Do You Want to Get Paddled + Other Fascinating Messages

Power of Words

I notice words.

As a reader and a writer, this reveal is not too surprising.

I study how words flow together and often applaud an author’s creative genius.

I ponder the intended meaning and am acutely aware of my reaction to the message.

When I pause to capture great messages, it’s usually because they meet a former marketing boss’s dictate: If it doesn’t fit on a matchbook cover, start over.

He exclaimed and fervently believed “Brevity yields reaction.”  Brevity | Definition of Brevity by Merriam-Webster (merriam-webster.com)

Words can be inspirational. Often, they are humorous. Sometimes they invoke sadness or create awareness.

Traveling adds a localism to words.

Localism in Words

Here are words I captured on our travels. Perhaps these 12 messages reflected in photographs will inspire you, or add humor or meaning to your day.

“Um”, long pause, “Where are we again?” On Wharf Street seated at a restaurant patio.

When in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada do as the locals do. Answer, “yes,” and order a beer flight paddle at the Milestones Grill + Bar. milestones (milestonesrestaurants.com)

This provoking question headlined the menu. At our table, it created much laughter and conversation about the double entendre. Clever marketing.

Messages often capture localism.  This sign was seen on Washington Island in Door County, Wisconsin. Many landowners are frustrated with tourists using their property for beach access. This resident expressed his clearly, though a dictionary might’ve been helpful.

This message greeted us as we landed at LAX-Los Angeles International Airport during a renovation period. A great example of regional language. It made us smile! Acting out not tolerated.

How do you interpret this? “Mind your head” can mean make better choices and decisions.  Or, if you’re a tall person, it can mean stoop so you don’t hit your head on the awning of this Antiguan convenience store.

Small in stature, I took it as the former. My 6’3” husband, the latter. Proving words have many meanings, and are often personalized.

Cottonwood Falls in the Flint Hills of Kansas is home to Emma Chase Friday Night Music. This is an open group of musicians & listeners who gather here for free jam sessions/open mikes.  What to See & Do in Kansas Flint Hills – Linda Leier Thomason

This Pier 39 San Francisco, California street sign captures attention. We lived in the coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina for over two decades without seeing similar signage. The community there apparently didn’t have to, or chose not to, regulate streetwear near the water. San Francisco does, and found a creative way to communicate the message.

The placement of this message is intriguing. It hangs inside the Cancun Mexico airport. Perhaps the airport authority has seen and experienced too many unappreciative young adults and teenagers coming through their airport.

Seems the hidden message is “practice gratitude” at all ages, but especially if you are fortunate enough to be on a family vacation in Mexico.

Hung at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds in North Sound, Antigua.  Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds , North Sound, Antigua news, scores and venue information | West Indies cricket grounds (windiescricket.com)

The International Cricket Council’s message is relevant in other countries, including the USA.

Would you have guessed this is a souvenir shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans? It is. And, it aptly depicts the lingo and culture of this great city.

Seen at a convenience store off I-80 west of Omaha, Nebraska during a recent election season.

Sometimes the simplest message is the most difficult to implement. I promise.

This heartbreaking question was seen at Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii Pearl Harbor National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

Found in North Omaha, Nebraska. The visual of the two profiles with sign language between them is as striking as the words on the bench.

Words matter in any format: Print. Photo. Voice. Song.

Here’s one of my favorite songs, “Words,” for you to enjoy!

Bee Gees – Words – YouTube

Words that Matter to You

I have a folder of photographs of fascinating word messages from all over the world. These are 12 of my favorite. Which one made you pause, smile, or some other emotion? Share below.

What word messages have you found and captured in a photo?

How did these inspire or otherwise affect you?

Do Share below.

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©March 2021. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved.

This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

New Ways to Think about Death & Dying

Death is a Universal Human Experience

Yet, talk of it is nearly removed from everyday life.

Death is difficult to think about, more less talk about.

We are afraid of it.

Discussing death reminds us of our own mortality.

It feels quite uncertain.

Many parts of dying are not beautiful.

Death is medicalized.

Older people are often placed in nursing homes and sick people in hospitals.

The subject is completely avoided.

Even doctors are trained to save lives not discuss death.

Talking about death and dying often causes anxiety and discomfort.

We don’t know what to say, or what to do.

Silently Wonder

Still, if we are facing an expected death, we silently question and wonder

  • Are prepared for leaving-spiritually, financially, and emotionally?
  • What is dying like?
  • How we will cope while dying?
  • Have we accomplished all we’d like before dying? 
  • Will those we leave behind be okay?
  • How loved ones will react to the way we’d like to die and be memorialized.
  • What kind of legacy are we leaving?
  • Will we be missed?

So many thoughts and questions left unaddressed.

Why stay so emotionally isolated?

Why not reframe death from being scary, desolate and bleak to being noble, brave and honest?

It was Benjamin Franklin, who in 1789, prophetically stated “…In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Life Review

The reality of life is that death is our constant companion. It is part of living.

Understanding this brings death and dying back into its natural place in the cycle of life. It also may abruptly affect how you wish to continue living. That’s okay. We each have limited time and resources. We should use them wisely.

The first step is to do a bit of self-discovery and reflection.

In other words, do a life review. Start recording significant events or moments from your life.

Are there consistent themes?

Note your greatest accomplishments, and failures, and what you remember or learned from each. These notes can become part of your legacy.

Are there life lessons you’d like to pass on, especially to your children? Record these by writing them down or creating a video.

Do you need to seek forgiveness from anyone or forgive someone? Is now the time?

End of Life Plan

Being brave enough to do a life review and have difficult, but meaningful, conversations will allow you to leave your way and on your terms, while creating the experience you wish to have.

You are also providing peace of mind for loved ones who now fully know your wishes and plan.

NOTE: Be sure your plan is well documented. Share the plan aloud with loved ones and let someone know where you are safely keeping the written document. Be sure to periodically review and update it, if needed.

Ask Yourself: If you could design your own death, what would the experience be like and how would you feel?

  • How do you want to leave?
  • Describe your last months and days.
  • What kind of sensory experience do you desire? Do you want music playing? If so, what type? Do you prefer silence? Should someone read to you? If so, what and whom? Do you want to be touched? By whom and how?
  • Who do you want present, or not present, when you die?
  • Do you want to be anointed?
  • At the time of death, do you want your body immediately removed or do you want it to lay still for a certain time period?
  • Do you want to be cremated or buried?
  • How do you wish to be remembered?
  • Do you want a published obituary? Have you written it?
  • Do you want a funeral service or a celebration of life?

NOTE: You may find while answering these questions that the way you want to die is really about how you also want to live.

Gather, Listen & Share

Once you’ve finished your life review and drafted a plan for your ending, bravely gather your loved ones and share your thoughts, feelings and fears with them in a meaningful way.

Present your exit plan created by answering questions like those above.

Acknowledge the discomfort up front.

Understand that some loved ones may opt out of the gathering.

Talking about your dying and death is just too much for them right now.

That’s okay.

Make sure they can tell you in private about their fears and their inability to attend. Offer to meet with them separately when they are ready, if ever.

Ask those gathered

  • How will you remember me?
  • What scares you most about my dying?
  • Do you have concerns about my not being here?
  • What questions do you want to ask me that you haven’t asked before?
  • Is there a role you’d like to play in my dying and then at my funeral and/or celebration of life?
  • What can I do to relieve any anxiety or fear you may have about my dying?
  • Is there anything you’d like to do together in my last days here?

Hospice & End-of-Life Doulas

Those with terminal illness and their loved ones often become familiar with hospice. There’s an emerging field to offer additional support near the end of one’s life: End-of-Life Doulas.

Here’s a brief description of each with links for more information.

Hospice Care

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization NHPCO, modern hospice began around 1948 in London as a place where people could go to be comforted while dying from an illness.

The first modern hospice in the US was founded in 1974, and the Medicare Hospice Benefit was introduced in the 1980s.

Hospice care is

  • Approved by Medicare, thus free to anyone aged 65+
  • Designated care for anyone with a terminal illness
  • Ordered by two physicians who certify the patient is terminally ill
  • Focused on reducing pain and suffering without removing the cause of it
  • Prioritizes comfort and quality of end of life
  • More Information Home | NHPCO

End-of-Life Doula

End-of-Life Doula is a relatively new service. Many know doulas to be a woman who helps another woman through the birthing process.

An End-of-Life Doula brings someone to the end of life. She puts them at peace and comfort by providing personal companionship. She provides emotional, personal and practical support to the patient, family and caregivers.

The Doula will ensure a patient does not die alone. She will journey with them in their 11th hour and be a witness to the dying and death, especially if a hospice program does not have an 11th Hour volunteer program or the patient has no one beside them.

  • Non-medical support role—a companion
  • Does not replace hospice care; adjunct to hospice team
  • Reinforces a hospice plan of care
  • Loving companionship with end-of-life knowledge
  • Generally, do not do personal care
  • Do not do medication administration
  • Most are not chaplains, social workers, or therapists. They are companions-people who will journey with you.
  • More information NATIONAL END-OF-LIFE DOULA ALLIANCE (NEDA) – Home (nedalliance.org)

Be at peace when you die.

Be unafraid.

Talk about death and dying.

Allow loved ones to accompany you to the door of death.

Let go together with comfort knowing you left your way

with your wishes being met.

Resources

You don’t need to start from scratch to begin the process of talking about death and dying. There are plenty of tools available to encourage and guide these discussion and actions.

  • Churches and funeral homes offer free booklets to complete indicating your wishes and consolidating your vital information. This pre-planning allows you to make informed decisions while you still can and reduces stress for your loved ones upon your death. These booklets include everything from desired scripture readings to cemetery arrangements to loved one’s contact information to insurance and financial information, etc. Examples include: Home – Family Love Letter   Planning Guide – Catholic Cemeteries Omaha
  • A simple online search yields multiple planning tools. Here’s just one example. All Ready to Go.pdf (endoflifeguidetraining.com)
  • Your financial planner, banker and attorney are also great sources for such tools.
  • Visit Death Over Dinner. It’s an outstanding website with many tools to use in having your end of life wishes met.
  • Read about Home – Death With Dignity
  • End of Life Initiatives  End of life | RoundGlass

©January 2021. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved.

This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

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2020: A Year End Review Like None Other

5 Lessons Learned in a Pandemic Year

I was hesitant to commit my annual year end review in writing because, well, it’s just been a year like none other that I recall. But as I was recently walking in the December crisp air, I easily clipped off a list of really great things that happened in 2020 despite, or maybe because of, the pandemic.

Most of them are lessons.

Here they are:

1. Real Heroes Celebrated

Even before the pandemic hit I was becoming restless with our nation’s worship of professional athletes and Hollywood actors. It’s true. Most individuals in these groups are immensely talented. Some even significantly give back to their communities with time and money. But, are they heroes? Not often in my way of thinking.

The real heroes in our country were finally, rightfully, spotlighted as the pandemic exploded. You know, the people who silently and routinely make daily life-changing impacts on our lives without recognition. Heroes like teachers, nurses, researchers, doctors, grocery store employees, delivery drivers, etc.

I’m forever grateful for their tireless, ongoing efforts. I hope and pray they will remain in their heroic status long after the pandemic is an afterthought.

2. Eyes Spoke

Much has been said about eyes being the window to one’s soul. This has probably never been truer than in 2020. Masks covered faces most of the year, often distorting or muting words. However, if one really wanted to know what the speaker was saying, (h)she only had to observe the eyes above the mask.

Fear and uncertainty. That is what the eyes often communicated in early 2020. As time wore on, a hint of optimism and even joy could be heard from eyes.

Let’s be honest. On certain days, exhaustion and impatience, and even frustration, shone brightly in our eyes.

Mask or no mask. Pandemic or none. Listen to the eyes of the person near you. Their silence is often screaming.

3. Goodness of Neighbors Shone Through

I’ve said it before. Most people are genuinely good and want to do well. All communities and neighborhoods have bad eggs, including ours. However, I will always remember in early pandemic days the neighbors who texted asking for our grocery list to combine with theirs-saving us a trip to the store that week. Or, the doorbell ringing and neighbors sneaking away after leaving baked treats and other goodies on our front porch. And, the socially distanced chats while each party was out enjoying fresh air on daily walks.

All over our community, state and nation people showed kindness for one another.

It’s a pandemic outcome I wish to be everlasting.

4. Priorities & Values in Order

I’d long ago given up the corporate rat race. Our child is a married working adult. We no longer juggle an action-packed schedule. In other words, we were already conditioned for often being at home together before the pandemic.

But nothing makes one assess priorities and values more than the real threat of a life-ending virus and stay at home orders-lockdown.

Ken, my husband, a Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor, has been working downstairs for over half of the year. Never before did I think our experience of owning and working in multiple businesses together for over two decades would serve a purpose later in our lives. After selling the businesses, we thought that chapter was closed. Wrong.

I’m grateful we didn’t have to learn how to work and live together like so many couples and families did, and are still doing. We seemed to ease right into familiar routines, allowing both of us to be productive professionals and compatible mates.

We did put the business part of our lives in order. Our wills and other legal papers were updated. Over and over news stories reported families devastated by not only the loss of a loved one but the stress and strife of managing legal issues post death.

Supporting small businesses and craftsmen remained a top priority for us. Our dining out dollars and other funds were devoted to businesses we knew needed our money most.

I’ve always believed small businesses are the engines that run the community.

Keeping them afloat is always a priority, more so now than ever.

5. Not all Screen Time is Bad

I’m guilty. Raising our son, I preached, “Watching too much TV will pollute your mind,” or “TV dumbs you down.” I encouraged reading, creating and getting outdoors. You know, the old-fashioned way of raising a child.

However, I will admit, during this pandemic, I’ve engaged in a fair amount of screen time.

Today, the choices are endless.

Yes, I obliged my husband and binge watched “The Sopranos”. I can’t believe I hadn’t watched this outstanding series before. The writing, acting and production were each remarkable and deserving of every accolade ever received.

I also watched a ton of documentaries, biographies and other educational programming.

Okay, according to Ken, I’ve overwatched Hallmark movies near the end of this year. But, again, the choices are endless.

I’ve had a mind shift. I no longer think TV dumbs one down or pollutes one’s mind. It can, if done in excess, I guess. Like anything, choosing well matters and so does balancing screen time with other activities like actual conversation, outdoor activities, and yes, book reading too.

So, while 2020 was sadly a remarkable year for loss and fear, it also taught some tremendous lessons.

I trust as I continue to reflect on this year, other lessons will come to me.

Share Your Learning from This Year

What has 2020 taught you? Share in the comment section below.

2021

Ken and I wish you a hopeful 2021 filled with wonder, joy and peace.

©December 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved.

This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

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Depression & Suicide in Rural America: Joey’s Story

Who’s Joey?

Joey’s a white, 54-year-old male living in a small town in rural North Dakota. He’s been married for 29 ½ years to fellow Napoleon native, Missy (Sperle).

He’s the proud father of three grown children (Amanda, Megan and Elijah) and has an adorable 9-month-old grandson.

Joey’s the middle child with two sisters and an in-law to Missy’s 12 siblings.

He’s provided for his family as a restaurant owner and manager, retail manager and maintenance worker at the Napoleon Care Center.

Joey loves spending time with his family, especially hunting with his son, mowing the lawn and watching TV.

He’s described as kind, soft-hearted, genuine and sweet.

Joey loves people, but is shy.

He works hard not to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Joey can also be a prankster and a joker.

He has a strong Catholic faith.

Joey has suffered with depression for 34 years.

On December 9, 2016, Joey ended his life by suicide.

Battling Depression

This wasn’t Joey’s first attempt at ending his struggle with life.

Three times he overdosed with medication chased by alcohol. The last time by a fatal gunshot in the master bedroom.

“In the 35 years we were together, it was like a roller coaster ride,” said his wife, Missy. Joey was hospitalized for the suicide attempts. He saw doctors for decades and took a variety of antidepressants. He even had shock treatments, which worked for a few years, but, according to Missy, also affected his short-term memory.

Joey’s depression peaked when he was under pressure or conflict was present in his life.

“Joey loved his family so very much but I believe the suffering just got to be too much. He was so tired of the struggle to keep going,” shared Missy.

Suicide’s Effect on Family

Joey’s children felt deep guilt in the months after his death. “These days were very hard. The kids felt guilty because they didn’t call or visit their dad more often.”

Somehow they believed if they’d have reached out and visited more frequently his suicide could’ve been prevented.

Not likely.

Hilzendeger Family

Joey and Missy often talked about suicide because of his 30-year depression battle. “I knew the day would come where he’d accomplish it. However, I always figured it’d be by means of overdose and not by shooting himself on a day when all the children were coming home.”

Missy assured and comforted her children and told them what she’d say to any family who’s suffered such a loss:

1. This is not your fault. Depression is an illness like cancer, diabetes or alcoholism. It is no one’s fault and certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

2. Use available resources for helping you cope: support groups, pastoral counseling, therapy, physician visits, retreats, spa services-whatever is available to you and makes you feel better.

3. Stay strong. It may feel like you will never get over this. It is not easy and you will never forget. Each day does get better and you will learn to live with it. You have to believe God loves you and will help you through this.

Though she coaches her children and others to be guilt-free, Missy sometimes blames herself for Joey’s suicide. “We were together for 35 years and I just couldn’t bring him back from the darkness this one last time.”

However, Missy has never been angry with Joey for what he did. “We were together so long and I knew how much he struggled on so many occasions. I can’t be angry with him.”

She admits, though, she’s been disappointed that he didn’t fight harder, especially after they had their first grandchild. “He was so unbelievably proud of that little boy.”

Missy is comforted knowing that she and the kids did not miss any warning signs of Joey’s impending suicide. “He battled depression for 30 plus years. Though it was difficult, it was part of our lives for so many years.

I wish I could have him back, but for Joey’s sake, knowing how much he suffered for so long, I truly hope and pray that he is now at peace.”

Moving Forward

Joey is terribly missed by all. Thinking of him brings both a smile to Missy’s face and tears to her eyes.

She talks to him regularly, asking him to watch over the family and to keep them safe, always, but especially from the current pandemic. “I pray every day that Joey is at peace and is right beside God.” That was always his greatest wish.

Missy’s relies heavily on her immediate and extended families to cope and is deeply grateful to each of them for their commitment to her. “They’ve helped so much with everyday life since Joey’s death. I wouldn’t have been able to get through this without them and my faith.”

Her toughest days were the grief-filled ones the first four weeks after Joey’s death. “I cried every day, many times a day. I remember thinking I’d just lost my husband yet everyone is moving on like nothing happened.”

She returned to work and kept busy, yet when summer arrived, she was hit with another wave of grief. She was alone to tend to yard work-one of Joey’s favorite chores that he enjoyed so much.

I had a wake-up call. Life was moving on with or without me. “The pain of his death has not gone away. I have just learned to live with it.”

“It’s been 3 ½ years. Every day is anyone’s guess how the day will be. Some days I feel like crying when I hear a certain song or relive a special memory. The next day, I’m just fine.”

Wishing Missy and her beautiful family days of peace and happiness ahead.

Thank you for sharing your story so that others may have hope.

If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, please seek immediate help from a physician or mental health professional. In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For more information, visit the NSPL web site (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org).

Pinochle Tournament

Keeping Legacy Alive

Joey loved playing pinochle https://bicyclecards.com/how-to-play/pinochle-2/, as do many in the Napoleon, http://napoleonnd.com/ North Dakota community.

To keep Joey’s memory alive, every March his family hosts a pinochle tournament in Napoleon with funds donated to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) in memory of Joey Hilzendeger.

If you’d like to make a donation to the card tournament, send a check to Missy Hilzendeger 322 Avenue C East, Napoleon, ND 58561.

Or, you can donate directly to AFSP online in memory of Joey Hilzendeger. https://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=cms.page&id=1390&eventID=2043

The 5th Annual Pinochle Tournament is scheduled for March 2021. The day is not yet available.

What Can You Do?

  • Seek help if you are suicidal. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Leave notes of encouragement for Missy below.
  • Donate and participate in the Pinochle Tournament.
  • Send a donation in Joey’s name to AFSP.
  • Encourage loved ones to seek help.
  • Objectively listen and pay attention.
  • Keep the lines of communication open.
  • SHARE this post with others struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts.
  • SHARE with family members left behind.

North Dakota Facts

North Dakota saw the nation’s largest increase in suicide rates from 1999 to 2016- 58 percent.

That was more than twice the national increase of 25 percent, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That means that in North Dakota, which has the nation’s 10th-highest suicide rate, a person dies by suicide every 57 hours.

In 2019, 154 people committed suicide.

Guns are the leading means of suicide nationally as well as in North Dakota. They account for slightly more than half of all suicides in North Dakota.

Easy access to firearms, along with increased social isolation and lack of behavioral health services, are among the reasons cited for higher suicide rates in rural areas.

Learn More

https://www.theitem.com/stories/the-pain-of-suicide,339546

http://www.ndaap.com/uploads/2/6/4/7/26479511/reaching_zero_suicide_in_nd.pdf

https://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/suicide-numbers-keep-rising-in-nd-but-there-s-help/article_41deb409-b5b9-5efa-b48c-6b0d6efe7753.html

https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/the-sin-of-suicide.html

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression/index.shtml

https://www.governing.com/gov-data/health/county-suicide-death-rates-map.html

https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/01/30/americas-suicide-rate-has-increased-for-13-years-in-a-row

https://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/suicide-rates-are-rising-especially-rural-america-n1050806

https://www.kfyrtv.com/content/news/Resources-in-ND-available-when-mental-health-and-suicide-grief-becomes-too-much-567637891.html

https://afsp.org/state-fact-sheets

©April 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved.

This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Do you have a story idea or interesting person who’d be a great feature? SHARE details below.

5 New Things I’m Doing During Social Distancing

Long-Lasting New Habits

Social distancing due to COVID-19 doesn’t need to mean feeling alone.

Many are reaching out in record numbers to neighbors, long-lost friends and family.

Certainly, the Internet has helped with connectedness.

The way I’m going about my days during social distancing has changed.

Here are 5 new things I’m doing during this unique time of social distancing.

1. Attending On-Line Mass

Places of worship quickly learned how to broadcast services online, most using Facebook Live.

Our Omaha church did the same. It now offers daily online Mass.

https://www.svdpomaha.org/

During this Lenten season, it’s especially greatly appreciated.

Father Gama on the 4th Sunday of Lent

2. Going On Nature Walks

I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors.

Lately, I have a greater appreciation for the ability to be outdoors, even if in isolation, or 6-feet apart from others sharing the space.

The consistency of nature is comforting with the world’s volatility.

I marvel at the changing season and the beauty and solitude all around.

I watch the birds and squirrels from my office window.

And, I’m eagerly awaiting the blooming of the daffodils in our yard.

New life. New color.

While everything else seems to have changed. Nature’s seasonal predictability and the joy it brings hasn’t.

3. Playing Vintage Board Games

We pulled out this 1971 board game: Landslide.

Have you ever played it?

It’s based on the election process & electoral votes.

The game uses “votes” as if it were money, and the players bid for states –they can even attempt to steal already “bought” states from each other.

It’d be great to have a current version of this. #Hasbro #ParkerBrothers

Landslide is a Civics Lesson While Having Fun

4. Listening to Free Concerts

Entertainers of all types are hosting events online. The ones we’ve viewed have all been on Facebook Live.

Check out your favorite entertainers Facebook page, Instagram site or website to see when, and if, they’ll be online.

It’s a welcome break from all of the news stories.

https://www.garthbrooks.com/inside-studio-g

5. Cooking with Available Items

Sweet potato fries. Indian butter chicken. Fish tacos. Shrimp and grits. Chili. Homemade egg rolls.

Instead of running out to the grocery store on impulse, I’m forcing myself to use ingredients already in the pantry and freezer.

I feel fortunate to have food in ‘storage.’ And, I’ve used the Internet to guide me with recipes using what’s on-hand.

I have a host of recipes on this website (Click “Recipe” tab above.)

Or, click on one of these links. Each provides recipes after you input ingredients you have on-hand.

https://www.supercook.com/#/recipes

http://www.recipekey.com/

http://www.ingredientmatcher.com

Shrimp n’ Grits
Click “Recipes” Tab Above for This Recipe & Others

What new activities are you doing during social distancing?

Share.

Will they be life-lasting after this social distancing adjourns?

©March 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Do you have a story idea or interesting person who’d be a great feature? SHARE details below.

Growing up Gay in the Midwest: Collin’s Story

Feeling Like a Fraud Living Someone Else’s Life

Meet Collin

  • 25-years old
  • Native of McCook, Nebraska
  • Son of farmers/ranchers
  • Older brother to two sisters
  • College graduate- BS Marketing Management
  • A 6-year financial services career professional
  • Omaha resident, and a
  • Gay man

Defining Gay

As a teenager, Collin understood the term “gay” to mean someone who liked men, often times was feminine and usually was seen as less than an individual for liking the same sex. He and his peer group said “gay” to jokingly describe something they didn’t like. It was “gay!”

In his household and community being gay was seen as a negative thing. “You didn’t want to become someone like them, meaning-gay.” The term was always used in a derogatory way.

He, himself, used the term to describe others in negative way, which he apologizes for today.

“I think it was such a normalized term to show a thing or a person is not like the rest.”

Signs & Symbols

Even while he and his peers were calling something/someone “gay” Collin wondered if he might be. He

  • Had an attraction to other men his age
  • Didn’t feel a connection to girls other than friendship
  • Read and researched “what it means to be gay”
  • Was interested in things classified as “gay” while growing up-like décor, landscaping, keeping a tidy room, etc.

I’m Gay

Collin acknowledged to himself that he was gay just before his 2013 college freshman year, although he kept this understanding to himself.

 “It was a pretty lonely feeling having admitted this to myself but not sharing it with anyone else.”

He was scared and had tremendous uncertainty about what his future held.

“I was in stress overdrive not knowing what lay ahead as a recent high school graduate already. Adding “gay” to the mix only compounded it.”

He hinted to his family but didn’t openly discuss it until June of 2017 when his dad flat out asked him if he was gay. “Yeah, yeah, I am.” To Collin’s surprise, the chat with his dad went quite well. He’s so grateful for this.

“My dad was a little more okay with it in the beginning than my mom, which is something I didn’t expect.

My sisters were pretty chill and so were all of my friends who already knew.”

“If I had to do it all over again, I’d have come out sooner, and get to enjoying my life a lot quicker.”

Filtered Behavior

Looking back, Collin acknowledges that his spirit and overall well-being were hindered as a teenager.

“I filtered what I said, how I acted, talked and dressed, which was upsetting.”

He just wanted to be himself without things like, “He’s gay or look at that homo,” being said about him.

Collin lacked gay role models but looked to his grandmother and a close family friend, neither let others determine their self-worth.

City or Country

Collin moved from rural Nebraska to its largest city to attend college and work. He never felt like he’d have to move to Omaha to be accepted.

However, he acknowledges that it’s easier for a gay person to be accepted, and perhaps happier, when they have gay friends and/or someone who understands them in a way they need to be understood.

He hasn’t detected any barriers to employment but does admit he catches himself filtering certain parts of his life with co-workers.

He tries not to be known as “the gay one” and fights thoughts about worth because of his sexuality.

“Even though I do this, not once have I ever been rejected or felt out of place by sharing my life with co-workers.”

Filtering is a deep-seated habit.

Not Easy

Collin admits there’s room for improvement regarding acceptance in Nebraska.

“I would like to walk down the street and not think twice about grabbing my partner Cody’s hand.”

Though he hasn’t felt unsafe in Nebraska, he has gay friends who have.

He’s an advocate of prioritizing mental health as high as physical health and regularly sees a counselor.

His visits are not for living as a gay man but for maintaining good mental health.

“Every part of my life has benefited from attending regular counseling.”

Rural Youth

Collin has a passion for listening to and guiding gay individuals, especially in rural areas. Here’s his best counsel:

1. Be yourself, if you can and it’s safe to do so. People will talk or look or maybe even make a snide comment, but being comfortable in your own skin is worth so much more.

2. Take steps to educate your parents, teachers, peers or friends on what it actually means to be gay. It’s more than likely not Ru Paul’s Drag Race in real life. Ignorance is a voluntary misfortune, and sometimes it only takes knowing one gay person to change that person’s perception.

3. Support other gay individuals you know who have yet to come out. Don’t belittle them, or go along with what your friends say around them. “This is the one thing I regret deeply from high school and early college years.”

4. It is okay to be different. Homosexuality is a part of me. It doesn’t solely define me. I have many straight friends and me being gay would be one of the last things they would use to describe me.

“Having said that, the one thing I’m most disappointed in about being gay is seeing others still treat gay people differently after knowing me, and accepting me for who I am.

Ahead

Today, Collin enjoys life with Cody, a paramedic in a pre-med and emergency management program.

He likes to travel, hang out with family and friends and tackle DIY house projects.

Someday he’d like to have a family, including children.

His greatest wish is that all struggling with their sexuality are somehow taken care of.

Adding, “I hope I never have to hear the word “faggot” or “gay” used in a demeaning nature to describe someone again.”

The most joyous part of his identity journey has been the individuals he’s had the pleasure of meeting, and those unexpected allies.

A wish, for all.

Cody & Collin. Traveling-his favorite pastime.

What Can You Do?

  • SHARE this story. You know there’s someone who needs to hear Collin’s story today.
  • Drop a positive message for Collin below.
  • Stop judging others. Start helping.
  • Have an accepting heart.
  • Even if you don’t agree with a gay lifestyle, love the person.

Resources

https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth-resources.htm CDC

http://assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/resource_guide_april_2014.pdf HRC.ORG

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/LGBT-Resources.aspx American Academy of Pediatrics

https://lgbtqa.unl.edu/welcome University of NE-Lincoln

http://www.pflag-omaha.org/ PFLAG-Omaha

©March 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Do you have a story idea or interesting person who’d be a great feature? SHARE details on the form.

Are You an Alcoholic? Twila Shares Her Story

What Does It Take to Stop Abusing Alcohol?

When Do You Finally Hit Rock Bottom?

Is It When You

  • Run away from home?
  • Destroy a 22-year marriage?
  • Compromise relationships with your children?
  • Are required to undergo random monitoring to keep your professional RN license?
  • Complete multiple treatments for alcohol dependency?
  • Are placed in a sober living house?
  • Receive numerous DUI arrests?
  • Spend nights in the county jail?
  • Nearly lose your RN career, or
  • Are placed on a 24/7 monitoring program for an entire year?

No.

It is only when you are desperate enough to surrender and seek help that a changed life starts.


Meet Twila

Twila is an alcoholic.

She went through each of these experiences and losses trying to control her drinking.

Early Onset Drinking

Twila grew up in a rural North Dakota farming family the middle child with two brothers. In high school she participated in basketball, cheerleading, gymnastics, volleyball and track, along with FFA-Future Farmers of America.

She was social outside of school. She started drinking at age 13.

Like many students in her area, she partied on the weekends, easily getting alcohol supplied by the older siblings of her friends. “We met on the section lines and gravel pits in the country. Sometimes I drank to the extreme.”

Her dream of going to college, getting married and having a family came true. And then it all fell apart as alcohol played a growing role in her life.

Alcohol was often a part of their married social life. “We entertained other couples with children so no one had to get a babysitter. We hung out with sports parents who wanted to have a few beers after the events. There were times I wasn’t done drinking when the event ended for the night.” But being a parent and having a job often curbed her drinking, when it needed to.

Fitting In

The effects of alcohol helped Twila feel like she was “fitting in and being a part of.” It helped her feel comfortable in her own skin. “I was never told growing up I wasn’t good enough or that I didn’t fit in. I told myself these things. I was always trying to be somewhere else, as someone else, doing something else.” Alcohol was her solution. It worked right up until it didn’t work.

Failed Self-Control

She spent many years trying to control her drinking so it would not go to the extremes. She felt guilt and shame by her behaviors around her drinking. “I knew I might have a problem when I drank to black outs or when my husband had to take care of me after I drank too much. We often had arguments about my drinking.”

She’d trick herself into thinking everything was okay because she still had things like a house, a car, a job, etc.

But she wasn’t.

Abusing alcohol cost her a lot, including her

  • Sanity
  • Peace
  • Purpose
  • And most importantly, her relationships with her children and her 22-year marriage
Twila’s greatest joy comes from seeing her children & grandchildren happy.

Rock Bottom

Twila’s desire to keep her RN job defined “rock bottom” for her. “I couldn’t compromise my professional career. It was the last thing I was holding on to. I’d already failed as a mother, wife and family member.” She often felt embarrassed for not showing up to work after spending nights in the county jail for DUIs. Losing her job was too much to bear.

Rehab to Sobriety

1st Time

Twila’s been to treatment for alcohol dependency twice-both at Heartview Foundation https://heartview.org/ in Bismarck, North Dakota. The first in January 2014. By this time, she’d run away from home, her marriage and her children. It was intensive outpatient treatment that lasted until March. She then attended an Aftercare program once a week. This was to last for five months.

She couldn’t stay sober.

Twila attended 12-Step Recovery meetings. She could string up a few months here and there. “I honestly didn’t want to stop drinking.” She wanted to be a ‘normal drinker,’ to control her drinking and to drink socially.

She was angry. “I was angry at the hurts I’d caused and at the life I’d destroyed for myself and others.”

2nd Time

Twila entered outpatient treatment again in June 2015 because her drinking had compromised her job. She took time off from work-the first time in 20 plus years. She still couldn’t stay sober.

Sober Living House

A third DUI in October 2015 resulted in Twila spending a couple months in a Bismarck women’s sober living house. “I couldn’t trust myself. Alone time was drinking time.” Consequences of that DUI required 24/7 monitoring for a year and random monitoring for her professional license. “The combination of these two monitoring programs slowed me down enough to do the honest inside work that 12-Step recovery asked me to do; as honestly as I was able to at that time.”

AA-Alcoholics Anonymous

https://www.recovery.org/alcoholics-anonymous/

AA is Twila’s solution. “AA has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin. In addition, I’ve learned to be grateful and humble, and to be of service every day, especially to the next suffering alcoholic.”

There are three innate traits all addicts need to recover, according to Twila.

  • Willful surrender to the disease and to a program of recovery
  • Attitude of gratitude
  • Humility without humiliation

Twila believes the #1 thing all those in recovery need is LOVE. “In AA, it is said that we will love you until you can love yourself.” Those still actively using need “a chance to suffer enough to seek a life in recovery” and those incarcerated need “a message of hope that life can look different. That they can press the reset button anytime.”

North Dakota Resources

Twila participates in her state’s efforts to reduce recidivism https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/recidivism and decrease incarceration for crimes involving addiction and mental health issues. Several of these organizations include:

F5

The F5 function key on a computer keyboard is the REFRESH button.

F5 https://www.f5project.org/ is a non-profit organization headquartered in Fargo, ND. It’s founder, Adam Martin, is a five-time felon turned entrepreneur.

The organization’s mission is to reduce recidivism and to erase the stigma of being a felon and a person with an addiction.

It preaches that one’s past does not have to define one’s future and that you are your own greatest asset. You can refresh!

Twila is actively involved in this growing organization that today has men’s houses in four cities. In addition, F5 has care coordinators and peer support specialists in eight anchor cities. And, holds jail/institution meetings at facilities in seven anchor cities. “Most of the people working with the F5 project have lived the experience either as a felon, as someone in recovery or as someone with a mental illness.”

Free Through Recovery

https://www.behavioralhealth.nd.gov/addiction/free-through-recovery

Free Through Recovery is a North Dakota community based behavioral health program designed to increase recovery support services to individuals involved with the criminal justice system who have behavioral health concerns.

Recovery Reinvented

In addition, it’s worth noting that North Dakota’s First Lady, Kathryn Helgaas Burgum, https://www.governor.nd.gov/first-lady-kathryn-burgum a person in long-term recovery, has made tremendous impact on recovery efforts in North Dakota through her addiction platform.

Recovery Reinvented https://recoveryreinvented.com/ is an ongoing series of innovative practices and initiatives to eliminate the shame and stigma of addiction in North Dakota. They seek to find solutions to help people affected by the disease of addiction with proven prevention, treatment and recovery approaches.

One Day at A Time

Every night before she goes to sleep, Twila says prayers for those needing healing and forgiveness. She awakens with a prayer of gratitude and asks God how she should show up for the day.

Sending Twila prayers for strength in her continued recovery and patience and understanding in her search for purpose and self-worth. Deep gratitude for all she does for those seeking to refresh their lives.

Keep it simple. Remain grateful.

Additional Resources

https://aa.org/ Alcoholics Anonymous

https://al-anon.org/ Loved Ones of Alcoholics

https://drugabuse.com/alcohol/ Alcohol Abuse

http://www.aahistory.com/prayer.html Serenity Prayer

https://www.alcohol.org/faq/am-i-an-alcoholic/ Am I an Alcoholic?

What Can You Do?

  • Leave questions & notes of encouragement for Twila below.
  • Donate to the organizations listed above.
  • Encourage loved ones to seek help.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • SHARE this post with others who will be inspired & encouraged by Twila’s story.

©February 2020. Linda Leier Thomason All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission before using copy or images from this site. Images are available for purchase.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

How to Record & Understand a Year of Gratitude

I kept talking about practicing gratitude-being grateful. Seeing the silver lining. Slowing down. Counting my blessings. Cherishing the moment. Being content with what I have. Embracing what shows up in my life.

Then, I did.

In 2018 I committed to recording one thing I was grateful for each of the 365 days. Some days I struggled with limiting my recording to only one. Other days, I stretched to recall one. Regardless, each day received a gratitude note.

A month of gratitude slips.

It became routine: a habit. Then, a life-changer.

I dug out a book given to me a decade ago. I read and re-read it. It’s highlighted and dogeared. It’s a recipe for practicing gratitude.

Definition

Gratitude here is described as “the realization that we have everything we need, at least in this moment. It is stunningly simple. It helps us to return to our natural state of joyfulness where we notice what’s right instead of what’s wrong.”

If you’re reaching for ways to develop & keep an attitude of gratitude, read

Recommended Reading

Read on to find out how you can get a copy.

DATA COLLECTION

365 GOLDEN SLIPS

I cut 365 slips of golden paper and placed them into zip-lock bags by month. These sat in a basket next to my desk as a constant reminder not only to complete each slip daily but also to more fully recognize and appreciate events, behaviors, people, interactions, etc.

I became committed to appreciating this quote from the book: “Gratitude is like a flashlight. If you go out in your yard at night and turn on a flashlight, you suddenly can see what’s there. It was always there, but you couldn’t see it in the dark.”

What to Record

I didn’t limit myself to what could be recorded. The only rules were that just one item could be noted daily and that it could not be a recording of activity or an event and read like a journal. It had to be something unique about the day (or my approach or reaction to the day) that stood out and that I really appreciated and was grateful for.

Each day I made a recording, noted the date, folded the slip and put it in the container next to my desk.

Around March I began to realize how easy it is to forget things that happen on a daily basis that bring vast amounts of joy and enrichment to my life. Larger life events can often overshadow. For instance, 2018 brought some pretty seismic changes to our family life:

  • My husband, Ken, voluntarily switched careers.
  • Our son, Alex, married.
  • I doubled my client workload.
  • Illness and death of extended family and close friends.

Rather than focus on these major happenings, I recorded notes like, “admiration of Ken’s brain and intellect” and “cooling oceanside breeze on Alex’s wedding day.”

MONTH END REVIEW & RECALL

At the beginning of each month Ken and I would sit down and read aloud each slip from the prior month. We took turns randomly selecting slips until all were read and recalled. Some slips required explanation. Many brought delight as we remembered what was noted on the golden slip.[BONUS: Having someone to read and share a month’s worth of slips together is a real treat. But don’t let this stop you from recording on your own gratitude slips daily.]

DATA ANALYSIS

I used a research method-content analysis- to code all 365 golden gratitude slips. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/content%20analysis.

It is both qualitative (subjective, based on observation) and quantitative (objective, numbers).

Without getting too technical, I

  • Read each slip
  • Placed similar slips into the same group
  • Named each group like Marriage, Friendship, Immediate Family, Wellness, Etc.
  • Counted the number of slips in each group
  • Created sub-categories for large groups
  • Placed each category into 1 of 3 larger categories
  • Charted the slips by category

FINDINGS

Marriage

The largest number of gratitude slips (49) related to our 26 year marriage or my husband’s presence in my life. A sample includes, “pride in Ken’s hard work ethic and subsequent results,” “strength, faith and integrity through adversity and change,” and “honoring traditions like Ken’s standing the first Saturday of each May as “My Old Kentucky Home” is sung at the Derby.” [He’s a Kentucky native.]

Friends

We’ve lived in eight states. Making, appreciating and retaining friends across the globe are highly valued (30). “Social skills to make friends and develop life-long friendships.” “Friendships from work settings despite employer changes.” “Invitations to outings with new friends.”

Wedding Day Breakfast, Charleston, SC, July 3, 2018

Mother/Son

Alex, 24, is our only child. Time spent with him was mentioned 24 times. It is the greatest gift he gives me. On Mother’s Day I noted, “grateful for the title of mother.” “Honest/frank conversations,” and “Drive and dedication at his job” were also noted.

Immediate Family

Our immediate family grew to four in 2018 with Alex’s marriage. Again, time spent together was mentioned most. I’m was grateful for their wedding day and marriage. We’re all grateful for their home offer being accepted and the ease of their move-in.

Extended Family

Siblings, nieces, cousins, parents and in-laws were mentioned 18 times. Highlights: “Inclusiveness and traditions of Loon Lake, MN cousins, like their pre-meal prayer, ‘We love our bread. We love our butter. But most of all we love each other.’ “Adult women who become friends” and “uninterrupted travel time with brother from NE to MN.”

Other

Forty-four (44) golden slips simply could not be forced into another category and got placed in “OTHER.” Samples include, “safety of winter roadways, “service experts like window washers, snow removers, HVAC technicians, etc.”, “Nebraska volleyball players’ grit coming back to win from two sets down,” and “beauty and majesty of fireworks displays.”

Wellness

Access to medical care with kind, caring professionals was frequently mentioned (35). I have a progressive scoliosis. Access to warm water and massage therapy were often cited. “Motivation and commitment to pool exercise for maintenance of health and mobility,” “ability to rest and recover,” and “understanding need for self-care.”

Travel

I am curious and have gypsy-like traits. Thus, I thrive on travel (13) and immersing myself in new surroundings and cultures. I am most grateful for the means to travel.

Nature

Many of my/our travels include exploration of nature and the outdoors (11). Sample notations included: “Sunrises.” “Sitting on dock listening to sounds of loons on lake” and “full moon lighting our travel on I-80.”

Loon Lake, Minnesota

Personal Traits

Personal skills or traits appeared on 29 golden slips. These skills included traits like tolerance, compassion, sense of humor, emotional strength, ability to let go, forgiveness, life long learner, celebratory, etc.

Business Skill

Business aptitude or skills were noted 19 times. Problem-solving, analytical, group facilitation and connection, persistence, creative and artistic, communication (courageous, multi-generational, etc.) and organizational and planning are samples of the greater list.

Alone Time

Alone time only appeared four times during the year. History explains that. I hail from a family of 11. I enjoy being surrounded by people and activity.

CONCLUSIONS

  • There is always something to be grateful for. Recognizing this and pausing to understand gratitude were teachable moments.
  • I was grateful prior to this 365 day exercise. Committing gratitude to paper daily did, however, amplify the many blessings in my life.
  • My gratitude notes mirror my personal priorities. Almost half of the notes (46%) landed in “Marriage + Family.” Over a third (36%) fell in “External” and Eighteen percent (18%) were personal.
  • I was surprised by the number of personal and business traits (combined 48) mentioned on the gratitude slips. Clearly, I understand that my approach to both situations and people stems from the skills I possess and use. Experience (age) does lead to wisdom and insight.
  • Traveling fills my soul whether domestic or off-shore. Yet, it only had 13 mentions during the year. Perhaps, I’ve taken this blessing a bit for granted.
  • I have solidified my belief that most people are good and have good intentions. Forgiveness seems to come easier.
  • An attitude of gratitude is a daily work in progress. Admittedly, while raising a family, working and maintaining a life, it’s not easy to focus on self-improvement.
  • If I had a do-over, I’d have done this exercise earlier in my life. It’s never too late to start.

FUTURE

  • Keep understanding that to experience gratitude, I have to first be aware I’ve been given something (not necessarily a material thing).
  • Start each day being abundantly joyful.
  • Consciously count my blessings on a daily basis.
  • Realize there are trying times and discover the gift in those moments.
  • Be present and aware, especially during mundane, ordinary tasks.
  • Focus on needs not wants.
  • Notice and appreciate each person’s talents.
  • Live simply and minimally.
  • Keep expectations in check.
  • Give thanks every day, including at meal time.
  • Re-read “Attitudes of Gratitude” as needed to get re-focused.

Sandra from Sioux Falls, SD won the book! Congrats!

If you’d like a free copy of “Attitudes of Gratitude,” complete the form below and list the #1 thing you are most grateful for at the moment. List 1 item only.

CLOSED: A random winner will be chosen by May 1, 2019.

©Copyright. April 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images or copy on this site. All are copyright protected and images are available for sale.


Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
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Why Having Cancer Can Be a Positive Thing

Cancer is Hard & Scary. It Can Also be Amazing

Two 57-year-old female professionals meet for the first time at a sushi bar in Omaha, Nebraska. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. It’s not. Kathy and Terry quickly learned they shared triple negative breast cancer.

At a patio table in the late day’s sunshine, they tossed medical jargon around like others discuss politics or sports. They laughed while sharing baldness tales. They empathized with one another while listening to how cancer affects loved ones more than themselves.

Repeatedly, they blasted the negativity of cancer information. Neither ever found a book or article that was “positive about what an amazing journey cancer can be if one keeps the right attitude.”

Despite this, these women stayed focused on the positive aspects of cancer during and after treatment.

I marvel at their strength, frankness and sense of humor. Each will inspire you, or a loved one facing a cancer diagnosis.

If someone you know or love is facing cancer, SHARE this story with them. Even if you don’t have a cancer diagnosis, these women and their positive approach to life are inspirational.

Meet the fantastic Kathy & Terry

Kathy Bressler

Kathy and Mike, her husband of 35 years, recently moved to Omaha from the Pacific Northwest. She’s the Senior VP, Chief Operating Officer for CHI Health. Their two married sons, a daughter and four grandchildren remain there. Her general health was “amazing” before her 2015 cancer diagnosis. Today she still describes it as “awesome.”

She should know. Kathy has both a masters and a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Family History

Kathy’s mother died from her second breast cancer at age 61. Her grandmother died from the same when Kathy’s mom was just 9 years old. This strong family history had Kathy doing monthly breast self-exams at a young age and starting mammograms at age 35. In 2002 she was genetically tested and was negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2.

“When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, I was genetically tested again for all of the genes known, and I was negative for all of them, again.”

Hearing You Have Cancer

“I had a very hot, sharp pain in my right breast on November 29, 2015. My husband urged me to be seen. So, I had diagnostics the next day.” Kathy’s general surgeon delivered the cancer diagnosis to her. “Hearing it is a surreal out-of-body feeling. I was probably less scared than my family and friends because I had so many things I had to do.” Her surgeon didn’t give her any prognosis. Instead, they got to work and jointly planned action steps “to take care of business. I was sad and scared for my family, more than anything.”

Bilateral Mastectomy

Kathy had both breasts removed 11 days after diagnosis. The tumor was so close to the surface that the circulation in her right breast was compromised. She spent six weeks in a hyperbaric chamber. Doing this five days a week, seven hours a day healed her.

In early February 2016 she started 22 weeks of chemotherapy and ended five weeks of radiation therapy in August 2016. She had reconstructive surgery to remove spacers and insert implants in April 2017.

A month later she contracted an infection behind the right-side implant and was hospitalized for five days on IV antibiotics. She also took oral antibiotics for another six weeks.

Today, she’s infection free and feeling “awesome.” She has oncologist appointments once every quarter. “She checks labs for abnormalities and any symptoms that might indicate a recurrence. Recurrence is my greatest fear.”

Head Shaving Party

Kathy’s family, friends and caregivers surrounded her with love and comfort upon hearing her diagnosis. Each continues to check in regularly. As one would expect, when hearing the diagnosis, they had the normal emotions of sadness, thoughtfulness and support.

They drove her to appointments and offered to help in other ways. “I tried hard to stay independent. It was nice to be able to let loved ones do something.” It made them feel part of her journey.

“I’d urge family members to learn about the diagnosis, don’t baby the patient.” Rather she’d encourage them to exercise daily and stay connected socially. She did both.

She’s a hot yoga fanatic. She did it every single day throughout treatment. “The people there were with me every day. I couldn’t have asked for more love and kindness.”

Kathy hosted a head shaving party for 53 people. “It was amazing to watch the emotion in the room. I was doing great. I know it was hard for everyone. It was a very special evening. Being bald was amazing and I love that.”

Gold Star

Hopefully any cancer patient has a list of those who provided comfort through treatment. Kathy does. Husband Mike was “positive and encouraging.” Her kids were amazing. Her daughter was like a nurse to her-hopping in the shower with her mom to ensure her safety when she was weak.

Her brother and sister-in-law and girlfriend, Jennifer, were rock solid in their support.

She’d award a gold star to her chemo nurse Krystal. Krystal took care of her every Monday for 22 weeks. “I fell madly in love with her. She could not have provided me more positive care.” Krystal became a good friend and a great teacher.

Blessed by Cancer Lessons

Kathy is an administrator in a large healthcare system. Her personal cancer journey has changed the way she leads.

It caused her to re-think about what their patients deserve.

She’s quickly irritated hearing stories about how other women were not taken care of in the way they should’ve been. She fully understands not everyone’s journey was amazing as hers was.

Today she:

  • Asks employers of cancer patients to be sensitive and let them keep working as able.
  • Tells oncologists to stay positive and encourage their patients to do the same.
  • Urges patients to accept the love and support of family, friends and caregivers.
  • Reaches out to newly diagnosed women.
  • Participates in a California study specific to triple negative breast cancer.
  • Serves on the Susan G. Komen Advisory Board.
  • Wishes for a world without breast cancer.
  • Feels beyond blessed to have experienced breast cancer. “I know it sounds odd but this diagnosis has changed my life for the better, in so many ways.”

Terry Owens

Terry, a recently retired Disability Management Director, was in excellent health when she learned she had breast cancer. Equally annoying was the fact that there was no family history of breast cancer.

“I was showering one July 2015 morning and felt a large lump in my left breast near the armpit. I called my gynecologist and therein began my cancer journey.” Several referrals and appointments later, she learned it had already become Stage 3. It wasn’t until after Labor Day 2015 she heard it was Triple Negative Cancer.

Self-Exams & Mammograms

A native of Northeast Arkansas with a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling, Terry is a mother of two adult children and grandmother to a 17-month-old. Baby Lyla is expected in December 2017.

She learned to perform breast self-exams at the Baptist Health Breast Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“They have videos and sample breasts with lumps for patients to palpate.” This teaches women what a lump may feel like on her body. Terry admits she was not vigilant about performing monthly self-exams, but she did perform them every so often. She did have mammograms yearly.

Steps to Wellness

Terry’s initial screening (mammogram and ultrasound) was in Arkansas. “The technician returned to the room with a pale and sick look on her face. I knew it was cancer even though she couldn’t confirm it.” Terry was alone when the gynecologist called to share the results and initiate a plan.

She returned to Omaha where she lived and worked. Her primary care physician referred her to a breast surgeon who performed a biopsy and reported the triple negative diagnosis.

She started chemotherapy in early September and became terribly sick, losing 12 pounds along with her hair 16 days after starting. She felt extreme fatigue.

In February 2016, she had a lumpectomy and began radiation, which lasted two months. [Her lymph nodes weren’t removed. Instead her chest, breast and armpit were radiated.]

Follow Ups to Health

After completing radiation, Terry was seen every three months and had repeated mammograms.

Today she’s seen every six months by a breast surgeon, oncologist and oncology radiologist. Like Kathy, she’s also participating in a research study. Hers is for patients who choose not to remove lymph nodes.

She’s happy to report she’s clear and returning to health.

Faith & Comfort

As expected, when hearing her diagnosis, her children cried. They offered love and support throughout. “Most embraced the hope of recovery and survival.”

Terry has a deep faith in the Lord. “He provided my friends and family, as well as my church family, to minister to me and take care of me. Even though I lived alone, someone was with me every time I had chemotherapy.”

Her best friends visited, brought food and kept house. Her children came. “I had enough drugs in me from Friday treatments that I felt well enough to show friends and family around Omaha. Unfortunately, I was always sickest on Sundays-the day everyone left to go home or back to school and work.”

Simple Bit of Food Advice

In their wanting to help, many brought food Terry couldn’t eat. Unfortunately, she had to dispose of it and sometimes didn’t have a prepared meal as scheduled. For instance, she couldn’t tolerate onions and garlic. So, she’d recommend asking the patient or her caregiver about food tolerance before you drop food off for the patient. She doesn’t want someone’s thoughtful and kind gesture to go to waste.

Superstar Chemist

Terry singled out the chemist who mixed her chemo drugs as a superstar through her cancer journey. “He was fabulous in giving me all kinds of helpful tips on caring for myself and managing the nausea, constipation and fatigue.” He even put stickers on her papers and directions for her medication schedules. Simple touches go a long way.

More Information

  • Click on the green live links throughout this article.
  • Pink it Forward
  • Susan G. Komen
  • Breast Cancer Research Foundation
  • CHI Breast Cancer Support Group

7 Simple Ways to Help Someone with Cancer

  1. Treat them as normally as possible.
  2. Offer rides, meals (see above), chores, phone calling, etc.
  3. Plan an outing with flexibility in case patient doesn’t feel well.
  4. Keep your troubles to yourself. Your friend has cancer. Don’t ask her to fix your life at the moment too
  5. Stay positive. If patient is prayerful, pray with and for her.
  6. Stay in her life even if you feel like you don’t know what to do for her.
  7. Organize a scheduled support group around her. Schedule ride, food delivery, companionship, bathing support, etc.

SHARE this article. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

©Copyright. October 2017.  Linda Leier Thomason

All rights reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below. Rights Reserved.