Category Archives: Ideas

Childhood illness—an idea that pricks emotions, makes eyeballs sweat

Some ideas cause perspiration to spring out of my eyeballs with nowhere to go—but down my cheeks.


(WASHINGTON)—Imagine getting to a scene to report the goings-on at an annual festival dedicated to advancing the cause of pediatric cancer advocacy, and the need for more research funding and updated treatments.

Pretty straightforward, right?

Get sound with folks who say why they’re there, take and Tweet some photos, cut up sound, file audio and web stories, then leave.

You pull out your recording equipment and earbuds while scoping the layout at Freedom Plaza. Who will you talk to? When will you talk to them? You pull up your question list and take note of an announcement that a program is about to start on the main stage.

Cool.

And you position yourself to capture audio. You take a few photos.

Cool.

And someone takes the stage and starts sharing the latest progress from the weekend.  It’s good news.

But your cheeks quiver.

Hummm… That’s odd…

Then your eyes start feeling misty.

Huh? No one’s said anything particularly sad. The lady on the stage just announced more federal funding toward pediatric cancer research.

But the mist  turns to plump tears. But that’s fine. Maybe they’ll evaporate.

Or maybe not.  But  as long as they teeter on the edge of your eyes, you can blink them back.

But nope! They won’t blink back because other drops are waiting to take their place.

Damn.

On scene for five minutes and already crying.

Lordy be, this happened to me last month when covering CureFest 2018.

I usually don’t get in my feelings while covering a story because compartmentalization is my friend.

Didn’t work that afternoon.

Another tear came, and another, and a sister and a brother, but unlike the previous ones, this newer collection didn’t slide down my outer cheek…. they slid right down toward my nose.

I figured no one would want to talk to me if I looked as if I were about to snot.

Where were my tissues?  In the work SUV.  Something told me to bring them, but I left  them behind with the thought “Nah, won’t need those today.”  I was wishing I had listened to my first mind.

At the plaza, there was someone with a camera standing next to me. I assumed she was a fellow reporter. She looked like she was wiping away a tear or two with her hand.  Wasn’t sure if  she saw my disintegrating poker face or not but either way, I needed paper products.

So I went up to a stranger under one of the tents and asked for tissue.

“I’m here for work, and I usually hold it together at work,” I told the kind-faced lady while waving my hands at my cheeks, a failing attempt to fan the tears away. “But for some reason, I can’t hold it together today.”

“It’s okay,” she said, opening her arms over the table and bringing me in for a hug.

I walked in.

She just hugged me while I apologized, closed my eyes and let more tears fall. I apologized again and asked for a tissue. I wanted to cry some more, but I’d soon be facing a deadline.  Pull it together, sis.

The kind-faced lady didn’t have tissue, but she pointed me to the Kid’s Zone. That’s where I met another kind-faced lady named Kat, who didn’t have tissue, but paper towels.

“That’ll work,” I replied, so grateful that I’d have bountiful brawn to sop up my sadness.

“It’s okay,” Kat said. “No one makes it through this weekend without crying at least once.”

So at work we cover lots of stories about grownups behaving badly. Sometimes kids, too. But my hopeful cynicism melts when talking about darling little kids who suffer… kids who should be playing with toys and learning to ride bikes and (if any of them are like I was as a kid) eating dirt clods and pinching butterfly wings and licking their dust to see how it tasted. Don’t judge. I was a semi-curious child.

But it saddens me to my depths that children who are dealing with potentially life-threatening illnesses such as childhood cancers or sickle cell anemia—are learning to pronounce the multisyllabic names of their treatments, going to chemo, getting transfusions… along with learning their favorite hobbies, cartoon and video game characters.

In my deepest heart, I just wish they could be Toys R Us kids, or Game Stop Kids, or skateboard in the park kids, or jungle gym kids, or doll-baby kids or basketball, soccer, football, baseball, hockey kids. Hide-and-go-seek kids, and teens more concerned about passing a driving test than entertaining the idea they could very well pass away.

It took awhile for the emotions I feel when covering stories like this one, and this one to come to a head.

They did that day. And I cried.

According to the song Cry by singer-songwriter Lyfe Jennings, “See, crying is like taking your soul to the laundromat.”

My little soul was twice-washed that day at Cure Fest. But the second time, I was prepared with my stash of paper towel sheets.

And I met my deadlines.


FYI, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month and Sickle Cell Awareness month, but those children and families who are grappling with these illnesses have to do so year round.

There are many organizations out there that advocate for more funding, research, and awareness. Take a peek at the following websites to learn more and find out what you can do to advocate for kids with cancer and sickle cell anemia. This list is just a start, there are so many more organizations that do great work at raising awareness.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand

St. Jude’s Research Hospital

Sickle Cell Disease Association of America

Cleverly Changing

 

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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.

Continue reading The Trait and I–filling in the blanks

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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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