Been away too long …

It’s been a very long time since I posted anything on this blog. Part of that is because of professional obligations that have taken over my life and part of that has been a lack of energy when it comes to topics. Lately, I have been thinking about getting back into writing — whether that be blog posts here or something more creative, I don’t know yet. I do know that there are a lot of things floating around in my head that I want to get out on paper. Not sure if anyone will read them or not but that’s OK.

It’s the beginning of my vacation for the holidays and I am thinking about so much for which I am thankful. I have a wonderful, supportive husband. My life is full of amazing friends. I have a family that is healthy and happy. I’m professionally blessed with a job I love and volunteer efforts that provide fulfillment. Take a few moments over the next few weeks to think about all that you have in your life and not worry so much about what you don’t have.

In the last week, there have been several unexpected deaths in my circle of friends. All young. All taken far too early. Their deaths have made me think about those things that are truly important — family, friends, faith, etc. Spend time with those people who are especially valuable to your life. Step away from those who bring you down and add unhealthy habits to your life. Life is too short to spend with people who don’t add something to your world.



The last few weeks, I’ve been struggling through creating a memorial video for a dear family friend. In January, I wrote this post after Miss Pat was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Since that time, she has gone through chemo treatments only to be told last week that the chemo is not working and there is nothing more the doctors can do but make her last days as comfortable as possible.

I feel blessed to have the skills to create this memorial video but it is likely the most difficult project I have ever worked on — for work or for personal reasons. My mom volunteered me for the job, and I of course accepted. But this is a pure labor of love on my part. Going through thousands of photos and listening to hundreds of songs, trying to find the right mix to reflect Miss Pat’s personality and love for her family, friends and husband of more than 40 years, is a challenge of monumental proportions.

I am thankful for the time we’ve been given to prepare this with Miss Pat still with us. She has been an encouragement and constant reminder of how important our faith is to making the inevitable more calming. I’m thankful for the time we’ve been given with Miss Pat over the last few months. I’m thankful for the opportunity this has given me to look back over our lives and remember wonderful times spent together — vacations, holidays, long weekends. I’m thankful for a couple like Miss Pat and Big Dave who loved me as their own children.

Transitioning a Board’s Mentality

I had a conversation recently with a friend and fellow board member for a local organization. We were talking about board culture and the difference between a “working” board and a “governing” one. We’ve been struggling with transitioning a “working” board to one that is more governing minded. Our big concern is that as we move away from one where board members traditionally did a lot of work to the opposite, that we’ll lose the board’s engagement and passion.

Currently, most of the board members lead committees of one so they end up doing all of the work themselves while the PR committee, which I lead has many members and traditionally holds several sub meetings between board meetings. The workload is split among committee members as well as myself. I take information from the sub meetings and report at monthly board meetings on key points of which everyone should be aware.

We’ve been trying to figure out why it is difficult for the other board members to not put together committees and minimize their work load while maintaining their engagement level. Could it be because PR professionals typically find themselves on my boards, committees and planning teams and learn quickly the value of spreading the workload around? I’m just curious if anyone has ideas or thoughts that we should look at as we help this board transition into the next phase.

Life is Short

Life is short. I’ve been reminded of this a lot recently. The latest iteration came a week ago when my family received word that a dear friend was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.

First came the shock of the news. In the last month, Miss Pat hadn’t been feeling 100 percent. She had lost weight, was feeling nauseous, and generally fatigued. It wasn’t until the mother of one of her preschoolers (who is also a nurse) noticed she appeared jaundiced that she called the doctors. That was last Wednesday. The doctor immediately had lab work done on Wednesday morning and scheduled Miss Pat for an appointment Wednesday afternoon. After seeing the lab results, he immediately scheduled a CT scan for Thursday morning. The CT scan showed a three- to four-inch long tumor on her pancreas and tumors on both lungs and her liver. The tumor on her pancreas was cutting off the ability for bile to move as needed so she was slowly being poisoned, hence the jaundiced appearance. Not good.

Quickly following that, the family internist referred her to a surgeon who scheduled time Friday morning to insert a stent into the bile duct to allow ease in movement. While there, the surgeon did a biopsy on the lymph nodes as well as cut a few nerves to relieve any pain. The biopsy results showed that the cancer had spread into her lymph nodes.

At this point, Miss Pat and family hadn’t seen an oncologist yet. However, the prognosis from all doctors wasn’t good — weeks to just a few months is the timeframe she has been given.

The amazing part of this story to me is how strong Miss Pat has been through the biggest trial of her life. She is a preschool teacher — calm, soothing, patient, sweet spirited but certainly not one prone to public speaking. In the week since her diagnosis, Miss Pat has chosen to share her testimony with all her friends, family, co-workers, church family, etc. Our prayer and her’s is for healing, but as she said to me that healing may not be an earthly one. God’s choice for healing her may be by taking her heaven and she is prepared.

Every minute of every day since her diagnosis, Miss Pat has taken time to tell everyone around her how much they mean to her, what their love and friendship has meant and what joy each person has brought to her life. She has taken everyone who walked through her front door aside and spent a few minutes alone, sharing her hopes and prayers for the future. She has asked us all to watch over her family and grandchildren. In this time of illness and pain, she isn’t thinking of herself. She’s focused on preparing those around her for her eventual passing.

The thing about Miss Pat for me is that she has always been my second mother. My mom and her have been friends since childhood. Our families always vacationed together, we spent more time with each other than most immediate families do. As I’ve struggled with my sadness at this news this past week, I’ve spent a great deal of time in prayer and seeking guidance from above for how I can support Miss Pat, Big Dave, their kids and grandkids, my mom and dad, etc. I’ve also realized that because life is so short, we all need to treat each day we remain on earth as our last — take time to share with our families and friends how much they mean to us. I hope anyone who reads this takes that to heart and takes a moment to call or visit a loved one, forgive those who need to be forgiven, restore relationships that need to be restored.

Election Frustration

Yesterday was election day. And as everyone knows, the results have been a swing toward conservative leaders. This blog post is not about the results or why people vote the way they do. Instead, I’m writing about the one thing every election that disturbs me greatly.

Why is it that each side of the proverbial aisle has to use election time as an excuse for abusing those with a differing viewpoint? In the last 24 hours, I’ve heard people called morons, hicks, stupid and more for the voting decisions being made. I really don’t understand why we can’t all simply agree that we have different perspectives on the same issues and move on. The election process in the United States is one of the best advantages to living here. We have the privilege to elect individuals to office every two or four years where there are others in this world who live in oppressive environments and don’t have choices. Shouldn’t we instead work together to make our states and country a better place instead of fighting, bickering and insulting each other?

APR Update

Last weekend, I visited Washington DC for the 2010 PRSA Leadership Assembly and PRSA Southwest District board meeting. To take advantage of the location, I invited my 94-year-old grandfather and mom to come with me to visit my granddad’s 98-year-old brother who lives in Bethesda. Some of my photos from the trip are posted on Flickr.

Now, for the real reason for this post — the discussions held at the Leadership Assembly. There were three bylaw changes proposed, with the most controversial being the removal of the APR designation as a requirement for PRSA National board members. The same issue was brought up last year and voted down by Assembly delegates. I wrote about it here.

The same arguments arose this year, but the conversation turned toward the need for PRSA to have a strategic discussion about the APR and its value. PRSA National has agreed to put together a task force to address the accreditation dilemma and assess the credential to determine what may need to change in the future. The task force is being chaired by Blake Lewis, APR, from Dallas. If you’re interested in helping, contact him.

Struggling with Loss

It’s been a crazy month! Between work, volunteer activities and PRSA involvement, I’ve been dealing with family issues. On September 19, my father-in-law passed away. While a blessing in many ways, the family has struggled with their grief. I feel a bit guilty because, while grieving myself, I have been able to move on far quicker than my husband and his sisters.

It’s difficult for me to relate to their feelings. Not only do I still have both of my parents, but when my family members have died, it’s typically been after a long illness and everyone recognizes that he or she is simply suffering too much to enjoy life. In my father-in-law’s case, he had been ill for the last six or nine months. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009 and had been going through treatment off and on this year. On top of that, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, kidney failure, and more.

The challenge for me is to provide my husband and sisters-in-law with comfort as best as I can. They have now lost both of their parents — my mother-in-law died in 1999 from an aneurysm. I have done some research on adult children losing both their parents, and it appears that many suffer from a sort of “adult orphan” syndrome. The theory is that, since the “comfort zone” or home base that exists with parents is no longer available and adults who have lost their parents feel as if they no longer have that to turn to in difficult times.

Has anyone experienced this? Does anyone have advise on how to comfort without intruding on the grieving process?