Ninja Blender Giveaway!

You should see Wayne and me trying to concoct smoothies, purees, and other taste treats that require blending. It’s not pretty; our equipment is subpar and the outcome doesn’t end up looking like this:

Blender Giveaway

Our equipment is subpar because it is not at all a Ninja Blender!

I’m happy to join other bloggers in a Ninja Blender giveaway. Here’s the scoop!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize: Ninja Blender ($100 ARV)

Co-hosts: Coupons and Freebies Mom // Misadventures with Andi // SWEETHAUTE //  Splash of Teal // Jenns Blah Blah Blog // Pretty Thrifty // A Better Me // The Mommyhood Mentor® // Delicious Meets Healthy // Deliciously Savvy // Angie’s Angle // Farm to Table // Southern Mommas Reviews

Giveaway organized by: Oh My Gosh Beck!

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 8/9 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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blender Giveaway

But I Don’t Want My Kid to Lose!

The July 19, 2016, Tallahassee Democrat story which reported a student is threatening legal action because she was not selected for the Leon High School Cheerleading Squad has traveled far beyond our county’s boundaries. (It’s in Buzzfeed, the New York Daily News, and Teen Vogue, to name just a few publications which have shared the piece.)

In one comment I read on Facebook, a Leon Alum shared with his fellow alums, “I am just PRAYING there is another Leon High School out there,” citing how embarrassing it was for this story to be prominent on a local site in a state far from Florida. Nope, friend, that’s “our” Leon. (I am a proud parent of a Leon alum, hold the school in high regard, and would prefer the national stories to highlight Leon’s fabulous positive assets, like the Mane Event’s version of I Want You Back).

The Dissatisfied Cheerleader (and the Dissatisfied Cheerleader’s Mom)

After reading hundreds of comments which all essentially said some version of “suck it up buttercup,” “this is the problem with kids today,” and “her parents aren’t doing her any favors,” I’m at a bit of a loss re: what to add. My sentiments are, in many ways, aligned with theirs.

But if you know me, you know I love a blogging challenge, so I decided to take a page out of Mama Kat’s book and give this situation a soundtrack (she had a June writing prompt encouraging bloggers to “create a summer playlist”).

Track One: High School Student Wants To Be Able to Say “We Are Cheerleaders”

I definitely empathize with a high school student who wants to be a cheerleader. I did not try out for cheerleading at my high school until I was a rising senior. To this day, 35 years later, I can still feel how my gut was clenching with nerves as I sat in class waiting for tryout time. I did make it, and am SO glad to have the memory of being part of the cheer squad at my school. But I went to a very small high school; there’s no way my rudimentary skills would have qualified me at a large school like Leon. I can only imagine how fierce the competition is. I understand (I think) how fervently this student hoped to make the team for her senior year.

Track Two: The Student Did Not Make the Squad

According to the story, the student, a rising high school senior who cheered for Leon last year, tried out for the 2016-17 squad and was not selected. According to the story, she fell twice during the tumbling portion of the tryouts. The song says it best: you can’t always get what you want.

Track Three: Mama’s Not Happy (Daddy Either)

In Faint, Linkin Park sings, “Don’t turn your back on me I won’t be ignored.” By escalating the issue and filing a complaint with Leon County Schools, this student and her family have made it clear they have not accepted the decision of the tryout panel.

Track Four: To Reiterate, Mama’s Not Happy (Daddy Either)

Sorry y’all, there are just too many great “angry rock songs” to stop at one. Some of the lyrics of this one just seem so custom-made for the situation:

  • I am fueled by all forms of failure (note: not saying this kid is a failure in general, but in this case of the tryout, she failed to make the team)
  • I’ll take what’s mine
  • The reasons why you passed me by/Will always hold you down

These parents (and this student) want her on the team even though she did not meet the criteria to make it. They want to take “what is hers” (even though it isn’t).

Track Five: Teaching Your Child to Accept Disappointment is One of Parenting’s Hardest Responsibilities

Truth: One of the reasons I have yet to comment publicly on this story is the fear that one of my children’s former teachers will call me out. I have done my FAIR SHARE of helicoptering and trying to shield my children from disappointment. All I can say is we grow, learn, and evolve as parents. Yes, I complained when my son didn’t get recognized in the first grade science fair (I know … this was so much more about my hurt feelings than his). Knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn’t!

But I do know that taking this particular route, especially if the parents complained to the district office before trying to address via the coach and principal (I can’t confirm who they talked to (if anyone) before going to the district), when by all accounts their child simply did not qualify, doesn’t teach their child anything about accepting the outcome and moving on.

Teaching the child well in this situation, in my opinion, would involve a) providing support at a time of disappointment, b) exploring (if the student is open to it) what she could have done differently in order for this to be a growth experience, and c) taking the high road (not badmouthing the students who DID make it, remaining civil to the coach, supporting the school, etc.).

Track Six: Is This Entire Generation an Entitled Mess?

SO many of the comments, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, were some variation of “that sense of entitlement is the problem.” There’s a whole song about that, so of course it needs to be part of this post! (The song is really about some other issues besides the cheerleading tryout issue, but how could I not include a song called “Entitled”?). Relevant lyrics:

  • It’s not all about you
  • You’re not entitled to anything
  • You actually believe the world owes you somethin’
  • You’re not entitled to anything. You’re just like me.
  • The world owes you nothin’

Track Seven: We May Disagree But We Still Must Lean on Each Other

I don’t want to close out this playlist on the “entitled” concept. I had some difficulty choosing a song to represent how the student involved in this situation is STILL a child deserving of our compassion and nurturing. Her parents are STILL community members and are part of the fabric of who we are as a community, making Tallahassee the wonderful place it is. We still have to lean on each other.

As I have thought about this post this week, I reminisced about people who were honest with me about situations with my children, even when I was strident or accusatory. About Judy Kuhnle, who sent a patiently worded email explaining the qualities a gymnast needed to move on to the next level (strength, flexibility, and teachability). About Kelly Tucker who knew my kid well and picked up the phone to talk with me personally when I had suggested he do a tennis activity he was in no way ready for (which is what she told me — it was pretty easy to digest since I knew she was coming from a place of concern). About all the other people in this town who have been part of educating, training, and nurturing my kids (and, concurrently, me as a parent).

If we all go off to our separate corners, hurling accusations at one another, it’s unlikely that situations will be resolved positively and it’s highly likely that the students involved will learn nothing that will help them navigate a world that is, to be frank, often ugly, unyielding, and certainly not generous in delivering on outcomes we haven’t earned.

And fortunately, “trying out” to be a caring community member is as easy as cheering each other on, in victory AND defeat.

NOTE: In a conversation with Amanda Curcio, the reporter who produced the original story, she clarified the statement, “She didn’t initially make the varsity team last year…” The clarification: “The girl was not originally selected last year to be a cheerleader. But her parents made a similar complaint and [she] was put on the team – after not making it at the tryouts. The head coach who is there now was hired after this…”

Cheerleader Tryout Protest

Coffee Grounds, Goats, and Soap (A #LiveUnlimited Post)

What does “living unlimited” mean to you?

When the Muscular Dystrophy Association began its 2016 summer campaign, #LiveUnlimited, I shared this picture on social media (which generated $1 from a generous sponsor).

What Does it Mean to #LiveUnlimited?

loved the ziplining experience at North Georgia Canopy Tours. There was a moment during one of the longer zips that felt spiritual. I was suspended high above a gorge, zipping along rapidly, all thoughts of mundane worries as well as life’s bigger problems stripped away as I flew.

Living Unlimited Is Conceived in Smaller Moments

I have become acquainted with Linda Freeman through my work at Weaving Influence. Every week, I help share her blog posts on social media. With every post (as well as our phone conversations and emails), I see her take something common as a starting point and nurture it into something BIG. Here are three examples:

Goats

Linda is incorporating goats into her work with the Kratie Province in Cambodia in several ways. She and her team are working to start a Goat Bank. Selected province families will receive goats to use for milk, and as the goats reproduce, they will donate a kid back to the bank to perpetuate the availability of goats for their fellow province residents. It’s not just the goat bank, though. There is the possibility of a biogas digester using goat and human waste, as well as lots of goat milk to be made into organic body products.

Leftover Coffee Grounds 

Did you know you can incorporate leftover coffee grounds into facial scrubs? I didn’t either until Linda and her KidPower Organics line started including them in their Vanilla Latte Coffee Scrub. (Linda has also shown the Kratie Province residents how to utilize used coffee grounds to help plants grow.)

Clean Water and Two Hands

According to the CDC, handwashing with soap could protect about 1 out of every 3 young children who get sick with diarrhea and almost 1 out of 5 young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia. Linda provides more details about why it works in  this post. With her KidPower Handwashing Project, she explains how ambassadors will be appointed and trained from within the community. They will receive small stipends via the sales of Kid Power Organics as well as private donations to Cambodian Care.

Goats, coffee grounds, water. So simple, yet with such profound potential. These are three of Linda’s team’s projects, but the list is lengthy. There are

  • KidPower2015 with its bicycle generators and impact on families affected by incarceration through Children of Inmates
  • The NeighborhoodHELP program with its medical outreach in underserved communities which brings the household-based framework to life
  • The Future Ready program in Miami Dade County which uses an evidence-based campaign to help junior high and high school students understand the consequences associated with at-risk behaviors that lead to HIV/AIDS, STDs, and teen pregnancy.

How Can YOU Live Unlimited?

I hope Linda’s story has demonstrated how living unlimited isn’t always about something as daring as ziplining. Sometimes it is as daring as overcoming your own doubts and those of others to turn something common, like a scoop of coffee grounds, a cup of goat milk, or soap and water into a life saving gift of unlimited proportions!

Any time you reach beyond your limits — whether they have been set by someone around you or yourself — you are achieving a #LiveUnlimited moment. #LiveUnlimited moments come in all sizes, big and small. Yet, what unites them is that we all face limits, and we all have the power to break free of our limits. ~ MDA’s #LiveUnlimited Campaign

I am sending Linda this #LiveUnlimited bracelet to celebrate the ways she demonstrates the #LiveUnlimited principle. She may choose to keep it for herself or pass it along to someone else who needs encouragement, maybe to one of the many girls she has encouraged along the way.

Supporting Muscular Dystrophy

How can you incorporate the #LiveUnlimited idea into your life? If Linda can do it with coffee grounds, I’m guessing you can do it with something right at your fingertips or with some seed of an idea that has been aching to take root and thrive!

Supporting Muscular Dystrophy

Children in Kratie Province Cambodia

The #LiveUnlimited Bracelet and Campaign

If you would like your own  #LiveUnlimited Bracelet, you can purchase it by clicking here. $6 from the sale of each bracelet goes directly to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

If you would like to participate in the MDA #LiveUnlimited campaign, you can:

  • Created a custom graphic (like my ziplining picture above). For every #LiveUnlimited custom graphic shared, $1 will be donated to MDA. Click here to create yours!
  • Keep up with MDA and the campaign on Twitter at @MDAnews, @EndorphnWarrior, and the hashtag #LiveUnlimited
  • Visit MDA on Facebook by clicking here
  • Follow MDA and the campaign by visiting this Instagram account and using the hashtag #LiveUnlimited
  • Purchase a #LiveUnlimited tshirt by clicking here ($7 from each sale goes to MDA)

I was given a #LiveUnlimited bracelet for myself and one to give away to someone who inspires me. All opinions are my own, especially about the coffee grounds, because coffee rocks. 

thoughtful-thursdays4

The Internship Dress Code Petition: My Opinion

When I first saw a Yahoo Style post about interns who got fired after protesting the dress code at work, my first thought wasn’t “oh there those millennials go again … when will they learn?”.

Disgruntlement Among Employees Is Multi-Generational

My first thought was about a different communication. It was different because it was anonymous (whereas the interns’ petition was signed by all but the one intern). It was different because it was composed by one individual (whose identity I still don’t know years later). Maybe that individual was a millennial; I will never know. It was different because instead of being presented to our Executive Director, it was mailed anonymously to every member of our organization’s board of directors. Yep.

My second thought was about a time much earlier in my career. Three of us peers were in roughly equivalent positions and shared responsibilities at the same area of the organization. Two of us grew frustrated with the other’s lack of carrying her share of the weight. We had planned an agenda for a meeting with our boss in which we would share our outrage that she was not pulling her weight and demand that something be done. Shortly before the meeting, my ally told me that she was being promoted, and did not want to proceed with our plan for concern that our expressions of disgruntlement would interfere with her promotion. I was angry at the time, but in retrospect I am so glad that our plan fell through. Telling our boss how our co-worker was failing (in our eyes) would have suggested that he wasn’t doing his job as a supervisor. 

My third thought was “this kind of thing would never happen at the Disney College Program (DCP). My daughter just finished her tenure at the DCP, and the appearance code is meticulous, strict, and unyielding. Is that right or fair? Maybe not, but there are so few applicants (relatively) who are accepted proportionate to the applications received, that a DCP’s appreciation for being there (and, by extension, their parents’) means they will correct the two-toned hair, cover up a tattoo every single day for work, buy the glasses with the basic frames. The list goes on and on.

Now Back to the Disgruntled Intern at the Heart of this Story

Let me recap the intern/dress code situation that got me going down this path. On June 28, Ask a Manager published a post titled I was fired from my internship for writing a proposal for a more flexible dress code. I first learned about the situation from the Yahoo Style post I referenced in the first paragraph. The only way I can process what the intern wrote in their letter to Ask a Manager is to point out the passages that pressed buttons for me (there are many!) and share my opinion.

Disgruntled Intern (DI): I was able to get a summer internship at a company that does work in the industry I want to work in after I graduate.

Big Green Pen (BGP): “Able” is the key here. Getting an internship is a privilege. This internship will provide payoffs in new learning, networking, and the opportunity to learn real-life applications of everything you’ve learned in school.

DI: Even though the division I was hired to work in doesn’t deal with clients or customers, there still was a very strict dress code.

Internship Problems

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

BGP: It may not make sense to get dressed up formally if a customer is not going to walk in the door. I can see that. Two thoughts: 1) There is some truth to the idea that the way you dress influences the way you act and 2) By agreeing to intern there, you accepted their “very strict dress code” and I would advise just dealing with it, being grateful for the payoffs in new learning, networking, and the opportunity to learn real-life applications of everything you’ve learned in school.

DI: I spoke with my manager about being allowed some leeway under the dress code and was told this was not possible, despite the other person being allowed to do it. [Note: DI had shared in their letter to Ask A Manager that there was one employee who wore shoes that were not aligned with the dress code.]

BGP: I don’t think I would even have done that (I’m not sure how long you had been there, but I probably wouldn’t have asked at all), but it sounds like you attempted to start with the appropriate place on the chain of command. Smart move. That said, when they said it was not possible, that should have been the end of the subject.

DI: I soon found out that many of the other interns felt the same way, and the ones who asked their managers about it were told the same thing as me. We decided to write a proposal stating why we should be allowed someone leeway under the dress code. We accompanied the proposal with a petition, signed by all of the interns (except for one who declined to sign it) and gave it to our managers to consider.

BGP: First of all, I would like to shake the hand of the one intern who declined to sign the petition. Secondly, one of the things I would have asked, were I one of your managers, would have been “wow, did they spend work time composing/writing/organizing this petition effort when they could have been doing the work related to the core of our business goals?”. Maybe you all did this on your personal time, and there are times when it is appropriate to do human resources-related tasks on the clock, but it would make me question your priorities. Thirdly, in case I haven’t been clear enough about this, I don’t agree with this strategy on your part.

DI: The next day, all of us who signed the petition were called into a meeting where we thought our proposal would be discussed. Instead, we were informed that due to our “unprofessional” behavior, we were being let go from our internships. We were told to hand in our ID badges and to gather our things and leave the property ASAP.

BGP: I agree with Alison from Ask a Manager that this was a pretty extreme reaction on your employer’s part, BUT it was their option to choose that reaction. In a perfect world, I would love for them to have used this as a teachable moment to explain why your strategy was so offensive to them and how, in the future, you could approach situations that you thought needed changing, but ultimately I imagine they may have doubted whether or not you would be receptive to this type of counseling and every moment they took away from the business to manage this situation was time away from the core purpose of of the organization, time away from making money (or providing services or whatever your particular organization did).

DI: The proposal was written professionally like examples I have learned about in school, and our arguments were thought out and well-reasoned. We weren’t even given a chance to discuss it.

BGP: Props to you for professional writing skills. Props to school for teaching you professional writing skills, and props for the ability to think through well-reasoned arguments. The thing they don’t teach you in school is how and when to share a proposal, or whether to share it at all. Sometimes the answer from a business is “you don’t even get a chance to discuss it.” That’s just the way it is.

DI: The worst part is that just before the meeting ended, one of the managers told us that the worker who was allowed to disobey the dress code was a former soldier who lost her leg and was therefore given permission to wear whatever kind of shoes she could walk in. You can’t even tell, and if we had known about this we would have factored it into our argument.

BGP: Well, there you go. Applause to your employer for accommodating the employee who needed an exception to the dress code due to her combat related injury sustained while serving our country. You say “if we had known about this we would have factored it into our argument.” It would have been nice if the several managers that several of you apparently approached about this issue had said, “sometimes we make accommodations for personal health issues (or whatever)” but a) they aren’t required to do that and b) did it occur to you they may have been trying to protect the privacy and dignity of your coworker who has a combat related injury sustained while serving our country? Lastly, as I said above, I don’t think you should have continued making the argument after the initial “no.”

DI: I have never had a job before (I’ve always focused on school) and I was hoping to gain some experience before I graduate next year. I feel my dismissal was unfair and would like to ask them to reconsider but I’m not sure the best way to go about it.

BGP: The fact that you’ve never had a job before is precisely why it was premature and ill-considered for you to proceed with your proposal/petition plan after the initial “no.” It’s great and fitting that you’ve focused on school, but the transition to the work world (part of which is an internship) is brand new territory. Just like you wouldn’t race a car in the Daytona 500 while still in Driver’s Ed, you shouldn’t take it upon yourself to change an organization’s dress code while still in your internship. The dismissal was drastic, not unfair. Alison of Ask a Manager is right: “it would be smart to write a letter to your manager explaining that you’ve learned from the situation and that you appreciate the opportunity they gave you and are sorry that you squandered it.” (And not to put words in Alison’s mouth, but she probably means REAL LETTER. On paper. With a return address, a “to” address, a stamp, and your honest to goodness most sincerely felt signature.)

To Repeat, This Is Not About “Kids These Days”

Many of the reactions to the intern/dress code post criticized millennials and young people as entitled, unwilling to pay their dues, and overly coddled. One Reddit thread I visited introduced me to the acronym SJW and shared lots of opinions about “day care babies,” the participation ribbon culture, and kids who have never been told no. Although I do see those types of struggles among millennials, as I pointed out in the example at the start of this blog, our “anonymous letter to the board” situation may have come from a millennial but since it was anonymous and our office included Millennials, Gen X, Gen Y, and Baby Boomers, I can’t assume. In that case, it wasn’t about demographics, it was about the sheer stupidity of thinking it would be constructive to air organizational dirty laundry and embarrass the Executive Director by using the “anonymous letter to the board” approach.

During grad school, I resigned from an internship when I was getting my Masters in Counseling and Human Systems. The supervision was (to my mind and the opinions of others) sporadic. I was not alone; several of us called this place the “Family Death Center” instead of its given name, the Family Life Center. At the time, I was told I would be able to return later. When I tried to return, I was told by the administrator in charge of interns, “I don’t have time to manage all that.” At the time, it seemed unfair. I had followed the procedures I had been given, and this felt arbitrary. But they had the power and I did not. In the “things happen for a reason” category, that inability to get re-hired is what led me to do an internship in Career Planning (thanks, FSU Career Center!) and my eventual position as Internship Coordinator at Fordham University.

Five or ten years from  now, the interns who created the dress code proposal/petition may put this whole situation in the “things happen for a reason” category.

I still want to hear from the one intern who declined. I’m guessing they were pretty busy after all those other interns were fired!

If you were in a position at that organization to respond to the interns’ proposal/petition, what would you have done?

thoughtful-thursdays4

Taking It on the Chin: My Overzealous Waxing Pro and Me

Most of the time, I feel like my spirit is younger than my physical age.

My body, however, insists on exhibiting signs of middle age no matter how youthful I feel at heart.

Fun With Midlife

I have been getting my brows waxed for years; it’s more effective and quicker than tweezing. That didn’t feel like a concession to age, more of a perpetual necessity.

A few years ago, I began having my upper lip waxed. This was not that welcome an addition to my beauty routine, and it never really feels like it works (I watch myself on video, for example, and think how do I get rid of that dark area?!?!).

The clincher in the hair removal trio, though, was the day the technician said, “you’re gonna do your chin too, right?” Apparently I was.

I became accustomed to having three services instead of one, and I usually did a pretty decent job of putting the whole thing in the “it is what it is” category. I tried to do it once a month, but let’s be honest. I work at home, don’t go out all that much, and it’s easy to let the intervals between waxing grow much longer.

Until I am about to participate in an event, see someone I don’t see often, or have some other motivation to take care of it.

The Case of the Overzealous Waxer

That’s what happened recently. It was Friday, and I had plans to go see my good friend play Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. It is absolutely zero exaggeration to say his Edna would put most of us ladies to shame. I couldn’t show up with a hairy chin. Time was running short until I had to leave to drive to the performance (a couple of hours away). I finally finished the day’s work, and had run out of time to go to my usual waxing professional. I only had time to go to the closest salon, which has never been my preference but works in a pinch (they did okay on my shellacs, for example, prior to my trip to DC for the Shot at Life Summit last March).

Cosmetology Fails

I walked in, asked if anyone was available to do some waxing, and was immediately taken back. I was relieved that this was apparently going to be a quick in and out, permitting me to get on my way to Lake City.

The technician waxed my eyebrows. So far so good.

The technician waxed my upper lip. Check check check.

The technician waxed my chin. Easy peasy, right?

Here’s the thing. She kept going. This woman was applying wax and yanking the strips off of areas of my face that had never seen wax (or hair to speak of) before.

My mind was racing. Why is she waxing my cheeks? When will this end? In my head, I kept hearing my mom telling me, when I was a kid and wanted to start shaving my legs, “once you start the hair will grow in darker if you let up.” OMG were my cheeks now going to start sprouting dark hair? What had I done by coming here (and by not stopping this woman when she ventured away from the brow/lip/chin trio)?

Finally, she applied lotion and cooling solution (which I desperately needed by this point) and with relief I followed her to the front desk to pay.

I do not know what the person at the front desk said (they were not speaking English), but apparently she did not think the technician had done enough (in retrospect this boggles my mind), but through hand gestures and body language, she indicated that I needed to return to the waxing room.

And despite the fact that my face already felt like it had been through the wringer (it had! It would have been more efficient to just drip my whole darn face in a vat of wax), I went back.

When I went back, the technician attacked my chin again (“attack” being a truly representative word). Finally she let me go and I didn’t ask any questions as I hastily escaped out the door.

I went to the play (which was AWESOME), returned home, and went about my weekend. By the following Monday, the effects of the Overzealous Waxer were emerging. My chin looked like I had vigorously rubbed it with sandpaper. It was a mess. (NOTE: I have an aversion to pictures of wounds on social media (which is a challenge because I’m a runner and my fellow runners LOVE to show off their blisters and lost toenails) but if you want to see the results of the Overzealous Waxing, click here.)

As I write this (8 days later), it is ALMOST fully recovered.

As the week went by, I was trying to figure out what to do (short of the obvious decision to remove this salon from my “waxing vendors” list).

Customer Service Resolution Quandaries

I thought about the customer service issue I had had at Publix that same weekend. I had ordered my daughter’s birthday cake several days in advance, and a few hours before it was to be ready, they called to say they didn’t have that design. I exchanged messages with them on Twitter to express my dissatisfaction (tactfully). I went to another Publix to look for it. I went (ultimately) to my Publix and talked with the bakery associate, who wrote the message on a different cake. I worked with Publix to make it mutually right (as much as possible).

I kept telling my husband that I was afraid to talk to the salon. I was afraid the technician would lose her job. He pointed out that I was physically injured but protecting her from losing her job (while putting other customers potentially at risk). HMM. Why did I feel I could dialogue with Publix but not with the salon? Had I made assumptions about the cultural environment at the salon?

The more I thought about it, the more I decided I at least needed to let them know (and save some other customer from rug burn chin). When I went in, I explained that I was not upset (yeah, I know — I was upset and I shouldn’t have started with that line but personal assertiveness reform happens incrementally) but that I wanted to point out the condition of my chin.

They were apologetic, offered to put cooling solution on it (no thanks, a little too late for that!). They said the wax had been too hot (ya think?!).

I don’t know if my decision to talk to the salon will change the outcome for future customers, but in a week when I had just written about the necessity and power of saying what you mean, it felt hypocritical to keep my mouth shut.

Speaking Assertively

I read a post recently that pointed out: “When you speak assertively, you may not always say what people want to hear, but you respect the listener as well as yourself.” There’s so much truth to that.

When I used this situation as the basis for a recent Toastmasters speech, the takeaway was the fact that although “taking it on the chin” is perceived as a negative, in the case of the overzealous waxer, I would have been better off to take it on the chin (instead of the cheeks and other facial real estate)…and then tell her to stop. And certainly not go BACK to the waxing table, like a sheep.

Cosmetology Fails

Have you had a time in your life when you needed to say no but struggled to find a way? I’d love to hear about it!

NOTE: This situation has made me think about how blithely we walk into salons, thinking “what could possibly go wrong?” My fellow Paula (Abdul) probably has a thing or two to say about that (read more here). As it turns out, it’s pretty challenging to find a “guide to competent waxing” resource (future blog post material?), although this post shares some helpful precautions and warnings. In my case, common sense and speaking up would have solved the problem. Those are two things that don’t require a licensing board.

One Simple Conversation at a Time: #StopHIVTogether

This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. All opinions are my own.

In the late 1980s, I explained how to use a condom to hundreds of men I didn’t know who had called the Florida AIDS Hotline as they tried to figure out what to do about the new challenge threatening their health. I had been volunteering and acting as an on-call supervisor at a local crisis hotline, and it was awarded the contract for the AIDS Hotline. I was not an ally yet; I was just doing a job.

Over on the west coast, Mark S. King was also volunteering for an AIDS-related project. When he chose to volunteer for AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) in 1986, he was doing more than “just a job.” Having been diagnosed as HIV positive in 1985, he needed to do something, and coordinating the APLA speaker’s bureau was his outlet. He thought he would be dead soon and craved immediate gratification.

As it turns out, Mark did not die in 1986 (thankfully). Although he lived in “three year increments” for quite some time after his initial diagnosis (hear more about that in this video with his friend, Lynne), he has now been living with HIV for 31 years and the virus is undetectable in his blood stream due to treatment (although the antibodies which result in an HIV+ test result will always be there).

HIV Prevention

Lynne and Mark

When I had an opportunity to interview Mark recently, I learned that many facts about living with HIV have changed. Specifically, the definition of “prevention” is much broader than it was back in the late 80s. For me in 1988, it meant telling strangers “don’t have sex” or “use a condom.” Mark says the most powerful preventative among his community at the time was: funerals.

In 2016, Prevention and Living with HIV Are Different

In addition to condoms, there are now more options for prevention:

  • PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) – people at high risk for HIV can now take a medication that lowers their chances of getting infected. Learn more here.
  • PEP (Post-exposure Prophylaxis) – People who have been potentially exposed to HIV can take antiretroviral medicines (ART) after being potentially exposed to prevent becoming infected. Learn more here.

For people who have tested HIV+ but are on treatment, remaining on treatment in order to keep the virus undetectable is an option. Partners who go this route should know that:

  • · Everyone’s “undetectable” status is only as good as their most recent test.
  • · This choice clearly requires a level of trust between partners.

HIV Prevention

Simple Conversations Can Dispel Misinformation

Ironically, having not batted an eyelash throughout Mark’s book, which chronicles his experiences owning a phone sex hotline and frequent cocaine consumption in the 80s, I found myself hesitating to ask what he meant when he said several times, “I am able to have sex safely with my husband because I am on treatment.” Finally, I just admitted I needed to know more about what exactly he meant.

That’s when he clarified that an HIV+ person on successful treatment can’t transmit HIV. This has been the case for five years.

If I hadn’t asked or he hadn’t been willing to share, I would not have known. The solution to clearing up my confusion was a simple conversation.

“At Risk” Can Mean Anyone

To be perfectly honest, I am not sure if a single person I know and interact with here in Tallahassee is HIV positive.

Even though I don’t currently have someone in my circle who is HIV+, my circle has gotten a heck of a lot bigger since I have gotten involved in (some say addicted to!) social media.

Is there someone among my 2500 Facebook Friends, 9500 Twitter Followers, 3000 Instagram Followers, or 225 Snapchat Friends for whom I can make a difference?
I can’t be sure, but I know that doing nothing is not an option when:

  • Youth aged 13 to 24 accounted for more than 1 in 5 new HIV diagnoses in 2014.
  • Young gay and bisexual males accounted for 8 in 10 HIV diagnoses among youth in 2014.
  • At the end of 2012, 44% of youth ages 18 to 24 years living with HIV did not know they had HIV.
  • My peers are re-entering the dating world as decades-old marriages end and/or discovering that their partners were not monogamous and may have put them at risk.

Will someone identified in one of the above bullet points see something I post and feel less alone, more fortified to proceed with testing, more confident in engaging in a simple conversation?

Even if the people in the populations mentioned above don’t see one of my posts, maybe you will (and I know you’ve read this far, so you are equipped to help!). Stigma is eliminated one chat at a time, and I am asking you to help make a difference.

HIV Prevention

A Year Can Change Everything

I love the fact that this post is going live on June 26. Last year at this time, rainbows proliferated as same sex marriage was legitimized. However, the year has brought with it the flip side of the coin: those who spread hate.

I was so very excited to speak to Mark. We both sort of threw out the pre-written interview questions and just …. talked. The only moment of silence was when our conversation wandered to the tragedy that occurred at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. Mark told me how he, at 55, an award-winning activist in a happy marriage having overcome so many hurdles, was shaken to the core, immediately transported back to feeling like an unsafe sissy at risk of daily beatings. I stumbled for words, failing to respond adequately but empathizing at the same time.

What does that have to do with HIV?

It has to do with HIV because it’s hard enough for some people to come to terms with their own sexuality, much less the strategies they have to employ in order to protect themselves and others from HIV infection. Feelings of being unworthy can be the most difficult barriers to self care. As Mark says, the enemy is a virus, not our humanity.

What Can One Person Do?

If you still don’t understand HIV, ask.

You can get the facts.

If you are ready to help, click here for tons of resources.

You can get tested or help someone who needs to get tested figure out how.

You can get involved and share a story.

You can get materials to share.

And to learn more about Mark, visit his site, follow him on Twitter at @myfabdisease, like his Facebook page by clicking here, or buy his book here.

Lastly

My journey to being an ally was, in retrospect, pre-ordained. I am grateful every single day that I was put in that little room talking to all those strangers about condom usage. I heard their fears. I went myself for an HIV test (never mind the fact that the behaviors I thought put me at risk were, um, hardly risky). For the long version of my ally story, Not About Me, click here.

Yes, Mark is HIV+ but the part that came through to me was our commonalities. We laughed about the fact that we both have “old fashioned” AOL accounts. We shared some fun word play as we exchanged messages. We talked about how each of us goes about life trying to live with joy and humor.

I don’t know about you, but I’m all for more joy and humor, and a lot less stigma.

HIV Prevention

Migraine and Headache Awareness Month

Migraine Headache Awareness

I first became acquainted with Barbara Ross when my mother-in-law, Barb, was on the executive director selection committee for the agency that is now Lighthouse of the Big Bend. As the years elapsed, we became friends. I have always respected her many professional gifts; I love her loyalty, perceptiveness, and communicativeness as a friend.

Barbara has had many health challenges over the past several years, severe enough to leave her job. The process of finding a diagnosis has been daunting. Many mysteries remain, but one thing she does know is that migraines are a part of the complex of issues with which she is dealing.

When she posted “30 Things About My Life with Migraine” on her Facebook page, I asked if I could share this list with my blog readers. Although everyone’s experience is different, the list does an incredible job of a) explaining one person’s experience with migraine b) explaining to friends, family, and the general public what they can do to help someone who suffers from migraine, and c) acknowledging the people who have been her devoted supporters.

Thank you for sharing this migraine headache awareness post, Barbara, and for making one of the hardest things you’ve ever endured a vehicle to help others understand.

1. My diagnosis is: migraine without aura, chronic (i.e. daily)

2. My migraine attack frequency is: 6 – 7 times a week

3. I was diagnosed in: 2000-ish with migraines maybe twice a month

4. My comorbid conditions include: a) POTS / neurocardiogenic syncope / orthostatic hypotension (aka when I stand, my blood pressure falls and my heart races, resulting in fainting because of a screwy autonomic nervous system) b) reflux/GERD c) hypothyroidism

5. For prevention I’m trying Botox, plus one daily medication, plus one supplement (CoQ10.) I use 3 triptan medications to treat acute attacks although these only work 60% of the time.

6. My first migraine attack was: on a plane flying back from Ireland in 2000. In June 2015 my migraines worsened and by December 2015 they were daily.

7. My most disabling migraine symptoms are: severe nausea, vomiting, extreme pain in temples, painful sensitivity to noises, inability to think (brain fog)

8. My strangest migraine symptoms are: anything touching my skin hurts like rough sandpaper rubbing against me

9. My biggest migraine triggers are: bad weather and disrupted sleep

10. I know a migraine attack is coming on when: I have a sudden, extreme drop in energy.

11. The most frustrating part about having a migraine attack is: not being able to make my brain work – it interferes with everything I try to do on a practical level, but also my identity is tied to my intelligence & creativity which are often inaccessible.

12. During a migraine attack, I worry most about: being an imposition, letting others down, and not getting ill in public.

13. When I think about migraine between attacks, I think: I have to find something to prevent my being sick so often so I can resume my life – be a partner to Michelle, have fun with friends, dance, write, get a job to continue making a difference in the world, etc.

14. When I tell someone I have migraine, the response is usually: crickets in the awkward silence – most folks don’t seem to know what to say.

15. When someone tells me they have migraine, I think: ‘Oh NO!’

16. When I see commercials about migraine treatments, I think: I wish that worked for me…

17. My best coping tools are: Quiet (thank goodness for ear plugs), ice pack on head, lying down on something soft, cool air, sleeping.

18. I find comfort in: empathy from others, affection, understanding of loved ones, kindness

19. I get angry when people say: “You need to do better at getting a handle on this.”

20. I like it when people say: words of understanding & empathy or sympathy, even ‘you poor thing’ is better than silence.

21. Something kind someone can do for me during a migraine attack is: keep things quiet, cool, and bring me an ice pack.

22. The best thing(s) a doctor has ever said to me about migraine is: I know this is horrible for you.

23. The hardest thing to accept about having migraine is: it sucks there is no cure… I would do anything to end this.

24. Migraine has taught me: to take advantage of energy when I have it and be grateful when I’m not so ill I have to lie flat.

25. The quotation, motto, mantra, or scripture that gets me through an attack is: I know this will ease up eventually.

26. If I could go back to the early days of my diagnosis, I would tell myself: save more money!

27. The people who support me most are Michelle & Robin

28. The thing I most wish people understood about migraine is: there is very little you can do about it, it is not in your control.

29. Migraine and Headache Awareness Month is important to me because: maybe awareness will bring funding which will bring a cure.

30. One more thing I’d like to say about life with migraine is: Every time I have an actual good day, without a migraine, I hope that somehow I’m healed and can return to life… only to be crushed with disappointment.

Being so sick every single day is one of the hardest things I’ve ever endured.

To follow along on social media during Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, use the hashtags #‎MigraineAwarenessMonth‬ and #‎MHAM.

You can also find more information at Migraine.com. People with migraines and their families/friends/caregivers can request to join the Migraine Support Group on Facebook.

Migraine Headache Awareness

 

73 Questions

When I looked back through old blog drafts, I remembered my fleeting interest in the 73 Questions feature from Vogue Magazine. I became interested in this format when I read Being Rudri’s version.

Here’s my stab at it!

1. How long have you been in the area? 31 years in Tallahassee (with 3 years in New York dividing two Tallahassee periods)

2. What’s your favorite season in Tallahassee? Spring

3. What’s your favorite activity in Tallahassee? Running

4. Would you ever leave Tallahassee? Yes

5. What are three words to describe living in Tallahassee? Hilly, Southern, Cultural

6. What’s your favorite movie? Philadelphia

7. Favorite movie in past five years? I actually haven’t seen many movies in the past five years, and the ones I have seen were chosen by my son (looking at you, Fast and Furious). But after reading the book, I couldn’t WAIT to see Me Before You and the movie did not disappoint!

8. Favorite Hitchcock film? The Birds

9. Favorite TV show that’s currently on? 23.5º with Sam Champion

10. What’s a book you plan on reading? A Place Like This: A Memoir by Mark S. King

11. A book you read in school that positively shaped you? The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

12. A book you read in school that you never think of? Beowulf (but how are we supposed to answer this question? The mere fact that I *think* of Beowulf sort of disqualifies it!)

13. On a scale of one to ten how excited are you about life right now? 7

14. iPhone or Android? iPhone

15. Twitter or Instagram? Twitter

16. Vine or Snapchat? Snapchat

17. Who should EVERYONE be following right now? The Gates Foundation

18. What’s the coolest thing in your office? I don’t have an office right now but my favorite things were my annual Broadway Playbill posters.

Self Awareness

19. What’s your favorite downtown restaurant? Bella Bella

20. What’s your favorite food? Penne alla Vodka

21. Least favorite food? Overripe bananas

22. What do you love on your pizza? Vegetables

23. Favorite drink? Spring Water

24. Favorite dessert? Dairy Queen Blizzards

25. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate? Dark Chocolate

26. Weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten? An Ant

27. What’s the hardest part about being a mom? Having to let go (fearing for their safety), despite my belief in the power of prayer, and as my friend Lea so eloquently stated, “and the knowledge that somehow there is a God who loves them even more than we do. and He watches over them constantly!!!”

28. What’s your favorite band? The Florida State University Marching Chiefs

29. Favorite solo artist? John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting, Idina Menzel

30. Favorite lyrics?

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

(From Carousel’s You’ll Never Walk Alone) Here’s Celtic Woman’s version:

31. If your life were a song, what would the title be? Turn! Turn! Turn!

32. If you could sing a duet with anyone, who would it be? Josh Groban

33. If you could master one instrument, what would it be? My Voice

34. If you had a tattoo, where would it be? On my inner wrist (a semi-colon)

35. To be or not to be? To be

36. What’s Oprah like in person? I’d love to know!

37. What number of question was this? #37 (I guess this made more sense in a rapid-fire five minute interview)

38. Dogs or cats? Cats

39. Kittens or puppies? Puppies

40. Dolphins or koalas? Dolphins

41. Bird-watching or whale-watching? Whale watching

42. What’s your spirit animal? Sloth

43. Best gift you’ve ever received? My children

44. Last gift you gave a friend? Besides green pens, a Motivate Wrap that said “You Got This”

Self Awareness

45. A person you want to have coffee with? Sam Champion (see answer #9!)

46. A historical figure you’d love to have coffee with? Dorothea Dix

47. How do you like your coffee? With skim milk and stevia

48. Can I play a note on this piano? Doesn’t Apply

49. What’s your favorite curse word? I dislike them all but sadlly, it rhymes with “duck”

50. What’s your favorite board game? Apples to Apples

51. What’s your favorite country to visit? Guatemala

52. What’s the last country you visited? El Salvador

53. What country do you wish to visit? Spain

54. What do you see in this image right here? Doesn’t apply

55. Can you write down your favorite word that starts and ends with the same vowel? abracadabra

56. What’s your favorite color? Red

57. Least favorite color? Beige

58. What color dress did you wear to your prom? lavender

59. Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds

60. Cheap shampoo or expensive? Expensive if it works

61. Blow-dry or air-dry? Blow-dry

62. Heels or flats? flats

63. Can you give an impersonation of someone? No

64. Can you do the same impersonation with a British accent? No

65. My friend outside this window would love to ask you a question? Doesn’t Apply

66. [Holding two different colored dresses] Which should I give my girlfriend? Doesn’t Apply

67. Pilates or yoga? Yoga

68. Jogging or swimming? Jogging RUNNING

69. Best way to decompress? Take a walk

70. If you had one superpower, what would it be? Waving a wand and creating peace

71. Can you describe an experience you felt most nervous? Trying out for cheerleading before the senior year of high school

72. What’s the weirdest word in the English language? In a nod to the Idiots Running Club and the word every runner loves to hate: moist

73. Last question: Is this the strangest interview you’ve ever had? Doesn’t Apply

It bugs me that there were six “Doesn’t apply” responses since I stuck strictly to the previous structure, so  I looked up some other “getting to know you” questions and used a random number generator to pick 6.

1. Most important quality in a friend? Trustworthiness

2. When was the last time you got the giggles at an inappropriate time? Oh I don’t know! It hasn’t been recently (or often enough!). It wasn’t the giggles but I was talking with a friend recently about something very serious, and I was trying to make a light and slightly sardonic observation while indicating I cared. The interaction was heavier on the sardonic and lighter on the serious. I sent her a message later that day to clear it up.

3. What is your favorite kind of music? I like all kinds of music, but as almost everyone is surprised to hear, rap is a fave.

4. What is the last book you read? Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

5. What date on your calendar are you looking forward to? June 26, my daughter’s 20th birthday!

6. What makes you laugh out loud. Hmmm…..it takes a lot! I laughed out loud recently at passages from Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes, at Lino Rulli on Facebook Live, and at frolicking puppies.

What are some of your answers to these questions? Fun exercise! I recommend everyone to try it. 

Four Heartfelt Takeaways From Running

Then, somehow, from a place beyond sense or strategy, she breaks forward, unpinned from her body’s flaws and marvels. It’s only courage that takes her the final distance. Only grit. ~Paula McLain 

As I was struggling through a 4-mile run last week, I was listening to Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. Horse racing is one of the main topics of the book, and the protagonist, a rare female trainer in the 1920s, needed her horse to win. The horse had started out strong, but was not in the lead as the end of the race approached. The passage above describes how the horse found her reserves and transcended what she was physically capable of in order to win. She became unpinned from her body’s flaws and marvels, buoyed by courage and grit.

My body’s flaws are winning over courage and grit, and I am trying to figure out how to get them all to make peace with each other.

Since April 2015, when I had an electrophysiology study after which my physician decided he could not do an ablation, the plan to deal with my multifocal atrial tachycardia has been to take a beta blocker a half hour before each run.

After having my procedure on April 6, 2015, I went on my first mile run on April 14. It took 14:06 to run 1.06 miles (13:17 pace). My average heart rate was 143 and my max heart rate was 153. On June 4, 2016, about 14 months later, it took 57:42 to run 3.16 miles (18:16 pace). My average heart rate was 138 and my max heart rate was 197. Both times (all times between now and then), I had taken my beta blocker a half hour before starting the run.

Although there have been a few brief visits to the sub-13:00 per mile speed over the past 14 months, it has been far more typical for my average pace to be in the 14’s, 15’s, or 16’s. For me, running on beta blockers is like running through mud.

I suppose my hope after the electrophysiology study, once I knew there had been no ablation and the ongoing plan involved medication before every run, that I could reach some consistent “status quo.” It has taken me the whole 14 months to begin to let go of my years-old goal of running a sub-30 5K, but as time passes the question becomes “where does running fit for me at all?”.

Is running still good for me physically?

Although I am fortunate to have an electrophysiologist with a great way of explaining things and a respect for the sport of running, he also says, “you know it’s not necessary to get your HR up to 160 (or whatever…) for it to be a workout,” right?

He’s right – I can get a good workout in a multitude of ways that don’t escalate my heart rate like running does.

But they are not running!

Nothing I have read online, no doctor I have spoken to, no one I know who has tried to combine running with an arrhythmia situation really has the clear answer.

Probably the best summary is: running while experiencing tachycardia is not generally as dangerous as it sometimes feels. BUT given that my EP thinks mine is likely to convert into atrial fibrillation (which increases stroke risk) over time, and the fact that I usually run alone, and the fact that I have to err on the conservative side because I want to be around to see my kids grow up, I think I have to assume that running to the point of abnormally high heart rate is not necessarily the healthiest choice for me. (Ironically, if it DOES turn into AF, I will be a candidate for an ablation again, and it is likely to work, but I can’t engineer that situation into being.)

What do people think?

If I had a dime for every time I have said, in all sincerity, to another runner or prospective runner, “you’re only competing against yourself,” “every mile matters,” or “you’re lapping the person on the couch,” I would be wealthy.

However, I would be totally lying if I didn’t say these are the thoughts that have dogged me over the past few months. At first, after the EP study, I thought I would reach that comfortable status quo, and just blend into the scenery at races, just log my usual refreshing and energizing training miles, just keep doing something good for my body (and mind) out on the roads and trails.

But that little “how can you still call yourself a runner?” voice in the back of my head will not stop its incessant pestering.

  • When I post my times to DailyMile and people see it took me 18 minutes to run a mile.
  • When I stop right before the finish line as I did at Gate to Gate and walk little circles off to the side while doing a Vagal maneuver to try to get my HR down from 197 so I am not running the risk of passing out in public as finish line adrenaline kicks in.
  • As I tell people “really, no, don’t wait for me. I’m going to take FOREVER.”
  • As I participate in races, trying to keep my feet running without my heart noticing they are while my head tries to mediate between the two
  • As I stopped logging my food and gained back 25 pounds I lost while training for a half marathon (and obviously my cookies-every-day habit has nothing to do with my tachycardia except for the fact that I know my mindset and my eating choices are inextricably intertwined right now).

You Can’t Trust Technology Blindly Without Listening to Your Body Too

Even when you have the best technology, you still have to pay attention to your body. Back in November-December of 2015, I was seeing “high” readings on my Garmin. These readings, for example, led me to run/walk the Turkey Trot rather than solely running it at a moderate pace. I decided maybe the batch of metoprolol I had recently been given was “bad.” I called the Publix pharmacy which had dispensed it, which said it was fine. I called my EP’s office, which confirmed the readings from my loop recorder were fine. It turns out my receiver on my Garmin chest strap was bad (oops!). I ordered a new one and the problem was solved. Now I follow the care instructions for my chest strap to the letter (it has to be cleaned often to prevent salt buildup).

How do I still contribute to the running community?

Running pervades every single aspect of my life. If I’m not dressed up, I’m almost always in a race shirt. If I am packing for a trip, the running shoes go in first. If it’s a weekend, my review of possible activities always involves which races are being run. I am a running groupie, and running people are my favorite people.

I have commitments as a Fitfluential Ambassador, a Charity Miles All-Star, and as a runner for Gareth through I Run for Michael. I know Gareth’s family “gets it” because he also has an invisible condition (a mitochondrial disorder). I know Charity Miles has my back – I can walk/bike and/or keep running 18 minute miles and #everymilematters still applies because the causes we love benefit. Fitfluential is a bit more challenging. I can only hope that my choices during this frustrating interim period help someone else who is struggling know they are not at all alone and you can have a love of fitness without looking like a fitness magazine model.

Running Cardiac Issues

While I suppose it would be an easier thing to discuss if I had a cast on my leg or some other outward physical sign of a health challenge, an invisible condition like a cardiac arrhythmia with questionable impact plays a different role in the multi-act play that is my running life.

I suppose I am at the intermission and the second act of this play has not been written nor rehearsed yet.

Running Cardiac Issues

A Child’s First Words

This post is made possible through the support of Cochlear. All opinions are my own.

It seemed like a technicality: after having my son’s first birthday picture taken at our local newspaper’s office, I was asked if I wanted to complete a communication screening from the First Words Project. While I knew some of my answers to questions like “does baby look to where you point?” had not been “yes,” I wasn’t especially worried…

I wasn’t especially worried until l got a letter from the project that said Wayne was not communicating at the level that would be typical for a 12-month old. I was invited to come in for a detailed screening.

I would be dishonest to say the questionnaire and subsequent invitation to a detailed screening were totally unexpected. I have a degree in child development. I have an older child who had hit typical milestones by twelve months that Wayne had not achieved. I had stood behind him, at 4 months old, clapping loudly hoping he would startle (he did not). After that, I had gotten his hearing tested (he passed the hearing test).

But something was not right.

He had very few words.

He was not looking at objects I tried to direct his attention to.

He was, in the official language of the First Words evaluator on a Communication Evaluation Report, “communicating below what is expected for a child his age.”

Cochlear Implants

Over the next year, Wayne participated in a therapeutic play group at First Words and continued to undergo evaluations. I was fanatical about doing every single activity designed to provide additional support, such as “increasing sound and word productions during predictable routines” and “increasing use of gestures.” I had already been a very interactive parent; I probably looked a BIT frenetic in my effort to connect with him.

By his second birthday, the project evaluators told me he was no longer “below what is expected for a child his age.” He had subsequent annual evaluations until kindergarten, when he was declared ready for kindergarten.

Although Wayne’s communication issues ended up being resolved (in layperson terms, he had apparently been a “slow talker), I developed (and maintained) a hyperawareness about young children and communication issues.

My own personal experience of constant anxiety about my child’s future, and the possibility that some doors would be closed to him because of a communication disorder, is what compelled me to join the Cochlear team to discuss how they help people have access to sound.

One to six out of every 1,000 children in the United States may be born with a severe to profound hearing loss.¹ Just as early intervention helped our family determine if my son had a communication disorder (and rule out hearing loss at 4 months of age), Cochlear knows how critical early intervention is for children who may have hearing loss. Identifying and treating hearing loss early has been confirmed by research to lead to better speech, language, cognitive and social skills outcomes compared to later-identified children.²

Cochlear provides parents with online support, information, and the opportunity to connect with others specifically about hearing loss. If a child does have hearing loss and his or her audiologist, doctor, or other qualified professional determines a cochlear implant should be considered, the resources at IWantYouToHear.com will help the family start the process of figuring everything out (medical professionals are of course absolutely critical to evaluating the decision).

For Natalie, Cochlear’s role in her life as a toddler will extend into the rest of her lifetime.

I was devastated when I got that first letter from the First Words Project telling me Wayne was not communicating on a level of other children his age. I still struggled to understand, even as I went through the motions: the evaluations, the play groups, the home activities. I called one of the evaluators to lay bare my fears: that the outcome of these activities was not going to be good. Fortunately, she listened, with empathy and expertise.

Cochlear aims to do the same: meet new parents where they are, with empathy and expertise.

As their motto says, they want their patients to:

Hear Now. And Always

Cochlear ImplantsOn June 1 from 7 am – 7 pm MDT, Cochlear is hosting a Facebook Q&A — Building Your Child’s Brain, One Word at a Time — with the Thirty Million Words team. Ask a question at the chat! Click here for more info.

Note: The Thirty Million Words Q&A is over, but you are welcome to follow their Facebook Page for continued access to information about young children and communication skills!  ~ pk 6/2/16

NOTES:

  1. The Prevalence and Incidence of Hearing Loss in Children. Available from: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Prevalence-and-incidence-of-Hearing-Loss-in-Children/
  2. Tharpe AM, Gustafson S. Management of Children with Mild, Moderate, and Moderately Severe Sensorineural Hearing Loss. Otolaryngol Clin North Am 2015 Sep 30.