Stroke Awareness Month Thoughts from the 25-Year-old Daughter of a Multiple Stroke Victim.

American-Stroke-Month-2-The irony that Stroke Awareness Month takes place during the same month as Mother’s Day is not lost on me. For the past ten years, the words ‘stroke’ and ‘mother’ has become intertwined. Both have played a substantial role in shaping the adult I have become. Coming to terms with my relationship with both is an ongoing struggle. This is not a Stroke Awareness Month essay to bring awareness to the importance of healthy habits and early detection to lower stroke risk. Nor is this an inspirational essay about life after stroke and the lessons it taught has my family. What I write is about the reality of being a 25-years-old daughter of a multiple stroke victim, and how the it can make the future a bit terrifying

Unpredictable. That sums up what I have learned from the decade long experience of being the daughter of a multiple stroke and heart attack survivor. The other day, the news segment on the car radio reminded me that May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Ironically, it was the moment I pulling into the driveway of my childhood home for my weekly visit. The place where my family and I were unwillingly indoctrinated into the world of stroke in 2004 when I was 15 years old. In this household, every month is Stroke Awareness Month.

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102 Fire Fighters Fed for Feed the Fire 2015

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The Fire Fighters at Manoa Fire House and Weston’s Warriors!

On March 23, 2014, Weston gained his wings. It’s baffling to me that 365 days have passed. I still see things in the store and think to pick it up before that split second of reality reminds me.

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Decoration by Me, baking by BJS!

The night at CHOP I remember wondering what happen to to the miracle we had all witnessed that December waiting in the same room at 3 am for the transplant. Little did I know the miracle was more. It was the resilience of a family to get through devastation and honor their sons life. It’s the tons people that united to feed the fire in Weston’s honor, its the friendships that continue because of Weston’s introduction, and it’s the impact his story continues to have on people registering as an organ donor. The real miracle in 34th street is the testimony to an ever lasting legacy of a forever 7 year old boy and the resilience of the human spirit.

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Weston named Honorary Head Fire Fighter at Manoa Fire Company.

On March 23, 2015, people who loved Weston across the country took part in the first ever Feed the Fire event. The brainchild of Weston’s parents Julie and Adam, was a way to use the day as a celebration of the heroes whom Weston admired the most- fire fighters! Over 102 fire houses were adopted last Monday, through the kindness of others brining snacks, supplies and love all in the name of a little boy who had a knack of brining people together.

I was lucky enough to participate in the day with my friend Jen, her adorable 8 year-old son Dom, and our friend Karen. We adopted Manoa Fire Company in Havertown, PA and brought them cookies, brownies, water and most importantly, Flaming Hot Cheetos. The kind firefighters honored Weston that evening by presenting the Keeton family with a special plaque making Weston an honorary member of Local 56. He was also named the Head Fire Chief for one of the fire trucks that evening.

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Even the Highly Intelligent Cat got into it!

It was a day that served as a reminder that our loved ones really never leave us, they just learn to show their love in a different way. I cannot wait to see what great events Weston’s Warriors will plan in the future!

Watch the NBC10 news clip from Feed the Fire!

Read the Delco Times Interview about Feed the Fire!

Read the WOGL Interview about Feed the Fire!

Listen to the WOGL piece about Feed the Fire!

Read all of the Feed the Fire Press here! 

Click here to view photos from the day! 

Click here to watch the recap video of the day.

Feed the Fire- Honoring Weston Keeton

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 12.11.45 PMI never thought a year ago I would be writing a press release and helping my friend Julie organize an event to honor the one year passing of her son, Weston. But on Monday, March 23, it will be exactly a year since I received a text message that my buddy Weston gained his wings. A year later, Weston is missed more than ever but the Keeton family continues to keep his spirit alive by paying it forward.

Many parents cannot even fathom what the Keeton family has gone through. Yet Julie and Adam Keeton are showing that it is okay to honor the ‘angel-versery’ of their son. Since Weston adored firefighters, the Keeton family planned a special event called ‘Feed the Fire’. They have asked supporters from across the country to adopt their local fire house, by donating meals, supplies and snacks. Over 62 fire houses will be ‘adopted’ on Monday, March 23.

Myself and my friend Jen will be adopting Manoa Fire Company in Havertown,PA.  You can click here to read the press release.

98.1 WOGL interviewed Julie and I for this awesome piece promoting the event. You can click here to read it. 

Julie was also interviewed on WJHL last week. You can click here to watch the clip.

To learn more about Weston and Feed the Fire, visit www.westonswarriors.com.

Stay tuned for a recap of the event!

New Publication: Skirt Collective

SC-icon-5I’m thrilled to have my first essay published on Skirt Collective!  Per their website ‘Skirt Collective aims to be the modern woman’s compass for navigating culture, fashion, and the real world. Nestled between street smarts and book smarts, SC connects readers with practical information and opinions from a diverse array of voices in an honest, virtual space.’

You can read my latest article on their website. 

Hopefully this will be the first of many pieces that will be shared on their website! Make sure to follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

Fellow Writer Inspiration: Diana Castaldini

mentoringThere are some people in your life that you just click with instantly. By the tone of their voice, the vibe of their personality and the light in their eyes, people let us know how receptive they are of us. Sure, first impressions can be misleading at times, but over the last 25 years I’ve learned that initial gut feelings about people are usually on point.

One person who struck me like that was Diana Castaldini. As a self-conscience but ambitious 18-year-old freshmen at St. John’s University, I walked into the college newspaper the first week of school and began writing editorial pieces in 2007. By the spring semester, I had several published articles and was a regular at staff meetings. One afternoon, the editorial editor had no articles left but I overheard another editor lamenting that she had no one to take an assignment for the Features section. Unsure if I could handle it but curious enough to try, I volunteered to take a stab at it.

That ended up starting my stint as the Features Editorial Assistant under Diana, who was a junior at the time and the Features editor. From the first time I met her, she instantly put me at ease with her bubbly personality. Each week, we worked together to get the weekly paper out. In a cramped cubicle, I received a crash course on creating story lists, managing writings, editing, print layout, and operating on little sleep after production night.

150px-Newspapers1Most importantly, I listened to Diana talk about her internship at Good Housekeeping. It was the first time I had heard of interning, and my eyes were opened to the possibility that my dreams of working in the magazine industry could happened while I was a student. Being exposed to that part of education by an upper class man so early in my college career was a huge turning point in my career planning. Without that experience, I doubt I would have had the internship experience that I did.

At the time, I was still battling homesickness and being part of the Torch newspaper staff was the factor of me finding feeling at home at St. John’s University. By the end of my freshmen year, I became the features editor, which was a position I held until my senior year. Seven years later, I still look to Diana for advice and often consult her about writing ideas. She was my first mentor in my career and still is one!

Diana is a New York City native and a beautiful writer. Over the past few she years, she has experienced near-death health experiences that would make most of us crumble. But not Diana. Through her illness, she was reborn with a new purpose of life. From discovering different forms of exercises, alternative holistic healing and healthier eating- her recovery has transformed her into a passionate health care advocate.

Recently, she lost her beloved grandmother but had the bravery to share the breathtaking experience of coming face to face with a loved one facing mortality. Anyone who has lost a loved one, especially a grandmother will be moved by her honest essay. You can read her essay on her blog, Thinking Less After Brain Surgery. 

Forever Young: 80 Years of Life, 60 Years of Marriage

My grandparents turned 80 last month, with their birthdays being a month apart. This year not only do they celebrate this remarkable birthday but in November, they will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary! Throughout their lives, they raised four children, enjoyed nine grandchildren, and led fulfilling careers until retirement. Here are a few of my favorite shots from their birthday dinner at Barrels restaurant in Margate, New Jersey!  

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25 Lessons I’ve Learned in the Past 25 Years

After being alive for a quarter of a century, I’ve picked up a few useful pieces of information. The most valuable tidbits being the ones that I have learned the hard way. An activity on my list of 365 things to do in 365 days was to put together a list of 25 life lessons I’ve learned over the past 25 years. Honestly, this was a lot harder than I thought. Most of it is silly, some of isn’t rocket science, but it’s all gems of wisdom I now can share because of personal experience.

  1.                                                                          Cat’s like Spaghettios.                                                                                                                                                             200 (11)
  2. The knowledge gained at your first job will be much more valuable than anything learned during four years at college.   200 (1)      
  3. Interning makes a huge difference when applying to jobs. Skip the wine-tasting elective offered and apply for an internship or two.    200 (9)                                                                                                                                                                 
  4. When you only have $10 for food for an entire week before payday, McDonald’s Dollar Menu is a gift from God.      giphy (3)         
  5. Don’t listen to a nun who wears sneakers and marks your quiz wrong because you put Bill Clinton as an answer to the question ‘name a charismatic leader’ ,even if she lowers your grade.     200 (6)                                                                               
  6. When the car radio-presets are all screwed up, it does not mean a friend played an elaborate prank. Your car battery is about to die, so call a mechanic.         200                                                                                                                                    
  7. Eating seafood that has been marked down to clearance at the local Thriftway is never a good idea.      200 (2)                               
  8. Passion beats talent 95% of the time. A boss would rather have an employee with a great attitude that is teachable, rather than a skilled drone.   200 (8)                                                                                                                                                                     
  9. There’s no long term hurt that can come from going after a dream. The sting of rejection can be soften by the knowledge that at least you tried. And the payoff can be epic.     t8zvc                                                                                         
  10. Facebook stalking can lift up your spirits and make you feel inadequate in a matter of minutes.    facebooktwitter                                       
  11. Being cheap about something will only cost more money in the long run. Like that shitty $40 Ikea bed frame that is now propped against my wall used as a clothesline.          giphy (4)                                                                                                             
  12. It’s really terrifying to see your parents turning into a younger version of your grandparents.4OVLKQc                                                
  13. Friendship takes a lot of work after college.  giphy (5)                                                                                                                             
  14. Siri is not a friend to those of us who talk fast and have a strong ‘Northeast Philadelphia’ accent.    dImyJ                                      
  15. Finding the good bathroom at work is one of the most important things to do during the first week at a new job. bossy2                
  16. Fear of missing out and peer pressure isn’t always that bad. It all depends on the peers doing the pressuring.     I tried clean eating, and exercising because of the fear of missing out on the experience my coworkers were partaking in last year.                                                    giphy (1)                                                                                                                                        
  17. Cinnamon toothpaste is the most useless product created by the dental hygiene world.       200 (4)                                               
  18. Antidepressants only work half way, the user has to be willing to do the other half of the work to feel better.   btiffany                      
  19. Being in the good graces of your office’s administrative assistant, security team, janitor and cafeteria cook is more telling of your reputation than being in the good graces of the CEO.        tumblr_na0lx8bbpk1suzl23o1_500                                                                               
  20. Unit air conditioners get taken out of windows in the winter for a reason. Learning this hard way can result in getting a cold or freezing to death in your sleep.                                    200 (13)                                                                                               
  21. Your parents and/or your family’s way of life does not need to be how you live your life. Even if they tell you otherwise.  giphy (2)
  22. Motherly love can be appreciated at any age. And that doesn’t mean it has to come from your biological mother either.200 (12)   
  23. Never  be a jerk to someone who is apologizing. Even if you don’t accept it, give them the opportunity attempt.       giphy (18)         
  24. A person can actually overdose on vitamins. Especially Niacin, which I decided to take multiple times day to increase my happiness. My face was the color of an apple and I’m lucky my head didn’t explode.                  200_s (4)                                         
  25. Google is the reason why those reference books on my bookshelf at work are covered in dust. And has also encouraged my demand and expectations of instant gratification.200 (10)

101 Things That Happened in the Last 365 Days

Facebook now has a new app that will create a short video clip about the highlights of 2014. To be frank, 2014 can kick rocks. Most of the year was spent dealing with stress, unhappiness and grief. But somewhere in the middle of the emotional roller coaster of the year, I managed to do a whole bunch of cool things. 2014 can only be summed in one cliche, corny phrase- Life Goes On. 

Here’s a 101 memorable things that I did this year. Thank you for reading my ramblings, commenting on my essays, and/or being in my life this year.  I’m still wrapping my mind over some of the shit that went down over the past 365 days, so I won’t even try to guess what 2015 will hold. 

101 Things That Happened in the Last 365 Days

 Participated in a vegan chicken wing eating contest- This was a disaster, no one warned me that seitan expands once it’s wet. But it benefited Philly Roller Girls, so it was for a good cause!

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Participated in a cupcake eating contest.It was my first large amount of sugar after clean eating for 40 days, let’s just say that night I wanted to die

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Went on an upside roller coaster- I actually tried frantically to get off the Batman Coaster but the attendant didn’t hear me so I was stuck going through with it

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Went to Six Flags- We meant to go to Belmont Beach, but the signs for the safari seemed more exciting

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Had an article go viral- I was annoyed about how much online dating sucked, and wrote an article about it one night after work. Apparently people like that kind of thing.

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Got published on Bustle

Got published on Literally Darling

Found out I was a social introvert

Took photos on Citizen Bank Park’s field before a Phillies Game 

Missed a plane transfer

Had my article and face appear on Yahoo.com

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Flew to California

Put my feet in the Pacific Ocean

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Went in a hot tub under the stars at night in California

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Had my face appear on a HuffPo email 

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A Ribbon-less Holiday: World Stroke Day

89759 (1)During the entire month of October, the color pink has been splashed everywhere. City lights, donation canisters at cash registers, and the plethora of products that are branded as ‘breast cancer awareness’ have made it impossible for anyone not to know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. At an event I attended this month, the speaker asked all those who have survived breast cancer to stand while the audience applauded. No doubt- these women are survivors. However, October is also a time to raise awareness for another severe health crisis.

You probably didn’t know that every 40 seconds, an American has a stroke, equaling 795,000 victims each year. Or that that October 29 is World Stroke Day.

According to the American Heart Association, the acronym F.A.S.T. is an easy way to recognize stroke symptoms: Face Drooping, Arm Weakness, Speech Difficulty, Time to Dial 9-1-1. Chances are that if I went up to people on the street, most would be unable to identify stroke symptoms, but all would be able to share the importance breast examinations. Continue reading