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.

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Crazy Holiday Season

It’s been weeks since I last posted here. It’s been an insane month but one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

After finally closing on our new home, we’ve spent the last month moving in and getting the house ready for Christmas. It’s becoming a home now, and for that I am thankful. More space means that we have plenty of room for all of belongings but also for our families and friends. We planned on hosting my parents, brother and sister in law on Christmas Eve but a record-breaking blizzard in Tulsa prevented them from driving the hour from Stillwater. That snowfall didn’t prevent my in-laws from visiting on Christmas day though, and we had a fantastic lunch and afternoon spent opening gifts and spending time together.

We are now planning a New Years’ Eve party for our friends — the first in our 10 years together. I’ll try to post again soon, but I do hope you each have a wonderful and prosperous New Year.

Thank You

It’s been about a year since I started this blog and, while I’ve not been the most consistent writer, I’ve enjoyed having an outlet for my thoughts and opinions. Given that it’s November, a time for thanksgiving and celebration, I thought I’d take a moment to thank those of you who read my blog on a regular basis. I see the stats and appreciate the comments and feedback I receive more than you will ever know.

At the same time, I have to share a bit of my own thanksgiving. First, I’m thankful for a family who loves me — my husband, parents, brother, in-laws and extended family beyond that mean the world to me and I’m grateful every day for the people in my life who have shaped me into who I am today.

I’m thankful that my dear husband and I are now in a new house. We closed on Wednesday, November 25 and moved in over the holiday weekend. Initially we were scheduled to close Thursday, November 19, and I would then host Thanksgiving for 10 (insanity!). However, that didn’t work as planned so instead Thanksgiving was spent at a hotel buffet and moving. It was still  special. I truly am thankful for the new house and appreciate my family, who was willing to help us get settled.

Again, thank you all for reading my posts. I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving and look forward to the holidays.

My Connection with MS

A little while ago, I wrote about making time to volunteer.  As I wrote there, I have chosen to maintain involvement in just a few specific health-related organizations due to the connection I have with each. One of those organizations is the MS Society. Tonight is the patron party for donors who have contributed to next week’s Uncorking the Cure for MS fundraiser. I was asked to speak briefly tonight about my connection with MS and thought it would be a good post here as well.

I was a junior in college when my mom was diagnosed with MS in 1994. Imagine being a 21 year old college student, living 1000 miles away from my family and having very little contact with them during a two week period in September of that year. I was terrified.

That entire summer, my mom was having trouble with numbness and we all thought it was a pinched nerve. She went to our family doctor as well as a chiropractor for treatment but nothing helped. In September, our family doctor finally said he wasn’t sure what was going on so he referred her to a neurologist in Tulsa for further tests. During her initial visit with this doctor, he chose to immediately admit her to St. Francis for additional testing.

The initial response from the doctors was one of two things: either she had MS or it was a spinal cord tumor. We prayed for MS. Thank goodness for her persistent neurologist who refused to accept the spinal cord tumor diagnosis and pushed for more tests, which finally confirmed she had multiple sclerosis.

Her doctor immediately gave her steroids to decrease the swelling. Just days after being released from the hospital she and my dad made a trip to Minnesota to see me for my 21st birthday. It was odd to have my mother, who had rarely eaten an entire meal at a restaurant having a ravenous appetite thanks to those steroids.

The doctor chose to start my mom on one of the ABC interferon drugs. She took that drug for about 10 years until she went back for one of her check-ups to be told that there are no new lesions since her initial diagnosis. After calling her his “success story”, her neurologist said it wasn’t necessary for her to continue unless she has problems.

Now, 15 years since being diagnosed, my mom continues to live with MS symptoms such as numbness and pain in her hands and feet as well as optical nerve damage which affects her eye sight. If you are not personally connected to her in some way, you would never know my mom has MS. Since the day she was diagnosed, my mom has chosen to live her life to its’ fullest, not letting her “minor” issues prevent her from enjoying her crafts and family activities. She says that the encouragement and support that we as her family have provided have helped her maintain her positive outlook. I disagree. She is a strong woman of faith and I believe her positive attitude is one of the biggest reasons the rest of us are able to support her so well.

I have chosen to become involved with the MS Society because I want a cure for my mom and best friend. I pray that her disease will remain in its’ regressive stage until there is a cure so she can hold her future grandchildren and spend time doing all the things she enjoys with them. I believe strongly that the money we raise can help fund programs and research that will allows families like mine to live a full life and dream of someday finding that cure.

Labor of Love

With Labor Day upon us, I can’t help but think about my grandmother. I wrote a little about her here. A special woman, she passed away in 1984 over Labor Day weekend. She was a strong, amazing woman who worked hard all her life. The wife of a farmer and traveling pastor as well as mother to five children, my grandmother didn’t spend a lot of time pampering herself. She was the stereotypical housewife but to this day I cannot think of a single person who deserved more happiness and compassion than she did. I hope I am half the woman she was, and pray that someday I can be the model for my children and grandchildren that she was for me.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Fourth Grade

For years, there has been a poster floating around that highlights all the great things we learned as kindergarten students. There are a lot of great things on this poster (“Play fair. Don’t hit people.”) but I have to say that my most profound school year was fourth grade.

My grandmother with me as a baby

My grandmother with me as a baby

My first major lesson came early in the school year. For the first time in my life I faced the reality of death. My grandmother, who I adored, was diagnosed with cancer and gradually faded to skin and bones. The treatment was no longer fighting the cancer and her body was shutting down. Over Labor Day weekend, my family decided it was necessary to gather the clan at the Minnesota homestead. Within hours of us arriving, we had all had the chance to say our goodbyes and my grandmother passed away. For the first time in my life, I was faced with losing someone close to me. For the first time, I saw my dad — my rock — crying. It was an eye-opening experience for me, but at the time I didn’t realize how much I would learn. It was during this long weekend with the family that I found out how important my extended group of relatives are to my life. No matter how much time or distance separates the clan, we are always there for each other. It’s the unconditional love of family that has helped me traverse the maze of life. For that I am eternally grateful.

During fourth grade is also when I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. One assignment we were given was to write a report about a career that interested us. We were to interview someone in that chosen profession as well as research what it would take for us to do that for a living. I chose to talk with my neighbor about his job as PR director for the state’s vocational education program. During our chat, he told me about his daily activities and I was fascinated. I then went on to the library and found out about degree programs and various other paths that would get me into a PR career. From fourth grade on, I took every opportunity to write, participate in school activities that would lead me into a journalism degree program and eventually into PR. In 2001, I had the chance, while working at a PR firm, to participate in an RFP process for my former mentor. While my firm was not selected, it did allow me to tell him “thank you” for his involvement in my career.

Fourth grade may have been just another year for most people, but it was a life-changing year for me. What about you? What year had the biggest impact on your life?