Meeting My Stem Cell Donor

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Many of you know the background leading up to this story all too well, but for those who don’t…

On July 9, 2012, I was diagnosed with a dangerous and fast growing blood cancer, called AML (acute myeloid leukemia), of which my chances of survival were only 10-20%. My greatest chance at beating this disease was to receive a stem cell transplant. Once I began responding to the very aggressive chemotherapy protocols that I had to endure, I was deemed a potential candidate to receive a stem cell transplant. Both of my siblings were eager to be donors for me, but neither one was a “match” when tested for human leukocyte antigens that are used as markers. My brother and sister were both crushed, as they each hoped to provide my shot at a second chance at life. I had a moment of tears, but my faith never waivered. I wasn’t about to give up hope. The treatments, blood and platelet transfusions, and further rounds of chemotherapy continued as I waited and prayed for Be The Match (National Marrow Donor Program) to find an unrelated donor, an angel. Not just for me…I needed to survive for my family; my husband and three sons (ages 9, 13 and 15 when I was diagnosed).

Unbeknownst to me at the time, a young woman had recently joined the marrow donor registry in late July/early August, just weeks after I was diagnosed with AML. She “swabbed” at a Be The Match donor drive that was held at the college she was attending at the time. It turns out she was one of two people in the national marrow donor registry, which consisted of 9 million people at that time, who was a perfect match (10 out of 10 markers) for me. Donors and recipients remain anonymous to each other until they mutually agree to connect…if the donor is from the same country, there is one year waiting period, and if the donor is foreign, the waiting period is two years.

Transplant day: November 13, 2012:
I was admitted to Siteman Cancer Center/Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis early November to begin a rigorous chemotherapy protocol several days prior to the stem cell transplant to ensure my bone marrow was completely wiped out and ready to receive new, healthy stem cells. Not permitted to know any information about my donor other than the fact she was female, I watched her cells drip into the port that was surgically implanted in my chest, with “Oh Happy Day” by Edwin Hawkin Singers playing in the background. My husband and my sister were by my side as tears rolled down my face…. tears of gratitude for this nameless, faceless angel who gave of herself, and tears of joy for a second chance at life; to be given a chance to be there for my children as they grow.
(photo: receiving stem cell infusion)
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Often, doctors will watch for a recipient’s blood type to convert to the donor’s blood type in the first few weeks to see if the transplant is taking place, but my donor and I share the same blood type. Six weeks and another bone marrow biopsy later, I heard the magic words, “Your bone marrow has 100% donor engraftment and there are zero cancer cells”. I heard these same glorious words a few more times for the first year.

One year later, I was told I could write a letter to my donor, so we knew at that point that she was from the United States. I was not allowed to include information that was personal. This was a struggle for me, as not only did I deeply want to express my gratitude, but also wanted to convey to her how she affected so many aspects of my life and my family. A few months later, I followed up with my transplant coordinator and was told they hadn’t heard back from her and that she likely wanted to remain anonymous. I have to admit that I felt a certain void in my heart, not knowing who she was, but respected her decision.

At my two-year transplant anniversary, I contacted my transplant coordinator and asked if I could send another letter to my donor, as I wished to thank her again and let her know that I was still alive. A few months after sending my second letter, my coordinator telephoned to tell me that my donor wanted to initiate contact. Coincidentally, I received the phone call as I was driving down to St. Louis for a transplant doctor appointment. I had to pull off at the next exit to gain composure.

I was given her contact information. Megan. This is her name. Of course it was Megan. This is the name I would have named my child if I had ever had a girl. This is a name that has always been imprinted on my heart.

Megan and I began communicating and within a few months, I made plans to fly to California to meet her. My oldest son accompanied me during his fall break from college. We flew into Los Angeles, rented a car, and spent three hours driving up the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Barbara, near Megan’s home.

What would I say to Megan when I met her? What if I’m a blubbering idiot and start bawling? How do you thank the person who saved your life?

The drive up the coast was a Godsend… hugging the coastline in our little rental VW Jetta. Watching the crashing waves and glistening blue water, as we would wind in and out of mountain paths, was just what I needed. The scenery was breathtaking and it was wonderful to spend one on one time with my son. We arrived at The Upham Hotel in Santa Barbara, a lovely historic inn that Megan arranged for us to stay, to find an elaborate gift basket waiting for us in our room. The basket was full of fruits and gourmet local delicacies that Megan thoughtfully put together for us.

Finally, the moment of meeting: my son and I drove to Megan’s condo that evening. It was dark and we weren’t sure how to access the entrance to her condo, so I called her and she walked out to the parking lot to meet us. We were met with a friendly hug, and I was able to maintain composure, no blubbering or bawling. We spent the evening getting to know her and her boyfriend. Oh, and her dog, Zoey, who they adopted this past summer. For those who may not know, we also have a dog we adopted two years ago, and yes, her name is Zoey! We had a lovely evening and made plans to get together the next night. She made a wonderful dinner for us the following evening, which was completely accommodating of my son’s vegan diet. Again, could she be more wonderful? Megan took a “mental health day” from work the next day, day 3, and we spent a wonderful day together, hiking through a butterfly grove and down a bluff to a beautiful secluded beach. It was a fantastic way to unwind and get to know each other.
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The final evening, we had dinner at a fabulous vegan restaurant and Megan drove us around the Santa Barbara area a bit, showing us some areas we hadn’t seen yet. I knew I couldn’t get away with it that easily…. time to say good-bye and yes; I couldn’t hold back the tears. So many emotions built up and I couldn’t hold the floodgates any longer.

So, this girl saved my life and she is amazing. It goes without saying that she is a kind, giving and thoughtful soul. I feel like she is a part of our family now, and the love in my heart for her is indescribable. So, remember that void I mentioned when I thought I would never know who she was? It’s completely gone, and my heart is full.

Today, November 13, 2015, my three-year stem cell transplant anniversary, I celebrate life and I celebrate Megan, my angel!

*So, in case anyone is wondering…Megan had not chosen to remain anonymous. We suspect the marrow donor program coordinator lost her as she had moved from the time she donated. Regardless, I’m so glad they were finally able to find her and we were able to connect.

Buckets Lists, or 101 Things To Do Before You Die

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101 Things To Do Before You Die: Bucket Lists.

Does this seem daunting to you? Have you actually created a “bucket list”…scratched it down on a note pad, with lines drawn through places travelled, experiences accomplished, etc.?

We will all “hit the bucket” eventually, truth be told. What is important is that we live each day as best we can; fulfilling our own individual dreams as best we can, hopefully making our lives, as well as other’s lives, better along the way. What it really boils down to is having no regrets. Does everyone need a bucket list? Of course not….if you have a great yearning, especially to the point where you feel that it creates a void in your life, by all means, find a way to pursue it. Write it down. Find a way to make it happen. It may be 1 or 101, but find a way.

I do have a personal bucket list that is comprised of many deeper values, but there is another one that I will refer to as my surface bucket list…a list of desired experiences, and places I would like to travel. Since surviving a life threatening illness recently, my husband has been helping me cross these items off my list.

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Van Morrison. If you’re not familiar with him, he is a successful musician, singer and songwriter from Northern Ireland who’s been performing since the late 50’s. I fell in love with his music about 25 years ago, as it helped bring me through a difficult period in my life…I found his music uplifting and spiritual. It inspired positive change in my life at that time. Have you ever had music that “spoke” to you? If so, perhaps you can understand how seeing Van Morrison has been one of my top “bucket list” items. He rarely comes to the United States, and primarily performs in smaller venues in Ireland and the U.K..

My husband, Sean, had been doing quite a bit of work travel to Belfast last spring and would occasionally mention that Van Morrison was playing at local venues while he was there. In response to my envy, he encouraged me to find a way to see Van Morrison in concert. First, did I mention how wonderful my husband is? Second, did someone say “go”? Anyone that knows me–my love of travel, as well as spontaneity in travel– would not be surprised that I jumped on that opportunity immediately. Without hesitation, I booked a Van Morrison concert for us in Newcastle, U.K. (Northern Ireland) for July 19.

This Van Morrison concert became the focal point of what was about to become an amazing 12 day trip driving around Ireland and Northern Ireland with my family. My husband could not join us for the first leg of the trip due to work obligations, so our three teenage boys and I embarked on an Irish adventure. The four of us travelled all over the Emerald Isle for the first 7 days, seeing wonderful sights rich with history, culture, music and beauty, and had the privilege of meeting so many friendly and gracious people. We, as well as our rental car, survived driving the quite narrow, often dangerous roads that we would encounter (driving on the left side of the road as well). I was the only one allowed to drive under the European rental car agency regulations (age requirement over 25 years old)…so, I was constantly scrutinized by two teenage drivers (aged 16 and 18). Sean met us in Northern Ireland, a couple of days before the big concert, and we were able to enjoy Northern Ireland, as well as a few days in Dublin, with him before we all returned home. So, a family vacation, all in all, full of Griswold family type experiences, some growing pains, and learning more about each other each day. But, a vacation that enriched our lives and brought our family closer together while strengthening our love for each other…and a love for Ireland. Thanks to Van Morrison.

Oh yeah, the concert. Fantastic! More than I ever imagined or wished for! It was an evening filled with laughter, tears, and memories that flooded my heart with sweetness, sadness, inspiration and joy. Thank you, Van Morrison and Happy 70th Birthday!

The Lost Art of Letter Writing

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I received the most pleasant surprise today….a hand written card from my eldest son, who is currently working in Colorado during his summer break from college. Not a lost, but definitely a rare, art form these days. Remember the happiness that freely transpired from opening the mailbox to find a postcard or hand written note from someone you care about (other than a birthday or Hallmark holiday card)? Holding the paper in your hands, feeling the sincere sentiment from the ink that flowed from the writer’s pen and knowing that you were thought of and missed; Sensing the touch and connection from the correspondent. In a world of rushed emails and texting, we seem to have lost that special personal connection, in my opinion. Then, there is the controversy of whether schools should continue to teach cursive, which I have heard varying opinions. Historic documents, beautifully constructed in calligraphy….I can’t help but think something would be lost if we were to view them preserved under glass as a printed email in Times New Roman font. Did you ever have a pen pal that you corresponded with, experiencing the excitement of the returned correspondence? From the moment you saw the foreign stamp, unlike any other you had seen, to opening the letter and learning about someone who perhaps lived half way around the world. Someone you had never met in person, but were able to connect through writing; well thought out writing, that didn’t impose immediate response and exchange. And what about chain letters? How fun it was to pass them along, absent of return address, of course; knowing that the recipient would roll their eyes and laugh, contemplating who they could play the same joke upon. Not the same with the ridiculous emails we receive today stating “if you do not send this to 9 more people, then ____ will happen to you”. Where is the effort and fun in that?

It is timely that these thoughts enter my mind as Father’s Day approaches. My Dad, who passed away 12 years ago, was always very good about writing letters and postcards to people, and was also an avid stamp collector. The memories and sentiment that emerge from the letters I saved that he had written are timeless. I will lovingly tuck the card that I received from my son today in that same timeless vault.

On that note (pun intended), I look forward to making the effort to write people more often, to send more postcards when I travel, and in general, to encourage someone or brighten someone’s day with this personal, heartfelt gift.

Informed Consent

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Let me begin by stating that my intent is not to discourage anyone from vaccinating, but to encourage the pursuit for knowledge, as well to understand the slippery slope that our country is heading down with the government controlling what we do to our and our children’s bodies. I am not anti-vaccine, but am against mandatory vaccines and taking away medical choice, as is the position of most who question and research vaccines. Informed consent and the Hippocratic oath that physicians should ethically practice needs to be the pillar of all personal medical decisions; particularly because vaccines are not 100% safe and effective. In addition, forced vaccinations have the potential for violating the 4th amendment. Religious and philosophical exemptions for vaccines are close to being removed across the country—many feel that having aborted human fetus cells, serum from aborted calf fetus blood, armyworm cells, monkey kidney cells, dog kidney cells, mouse brain and/or chicken embryos injected into their or their children’s bodies violates their religious or ethical beliefs. These people will no longer have a choice to opt out of certain vaccines. Parents who have a vaccine injured child, who may be terrified that this will happen again to siblings, will not have a choice. There are now genetic markers developed that show possible likelihood of susceptibility to vaccine injury…..parents of children who present with these markers in their blood will not have a choice either.

I remember being, what is termed today, a “pro-vaxxer”. I went to nursing school and became a registered nurse. I believed and trusted all the information that was given to the medical community from the CDC and AAP. I even recall telling a friend, “Those that do not get their children vaccinated are socially irresponsible,” and I remember the horrified look that I was given. Of course, my arrogant medical mind thought “Oh, she is just uninformed.”. No, I was the uninformed one. Today, the general public is bombarded with this same information from pharmaceutical funded mainstream media. “Anti-vaxxer” is an unfair term that often gets paired with “anti-science”, “ignorant”, and “idiot”. The people who are questioning vaccines are typically highly educated and often, professionals. Many have had children who were vaccine injured, and this sent them down the path of digging deeper for truth and information, often finding lies and fraud that has alluded people to believe that vaccines are 100% safe and effective. Many are not completely against vaccines, but educate themselves and frequently may choose to vaccinate their children with some vaccines, but not others.

My family has been fully vaccinated with “required” vaccines. Three years ago, I received a thorough physical and extensive blood work. I was deemed healthy (other than needing to lose some weight) and all my blood work came back normal. I received several vaccinations that day. Within a few weeks, I began feeling terrible. My symptoms progressively worsened until I finally wound up in the emergency room with a diagnosis of AML (acute myeloid leukemia). My blood work was off the charts crazy abnormal. AML is an aggressive blood cancer that is typically triggered by toxins, radiation exposure, or smoking– which other than the toxins in the vaccines introduced into my body in recent weeks prior to onset of symptoms, I did not fall into any of those categories. Immediate concern was to get treated, as my chances of surviving this deadly disease were slim.

My case is listed in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). I had laid it to rest and moved on, focusing on my health and living my life, until the past several months when legislative bills began being introduced to mandate vaccines and remove exemptions. This is what sent me on the path to researching, even more deeply, the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. I have grave concerns for the direction that public health and welfare is taking. Vaccines are not 100% safe or effective and vaccine injury cannot be denied. The way the vaccine injury compensation system is set up (which protects doctors and pharmaceutical companies from any liability), it is extremely difficult to prove vaccine injury and death. There are limited “tables” set up that vaccine injury victims must fall under in which they receive compensation (with your tax dollars). Over $3.1 billion dollars has been paid out since 1986 to those whose vaccine injury or deaths have been “proven”. This is not an easy task under the very selective criteria of the vaccine injury compensation act table. The majority of cases are not compensated—roughly 30,000 claims are made to VAERS every year. I was contacted by someone from the CDC who told me that one of the main limitations with this program is that events get under-reported, so there are likely even more injuries that do not get reported. Those that are compensated only receive a cap of $250,000, which usually does not cover much of the damage that so many deal with—often brain injury and physical handicaps that require lifetime care. And, here’s a fun fact… over 80 cases have been awarded compensation for autism that was “proven” to be vaccine injury (yes, autism).

Speaking of, I’m still waiting for a valid study to be done to dispel the connection between autism and vaccines. Yeah, yeah, I know…. media likes to spout “let’s finally put this to bed….there is no connection between autism and vaccines.” No, I mean a study that is not performed by a group with a conflict of interest that involves money or vested interest in the promotion of vaccine programs. Not to mention only keeping the focus on the MMR vaccine, when there are other vaccines that actually list autism as a possible adverse reaction. Ancillary studies of unvaccinated populations have shown that there is an absence of children with autistic traits—these studies have been kept quiet, but are valid. However, I don’t want the focus to be on autism as there are so many other vaccine injuries that do occur.

Since 1982, the U.S. has gone from 23 doses of seven vaccinations before age six to 69 doses of 16 vaccines by age 18, with 49 doses of 14 vaccines given between birth and age six. In the 1980’s (46 doses ago), the rate of autism spectrum disorders was 1 in 1,000 children. The current rate of autism spectrum disorders in the United States is 1 in 50 children. The United States also has the highest infant mortality (or IMR) rate in the developed world. 

 The following excerpt is from National Institute of Health; Hum Exp Toxicol. 2011 Sep; 30(9):14201428.doi: 10.1177/0960327111407644 /CDC Table 31. Number of infant deaths and infant mortality rates for 130 selected causes, by race: United States, 2006. Natl Vital Stat Rep 2009; 57: 110–112:

Among the 34 nations analyzed, those that require the most vaccines tend to have the worst IMRs. Thus, we must ask important questions: is it possible that some nations are requiring too many vaccines for their infants and the additional vaccines are a toxic burden on their health? Are some deaths that are listed within the 130 infant mortality death categories really deaths that are associated with over-vaccination? Are some vaccine-related deaths hidden within the death tables?

Bills are being introduced, in which even more vaccines are to be added onto the mandated schedule. If passed, you will no longer have the option to forego vaccines for your children like:

Gardasil (HPV vaccine)—This has generated over 35,000 people with adverse reactions and more than 200 deaths. To date, clinical trials have not shown that this vaccine has prevented any cervical cancer. Plus, studies have shown that women who received this vaccine are at a greater risk of developing a non-vaccine HPV strain.

Flu vaccine– This past year, the flu shot was only 18-19% effective. It is documented as the top vaccine that causes injuries compensated by the vaccine court. Most settlements were due to the development of Guillain-Barre’ Syndrome, which is a very serious debilitating disease.

And many others…

Herd immunity is a pipedream that is flawed when it comes to vaccines.

The recent measles “outbreak”, as some like to call it, sparked the swarm of legislation to hit the United States with multiple bills proposed across the country, including a federal bill to remove all exemptions for vaccines. Patient zero has been speculated to have been a vaccinated child….this is where the disease likely started. Another fun fact: in the past ten years, there have been no deaths related to measles, but there have been 108 deaths reported claiming the measles vaccine was cause of death. Four different measles vaccines were used during this ten-year span. Some are no longer being used. What does that tell you about the safety and amount of research that goes into them before they are approved?

Public Health officials admit, and studies have been published, showing that one can be fully vaccinated for pertussis, get infected and show atypical or no symptoms and spread the disease to the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.

The bottom line: As long as vaccines pose any risk, there must be choice. Do your research and make informed choices. Contact your state legislators and express your concerns for the bills that are being voted on in several states, as well as the federal bill (H.R.2232), in order to protect our nation’s rights.  

  

How To Tell Someone They Have Cancer

How lucky I am to be alive. My “journey” since being diagnosed with AML (acute myeloid leukemia) has not been easy, to say the least. Almost three years away from this diagnosis, I continue to deal with debilitating medical issues related to graft vs. host disease (after stem cell transplant) and effects from aggressive chemotherapy. Many do not realize that once you are finished with cancer treatment, the “journey” isn’t always over.

It goes without saying, a diagnosis like this can blindside you. Just when you think you are doing the right thing, it backfires on you. On the day of receiving a physical and extensive bloodwork, which all came back normal, I was deemed healthy. I also received several vaccinations that day. Within a few weeks, I began to bruise easily, tire quickly,have terrible headaches, sweat profusely, and become out of breathe with simple tasks. It was a stressful time in my life as my mother was not doing well, and in weeks to come, she eventually passed away; and our family was preparing for a move. So, I chalked my symptoms up to stress. My symptoms progressively became worse and I developed severe upper abdominal pain and could not even make it up a flight of stairs without feeling like I was going to collapse. This happened while I was in upper Michigan dropping our oldest son off at camp.

With God at the steering wheel and my 9 year old as the copilot, we made it home in an 11-hour drive, which included two horrible stretches of construction and traffic. I’m certain we wouldn’t have made it without those two (God and my son). As bad as I felt, I needed to get home and could not bare the thought of going through surgery in an unfamiliar hospital. Oh, I forgot to mention, I was certain that I either needed my gall bladder removed or an abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. Silly nurses. Medical professionals really do make the worst patients. Arriving safely at home late that night, I plopped down onto my bed. My clothes remained on. My husband took my shoes off. I could not even muster the strength to brush my teeth. The next morning, I felt even worse, which I didn’t think was possible. My husband had already left for work and didn’t wake me, hoping that sleep would be a good remedy. Unfortunately, not the case.

I drove myself to the emergency room, again with my 9 year old as my copilot, and my husband met us there. The E.R. doctor worked me up for what he suspected was related to a gall bladder issue. The pain was not caused by my gall bladder, but a spleen that was 3 times the size it should be. Never losing my sense of humor, which is crucial when going through stressful times, all I pictured was the Grinch and his heart growing 3 times it’s size. Finally, unbeknownst to me, the routine blood work that had been drawn upon admission to the E.R. came back completely out of whack, showing the likelihood of leukemia. Apparently, everyone in the emergency room thought someone else had informed me, so I never was told my suspected diagnosis or the results of the blood work. There were several people who came in with noses in clipboards, and kept asking “Are you sure you don’t have any history of cancer in your family?”. I thought this was strange, but after working in several teaching hospitals myself over several years, I realized that redundancy of information is the norm when dealing with medical residents, interns and fellows. Finally, two women in lab coats walked into the room. One, with her name badge flipped so I couldn’t really see it; the other, with her name badge partially covered by the lapel of her lab coat. They introduced themselves as Deb and Jen, from Oncology. Jen proceeded to tell me about the blasts in my blood being critically high. I responded, “Wait, are you trying to tell me I have cancer?”. (Yes, I had to break the news of my diagnosis to myself)

Jen responded, “Didn’t anyone tell you?” I nodded no. “Well, that’s why we’re here. You need a bone marrow biopsy to confirm your diagnosis.”

I could physically feel my jaw drop. You read about this happening in books, but I don’t think I’d ever witnessed anyone actually dropping their jaw without it being a purposeful, dramatic response. I asked, “You think I have leukemia?”

Jen took my hand and said, “Well, like I said, we need to do the bone marrow aspiration to confirm. But, that’s why we’re here. We need to do it now. Are you a nurse or something?”

“Yes, I worked oncology almost 20 years ago.”

There really isn’t any good way to find out you are diagnosed with cancer, or at least I can’t imagine one. Maybe it was best I broke the news to myself.

Everything moved surprisingly quick. Pathology read the bone marrow result and it confirmed an AML diagnosis, which is an extremely aggressive and quick acting leukemia. So, treatment needed to begin as soon as possible. My blasts were extremely high, which isn’t a surprise as I had been ignoring the symptoms for quite a while. I was told they were surprised I was able to walk into the emergency room, and shocked them all when they found out about the drive the night before.

Next on the agenda was the insertion of a Groshong catheter into my chest so that I could be started on chemotherapy immediately. I remained in the hospital, that first admission, for 30 days. One month, which consisted of chemotherapy; infections; lots of nausea and vomiting; drug reactions; platelet reactions; loss of hair (and 20 pounds); multiple blood and platelet transfusions and a myriad of other unpleasantries. Not fun.

Initially, I had an overwhelming feeling that I was going to beat this and no one could tell me otherwise. There are definite perks to being stubborn. My doctor started to talk about statistics and prognosis and I immediately stopped him. I didn’t want to know numbers. Two years later, I did find out that I had a 10-20% chance of surviving AML and a 40% chance of surviving a stem cell transplant.

I’m glad I didn’t know the numbers then.

To Hold Your Hand A Little Bit Longer– Mother’s Day Without You

By Maureen Leuba

Sitting in a rocking chair, gazing at a starry sky
A welcome belly kick; yearning for this newborn’s cry
But the day never comes; the cry is never heard
This angel merely a dream, painfully blurred
A connection only you will quite understand
If only you could have held her hand

His laughter plays in your mind; the record keeps skipping
Can’t erase the memories; the hurt continues gripping
He didn’t deserve to be taken so young
Many times missed, many songs unsung
You ask the Lord to make you stronger
To hold his hand just a little bit longer

She tucked you in at night and told you stories
Encouraged you faithfully, through disappointments and glories
A mother’s love; a pillar of strength
For her child, willing to go to any length
She’s gone now; your heart– it craves her presence
Within you, you know she’s there; her love, her essence
If only one day more there could be
To hold her hand for eternity

Mother’s love travels deep and wide
Absence in a soul; Sorrows collide
A time to grieve; memories ablaze
Warm embrace behind a glowing haze
Holding the hands of those that have past
Memories remain that will forever last

That’s Not How This Works

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That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. The operative word is “works”. Effective communication and resolution in the world—does it seem like it is disintegrating to anyone else? Is it “working”? Can anyone else see the influences around us that are breaking down the walls of communication? Before technology, it was not perfect by any means. Bitterness between nations, as well as our own, has imploded and/or created wars and terrorism as a result of unresolved conflict since the beginning of time.
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What are we teaching and modeling to our children? My concern is for the upcoming generations that are seeing an entirely different world than I saw growing up. Pong was a technological phenomenon in my childhood. Don’t get me wrong—I feel so fortunate to be alive during this very exciting point in history. However, I fear that healthy and effective communication, as well as conflict resolution is threatened as technology advances. We are in control, and have the ability to let technology interfere with, or enhance, our lives.

Social media has the capacity to provide a fun and informative outlet for people. But, at times, I see blatant unhealthy communication patterns, particularly amongst teenagers and young adults. This is the age group that is most dramatically affected by social media, as it is now engrained into their lives at a young age. Dialogue in threads that can be aggressive or abusive— as well as no issue “posting” offensive or degrading remarks or media– not something you could imagine these young people saying face to face. At least I hope not—if so, then the problem stretches way beyond what I ‘m thinking is related to technology. Or maybe it is the root of the problem. “Unfriending” someone if they disagree with them; unable to facilitate an intelligent conversation without perceiving a sense of indignation. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

images-2Having had teenagers, I have also seen this in texting occasionally. Yes, we have been “that” parent that checks texts—we just happen to see it as part of parenting. And sometimes the texts and drama can be brutal. So, yes, along those lines– texting, as well as social media, carries that slippery slope to passively allow people to communicate in many ways they do not feel or see immediate consequences for—passive-aggressive communication, bullying, inappropriate communication or sexting, as well as completely skewed interpretations of texting since it is without perceived emotion or tone.

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On an unrelated note, but related in regards to the fact that our society is pulling away from lengthy face-to-face contact. Road rage. Be honest, maybe you haven’t pulled a full blown “rage” (or maybe you have), but have you ever muttered something under your breath if someone else put you in harms way, or even inconvenienced you, while they were driving? Have your children heard you do this? Is it something you would say to this perfect strangers face– say, if they bumped into you with their grocery cart?

Again, we have the ability to let technology interfere/harm, or enhance our lives. We can make it a proactive choice for our children and future generations. We have the power to make it “work”.

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