We Are (UNMC) Family

Even though I’m a writer, I have no words for what happened in Newtown, Conn., last Friday. What I do know is that the first thing I thought of when I heard the news, probably like many of you, was my family. How much they mean to me. And how quickly all that can be taken away. I have a husband, a 2-year-old daughter and another baby on the way. But they are not my only family.

During the week, I spend just as much time at work as I do at home, not counting when I’m asleep of course. Five days a week for the past five years, I’ve been greeted by the same faces when I arrive at 8 a.m. each day. So it’s no surprise that my co-workers are like family members to me. Just as I’m sure yours are to you.

Sure, there might be a “Crazy Uncle Eddie” or a weird cousin, but at the end of the day they’re still family. And I wanted to take this opportunity to tell my second family how much they mean to me. I encourage anyone else reading this to do the same. Sort of a “happy holidays/pay it forward” project if you will. You could send a quick e-mail or please feel free to write something in the comments below and send them a link to this story.

Without further ado, I’ll get to it.

Bill: I’ve never had a boss who asked a question about my personal life and actually cared about the answer until I met Bill. Also, my daughter is in love with his son, Jack, so this “work family thing” could be an “actual family thing” if she has it her way. :)

Chuck: Not everyone gets to work with a comedian. I feel fortunate to have Chuck as a friend who makes me laugh out loud on a daily basis. And yes, Chuck, you kind of are the Crazy Uncle Eddie.

Dawn: Dawn is fairly new to the family, and I’m still getting to know her, but I think the best compliment I can give her it to tell her she’s “vital” to us.

Jake: It’s always great to have a reminder of your youth in the office. Jake’s ability to eat fast food at any time of the day and be up at odd hours keeps us all young.

Jessica: Jessica is someone we should all strive to be more like. I really respect and admire her work ethic, but am most moved by her kindness to others.

Jo: I love swapping kid stories with Jo. Our children were born just two months apart and she is truly an amazing mom.

Julie: This woman makes the world’s best brownies. I couldn’t help but break the news to my stepmom once. Honestly, I want to nominate them for Guinness.

Kacie: My running buddy. Thankfully, Kacie is able to talk when she runs, so our jogs on Field Club Trail are a lot less boring. She also knows how to spice up a photo. Here’s us at the Color Run last summer.

Kalani: Without him, I wouldn’t be able to keep this blog going. I envy his writing style and am just glad he didn’t apply for the opening I did five years ago!

Karen: If you need a good book recommendation, or just an article that will make you cry, Karen is your supplier. She’s also a fabulous listener who manages to look like this after a half-marathon.

Lisa M.G. My fellow pet-lover. When we thought we might have to put my dog down last year, Lisa was the one I turned to. Her support got me through that tough time.

Lisa S. Most holidays, I get a text message from Lisa telling me “Happy Thanksgiving” or what not. A lot of my friends send mass texts like this, but Lisa’s reminds me to give my daughter a hug for her, so I know she wrote it just to me.

Liz: She asked the toughest questions during my interview here five years ago, but Liz has the softest heart. Here’s the hat she knitted for my daughter that came with a matching blanket.

Mary: This is a woman who never stops smiling. Every day when I enter the office, she’s got a grin for me and everyone. All employees on campus should be so lucky.

Ryan: During the Spirit Week scavenger hunt, this pregnant lady on our team was getting really hungry, almost to the point of low blood sugar. Ryan zoomed into a building and up a flight of stairs to get her a candy bar. That girl was me. Thanks, Ryan. And yes, you’re the weird cousin. Kidding!

Stacie: Not only did Stacie orchestrate the picture that makes me crack up every time I look at it, she also brought me back the sweetest souvenir scarf from her trip to China.

Tom O’Connor: Tom would probably prefer I use this space to promote the Omaha Press Club, but I gotta tell him how much he’s taught me about PR and just being a good friend.  And thanks for always rooting for my Cyclones Tom O!

Tom Waples: Not only is Tom a professional designer (whom I credit with my last year’s Christmas letter) he also has a knack for guessing the size of a pregnant woman’s stomach with caution tape.

Vicky: Vicky’s done many things for me over the years here, but giving me a Prilosec before our office holiday party so I could eat the Cheesy Irish fries at Barrett’s is the most recent.

So that’s my work family. Aren’t they great? I couldn’t have asked for a better one if I hand-picked them myself. Hope you all have a very happy holiday. Please consider telling someone in your work family how much they mean to you!


A good day to be a quitter

Today is the 37th annual Great American Smokeout – an event organized by the American Cancer Society that encourages smokers to either quit or make a plan to quit today.

UNMC and The Nebraska Medical Center tout a smoke free campus, and that’s great. While that status may discourage some smokers from lighting up as often or even spur them to quit, the fact is people still choose to smoke.

Smokers often know about the health risks. They know how much it costs. They know about the products available to help them quit.

That’s why today I want to take a different angle on the effect of quitting. The effect on a loved one.

I don’t claim to understand how hard it is to quit; I’ve never smoked. However, someone very close to me did for exactly 20 years: my mom.

Gorgeous, isn’t she? :)

For the first six years of my life, my mom smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. Approximately 30, times 7, equals 210 cigarettes a week. I don’t even want to times that by 52 weeks a year and then 20 years.

In the spring of 1989, she finally decided to quit for good. Like many smokers, she’d tried three of four times before. Once cold turkey and once following a plan, but by herself. Then her workplace offered a group course through the American Lung Association, and it worked.

Since I was so young at the time, my memory isn’t exactly a steel trap. But I will never forget helping my mom rip up her unsmoked cigarettes. I can vividly recall our pale blue trash can filling up with filters and paper and a whole lot of satisfaction.

With quitting came a T-shirt that said “I kicked the habit” surrounded by bunch of cartoon cigarettes being stepped on by a shoe. Here my mom displays hers proudly.

Thankfully, my photography skills have improved. Slightly.

Being 6, I wanted a T-shirt too.

“You were so proud of me,” my mom recalled. “So we went to the mall and had a t-shirt made up for you.”

My shirt consisted of white, iron-on letters and simply said, “My mom quit smoking: May 15, 89.” You’d think I would have been embarrassed to wear this. Maybe at age 13, but certainly not at age 6. I wore that shirt with pride.

“That really helped me….,” my mom said.

But I couldn’t wear it to the Catholic grade school I attended. One day, then Omaha Mayor J.P. Morgan visited our first grade classroom. At the end of his visit, our teacher allowed us to bombard him with questions/comments. I immediately rushed up to the front of the room and blurted out, “My mom quit smoking!” If I remember correctly, the Mayor was quite impressed, even if the side zipper of my jumper was down.

Ahh, memories!

If the examples above weren’t enough to keep my mom going in the early days of quitting, it’s possible that this next one made it all worthwhile. Every night after she would tuck me in and retreat to the living room, I would yell for her. “I love you. And thank you for quitting smoking.”

It’s been 23 years, and I told my mom the same thing yesterday when I interviewed her for this story. I’m just as proud of her today as I was at 6-years-old. And believe me, if I could still fit into that shirt, I would wear it.

If you’re reading this and you’re a smoker, I hope you’ll give some thought to the benefits quitting may have on not just you, but your loved ones. If you’re not a smoker, but have a loved one who smokes, I hope you’ll send this post their way.

For more information on quitting with help from UNMC, contact Tom Klingemann about cessation classes at 559-8757 or Jayme Nekuda about what cessation products are covered under the university insurance plan at 402-559-4340. Addiction specialists also are available through the Faculty/Employee Assistance Program and you can check out this series of posts from UNMC Today.

It’s a great day to be a quitter!

Halloween at UNMC in Pictures

Happy Halloween!

Judy Huey – Transplant Data Office

Vik Whalen – Transplant Data Office

Susan Waller, Nikki Ball, Tara Witte, Jolene Gulizia and Eric White – Print Shop

Lindsay Hicks – IRB office

Fran Higgins – School of Allied Health

School of Allied Health – PT1s, PT2s, RSTE and PA students

more PA students

and more PA students

Deb King, Liz Sorenson, Barb Harrison, Colton Stanislav, Stephanie Hansen, Deb Casper and Maggie Milner – Psychiatry

Melissa Mona – CCTX, Nebraska Medical Center

Polly Partsch and Jill McDermott – Gift Shop

Environmental and Food Services

Sue Steiner, Becky Gilbert and Emily Ziskovsky – Patient Information Office, MMI

Kim Wiechman – Human Genetics Lab

Mary Nelson – Human Genetics Lab

Bunnita Washington – Human Genetics Lab

Lisa Winkler – Human Genetics Lab

Mychal Machado – Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Ana Lara-Ramirez, Lori Cooley and Alan Wass – College of Nursing

Mary Megel – College of Nursing

Paul Dizona – College of Nursing

Colleen Tworek and Laura DeWitt – College of Nursing

LaShon George – Cashiering

Janet Rush, Craig Poole and Cyndie Poffenbarger – Sponsored Programs and Accounting

Hannah Stanzel – Parking

Monica Myers and Cody Phillips – Student Services

Barbara Breazeale – Student Services

Meghan Moore – Student Services

Ed Fritz – Student Services

School of Allied Health