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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dream Big... It's a Brand New Year!

Determination, good joo-joo and a little luck will get you everywhere!

I can honestly say that I've never made a New Years resolution that I've not achieved, and I will tell you the secret to my goal setting success shortly, but first let's talk about you, the New Year and what resolutions you may or may not be contemplating as 2010 rolls this way. Really, so much depends on what stage of life you're at. In my twenties my goals were... Lose that 5lbs, find a better job and naturally meet Mr. Wonderful. In my thirties, married with children, I owned a hair salon and much of my life revolved around long hours and unsatisfying work. I adored my clients and loved doing hair–what I didn't enjoy was trying to be and do it all. The hours were long (eleven plus hour days) my children young, and I was struggling with my decision to run a business when, in fact, all I really wanted was to be a mom. That year, unhappy and under much strain, my resolution was simply–to enjoy life more. As understated as that particular goal seemed at the time, it proved to be the most important resolution I would ever make. Enjoy life more. Think about it. Isn't that why we make resolutions in the first place–to make our lives more satisfying? Making that one resolution led me to do a lot of soul searching, which in turn led me to leave the salon business and pursue my true passion–writing–which enabled me to be an at home with my kids–which led me to adopt another child... All of which helped me to achieve my current state of affairs. Enjoying life, am I? I must admit that I am. After much trial and error, I've finally found my true calling and it's not one that interferes with my life, my children, or my joy.

If you're exactly where you want to be, congrats and more power to you! If you're still working to get there, ask yourself these two all-important questions:

1. What would make me enjoy my life more?
2. What steps do I need to take to get there?

Remember when I said that I'd never set a resolution that I'd not met? Here's the secret. Write it down! Writing your wants and needs down on paper sets them into motion. Write the goal you want to accomplish, and then below it, the baby steps you can take to get there. Remember, even small steps in the right direction WILL get you there eventually. DREAM BIG this year!

New Years Resolutions–2010
1. Good health.
2. Good fortune.
3. Good joo-joo : ).
4. Good Literary Agent.





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Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Journal


Do you have a passion, or something that you're particularly drawn to, but you have no idea why? Me too. I have a girlfriend who has a "thing" for frogs and another who collects clown dolls. She has them everywhere! Whatever floats your boat, right? Me, I've been collecting book and writing paraphernalia for ages. Over the years, it's turned into a wonderful collection of books, journals and bookends that I've found from all over. The books are many. They line my shelves and desks as do my prized bookends; one of my favorite, a pair of wonderful Foo Dogs that my husband picked up in Japan Town, when we were in San Francisco two years ago for World AIDS Day. 

And then there are the journals... I love journals. I've been collecting them ever since my sister bought me my very first one as a gift for my twelfth birthday. I've never told her, but that very thoughtful gift changed my life. You see, growing up, I was an almost painfully shy child. It was very difficult for me to express myself, or speak up even. Writing became a wonderful outlet for me; a way for me to release all the feelings and thoughts I was too quiet to share. As I grew up, and my shyness faded, the desire to write never left me. Putting words and stories down on paper–it has become as natural and necessary for me as the air I breathe.  

A few months back, with most of my journals and notebooks full, I started searching for one more to add to my collection.  I'd been especially drawn to one in particular.  It was without a doubt the most enchanting journal I'd ever laid eyes on; deep, emerald green with an embossed cover, and hundreds of blank white pages just begging to be filled. Every time I'd walk through that B & N door, I'd go straight to it hoping that it was still there. Naturally, it was too much money, so I'd just gaze a bit, then move on.

I never made mention of it, so you can only imagine my surprise when, Christmas day, I unwrapped a  box with a beautiful gold ribbon, and inside it lay the journal. What a wonderful, unexpected surprise! Christmas truly is a magical time. It is late now, and as Christmas comes to an end and the sky outside grows dark, I turn on the table lamp that sits on my writing desk and reach for my new journal, its blank pages waiting to be filled with the magic of words, and stories too important to be forgotten...   

 
 

 

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Gingerbread House!


Yonas, Charlie, and the amazing gingerbread house...
Such a good helper!! But hey! Wait a minute...Where'd all the jelly-beans go?!

A boy and his dog. Is there anything cuter? I can only think of one thing... The boy and his dog making a gingerbread house together! When Alee and Mitch left their little brother to finish decorating the house with gumdrops and jellybeans, good 'ol Charlie, our (jellybean loving) dog, decided to get in on the action. It was no surprise to discover that Charlie (and Yonas) love jelly beans–a lot!! And I must admit, quite a few went missing! We had just enough to finish the roof, but forget about a door! But hey, who needs a door, right? Especially when it tastes as good as a jellybean : )   

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Greatest Gift...


Clay and I putting up our first Christmas tree in 1987
Our baby girl, born December 1990
Merry Christmas... Kentucky style!! I hope you are filled with joy and blessings galore this year. Christmas–It can be a hectic and demanding time. So much to do! I never seem to get it all done, but I gave up stressing over it a long time ago. I'm that lady with the squeaky cart wheeling down the Walmart aisle on Christmas Eve looking for double A batteries... Never fails! But it doesn't matter because I love Christmas, and all the wonderful memories it conjurs up.
  
I met my husband twenty-two years ago, about this time of year. He proposed to me in December. I'll never forget that first Christmas, and our decorating the tree together. It was a very crooked tree and we never did get it to stand perfectly right. In fact, we ended up putting a paper back book under one corner to make it look straight. Whatever works, right? I remember watching Clay carry in that crooked tree–he was so proud–smiling from ear-to-ear. And I remember knowing at that instant that he was the man I'd spend the rest of my life with.
 
Our first child was born by c-section right before Christmas in 1990, just a few years after Clay and I were married. Again, Christmas that year wasn't perfect. In fact, it's just a blur. I think we managed to put a tree up, but between the late night feedings and my recovering from the surgery, I honestly can't even remember decorating it. What I do remember is holding that beautiful little angel, and singing "Silent Night" to her while she slept in my arms. THAT is the closest to perfect that I'll ever come. 

Fast forward twenty-two Christmases later... Right now, Yonas, my youngest, is making himself a hotdog while singing, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Alee, my beautiful baby girl, who just celebrated her nineteenth birthday, is home on college break. And Mitchell, my almost fourteen-year-old, is getting ready to paint a masterpiece with the art set his Mamaw gave him just last night. Clay's cheering on a football game downstairs and I'm...smiling. Our life hasn't been perfect, but do I love the way it's turned out? Absolutely. Is my tree this year straight? Of course not, but I love it just the same as if it were.  As I continue with my squeaky cart down the aisles of Walmart, Christmas growing ever near, I hope for you and yours a wonderful (perfect ; ) as can be) season filled with the greatest gift of all... What is that, you ask? The greatest gift is one that fulfills a need. What is it that you need right now? Me, I'm thirsty for a glass of water. Such a basic need, and one I take for granted on a daily basis, but it's a need that goes unmet in many other parts of the world, such as Africa, where my youngest son was born. I think this time of year our hearts open just a little wider to those less fortunate than ourselves. So give wisely and from the heart this year to someone in need. That, my friend, is without a doubt, the greatest gift of all! 
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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas on Waldo's Mountain


Hey! It's cold up here!

Where did Dad go?!

Cute little winter girl

Are you sure that knot will hold, honey?

Do you ever wonder where our holiday traditions come from? Yep, me too. I think many are passed down to us from our own families, some come from friends and others we just seem to pick up as we go. Christmas wasn't always a happy time in my home when I was a child. My mother often seemed to get sad around Christmas and although she would try to hide it, children pick up on these things. I'm sure that being a single mom who worked full time yet still had difficulty making ends meet played a large part in her discontent. Still, we always put up a tree, and my mother who very rarely cooked would on Christmas Eve, put on a meal fit for a king. So, from her I took those two happy traditions, putting up a tree and putting on a fabulous Christmas dinner. During my early teen years, I had a close girlfriend whose mother, even on a bad day, could rival Martha Stewart. I remember it was so much fun to hang out at their house during the holidays. They were like Leave it to Beaver meets Emeril. Could this lady ever cook! Ever had homemade beef jerky? She would marinate it all day and then hang it on her oven racks. While it cooked, we'd sit at the kitchen table stringing real cranberries to hang on the tree. When we finished, she'd pull the strips of jerky off the racks and we'd get to sample it while it was still warm.  No, I'm not kidding! Those two traditions I adopted from her family. Some of the most fun traditions, I think we just sort of pick up along the way. Take this morning for instance. Every year Clay and I go round and round about a tree. He likes the kind that come in a box with the lights already attached and I like the good smelling kind that you have to haul home on top of your car. So we compromise, some years we do it his way and other years we do it mine. This year we did something totally different. We drove to a Christmas tree farm. Well actually, we got lost trying to find the Christmas tree farm and then when we finally did find it (down a long stretch of road that led deep into the woods) the place was closed... But the owner, who happened to be rabbit hunting, after hearing how far we'd driven, decided to let us drive up the hillside to pick out a tree. It didn't take us long to find the perfect one–a seven foot tall Scottish Pine. We had a lot of fun up there on the Christmas tree farm. It's definitely a new tradition that I hope to continue. It's true what they say, it's the little things that really count. Traditions–no matter how seemingly incidental–give our children (and we grown-ups too) something special to remember and look forward to during the busy holidays!  So whatever your traditions, be them old or new, big or small, you need only remember one thing... Just enjoy them! Our children will grow up but the joyous memories we create today will be something they remember and pass down to their own children. If you have any traditions you'd like to share I'd love to hear them! Wishing you and yours a happy holiday season.     

The "Design Team" did such a great job!


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Friday, December 4, 2009

Toot your horns people... My novel's finished!

A beautiful fountain in the heart of Madison, Indiana

Besides my family, I'd have to say that my biggest passion in life is writing. It always has been. Even when I was a young girl, I turned to books and writing at every pass; a habit that's followed me into adulthood. It gives me a great sense of appreciation when someone tells me that something I've written has touched them in some way. I think that's the whole point of writing for me. That and of course the obvious–it's just plain fun. Fiction especially. I have a couple of writer friends who've published memoirs recently. One such writer is Kim Michele Richarson. Her memoir, The Unbreakable Child is a must read. The story is riveting and the writing supreme. If you only read one book this month, this is the one... You will find yourself rooting for justice with each turn of the page!
I really have to commend anyone brave enough to write a memoir. The truth is so much harder to write than fiction. I have a rough draft of my own story buried in a trunk somewhere that one day I will tackle. One day, but not this day! For now, I'll stick with fiction, because it's easier to write and I love the challenge of developing characters and dreaming up compelling plots. I've always had a facination with Madison, a small town in Indiana that stretches along the river. About this time last year, my husband and I made the drive across the Milton-Madison bridge to attend the Chatauqua Art Festival. It was a warm, muggy day and as we sat looking out over the river, soaking up the wonderful music and festivities, a story started to take root inside of me... A story about a girl I didn't know yet, but over the course of a year she would grow to become a friend, and character that I will never forget. Well, I worked very hard and the novel is finished. I can't give away any of the details yet but I can say that two agents in NY have requested a read. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Thanks for visiting today and I'll be sure to keep you posted as to how this new "chapter" in my life unfolds...

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Here Comes the Judge... And He's Shrunk a Little!



It's official! Yonas's re-adoption here in the States is finally complete and now we can apply for his US birth certificate and SSI number. Some states don't require that you re-adopt, but unfortunately Kentucky's not one of them. It's a rather costly ordeal, but I'm certainly glad to have it done. It was our very last little hurdle to jump and we actually got to meet some great people who helped us along the way. The judge wasn't anything like I expected. (I guess I watch too much People's Court : ) He was super! I think after a long day of handling custody and divorce proceedings, our happy little affair was a welcome reprieve. After the re-adoption proceedings were all done the judge shook Yonas's hand and invited him to come up and try out his fancy chair.  Yonas had one word for it... AWESOME! 



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Monday, November 30, 2009

HOPE LIVES HERE...


World AIDS Day '08-National AIDS Memorial Grove in S.F. 

This World AIDS Day my heart is filled with so many emotions... Sadness for the lives lost and for the many people who still don't have access to ARV medicines, but I am also filled with a great sense of hope. As daunting as the AIDS crisis is, we are making great strides toward finding a cure and ending the epidemic. Every day brings us one step closer.
 
There are so many organizations working to raise money to help people who don't have access to medical care and ani-virals. (Red) is a fantastic organization to support if you're looking for a way to make a difference. Along with their partners, (red) has supplied ARV's to 2 million people thus far! Everytime you buy something (red) a portion goes directly into a global fund that reaches around the world to save lives! 

I am also feeling incredibly grateful. I am a mother, who came very close to losing both of her children to AIDS, but instead witnessed the miracle of protease inhibitors. These medicines literally brought my children back to me. And then around this time four years ago, my family received yet another blessing. His name is Yonas. Here's the short video below that started our family's journey to adopt.  AHOPE is helping orphans gain access to medicine, medical care and schooling. In addition, many AHOPE children have found families, just like Yonas.  To read more about our adoption journey follow the link. 

This World AIDS Day, when, like me, you're asking yourself what you can do to help, just open your heart and your eyes to the many possibilities. You can and do make a difference!


BLOG MUSIC CAN BE PAUSED AT BOTTOM OF PAGE

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

For the Love of Books



Everybody loves a good book! Today, Clay and Mitch are off to the golf course, so what better way for Alee, Yonas, and myself to spend a few hours than at the bookstore. Diaries of a Wimpy Kid happens to be Yonas's favorite. He's been wanting the new one that came out recently. I've actually read a few chapters (when he wasn't looking of course) and have to admit that it's funny as all get out. Alee, my oldest, is more parsimonious. She's a girl who likes a deal, so she'll be on the prowl for some discounted good reads, I'm sure. I'm sort of a "know-it-when- I-see-it" type who has to take stock of everything before I can decide. I love to read anything from Bram Stoker to Laura Day. My list of favorites are an endless supply of ever-changing titles. Although, one thing I'm stuck on is paper. I won't say that I'll never use a Kindle, just not for reading novels. I can certainly see where a Kindle would come in handy, say for a college student who didn't want to carry around a heavy history book, but a novel–well, that's another story. Personally, I relish the touch and feel of a book. I even like the sound of the turning page. And if it's been one of those truly special books that end up leaving a lasting impression, well, then it turns into a "keeper" that gets stuck up on the bookshelf where I can dust its wrinkled spine once a week. *Big sigh* You know what I'm saying... Come on!  For me reading a novel on a Kindle would sort of be like popcorn without the butter. Plus, who doesn't love that distinctive smell of a bookstore? I can't imagine pushing through the doors of B & N and instead of the wonderful, clean smell of ink and paper, getting a deep whiff of battery pack and plastic instead.  Don't misunderstand, I'm all for technological advances, but here's hoping that some things never change, like the beauty and mystery of cracking a brand new, hardcover book.  So, with that last little sentiment, the kids and I are off to the bookstore! I'll let you know what I find. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend and find some time to lose yourself in a really good book.  

  

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Raising Kids



Albert Einstein 
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

I'm often asked, "What is it really like raising children with HIV?"  My response may surprise you. In our family, it's really no big deal. It basically consists of medicines taken twice a day and a doctor's visit once every three months. My children are seen at St. Judes Children Research Hospital by an amazing team of doctors, staff, and even a wonderful councelor named Chris, whom my children can talk to about anything from HIV, to dating, to taking their driver's test. It takes an extraordiary individual to dedicate their life's work to helping children and these people have helped our family on so many levels; I don't know how I will ever be able to thank them enough. Having three healthy kids with "zero" virus in their blood is a gift... A miracle that I'll never take for granted. 
I, too, have an exceptional doctor here locally, and have also been able to maintain an "undetectable" viral load. My last cd-4 count (immune system strength) was an amazing 1516! I was floored by that number. How is it possible to have lived over half of my life positive (I turn 43 in a few days!!) and to be healthy? This astounds even me!  My life isn't perfect by any means. I worry, habitually sometimes, about my children, but with good cause. Just last week, I got a frantic call from the University my daughter attends. They told me she'd blacked out in class, not once, but twice, and that they had called an ambulance. My first thought was, this is it...my life is over. What if she's had another stroke? Terrified, I somehow kept it together enough to get to the hospital, where they had already ran every test imaginable. She was fine. It all turned out alright. It was just a combination of a flu bug, not getting enough rest and her skipping breakfast that day. I told her that if she didn't take better care of herself–no more dorm–she'd have to move back home. She loves her newfound freedom, so I'm pretty sure she'll remember the "most important meal of the day" from now on : )  
So, it's not complete roses raising positive kids. As a parent, you worry, but I'm pretty sure all parents do that! For me, the most difficult part of raising positive children isn't the regimen of taking medicine every day or the doctors visit once every few months. It's the worry that perhaps one day our good fortune could run dry; that the medicines will stop working, or side-effects will present themselves. I have to be realistic. Life isn't perfect. We all will encounter bumbs and dips in our journey. Even so, I'm a realist who also believes in miracles. I've witnessed them firsthand. Today, due to recent advances in medicine, children and adults with HIV are now expected to live near normal life spans. If you're someone who is considering adopting a child with HIV, or perhaps you yourself are living with, or loving someone who's infected with the virus... my best advice is to learn all that you can, realize that every situation is unique and no matter what choices you face, don't let HIV stop you from living a fulfilling and purposeful life. And perhaps most importantly––believe in miracles because they happen everyday!  

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

President Obama Signs Ryan White Act/Lifts Travel Ban


I am so grateful for this huge step forward. This 
out-dated law was put into effect before we knew how HIV was and was not spread. It has also created 
undue difficulties for parents wanting to adopt a child with HIV. This will save so many lives.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

BOO!!


THE BOYS PREPARING TO "BOO" SOME UNSUSPECTING NEIGHBORS.
WHAT IS A BOO BASKET, YOU ASK?
THIS, MY FRIEND, IS A BOO BASKET!
It's never happened to us before, but over the weekend my family and I were BOO'd!! Yes, that's what I said, BOO'd.  If you're looking to get in the spirit of Halloween here's a great thing to do if you have kids (and even if you don't!) that is fun and festive and will put a smile on someone's face. 
1. Fill a "BOO basket" with trinkets and treats. (The one left on my door even had adorable "Casper" dish towels)
2. Attach two notes to the basket, one that says BOO!! and another decorative note with instructions. COPY THE EXAMPLE BELOW:

 "You have just been BOO'd by a friendly spook!"

Since this is the time for goblins and bats, Halloween spirits, ghosts, and cats, Weird happenings and witches brew, these are the things I wish for you!

May only the spirit you chance to meet be the spirit of love and warm friends. 
May the only goblin that comes your way be the phantom and goodies he sends.

So copy this note and make it two. You have only one day or a spell will strike you. 
Then pick tow friends and a treat that's yummy. Leave the treat on the doorstep and flee!

Directions:
1. Enjoy your treats!
2. Keep you "Boo" sign on your front door to ward off goblins!
3. Copy this note twice and made 2 plates of treats.
4. Deliver them to 2 friends who have not yet been Boo'd.

HAPPY (ALMOST) HALLOWEEN!!!



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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Today's Family Magazine Oct/Nov. 2009 Life's Miracles.



Mitch, age four, takes a spin on the ice with a skating friend.

A victorious Mitch shortly after he received his yellow belt in Tae Kwon Do!

Today’s Family Magazine

October/November 2009

When Someone’s On Your Side

"An inspiring story about a boy in leg braces who wanted to learn martial arts and the Tae Kwon Do instructor who encouraged him to never give up."

By Suzan Stirling-Meredith

Driving down Highway 146, I saw that sign again–Kentucky Tae Kwon Do and Fitness Academy. My son, Mitchell and I had talked about activities that interested him. More than anything, he wanted to do Tae Kwon Do. He’d brought it up a number of times but I’d not pursued it. You see, Mitchell is handicapped. When he was just seven days old he became very sick with a virus. The first six weeks of his life were spent hooked to a respirator fighting for his life. As difficult as that time was, we were very fortunate; my son did survive, but he was left with a condition called Cerebral Palsy that seriously hindered his ability to walk.

By age eleven, Mitchell had become dependent on a walker and wheelchair to get around. Physical therapy had helped some but as Mitchell grew taller his condition only worsened. Desperate to help him, my husband, Clay and I opted for major surgery. Dr. Laura Jacks, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in Louisville performed this extensive, four-hour long surgery on our son. And it was a success! Six weeks later, the leg casts were cut off and Mitchell took his first tentative steps. I will never forget that incredible moment. What my husband, Clay and I didn’t know yet were that many more incredible moments were to follow.

After the surgery came physical therapy. In order for Mitchell to gain as much mobility as possible, it was crucial that he challenge himself and his new found abilities, but after a few months Mitchell’s drive was waning. He was bored with the routine and it soon became obvious–Mitchell needed an activity that would make him want to use his legs. Something fun. 

“Mom! What are you doing?”

We were about to the end of the corner when, on impulse, I flipped a U-turn and headed back in the opposite direction. “You’ll see.” I smiled. 

“Kentucky Tae Kwon Do... Really, Mom?  Mitch’s eyes lit up as we pulled into the parking lot.

I veered my car into the handicapped spot right up front. We could see a class going on through the large windows. I looked at my boy’s hopeful expression. This meant a lot. I didn’t want to disappoint him. I took a breath. We’d just go in, pick up a brochure and then leave.

My son wobbled in beside me, braces on both legs. I held his elbow to steady him as he took small, stiff steps up the walkway. The do-jang was big and airy with wall-to-wall colorful mats covering the floor. Gold, shining trophies lined the walls. There was a lot of action on the floor. Mitch and I watched a girl execute a palm strike to a stack of boards splitting them clean in half. My breath stopped. What was I thinking? The surgery had helped my son immensely but he was still handicapped. No way could Mitch do this.    

Just then Master Sean Ramey, a sixth degree black belt and thirteen-time State Champion, greeted us with a friendly handshake.  “I’m Sean Ramey, how can I help you today?”

“We were just driving by and thought we’d come in and get a little information–or a brochure.”

Master Ramey extended his hand toward the open doorway. “Great. Just follow me.”

Mitch and I followed him into his office. I motioned to my son. “He recently had surgery on both knees...and feet. He, um–he has Cerebral Palsy.” I hesitated. “He’s always wanted to do Tae Kwon Do... I’m just not sure...” I looked over my shoulder at the kids kicking and diving through the air. I looked at my son, his eyes downcast. I stopped talking. What had I been thinking?  I looked again through the open doorway at the class taking place. A child vaulted high though the air over a stack of pads and landed on the other side without fail.  “Thanks for the brochure but this probably isn’t right for him.” I grabbed Mitchell’s arm, turned to leave.

“Wait a minute,” Master Ramey said, rubbing his chin in thought. His eyes traveled again to Mitchell’s legs, the thick braces. “Mitch, can you come here a minute?” He motioned him over. “I want you to try and kick my hand. “ He bent down reached out his hand just above Mitchell’s left shoe.

Mitch’s face contorted with the effort, but he gave it all he had. The movement began at his hip, his face grimaced. His foot lifted only a couple inches off the ground.

“Good job!” Ramey encouraged. “Now let’s try the other!” His voice was full of enthusiasm.

Again, Mitch strained, his other foot came off the ground only slightly.

Master Ramey patted Mitch on the back, then said to me, “If you're looking to work his legs, Tae Kwon Do is all about the legs.” He smiled, turned back to Mitchell. “You want to do Tae Kwon Do, Mitch?” He asked.

He wanted this more than anything. My son shyly nodded yes.

I was stunned. “You mean you think this would be okay for him? Even with his handicap?”

“I think this would be great for him,” he said, matter-of-factly.

Two private lessons later, Mitch was on the floor. Each lesson brought about new challenges. I’d watch from the balcony tears filling my eyes. My son was working so hard but didn’t even realize it because he was having so much fun! Once, only able to lift his leg a few inches, he now was lifting it a foot off the ground. And something else... He was less timid; meeting people’s gazes, speaking with confidence and being challenged in a productive, safe environment. There were tests and there were promotions. One test, Mitchell was awarded a special medal for his achievements. He got a standing ovation that day. His medal hangs in his room as a reminder of his achievements.

Mitchell, now thirteen, boasts a green belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Last Wednesday when Clay and I entered the do-jang we ran into Master Ramey. “Hey, there!” He greeted us warmly, clapping Clay on the shoulder. “Come on in the office. I’ve got something to show you.” He opened a desk drawer and pulled out a sonogram picture and handed it to Clay. “We just found out today... Christy and I are having a baby girl!” He smiled. “It’s like no other feeling in the world.” His face beamed as he talked about the upcoming birth of his first child.

“I’m happy for you, Sean,” Clay said. “Only one thing–you’re not going to stop instructing here at the do-jang with all those diapers you’re going to be changing, are you?” Clay laughed.

Just then a ring of ke-yaps sounded out. Our heads all turned just in time to see Mitch complete a jumping front kick. Master Ramey turned back to us and smiled. “Nope. You don’t have to worry about that. I could never stop teaching. Those kids out there, my family...This is my dream. This is what it’s all about.”  

He’s right. Family, our children and community, is what it's all about. My dream, for so many years, was just to see my son walk. Today, not only can he walk but also run, jump and kick even!  We all will, at one time or another, face challenges. It helps to have people in your corner rooting for you to succeed. Someone like a Master Ramey, who said to a little boy in leg braces who wanted to learn Tae Kwon, “Good job, Mitch. You can do it!”  Thank you, Master Sean Ramey, along with all the other wonderful instructors at Kentucky Tae Kwon Do, for your encouragement and commitment to helping kids realize their dreams. 


Mitchell, at age eleven, just weeks after having a surgery that would change his life.

Testing is always a big day. Here, Mitch get's his green belt!

 


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Monday, October 5, 2009

Curing HIV: Who will get there first?


The momentum is building. I cannot recall a time, since being diagnosed with HIV thirteen-years-ago, where there have were so many researchers exploring so many different avenues toward not only treating HIV, but most importantly, curing HIV.

Some promising breakthroughs currently under investigation include a scientifically engineered enzyme that attacks HIV’s DNA, literally cutting it out of the infected cells and rendering HIV harmless. 

There's also a team of researchers from the University of North Carolina and Merck currently on the forefront of identifying some promising new agents called HDAC Inhibitors. These innovative agents are said to be capable of purging HIV from resting CD4 cells; a key requirement, many researcher’s believe, for any prospect of curing someone of HIV infection. 

As exciting as all this seems, perhaps most promising of all was the news of the 42- year-old (HIV-positive) American, living in Berlin, who has had no viral rebound since receiving a bone marrow transplant to cure his cancer. Gene therapy has in fact cured this one man of the HIV virus. Researchers have discovered that a small percentage, around three percent, of Europeans have a what they call a natural resistance to HIV-infection due to a faulty gene. These fortunate few lack the CCR-5 receptor that HIV uses to gain entry into cells. When the HIV positive American living in Berlin came to Dr. Hutter in need of treatment for his leukemia the doctor had the insight to use a bone marrow donor who lacked these CCR-5 receptors. It was a hunch on his part. And it worked! Not only was the American cured of his cancer, but in depth testing has been unable to detect the HIV virus in tissue and blood samples over two years later. Full details were published last February in The New England Journal of Medicine. 

Although this may not be a cure that could readily be used on the general population of positives, it certainly opens the flood-gates for further studies into new and innovative ways to use gene therapy to treat, and yes, I'll say it, CURE HIV. 

So, you see... The momentum is building. Can you feel it, too?  We are going to find a viable cure for HIV. It's just a matter of time. How much time? It could be closer than we think. One thing's for certain–It will be interesting to see just who gets there first.  

Currently, anti-retroviral drugs have  significantly helped to increase the quality of life for patients, but taking the highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) leads to HIV resistance and adaptation, not to mention the significant side-effects that are also linked to anti-viral therapy.   


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Monday, September 14, 2009

AIDS WALK '09

                                   AIDS WALK '09
The weather for Louisville's 17th annual AIDS walk was perfect. Not as hot as some years past and at the halfway mark, as we crossed over the Belvedere Bridge, music played and a wonderful breeze washed in over the river.  There was a tremendous feeling of camaraderie as we all walked across the bridge and back to support and raise monies to help those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS in our community. The walk was also pet friendly this year! They had wading pools along our route for the pets to take little breaks in even. Talk about cute.  I'm not sure how many people were there but I can say that I don't ever remember the walk being so crowded.  We've got alot of support and alot of people who care. We are not alone in the fight against AIDS.    

 Their shirts read..."My Mom, My Sister, My Aunt." May she rest in peace. 
                          
                Taking a little break at the half-way mark.



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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Life's a Journey

Clay and I dressed up and ready to go see "Journey" in concert. 

Life is a journey to be appreciated. Seriously. What if you woke up one day and found out that you only had six months to live? Would you party like a rock star? Finish that book... Or maybe you'd climb Mount Everest? Anyone who's faced dying will tell you, it changes how you think. Cancer survivors–AIDS survivors–anyone who has faced, and overcome, some great challenge or illness that threatened to upend their world has experienced it–a dramatic shift in the way they see themselves and the people around them. These survivors of adversity are often gifted with an extraordinary insight into their own lives and personal motivations. Thoughts become uncluttered. The mundane disappears and the things that are truly important become crystal clear. There is the "you" you were before and then there is the "you" you are after, which leaves you to question, "Who am I really and what really matters to me now?" Day to day life takes on new meaning and, if you're lucky, love and heart-felt purpose become paramount. Something else–when you face your foe, an extraordinary thing happens–the fear dissipates. It's not a bad way to live–fearless and at peace with the world around you. 
Being diagnosed thirteen years ago with HIV made me look at everything and everyone differently. It made me appreciate humankind ten-fold. Especially anyone brave enough to love me, or want to be my friend, regardless of my disease. So much was happening in those first years after my children and I were diagnosed. There were remarkable advents in medicine and yet people were still dying every single day. I would get to know someone, and then a month later, find out that they'd passed. To cope, I learned to live in the moment. It was too frightening to think ahead, so I didn't. Now, I'm thankful to say that I have been given the green light to think ahead. This is new to me. To dream about not only my children's future but also my own. What a gift that is! Still, I don't want to lose sight of the clarity that one gains from looking at life as expendable. This is something I do whenever I feel lost or my goals become clouded. This simple exercise enables me to clearly see what's really important and put all things in perspective. I encourage you to try this too. You only need three things: A pen, paper, and your imagination. 
Imagine that you only have six-months left to live. Let the thought really sink in. Now, ask yourself these questions and answer them as truthfully as you can. If I only had six months left to live...
What would I like to do that I've never done before?
Who would I wish I'd said "I love you," to?
Who would I wish I'd not wasted my time with?
Who would I want to spend that time with?
What would I stop doing?
What would I start doing?
What would I most want to accomplish before I died?
Now the good news is that you have a LIFETIME to do these things... Embrace the journey and live each moment to the fullest. 



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