The Puppy Run: A Race Report

Yesterday morning (5/21/16), I ran The Puppy Run, a virtual run presented by FitFam which benefited Valhalla Canine Rescue.

Dog Rescue Virtual Run

Many people ran with their dogs, such as KR Endurance Coach Rebecca, who ran with her pup Teaka Bear:

Dog Rescue Virtual Run

Since I don’t have a dog, I tried to figure out how I could meaningfully participate. Since many of my friends either volunteer with organizations that help rescue dogs or have rescue dogs themselves (or both), I decided to use the opportunity to help tell the stories of some rescue dogs who need homes.

My friend Gabrielle connected me with Black Cats and Old Dogs, a rescue organization which prides itself on “rescuing what others refuse.” I used their website to filter for the most senior dogs. Since there were three, I dedicated each of the three miles to one of the senior dogs who needs a home! Here’s the way I modified the bib to feature them:

Dog Rescue Virtual Run

Mile One – Fannie

Dog Rescue Virtual Run

 

Fannie is a 9-year-old Yellow Lab mix who acts more like a 4-year-old! If you play ball with her, you will be her best friend for life. Fannie is good with other dogs and doesn’t have any concern about cats. She is house broken, spayed, current on vaccines, and heart worm negative. Learn more about her (and see a video!) here.

 

Mile Two – Maria

Maria is a 12-year-old Husky Shepherd mix. She loves to cuDog Rescue Virtual Runddle on the couch and she also loves all cats and dogs. Most of all, she loves relaxing in a quiet home.

 

Mile Three – Nicholas

Dog Rescue Virtual RunNicholas is a 7-year-old lab mix who will make the perfect family dog! He’s a sweet and gentle guy who just wants to be loved! Nicholas is neutered, current on vaccines, and has begun slow kill heart worm treatment.

 

 

The Race Itself

The actual running part of the race wasn’t all that remarkable. I’ve run the route around my neighborhood countless times before. My time was one of the worst times for that route (I am still experiencing some heart rate challenges so I’ve tried to stop obsessing about “bad” times). However, I did pass a neighbor run/walking with her new dog (twice), which seemed fitting given the dedication/purpose of my run.

The “medal” was a piece of paper designed to look like a medal:

Dog Rescue Virtual Run

(Note: There were actual medals (for humans AND dogs!) but I opted for the digital swag package!)

I also had the additional momentum of being part of a community who cares about dogs and wants to celebrate their role in the fitness world — as companions, motivators, and diversions (with their amusing antics).

Awesome pace or not, it was still PAWsitively fantastic (I had to fit one pun in!) to be part of The Puppy Run!

More on Fannie, Maria, and Nicholas

For more information about these three dogs and the other animals up for adoption from Black Cats and Old Dogs, please click here.

If you are here in Tallahassee, stop by P.A.W.S. tomorrow (5/22/16) between noon and 4 p.m. to meet some of the animals up for adoption!

Dog Rescue Virtual Run

 

Dog Rescue Virtual Run

What Matters Most

A month or so ago, another adult and I got in an online argument about Disney character waffle irons.

Yes, we really did.

I am part of an amazing group on Facebook. The group is for parents of participants in the Disney College Program. There are over 1,000 of us.

I had shared the Google Doc Tenley and her roommates had developed to figure out who was bringing what for move-in. It was an attempt to make sure they ended up with the correct distribution of needed items, instead of six toasters and no TV (for example).

Apparently I am not always as hilarious as I think I am, because when I explained that the three waffle irons the girls planned to bring were necessary because (duh!) they were different characters, she responded back with “there is a space issue.” While it is true that space is at a premium, I had been kidding. Jesting. Making a joke, Being sardonic. She went on to DM me, asking me to untag her (because Facebook automatically tags people in responses now). Before I could breathe, I received a second “please untag me” message.

The whole exchange above got my blood pressure high and resulted in about a half hour of wasted negative energy I threw out into the universe that I will never get back.

A Dramatic Reminder

Tonight, though, I had a big, profoundly earth shattering reminder of what matters most (hint: it’s not waffle irons and quibbling over social media practices).

One of Tenley’s fellow College Program participants passed away today of natural causes. (Secondary issue: one of the buses used by the College Program was run into by an SUV driving the wrong way, causing both vehicles to be on fire and causing multiple injuries (but no fatalities, thank goodness).

I found out about the death right as Wishes began – the grandiosely optimistic, beautiful, heart-warming, and magical fireworks display at the Magic Kingdom, the one I had been determined to see this visit after missing it on previous visits for various reasons.

As I saw all of the participants in the Parents’ Group respond to the verification of the situation, with their sadness, their promises to pray, their shock, and their overwhelming dedication to a community of people who have come to care deeply for one another, I took a quick snap of the fireworks (it was a bad picture but ….) and sent it to Tenley, with “I love you.” I needed her to know, and right-that-very-moment.

Child Loss

Service Celebration (Graduation) Day Spring 2016 Photo Credit: DisneyHousing SnapChat Account

Taking Action

One of the things the parents in the parents’ group do is take pictures of the kids in the program when they are at a Disney Park, and post them for the parents who are far away and can’t easily visit. I will admit I am a failed Mamarazzi. If I am with Tenley, I know she doesn’t want me to make a big deal out of a fellow College Program kid. When I am not with Tenley, I simply struggle with the extroverted energy it requires, and we’ve all learned over the past several months that we can’t just pull a kid out of the work assignment to take their picture — this is their work, not summer camp.

But one parent chimed in who knew I was at Main Street, told me the name of her son and what he looked like, and said she would love a picture.

Knowing one mom and dad out there just got the worst news they will ever get spurred me past the introversion, the inability to read nametags without my glasses on, and all the other objections.

One mom got a picture of her kid.

I don’t know any details about the young man who passed away except for his gender and which complex he lived in.

Update as of 5 pm on 5/15/16: Condolences to the family of William Gracia. There are more people praying for you than you could ever know. For anyone who wants to read more about Will, and how to help (his family has requested prayers and consideration of help with funeral expenses), click here for more information. ~ pk

But a higher power than us knows, and I am sure the family could use your prayers and good intentions as they walk their road of grief.

And the next time I feel inclined to spend some negative energy on something that is inconsequential long-term, I am going to remind myself to focus on what matters most.

Ironically, this incredible, upbeat, profoundly sentimental video was released today (pro-tip: for someone you know, fast forward to 15:07, 46:13, and 1:07:06). Thank you, Sharon Costello, for putting this together. Your love for our children (and us) shines through in every frame.

thoughtful-thursdays4

Amazon $100 Gift Card Giveaway!

Amazon Giveaway

CONFESSION: I came very close to ordering washcloths from Amazon the other day. Washcloths, people!

Why did I almost order washcloths from Amazon? Our current supply is very low, the ones we do have were all dirty or had gone missing, and the almost instant gratification of pressing “order” and knowing a colorful stack of fluffy, clean washcloths would be on my doorstep within two days thanks to Prime was almost more than I could resist.

Amazon GiveawayI did resist, however, and am happy to report I found clean washcloths deep in a crevice of laundry mountain.

Whatever you need instant gratification for, whether it’s routine bathroom linens, the latest best seller, or a kindle, wouldn’t a $100 Amazon gift card help?

I am joining other great bloggers in a giveaway! Here’s the scoop:

AMAZON GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card

Giveaway organized by: Oh My Gosh Beck! (Please email becky@ohmygoshbeck.com with any questions.)

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 5/26 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

 

Everybody Matters: A Book Review

Quick! When you think “perfect place to work,” what workplace characteristics come to mind? Lucrative compensation? A great product? How the idea of saying “I work for [insert name of organization here] makes your soul leap?

I don’t think there actually is a perfect place, but Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family captured ideas and concepts about management that are surely worth a try.

Book Review

It took me a long time to read this book, so the processing of its tidbits happened in small “a-has” rather than instantaneous epiphanies. This pacing was well-timed given my two-year odyssey of trying to process my choice to leave my full-time job and evaluate my next steps.

The Power of Everybody

Because it took me so long to read this book, I had the opportunity to type the title repetitively as I logged my “Friday Reads” on Facebook and Twitter every Friday. Almost every time, I could remember the “Everybody Matters” part but I am sure I mangled the rest (which is technically “The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family”), never remembering if it was “extraordinary,” “incredible,” or some other superlative! As the book states early on, though, even if I couldn’t remember that level of specificity, “everybody” really does mean “everybody,” and “not just the fortunate few or the exceptionally talented.” 

The Power of Clear Communication

There is a lot of writing out there about clear expectations and how if you don’t have a goal, you probably won’t get there. I love how this book took that concept one step further — how clear expectations are the catalyst that can help people motivate themselves.

“When people know their goal, they are inspired to express their gifts, and they discover capabilities they didn’t even know they had.”

I also appreciate the organization’s utilization of the power of storytelling, self-awareness, and vulnerability: “We believe that real people telling real stories creates real learning.” I concur!

The Power of an Abundance Mindset

Many of the businesses Barry-Wehmiller acquired had been run into the ground, organizationally, financially, and morale-wise before the acquisition. One of the most challenging hurdles Barry-Wehmiller faced was helping staff in the newly-acquired organizations believe that business could be about more than budget reductions and process modifications designed to cut corners.

We don’t have to win every project. We need to enter into responsible relationships with responsible people who value what we bring to the table.

 

The Power of Honoring Life Outside of the Workplace

This topic is huge to me. As a worker who has recently transitioned from a “traditional” workplace to a virtual one, I have been thinking even more than previously about the configurations of the work parts of our lives and the non-work parts of our lives. The way we divvy up our energy is simply not black and white.

The authors write, “We don’t draw a line between behaviors within the workplace and how people can apply them at home. What surprises participants is that we encourage telling stories about our home lives as much as we talk about the things we do in our leadership roles at work.”

The passage below is not so much about time and energy as it is about the actual essence of the self. I love it:

An important take-away for participants learning our approach to leadership is that they can be — indeed, must be — the same person at work that they are at home. They don’t need to wear a mask to work. The Leadership Checklist is not just for the eight or ten hours people spend in the office or in the factory. It’s for all twenty-four hours and every aspect of their life.

The Power of Reciprocal Commitment

The book interweaves a theme throughout about how co-workers should regard one another and their roles. In their Leadership Fundamentals classes, “We ask participants to set their organizational identity aside for the duration of the course; they don’t know if the person next to them is a CFO or a plant leader…..We specifically say, ‘Please do not talk about your title or the actual day-to-day work that you do. We want to know who you are as a person.”

Along with that effort to peel away “title” identities for the purpose of learning and growing, the authors remind leaders, “if you think you are too busy to give time and energy to your people, then they’re too busy to give time and energy to you. It is a balanced equation.”

The Power of … Well, POWER

As I mentioned above, when an organization is in the business of acquisitions, there is a constant “newness” for the personnel at the acquired organization. Reading these sentiments made me think of a time in my previous organization. I had a new supervisor, who reported to the Executive Director. We had been discussing some decision that had to be made, but apparently my co-workers and I were consistently expressing a tone of “but what if the Executive Director doesn’t want it that way?” You could have heard a pin drop in the room after he asked:

Why is everyone so afraid?

I can only imagine the fear at an organization that has experienced adversity after adversity, broken promise after broken promise. Therefore, I appreciated this sentence: “The cycle of caring begins with you,” as well as “since when do you need a memo from corporate that tells you that it is acceptable to be good stewards of the lives in your care?”

It is hard to build trust again after it has been broken repeatedly. That’s why it was so heartwarming to read one person’s opinion on page 229: They’ve done everything they said they were going to do.

Finally, something I think about often as I watch my 16- and 19- year olds grow up is personal accountability. I see them and their peers simultaneously sharing minute and intimate details of their lives with an extremely broad array of people via social media, but also being disconnected from looking people in the eyes, having to research facts without Google, and not necessarily having defined long-term goals (not that you have to have that when you’re a teen, it just seems different than the outlook I had at their ages). I hope they grow to understand this: 

I am the message.

These four words, to me, show recognition that you may be “fed” information, given instructions, old where to go and what to do. But ultimately what the world sees is the message through you. You are the message, in everything you say and do.

And when it comes to messages, everybody’s extraordinary message does indeed matter. 

Book Review

All proceeds from the sale of the book are being donated to Our Community LISTENS, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing powerful Communication Skills Training to communities throughout the United States.

This post is a response to Kat Bouska’s writing prompt: BOOK REVIEW! Book Review

NOTE: I was given a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. These effusively positive opinions are all mine.

 

Florida 529 Savings Plans are Big!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.

Eight dollars and ninety-seven cents. 

Florida 529 Savings Plans

I am not proud of the fact that this is the balance of my college sophomore’s Florida 529 Savings Plan.

Years ago, I opened a Florida 529 Savings Plan for her at a time when my employer was offering to match my contributions. When our family experienced several financial challenges (too much debt compounded by job loss), I stopped making contributions to the account and withdrew most of what had accumulated, since we were in survival mode.

529 Savings Plans Fill Gaps

To be clear, we were ahead of the college finance game compared to many Florida families. We were extremely fortunate that my parents had generously purchased Florida Prepaid contracts for our children when they were infants (more on that here and here).

Two years into my daughter’s college experience at Valdosta State University, though, and just over a year before my youngest child graduates from high school, I think often of the additional “breathing room” I would have if I had kept up my Florida 529 Savings Plan contributions (and unlocked my employer’s matching contributions). We could have avoided the student loan debt we have incurred.

By “breathing room,” I mean expenses like:

  • tuition
  • mandatory fees
  • room and board
  • textbooks and supplies
  • computers
  • other equipment that is required for enrollment

One small hurdle when I opened my children’s Florida 529 Savings Plan accounts was the minimum required contribution. The Florida Prepaid College Board has removed the minimum contribution requirement. You could start with, for example, $8.97.

How is a Florida 529 Savings Plan Different from a Prepaid Plan?

  • Unlike Prepaid Plans, the Florida 529 Savings Plan does not have a set payment amount or schedule.
  • A family can contribute as much or as often as desired, and accounts can be opened at any time. There is no minimum contribution to open a Florida 529 Savings account, and there are no application fees.
  • The biggest difference between the two is that the Florida 529 Savings Plan is subject to fluctuations in the financial markets, while the Prepaid Plan are is guaranteed by the State of Florida.
  • There are 11 investment strategy options, including an age-based option that gets more conservative as the beneficiary gets closer to college age.

To learn more about Florida 529 Savings Plans and the Prepaid Plan, please click here.

Opening a Florida 529 Savings Plan is Simple

If you don’t have a Florida 529 Savings Plan already, click here to start!

You Could Win a $529 Scholarship!

The Florida 529 Savings Plan Scholarship Program is new! In conjunction with 529 College Savings Day (observed on May 29!), it will award 10 winners a $529 Scholarship deposited into a Florida 529 Savings Plan account. Families can enter to win between May 1 and May 29, 2016 via this link!

Only legal residents of the state of Florida who are currently over the age of 18 are eligible to enter. Winners will be selected from among all eligible entries via a random drawing to be conducted on June 1, 2016, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

A Lesson Learned

I wish the balance on my daughter’s 529 Savings Plan was $897, $8097, or more instead of $8.97, but it is not. If you are at an earlier stage of planning for your child’s college expenses, I simply urge you to consider the role a 529 Savings Plan can have for you.

If nothing else, go for the scholarship!

Florida 529 Savings Plans

 

Motivation-Monday

$100 Netflix Gift Card Giveaway

Netflix Giveaway

It is actually a little ironic that I am part of a Netflix giveaway! Listen to my Spin Sucks Inquisition and you’ll find out precisely how often I watch Netflix (hint: it rhymes with “hero”). I do, however, have an appreciation for Netflix. My 19-year-old daughter loves it, and my 16-year-old son too. I know, also, how much they are influencing the programming world with original productions like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

Someday, it will be my time to enjoy binge-watching shows. For now, I still have to pay for my children’s enjoyment of it! That’s why I would love to win a $100 gift card like the one in this giveaway!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize: $100 Netflix Gift Card

Giveaway organized by: Oh My Gosh Beck! (Please email Becky at becky@ohmygoshbeck with any questions.)

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 5/13 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

Netflix Giveaway

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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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
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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