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The “C” word strikes again

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Nov 14, 2014 in Family Stuff

What’s the “C” word?

If you’ve ever dealt with the “C” word, you know what it is.

Cruel? Clinical? Coarse? Concealed? Conflicting? All of those things.

How can cancer strike one family twice in one year?

Let me back up…

I posted that my brother Ken was diagnosed with lung cancer back in 2011. He lost his brave battle in August of 2013 at the young age of 40.

A few months before we lost my brother Ken, my father Ken was diagnosed with a malignant mole on his back. Melanoma. Only on the surface, but likely to spread.

How does one deal with your own cancer when you are about to lose your son?

Fast forward to August of 2014 – one year after losing my brother. My father’s melanoma has metastasized. Lungs. Adrenal gland. Spine. Liver. Brain.

The gnarly weed is back for its next victim.

I can’t even begin to understand how this could possibly happen. All I can say is that it’s bad. On top of bad. On top of bad.

My father is still grieving the loss of his son. My mother is still mourning the loss of her only boy.

How much fight can one family have left?

Love you, Dad.  I’ll be here every step of the way.

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I really need to post more often…

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

I noticed that the last time I posted to my blog was back in MARCH!!!  Wow.

A few things have changed since then.  It’s amazing how different life can be in 9 months.  And no, I didn’t have a baby!

Ever since I went back to work, we’ve wanted to move closer to our jobs near Atlantic City.  We both had an hour commute each way and it was really overwhelming (even though we rode to work together most days).  Two hours in the car everyday really is difficult.  First, it’s exhausting.  It was also really cutting into our family time.  So for our quality of life, we decided to move closer to work.

We have worked hard to stick to a budget the last few years, got out of debt and put ourselves in a great financial position.  This allowed us to upsize into a much larger home.  This was also a great time to move because Emily is just starting middle school (6th grade) and Matt is just starting high school (9th grade) – both would be changing schools regardless.  And Andrew is now attending community college, so his school is no longer an issue.

And…as a bonus – we work near the “shore” (New Jersey-speak for the beach).  So we were fortunate enough to move close to the beach!

We had a few criteria. We wanted to live close to the beach (0bviously).  We wanted the kids to be in an excellent public school system.  We wanted low property taxes (relatively low anyway – NJ is awful with taxes).  And we wanted to be within 30 minutes of work.

We also loved the charm of our older home in Pitman (built over 100 years ago), but wanted something newer and updated.  We had 5 people sharing one bathroom for 15 years – it was time to expand.

After a few offers that didn’t work out, we were lucky enough to find the perfect home for us – just a 5 minute drive from the beach in Ocean City and a 20 minute drive to our jobs.

Marmora House

We moved into the new house in July and love it!

Since I’ve always dreamed of living near the ocean, I decided to decorate with a coastal theme.  I’ll share some photos of the inside of the house in future posts.  But for now, let me just wish anyone reading this a merry Christmas – I’m looking forward to catching up in future posts (honest!).

Home with lights

 
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Hello – My Name is Kathy and I’m a (Pre-)Diabetic

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 29, 2013 in Family Stuff

I had a followup appointment with my doctor today to go over the results of my bloodwork.

The good news is that my cholesterol is fine.

The bad news is that my A1C was not (the indicator of blood sugar over the last few months).

The surprising news is that at my appointment today, my doctor prescribed me a blood glucose monitor.  Since my A1C was above normal (and based on some of the additional symptoms I described), she wants me to monitor my blood sugar – especially in the mornings.  But it wasn’t THAT high – which is why I’m surprised she wants me to go that far.  I picked it up at Target today – had them put it in a bag so no one would see me walking out with it (like it’s some big, dark secret).

The doctor also wants me to sign up for diabetes education classes – 3 hour classes once a week for 3 weeks.  I have no idea how I will fit that into my schedule.

And before you say it, I know that millions of people live with diabetes and do it well. However…

I do not like to go to the doctor’s (previously, I haven’t been in over a year – and that was just for strep throat).  I get very frustrated in the waiting room, watching the time tick by while I sit waiting for a previously arranged appointment time that NEVER holds true.  I hate taking sick time at work – today, I had to walk out of a very heated meeting early to get to this appointment.  Why can’t they schedule appointments at times that are convenient for ME (the paying customer)?

I do not like going to the pharmacy on a regular basis.  Same reason as the doctor’s office.  Phone calls…paperwork…waiting…I used to hate it when I had to have my birth control prescription filled once EVERY SINGLE MONTH.  I am also facing a lifetime of high blood pressure medication as well – I don’t need to run up my health insurance premiums.

I do not like things (especially chronic illnesses) that are high maintenance.  Thinking about everything I eat…taking my blood sugar every day…scheduling regular doctor visits…who has time for that?

I will not consider joining a gym – gyms causes extreme anxiety for me – I feel like a fish out of water.  Organized exercise brings up painful memories – in school, I was always the last kid picked in gym class.  Walking into a place where I am sorely inexperienced and have no idea how to operate the machinery – or even which machinery I should use, for how long, how often…just thinking about it makes my palms sweaty.

Can I be a little sad?  Can I feel a little guilty – like maybe since I put on so much weight, this is what happened.  I feel like a failure – I will get this disease because I am undisciplined.  And lazy.  And fat.

I should mention that my father is a diabetic as were both of his parents, all of his siblings and most of my cousins (oh – and the high blood pressure comes from my mom – thanks, parents!).  But right now, this inheritance logic is not appealing to my emotional side.

I also know that the good news is that it’s manageable.  It’s not stage 4 lung cancer like my brother.  I won’t even bring it up to my parents – this is nothing compared to that diagnosis and treatment.

I just need some time to accept and adjust…

 
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First Dance Competition of the Season (and Other Ramblings)

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 26, 2013 in Books I'm Reading, Family Stuff

We survived our first dance competition of the season!  The girls were fabulous and I found myself much more relaxed this year than last.  With all the estrogen, makeup and hair flying, I still managed to keep my cool.

Here is me with my favorite girl:

kathy and emily

She is such a sweetheart and I’m so glad that we have this time together as mom and daughter!

I am having some mommy-guilt pangs today because I am not a stay-at-home mom available during the day.  Emily was invited to a birthday party during spring break – and it’s at 10:30am.  I had to ask the other mother if she could come pick Emily up to take her because I’m at work during the day.  We also talked about swim team this summer…but it’s during weekdays first thing in the morning.  Vacation Bible School…Theater Camp (1/2 day from 9-noon), Dance Camp…my poor daughter doesn’t get to do these things because I’m a working mom.  :(

I’m reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In and while the book is wonderful (and I feel like I could have written much of it myself because I relate so much…um…except I didn’t go to Harvard and I’m not the COO of Facebook), I can’t help but think that by focusing on our careers, we are making so many sacrifices – or are our kids the ones making the sacrifices?  I don’t have the  resource that Sheryl has and I don’t have strong family involvement or support, so I can only do so much.  I just never know what the right thing to do is…is it better to set a good example for my children and provide an image of a strong leader at work?  Or to be at home waiting for them to come home from school?  I still sometimes feel like I’m selling them short no matter what I choose.

 

 
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Leaning In

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 20, 2013 in Books I'm Reading, Family Stuff

After reading the interview with Sheryl Sandberg in O Magazine this weekend, I decided to order her new book, Lean In.  While the book hasn’t arrived yet (but thanks to Amazon Prime’s fabulous 2-day shipping, it’ll be here tomorrow), I very much look forward to reading it.

Several of the things in her interview resonated with me.  For example, she mentions that as a man gets more successful, everyone likes him.  As a woman gets more successful, both men and women like her less.  I have seen this happen in my own experiences – at one job where I held folks accountable for doing their jobs (and where I stood up for my employees), I was called the “Queen B” (and “B” did not stand for bumblebee).  When I went back to work after being a stay-at-home mom for several years, I lost most of my close friends (or those I thought were my friends).  And those at that new job complained to their leads about me because they thought I was there to take over.  One mom at preschool once told me that she was afraid to talk to me because she found me intimidating.  Success can be very lonely.

I should add here that I am lucky that I have a very supportive husband who thinks I am smart and successful – and he loves me FOR it.  Not sure how I got so lucky.

Anyway, I’ve learned to develop a thick skin at work – a few months ago, I was hung up on during a telephone conference because I had pointed out a logical and tactical error in a potential solution offered by a man (I managed to keep my cool despite the harassment).

Would he have done that to a man?  Probably not.

I was also called by another woman and told that I was a “backstabber” because when I saw her doing inferior work that affected mine and would have had dire consequences (and after I tried to encourage her, help her and just about everything else I could think of to better the situation), I reported it up to my manager.  She didn’t call me a “B”, but just about.

Would she have done that to a man?  I don’t think so.

I sat in a meeting a few weeks ago with the top-ranking managers at our facility.  All men.  I was the only woman in the room.  I felt like it was 1976 and they may ask me to go get the coffee (they didn’t, of course, but just the realization that there were no other women was a very odd feeling).

I read part of Sheryl’s interview where she said that when she was on the Forbes “World’s Most Powerful Women” list, she was embarrassed and played it down.  I know that feeling (not the feeling of being on the Forbes list, of course, but I do know the feeling of being embarrassed because of my accomplishments). In fact, just the other day, one of my accomplishments was mentioned during a meeting and my first reaction – my gut reaction – was to say that it was no big deal.

I also related to Sheryl’s statement that men are able to say, “I want a raise because I deserve it” or that they assume that they got to where they are because they are smart and capable.  I (and according to Sheryl, many women) feel like I got to where I am because am lucky.  Like I fooled others into thinking that I know what I’m talking about.  She said that men apply for a promotion when they have met 60% of the criteria.  Women wait until they have achieved 100% of the criteria before applying.  We are afraid that we will be found out to be less than we should be – of not measuring up.

I was inspired to post this not only because I am planning on reading her book, but because someone made an interesting statement about me today – one that I had never considered.

As part of the Executive Leadership Program, both our supervisors and peers evaluate us in our current position.  I received some negative feedback, but not in the areas that I expected.  I was dinged by my coworkers because they thought I was not disciplining people enough.  The thing is, I don’t have the authority to discipline anyone – that’s a manager’s job (and I am not a manager right now).  My peers thought I was in charge, when I’m really not.

I mentioned this to my new group during a conversation today.  Several of them said that it was an aura that I put off.  One man said that when people walk into a room, you can tell those who are in positions of authority by how they carry themselves, how they speak and their general attitude.  They exude confidence and people naturally follow them.  The group all agreed that I was one of those people.

I was shocked.  I had never thought of myself that way.  And it felt good.  And powerful.

Now…if I can just get over my lack of confidence and the fear that soon, they’ll figure out that I’m not good enough.  Maybe I’ll even apply for that promotion before I’m fully qualified…

 

 

 
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Living a Cash-Only Life

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 18, 2013 in Family Stuff

Before I stopped posting a few years ago, I mentioned that our family was on a budget with a goal to get out of debt.

After almost four years of living a “cash-only” life, closing our credit cards and watching our expenses, we finally paid off our last credit card this month!  Woo-hoo!

I don’t even want to tell you how much debt we’d racked up while I was a stay-at-home mom, but let it suffice to say that it was way too much.  However, looking back, I still feel that I made the right decision to stay home with my babies (even if it meant charging those unexpected expenses).  We will never get those years back, and I would not trade them for anything.

I feel like we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it feels really good (and a little strange).  We will free up a substantial amount of cash each month now that our debts are gone.  I also recently got a raise and we are in the process of refinancing our home – which will free up several hundred additional dollars every month.  Our car is paid off and our truck is nearly so (we are not completely debt-free, but almost!).

Since we are used to living a (somewhat) frugal life, we should be able to put away some significant savings and possibly take on some of those home projects that have been on hold for the last few years (new bathroom, new roof, new kitchen…).  My ultimate dream is to purchase a vacation home at the shore – maybe someday.

Now, when unexpected expenses come up (like the $900 new water heater we had to purchase after the old one nearly exploded last week – yikes!), we have a cushion from which to draw.  What a good feeling!

 

 
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Book Review – Still Alice

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 17, 2013 in Books I'm Reading

While I was away at the last ELP session, I managed to read an entire book in just a few days.  The book was Still Alice by Lisa Genova.

Still Alice

As soon as I opened the cover, I could not stop reading this book.  It had been on my list to read for a long time, but I was afraid that it would be too sad and depressing to enjoy.

While it was sad, the book offers a realistic look into the decline of a mind affected by Alzheimer’s.  Alice is a Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzeimer’s at the age of 50.  The book describes Alice’s struggles in fantastic detail, including the difficult relationship with her husband after her diagnosis.  While Alice begs him to spend her last year of clarity together, her husband clings to the normalcy of his job.  He cannot stand to see his wife become this person that Alzheimer’s has created.

Alice creates a sort of “escape hatch”, entering several questions on her Blackberry and sets them to go off on a regular timer.  If she cannot remember the answers to the questions, she instructs herself to view a file on her laptop that contains instructions for taking an overdose of medication.  However, what she doesn’t understand is that with Alzheimer’s, she won’t realize that she doesn’t know the correct answers to the questions.  And after she places her Blackberry in the freezer, the regular reminders cease.

As her disease progresses, Alice turns from anxious and embarrassed to accepting and even relaxed.  She no longer realizes that what she is experiencing is a disease and it becomes her new normal.

Although not a true story, I believe that this book was so realistic because of the author’s neurologist background.  She used experiences from her patients to colorfully describe how an Alzheimer’s patient sees the world through the lens of the disease.

As I was reading, I couldn’t help but wonder if some of my forgetfulness, confusion or disorientation in recent years could be a precursor to Alzheimer’s.  I can only hope that I will never fall victim to this insidious disease.  And if I do…I need a more fool-proof escape hatch.

 
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Health Woes

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

After having some sleepless nights recently, I discovered that my blood pressure is high enough to require treatment with medication (I took my blood pressure at home and figured I needed trudge myself into the doctor’s office).

To add to this, my blood work showed a high level of A1C  – which is an indication of prediabetes (or diabetes, depending on which website you reference).

I was actually having diabetic symptoms, so I asked the doctor to run the test.  I kind of figured those would be the results.

Both diabetes and hypertension run in my family – the former on my father’s side and the latter on my mother’s side.  I REALLY need to get myself back to a healthy state.

I have a follow-up appointment next week – I’ll let you know how it goes…

 
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Getting Ready for Dance Competition Season!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

Just had to share this photo of my cutie-patootie Emily at her dance competition dress rehearsal for the musical theater number Grease:

Emily Grease

Can’t wait to see them perform!!!!

 
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Apparently, I CAN’T Say That On Facebook (and Other Ramblings)

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Mar 17, 2013 in Family Stuff

An update to my previous post about Facebook posts and friendships – the Facebook post I mentioned (regarding my upcoming government furlough) resulting in my being “unfriended” on Facebook by the contractor acquaintance.  I’m not sure if I deserved that kind of snub (and I don’t think it’s a good idea for her to burn those bridges), but that’s ok.  I learned something about that person and how they handle relationships, stress and her career.

Moving on…

I just returned from a week in Cambridge, MD at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina (GORGEOUS property!). Here was the view from my room:

Chesapeake Hyatt

The beautiful infinity pool overlooking the bay (note the unfortunate “Pool Closed” sign – too bad were were there in March):

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I was attending the third session of the Executive Leadership Program (ELP) – a nine month program in which I am currently enrolled.  We have been put together in random groups of 8 or 9 people from various agencies around the United States and are working toward a common project while attending various training session on leadership.  This week was Critical Thinking, External Awareness and Presentation Skills.  Meanwhile, we also have to do some challenges and other tasks – this week, we had to take 5 photos representing leadership at its best, leadership at its worst and other characteristics.

After coming home and watching some of my favorite reality TV shows, I realized that our ELP sessions would make great reality TV.  We have groups of random folks forced to live and work together for a brief time (with little or no contact with our families).  There is plenty of drama – at our last session, several team members almost got into a physical altercation and I have also seen several emotional breakdowns.  In our team, we even have folks that have left for various reasons (almost like being voted off) – our team was down to 5 people this week.  If Mark Burnett or Donald Trump are reading this, feel free to contact me for more information.

The good thing is that our team got along pretty well this week.  They have helped me to learn how to sit back and not be so much of an outspoken person, pushing my opinions on everyone (that’s why I have this blog!).  Everyone does truly lead differently, and I have learned to respect others’ styles of leadership.

I loved this hotel – I would like to go back with my family in the summer.  At first, we thought there was nothing nearby until we found the delightful little town of Cambridge.  Great seafood restaurants, beautiful views and friendly people. Except…the hotel rates are crazy expensive!  Maybe my husband will surprise me for Mother’s Day (hint, hint).

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