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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Breaking the Silence: A Beloved Advocate’s Legacy

Teal isn’t just another pretty color. For many, it’s a reminder of a deadly killer who strikes without warning. The family of Nadine Kenkel knows this all too well.

Last month I was asked to join the Relay for Life committee to write monthly articles to shed light on cancer awareness. I was excited about the request—tapping into my writing hobby to do some good. With September designated as Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, I knew the first person I wanted to interview. And after sitting down with a sweet, young pregnant woman named Jenna Hucka who lost her mother to cancer, I misjudged one thing about myself. My emotional capacity to withhold tears. Impossible.
Jenna and Nadine

The following post is a version of the article that will run in the Harlan Tribune next week.

Jenna, along with her father (Steve), brother (Tony), husband (Todd), and toddler daughter (Priya Nadine) continue a tireless journey to raise awareness and funding for Colleen’s Dream Foundation in which 100% of the proceeds go toward ovarian cancer research—there are no paid employees. This year, the Annual Breaking the Silence Tournament, started by Nadine in four years ago raised over $18,000 for the cause. Myrtue Hospital sponsored a bake sale and raised $1,500. Next Tuesday night's HS volleyball game will sponsor a Teal-Out to raise even more money. Without this level of community support, there would be no research going on.

Ovarian cancer is not only the fifth leading cause of death, but the leading cause of gynecologic cancer deaths among women according to the American Cancer Society.  September has been designated as Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, so break out your teal and listen up.

When detected early, 93% of women survive five years. However, fewer than 15% of cases are diagnosed early because currently there is no effective screening or early detection test. For women who discover the cancer in its later stages, less than 50% survive past five years. Awareness is critical.

Nadine Kenkel died of ovarian cancer at the age of 56. Her story is a blend of tragedy, inspiration, and a dose of humor– for anyone who knows Nadine, that's no surprise.

Nadine and Steve
In 2010 the vibrant nurse began having some seemingly mild symptoms: bloating, weight gain, feeling full quickly. Eventually a fever convinced her to seek help. Her practitioner, Jill Ferry, discovered an infection and prescribed medication. Unable to knock the fever, Nadine returned a few days later. Ferry found fluid around her abdomen and sent it for a biopsy. By the time Nadine arrived home from the clinic, she received a disturbing call. Less than a week later, Nadine was in surgery, having a football-sized tumor removed.

Nadine endured three full rounds of chemotherapy, 18 weeks each, over 4 year time frame. She experienced fatigue, loss of hair, and nausea. But that didn’t stop Nadine from pursuing a cause. It also didn’t stop her sense of humor. Always trying to get her stoical oncologist to crack, on one particular visit, she boasted of her new "tattoo" on her leg. He cracked.

Speaking to over 1,000 women after her diagnosis, Nadine elevated the “Break the Silence” campaign, urging women to be vigilant and watch for signs including:

      • Bloating
      • Pelvic and Abdominal Pain
      • Feeling Full Quickly
      • Urinary Symptoms (Urgency or Frequency)

Common symptoms, no doubt. Differentiating these from normal monthly symptoms can be tricky. “Don’t be afraid to see a specialist,” said Jenna. “These doctors understand the disease and know what to look for.” Without a screening tool available at this time, being aware is the best method for early detection.

Ovarian cancer risk factors have been identified. Women should consider:

Family History and Genetics: Having a mother, sister of daughter with the disease increases risk. Genetic mutations BRCA1 and BRCA2 have also been linked to increased risk. A test can identify these mutations.

Age: The average age of diagnosis is 63 years.

Pregnancies: Women who have never been pregnant have an increased risk.

Menstruation: Increased risk occurs for women who experienced early menses or frequent cycles.

Hormone Replacement Therapy: Women who have used HRT to alleviate menopause symptoms have an increased risk. 

Nadine worked diligently the last few years of her life to spread vital information. The medical clinic always knew when Nadine had spoken because appointments would fill up with women experiencing ovarian cancer symptoms. Certainly, her message had impact.

On August 25th, 2014, Nadine lost her battle–four years after her diagnosis. After her death, her oncologist admitted to her family that after he had removed Nadine’s difficult tumor, he didn’t think she’d live a year. But her sense of purpose, good humor, and sheer determination proved him wrong. Not only did she survive longer than expected, but she survived to make a difference. Now her family carries on her legacy.
Nadine and her Princess: Priya Nadine

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Guest Blogger: Diane Stamp, Pure Enthusiast

Whenever I'm having a stressful day at work, there's one person I can call for lunch or even a quick chat and suddenly, my perspective has changed. I will be deeply sad next year when my friend of 19 years retires. We began at the Shelby County State Bank the same year, and I can't quite imagine my work life without Diane Stamp. However, I'm truly happy for the girl who hasn't stopped dreaming or creating goals for herself. Just last week, she made her debut as a public speaker–her post-retirement venture. As one of the most inspirational people I know, I asked if she'd offer a few thoughts on my blog.

Please welcome, Diane Stamp:

What are you passionate about?   Wow!  What a question!  Well, there’s so much in life to be passionate about, but right now at this stage in my life, I’m all about having a good time with my family and friends.  I love having lunch with a friend, shopping with a bargain hunting buddy, sipping a drink before dinner with my hubby, or reading books and sharing giggles with my grand-daughters.  
Did I say grand-daughters?  Oh yeah – they are not just my passion, they are my life!  Like any other grandmother, I am not ashamed to say that MINE are the best!  My little Joslyn (age 9) and Maggie (age 4 ½) are such a blessing to me.  After having two brothers and two sons, you can only imagine the joy I have for these two little girls!
Can I share a quick story?  Way back when Joslyn was about 18 months old, I made the mistake of telling her that Grandma did not like crabby girls.  Well- that just opened the door for a grandma that had no particular name until then.  After she saw how I hooted and howled when she called my hubby “cobby poppo”, she decided that since I enjoyed that so much, she would make it MY name.  So--- for the last 7 ½ years I have lovingly been called, “cobby gammo” which graduated into “crabby grandma” 
Now – move forward to just last week.  My little Maggie has been so confused.  “Gramma”, she said.  “Why are you “crabby grandma?  You’re not crabby!”  
Finally!  A child who agrees with me!  So her mother suggested that she choose a name more fitting.  So little Maggie thinks a bit and then spouts out, “Gramma Kitty Farts!”  OMG!  I haven’t decided yet if “Gramma Kitty Farts” is an improvement or not!!  Where did these kids come from??? 

What are your current career plans?  RETIREMENT!!  My plans are to retire at the end of February.  I’m excited to explore other ventures and my hope is to get into motivational speaking.  I spoke at the Shelby County Women’s Conference and I totally loved it!  So if you are looking for a speaker for a meeting or an event, please give me a call.

How did you decide to pursue this path?  After being a banker for over 30 years, I feel like now is my time to walk down the path of spontaneous adventure.  I have hired many speakers in the past and they always seemed to be so free spirited and such good story tellers.  Many times, as I sat and listened, I thought, “I could do that.”  So now’s the time!  It’s now or never!

What advice would you give others about achieving their dreams?  Well, first of all LIVE FOR TODAY!  Don’t let one slip by without being thankful for what you have and without dreaming about what you want.  Dream and dream big!!!
PS – another piece of advice for those who are soon to become first time grandmothers-
When your kids ask you what you want to be called as a grandparent, do not say that your grandchild will figure it out on their own!!!!  
Anything else?  Yes.  It’s a busy life.  We all know that, but if you have the support of your family and friends, you have it all!  Thanks Jerry, Jerod, Jordan and of course my mom for being my rock then, now and forever!

Thanks Diane for your humor and inspiration! And best of luck on your new, second career. While you'll be a loss to the bank, you'll be a gift to your new audiences!

Maggie, Jocelyn and...Crabby Grandma? Or Kitty Farts?

Monday, September 5, 2016

Tailgating: Then and Now

There's something proud and surreal about having a daughter attend your alma mater. These sentiments are expressly felt during that great festival known as tailgating. Last weekend the Iowa Hawkeyes opened their football season in Iowa City, and I found it impossible not become nostalgic and observe how quickly things change in 25-ish years.

Compare and contrast a young tailgater to one who is more seasoned:

Then: Drinking was a race: something to be conquered by 10:00 AM. There are no consequences–none that you'll remember anyway.
Now: Drinking is a strategy. Pacing and water are critical for an enjoyable day.

Food can wait. Dominos is open late.
Now:What are we going to eat? Let's plan. Procure the grill. Buy the burgers and brats. Bake something that won't melt in ninety degrees. For God's sake, bring plenty of food.

Then:With no uncertainty, someone is going to puke. Watch your tipsy step.
Now: Regrettably you forget that someone will puke, until it's a step too late. (Good luck on those flip flops Ann.)

You wonder why anyone over the age of 40 would sit in the Sports Column, and bring their high school sons. 
Now: You become distinctly aware of your age as you want nothing more than to stomp over to the DJ at the Sports Column and demand to lower the volume. And do something about that drunk spilling my son's Sprite!

Then: Boys are an emphatic nuisance whose filters become lost in a deluge of drink. You don't appreciate the flattery of their bawdy attention.
Me and my college roomie. Some time ago.
Now: Boys look over your head, unless of course you're Ann Heithoff  and get invited to party with a group of college lads at the ATM. 
My mommie friend Ann and me. Saturday.

Then: You catch a fleeting glance the middle age alumni who stake out their places in their fancy cars and RVs and think to yourself, "Awe. That's so sweet."
Now: You remember when you were a college student and noticed those old people. And you can't believe you became one. It's a little sad. But it's a lot great.

Tailgate and carry on.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Celebrating the #Fam

Last weekend we celebrated two events in our family: 22 years of wedded bliss and 15 years of raising our bouncing baby boy. Our anniversary and Cole's birthday happen to fall on the same day: August 27th. When I tell people this, I often get a look of sympathy. Some say, "Oh! That's too bad." As if we are sad or shortchanged by the overshadowing of a kid's birthday. But here's the deal: We scheduled Cole's birth to be on our anniversary. Yes we did.

Doug and I had always planned to have kids–almost from the day we met! (Maybe that was just me...) But when it didn't happen so easily, we began to recognize what a gift children would be for us. When we did finally get pregnant and squeak out a couple of babies, we were utterly and fantastically grateful. It wouldn't have mattered what day they came. My birthday! Christmas! Yom Kippur! Groundhog's Day! You wouldn't hear any complaining from us.

A family celebration is a family celebration, no matter what the reason or the date. I will use any excuse to commemorate the love and closeness of our family, even when not everyone can be together. Case in point: my college daughter sent the most awesome of texts on our family group message this weekend despite her inability to depart from Iowa City:

Say what you will about technology, but not much makes my heart happier when our core family banters on the Kramer vs Kramer vs Kramer vs Kramer messaging. We'll find anything to connect about: the defeat of the Red Sox, a puking spell, the intersection of a birthday/anniversary, or the best thing of all–poses of a weird cat.

Monday, August 22, 2016

#familytrip unplugged adventure

My friend and coworker Janet Buman always come back from her family vacation with absorbing tales. I believe this to be a combination of her exuberant personality and sense of adventure. (The other day I noticed she had posted a video of herself taking a minnow-shot. That's exactly what it sounds like...a shot of alcohol hosting a live minnow.) 

Janet and her husband Jeff have three kids (Tyler-16, Justine-13 and Trey-8) and apparently  all seem to share a resourceful and undaunted spirit. With her talent for writing, I asked if she would offer her experience on my blog. I think you will all enjoy!

Buman Family Travels

Lightning, CRACK! 

The day before our annual vacation the family was just getting out of our "county fair coma" and my husband Jeff and our three kids Tyler, Justine and Trey had one day to get ready for an 11-day trip north. Lightning had just fried our TV, fridge and other items and it should have been an omen of things to come for us. 

The next day we spent the entire day at amusement/water park , but when we got to the van, our trunk was wide open!  I had my purse with cash and cards in there - partially covered by a towel - but no one had touched it! 

From then on, the unexpected turns came on fast.  We then found the side van door was opening on its own too. Then, in the middle of high-traffic Minneapolis, something large blew out of the truck in front of us. Our front tires ran it over, but it got caught before it hit the back ones, so we dragged that around for a bit before it broke free and on to the next poor soul behind us. A little while later, Trey upchucked his entire lunch. Family tradition - someone always gets sick.

Our destination was Jeff's aunts cabin in Ely, Minnesota, a place we adore. Just before getting there we received word that the cabin was inaccessible.  There had been a huge storm, there was no power, trees were downed everywhere, we wouldn't get in. I suddenly felt like a refugee. Plan B - Call Jeff's Uncle John in Wisconsin.  

We've stayed with John before in a fairly decent guest house, but due to the storm that house had no power either, so we were put up at "The Camp". It became immediately clear that no one had been habitating the camp for quite some time. It was dark, dirty and musty so we tried to do everything away from it while we were there. 

For three days we rode a boat, swam, collected clams, played mini golf, and watched a lumberjack show. For the first time I can ever remember, the kids were nice and allowed me to take the first shower. This sounds like a nice gesture, but it was actually disguised as a dare.  The water there is terrible rusty and it makes their shower look like a complete rust bucket.  I wanted to shower in my socks. I made it through, but unbeknownst to them, the water heater didn't hold too much. Justine got lukewarm water and Tyler got hypothermia.  

One thing I haven't mentioned yet were our unwelcome house guest - the ants. We tried bug spray and hung up our trash from the ceiling, but the ants told the rest of the colony we were there and they kept coming in. Finally, we received word that the roads in Ely were clear enough we could drive there, although there wasn't going to be any electricity. Oddly, this still seemed like a step up from our current conditions. The next morning we said goodbye and high tailed it out of Antville!
Once we got to our cabin in Ely, the substantial amount of downed trees was overwhelming.  Had we gotten here just one day earlier than we originally planned, our van would have certainly been smashed. Having no electricity in a cabin really wasn't that bad, it was the lack of water turned out to be the area we had to get a little creative. For every 5 gallon bucket of water we needed to flush the toilet, Jeff had to haul lake water up and down a small hill. The water is pristine and we washed dishes with it and used a lot of bottled water for everything else.  

We made a 40 mile round trip every day getting the provisions we needed, such as food and ice. Jeff  made all our food on a wood fired grill and at night we ate by the light of the LED and our cell phone lights.  Every year that we've been to Ely I organize a scavenger hunt and this year Jeff threw in his own game, a Treasure Hunt. We had the kids on the hunt for clues, figuring out cryptic codes and messages. We played games inside went to bed listening to the loud hum of the mosquitoes outside. 
If we wanted to bathe - we had to take a 'lake shower'.  If I had known that the shower I had in Minneapolis was going to be the best real shower I would have in nine days, I would have enjoyed it more. Justine worked out a two-person system for washing her hair in a bucket so we all followed her method. 

We had better luck on the way home with our accommodations. But, the van doors were still opening on their own in ghostly fashion, we had a wheel bearing going out, and plus, the van was just really dirty. I spent time researching a new vehicle on the way home. 

When I tell people our tales of no power, water, ants and tree destruction, most say it must have been a bad experience. In fact, it was quite the opposite. We became resourceful and embraced the adventure together. One week later, we had already purchased another family van complete with extra storage space so we can carry all of our stuff up to the cabin again next year.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Departure Grief Reboot

Many of my friends have sent their kids off to college for the first time this past week. I remember the feeling all to well, equal parts proud and equal parts sad. I coped by blogging or crying to my dog. Here's one of the posts after I had sulked a couple of weeks. One year later I can tell you all who are grieving for your kid: next year will be a different story. It will be only a teensy bit sad. Maybe some teary eyes, but no waterfall. You'll start thinking more about tailgating aspects...and how happy you are that your kid is moving on brilliantly.

From last year:

It’s been just over two weeks since the dropoff and here’s what I know.

Forget wrinkles and achy joints. The worst part of getting old is taking your kids to college.

Yeah, I know. This is why you raise your kids—to be independent and find their way in the world. Blah. Blah. Blah. I simply want my little girl back. The little girl with the big brown, curious eyes and bobbed haircut. The five-year-old, asking me to read Olivia for the billionth time. I'll tell you what I would NOT do if I could back in time: I wouldn’t sigh about rehashing the clever little pig's mischiefs. Nor would I calculate all the tasks required to uphold an averagely-kept house. Nope. I'd let the laundry go undone! I'd leave the dishes sit on the counter! I might even allow the pets to puke on the carpet without throwing a tantrum. Maybe.

Some of you (the few, the proud, the followers) might have notice this blog on hiatus. The break was merely due to my grief. The perpetual lump in my throat and swirl about my guts as I ponder what's going on in my college-bound daughter's world. Everyone keeps asking me how’s she doing? I think to myself, How’s she doingI DON'T KNOW FOR SURE! GHEESH. THANKS FOR REMINDING ME SHE'S GONE!  

I have an inkling she's adjusted well. Clambered into to her new college life by jumping off the high dive. It’s me they should be asking about. How are YOU doing, mother of student? 

I guess I’m coping. I think about her all the time...probably too much. I wonder if she misses her family as much as we miss her. I’ve reached out to her a bit (quite a bit as she has pointed out), hoping we could Facetime. Apparently, I’m catching her at bad times. Almost always a bad time. Two days ago she said she’d call me back later. I’m still waiting for that call. It’s like I’m in high school again, waiting for the boy to ask me to a dance. And he's just not interested in the nerdy bookworm.

In three days, we reunite—to celebrate the opening season of the Hawk’s football season. But really? It will be a celebration of my endurance. My ability to step away from one of my most favorite people in the world and let her mess up her room without me saying a word about it. Really, I won't. We can simply talk about cool stuff. Like English literature classes. Or if anyone has tempted her to taste a beer. That happened to me once in college.


As I was finishing this blog, I received that call from Alex. Eerie, huh? (She didn't recall she was to call me back a few days ago. Kids!) Anyway, hearing her voice instantly lifted my spirit. And as we talked, it quickly became evident, that my role of mother wouldn't be going away anytime soon.

Maybe I'll bring Olivia with me this weekend.

Here we come Alex!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

#dadconversation with mr. cellophane

For anyone who knows my husband and me, it will come as no surprise that I introduced myself first. As a matter of fact, when I mosied over to the cute guy standing against the wall in the bar and asked, "Do I know you?", he quickly replied. "I don't think so. And I'm divorced."

I couldn't help but giggle at the sweet and shy response. I knew right then I was in love. Beyond the cuteness factor, I was startling drawn to his unassuming manner. Doug very much condones the mentality of "blending in and not making a fuss." If something is wrong with his restaurant order, I'm the first to flag down the waitress as he holds my arm down to say, "That's okay. It's fine." This attribute of not wanting to draw attention to himself and can be amusingly problematic. There's a standing joke with our friends how he's always the guy who gets forgotten. When drinks come back for everyone except Doug, we will look at each other, and mouth the lyrics to "Mr Cellophane." (Yes, my husband has been to a Broadway musical.)

In the spirit of the mom conversation series, I decided to mix it up to honor my soulmate who celebrates his birthday this weekend. It wasn't easy attaining this interview, but I somehow I did it. Hope you enjoy.

Quick Bio: I've lived in Earling all my life. Currently I farm and am married to a beautiful and talented wife (Stef) with the most amazing kids (Alex and Cole).

Note: Doug didn't actually say this. He actually said, "You know my life." I embellished his response.

Favorite Family Tradition: I don't know Honey. You mean our family? Like the four of us? Let me think about it.

Most surprising lesson you've learned about being a father?  (Laughter.) Why are you asking me this? Okay. Let's see. I think it's how much smarter the kids are than me.

Note: Alex piped in here to explain how she and Cole actually pay attention in school. Brownie points kid.

Opinion on Work/Life Balance:

Note: Here Doug scrunches his eyebrows and asks, "Why are you doing this with me? Isn't this supposed to be a mom thing? After some wifely persistence, he talks.

I do my work first. If there's something going on, I do that, then I do my work. That's all there is to it.

Note: This is the most succinct response I've received on this question...

Guilty Pleasure: Drinking beer, probably.

Note: Not probably. Definitely.

Go to Movie: Any of the Bourne's. Not porns, Bournes.

Most used App: Grower's Edge.

Note: This is an app to check the grain markets. There is no doubt Doug checks this app, almost incessantly on certain days, as most farmers do. I would also argue that the Solitaire app is a close second. 

Celebrity Obsession: Milas Kunas.

Note: There was no hesitation here. Not one millisecond. 

How you recharge: Drinking beer and spending quality time with my wife.

Note: "Quality time with my wife" was not what Doug said. I rephrased this. It's a PG-13 blog, as noted in other blogs.

Last book you read and couldn't quit thinking about: (Laugher, again, as if the question were impossible before he realized he's not all Mr. Baseball and does read occasionally.) Oh! One of the Dan Brown's.

Note: Author of the The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons and Inferno. My hubby likes a smart thriller.

Favorite Kid Story: Taking the kids on rides. The photos of my scared family always makes me laugh. Also, teaching the kids to drive.

What advice do you have for new parents?  Don't do it. Kidding.  I actually don't think I'm in any position to give advice. I don't consider myself an expert at parenting.

Note: Who does? But I found the honesty of this response refreshing.

Anything else you'd like to add about being a working dad? Working dad? What do you mean? Don't all dads work?

Note: Yes. True. And so do all moms. Why do we even bother with these redundant terms?

I finished the interview with Doug squeamish about the idea of being featured. Again, he's not one for attention. So, before this can be edited by my unassuming mate, I'll end with this message to him:

Doug, you're my favorite guy. A guy's guy with a nose for sports and beer. A guy who laughs easily. A guy who is unmistakably honest. A guy who loves his family above all. That's the best thing about you. That and your cute butt.

If this embarrassed you, I'm sorry but not really. Love ya to pieces, Mr. cellophane.