer treatment can have long-term effects long after the actual treatment takes place. Radiation affects more than the area being treated. Ask all the questions. Do your own research so you know what questions to ask.

One small symptom can lead to a domino effect. If you are a caregiver, keep that in mind. As Dad’s pain increasingly grew, and the wait for a dentist dragged on, it became increasingly more difficult for him to swallow, so we stopped giving what we considered the “minor” meds in his medication protocol. We mainly gave him his pain meds. In retrospect that explains why his blood pressure was high when the oral surgeon’s staff checked it and why, behaviorally, he was so taciturn. (I understand being taciturn after more than a week in oral pain and having 4 teeth extracted, but I mean a particular kind of uncooperativeness and combativity as I tried to get him to comply with post-procedure care.) His antidepressant had been one of the things we deleted due to the difficulty swallowing. The difficulty swallowing undoubtedly also led to the dehydration, which led to the incoherence. Everything is connected — meds, food and fluid intake, routines. Fortunately in our case none of the omissions created a life-threatening issue but it was an important reminder.

Medical professionals need to be prepared to deal with patients who have cognitive issues. Everyone we dealt with in this situation handled it pretty well, but you are likely to get partial answers and have a patient who is easily agitated. This is not going to be easy for the professional, the patient, or the patient’s family members. Aftercare, also, is going to be a bear. Dad had gauze he was supposed to bite down on to staunch the blood, and he kept chewing it (which he was not supposed to do … swallowing it could create an impactment in his gut) …. when we gave him the medicinal mouthwash and instructed him not to swallow it, but to spit it, he swallowed it three seconds later … his memory is not sufficient to comply with even simple instructions sometimes. 

The oral surgeon (Dr. Daniel Bower of Oral and Facial Surgery Center of Tallahassee) is the only medical professional we have dealt with in the last two years (and there have been a lot of them) who looked at my husband and at me and said, “and how are you doing?” Now, we weren’t going to give him the long version of the fact that eldercare is stressful but at that moment I could have kissed him (or whatever the appropriate reaction would have been). It took maybe ten seconds for him to say something compassionate that reflected the fact that these situations affect the whole family, not just the patient. I was floored and grateful. And I just wonder why none of the others take the time to do that.

One of the persistent challenges of eldercare is the fact that you are so busy doing eldercare, it’s hard to find time to chase down the resources that can help you figure out how to be more effective at eldercare!  I can’t say I have personally taken advantage of them yet, but here are a few that come highly recommended:

Alzheimer’s Project, Inc. (local to Tallahassee)

Elder Care Services, Inc. (local to Tallahassee)

AARP’s Home and Family Caregiving Resources (national)

Creative K Kids

Mashed Potatoes: A Book Review

How long has it been since your dreams contained adventure instead of the panicked feeling that you have failed to handle some obligation?

Mashed Potatoes: A Little Brother Story rekindled my belief in the power of lofty dreams to fuel our goals and fantasies. The book was self-published by my friend/co-worker, Carrie Koens and her husband, Peter.

Book Review

Although my kids are now 16 and 19, I can just SEE their younger eyes lighting up at the idea of getting all. they. wanted. of. their. favorite. foods and being rescued from the ill effects of gluttony by the simple act of rousing from sleep.

When she was little my almost-20-year-old loved We Like Kindergarten, a book that had worked its way into our collection somehow. This classic was published the year after I was born (1965)! The illustrations were definitely not 21st century, but the story was timeless: Big sister Carol got to go to Kindergarten and her little sister had to stay home. The book was already VERY LOVED when we got it, but that didn’t reduce its charm at all. This little golden book truly was GOLDEN.

Another favorite of my kids was a board book called Jamberry. One novel feature of Jamberry was the two-page passage with NO WORDS. I would summon up all my imagination and whatever drops of dramatic tendencies I could and make the passage FUN as the characters went over blueberry falls.

When another blogger, life as mom, talked about how Mashed Potatoes was one of her children’s perennial favorites, and how when she took it out of the mothballs to take a picture recently, the (now older) children each exclaimed “oh I LOVE that book!!,” I could relate.

Book Review: Why Mashed Potatoes is a Keeper:

  • It conjures up images of how, when we were little kids, we desperately wanted more, more, more of the things we loved (even if they weren’t good for us in unlimited quantities!)
  • The disarmingly adorable yet not too sappy-sweet illustrations
  • The fact that as the reader, you feel the protagonist’s struggle between right and wrong as he tries to figure out how to respond to his dad after his act of disobedience
  • The outer space reference (because I’ve been in a big space-lover mode recently thanks to my trips to NASA)
  • As I mentioned in the beginning, the reminder that our “child” spirit, whether we are 5 or 51, has the capacity to dream big, as high as the sky!

This is More Than a Book

In addition to sharing the qualities about Mashed Potatoes that made it a “hit” with me, I also want to note that all proceeds from the purchase of this book (here’s the link) are going to the authors’ adoption fund. They are planning to adopt five siblings from Costa Rica, and of course that brings with it expenses. Read more about their adoption journey here.

Please join me in wishing Peter and Carrie blessings and success on their adoption journey. I can just imagine five little heads on five little pillows, dreaming big dreams in their slumber and knowing the big love of family when they wake up!
Book Review

Design by Rachel Royer

 Book Review
 Test-Button-400-Monday-of-Many-Blessings-Link-Up
Book Review

$500 Disney Gift Card Giveaway!

It’s Flower and Garden time at EPCOT right now and the details are GLORIOUS!

Disney Gift Card Giveaway

During our family’s recent visit to Disney World, we treated ourselves to some things we wanted (beignets, souvenirs, cocktails with light-up ice cubes and more) as well as things we needed (a hat for my husband when it started raining and sunscreen when it stopped raining).

A $500 gift card would have gone a long way toward helping us get more wants and needs, not to mention a place to lay our heads and some Mickey towels!

Disney Gift Card Giveaway

What would you do with $500 Disney dollars? Enter this giveaway and you may find yourself magically fulfilling some Disney dreams of your own!

DISNEY GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize: $500 Disney Gift Card (can be used at any Disney park or store)

Co-hosts: Annie A to Z // Coupons and Freebies Mom // Sunny Sweet Days // Jenns Blah Blah Blog // Yes We Disney // Mommies In Orbit // Peyton’s Momma // Peanut Butter and Whine

Giveaway organized by: Oh My Gosh Beck!

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 5/2 and is open worldwide. Winner will be notified via email.

Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog? Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!

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Disney Gift Card Giveaway

Defining “Finish”

With about 10 minutes left Sunday night, I decided to pop in to #RunChat, even though it was Easter Sunday and I didn’t figure the chat was especially active.

“Especially active” or not, one transaction had me apoplectic within seconds. My husband, who develops the same type of apoplexy when one of his fantasy sports players is failing or some other sports-related travesty is occurring, was looking at me as though I were losing my mind.

What was the conversation?

Running Race Rules

Running Race Rules

There were a few more tweets in this back and forth but you get the idea (and I blocked the other individual’s name because although I disagree with her, I don’t want this to be an attack ON her — I’m just still hopping mad and need to rant a bit more!).

Do I agree that someone is a “DNF” if they did not complete a race by the cut-off time? If they completed the race distance, I absolutely do NOT agree!

Running Race Rules

Credit: Pixabay geralt

If you choose to register and participate in a race that explicitly requires you to agree to be “swept” if you do not meet a certain cut-off, then yes I think you are obligated to comply with the race directors’ request.

Otherwise: a finish is a finish is a finish! I understand that race directors may use their discretion in choosing not to list a finisher who arrives after the cut-off in the official results and that they may not award a medal, but the athlete has ostensibly done their best and most importantly, they have completed the distance!

While I could have a lively back and forth with my fellow #RunChat participant about what “finishing” means, it was the “train within the rules” part that had me scratching my head and ranting, especially since she states she is an RRCA Coach.

I would expect a coach to review my goals with me and help me find a goal that is achievable yet a challenge. If I told my coach I wanted to do a 50-mile ultra in four months, I am thinking she would talk me down, because given my current training level there is simply no way to do that distance without risk of injury or other adversities. A coach does so much more than schedule workouts; they help you as the athlete think through and choose your goals, then strive to meet them.

But even the best coaching in the world, combined with the most compliant athletes in the world, will not prevent the unexpected from happening. Ten minutes in the med tent for dehydration, a wrong turn because a volunteer provided incorrect direction, cramps, “bodily waste” issues, the simple fact of grappling with your mental state to push yourself through when it starts feeling impossible. None of those exceptions can be mitigated by “training to the rules.”

When I walked the United NYC Half Marathon in March of last year, my friend Mary Jane and I were within sight of the sweeper bus for much of the race. We watched water stop after water stop being dismantled before we had gotten there. We were “behind” the predicted cutoff. Honestly, I don’t know what the official race rules said about people who arrived after the cut-off. It did matter logistically, because a tunnel in lower Manhattan had to be closed for us and other accommodations had to be made. I was thrilled to get a mylar blanket and a finishers’ medal. I don’t think I have even looked up my official results. I was with my dear friend; I was making a difference via my fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Association, and I was making memories that were so more significant than the miles.

One More Story

My friend Maria set out in 2015 to do our track club’s ultimate challenge. The ultimate challenge involved doing a group of specific races throughout the year, culminating in the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic in December. At the ultra, Maria missed the cutoff by about an hour but I and many others can attest that she traversed the entire 50 miles.

In January 2016, track club member Mike Martinez said this about Maria:

She has blossomed as a runner, faster times and an incredible range in race distances, from one mile to fifty miles.

(and he said a lot more, presented here for you to see the whole picture, as he presented her with our club’s Female Runner of the Year award!)

I was pretty familiar with Maria’s training and I feel quite confident that she “trained within the rules.”

But what happened at the end of her ultra was not a DNF.

I would call it more of a FWC.

Finished With Class!

Running Race Rules

Attacking the 50 Mile Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic! Photo Credit: Robin Bennett

 

God’s Crooked Straight Lines

I have fantasized for quite some time about participating in a silent retreat. My ideal vision involved going to a monastery in north Georgia (or somewhere else far enough away from Tallahassee to feel “gone”) and spending two days or so in contemplative silence.

As it turns out, life is harshly disinclined to release me from my Tallahassee obligations for a full weekend involving travel to and from, and my budget is rather slim for that kind of thing too.

When I participated in a Toastmasters competition at Unity Eastside Church recently, there was a flier for a silent retreat day on our sign-in table. Six hours, twenty dollars, fifteen minutes from home. Not exactly my “ideal,” but an option with much more likelihood of happening. I informed my husband I would be out of pocket on March 26 for six hours, suspended my usual Saturday morning long run plans, and prepared.

I had two main goals: 1) write my friend Kathleen, my one true “snail mail only” friend, who I have owed a letter to for a very long time, then 2) read a book which would frame the rest of the day. I chose Becoming Who You Are by James Martin, SJ.

There was a brief introductory session at the beginning of the day (where we were encouraged to “wander and ponder,”) and a 15-minute closing session at the end, but other than that we were free to do whatever we wanted on the expansive property.

When I signed in, I was given a handout about Noble Silence which directed us to refrain from writing to one another. Hmmm ….. although Kathleen wasn’t a participant in the retreat, my rule-follower brain worried if my personal agenda was a bad fit!

Fortunately, there were no Noble Silence police at this retreat so I forged ahead with my plans. My correspondence with Kathleen edifies me in many ways, so it was a blessing to write her. After I wrote Kathleen, I started the book. As books go, it is brief (97 pages), but I figured it would be a perfect fit for a 6-hour retreat. I’ve experienced a great deal of difficulty attending to books on paper (vs audiobooks) lately, so imagine my surprise when I had finished the book before the retreat was even halfway over!

A Day Well Spent

Before I share takeaways from the book, here’s how I spent the rest of the day:

  • Co-existing with the wildlife (I had camped out in the nursery because the rocking chair was great. So had a green frog.) HMMM.
  • Napping
  • Walking their labyrinth. The fact that it was raining made this one of the most lovely labyrinth walks I have ever taken!

God's Crooked Straight Lines

  • Walking their grounds
  • Praying
  • Eating lunch
  • Writing another letter when I was out of things to read and prayers to say (I also skimmed “Radiation Therapy and You” a publication I had taken solely to have a hard surface to write on. Maybe I do have trouble calming my brain!)
  • Reading and re-reading the lyrics to Where Does the Good Go?, which Shonda Rhimes talked about in Year of Yes and I subsequently can’t. stop. thinking. about. Just can’t!
  • Taking pictures with a disposable camera (because I was afraid if I took my smartphone in “just for the camera” I would not be able to resist checking Email/Instagram/Facebook/Twitter)

Silent Retreat Reading Takeaways

Now for my takeaways from Fr. Martin’s book, which focused on insights about what constitutes the “true self,” drawing heavily on Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen.

Humanity is, in itself, holy. Holiness is not limited to the officially beatified or incessantly selfless.

Time is a gift. In a passage discussing how each moment is a sacrament (a parent preparing a child’s lunch, etc.), I was reminded anew that my tasks of caregiving are sacramental (even though that is not how they feel). Yes, I have grumbled audibly when closing our back French door which my FIL frequently inadvertently leaves open, uttered my share of sarcastic comebacks, and prayed for him to sleep in just a little longer in the mornings so I can have my house (and train of thought) to myself. Although I know I need to cut myself a break as a caregiver, I also owe these responsibilities the perspective they are due.

The idea (generated by Nouwen) that “the term burnout was a convenient psychological translation for a spiritual death.” Having said, as I left my job in May 2014, that my soul was being sucked out of me, I could relate to this passage!

As a follow up to the burnout idea, I was intrigued by the idea that “ordinary people,” who are leading “ordinary” non ministerial lives, are still serving God.

Merton calls these men and women “hidden contemplatives” who enjoy a kind of “masked contemplation.” Their ability to do so hinges on their willingness to find God not by trying to be cloistered monks, but by discovering the divine spark in their own busy lives.

Repeatedly throughout the book, Fr. Martin repeated his point that “being holy means being your true self.”

As I walked the labyrinth, I reflected on a proverb Fr. Martin had shared: “God writes straight, with crooked lines.” You can see the center of the labyrinth from the entrance, but you can’t get there without following, obediently, a circuitous path. As the path unfolded before me, I tried not to look at my watch, to let time elapse naturally. I saw a beautiful red cardinal, the raindrops on the trees, and a broken tree, its fresh splinters reflecting how jagged you become when you are broken. All of them encouraged my mind to relax and expand, to focus on enjoying the journey knowing that the center would appear eventually.

In a day of quiet, one idea persisted in asserting itself, wordlessly but forcefully:

The divine spark. It is worth seeking, protecting, sustaining.

(For more pictures from the day, click here.)

Creative K Kids

Who Inspires You to #sharetheSPARK?

“When I was little, I decided I would always do the things that scared me.”

This is what my daughter said to me after describing her recent experience going down the Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach, a slide with an almost perpendicular 120-foot slope. Here’s a picture:

Motivational Inspiration

Credit: Digital Disney World

And here’s a YouTube video of someone much braver than me doing the Summit Plummet.

When did she decide she would always do things that scared her? Sometime long before she found herself at the top of the Summit Plummet asking the cast member on duty, “Am I going to die on this thing?”

The conversation made me smile (BROADLY) because I want her to be brave.

I want her to “NEVER GIVE UP” and hear “YOU GOT THIS” in her head, all the time, no matter which challenges she faces.

Thanks to Momentum Jewelry, I have an opportunity to spread some “NEVER GIVE UP” and “YOU GOT THIS” #sharetheSPARK sentiment among the people I admire, those who demonstrate these attributes or the ones who I feel need just a bit of encouragement!

I could easily name 30 people off the top of my head who have a #sharetheSPARK vibe going on. The challenge is I only have two #sharetheSPARK Motivate™ wraps to give away. One of them is going to a woman who is a cancer survivor, who is putting together a Triathlon” that will benefit Moffitt Cancer Center (for details, click here — spaces are still available for the run/row/ride event!). The other one is going to have to find a home over the next few weeks.

Motivational Inspiration

Although I don’t have unlimited wraps to give away, I do have PicMonkey, social media, and the ability to share unlimited encouragement!

Therefore, look for me to be sharing these images and tagging awesome people over the next few weeks!

Motivational InspirationMotivational Inspiration

 

Yes, I smiled when my daughter told me how determined she was to face her fears! I smile when so many people I know, in real life and online:

  • Set (and achieve) ambitious goals
  • Encourage people around them who are discouraged
  • Stand up for what is right, even when it is unpopular to do so
  • Persist in the face of adversity
  • Support others rather than tear down

This list, of course, could go on and on. What would you add? Who has embodied these qualities to you?

Tenley went to the summit, took the plummet, and proved to herself that she is stronger than her fears.

What will you refuse to give up on today? How can you #sharetheSPARK of encouragement?

By the way, Momentum Jewelry makes beautiful athletic and inspired jewelry in addition to the wraps. I love my Foot Notes™ (shoe tags) from Momentum which honor my I Run For relationship with Gareth. View all of their products here. If you find something you want to purchase, use the code FFSpark15 to save 15% off your purchase between now and 5/31/16!

Motivational Inspiration

NOTE: This post is a response to a Mama Kat Writing prompt: Write about something your child said that made you smile.

Motivational Inspiration

Two Minutes on the Table

know why “Table Topics” are called “Table Topics” in Toastmasters. According to the Toastmasters website, these two-minute impromptu speaking exercises, which typically occur at the table (rather than the lectern/podium) “improve confidence and impromptu public speaking skills.”

Impromptu Speaking

When you participate in a Table Topics competition, however, the “table” part goes out the window as you speak on a stage in front of the contest attendees (which can be 10 people in an area contest or hundreds at a division or district contest).

When I participated in the Area 82 and 83 Spring Speech Contest at Unity Eastside Church on March 12, 2016, I had the opportunity to relax after participating in the Area 82 contest and simply enjoy the Area 83 contest. The question was “Identify your greatest fear and how you have overcome it.”

As each of of the five participants approached the stage, I wondered what they would talk about. Spiders? Flying? Falling? Bridges, water, closed spaces, the number 13, clowns, snakes? It turns out the five participants had fears that were less specific but, to me, more profound and eminently relatable:

Public Speaking

While I suppose there are Toastmasters (and non-Toastmasters) out there who truly feel ONLY ENERGIZED by and NEVER TERRIFIED BY public speaking, I am guessing many more of us fall much closer to the “scared of” end of the spectrum. I always say I joined Toastmasters because I don’t want to be “that awful speaker” I have heard way too many times. To the gentleman for whom this is a fear: your two minutes proved you are well on your way of facing that fear head on and overcoming it!

Being Harshly Judged

If it would not have been utterly inappropriate, I would have stood up on my chair the moment this participant announced her biggest fear and pronounced “ME TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” What struck me about this speech was the participant’s explanation of how the fear GREW as she gained life experience, instead of DIMINISHING. For me, I keep reading all these stories of women who, having reached “mid-life,” have gotten to the “I really don’t care what others think” phase, and wanting to know if AAA does a Trip-Tik to that because I seem to have lost my way! I suppose it’s a work in progress, like most things in life. One thing about Toastmasters is we don’t just learn to speak, we learn to evaluate, non-judgmentally and constructively. I think this participant has chosen a great place to keep overcoming that fear.

Feeling Inadequate 

Another one where I could easily see myself being a part of the “me too” chorus! Especially when the speaker talked about his first venture coaching little kids in soccer, I could relate to the fact that very small people can bring out our biggest inadequate feelings. As the speaker pointed out, humility was part of the equation for resolving the fear; once he humbled himself to admit his inadequacies and seek help, everything improved. Humility is, indeed, powerful.

Failing as a Parent

Perhaps there are parents out there brimming with confidence, never questioning themselves, their choices, or the example they have provided for their children. I am not that parent. It is no exaggeration for me to say that being a parent is all I ever wanted to be. I realize that declaration does not embody any work life balance but it’s the simple truth. I gave birth 19 and 16 years ago, respectively, and have subsequently questioned myself the whole time. And I have degrees in child development and counseling. There’s nothing like procreating to eviscerate the academic initials you thought taught you something!

Something Happening to Your Kids

Although this topic is in the same category as the one above, it was a very different speech. I’ve been around the block long enough to have seen many tragedies befall friends, family, acquaintances, and now thanks to social media, a stream of people I will never know but for whom I still feel grief and sadness as they cope with unspeakable outcomes for the people who mean the most to them. This speaker did a great job of distinguishing between our tendencies as parents, especially when our children are young, to turn every cut and scrape into a catastrophe in our minds, and the dangers that really matter. It’s easy to forget to live while trying to mitigate for all the imagined dangers that may befall our children.

In the case of the five participants from Area 83, it turns out their greatest fears are ones that are harder to conquer than a spider and harder to avoid than a clown. They are the kinds of things that keep people up at night and can take a lifetime to learn to manage.

At my home club, Podemos Hablar, which is quite small, I have heard Table Topics speeches about fears and other difficulties in which the participants disclosed profound pieces of their souls. There have been plenty of light and downright amusing Table Topics speeches too, don’t get me wrong, but I am consistently reminded that you can learn a lot about a person and gain a different perspective on life in two minutes through the simple act of listening.

That’s the funny thing. We come here to speak but sometimes we learn the most without saying a word.

Impromptu Speaking

Lastly, I want to share the speech I gave as my entry to the club level International Speech contest at Podemos Hablar. It did not advance to Saturday’s contest, but I am passionate about this topic (not about the pencils themselves, but about education for all children, everywhere). It was inspired by a speech I saw Jackson Kaguri give at the 2015 Social Good Summit. This video was my last practice session the day of the contest. I am seriously considering keeping the speech in the rotation, and continuing to refine it, if for no other reason than it took a long time to figure out how to do what I do at the end with a pencil; there’s a reason Jackson’s father used a machete!

Stopwatch image courtesy of atibodyphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Making a Difference Among Friends

Phew! I returned from the 5th Annual Shot at Life Champion Summit (this was my 3rd), with plans for a blog post overflowing with reflections, facts, and experiences.

BUT, it didn’t take long before it became apparent that maybe I should have spent about half an hour at some point in the prior months and gotten the flu shot I’ve been encouraging everyone else to get as part of the Give a Shot Get a Shot program.

Immunization Advocacy

At a Walgreens in Washington DC, checking out a Give a Shot Get a Shot display.

That’s why tonight’s post from the sick bed contains a few anecdotes and pictures, with the promise of a “bigger” post later!

I am so grateful that this summit gave me the opportunity to finally meet (and interview in front of the summit audience) Minda Dentler. She is a triathlete, polio survivor, and mom. I first learned about her when Charity Miles encouraged participants to vote for her when she was nominated for an ESPY. She may not have won the ESPY but she won my gratitude and admiration in the biggest of ways!

Immunization Advocacy

Even for a cause I love so dearly, such as making sure children worldwide have a chance at living to their 5th birthdays and not succumbing to vaccine-preventable diseases, I still find it difficult to speak up sometimes.

When I spotted Debbie Wasserman-Schultz conducting a press interview as we waited for our meeting with Rep. Alan Grayson, I faced a choice: leap in front of her path and give my elevator speech or leave it at telling my fellow champions “yeah, I remember her from her time in Florida, when Wayne (my husband) was a staff person in the legislature.”

I leapt. I gave the elevator speech. Her staff member now holds a packet full of Shot at Life material. Every leap holds the potential to make a difference.

Immunization Advocacy

My view as I tried to decide whether to leap or not.

Did you know food is not allowed in the US Capitol complex? EVEN if the food is Girl Scout Cookies you’ve been carrying around ALL DAY LONG to enjoy at the end of hours upon hours of advocacy. Although we dodged the cookie confiscation bullet one time when we entered the US Capitol complex, we weren’t so lucky at the end of the day when we entered the Capitol complex for a reception honoring Rep. Jim McDermott.

Security was having none of it.

I won’t go into our technique, but suffice it to say although we were instructed to put the cookies in the dumpster (really, is it even AMERICAN to put unopened boxes of Girl Scout cookies in a dumpster?), we, um, “found another home for them” and the cookie party later that evening was worth the hassle!

Let me tell you, these advocates are as creative and dogged about protecting children worldwide as they are about safeguarding Girl Scout cookies. The children of the world are in the best (and most fun, for what it’s worth!) hands!

Immunization Advocacy

And lastly, a travel lesson learned:

I had a companion on my Super Shuttle on the way from BWI to Washington, DC, who gave me a piece of advice about the return trip to BWI. She suggested that Uber would be more comfortable and roughly the same price as a Super Shuttle. That sounded good to me, so I didn’t make a return reservation.

I’m a bit of a freak about punctuality when traveling, so I ordered the Uber in plenty of time to make BWI prior to my flight. Imagine my surprise when Uber notified me that it was “surge pricing” time and it would cost a lot more to get to BWI than it would at non-surge pricing time. I called Super Shuttle, which said it was too late to hop on one of those. I was just on the verge of accepting the surge pricing (sigh….) when I got a notification from Uber that regular pricing was back in effect and I should request as quickly as possible. I did and all was good, but notes were taken for the future. Backup plans are good.

Cookies, Leaping, and Inspiration aside … why do we do this? Take the 1:38, less than two minutes, to watch this video and I’m pretty sure it will be clear.

Jumping for Joy!

I have so many ideas for posts, but the more pressing issue is the 5:30 am flight I have tomorrow morning for the annual Shot at Life Champions summit!

While at the summit, I will be the advocate behind the @Vaccines Twitter account. Keep me busy — send me questions and encouragement!

I also hope to catch the first commercial-free showing of He Named Me Malala tomorrow night on the National Geographic Channel at 8 ET/7 CT! (Read more in my blog, The Magic of Malala, from a few weeks ago!).

For now, a simple thank you to the four women who shared this past weekend with me as they ran the Seaside Half Marathon and I ran the Seaside 5K. The good company, the beautiful place, and the energy of being surrounded by so many runners simply made me (and them!) JUMP FOR JOY!

Jumping for Joy

I hope something during your week makes you jump for joy!