Friday, November 30, 2012

The Walker

Who means the most to you in this world? If you're a parent, you probably would say your child. And to your child, you are probably the most influential person as well. So when your parent is not taking care of you any more, that's a major life change. How about when you need to start caring for your parent?

This month my mother got a walker. A couple of weeks ago, she called me out of breath and upset to tell me that she had fallen three times just that day. In the past few months, she has had more health problems than in her entire life. I won't go into all of them but the latest one has been problems with her feet which have caused her to be off balance and in pain.

The day after she called me, I talked to a friend and she mentioned a walker. That's how new I am to the idea that my mother needs help. She falls that many times and I don't even think "walker" until a friend mentions it. I just don’t think of her as being a woman behind a walker but now she is.

My husband and I are coming to the stage in our lives that we have to think about how to care for our parents. My husband's father is turning 79 in a little over a month and his mother is going to be 73. His stepmother is already over 80.

We moved back to Florida to be near all of them twelve years ago and now we are working on moving even closer to them so we can be there when they need us. We only live about an hour from them now but sometimes an hour can mean all the difference in the world.

I’m writing this blog because it’s the last day of National Family Caregivers Month. According to the National Family Caregivers Association, there are more than 65 million family caregivers in this country. Are you one of them? If you are, I admire you greatly for showing your love in such an important way.

Mother Theresa said, “Spread love wherever you go. First of all in your own house” and “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

We are not all cut out to be caregivers, but we can all show love and devotion to our family. When we do that, we begin a ripple effect of love that can go out to the ends of the world.

For those of you who are caregivers, thank you for spreading your love. Be sure to schedule time for yourself. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. One thing I’ve learned over the years of being a military wife is how important both those things are. As I like to say, we all need help and we all need to help others.

I want to hear your stories. How have you helped others this week, month or year? Email me at with your story and I may feature it in my blog or on my website. On my website I have an Inspiration in Action section about people making a difference. You may be one of them. You don’t have to start a nonprofit to help others, you just have to care and do something.

This quote is attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt. “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Then tell me about it! Have a great weekend.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ten Gifts Under $50 That Give Three Ways

It’s Black Friday and shopping is on the mind of many today. So, as usual, I am releasing my Gifts That Give List just in time for the holidays and I’m keeping each item under $50. It’s a way to let you know how many retailers are making it easier to be charitable than ever before. You can give a gift that makes you, the receiver and a charity feel good.

1.      Made With Love: The Meals on Wheels Family Cookbook for $29.95. With recipes from Paula Deen, Barbara Bush and Martha Stewart, you will truly enjoy this cookbook while helping Meals on Wheels. Just out in October, you can find it at many book retailers such as Amazon, IndieBound and more.

2.      Forever Frogs Lunchbag for $35.00 embroidered. Custom design your own lunch bag by picking the cloth, handle, and even the zipper color and then adding your embroidered initials. Started in the name of a girl who had childhood cancer and loved frogs, all Forever Frogs products have a frog on them and give to the Payton Wright Foundation fighting pediatric brain cancer.

3.      Mercury Glass Filled Votive Set or Candle Pot. Beautiful distressed glass with silver accents for $29.50 for the pot or $49.00 for the votive set. Half of the cost goes to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Check them out at Pottery Barn.

4.      H.E.L.P. Comfort Foods by Choco-Logo Gourmet Sweets for various prices.  Imported gray salt dusted "Salty Turtles," luxurious Caramel Almond Chocolate Chip Bars, Chocolate Covered Pretzels and a decadent caramel and chocolate-covered "Popcorn Extravaganza." With the purchase of each sweet, Choco-Logo donates to Help USA which helps homeless people get training and find jobs.  Go to Help USA to order or to Bloomingdales in Manhattan.

5.      Harry Barker Canines for Veterans Toy Gift Bucket. A bucket of toys for your puppy dog that also means a donation to Canines for Veterans, which rescues dogs from shelters, works with military inmates to train the dogs for service and  pairs trained dogs with wounded veterans. You pay $44.95 for small or $49.95 for large dog toys. Buy at Red Envelope.

6.      Charity Pot of lush lotion for $5.95 or $22.95. Handmade cosmetics by Lush are fabulous and they have a special product just for charity—the Charity Pot! It’s a creamy body lotion made from organic Fair Trade cocoa butter with a fresh floral scent. The price of the pot goes to support grassroots charities around the world. Here’s where to go to get it!

7.      Laughing Man Coffee for $12.00 to $14.00. Started by Australian actor Hugh Jackman, Laughing Man provides coffee, tea, chocolate and accessories and gives 100 percent of its profits back to education, community development and small business. Laughing Man coffee can be found in Tribeca, new York at the Laughing Man CafĂ© and at Dean and Deluca stores nationwide or online here.

8.      Natural Lip Paint for $12.00 from Peace Keeper Cause-Metics. With names like “Paint me Compassionate” and “Paint me Free,” Natural Lip Paint has attitude along with its color. It was also nominated as a finalist for “Best Lip Product of the Year” by the Cosmetics Executive Woman. Peace Keeper Cause-Metics gives all of its after-tax, distributable profits to women’s health advocacy and urgent human rights issues. Try it now.

9.      ONEHOPE California Brut Sparkling wine for $18.99. Fifty percent of the profits from the purchase of this wine goes to Share Our Strength to end child hunger. ONEHOPE has a slate of wines which support various charitable organizations so you can find out more here.

10.   Cherry Keepsake Box for $30.99. This beautiful box can hold jewelry or whatever knicknacks you want and it can be engraved as well. Even better, ten percent of its price goes to a charity of your choice through (Gift Back does this for all their gifts so be sure to give them a look.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lurking in the Shadows

This month people around the nation are walking to support those with diabetes for American Diabetes Month. According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3 percent of population—have diabetes. That’s 18.8 million people who are diagnosed and another 7 million who are not. Worldwide, as many as 371 million people live with diabetes and more than half of them are unaware that they have diabetes according to the International Diabetes Federation. It's a disease that lurks in the shadows, affecting many before they even know of its existence.

So I decided this week to have someone who has lots of experience with diabetes share her story and information about symptoms and how to help those with diabetes. Her name is Carolyn Dailey.

1.       How long have you had diabetes?   

I have had it for 37 years.  In September of 1975, I recognized the symptoms and checked my urine sugar with my Dad's “test kit.”   When the result was bright orange in color (high urine sugar), I knew I had diabetes.  I couldn't believe my eyes. I was scared, told my Mom, and then cried.

 2.      How did you life change when you were diagnosed?   

I began taking daily insulin injections immediately and had to test my urine every day (blood sugar testing was only done in a laboratory). I followed a strict diabetic diet using a meal plan and the diabetic exchange system.  Sugar consumption was reserved for when my blood sugar was low. I had to learn to balance food, exercise, and insulin in order to prevent hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).   

Although I grew up in a home with diabetes (at the time my Dad, 2 brothers, and 2 sisters had Type 1 diabetes) I found out how little I knew. My knowledge was that a diabetic had to take insulin injections, they sometimes had insulin reactions and needed sugar to elevate their blood sugar, but other times sugar was off limits. Wow did I get on the job training quickly. It was a whole new ball game for me.  I followed my doctors directions to a tee—followed a strict diet and rode my bike daily for exercise.  I think the hardest part was experiencing blood sugar swings and insulin reactions. I had to learn the difference by how I felt because I didn't have the means to check my blood sugar and treat accordingly.

 3.      What kind do you have and how does it affect you?

I have Type 1, insulin dependent diabetes.  My pancreas does not produce insulin. At first it was an adjustment, but after 37 years it is just a way of life. All the advances made through the years (ie. blood glucose monitoring, the insulin pump) have made it easier to control my diabetes. In the beginning years I took up to four insulin injections a day, but I still didn't have good control. I was frustrated and told my endocrinologist that I quit trying. I did everything I was supposed to do and still my blood sugars were out of control. I told him I wasn't diabetic. 

He then suggested the insulin infusion pump. I began pump therapy on February 6, 1984. The pump has been a Godsend. I still have highs and lows, but my overall control is very good.  My most recent A1C (blood test which indicates your average blood sugar over a 3-month period) was 6.4 (in normal range). I credit the insulin pump and home blood glucose monitoring for giving me the ability to achieve tighter control of my blood sugars, thus rending me free of diabetic complications (ie. retinopathy (eye), neuropathy (nerve), nephropathy (kidney)).  

4.      What are the best ways for others to help people with diabetes?   

Learn about diabetes and be supportive. If you’re the neighbor of someone who has diabetes and lives alone, then check on them in case they don’t wake up in the morning if their blood sugar goes down in the night. Let the person who has diabetes decide what they can or cannot eat. It’s always nice to have an alternative to cake or sweets for birthdays and holidays.

I also used to be a counselor at the diabetic camp in Louisiana for children. They always need volunteers. We would do sailing, sports, and so on with the kids. Dieticians taught about proper nutrition. Doctors, nurses, and medical students helped monitor blood sugars. The camp was to educate kids on diabetes and also to have fun and learn how to monitor blood sugar when being active.

5.      What are symptoms of diabetes?

Frequent urination, extreme thirst, unexplained weight loss, extreme fatigue, blurred vision.

6.      What do you do to deal with it? Diet, exercise, medication, etc.? 

All of the above. I take insulin via the insulin infusion pump. The pump is a small computer that houses a syringe of insulin connected to tubing which is connected to a needle that is inserted subcutaneously into my abdomen. The tubing must be changed every 3 days to prevent infection at the injection site. The pump is programmed to automatically deliver a set amount of units of insulin per hour at various times of the day. This is called a basal rate. I also bolus or take additional units of insulin at mealtimes based on my blood sugar level and the number of carbohydrates I eat. I monitor my blood sugar a minimum of 4 times a day (meal time and bedtime) plus any time I suspect a high or low blood sugar. I also take Metformin which is an oral agent for Type 2 diabetes. It has been found to help Type 1 diabetics with insulin resistance.

I don't follow a specific meal plan at this time, but am careful with what I eat. Whereas sugar used to be taboo it is no longer forbidden so long it is covered with insulin. The downfall is that insulin allows the sugar to enter your cells so can cause weight gain if one overindulges. I don't have a regular exercise regime much to my doctor's chagrin.  Exercise does help lower blood sugars so when I do any rigorous exercise such as house cleaning, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn or what have you, I have to decrease my insulin so as to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).  It is really a balancing act—diet, medication, exercise.

7.      Is early diagnosis and treatment important? Why?

Yes!  Early diagnosis and treatment is very important in Type 1 diabetes to prevent diabetic coma or death.  Tight control is important to prevent diabetic complications to your eyes, kidneys, heart, etc. Since the pancreas of a Type 2 diabetic still produces insulin, it takes longer for them to realize they have diabetes so their blood sugars could run higher for longer periods and they could have diabetic complications from delayed diagnosis and treatment.

 8.     What sources would you recommend to someone who has just been diagnosed with diabetes?

Read and learn everything you can about diabetes. Above all take your medication and monitor your blood sugars.  Keep blood sugars in normal range. Develop a good working relationship with your together as a team. Ask questions. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is a great source of information. Visit their website. Membership in the ADA includes a monthly issue to Forecast magazine which contains a wealth of information.  

9.      What life lessons have you learned from having this disease?

 Discipline and self-control.

10.  Is there anything that you would like to add?

Because I didn't give up and eventually achieved good diabetes control without complications, I was able to get pregnant and have my first and only baby 10 days before my big 4-0!!   My son is now 19 years old and I am still very healthy.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Defrauding America's Veterans

Veteran’s Day is this weekend and you might be wondering what veterans want for Christmas this year. Hundreds of veteran’s charities will tell you, but the claims of fraud and fundraising overspending against some military charities has risen in the last few years. Before you donate to any, read this blog.

You can and should check out charities that ask for your money. Charity Navigator and Charity Watch are watchdog organizations that rate charities on their transparency and spending habits. Charity Navigator is free while Charity Watch gives access to all its files for a yearly fee.
Currently, Charity Navigator (CN) has a donor advisory on the Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF). According to CN, “On May 23, 2012, CNN reported that Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Senator Richard Burr, the senior Republican on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee are investigating charges that the Disabled Veterans National Foundation has spent little of the tens of millions of dollars it has raised since 2007 on programs to help veterans.” Charity Navigator also has a donor advisory on Help Hospitalized Veterans because it has had a civil suit filed against it by the California Attorney General’s office.

CharityWatch (formerly American Institute of Philanthropy) reports that in April of this year ”a fugitive using the alias "Bobby Thompson" was arrested in Oregon and is now jailed in Ohio facing charges of corruption, theft, and money laundering related to a sham charity he set up—the US Navy Veterans Association—to steal millions of dollars in donations intended to help veterans.”
Both Charity Navigator and Charity Watch also have found military charities that are spending too much money on fundraising. Some of the veteran’s organizations that are rated two or less stars by Charity Navigator are Shiloh International Ministries, United Spinal Association and National Veterans Services Fund. These organizations give up to 75 percent of their money to fundraising, rather than to charity recipients.

Don’t despair too much because there are some great military and veteran charities out there. Some of the military or veteran charities that received three or more stars from Charity Navigator are Fisher House Foundation, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, United Service Organization (USO), National Military Family Association, and Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust.

Some of the Veterans and Military Charitable Organizations that received top rating by CharityWatch are Armed Services YMCA of the USA, Fisher House Foundation, Homes for Our Troops, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, National Military Family Association, Operation Homefront and Semper Fi Fund.

You may notice Fisher House Foundation is on both lists. We have a Fisher House near where I live and I have heard nothing but good about it. Fisher Houses are houses set up for the family of military personnel to stay in while their loved ones are undergoing surgery or other treatment. It’s kind of like a Ronald McDonald house for the military. Charity Navigator reports that the Fisher House program serves more than 10,000 families annually.
The National Military Family Association is also on both lists. It provides a military spouse scholarship program as well as camps and family retreats “geared to address the needs of children and families of our nations wounded service members.”

Thanks to all our veterans and their families for what you do. Always be smart about giving to charity but don’t let the bad taint you against all those charities that are doing good.

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Angels

What were you doing two Saturdays ago? If you’re like me, life is so busy that you can hardly remember what you did yesterday, never mind two weekends ago.
But I had been building up to Saturday, October 20th for a long time because I’m the captain of an American Cancer Society Relay for Life 2013 team.  We had our first fundraiser the 20th. It was a great big yard sale in the parking lot of our church.
My team is called Angels for a Cure because we operate out of our church, the Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church. I’ve been going there since January of 2004 and we became members in 2005 (I think, once again the mind reels at all to think back that far.)
It wasn’t until 2010 that I found out we had a Relay team. We’d gone to other Relays, supported my husband’s work team, my sister’s team and so on. Have you ever been to an event? There’s a Relay for every 60,300 Americans and there were 5,146 Relays in 2010.
There were Relays that year in 18 countries outside the U.S. and even a virtual Relay for Life through Second Life where 3,000 plus avatars raised $222,000. Dogs around the U.S. also celebrated 179 Bark for Life events and 870 national youth partner teams raised a million bucks, too.
I volunteer at the American Cancer Society twice a week and we were reorganizing our pamphlets yesterday. It seems like there are more kinds of cancer than months in the year. Almost every month features a different kind.
This month supports awareness of two—lung cancer and stomach cancer. Lung Cancer Awareness Month culminates in the Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil November 13 and the Great American Smokeout November 15. I also just found out you can join Team Lung Love and run, bike, swim, golf, play tennis or do another sport for lung cancer awareness, too.
For the first time ever, No Stomach For Cancer is kicking off Stomach Cancer Awareness Month® with a walk tomorrow as well. Even if you’re not walking, it’s a day to wear the official stomach cancer color periwinkle as you go about your day.

So, back to the yard sale. It was a great success! We got to church by 7 a.m. (late by yard sale standards), set up and were selling by 7:45. We made about $100 an hour and finished up with over $400 in sales. ($413.51 to be exact!) Way to go, Angels (and THANKS for all your help with the sale!)!

We’re not doing any more fundraisers this year because our church will be busy with supporting the community for the holidays but I feel we got a great start to our campaign.

Now for next year, we’ve got a fundraiser planned for each month before Relay in April. Look out world, here come Angels for a Cure!