Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Decade of Red

In closing out Heart Awareness Month and the 10th Anniversary of Go Red for Women, I felt it important to highlight the accomplishments of Go Red for Women over the last 9 years. This work continues well beyond February as we focus on raising awareness to help save the lives of more women each day. Thank you for your support, not only this month but each day as I fight my own battle with heart disease. I Go Red for all of us each and every day. 
Thanks to Go Red for Women … more than 23 million Go Red For Women® “Red Dress” pins have been distributed to raise awareness and over 1.5 million women have joined the life-changing movement, including more than 10,000 women in St. Louis. 
… nearly 90 percent of women who have joined the life-changing Go Red for Women movement are living healthier.  They have made one or more healthy behavior changes, often with their diet or activity level. 

           Thanks to Go Red for Women … $260 million has been raised since the launch of Go Red for Women, helping to fund education, conferences, programs and promising research benefiting women.
…women now account for 24 percent of the cardiovascular studies and research completed. 

           Thanks to Go Red for Women … recognition among women that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women has jumped from 30 percent in 1997 to nearly 60 percent today. Over 41 million women are now aware that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, up from 24 million in 2000.
… 627,000 women have been saved from heart disease and stroke during the first nine years of Go Red for Women.
… 34 percent fewer women are dying of heart disease each year. That means 330 fewer women are dying every day, compared to before the launch of Go Red for Women.
… female cardiovascular disease deaths have decreased by over 85,000 in the last 9 years. 

That means more than 85,000 mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, friends, and coworkers are surviving each year that were not surviving before the launch of Go Red for Women.
I am one of those women. I live each day grateful for the opportunity to make memories with my family and friends. 

Photo Credits: American Heart Association, Go Red for Women

Friday, February 22, 2013

Be Bold in Your Dreams

 I have the great honor of sharing a guest post with you today. Written by a friend and heart sister, Rachel D'Souza-Siebert, the post speaks to a universal desire we all have - to follow our dreams. Rachel, one of this year's National Go Red for Women Spokeswomen, survived a heart attacked just eight days after her son, Cameron, was born. Despite no family history of heart disease, her coronary artery spontaneously dissected (SCAD). It is a privilege to know Rachel and call her a friend. Her words are inspirational, and I hope you will enjoy this post as much as I do. Regardless of our age, gender, or occupation we all have unanswered dreams. Go after yours!
Rachel D'Souza-Siebert and Karen Guccione-Englert

While all of the Go Red festivities were getting under way, Brian, Cam and I were screening/interviewing/meeting with agencies and social workers to figure out how to go about obtaining a little sister to complete our family.  I have come to the obvious conclusion that (pardon my crude irritation) any fool off the street can get knocked up/get someone knocked up and have a baby.  But, if you are a responsible, gainfully employed person with a loving spouse, a warm family and many loving friends who help raise your child in a cocoon of love AND you shouldn't get pregnant again..... well, having another child is a frustrating, expensive, and lengthy process.

Brian does a great job of reminding me that we aren't the first people to ever adopt a child. And I know how lucky I am and am thankful every single day for my amazing little boy. Nonetheless, it is one thing to dream and wonder about adding another child to your family - it's a completely different undertaking to start the process of adding someone else's child to your family. Right now - I'm struggling.  I like have a plan... I like knowing how things are going to go. I like checking boxes and completely tasks.  Being a parent has made me a bit better at abandoning such unreasonable expectations :)  But still - I'd like to know that one day, or a few months or ____ years from now, BGS (Baby Girl Siebert) will be OURS.

So - at this point, we've decided to proceed with two paths to BGS.  We are working on our application for domestic adoption through a local nonprofit.  We have also started the process to become foster parents (with the intent to adopt).  This is a bit scary.  I envision a conversation that goes like this:

Me: We're expecting!!! Cam's going to be a big brother.
Someone: Oh WOW!  When are you due??!
Me: Um.  Somewhere between soon and years from now!

We'll take classes to get certified as foster parents in Missouri.  We'll have the opportunity to provide our "preferences" - this feels a little bizarre too.  Essentially, Brian and I can pick and choose what we want - age, race, sex, special needs, etc. and as children fit our preferences, they can be placed in our care.  In Missouri, the first goal is always reunification with the birth parents or biological family..... and if this is not possible, then adoption is the next goal. It sounds like everyone's experience is different. Some families only foster and some, like us, want to adopt.  Some families have a few kids placed with them, and others receive many, many children before receiving one that can be adopted.

We've been given one piece of sage advice that I will share with you now - consider this your call to action :) One particularly friendly and funny social worker told us that when we knew we were ready to adopt, that we needed to essentially "scream it from the mountain tops".  She suggested telling EVERYONE - people at the grocery store, your hairdresser, your doctor, people at work, people at school, people who work with your mom - because SOMEONE might know a birth mom who wants to put her child up for adoption.  

So here we go -

My name is Rachel.  I'm married to my wonderful husband Brian and we have a little boy named Cameron who's almost two and a Westie named Mowgli. We live in a pretty old house on a street with lots of families.  For fun, we make dinner together and go to the botanical gardens and play with trains and read stories like Babycakes and Brown Bear, Brown Bear.  We have lots of relatives and friends in the area who provide tons of love and support to our family.  We can't have anymore children, but know our family isn't done growing.  Help us find our Baby Girl Siebert!

"So I'll be bold
As well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart.....
..... Raise my hands
Paint my spirit gold
And bow my head
Keep my heart slow
Cause I will wait, I will wait for you" - I Will Wait, Mumford and Sons 
* Parts of this post were not published today.
To visit Rachel's blog, please go to:

Photo Credit: American Heart Association, St. Louis Chapter 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

To Honor and Heal

   On Veterans Day, put out your flags, cheer the marchers at parades, and go to tributes. But when you wake up the next day, Nov. 12, remember that it’s still Veterans Day for our veterans — and it will be every day of their lives.    — Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.)
    I have never served our country, never kissed my family goodbye, wondering if I would see them again after months in a foreign land.  I have never missed the birth of my child or subsequent birthdays. I have never taken someone’s life in the name of our country or watched a friend pass in front of me. I will never understand these pains, this level of trauma or loss. 
    My father is a Vietnam Veteran, his father served before him in Korea. My other grandfather served in WWII. I am married to a Navy veteran. The military, in some manner, has always been part of my life. Despite these connections, I can honestly say I know very little about what it means to be a vet.  

    On February 23rd I will have the opportunity to hear The Warriors Arts Alliance present at our next Saturday Writers Meeting. The Warriors Arts Alliance is a veteran support organization encouraging the expression and healing of Missouri’s veterans and their families. Their anthology, "Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors" is a collection of short stories and poetry by men and women who served in our military.  
    This work, featuring veterans spanning several decades, is written from the heart and soul of men and women who have served our country proudly. Some stories are written and read as essays or newspaper articles, while others are written as deeply personal journal entries to which we have been given a private glimpse. Regardless of the format, the works are all poignant, raw, and very real.
    Deb Marshall, Director of Warriors Arts Alliance and former President of the Missouri Writers Guild, and a panel of anthology contributors to "Proud to Be..." will host this storytelling workshop with readings and discussions. Please join me on Saturday, February 23rd in supporting our veterans as they share their stories and help us to walk in their shoes for the shortest of times. 

Photo Credit: Warriors Arts Alliance

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Name Shame

     What an exciting month! I’m not talking about the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, or President’s Day – all with unique merits of their own. Oh no, I’m focusing on Heart Month. There are so many moving Go Red for Women/AHA events taking place throughout the St. Louis area, all with opportunities to raise awareness about women’s heart health issues. I hope you will be able to attend one before the end of this short month. It’s kind of sad that Heart Month is in the shortest of all months. With heart disease being the leading cause of death in women (1 in 3 women), we need as many days as possible dedicated to the cause. Hmm, I may need to talk to someone about that!

    I have no doubt February will be gone in the blink of an eye. Time just seems to pass more quickly than it used to. That said, it is time to start thinking about the annual Heart Walk that takes place in May. This year’s walk is May 4th so mark your calendars now!

    This leads me to my reason for today’s post. I am in desperate need of help! My writer brain must have taken the day (or week) off. I am coming up bone dry on a team name. I want something fun and clever, something catchy. All I am coming up with is blah! So I turn to you my writer friends, heart sisters, and loved ones from near and far – please, help me with a name!
    I am in the beginning stages of putting my team together and would love to have you walking by my side on May 4th.  If you are interested in joining my team, please let me know.  As a walker, you will have the opportunity to help raise money for this worthwhile cause and come out for a fun-filled day with thousands of other survivors and supporters.

    I eagerly await your ideas about a team name. I know you can do it! Thank you for helping this survivor/writer with a terrible case of writer’s block! – Karen 

Photo Credit: Jeffry Englert