Category Archives: Ideas

The Trait and I–filling in the blanks

There’s lots to learn about Sickle Cell Disease and Sickle Cell Trait. Click the image to listen to Planet Noun’s interview on SoundCloud featuring Elle Cole, writer and founder of CleverlyChanging.com

Mom is the one who first told me about sickle cell disease and the sickle cell trait. I can’t tell you what prompted the discussion. Maybe it was hearing about a childhood acquaintance who had the disease, was in crisis and in the hospital. Maybe something else prompted her to open up that discussion.

I have the trait, and so do you, is the essence of what she said.

Concern had to be etched on my face or laced in my words or questions, because I remember Mom reassuring me I could not “grow” or develop the disease. People with sickle cell are born with it and both parents must have the trait to pass it along to their children, and there’s a one -in-four chance that can happen. Mom told me she and Daddy didn’t have to worry about having a child with sickle cell disease, because he is trait-free.

This trait conversation was one of “the talks” I’d have to bring up when dating or considering marriage, Mom warned me. Wish I could recall how old I was when she told me all of this. I don’t, but it’s something I’ve kept with me all these years.

Couldn’t say if I discussed this with every single guy I’ve dated, but I do know with the more serious ones, it’s definitely come up in conversation. It wasn’t one of those big deal “we need to talk” convos. It just came up either naturally, or in a casual “oh, by the way,” kind of manner.

Making Connections

One thing Mom and other medical professionals have told me—there’s nothing to worry about with the sickle cell trait. Seems that’s pretty much been the case throughout the years. However, I’ve recently learned is that even though I can expect to have good health (bastard fibroids aside), folks with sickle cell trait are at risk for a health complication called exertional sickling that can happen during or after strenuous exercise or exercise that’s carried out in extreme environmental conditions. For example, exercise on very hot days could trigger exertional sickling. Dehydration can also play a role.

As a result of my interview with Cleverly Changing, I’m starting to learn about some of the effects the trait can carry with it, and she pointed me to some resources for more information.   In retrospect, I’m also realizing maybe I’ve had experiences that coincide with some other symptoms a trait carrier can have during workouts.

Maybe this explains why, when I was in high school, I felt loopy and dizzy when we had to run a mile—I’d never done that before, and hated how I felt afterwards. I’d run sprint races like the 50 and 100-yard-dash during elementary school field days, and never felt like I would pass out. But that first high school mile not only temporarily took my wind, which is natural, but the added dizziness let me know something might be awry. What it was, I didn’t know at the time.

I can still walk, I thought. Maybe it’s not that bad. I’m just out of shape.

I wasn’t “in shape,” nor did I workout every day. But I wasn’t inactive. I walked plenty in those days of catching the city bus. Sometimes I ran for the bus, sometimes I walked from my street of residence to another main highway to bypass one of the bus lines and slash my trip from two buses to one. Then there was the walk from the bus stop to the school. Even with that walking, being out of shape for a mile run was still a definite possibility.

Looking back, perhaps it was my paltry water intake that made me dizzy after that mile. Back in those days, I preferred drinking lots of milk, because it did a body good, and colored drinks and sodas because they were tasty and cool. Water, I drank a little bit before and right after exercise. When I was in elementary school, I loaded up after spending recess running around the school yard. At home, I used it to boil for hot teas and cocoa, and to dissolve Kool-Aid, Tang or Country Time Lemonade for a cool beverage on hot days.

Marathons

I’ve never run one. Once upon a time, it was on my list of things to conquer—but it’s slid from the back burner, off the stove into the trashcan. I’m not saying I won’t ever, ever run one… but resting in my mind’s closet has always been that high school experience—sort of warning me of what could be a latent reality.

When I worked in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington, Va., I got the chance to observe folks who had just finished running the Marine Corps Marathon. Throngs of runners collected there to recover, rest and reunite their loved ones in that area, which also doubled as a celebration and festival area. Once I left work and saw some of the runners after the race. Most looked like they were about die or wanted to. My instinct told me maybe running marathons wasn’t for me after all.

It was my gut speaking.

Then, several years later, I learned about the possibility of exertion sickling for athletes with sickle cell trait.

The University of South Florida Health, in informational material on sickle cell trait for coaches, defines exertional sickling as “a potentially life-threatening condition resulting from the sickling of red blood cells during intense exercise.  Sickling results in muscular ischemia and collapse, whereby the athlete may experience intense muscular pain, rhabdomyolysis, and other serious metabolic problems. Signs and symptoms of an exertional sickling event include intense pain, fatigue, feeling like you cannot continue exercising, muscle cramping and inability to catch your breath.  Exertional sickling is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.”

Of course, I realize there’s no guarantee this will happen to me during intense workouts. I’m not athletic like that. But, then again,  I can’t guarantee it won’t. So I just take it easy, and set my own pace—which I’ve always done and is recommended for anyone during exercise— and have settled with the idea that an onslaught of extreme athletic anything may not be part of my life.

And that’s O.damn.K.

At the same time, I’m not ruling out reaching in the trashcan to recycle my discarded marathon dreams—maybe in abbreviated 5K form.

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#Saturday Spark 9/8/2018–Gratefulness

Truth: I’m talking to myself half the time I post something inspirational on social media or repost a quote from another profile. There are LOTS of things I want to change about my life, but I see no use in complaining and allowing those things to cloud the beautiful experiences in life.

Stuff I cried and groused about last year now seem like timely and merciful blessings.

There is much value in shifting my perspective into one of gratefulness. That spirit helps me look at the posibilities, whatever they may be, in a positive and affirming way… in a manner that really makes many more things seem possible.

 

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Attitude depicts your altitude….therefore I choose Gratefulness. #Breelism #quotestoliveby #grateful

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Cancer’s wiggety-wackness, gratefulness…and prayer (yes, this post will make sense)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, PGFD firefighter Jesse McCullough, his wife and one of his daughters at a Sunday afternoon fundraiser to help defray costs of McCullough’s cancer treatment. Gov. Hogan heard about the event and stopped by to offer emotional support. Hogan also fought cancer for about a year and a half. His diagnosis came just several months after his inauguration in 2015.

(At the Water’s Edge, Maryland) — Grateful. I’m deeply grateful that folks allow me into their time and spaces to ask questions and be nosey in both good and extremely difficult times.

Some folks I cover for work really resonate my heart strings. From Brandi Garrett at The Maddy Wagon whose daughter, Madison, is a childhood cancer survivor…to Roya Giordano and family who lost their teen son/brother Mathias to bone cancer. 

Earlier today for work, I got to cover a fundraiser for a firefighter who is battling colon cancer. It has spread…He says the chemo seems to be holding it at bay right now, but he told me it isn’t curable so he’s essentially buying more time to be able to spend with his wife and watch his daughters grow some more…He’s looking into clinical trials in the D.C. area and in Boston, but isn’t eligible for any of those until all other treatment options are exhausted.

So….Since my blog is a personal project, and because it’s no secret I want everyone to be happy and healed, I have requests:

  • If you are a praying person, pray.
  • If you only put positive thoughts & speech into the universe, do that.
  • If you do none of the above, just hope for the best so Prince George’s County firefighter Jesse McCullough gets better. 
  • If you know a phalanx of prayer warrior grannies or aunties who always smell of peppermints and/or wear white gloves to their houses of worship even in the summer heat…ask.them.to.pray.  Not just any grannies or aunties. The ones who call everyone either “sweetie,” “dear heart,” or “baby”…(pronounced BEHHH-buh) or some other variation.  That encompasses a wide variety of grannies/aunties of different backgrounds with only the sweetest levels of sweetness.

Big G upstairs be listening to them, for real. 

 #McCulloughStrong

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Bastards never come in human form…trust me

Dedicated to anyone who’s ever held a grudge against their uterus.

Fibroids ain’t nothin’ but a bunch of dirty bastards.

This ailment, this uterine scourge, these uterine fibroids have had me exhausted, tired, fed up and have pushed me over the brink to tears more than once.

Bastards.

Some women are blessed (?) to have only one fibroid. Blessed, I say. But that’s the perspective of a woman who grows them like womb weeds and has multiple surgeries under her belt (literally) and a surgeon’s designer scar to prove it.

At times, I’ve internally scoffed at women who tote around one bastard. Internally. It would be too insensitive to let that half laugh escape my lips.

Uterine fibroids are actually—BASTARDS. No daddy to know, no sperm involved. But somehow, they rise from the walls of countless uteri worldwide and can figuratively turn a woman’s baby incubator into ashes. Click To Tweet

“Once upon a time, I had 25 fibroids removed from my uterus in one surgery alone,” I find a way to slide in that factoid during fibroid-related conversations. Not as a bragging right. No-never. Brag for what? These monsters are for the birds. Actually, they’re so bad, I don’t even want actual nasty pigeons to deal with them.

“Wow” is usually the reaction I get to that factoid—or something in that neighborhood. No one could figure out where all the bastards all hid. But my hacksawn uterus knows. It’s hiding and growing a crapload more.

Bastards.

But then my internal scoffs turn into “Oh damn”s when the uni-broid women share tales of pain…They ask me how much pain I grapple with or what’s my go-to pill to ease the pangs…or how many hot water bottles or lavender-smelling microwaveable beady heat pillows I use for comfort.

Truth is…my bastards aren’t horribly painful most of the time. There’s pressure and some discomfort, but for me, it’s the bleeding that’s the beast.

Bastards.

Flow gushes.

Bastards.

Bathroom rushes to beat the leaks.

Bastards!

Passing clots the size of a quarter or silver dollar…and bigger—multiple times daily.

Bastards!

The exhaustion and toying with iron deficiency anemia.

Bastards!

Surgeries for relief.
Knowing the blobs will return with time.
Being told the only way out is a hysterectomy.

Bastards! Bastards! Bastards!

The heaving sobs and tears.
Bastards soak what they soak best…and tears stain my face, my pillow.
Whatever normal life I wanted…the Bastards wove their way in and tainted it with overstuffed pad bags, baby and other types of wipes, extra changes of underwear and a towels—just in case things get too messy for disposable wipes.

The literal bastards.

See, an old meaning of the word bastard—is a person born of two folks not married to each other. It’s, like, 1,000 years past old school meaning, and I reject the whole illegitimate child idea. ALL children are legitimate. They’re here, alive, breathing=legitimate. Daddy known or unknown=legitimate.

Uterine fibroids, on the other hand are actually—BASTARDS. There is no daddy to know, no sperm involved anywhere in the creation process. But somehow, they rise from the walls of countless uteri worldwide and can figuratively turn a woman’s baby incubator into ashes.

Bastards. All of them.

But women and uteri containing people…of all stripes, colors, and with all ailments—Still. We. Rise. Rolling with all sorts of punches.

Even from no-class, disrespectful bastards.

This post has been updated to include an audio version of this blog post.

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Should I get down and derby?

(PLANET EARTH) — Sometimes work takes me to unexpected places. So a couple of months ago, in the cold-@$$ clutches of winter, I met a few ladies with no pants on.

My pants were on. I was working, yo. Yes, I understand that some professions don’t require pants—but this wasn’t that. Hark! Retrievest thy mind from the gutters.

So every year in the cold-stale crust of winter, folks get together to ride subways around their respective cities. With no pants on.

I’ve had the vicarious joy of covering this event at work for two years in a row.

Even though the three ladies were riding the Metro in their underwears (shout-out to little kids who say it plural because—two leg holes), it was for a kinkyless purpose.

The trio was from the Free State Roller Derby team, and they were pretty kind and friendly. We chatted, I got some sound for work, passed out a business card or two.

Months later, one of them dropped me an email inviting me to cover their season opener in Rockville, Md.–and a reminder to think about joining the league.

So I pitched the season opener story idea to the weekend managing editor–and it was a go!

Here’s what I learned in a nutshell—FSRD is almost nine years old, and they have a training program for newbies to get acclimated to derby-style skating. The new folks are called Fresh Meat, and before they can bout, they have to be able to skate a certain number of laps around the derby track—I think it’s 27 or so. Fresh Meat members are also taught other things, including how to fall–kind of like boxing, where you’re taught how to take a punch.  They assess their skills before letting them join a bout.

A couple of the ladies I spoke to said they were turned on to roller derby from the Drew Barrymore-directed movie Whip It. I’ve never seen it, but I must do so after the raves I heard today!

So question is… Should I try to join the league? It’s been several years, but I know I can hold my own on some skates…but derby style? I’d probably fracture my whole clumsy body. I’ve been described as lithe and graceful, but do not be deceived. Clumsy has always tread just beneath the surface.

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Erotic poetry to keep your Valentine steamy all year long–a chat with Rare Epiphany

There’s nothing like good talks with longtime friends.

Those conversations between decades-old pals can sometimes get pretty personal and… adult.

Especially if your friend has written a book of erotic poetry.

If you don’t know, you’re about to find out…about Atlanta-based poet Rare Epiphany.

Order her already-published books here.

Rare/Pam keeps a constant stream of writing activities on her docket.

“I have a cookbook coming, too, as soon as I learn how to measure,” she tells Planet Noun.  “I’m a classic Southern cook. I don’t measure anything. I just sprinkle ’till the spirit of my ancestors say ‘Enough my child.’”

She’s also working on a poetic autobiography and a second book of erotic poetry. Her projects include a collection titled “Think.”

“It’s funny, because the main script for think was done before Soul Kisses was done. I just never released [it]. And I figured there’s a reason for that, so I gotta go back through and try to look through it and figure out what’s going on [with] “Think.”

That project, Rare says, is built on a series of writing challenges.

“I specifically ask people, when I don’t feel like I’m writing enough, I’ll ask for challenges. So it can be a word challenge. Give me 10 words, and I’ll take those 10 words and…build a piece around these 10 words. Or I’ll say give me a song. And I’ll write a poem based on how the song makes me feel, or the story of the song, where it takes me. It can [also] be a quote–something to kind of push a poem out, and that is how a lot of Soul Kisses was written,” Rare adds.

I”m always working on some project or another.  And then I’ll get pulled into another project, and then I’ll get pulled into another project. And sometimes I just need a breather from something like the autobiography,” Rare says, which is psychologically taxing project because it delves into her entire history, which includes being sexually abused as a young girl.

When her pen needs break, she opts for happier writing projects.

“Let me write about rainbows and unicorns and stuff.  Feel good about life,” she muses.

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Podcast Episode 2: Cancer has no couth or sense of timing

Cancer is rude. It doesn’t ask anyone if they want its company, won’t ask you “Hey, can I come on over to your place and hang out for awhile?”

Nope. That would be polite.  (As if you would tell it yes if it did ask–I know I sure wouldn’t.) Cancer just raps on your door, taps on your window pane, and then walks or climbs right into your life. Loud and ill-timed. Of course, there never is a good moment for cancer to come on by. Ever. It just shows up, sits on your couch, puts its muddy shoes on your ottoman,  eats up all the food, hides the TV remote and then doesn’t even bother to help clean up.

If cancer were polite, it wouldn’t be cancer.  It wouldn’t strike fear and apprehension into the hearts and minds of those who must confront it and those who hope it never comes their way.

For Brandi Garrett and her husband, this battle was a family affair. They and their children embarked on this journey when one of their daughters, Madison, received an unwanted diagnosis.  Maddy was three years old when they learned she had cancer… Stage IV.

Listen as Brandi recounts  Madison’s journey:

Thanks for listening to Episode 2: Cancer has no couth or sense of timing.  Here are a couple-more notes to keep in mind:

The Maddy Wagon is active year round.  Visit the website to learn more about the organization started in Madison’s name, and to obtain more information about their yearly gift giveaway –Christmas Maddy Wagons of H.O.P.E., which stands for Happiness, Optimism, Peace and Excitement.

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New Podcast! Episode 1: If you don’t need him, why marry the dude?

So… I decided to start a podcast!

The adage “waste not, want not” applies to Extra Tape from initiative-driven interviews for work that are often recorded on my own time. It’s usually only sound-bites and brief quotes usually see the light of day on air and online. Unfortunately, the result is hearing my angel robe-clad, halo-wearing conscience whispering on both shoulders, in my parents’ voices, reminding me not to waste anything. Food. Money. Audio. It’s all the same.

Hence, this podcast.

So let’s get to Episode 1.

If you’ve ever said “I don’t need a man,” here’s an author who agrees with you… With a slight twist.

Listen here:

Thanks for listening to Planet Noun Podcast!
Learn more about author Carmen Hope Thomas, and her book “Why Marry a Man You Don’t Need,” right here.

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Giants will fall, that’s the way of the world

It’s not going to stop.  It’s the order of things, the circle of this hard life, the order of the world.  Somewhere on earth, seems it’s always a time for the giants to keep falling.  Our elders pass away, take leave of earth—sometimes way too soon—and many are left behind to mourn and remember.

Jerry Lewis (1926–2017) was part of my childhood movie reel.

With all the foolishness that’s going on these chaotic days, it’s good to keep humor in the scabbard of sharpened coping mechanisms to help maneuver through the world with sanity intact.

As a child, Jerry Lewis movies gave me plenty of laughs and taught me that the underdog nerd-guy/person really can win.   And that was music to my soul.  Music I still need to hear every now and again.

I got a kick out of the slapstick comedy, but my favorite scene of all his movies is from “The Patsy.

Can’t say why this portion of the movie tickles my funny bone, and has done so since I was 10 years old or so.  Maybe it’s because the trio wasn’t what I expected.  Don’t know what I expected to see as a 10-year-old, but that sure wasn’t it.

Lewis’ annual telethon to benefit muscular dystrophy is another thing I’ll remember.  I hated telethons as a child, and did all I could to avoid them.  But even so, what stuck with me is that this star-figure, who could be doing anything with his time, chose to raise funds for research to benefit others. Because I hardly ever watched, I never picked up on reasons others weren’t fans of the annual event.

But what cemented Lewis as a funny, but curmudgeonly figure in my mind is this Hollywood Reporter interview.  First of all, I don’t know why someone granted this interview.  He wasn’t having it.  And let the whole world know.  And it made me laugh.  But made me feel for the reporter.

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Using verbal arts to eliminate violence

A reaction to stories I covered for work earlier this week… and a possible solution to a human problem. 


(During a Commute Home)—So my workday was going pretty well, for the most part. And then they sent me to cover the investigation after a shooting. So I drove to the Metro station that straddles the D.C./Maryland line where it happened. Now it wasn’t a gory or bloody area that we could see.  Of course, the police kept us far enough away from the crime scene, which was on board a train car. My guess is that it was to preserve the integrity of that crime scene so they can pick up whatever bits and pieces of evidence, gun shells and casings and you know, maybe bits of hair or fragments of flesh or whatever else it is that they needed in order to complete the investigation.  And they were looking for three suspects. And according to the pictures that I saw, that Metro pushed out, they seem to be pretty young people.  A spokesman for the transit agency told reporters the guy who got shot was a teenager. At that time, I didn’t know exactly how old, if he was a young teen like 13 or 14 or if he was an old teen like 19… That all had to come out in the wash.  And it did.  It still is coming out in an unfortunate wash.

Argument leads to shooting. So cliche. Why couldn’t they have bus(ted)-out in a parking lot rap battle instead? Click To Tweet

Continue reading Using verbal arts to eliminate violence

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