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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Perspectives a Fortune Cookie Teller

Three months ago, I received a fortune cookie that said, 

Remember three months from this date. Good things are in store for you.”

Like any rational person, I put a note on my Outlook Calendar, marking the date. Imagine my delight when I saw my note on Tuesday! Something big was going to happen. Had I purchased a lottery ticket I had forgotten? Or registered to win a trip that didn't require an investment in a timeshare? Or maybe, just maybe, I had finally gotten that big book deal from Random House. I won't lie. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve. I only had a four-hour board meeting to get through. No problem! Good things were in store.

Once I got home, I checked my email. Dick’s Sporting Goods was having a 40% off sale. Good news, but not great. I kept scrolling, but didn't find any message indicating a book deal or contest winnings. Not to worry. The night wasn't over!

I'll cut to the chase to avoid suspense. I went to bed, wondering if my Chinese fortune cookie had been defective. All week I wondered. As a matter of fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how HAPLESS the last few days had been.
  • Got a nail in my car on the way to meet an author I admire! Missed the entire event.
  • Had a random beer bottle thrown at me. Seriously. It shattered before my feet.
  • Gained a pound.
  • My son got yanked from his position in football.
  • Okay. Actually I gained two pounds.

I reread the fortune. (I keep a stack of them.)

"Good things are in store for you."

I put it away with a sigh.

But I didn't put it out of my head.

Had I overlooked anything this week? 

Any good things? 


  • Daughter surprised us by coming home from college to round out a fantastic Kramfam weekend in which we devoured a crazy delicious pizza in Panora. Worth the two extra pounds of muffin-top.
  • Aforementioned daughter also called me twice this week to chat about life plans instead of a physical ailment she self-diagnosed on Web MD.
  • Sat by good friend at Mass this week. Cheered my heart.
  • The beer bottle MISSED my face. No one was maimed. How great is that?
  • Received an email from an old college friend telling me how she loved my book and has been recommending it to others. (Better than a book deal! Almost.)
  • Ran into another good friend whom informed me that her hubby had just survived a serious bout of WEST NILE! He is better now. Thank goodness!
  • Harvest! Doug opened up the fields! And we've gone five days without rain! (Did I just jinx it?)
  • And the coolest thing about this week? A text. Received from my son, after I sent him some encouragement. Here's the dialogue.

I got a pretty good life anyway so I'm good. :) 

A pretty good life fo sho. My kids are great. My hubby is happy. Our parents are healthy. We have great friends. And we can have pizza pretty much anytime we want.

Fortune cookie was spot on.

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.