Giving Back: Verizon Military Mom

Giving back is something most of us can agree is an important part of living a fulfilling life. From the simplest gestures of kindness to monumental acts of gratitude our shared humanity grows richer and more meaningful. That meaning is why I’m proudly partnering with Verizon for the third year to show thanks through their Verizon Military Mom program.

I can still remember stepping off the CatB flight and onto the tarmac in Rota, Spain. I was 19. It was hot and humid even though the sun was near setting.

This was the first time I’d been so far from home and there wasn’t exactly a welcoming party waiting as I walked into the nearly empty terminal. All I wanted to do was turn tail and head home to my mom. I’d never doubted my choice to join the Navy… until that moment. What I wouldn’t have given to be able to pull out a cell phone and call my mommy. But, it was the early 90’s and cell phones were still just a Star Trek fantasy.

Over the course of my time in the Navy letters and rare phone calls, care packages and VHS tapes from home got me through. Most days we were too busy to think too much about home, but home was always there thinking about us. What military moms do is truly a special thing. It ripples through the relationships of those we hold dear and those who serve beside us.

Flash forward a few decades and my eldest son would be the one to serve on foreign soil. He’d get there not by plane but onboard a ship as a member of a Marine Corps wing unit. I was a wreck even though – or maybe because I knew- what he’d be doing. Six months or more at sea and in other countries was almost more than this momma’s heart could take… but I’m a Military Mom. I am part of a long line of strong women who support those who serve. Plus I technology has my six.

While he was deployed our Verizon connection paired with our smartphones (I’ve bought the man-child no less than four phones since he joined the corps) kept us connected in a way my mother never had. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her!

We texted photos and pictures using the Whats App. He recorded videos for me and I’d get huge “dumps” of them when he’d get somewhere that had wifi. I’d even follow along using news alerts setup to see where his carrier group was. The highlight of his tour for me was “going” to Sydney, Australia with him. I got to see so much of the world because we were connected. I also got to see gorgeous views of Sydney harbor from the hotel room he got just so he could sleep in a normal bed on shore leave!

On that deployment, he also went through one of the hardest things those who serve face. He lost Marines from his unit. It was heart-wrenching as a mom to know he was going through this. As a veteran I felt it even deeper as those men were my shipmates too – we may have served in different eras but we are all part of the same family. To be able to be there for him, on a call, via text, in a video I could record and send him, was priceless.

This month Verizon is saluting and giving back to moms like me, moms who do so much more than I do, for our service to those who serve. They recently honored 15 military moms with $1,000 shopping sprees to get technology that will help keep them connected to their loved ones and their extended military families.

One truth I left my military service knowing was that not one single person, in any branch of the military, serves alone. Our loved ones, friends, families and our military moms serve along side us. A huge thank you goes out to every single mom out there that gives so much so that we may all have what we do. And to the team at Verizon, thank you for recognizing the service and strength of these women!

Cocktail Time: Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz

A new twist on a old classic, with no actual gin in it.

A well-crafted cocktail can turn any evening into an event. Sometimes afternoons too. Lately, I’ve been getting creative with mixology as part of a creative process. The results of which have been, well… mixed. One of the more successful results (per my official taste-tester – the hubby) came in the form of a Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz. Which oddly enough, contains no gin at all.

What?!

As it turns out Sloe Gin is neither “slow” nor Gin. This liqueur is actually flavored with a relative of the plum, the Sloe. It garnered it’s false moniker due to the fact that the Sloe was often soaked in gin, it’s juices infusing into the juniper berry flavors of the gin. These days cheaper spirits are often used, but the name stuck.

Okay, History of Hooch 101 is over. Let’s get to the mixing. For this cocktail I chose to take full advantage of sweet, in-season, scrumptious black cherries found at the local Farmer’s Market. After pitting, they went for a spin in my juicer. 

Hey, juicing… that’s healthy, right?!

A traditional Sloe Gin Fizz uses a simple syrup, I’ve replaced that with the cherry juice. If you’re into very sweet drinks feel free to add it back in (4 jiggers for the yield in this recipe.)

Cheers!

Black Cherry Sloe Gin Fizz
Serves 4
A sweet, summery twist on the classic Sloe Gin Fizz.
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Prep Time
4 min
Total Time
4 min
Prep Time
4 min
Total Time
4 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 Jiggers (1.5 fl oz) Sloe Gin
  2. 4 Jiggers Lemon Flavored Vodka
  3. 4 Jiggers Black Cherry Juice
  4. Soda Water
  5. Ice
  6. Cocktail Shaker with Strainer
Instructions
  1. Fill Cocktail Shaker with ice. Add juice and spirits. Shake well. Strain out into your class of choice. Top with Soda Water. Garnish with a sprig of mint or slice of lemon
Notes
  1. A traditional Sloe Gin Fizz calls for a simple syrup, lemon juice, and gin. This version replaces the syrup with cherry juice, the lemon and gin with lemon-flavored vodka.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/
 

Road Trips

“The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream.”
– Jack Kerouac

Ah, road trips. Growing up, my parents were keen to hit the road with the three of us in tow. They were then and still are adventurers, wandering souls, Flower Children in search of that bit of zen that growing up in the 60s had promised them.

My brothers and I were the beneficiaries of this wanderlust.  By the time I’d turned ten I had stood in awe of mysteries of The Thing, met many a stoic carved Chief at the entrance to endless “trading” posts, and ate more than my fair share of car-snacks and roadside taffy.  If it was the World’s Biggest ______,  a ghost town or even a dinosaur, we detoured to check it out. 

Getting up in the wee hours, watching as dad loaded the family wagon with that Coleman cooler and more bags than people was somehow magical. Hitting the road was a sort of alchemy that changed the very atmosphere. The air smelled different on those early mornings. Light filtered through the car windows making the ordinary seem more like a kaleidoscope   

All the things that drove mom nuts on a daily basis at home somehow had diminished impact when we were on the road. Even my younger brothers transformed, no longer annoying little ogres. Jam-sodden bread became a delicacy worthy of at least one Michelin star.

The destination didn’t really matter all that much, it was the getting there that got to me. Deep in the very fabric of a growing young traveler the seeds of wanderlust took hold. 

Traveling back then was certainly different from what it is these days. Many of those roadside wonders have faded into the background, sun faded and abandoned. My kids don’t know the simple joy of singing 100 Bottles of Beer on The Wall to the point of exhaustion. It might be a good thing that their devices keep them from playing Punch Buggy. But I’m left to wonder if, even though they are far more traveled than I was at their ages if they’ve missed out on something magical about childhood. 

Do you have memories of special childhood road trips? What there a roadside attraction that amazed (or disappointed) you?  I’d love to hear all about them. Shared stories are better than any souvenir – well except for that magnet I got at the Grand Canyon circa 1970something.  

 

 

how to make a starburst candy cocktail

Remember those cheesy 80’s ads for Reece’s peanut butter cups, “You got your peanut butter all over my chocolate!” Yuck, just nope. I may be alone in my loathing of that combination but I can certainly get behind the tagline for those ads, “Two great things that go great together,” if we’re talking vodka and starburst candies.  So the question now is, how to make a Starburst candy cocktail.

Time for a confession, the Starburst candy cocktail was an original idea of mine.  Oh sure, I’d love to take full credit for it but that rests with the little BBQ joint in suburban Maryland where my team, The Little Urban Achievers play (and by that I mean own) Pub Trivia.

While The Hideaway cocktail was tasty, it was just a tad too sour for me so I thought I’d take inspiration from their unique libation and give it my own twist. Of course, it will still be garnished with starburst – duh.

Starburst Candy Cocktail
Serves 1
Sweet, a little sour and perfect for happy hour!
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1.5 oz Limoncello
  2. 1.5 oz Stolichnaya Wild Cherry Vodka
  3. 1 oz Tart Cherry Grenadine by Quince & Apple
  4. San Pellegrino Aranciata
  5. Starburst Candy
  6. Cocktail Skewers
  7. Ice
  8. Cocktail Shaker
Instructions
  1. Place ice, limoncello, vodka and grenadine in cocktail shaker. Shake well. Strain into glass of your choice. Top with chilled Aranciata. Place several candies onto skewer and garnish.
Notes
  1. If using standard grenadine, add in some fresh squeezed lemon juice to balance the sweet and sour.
Adapted from The Hideway
Adapted from The Hideway
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

Using that craft grenadine may be the key to the success of this cocktail. Quince & Apple really let the cherry shine in this simple syrup. Yes, it’s a bit pricey, but it doesn’t take much of it to impart that deep cherry flavor. Plus it doesn’t go bad. I may even give it a try as a flavoring for ice cream or pancake topping.

Though not YET tested, I suspect this would be great in the summer over crushed ice! Do you have a favorite candy? Think it might make for a tasty cocktail? Let me know. I’m always looking for new ways to mix things up. Mixology.. mix.. get it. Okay, maybe I’d better lay off the taste-testing for a bit.

Be The Good: Talking Philanthropy with Laurie Kelley

I’ve long held the idea that whenever I have the opportunity to choose to do good, I do it. Okay, I realize that isn’t exactly a novel idea. After all, wouldn’t all choose that? So, I guess what we’re really talking about are new ideas for impactful ways to do good, starting with healthcare. To make my point I’ve enlisted the help of an expert. Today we’ll be talking philanthropy with Laurie Kelly, President & Chief Philanthropy Officer, Providence Foundations of Oregon Chair and the  Providence St. Joseph Health Philanthropy Executive Council.

Laurie was able to help me understand what philanthropy in the healthcare field looks like. Sometimes it is community outreach for mental health programs, other times it’s about matching funding to programs in need – think things like cancer research.

Even working in the medical arena, I was unaware that groups like the Providence Foundation existed and did so much. Let’s let Laurie tell us just how much.

Not all medical centers have an arm that addresses community need through philanthropy, why has Providence chosen to?

Philanthropy has been a part of Providence’s history since the very beginning when the Sisters would go on their “begging tours” to build new schools and hospitals.  Over the years, philanthropy has been the lynchpin that moves Providence from being a very good place for care to being an excellent place for care. Philanthropy is the secret sauce that makes such a difference in funding programs for the poor and vulnerable, for furthering research, for establishing new programs, creating new spaces for patients, sometimes even entirely new buildings, and funding many positions.  With reimbursements declining and margins eroding, we will rely even more on philanthropy to provide funding for things that cannot be covered by patient revenue. We always try to match the funding need with a donor’s passion. We also realize that everyone who wants to be involved with us has different levels of resources. We value every gift.

How does the foundation work?

Oregon has 10 foundations representing our eight hospitals, a nursing center and our children’s programs (which has expanded from a foundation serving the Providence Child Center for Medically Fragile Children.)  Each foundation has an executive director and is a 501 c 3 non-profit organization with a board of directors. We work with leaders at each of the organizations to identify programs that need additional funding support.  Then we determine whether that request might appeal to a pool of donors. Every year, the foundations return tens of millions of dollars back to the ministries in our region.

What types of needs are met through the foundation’s work? Can you share a story or two about those who have been helped through the efforts of Providence?

There are so many examples.  This year, there was a need to expand behavioral health for adolescents.  The project appealed to several donors and was able to be funded. The research within our world-renowned Providence Cancer Institute is 70% funded by donors.  Simply put, without donors, we would not have a cancer research institute. The Providence Heart Institute has risen to all new levels of care, hired new doctors, established may new programs including CARDS, (the Center for Cardiovascular Analytics Research & Data Science) and additionally, we have beautiful new space for our caregivers and, more importantly, our patients and families.  There are literally thousands of things happening annually at Providence Oregon because of the generosity of our community.

How can the public get involved in the mission of the foundation?

Check out our website www.providencefoundations.org  See if there are ministries, programs or impact areas that are of interest to you.  Volunteer to work at one of our events, attend one of our fundraisers, contact our executive directors and see if there are openings on our boards, let us know if there is a grateful patient or family you know who might want to make a gift to recognize the care they received and spread the word about the positive work made possible by the generosity of others, and if it fits in your budget, make a gift to an area that matters to you.

With so much need out there, how does the foundation prioritize its efforts?

We work with our regional administrative and clinical leaders to identify priorities for funding.  In addition through our Community Health Division, Providence hospitals conduct Community Health Needs Assessments every few years to identify the top prioritized needs in our communities. Most often these needs include social determinates of health such as food insecurity or housing, as well as behavioral health needs, substance use and also access to health care. The CHNA is an important tool to guide all Providence programs, partnerships and investments across the organization according to greatest community need.

I’ve spent time volunteering in a NICU. How do your Specialty Pediatric clinics differ or mirror something like that?

While we do not have a children’s hospital, we care for more children than anyone in the state.  Twenty percent of all babies born in Oregon are born at a Providence Hospital. We offer a wide range of services for children with developmental issues, as well we offer many pediatric psychiatric services.  The Children’s Developmental Clinic and Swindells Clinic are much-needed services in our community. Many of these needed services requiring philanthropic support continue to exist because reimbursements do not cover their full costs and generous donors keep these services going.

How do the uninsured or underinsured go about exploring the services offered at your facilities?   

While the foundation is unable to help patients pay for our services, you can call or visit a financial counselor or billing office at your local Providence facility. We can give you any forms you need and can help you apply for assistance. Patients can also apply at any time while receiving treatment and anytime during the billing process. If possible, patients are strongly encouraged to ask for financial help before receiving medical treatment.

If someone wanted to learn more about the Providence Foundations, both how they can help or avail themselves of the services provided, how should they do that? If someone isn’t in an area that the Foundation serves, is there a standard way to find out if medical centers in their communities have philanthropic arms like Providence? 

You can research a lot of our work on our website, www.providencefoundations.org or contact members of our team.  Nearly every foundation connected with a hospital has a website, that would be a way to discover more about any foundations in your service area.  

I’d like to thank Laurie for taking the time to share how the foundation she heads up finds these impactful ways to do good.  She is one busy lady as the mom of four, grandmother of wins, and occasional author for Working Mother and LinkedIn.  

photo courtesy of Providence Foundation

 

This story was written as part of a paid partnership with Providence St. Joseph Health. I was honored to get a few minutes of Laurie’s time in order to help illustrate how philanthropy can have an impact on health care as well as in our communities. If you’d like to know more about the Providence Foundation, feel free to visit their website or follow them Facebook.

 

 

Travel. Eat. Drink. Write. REPEAT