Keeping my eye on the prize

On Dec. 16, I underwent a left knee replacement. People tried to prepare me for it, but even with everyone’s best intentions — I could never have imagined what the last five weeks have been like. It’s been good and bad, ugly and beautiful, painful and uplifting.

I’ve known this surgery was coming for a year or more now and I scheduled it very carefully between the fall semester and spring semester so I wouldn’t miss work. I knew it would affect my holiday season, but I figured the payoff would be worth it.  I bought all Christmas presents before, I got a stack of books to read and projects to work on, and I cleaned up my house from clutter so I wouldn’t fall over it. I got all the aids to help me bathe, go to the bathroom and get around.

But I wasn’t prepared for the emotional roller coaster ride I was going on.

Some notes about my recovery:

* The hospital stay was even worse than I feared. I had to wait six hours for a room after surgery and got stuck in the cardiac cath lab recovery room where they had no bathrooms and I had to pee in a bed pan — humiliating.  The nurse never realized my ice machine didn’t work and I had no ice on my knee the first four hours after surgery. After I got into a room that night, it got a little better. I couldn’t wait to go home after two days.

* Home felt great after that. The boys and Tom fussed over me and took great care of me. But to be honest, the next few days are a blur. Just going through the motions in a fog left over from anesthesia. The only thing I remember is desperately trying to find a way to get comfortable. The recliner I had hoped to use broke a leg one of the first time I sat in it,  Another chair was too low, so Tom bought risers to make it sit higher. After a day or so, one of the plastic risers broke, sending me to the floor. Thankfully, I didn’t hurt my knee again, but it was a challenge to get me up from that floor. I finally convinced Tom to buy me a new recliner, which has been my safe haven since.

*Therapy has been as expected — tough and painful at times — but rewarding as I regained more strength and movement. I really pushed myself and it has paid off so far.

* I didn’t get to read that stack of books. I have read two books in the last six weeks. I have been working one for two weeks now. Normally, I can read a book a day with ease. But I just can’t concentrate — anesthesia fog and pain pills? A project I promised a colleague I would read was a struggle and finally I had to give up. Then once Jan. 2 hit, I dove into my online photography class that I would teach from home in three weeks, which took up all my non-nap time.

* Christmas was kind of a blur too. The highlights were the visit from my mom (who Tom and Brett picked up and brought to our house) and the dinner at Mary’s house. My mother missed me desperately and really was so worried about me until she saw me.  She called me almost every day and got upset when she couldn’t find my number. Even now I’ve gone to see her a few times, she clings to me and almost doesn’t want to let me go.

* I discovered the world out there sucks for disabled people. I used a walker the first four weeks and you won’t believe how hard it is to open doors and get in some places. Those great grocery riding carts for the disabled and elderly are terrible for people who had knee replacements because you can’t stretch out your leg on them.  And there are not enough handicapped parking spaces at most restaurants.

*But most of all, I’ll remember all the blessings. Friends who came to see me, one even came to cut my hair at my house! Cards and phone calls were nice the first few weeks as well. My friend Dan was my cheerleader as he had the same surgery three weeks before me. He called to check on me and encourage me to do the PT. Others who had the surgery in the past also wrote notes of encouragement and that meant a lot.

*I’ve been keeping my eye on the prize. That’s been my phrase in the past when things were tough. My prize this year is a Caribbean cruise the family is planning to go on in June. My goal is to walk pain-free on the beaches of St. Maarten, to walk steps up to the pool on the top deck of the ship and to enjoy time with family without getting left behind.

This surgery has taught me a lot. I can do whatever I set my mind to, I have lots of friends that care about me and I’m lucky to have such a great husband and two sons. And it reminded me and will continue to remind me to keep my eye on the prize.

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A new path at Miami

10303872_10152300430428519_4656791019493953113_n-1As I prepare for the new school year at Miami, I also start on a new path. Instead of gearing up the machine for a new year of publishing The Miami Student (starting with the new student issue next week), I am going through CMS training to work on the MJF department website.

I’m sad to leave the students of The Miami Student behind. We’ve been through ups and downs together. I got to relive some of my college years as a student journalist from the other side of the equation. We won a few awards and I got to see some amazing people grow from scared young writers to confident editors.

But opportunities present itself. After receiving my master’s degree in technical and scientific communication in 2013, I wanted to use those tech writing skills to use as well as my journalistic skills. Starting this fall, I will be the “communications writer” for the department of Media, Journalism & Film. The title is a little hokey, but basically I’m in charge of the communications — the website, social media and alumni newsletter. I will get to use some of the skills I learned in grad school. Along with that came full-time status, a raise and no time to advise The Miami Student.

I will continue to teach journalism courses. This fall, I teach two sections of “Advanced Storytelling.” I will also continue to be adviser of the Recensio, Miami’s yearbook. And part of my new job is to work with student interns who will write for the websites and newsletters.  It’s a bittersweet change, but  I’m hoping it’s a good change.

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Photo stories

For the first Miami winter term or J-term, I’m teaching a news photography class.  Below, see a photo story on my mom’s assisted living facility, Colonial Gardens in Florence, Ky.


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Check out my youtube channel

As I have started doing more video pieces, I’ve created my own youtube channel. Here is the link.

Check out my latest piece: a preview of the La Salle Bowling team’s GCL quad matches.

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Learning multimedia in DC

As a young girl in The Netherlands, I visited the World War II cemeteries during school trips. During the Summer Advisers Workshops’ Hands-on Multimedia track in Washington, DC this week, I visited the World War II Memorial and did a video story on it.

Here is the video I shot during the Hands-on Multimedia Workshop:

I have wondered what would have happened to my family had the allies not stepped in and end the war and occupation in the Netherlands. Both of my parents were teen-agers during World War II and have told many stories of the German occupation and the liberation of the Americans.

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Thesis statement

After many years of classes and months early morning writing sessions, I officially graduate from Miami University this weekend with a Master’s Degree in Technical & Scientific Communication. Juggling time between family, multiple jobs and graduate school has been a challenge. I can’t believe I actually did it.

According to a story in US News and World Report, the number of people age 40 and older heading off to grad school has doubled since 1987. By 2007 (the latest tally), that group accounted for nearly a quarter of people seeking a master’s or Ph.D., they said quoting numbers from the Council of Graduate Schools.

I started in MTSC in 2008. I am part of that statistic and found it to be true.  I had a few fellow students over age 40.

So was it worth it? Definitely. First, it provided me with some great marketable skills for both my current job and others I may pursue in the future. But more than that, it provided me with a whole new perspective on getting a college education. I understood everything better, I appreciated everything better, I absorbed the information better than when I was a 20-year-old in college the first time.

My thesis: “A Study of Three Communities’ Communication Efforts to Encourage Recycling in a Changing Media Landscape” will soon be available for other scholars to use in their research.  But more than a thesis, getting my degree was a statement what I can still contribute to the workplace after raising my two beautiful sons.


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Winning a Pacemaker

In 1986, The Kentucky Kernel won the Pacemaker for being one of the best college newspapers in the country. I was the managing editor of the paper the year they won and I’ve always been very proud to be a small part of that win.

In 2012, The Recensio yearbook at Miami University received the same high honor of winning a Pacemaker. Although it is written, edited and designed by students, I played a small part in this win as their adviser. Not only did I OK the move for the two editors to work together that year, I worked with and help train the staff.

In both cases, I knew  it was special.

At the Kentucky Kernel, we were a great team (I’m still friends with many of the editors from that year) and all of us went on to have journalism careers in Cleveland, Lexington, Louisville, Columbus, and Cincinnati. We had a tradition at UK of winning Pacemakers. The Kentucky Kernel has won a handful of times since we won in 1986 and was a finalist dozens of times.

The Miami Student also was named finalist several times since I started advising it. It still hasn’t won a Pacemaker, but I’m still hoping one day it might. Then it really will be a trifecta.

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