April 30, 2021

'Rescued' is the Best Breed!

I was struggling this morning about what to post today because I haven't taken more than a couple of photos this week (and I usually post "Friday Night Photos" on Fridays). Then I saw that today is "National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day"--and I thought I would just bombard the post with photos of Joey, our shelter-rescue dog.

Jerry and I went to the local animal shelter (a.k.a. "the pound") on February 3, 2015--and we left that day with a 1-1/2 year old (estimated age) labrador-chow chow mix. In cutesy terms, that's a "chabrador" or "chowbrador". We had no idea just how much he would change our lives!

We wanted our boys to grow up with a dog and they were at a good age for it (9 and 10 years old). We named him Joey (after Joey Tribiani, to stick with the 'Friends' theme for our pets' names). Joey is truly the BEST dog--he loves to be around his people. He is fantastic with the kids and with our cats (the cats pretty much own him--poor dog!). My parents love to dog sit and my sister said if we ever want to re-home him (we would never!) she would take him in a heartbeat. He is an all-around well-behaved dog and we couldn't have wished for anything better.

When people are thinking of getting a pet, I always suggest checking out the animal shelters. There are so many dogs and cats that need homes--it is heartbreaking to think of all of the unwanted animals waiting for homes.

Out of the 60 million dogs and 75 million cats that are owned in the United States, only 10-20% of them were adopted from a shelter. Here are some more interesting facts about shelter pets (source):

Approximately 8-12 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year and approximately 5-9 million are euthanized (60% of dogs and 70% of cats). 

Less than 2% of cats and only 15-20% of dogs are returned to their owners.

25% of dogs that enter local shelters are purebred.

Only 10% of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered. 75% of owned pets are neutered.

It is sobering to hear that 6 out of 10 dogs and 7 out of 10 cats are euthanized every year in shelters. Just because these animals are in a shelter doesn't mean there is something "wrong" with them--there are lots of reasons that pets wind up in the shelter. When I think that Joey could have wound up euthanized, it breaks my heart--he is a fantastic pet!

Clearly, I am very passionate about shelter pets. (My cats did not come from the "shelter", which is why I'm making this post about Joey; Phoebe and Estelle were strays that people were trying to find homes for, and Chick and Duck came from an animal rescue.) I just hope that if you're looking for a pet, you'll check out the shelters first. When you adopt from a shelter, you're saving TWO animals--the pet that you adopt, AND the animal that now has a spot in the shelter.

While I am at it, just a quick fact about spaying/neutering... a female cat can have about 180 kittens in her lifetime. And those kittens can reproduce... and those kittens can reproduce... and so on. In 7 years, that ONE cat and her offspring can total 420,000 cats. (source) Isn't that insane?! So by spaying or neutering your cat, you could be saving hundreds of thousands of cats from winding up in a shelter one day. A quick google search or checking with your local animal shelter can provide you with low-cost spaying and neutering options. The animal shelter is HAPPY to help, because they don't want pets to wind up in the shelter either.

Okay, so on to the fun stuff... pictures of Joey throughout the last six years. Can you believe it's been that long since we adopted him?!

This last photo is a before and after--the day we adopted him and then about six months later...

April 29, 2021

COVID Diaries: A Blessing in Disguise

I have an interesting guest post to share today as part of the COVID Diaries series. This series is to get a glimpse into people's lives over the past year and how the virus has had a drastic effect on them.

This one is a little different from the previous ones I've shared--it was actually a COVID-19 diagnosis that ultimately saved a woman's life. As horrible as the virus is, it's nice to read a positive outcome. This post is written by Anita, with her mom's and sisters' permission.

My mother has always been very healthy despite not keeping up with regular screenings like mammograms and pap tests. She was 70 years old before she ever had a colonoscopy, and even then, she only did so because my sisters and I pestered her about it. The colonoscopy came back clear with no issues.

This is my mom preparing food for my brother's wedding

In October of 2020, she was diagnosed with COVID-19, displaying very mild symptoms other than some digestive issues. We heard that this was unusual but not unheard of with COVID-19. She began to get a lot of pain in her abdomen and finally went to Urgent Care where they sent her to the hospital with a suspected bowel obstruction.

After being sent home, she returned because she was still experiencing intense pain. The doctors ended up performing emergency surgery for a bowel obstruction--and she was given a startling diagnosis of colon cancer and subsequently had a colostomy!

We were all understandably shocked and scared. After the surgery, Mom spent many days in the ICU where only one of my sisters could visit (she had already had COVID-19 previously, so had a natural immunity). Prior to getting COVID-19, my mother had no issues that would have caused her to suspect she had colon cancer and her colonoscopy was clear only eight years before. [Guidelines specify that people who aren't at high risk for colon cancer should have a screening every 10 years.]

Because of her cancer diagnosis, she decided to get genetic testing done--and found out that she carries the BRCA gene mutation. This mutation carries a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. She learned that because she carries it, her four daughters have a 50% change of carrying the gene mutation as well.

My three sisters and I decided to have genetic testing done. My youngest sister tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation so she chose to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lessen her chances of getting ovarian cancer. She and our mother are also having more frequent mammograms and breast MRI's to keep tabs on their breast health.

Sisters--I'm driving; my youngest sister is the one taking the selfie

My genetic test results came back negative for the BRCA mutation and my other two sisters are still awaiting their results. Mom is doing very well now and will soon finish her chemotherapy treatments; she has another surgery scheduled in June to reverse the colostomy and have her ovaries and tubes removed.

Mom admitted to me that she did not plan to ever get another colonoscopy since her first and only one was clear and she enjoys great health. Had she not gotten COVID-19 and developed digestive issues from it, it's very likely the colon cancer would have gone undiagnosed until possibly too late for treatment.

She also would not have gotten the genetic testing. In that case, my youngest sister would not have known she carries the BRCA gene mutation, which allowed her to take steps to greatly lesson her cancer risk. We all have daughters and feel it's also important to their health to be aware of any genetic issues they could inherit. 

As terrible as COVID-19 can be, I am actually thankful that my mother contracted it so these underlying conditions could be found and dealt with. I am a firm believer that "all things work together for good" and that God had his hand on my family through this pandemic. None of us will be skipping future colonoscopies or mammograms. These are simple procedures with minimal discomfort that can save lives.  

My sisters and I are very close and have many fun adventures together and with our mother.  I'm so grateful that we are taking care of our health so we can continue sharing our lives for many years to come.

My sisters and me with our parents

If any of you have been affected by COVID-19 in some way (whether you work with COVID patients or became severely ill, or your job has suffered significantly because of it, etc.) and you're interested in sharing your story, please send me an email! I think reading these stories is eye-opening and it allows us to see how this virus has affected people all over the world. You can email me at: katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com for a possible guest post.

Anita, thanks so much for sharing--I'm so happy that your mom is doing well! It's great that your family was able to discover all of this early-on.

April 28, 2021

Change of Summer Plans

I wrote recently about taking a couple of college classes this summer to finish a degree... not for any reason other than to just have it completed, because I am only two credit hours shy of an associate degree. I've been in contact with the school's financial aid advisor because of the Michigan Reconnect program--the program is for people 25 and older, who have not earned a degree and want to return to college, they can attend their county's community college tuition-free to earn a degree.

When I read the guidelines, it said you have to take a minimum of 6 credit hours per semester for the scholarship, so I registered for two (3 credit hour) classes this summer. I just picked two classes that sounded interesting to me.

Since then, however, the financial aid advisor called me and said that there was going to be a problem with the MI Reconnect scholarship. Apparently, since I only need two credit hours, I'm not eligible because I have to take six credit hours of classes--but since I don't actually *need* that extra class to graduate, the scholarship won't cover any of it. I happen to fall into this margin that isn't really accounted for.

However, I learned something really interesting that is making me rethink this whole thing...

The advisor said that if I want to change programs of study (right now, they just have me listed as a general "Associate of Science" degree), I can take all the classes required to fill that degree--with the MI Reconnect scholarship. So, she said that if I changed my program to "Accounting" for example, I could take all of the classes required to get an associate degree in accounting. That's a huge game-changer! I may not want to do that at all, but it's something to think about for sure. Now, there are several options:

If I was to just take a single class to get my degree, the door for the MI Reconnect scholarship is closed. The advisor said that if the single class is all I want to do, just to finish out the degree, she could get me a grant or scholarship to cover the cost of the class and the books. That's option one.

I could choose a new program of study, and then take the classes needed (tuition-free) as long as I take six credit hours per semester--option two. The problem with this is that I have no idea what program I'd want to do. The community college in my county doesn't offer any programs that I am very interested in (it's known for its nursing program, but I definitely don't want to do that).

Option three: I could choose an out-of-county community college that has a program I am interested in, but the scholarship wouldn't cover all of the tuition--it would only cover about half of it. This is somewhat interesting to me, because there is a college in Flint, Michigan that has a program for an autopsy assistant--something that I would be very into. (When I was in high school I wanted to become a forensic pathologist, but I didn't want to go through all of the schooling--you need to go through medical school.) An autopsy assistant works with a forensic pathologist. This would be a positive because if I actually choose to use the degree, it would be something that I'm really interested in.

Option four: I could do nothing. I'm totally fine without having a degree. The only reason I even looked into it was because I happened to notice that I was only two credits shy of an associate degree.

College is super expensive, so if I had to pay for all of it out-of-pocket, I wouldn't want to do it. But I feel like this Michigan Reconnect scholarship is too good of an opportunity to pass up. And even if I don't plan to use the degree, I really think that I would like taking classes and learning new things--especially if it's a topic I'm interested in.

Just for the heck of it, I had my transcripts from EMU and my community college sent to the college in Flint. I'll see exactly what it would cost me out-of-pocket, and if it's reasonable, I'd like to do it. (It's an hour and a half away, which is a long commute, so I'll have to see what the class schedules are like as well.)

In the meantime, though, I dropped the two summer classes I'd registered for so that I can figure out what I want to do. I wish my local college had a program I was interested in because that would make it easy to decide. But, I'm already twice the age of 95% of the students there, so if I should wait a couple of months--or even a year--to decide, it's not going to make any difference! Haha.

April 27, 2021

Transformation Tuesday #24

Thank you for the kind comments on yesterday's post! I stayed true to my word and I started the Couch to 5K again today. Hopefully I can stay injury-free and finally finish it. I'm sorry that a lot of you are struggling with weight, too--lockdown/quarantine seems to have taken a toll on so many people as far as weight goes!

Anyway, I have some fun transformations to share for Transformation Tuesday... enjoy :)

We're wrapping up school holidays here in Australia which means the last 2 weeks have been packed full of decluttering, organising and this time, very big projects. We decided to completely redo the front yard. We are not great at maintaining gardens so we needed something low maintenance. My boyfriend and I completed the project ourselves and we love the feeling of accomplishment in the end and I am in love with the results!!

- Sarah

I finally remembered to take an after picture of our entryway transformation--we stripped down the (in my opinion) unattractive wallpaper that was in the entry way and repainted! It was a little bit of a struggle with the high walls (we live in a bi-level) but having a 6’4” husband helps! ;)

- Amanda, Wisconsin, newly appointed wallpaper remover master

I am obsessed with pumpkins and grow as many as possible. After a year of living in a San Francisco apartment, my husband and I moved to Colorado last May and I had pumpkin seeds in the ground within days of our arrival. Exactly one month went by between these two photos (late June through late July). In retrospect the plants were actually too close together, I was just so excited to have as many as possible!

- Amy

Sarah, you have such a nice looking house--I can't believe it was hiding back there! What a huge difference. It must feel so good to have that done. I'm dreading our landscaping reno this year. But that picture is inspiring!

Amanda, the new color looks fantastic--I love the updated look! Isn't it awesome how something as simple as paint color can change something so drastically?

Amy, I am stunned that there is only a month's difference in those photos--I had no idea that pumpkins grew like that! My dad has grown some, but only a few at a time. I'm curious what you do with them when they are ready to pick! I see a lot of signs for pumpkins for sale around here in the fall, so I imagine people just enjoy growing them. Fun!

Thank you so much for sharing the transformations! And please, Friends, keep them coming. I love this series and the only way to continue it is if you send me your transformations. To submit a transformation, just email a before photo and an after photo to me at: katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. Include your name and a description of the transformation. Remember, it can be before and after photos of anything!

Also, I am looking for more people to share their stories for my "COVID Diaries" guest posts. If COVID has affected you closely in some way (whether your job deals with working closely with COVID patients, or you or a loved one was very ill from the virus, or something else), please send me an email. Reading the stories from people who have been heavily affected by COVID is eye-opening for those of us that haven't had that experience. So, if you feel comfortable sharing, please do!

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