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It's always been my experience that when you volunteer, it is the volunteer who gets the most out of the event. Whether you are serving a meal at a senior center, helping out in a child's classroom or speaking out on behalf of a disease, you always feel good about your deed.
I certainly have had a lifetime of being a leader of brownies and girl scouts (my sister and my daughter), I volunteered in most of my kids elementary school classes, room mom for many of those same classes, several political campaigns in my 20's and let us not forget the years I spent raising the children of over 75 sets of parents. Okay, I did get paid for that-but let's face it, no pre-school teacher or day care provider ever gets paid their worth.
The last 6 years I have been volunteering my time getting the word out to hesitant (read that old-fashioned) rheumatologists and their staff about using biologics before a patient with one of several different forms of autoimmune based arthritis get to the severe stage of the disease.
What was that mumbo-jumbo you ask? Patients with rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis on its own and now several other forms of arthritis do not only have the pain of arthritis, but in their blood streams as well. I've mentioned in several blogs that I have rheumatoid arthritis. When the arthritis is of the auto-immune type, such as mine, we have all the usual pain associated with the joint disease plus we have added bonuses. Those bonuses being that we are more prone to infection, other diseases-such as certain cancers, heart disease and a host of other fun stuff.
6 years ago, with the urging of my rheumatologist, I was put on Enbrel, the self-injected biologic from Amgen-Wyeth. After years of horrible pain and misdiagnoses this one drug had me starting to see the "light" of having an easier life within 3 weeks of my first injection.
I saw a web address for VibrantLives on one of my boxes of syringes asking for volunteer speakers. Being a ham, I signed up. Amgen and Wyeth like to set up events for various rheumatology offices around the country, radio stations, TV stations and support groups for us to tell about our experiences. We mainly talk about what our symptoms were, what we went through with various doctors before finding the one that really listened to us and our pain.
We tell about our personal "Molotov" cocktails, which include Enbrel (I'm sure remicade, humira and orencia all have their own cheerleading group) and talk about how we are today.
None of us say "life is perfect", but we do describe our bad days pre and post Enbrel.
I'm getting long-winded here, so let me cut to the chase about why I think the volunteer always gets more out of the work than the intended:
This week I was sent to a lovely resort in the heart of Carlsbad, California. This time it was to thank me and three other volunteer speakers and introduce us to not doctors (although some there were now in the research end) and their staffs, but too many of the fine people of Amgen who never get to see who their drug helps. It gave them faces, personalities and stories that until this point they could never perceive.
They thanked us profusely for sharing our lives with them. One researcher said that until this dinner all she knew were "facts and figures" and that "now I have real people to connect my work too-now I feel a tug in my heart to know I've helped you and so many others lead more fulfilled lives".
It was also really nice to talk to the other patients and hear their stories. I know mine and frankly I get tired of hearing it. How many times can anyone hear their life story before running out screaming?
Now I too have other faces and stories to think about, which reminds me that when I speak for me, I speak for them and many others as well.
I don't know about you-but this inauguration was a wonderful experience. I am not really "into" politics per se. At least my feelings have always been "who you or I vote for is a private matter"-much along the same lines as sex and religion. I definitely have strong feelings about all three-it's just that they are not for public airings.
So why am I saying the ceremonies were wonderful? It has to do with how far we've come as a group of people. No matter who was elected-this would have been a show of progression. I was impressed by the classiness of the ceremony, the positive words spoken, the behavior of the crowd and the fact that this was a truly different and extraordinary event to behold. According to one newscast here in our area, there were over 2 million in attendance and not one arrest-pretty darn impressive in my book.
My husband had to leave early for work, I had to conduct 2 interviews, our son had some business to attend to and our daughter-in-law-to-be had to go to work, but we wanted to see everything from beginning to end. Thank goodness for the invention called the DVR! My husband made me promise not to even peek at MSN online! Fortunately, I was able to comply since I had so much to write.
We finally sat down around 7:30 and watched everyone coming in and taking their places on the platform. Not being fanatics-we decided to watch until one of our favorite weekly programs came on at 9. Not digressing too much here, but if you like sci-fi, you will probably enjoy "Fringe". We're hooked.
Back to the Inaugural proceedings. I'm not the weepy sort in the least, but I felt myself choking up with pride and my eyes getting misty. I was taken aback by it all. I don't remember too many of the ceremonies I've watched, honestly. Little snippets here and there. I blame menopause, but I seem to do that with a lot lately.
I remember the elder Bush saying now that he was President he was never going to eat broccoli again. I remember Carter and his wife insisting on walking down the boulevard instead of riding in the protected bullet proof limousine. I remember not Clinton's ceremony, but the amount of music playing at his party and the joy and fun on his face. I truly do not remember one part of our former president's special day.
Funny the things that stick out in your mind. I think as years pass, I will remember the feeling of watching true history being made yesterday. As Obama put it, to think that his father was denied service in a restaurant just a mere 60 years ago because of the color of his skin and now that a close descendant took the oath of office to the highest post in the same country is amazing.
On the 19th, an article I wrote came out in the OC Register-I listed the link to it here on the same day. One of the boys I talked with, Jacob Steinberg, said it best "It's truly awesome that we elected Barack Obama as President! It means that it's possible for anyone-woman, man, a person of any religion or the background of their culture will also be able to be the head of the United States! I'm proud of our country".
My latest article is a kids take on the inauguration! It has been given the honor of being one of the top 5 features in today’s OC Register!
Please take a look and click the recommend-if you like it.
I’m very proud of how it turned out!
I've heard from cyber-friends in New York that it's very cold.
We here in Orange County have no idea what in the world you are talking about. Cold you say? My energy, money-saving husband is still yelling at us about the 3-digit number on our electricity bill. Air-conditioning keeps going on. He's got it set at the uncomfortable temperature of 82.
I can hear you all-you're saying 82? And yes, it's been going off. Rumors and TV weather people have said this heat wave will continue throughout the week. I love it. There’s nothing better than taking a power-walk without the need for a heavy sweatshirt, possibly gloves and earmuffs. In fact-I had to wait to take my beloved mixed Lab Sunshine for her half-mile walk until 4:15 in the afternoon the other day because at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.-it was 87 degrees outside!
Being a creature of habit, this threw my own daily routine way off. You see, I enjoy going for my daily power walk at 11. I wade through my 75-100 e-mails (most of which end up in the junk area), answer any of them I declare important and then grab my IPod shuffle and go do something to keep my southern region from becoming a bubble butt. I usually take Sunshine first, after all, poor dear can only manage the few feet and it means so much to both of us to have this time together. Have I mentioned she's 12-1/2? I personally think she's doing darn well! My last furry walking partner had to stop going out with me at age 9, poor dear Lucky always had bad hips.
Back to the heat-on a recent newscast, we were told that we were on fire alert. Again. I guess that rain we had a few weeks back wasn't enough to actually soak into the ground. Especially the areas that were already ravaged by the fires that had hit us less than 3 months ago. Besides the high temperatures, parts of Orange County is also feeling the effects of the Santa Ana Winds.
My parents, bless them, are nearing 80. I called to see how they were doing. My mom was telling me that the high winds were keeping them very busy. It seems their next door neighbor doesn't believe in taking care of her palm trees, at all! We mentioned the safety factor to my parents when we were at the house just a few weeks ago. It appears that the woman's daughter comes to check on the elderly woman only once a month and she only has the gardener taking care of the grass.
So there were my parents pulling the huge palm tree fronds off their driveway, the entire backyard AND THE ROOF!!! Then they had to water down everything to finish cleaning it up. That afternoon, the winds became very strong again. Next morning my mom tried to go out her front door. I say tried because the neighbor's stupid palm trees blew an entire new crop of fronds all over my parent's front yard again! This time there were so many that my parents couldn't get out of their own home!
The cleaning process began allover again. There were my parents, almost 80 going out in temperatures hovering at 85 degrees and 30 mile an hour winds pulling their neighbors mess off of their entrance so they could get out of their own home!
I told my mom that as much as she didn't "like to make a fuss"-that this was not what either one of them should be doing. They were going to have to tell their neighbor and her daughter that either they get busy and do something about the trees and shrubbery on their property or you would be calling the city and finding out who to make a formal complaint too. I told her to point out that if either one of you wound in the hospital because of having to do the heavy work of cleaning up after their overgrown yard that your son-in-law the lawyer would find a way to sue.
My mom sighed and said she couldn't do that! "Why mom? If this woman doesn't care about what she's inflicting on you-why should you hesitate to take care of yourself?"
"Because she's older than us and doesn't realize that this is a problem."
"Mom, if she doesn't, her daughter does-we live 40 miles away and can't do this for you. This is not right"
As you can tell, we aren't only having a weather heat wave-we're also having some heated discussions.
Writing is more than words on a page. What I love is talking to new people and learning from them. I realize that I'm only learning a teeny, tiny bit of information about any given subject, but I find it interesting all the same. I also love finding out what makes people do what they do!
This week I have talked to several people from way different backgrounds, age groups and vastly different interests. They were all fascinating. I really cannot for the life of me say who the most interesting, fun was or even who was friendliest. But I will share some of the high points with you!
I interviewed a former rabbi and mother of 3 who has co-authored over 8 books written for kids 7-10. All the books involve the escapades of 4 time-travelling third graders who go back and talk to various historical figures and either dispels any discrepancies to their claims to fame or to convince them to stand pat to their coming monumental decisions so that history maintains its course. An example: since I was interviewing this lovely lady (and later her kids) for an article about a children's angle on the upcoming inauguration, we talked about the parallels between Lincoln and Obama. Her book on Lincoln's Legacy dealt with his wanting to quit fighting for the Emancipation Proclamation.
Heavy duty stuff-but Stacia Deutsch, two of her children and one of their friends reminded me that kids today really have a better understanding of politics that any of us give them credit for. I'm sure you've guessed I'll be putting the link up here as soon as it hits the airways. So important is this story that my editor is putting it in the print edition as the lead story of the Life section on the 19th!
My favorite comment came from Jacob, her soon to be bar mitvah'd son-"Electing Obama means that anyone-no matter who they are, what faith they believe in, where there parents came from or the color of their skin can truly become anything they want to be".
Next in line was a 67 year old neighbor of my sister. Gene Roberts has a titanium implant in his leg, he's hard of hearing and he is both a very vibrant and shy man. I talked to him about his obsession: surfing and taking the disabled out into the ocean. He's been doing this as often as he can for the last 9 or so years. He becomes so passionate when he talks about the joy he sees in the faces and eyes of those he takes out either on their own boards or his tandem surf rider that he made Miss Cautious here want to give it a try! He is going to be the subject of one of my city columns.
The very next day, I interviewed another very passionate woman who will be a subject of another city column-Kellie is an interior designer by trade, but her way of giving back to our community is by being a foster parent to dogs who would otherwise be euthanized. She is currently taking care of Lola, a two year old Chihuahua mix who gave birth to 4 (!!!) pups-the pups were all adopted, but poor Lola was so small and sick from caring for them after their owner abandoned her in an alley that no one wanted to adopt her. Kellie and the rescue (CuddleyCanines.com) came to Lola's aid on the last day of the county shelter's one month stay of execution. A woman after my own heart. However, I'm so much an animal lover, one of my questions to her was "How can you stand to give your foster pets up?"
With her voice choking with tears she told me it was some of the hardest choices she ever had to make and that every time they finally get adopted, she is so heartbroken that she just has to take several months to get over her grief over the loss.
While I may not be earning as much monetarily as when I was selling toilets and shower valves-I certainly feel that what I'm earning is far more interesting and emotionally satisfying.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
WOW! I for one can't believe we are already into 2009! This week (today, Friday) is my ever-lovin' hubby's 52nd birthday. Do you know I met him when he was 23? He still looks pretty much the same, as do I. Yes, we both cover the burgeoning gray on our temples, but we are thankful and proud enough to say that we haven't put on an extra person, our teeth are still all ours (natural, not synthetic and paid for) and no one looks at our pictures and goes off into a corner and gossips about what in the world happened to us. So we are good here.
2008 saw so many expected and unexpected changes. We gained two adorable grandsons-one human, one quite furry. My husband and son both received promotions, I got laid off. Not so bad really. I've been doing a lot of writing and hope to do even more in the coming year.
Digressing back to what I've been up to the last couple of weeks-as I mentioned, we decided to go to Phoenix for 4 days. For the most part, we had a good time. It was relaxing, we were able to see how much the area had changed since we had been there last and we even met a cyber-friend for brunch. We couldn't get over how what was nothing but a "blank" page was now wall to wall homes, apartment dwellings, outdoor and indoor malls and yes, even some factories!
We walked around Old town Scottsdale-filled with uptown art galleries, eateries and city orientated museums. We walked around Old town Tempe-which is really "college town, USA". Maybe it was our age coming through, but we didn't know how 4 blocks of bars, tattoo parlors, breweries/restaurants, coffee houses and one bookstore could be considered "Old Town". We also strolled through an outdoor mall, found hubby some much needed walking shoes (on sale no less!) and saw a movie-FROST/NIXON, which, if anyone is interested, was fabulous.
Unfortunately, we did have a rather "ewww" related incident as well. Since we were there on Christmas Day-we needed to find a place to have our meals, not an easy task-really!
We were given vouchers at our hotel for breakfast and dinner. However, we found breakfast in the makeshift restaurant (they were re-modeling) was just okay and we were hoping for something a bit better for dinnertime. A nice couple in the corner told us "we've lived here for over 40 years and we have always enjoyed our meals at Casino Arizona".
Casino Arizona is one of several Indian run arenas. We've been to several here in California, both with and without my parents, and have ALWAYS had a wonderful experience. Everything has always been extremely fresh, well-prepared and a great way to try all kinds of different cuisines. So without a bit of trepidation, we grabbed my 5' wide umbrella and went off into the pouring rain in search of the Christmas Day buffet.
Once in the door, Steve and I walked around for a bit and saw that the line was going to take us close to 2 hours to get through, so we found the end and joined the line. We were lucky-the couple in front of us were friendly, we talked, found out some other good restaurants and "must sees" for the rest of our trip and, in general, passed the time rather nicely. It did take almost the entire 2 hours to get to the front and be seated.
Now I've mentioned many times in the last 2-1/2 years about my near vegan diet-this night was no different (good choice as you will soon realize). However, my carnivore hubby decided to head straight for the carving station. Not just once either-oh no, he chose to go back another time. BAD, BAD, BAD CHOICE. He came back to the table and mentioned that the kitchen had just brought out not 1, but 3 prime rib roasts that were so rare that everyone was insisting that the chef put their slices on the grill for a bit. I looked at him sideways and asked "do you think that you should eat this then?"
"I was one of the ones who asked for it to be put on the grill-look, it's fine". HA!
We finished, got to the car and then IT happened. Steve couldn't get back to the hotel fast enough. I think it's sufficed to say that we did not have the originally planned romantic evening. Ick.
Poor guy-he got rid of his dinner, as well as breakfast and I'm not actually sure what else, but he got rid of it as well. Thankfully, we had access to free sodas and ice on our floor-I brought back both, made him cold compresses and handed out the Imodium.
He was actually pretty lucky-by midnight the "WORST" was over. He slept in until about 9:30 the next morning and kept breakfast to mint tea and cream of wheat. That was the day we saw the movie. By dinner he felt pretty much back to normal.
I've been on the phone with the restaurant manager several times since then. Seems they actually wanted to show their contrition by having us back at the same place for another dinner! Besides never wanting to step in there again-I explained that it took so long and so many phone calls to get to them that we were over ½ way back to Orange County California.
My requested apology-credit back the $60 to my Celebrity American Express. I wonder what they would have said if I mentioned I was going to write about this experience here on this blog?
Hope your 2009 is off to a reasonably wonderful start....