multi-hyphenated-me

the hyphens that define my life

Peppermint, Fudge, Caroling and Giving December 2, 2013

Day two of our countdown to Christmas was filled with holiday fun.  Peppermint, Fudge, Caroling and Giving and it’s only Day 2!!

First on our list was to make a test batch of peppermint fudge.  Test batch is the new phrase my kids have discovered as their means to getting me to bake something just for them instead of waiting for our baking extravaganza in the coming weeks.  “We need a ‘test batch’ mom, to make sure we like them.” They are currently over-the-top obsessed with Torani’s Peppermint Syrup in their hot chocolate which, thanks to the dropping temperatures, is our new morning and after school ritual.  In one of my magazines we found a recipe for Peppermint Fudge using Torani syrup and begged to make up a batch.  I gathered the ingredients and we planned to make fudge tonight while dinner was in the oven.  Opening candy canes was a fun “ooh aah” festive moment.  Candy canes are so simple yet bring so much joy.  And yet, nothing says Christmas in this house like taking a mallet and making candy cane dust.  The fudge was made then covered with candy cane bits and powder and put into the fridge to enjoy after dinner.

After dinner, but before fudge, we started stringing lights onto our Christmas tree.  For the first time, ever in my life, we will have white lights on our tree.  My kids want a rainbow tree like normal, but since I’m the official light stringer, I say white lights this year.  Rainbow Christmas outside, white Christmas inside.  We’re in a new city, new house, new living room, why not? The tree is still a work in progress.  1400 lights and I’m not halfway done.  The tree is nearly 10 feet tall and really wide and I’m a tedious light stringer, every branch gets lights.  I think we may have 3500 lights by the time we’re done.  My husband, Mr. Fix-It/Build-It read the box and ok’d the amps (as if I’ve ever checked that out before) and provided the power strip for my many light strands.

At some point, I was abandoned to hang lights alone, as the football boys went to the basement to watch the Seahawk/Saints game.  Left with my egg nog light, I stayed on task until someone surprisingly knocked on our front door.  When I answered the door, a group, a young man, four women and an infant, stood on my front porch with guitar and tambourines in hand and told me they were caroling to raise money for the Philippines.   They told me they were Filipino and wanted to help their families and friends in the Philippines.  My husband just happened to hand me some cash earlier tonight, because I never have cash on hand. He’s like my personal ATM.  Convenient.  It’s really his way of saying, stop making $3.35 debits at Starbucks. At least he isn’t saying stop going to Starbucks.   I had tucked the money away in my sweatshirt pocket and was happy to make a donation to their cause.  As soon as the money exchanged hands, tambourines jangled and they broke into song, Feliz Navidad. They sang three verses, Spanish, then in English, then the third verse gave thanks for the donation, said they would pray for me, and asked that I pray for the Philippines.  They sang loud and strong and proud and my family came running to see the excitement.

After the carolers left, we played a couple of hands of Uno, talked about the Philippines, the importance of giving and tried our peppermint fudge.  Though still slightly disgruntled over white lights instead of rainbow lights, the boys, especially (and shockingly) our youngest talked about the importance of giving, always, but especially during the holidays.   I can’t think of a better way to countdown to Christmas than to impart this message of giving to those in need to our children. And to do so with rocking carolers, family time and fudge too?  A Christmas 2013 memory we won’t soon forget.

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A Family Affair October 17, 2013

Three years ago, Amy moved from Michigan where she has lived most of her life, to Seattle Washington to be near her youngest son, closer to our mom and to receive incredible care at the University of Washington Medical Center. Amy has a Common Variable Immune Deficiency. Her immune system is so suppressed that it can not fight any disease. As a result, she has been sick the majority of her life. In addition, she has a diseased liver that is causing granulomas to develop all over her body. She has rheumatoid arthritis as an added bonus. All of the medications required to treat her myriad of ailments have her on the fast track to, without doubt, developing Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, an incurable cancer within an unknown timeline, yet not to exceed 10 years-ish. Her vast team of doctors deemed the bone marrow transplant necessary.  Amy entered a new world in the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and became in need of bone marrow.

[Disclaimer:  I may or may not have listed her illnesses correctly.  Forgive me.  If anything, I’m sure I left stuff out.]

Out of love and genetics, we three siblings were tested to see if any of us would be a blood donor match.  It was really no surprise that Jen would be not only a match, a perfect match to our sister in need. I never made it past the prescreen as a result of my cancerous past.  Our brother was also not a match.  Siblings are the best option of bone marrow match, a fact I didn’t know prior to this process.

Once the donor is identified, whether through family or anonymously, the next greatest challenge is having the recipient well and able to go through the transplant process.  Twice the transplant was “indefinitely delayed” because Amy’s body wouldn’t cooperate enough to get the thumbs up from all doctors involved.

While Amy was in and out of the hospital, Jen, who lives in Arizona, had to incur not only the initial flight costs for testing and the actual procedure, but the additional costs of flight changes.  Juggling work and time off added to her stress ramping up to the “Big Day.”  Not once, but three times.

The “Big Day” finally arrived this week.  I was assigned the role of “Caretaker of Jen” while my mom managed Amy and her care.

We had a family dinner Monday night with lots of laughs.  For Jen, it helped ease her nerves.  For Amy, it was her last meal in the company of a crowd for a many months ahead.

Bone marrow is extracted from the donor in the morning and transplanted, similar to a blood transfusion, into the patient late that same evening.  The extraction process involves 2-3 small punctures on the low back hip bones.  Through these punctures, 150-250 bone marrow extractions take place, directly into the bone.  The entire process takes two hours.  Jen ended up spending an additional 8 hours in recovery as the pain was far greater than she anticipated.  All told, we were in the hospital for 13 hours.

While the altruistic donor was giving, Amy was receiving her final doses of radiation.  Amy received three doses of chemotherapy and two doses of low-level radiation in the days leading up to the transplant to suppress her system, creating a clean slate for the new bone marrow to work its magic.

Amy was in radiation when Jen was released and we headed home.  Amy received the gift of hope at 10 PM.  Amy had a few typical reactions to the bone marrow that slowed the process a bit, but overall, the transplant was an initial success, ending the next morning.  Amy was at her apartment by 5 PM Wednesday night.

I only saw Amy maybe a whole three hours while I was in Seattle since I was on donor support.  I don’t know all of the details of her experience but with her incredible medical team, she was, and remains, in great hands.

Jen has always been the “Baby” of the family.  Her nickname, among many, was “Whiny Wimp” because, well, she whines and she has zero pain tolerance.  In total contrast, I have a very high pain tolerance and my nickname was…well let’s just say my 1970’s era CB handle was “Aggravation”…but I don’t whine.

Pairing Jen and I together is a hilarious riot on any given day.  Putting us in pre-op together with me as her nursemaid could have been a Saturday Night Live skit.  Oh, did I mention I lack compassion?  I’m working on it, but nursing will never be my career choice.  She’s hot, she’s cold, the pillow this, the blanket that and how is it possible to even squish your face so tight when they insert the IV?  The IV.  I didn’t know she doesn’t like IV’s.  Now I do.  Where I may have lacked compassion, I was a pillar of patience. I may have uttered at least one “suck it up buttercup” to her, but she was too busy to notice as Jen received a tremendous amount of attention and love for being the donor.  Being a bone marrow donor, is truly a selfless gift and Jen deservedly was given praise for putting others first.

The highlight of my morning came when the anesthesiologist gave Jen the “relaxer” just prior to going into the OR.  The doctor, anesthesiologist and I walked alongside Jen laid on the gurney as we rolled her to the OR. You could tell the moment the “relaxer” took effect. Jen, completely quiet up to this point, flirtatiously said to the doctor, “Doctor, SCCA speaks so highly of your work, but they never said you were sooooooooo handsome.”  The anesthesiologist and I laughed loudly while the shy and quiet doctor, turned bright red.  When I finally got to see Jen later that afternoon, she had no recollection of anything past the doctor consult, prior to receiving the “relaxer.”  I have gotten a million miles out of that moment.

Jen heads back to Arizona on Friday and will fully recover within 2 weeks.  Though infection is possible, it is unlikely.  Jen will be sore and tired. Because she lives at 7000 feet, she may experience more tiredness than normal.

Amy visits the Cancer Center daily for monitoring.  We won’t know if the bone marrow is accepted for months and up to a year.  She has a long road yet ahead.  Infection is the most common complication after transplant and can be life threatening. Because the body’s immune system is compromised (more so than normal), the risk of infection is high. Another concern is veno-occlusive disease that can occur within 20 days of transplant. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments can cause a buildup of dead cells that  block the blood vessels of these organs. About half of all bone marrow  transplant patients develop this complication–which can be deadly. Those at  highest risk are patients with pre-existing liver disease, infections or those  taking antibiotics at the same time as their chemotherapy treatments.  Amy has these pre-existing conditions so we’re on alert.  If that wasn’t enough, there is always Graft versus Host Disease that occurs when the newly transplanted bone marrow cells reject the body. In acute  GVHD, the condition begins within 100 days of the bone marrow transplant. In  chronic GVHD, it may not surface until 3 to 12 months after the transplant. The  condition usually starts as a skin rash that progresses to involve the liver and  intestinal tract. Preventative medication is given to transplant patients to  combat this condition before it can begin. Once this complication develops, it  is usually treatable but can be life-threatening.

The bone marrow transplant is an attempt to give Amy new life, free of some or all of her known diseases and ailments. Yet, there are serious potential obstacles she may have to hurdle along the way. We can only hope and pray at this point.

Huge thanks to our friends and family across the nation for your love, kind words and prayers.

Thank you to my employer, Ware Malcomb, for your flexibility, patience and continuous support.

A shout out of sincere thanks to Northern Arizona University, Jen’s employer, for having excellent benefits to support her generous donation.

UWMC & SCCA, what an incredibly handsome and beautiful team you have!  Thank you for your tremendous efforts, kindness and compassion that you give daily.  Please take good care of Amy.

Love and hugs to my mom for all that you do to help Amy through her struggles.  I love you momma!

Jen, you are good and sooooo handsome with incredible core strength.  I love you and Wendall.  Go Blue!

Amy, you have gone through so much and we can only hope that the upcoming days, weeks, and months throughout this year are without infection and disease and you are given an opportunity to live again.  I love you.

If you are interested in donating bone marrow, contact your local Cancer Center or register at https://www.deletebloodcancer.org

 

Be Well October 5, 2013

University recruiting is my favorite part of my job.  Not only do I travel to great cities, awesome universities that make me want to go back to school, I also get to meet really inspiring, energetic and brilliant students that renew my faith in humanity with their fearlessness, maturity and ambition.  These fantastic youth also carry germs.  The only job hazard I have, other than tripping on my way down the hall from my kitchen to my office in my own house, is catching these germs while on campus.  I shake hands with anywhere from 200-300 students.  Despite my hand-sanitizing efforts, I manage to catch their colds every fall.

I’ve tried not shaking hands, keeping my hands behind my back and just nodding but being reserve and intrinsic isn’t my style.  I’m really a hugger so engaging in a handshake is more my speed.

So after my whirlwind tour of Toronto, Cincinnati and Denver last week with poor sleep habits, I invariably caught a cold and ear infection.  I emailed in sick to work on Friday.  How lame is that?  Dear Boss, can’t make it to work today, I’m sick.  This doesn’t mean I can’t stumble down the hall and turn on my office light and sit in front of my computer.  Me calling in sick means I can not peel my head off my desk to look at my computer screen and no way possible am I able to talk on the phone.  I am unable to represent, therefore I am sick.

Sleeping all day Friday and not dragging myself out of bed until 10:30 AM this morning (plus some good meds from Urgent Care) and I’m back among the living.

Let me tell you, nothing thrills my husband more than me being gone for a week then being sick for a week.  How can I make it up to him?  Not well….I’m gone this next week and part of the following too.  Love, love will keep us together (Captain and Tenille quote) but we’re looking forward to October 19 when our lives return to normal.

Being well is my goal.  What better way to be well than to go out at night in the brisk 50 degree weather that’s quickly dropping into the low 40’s tonight for some Halloween fun!  Tonight we went to the Incredible Corn Maze (shout out http://www.incrediblecornmaze.com), specifically for the Haunted Corn Maze.

Here are my Children of the Corn:

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There were four mazes, some up a couple of miles long!  We did two of the mazes, including the haunted maze.  IT WAS AWESOME!!!  The mazes are cut into the corn field.  The haunted maze, with no dead ends, had  people jumping out and scaring the bejeezus out of you.  In the dark!  We ran, we screamed, we tripped, we fell, we laughed and laughed and most of all, we had tons of fun.  At the end, a very tall guy in a zombie clown mask carrying a real sounding but fake blade chainsaw jumps out and chases all who pass.  He chased our three boys almost all the way back to the ticket booth!  This isn’t a spoiler…you see him chasing others while you wait your turn.  Yet our boys kept running, and he kept chasing.  adrenaline was pumping at the end.

Part of our move to Spokane from Orange County California was to expose our kids, and us, to new experiences.  Corn mazes, especially haunted corn mazes and on this scale, are definitely something they never would have experienced in Southern California.  Growing up in Ohio, with plenty of corn fields, we didn’t have corn mazes, so this was a fun “first” experience for all.

A great family night outside, enjoying Autumn weather, getting a taste of Halloween fun and trying something new.

Be well.

 

What’s Cooking? August 31, 2013

Today, on August 31, I received my October issue of Family Circle magazine.

I love magazines, as I have mentioned many times.  I subscribe to Family Circle, Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart Living, Whole Living, Sunset (Northwest edition!), Fast Company, Dwell, Bon Appetit, Real Simple, Mother Earth News, Real Simple Family, Eating Well, Fitness, and Bon Appetit.  I read every one, cover to cover. I also dissect the magazines as I go along, tearing out articles, webpages referenced, house and garden project ideas, clothing ideas, recipes and anything else that strikes my mood.  I then file the tear outs into folders for future reference. My system is justified (monthly to my husband) as I get rid of what I don’t want, so I don’t store magazines in their entirety and my system is efficient because I regularly review my files to either use or purge the information.

My magazine process works but is completely ridiculous.  For one, at work, I am completely virtual, operating without paper day in and day out. Second, I despise filing, even more so than ironing. Yet, for whatever reason, my magazine system, filing included, brings me joy.

Have you ever noticed, while reading a magazine, that, in the food section, only weeknight menus are provided?   Real Simple, Eating Well, Better Homes and Gardens and Family Circle all provide 5 meals to get you through the week.  Family Circle also provides a month of weeknight dinners in the October issue. 

I don’t know about you, but I cook seven days a week (or at least strive to).  We have to eat seven days a week. Why then, do magazines only provide 5 days worth of menus for a week?  Maybe the thought is that you have more time on the weekend than you do during the week to plan your dinner menu.  I don’t know about you, but my weekends are equally as busy as my weekdays.  Or perhaps magazine people dine out on the weekends or mooch meals off of family and friends.  I can’t speak for magazine people, I don’t know their rationale.

My rationale is to plan dinner for every night of the week, all 28, 30 or 31.  If I am able to dine out or mooch meals off family or friends, you know I’m there, but I have a back up plan.

Here is our September menu for every night of the 30 days hath September.  Every week, we have a meatless meal, one or two nights of fish/seafood, and a pasta.  We only have beef 1-2 a month with chicken and pork as our standing meat meals.  I use recipes from family favorites, current magazines, cookbooks and from my file collections.  As I prepare the calendar I collect the recipes and clip it all together for easy reference.  A method to my madness, or just madness? Enjoy.

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday

1

Spinach Mushroom Quiche w/ Salad

 

2

BBQ Chicken

Potato Salad

Corn on Cob

Goodbye Summer

3

Shredded Beef Tacos

Rice & Beans

Guac

4

Ratatouille & Pasta

 

5

Turkey Meatloaf

Baked Potatoes

Green Beans

 

6

Coho Salmon w/ herbed quinoa

7

Soccer Tournament

Dinner Out

8

Scallops & Summer Squash

 

9

Loaded Baked Potato Soup & Salad

 

10

Pork Milanese with Sweet Potatoes

 

11

Eggplant Parmesan

 

12

Braised Chicken with Fennel & Brown Rice

 

13

Cod with tomatoes, polenta and sautéed spinach

 

14

Pork Tenderloin with Red Cabbage

 

 

15

Chicken & Dumplings

 

16

Broccoli Soup & Salad

 

17

Chicken Marsala w/bowtie pasta

18

Bean & Cheese Burritos

19

Hash& Eggs

 

20

Salmon Cakes with Lemon & Dill

 

21

My Birthday Dinner Out!

 

22

Chicken Pot Pie

 

23

Minestrone & Garlic Bread

 

24

Chicken Enchiladas

25

DIY Pizza

26

Chicken Piccata & Broccoli

27

Shrimp Risotto

 

28

Bratwurst & Sauerkraut

 

 

 

29

Chili & Cornbread

 

30

Andre’s 8th Birthday Dinner Out!

 

 

         
 

For the Love of Family August 26, 2013

How do I follow-up to yesterday’s drama post? First by thanking all of you that reached out with your kind words to my family and I. Thank you for your love and support.  Before moving forward, I have to correct my errors in Support Me Support Them, of course.

My first correction is that my older sister isn’t 47, she’s only 46.  I will be 45 in September so everyone ages up accordingly on my birthday whether you are ready or not. Seems fair to me.  My sister will turn 47 in November though she sees September 18 as her second birthday.  Everyone wants to be a Virgo.  We’re awesome that’s why.

Second correction is that if I painted a picture of family bliss, forgive me.  Truth be told, my family makes me freaking, in the full f-bomb sense of the word, crazy. You have never seen a more randomly patched together sibling foursome. So much so, I sometimes tell people who know us that I’m adopted, yet not. Refreshingly, we come together for a cause, willing to give all we are able, to help each other in time of need. Get the picture?

A wise person I know says you can never expect world peace because families can not get along. True.  Family feuds didn’t begin nor will they end with me.

My position is that you do not get to choose your family members as you are born into family.  You do, however, get to choose how you spend your time and who you spend your time with as it is your life to live.  This practice typically gets me into trouble or pisses some relative off at any given point though their reaction doesn’t change my belief. 

Differences and feuding aside, I am happy to help my family in their time of great need.

Now that I’ve cleared the air, corrected my errors and came clean with my family life, my day centered on things far more trivial than family coming together over bone marrow transplants.  Two hours of my life were lost on fixing my iphone that started wheezing and losing functionality throughout the day.  TRAGIC!  My phone is my life support  which I rely on heavily. My life, as it functions, stopped.  resuscitation was not possible though Verizon’s help desk or tech support gave two hours of their intense investigation.  Proudly I didn’t lose it on the agent that asked me if I tried the volume buttons to adjust the sound of the ear audio that went out.  Who is this person that doesn’t check the volume buttons?  I am adding them to the list of people I want to meet (see the shell collection person from prior blog post). Kissing the ground thankful that the Extended Warranty covers my phone and a new one arrives tomorrow. Happiness (at least a gigantic sigh of relief) is a new phone. 

Healthcare of the future should include an Extended Warranty (insurance, as you all know, costs a ton of money yet offers no guarantee).  Hello, my liver is shot.  No, no abuse, yes I’m under age 50, may I have another liver? Tried that liver but it didn’t work out for you?  No problem.  Here’s another, just be sure to send in the old one back to us within 5 days.  I think I’m on to something.  Feel free to steal my idea and make extended warranty healthcare happen.  Could you get busy?  September 18 is quickly approaching.

 

My Daily Blog: T-2 Family Ties June 17, 2013

My husband’s family is from Bellingham Washington.  I don’t know all of the details, forgive me if I unintentionally misrepresent the family, this is the story I’ve been told, or at least what I can remember this morning:

Back in…, I don’t know when, long ago in a land far, far away, two Ivecivic-Bakulic brothers left Croatia for America, one was my husband’s great-grandfather. They landed in Bellingham Washington.  Croatians are natural fisherman as the Dalmatian Islands in the Adriatic Sea off the Croatian coast provide stunning scenery and incredible fishing. Bellingham Washington is at the very tippy top of the U.S. providing access to bountiful fishing in U.S. and Canadian waters.

After the two brothers land in Bellingham, one stayed, and shortened and Americanized the last name to Bakulich.  The other brother takes the Ivecivic last name, then and changes it to Ivich and moves to Ciudad Obregon Mexico. Eventually parts of the Washington contingent moved to San Pedro California, for the temperate climate, great fishing and similar landscape to Croatia.  The Bakulich family now extends from Washington to Mexico.

My husband grew up in San Pedro and always wanted a fishing boat.  My husband remembers his father pulling him aside and telling him, ‘I have a surprise’.  My husband responded, ‘You bought a fishing boat?’ ‘No,’ his father replied, ‘I bought a bowling alley.’  What?  Needless to say my husband is a really good bowler!

Now the third and fourth Bakulich generation moves to Washington.  Not moving to Bellingham, though we did visit there once and considered moving there years ago, the timing and the vibe weren’t right for us.  Fishing is on our to-do list in Spokane.

My husband grew up fishing on the Pacific Ocean. My childhood summers were spent fishing in lakes in Ohio and Michigan. Between the two of us, we will – well, we should – be able to teach our kids something about fishing.  We have taken then kids fishing in California with no luck, except for that one time at the trout farm but that doesn’t really count.

One definite rule once they actually do catch some fish,  they have to clean what they catch. Nothing like chopping of fish heads, managing fish guts and scraping scales to appreciate fishing.   Eating what they catch will be fun too. The older boys will eat what they are given, our youngest is very picky…yet he ate a raw oyster not long ago…so there is hope.  We have hope there is fish to catch, clean and eat in Washington.

In addition to my husband’s family history, my family has migrated to Seattle in recent years.  My mom and stepdad transplanted from California almost 10 years ago.  My  sister moved from Michigan to Seattle 2-3 years ago.  Though Seattle is a 4.5 hour drive from Spokane (or a 50 minute flight my husband likes to point out), Seattle is a closer commute than what we currently have in California.

Washington knows our families that have come before us.  Washington has treated them well.  Though Spokane is new to us, we have Washington in our blood, like family.

Editor’s note:  I’m no longer aloud to go out drinking then write a blog post.  I forgot to hashtag!  I love hashtags and thought about my missing hashtags all day. 

 

T-16 Persevere June 3, 2013

No ink on my skin, just so you know.   Tattoos are interesting and have a great history. Tattoos fascinate me. Tweety Bird or other Looney Tune characters always make me look at the person twice. Personally, the importance or connection to one specific character is odd.  Why not the entire cast or a funny scene depicted instead? Why people choose the tats they do could be an endless research project for someone other than me.  For me, there isn’t a picture or symbol that is meaningful enough that stand the test of time, forever. Words, however, are more powerful to me.  Though not enough to brand into my skin.  The Inspector Gadget digital display hat band is more my style.  Or if rotating tattoos were possible, my forehead would be the location of choice.  Today’s digital display would read:  Persevere.

My youngest said when he started kindergarten, “Why do we go to school 5 days but only have 2 days off?  That’s not fair”.  No son, it isn’t fair, welcome to the world.  If sports have Hell Week, this is our Butt Dragging Week. Coming off a busy weekend and late nights, we are definitely in prime butt dragging mode.  My house, me included, did not want to get out of bed this morning. There are 10 days left until school is out, this is the last week of “work”. Sixth grade has final tests all week (as if they have any brain power left), second and third grade have tests and plays to perform. Homework all week as well. The kids are mentally checked out.

Then there is the other part of life.  For me, we have the pending move which is motivating me to get stuff done.  For the kids, who are struggling with their emotions with the move, each day closer to the actual move is more and more difficult.  “We must persevere” is not what they want to hear, nor what anyone wants to hear, in times of struggle.  For me, compassionately parenting the woeful is my challenge.

What we need is a rally cry.  Where is William Wallace when you need him?  Maybe we just need face paint and kilts?  (Armor, battle axes, shields, or other battle gear intentionally excluded). That would definitely change things up around here.  Oh wait, that’s a battle cry.  No battles against tyranny allowed in my house where we could mistakenly (in our opinion) be viewed as tyrannical parents. You must move, you must go to school, you must take tests, you must do homework.  Yep, that us.

We need a cheer!  And cheerleaders!  Go Team Go! Give me a P.E.S.E.V.E.R.E. Yeah!  Persevere!  Woo!

Or maybe something in between.  Taking each day as it comes, each obstacle/hurdle/emotion along with it, and doing our best to persevere.