multi-hyphenated-me

the hyphens that define my life

Michigan March 7, 2014

You can take the girl out of Michigan, but you can’t take Michigan out of the girl.

As if this trip to my sister’s memorial service isn’t emotional enough, I didn’t anticipate the flood of emotion from recognizing city sign markers driving into town, under an hour away from my grandparents home. It has been an easy 20 years since I’ve visited central Michigan, Branch Township, where I spent weeks of my childhood summers at my grandparents’ home, eighty acres in the Manistee National Forest.

My grandfather drove a yellow Scout. Whenever we went to Reed City, Big Rapids, Irons, Baldwin, White Cloud or Ludington, we didn’t take the main roads and highways. My grandfather drove dirt roads, typically named some-number Mile Road, or two tracks, stopping along the way so my grandmother could harvest some anti-itch orange flower she’d boil and make ice cubes or shake chokecherries or crabapples out of the tree so she’d make into jam, or so he could catch a snapping turtle to make into soup. I kid you not you uneducated city folk. A trip to town was always an adventure.

It was the 70’s and my grandparents were into their CB and police scanner. We all had CD handles. Did you?

Breaker one-nine, breaker one-nine (somehow it was always channel 19). What were our CB handles? I know my cousins will piece it together for me tomorrow. There was Buckeye Ike and Buckeye Rambler. My mom’s was Katydid, I think. I can’t remember either of my sister’s CB handles. My brother was Kingfisher (uh huh, sure) and all I can say about my CB handle is that I’m consistent, Aggravation. Right? No shit.

Michigan.

Pine trees, walks in the woods, ferns, deer, bluegill and bass fishing, Troutorama, Blue Moon and Mint Chip ice cream, sand dunes, French fries in coon fat, playing cards, sun tea, snowmobiles, tractor rides, ATVs, mopeds, wild blueberries, sassafras, wintergreen, mushroom hunting, jam, pie, fish fry, homemade noodles, boating on the lake, building forts, 2 miles to check the mail, two tracks, deer blinds, salt licks, outhouses, main house, cabin, hammocks, chipmunks, which way: the front way or the back way, quilts, crochet, knit, old typewriter, Harlequin romance novels, cookbooks, jam, the ladder to the basement, then the back porch, lake house, slide shows, cousins, aunts, uncles, family.

The last time I was here, not counting funerals, on purely social accounts, was when I was 21, maybe 22. I took a month and drove across country, National Park hopping and camping, mostly by myself, with the exception of 4 days at the start with a friend. That was 23 years ago. Some things never change. Michigan may have changed, but not in my heart.

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Double Feature Advent-ageous Post 2 of 2 December 9, 2013

After dancing all Saturday night, I woke Sunday morning hurting.  Not from a hangover, from exhaustion.  My weekend of fun and adventure caught up with me.     The real bite was that I forgot to close the blackout curtains in my hotel room and the sun woke me up at 6:45 AM.  I realized at dawn that though I’m capable of keeping up with my nineteen year old daughter-date, I have no business keeping up with her, newsflash. Once I’m up, I’m up, so I packed my things and headed to Starbucks where I did what comes naturally, write a blog post while drinking my coffee.

My friends had scheduled a friendly soccer scrimmage so my son could play with his old team.  I hadn’t checked on him all weekend.  When I left him Friday, I told him to text me a couple of times so I’d know he was ok.  He didn’t.  I didn’t text him, or my friend he was with, either.  We clearly needed our space.

The soccer game was terrific, my son’s knee is healed and he rallied to keep up with his old teammates.  The sidelines are always a good time hanging out with my soccer mom friends.  Commenting on the game, teasing one another and just catching up keeps us very busy.  We were thrilled when a street vendor rolled his cart onto our side of the field to sell Mexican Street Corn. Have you had this?  It will most likely kill you but it is incredible.  This corn was steamed (for the record, next time, I prefer my street corn roasted), slathered in mayonnaise, covered in cojita cheese, rolled in liquid margarine and topped with ground chili powder. We opted out of the chili powder this once.  My friend doesn’t do spice and I had a long day ahead of me that I didn’t need  sabotaged by digestive disaster (see what I am willing to share, like I said, I’m a giver).  Mayo and liquid margarine though are fine.  Logic and common sense, that’s what my friend and I share, in case you’re wondering.

I make Mexican Street Corn at home slightly different as I’m not Mexican nor a street vendor but I am a foodie. First, I roast the corn on the grill which is my favorite way to eat corn on the cob.  My mayo isn’t straight for the jar.  I do use mayo from the jar and add chili powder and lime juice.  This trifecta combination is fantastic. Cojita cheese can be tricky to find sometimes.  Cojita is best, but in a pinch, use grated parmesan and chow down.

I’m pretty certain we missed the entire second half of the soccer game as I have no recollection of the game other than one goal.  All about the street corn!

After lunch, we said our goodbyes which are never easy.  Since our son has struggled with our move, we were concerned that he would be worse off by visiting than by not visiting at all.  We had been talking about our departure prior to leaving than about the trip itself.  Then we left.

At the airport our son was melancholy but not the train wreck I envisioned.  All was well, except our plane was late and we didn’t get home until 11:30 PM.  Though  a long and busy weekend, there is not one thing I would change.

Getting people together is what the holidays is about.  Anvent-ageous Day 8 is gratitude for the incredible, talented, giving, and loving people in our lives.  We are blessed for each and every person in our lives.

 

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.

 

Baker’s Dozen July 23, 2013

Happy 13th Anniversary to my husband and me!  A Baker’s Dozen sounds much better than the Dirty Dozen we celebrated last year.  I didn’t post last night because I couldn’t find the photo that I wanted to post.  Grr.  The photo was from our family trip to Palm Springs.  We rented a house, left Jess and the boys and went to dinner at Johanne’s.  We had one of the best meals of our lives for anniversary #12. This is a photo from 2011, we spent our 11th anniversary going to the gym (before we started dating, we were workout buddies), getting facials (which explains my shiny no makeup face – Vince grew up with 3 sisters, he is spa savvy), eating sushi and going to the OC Fair.

us

This is one of my favorite photos from our wedding (photo credit:  Mark Beat).  We were married at the Ritz Carlton, Dana Point in a buddhist ceremony (see my buddhist prayer beads on my hand) on an incredibly hot, still day.

wedding bw

Jessica was 4 years old and our beautiful flower girl.  My mom made her dress, my sister arranged all the flowers.

wedding jess

We’re not sure what we’re doing tonight.  The boys have had lots of ideas all weekend. Andre suggested we leave immediately on a cruise, dropping them off at the airport so Trace and Niko can fly to their friends, Kyle and Ryan’s house and he would fly to his friend Lachlan’s house.  Bon Voyage!  Niko, a traditionalist, suggested dinner and a movie.  Trace had no recommendations but loves to tell our engagement story, which he finds hilarious.

We met Vince’s sister and brother-in-law in San Francisco.  They were flying home from Oahu, Hawaii with an extended layover in San Francisco.  His brother-in-law had never been to San Francisco and we gave them a full tour. Vince and I spent many (at least 10) weekends in San Francisco in the two years prior as I worked with the San Francisco Starbucks Development team.  My Monday morning meetings conveniently created weekend trips to San Francisco.  Our trips were budget conscience is boutique hotels.  This trip we all stayed at the incredibly stunning, historic Palace Hotel. That night, at dinner at a restaurant I can’t remember the name, we clinked our wine glasses in a toast and I, naturally, dropped my full glass of cabernet on the table.  The glass shattered and the entire contents spilled on to Vince’s sister’s lap.  I was mortified!  She, thankful to be wearing black, took the disaster in stride, mopped up the mess and we continued with dinner. Christening his sister must have been the nudge Vince needed, he proposed that night.

Vince’s family flew home and we continued our travels to Seattle to celebrate our engagement.

Here we are, thirteen years later, in love.

 

My Daily Blog: T-4 Man Enough to Cry June 15, 2013

Nothing makes my heart hurt more than seeing my children cry.  I’m not talking about the whiney fit throwing cry when they don’t get their way, then they can cry all they want, I am immune (or, at the very least, I talk a good game).  After the final soccer game with his Chelsea Blue team today, his coaches said incredibly kind words and wished our twelve-year-old, Trace, well on his journey.  Trace accepted the words, the gifts and hugs with chin quivering and tears streaming down his face.

Trace is hit hardest, emotionally, with our move.  He’s leaving the school he’s attended and friends he has made since first grade.  He’s leaving the team and coaches he has played with for two years.  He’s really just coming into his own and we’re yanking the rug out from under him. We are paying the price.  The solemn looks, the anger, the frustration, the sadness and lots of tears have been given in heavy doses since we announced the move.  Totally understandable but it doesn’t change our decision.

On the drive home today after the game, we talked about emotions.  I told Trace I was proud of him for letting his emotions show, for crying and not holding in or masking his feelings.  Trace said he loved playing with the team and his coaches are awesome. He appreciated his coach saying that whenever Trace is in town, he has an open invitation to play with the Chelsea team.  He felt loved, his efforts appreciated.

Trace is looking forward to playing with FC Spokane.  We arrive in Spokane on Friday and he will begin training on Monday.  Trace has had great coaches over the years and has developed well with their training.  We are excited to see how Trace’s game develops further with new coaches, a new team and new training.

When we first joined with Chelsea, (it was then JUSA Crew), I forewarned the coaches I was loud, I cheer words of encouragement, and I question the referees occasionally.  The coach said he welcomed the entire family.  To my credit, I haven’t gotten kicked out of a game or scolded by a referee. Yet.  I didn’t happen to mention my sideline charm to the FC Spokane coaches.  I’ll let this post be their fair warning. They will learn soon enough, plus I didn’t want to hurt Trace’s chances of getting on a team.  Since we are so busy getting settled this summer, and I need time to learn all the boys names, I’m going to try really really hard to be mellow this summer and ease my way in with the fall season. Wishing myself luck with that plan.

I love watching Trace play soccer.  I have loved his time spent with JUSA Crew/Chelsea Blue. Though it was a tear jerker for everyone watching, I am proud that he loves his team and coaches so much he needed to cry today.  My maternal reaction when my kids cry is to run to them, hold them and comfort them.  You know your kid is growing up when they reach out to his teammates for support and they are there to support him.

One final group hug, Trace called out the final team huddle and we left with well wishes from all. Thank you Andy and Dave for the time, energy, dedication, encouragement, love and support you gave to our son.

FC Spokane I hope you’re ready for Trace.  He is a beast on the soccer field and emotionally in the game.  And **BONUS** you got me on the sideline.

 

T-18 Perspective June 1, 2013

Filed under: Life,Quotes — multihyphenatedme @ 7:54 am
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Do you know where you were and what you were doing 6 years ago today?  I do.

My husband was working in Los Angeles. Our two older kids were at school in Kindergarten and 7th grade. The younger two ages 3 and 2 were left with a babysitter as I drove 20 miles from Parks into Flagstaff AZ to to work with a fast wifi connection before runnng errands.  My favorite stop was Late for the Train coffee shop on Milton Road for their many tables, fast wifi and good coffee.  My car was on fumes when I rolled into the parking lot.  I added “get gas” to my list of errands to run later.

After an hour of so, I received a call from the school superintendent to tell me, the school board president, that there was a fatal accident involving three sisters (two of our students and an 18-year-old) of a local Parks family travelling to California around midnight the previous night.  The two small classes (10-15 students in each) involved, 5th and 7th grade, were extremely upset and crisis counselors had been contacted. Inside the coffee shop, I yelled into the phone for information and details.  As I grabbed my computer and stuff, my phone rang again.  This time it was someone (I can’t remember who) explaining that my daughter, as well as the rest of the 7th grade class, was hysterically upset over the tragic loss of their friend and I needed to get on campus as soon as possible.  I explained I was in town and would arrive in 20 minutes.

Everyone in the coffee shop, strangers and those who knew me as a regular alike, stared silently as they witnessed my distress and sensed the urgency to get out of there as quickly as possible.

I ran to my car.  Leaving the parking lot I realized (DAMN) no gas.  I banged on the steering wheel screaming expletives.  I quickly drove to the nearest gas station.  In my haste and stress and delirium, I couldn’t remember what side the gas tank was on, even though I had owned the car many years. I drove around and around the pumps, unable to get the car positioned with the tank next to the pump.  Frustrated and crazed I got out of the car and stretched the pump until it reached around my car to pump gas. Shaking, I only pumped what I needed to get me to the school.

Eighteen miles. Blindly driving.  Crying.  Screaming.  Disbelieving.

Six years later, my friend grieves the loss of her babies. Each year, this is the hardest week of her life, May 31 the hardest day and summer is tough with each girl’s birthday one right after the other in June, July and August.

Yet it was this week that this friend beautifully posted: “someone somewhere is struggling more than you can imagine. be grateful for what you have, how very insufficient it may seem at times. be thankful for those around you. make sure your kids know, WITHOUT A DOUBT that they are loved. that is the greatest legacy we leave our children”.

That’s perspective.

Alohna, Bryanna, Charless, you are remembered,  you are loved.

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