Category Archives: Kali’ P. Rourke

July 16 – Do Gerbils Go to Heaven?

by Kali´Rourke 

Girl Feeding Gerbil

(c) Can Stock Photo / zsv3207

Our Pastor told a story in his recent sermon, and in it, a little boy’s hamster had died and he asked his father (a fellow Pastor) if “Timmy” had gone to heaven. The boy was told in no uncertain terms by his father that nothing that has not professed faith in Jesus Christ shall enter the gates of heaven. I am paraphrasing, but you get the gist.

We were all a bit appalled to hear that blunt and dismissive statement from a father to a grieving son, and our Pastor said that he took the little boy aside on his way out and told him that Timmy sounded like a great hamster and he was sure that he was now playing in heaven.

Sounds like a platitude, doesn’t it?

I think of it as a large part of my faith. If I choose to believe in a benevolent God that loves all of us and wants the best for us, then I also choose to believe that all creatures, (even the series of gerbils we had for our daughters since there were allergic to nearly everything else) are destined for heaven. No, I am not a theologian and would never claim to be one!

Our daughters have both grown up into animal lovers (Thank you antihistamines!) and they could not imagine a heaven where Minx, Indy, and Cloud and whatever companions they may have over the years will not come running to greet them in doggy and kitty joy someday when they are all together again.

This brings me back to gerbils and heaven.

Yes, they are shorter lived creatures than our canine and feline companions, and yes, the bond is much shallower, but each of our gerbils over the years had names, were petted and cared for and we had small funerals for our little friends when they passed from this life, wishing them well and many chew toys in their heavenly home.

Their passings were somewhat gentle introductions for our little girls to the concept of death and how we must accept and respect it because it comes to everyone in time. They were the opening to important conversations and knowledge that parents pass on to their children.

The gerbil’s names and specifics have escaped me, brushed cloudy by the passing of so many years, but today I take a moment and say a prayer for all of them, sending it along with thanks for being such wonderful little friends to two girls who grew up to be compassionate women who have room in their hearts to love and care for many.

God bless the gerbils.

Kali´Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, philanthropist, and a proud Seedling Mentor. She blogs at Kali’s Musings and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome. This post originally appeared in Kali’s Musings.

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June 4 – A “Dad-Shaped Hole” in My Heart

by Kali´Rourke

Father’s Day approaches, and although I rejoice in the wonderful Dad that my daughters have, I take no such joy in my own.

He was an unsolvable mystery to me. He married my mother when she was seventeen and they had me when she was nearly nineteen. My only impressions of him as I grew up came from family members who shared stories of his selfish, immature treatment of Mom during their short marriage. He seemed unable to connect emotionally with others, and from an adult perspective, I wonder if he may have been somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Soon after my birth, my mother divorced him and married her next husband. He was the one I would think of as “Dad” until that marriage dissolved when I was about six or seven years old.

My father checked back in briefly when I was fifteen; traveling from Memphis to Tulsa to sue for my custody when my mother temporarily gave my guardianship to my manager. I was a professional singer living in Oklahoma with my manager while my family stayed in Washington.

He strode into the courtroom, acting as his own attorney, and seemed totally oblivious to the realities of the situation (no, my mother was not giving me away) or any emotions I might have about meeting him for the first time. He lost his case, but my manager graciously invited him to her home to meet with me. I sang for him for the first and last time in my life, and tears came to his eyes.

Silly me; I thought we might have connected.

Later, I received a bus ticket to travel to Memphis to spend a week with him and his latest wife (he married multiple times) and I must admit, I was hopeful. My strongest memory of this ill-fated expedition was meeting his wife, who immediately gave me a gift. It was a set of shorty pajamas in bright colors and I was thrilled. I wore them when I went to bed and made sure that they knew that I was delighted with the present.

The next morning, she scolded me for “flaunting myself at my father,” making me feel foolish and ashamed. My father said nothing at all. I called Mom, told her I would be taking the next bus home and left, never to see him again.

I find myself wondering how much emotional damage and insecurity his wife suffered in that marriage. He and I spoke a few times over the phone through the years, (I suspect Grandma made him do it.) but he had no real interest in me or his beautiful granddaughters and I eventually wrote him off.

“Ignore me if you like, but my daughters will never deserve that,” I thought.

When he committed suicide in prison at the age of 59, it was as if a stranger had died, leaving the “Dad-Shaped Hole” in my heart to be forever unfilled.

 

Kali´Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, philanthropist, and a proud Seedling Mentor. She blogs at Kali’s Musings and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

May 20 – And The Winner Is…

by Kali’ Rourke

2018 Austin Under 40 Awards

I have been involved in mentoring since 2005 when Austin Independent School District Principals asked the nonprofit I was working with for a mentor program for children who had lost a parent to prison. You see, in public schools, when a child loses a parent for any other reason (divorce, death, etc.), all sorts of programs and help snap into place for them. This does not happen when Dad or Mom is hauled off in handcuffs and life changes in an instant.

I dove into an area of service to children that taught me a great deal, I saw the program grow and flourish as President of the Board of Seedling, and then I began mentoring personally. My first mentee was a first-grade girl that I was blessed to know through fourth grade before her family moved away.

Now, I mentor a kindergartener who is processing her new reality, and I hope to be with her for years to come. I mentored a young woman through the Austin Young Women’s Alliance Connect program last year, and she has become another daughter to me, and I have added another YWA Connect mentee this year who is one of the most positive people I have ever known. All of these girls and women are unique, smart, fun, and gave me at least as much as I gave them. Really good stuff!

2017 Austin Under 40 Awards

Last year I was nominated for Mentor of the Year by the Austin Under 40 Awards that are sponsored by YWA and the Young Men’s Business League and I was one of five finalists. (Mentor of the Year is the only award they give to those of us who are over 40 and no, I did not win!)

This year I was nominated again, named a finalist, and last night was the Gala where the winners were announced. My two YWA Mentees and my older daughter were at my finalist table, along with my wonderful husband and a dear friend from the Seedling Board who had written a recommendation for me.

I did not win. It was not a big surprise to me, considering the amazing finalists in my category, but it allowed me to reflect on the influence mentoring can have. Role modeling and mentoring in success feels natural, but mentoring through loss, failure, and challenge can be much harder if you let it. I think, however, that it may be one of the most impactful places from which to mentor.

For women and girls who may not have opportunities to see and learn what losing gracefully looks like, through sports or other competition, observing a Mentor’s loss can be a powerfully positive experience for them to share.

Kali’ Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, philanthropist, and a proud Mentor. She blogs at Kali’s Musings and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

March 9 – Want to Think Young? Mentor!

by Kali’ Rourke

canstockphoto28358255I am sure I echo many members of my generation who express the feeling, “I don’t feel as old as I am!” 

We look in the mirror and see the inevitable downward slide of gravity and the toll it takes, the wrinkles or fine lines that our frolics in the sun have left us as souvenirs, and sometimes we see the fatigue that lingers in eyes that have seen pain, sadness, and struggle. But when we look away from that mirror and assess ourselves, we are often shocked by the mismatch between the image we have seen and the way we feel inside. I don’t know about you, but I am enjoying that immensely!

I have found the secret to the fountain of youth and it may be available to you wherever you are and whatever you are doing. It is thinking young.

How do we think young? We stay open, flexible to new things and new thoughts, and we move our bodies and our minds as much as we can. But the very easiest thing you can do to keep thinking young is to keep communicating with young people. That’s the secret!

SF-Mentoring-Pic-2017I have been mentoring for a long time with the Seedling Mentoring program in Austin, Texas, and after four years with my first mentee (her family eventually moved away), I am now mentoring a kindergartener and I have to tell you, every Wednesday with LC is a revelation. Her mind is like a little hamster wheel tossing off observations, creative ideas, and 6-year-old wisdom. This is a picture she recently drew of me with a Super Cape and “lots of bling” on my crown. Awesome, huh?

How can you ever feel old when you know someone sees you like this?

But you don’t have to mentor a six-year-old. Young people of all ages are thirsty for the attention, experience, and wisdom you can bring into their lives. Check around and see where you might be able to plug-in!

I have mentored two young women who are early in their very successful careers through a program called YWA Connect. It is a smart outreach of Austin’s Young Women’s Alliance, and I have made new friends and gained great perspective by getting involved. The secret? (Believe me, I still work on it!) is to listen far more than you speak and to hold space for these young people to process all of the input they are constantly bombarded by each and every day. You can perform a great service and benefit personally at the same time. It’s a true win-win situation.

Mentor On!

 

Kali’ Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, philanthropist, and a proud Mentor. She is a finalist in the 2018 Austin Under 40 Mentor of the Year Awards. (the only award they give to nominees OVER 40!) She blogs at Kali’s Musings and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

January 12 – 30th Wedding Anniversary Secrets

by Kali Rourke

kali

We celebrated thirty years of marriage in October 2016 and many acquaintances and friends have asked, “What’s your secret?”

There are probably many that we never even think about, from being aware of each other’s Myers-Briggs personality profile at the beginning through recent decisions to live “an extraordinary life” together.

But I will share with you one piece of wisdom that my wonderful father-in-law shared with me on my wedding day.

He and Mom had been married for many decades even then, and when he passed away, they had been married more than fifty years. They never lost the romance, fun, and regard for each other, and so as I danced with Dad on my wedding day dance floor, I asked him, “What is your secret to so many years of success in your relationship?”

He got very serious (which was unusual for this outgoing, incredibly charming, impish man) and said, “Don’t ever call each other names. You can’t ever take them back.”

That sounds simple, doesn’t it? One straightforward action you can take to increase your odds of a long-lasting, wonderful marriage. Who wouldn’t take that advice?

I took it in and thought about it, and decided to build on it.

If you wouldn’t call your spouse names…that was a good start…but what if you decided that you would go further? What if you got in the habit of actively saying good things about your spouse, both internally and externally? What positive ripples could occur over time in your relationship?

No guarantees, mind you, but three decades later I am still discovering and talking about the wonderful facets of my husband. I am still appreciating and cherishing his love, romance, intellect, humor, sense of fun, and willingness to keep our life together exciting. And I know he talks about me the same way. We are each other’s greatest treasure.

I think that is something worth striving for, don’t you?

No matter whether you are contemplating marriage, are newly married, or you are decades into your wedded relationship, please remember you have this amazing power.

The power to look for and at the positive; the power to choose to speak about the positive; and most importantly the power to choose to build instead of tearing down that person you love.

Your choice. Your power.

Will this fix a relationship that is broken, lop-sided or abusive?

No, and that is something for a counselor to help you with. But if you are in a healthy, happy relationship already, this choice has the potential to pole vault you into a wonderful place where you cherish and are cherished. It isn’t a quick transformation, but it happens and when it happens, it becomes a part of your future and your happiness.

Hey, worth a try, right?

As for us, my friends, we are going for the GOLD!

Kali’ Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer/songwriter, avid volunteer, philanthropist, and a proud Seedling Foundation Mentor. She blogs at Kali’s Musings and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

November 9 – A Pattern of Pain

by Kali’ Rourke

I have begun my 8th year of chronic pain with Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS) and finally, something is working.

I have Primary BMS. If you have no underlying conditions and things look normal, despite oral burning every day that worsens as the day progresses, but ceases while sleeping, eating or drinking…welcome to our club and our pattern of pain.

If you have the same symptoms, but you also have an underlying disorder, then you may get a Secondary BMS diagnosis. Treatment of your illness may also relieve the BMS.

When you first start burning, you will try anything. I did.

Capsaicin rinses, aloe vera juice, vitamin supplements, etc. with no relief. Compounded estrogen spray in the belief it was hormonal, Lidocaine gel, which tasted foul and merely numbed everything…None of these helped me; not even a little.

Next stop, Specialists; each with their own perspective. They can cloud the issue if you aren’t careful. See your Dentist, Family Doctor, and an ENT to start. They can often diagnose and treat the “horses” of this diffuse neuralgia. Some horses are an incorrect bite, dry mouth, allergies, hormonal imbalance, geographic tongue, and even acid reflux, so see a Gastroenterologist if GERD is suspected.

Often, we end up working with a Neurologist who will rule out the horses of tumors and nerve impingement, and when everything comes back normal, he will begin to look for “zebras.” Zebras are rarer maladies and often syndromes of exclusion. In other words, everything looks fine but you are still in pain, so it must be a Zebra.

What do we do with our Zebra?

In primary BMS, there is no cure and we can only guess at a cause. Hormonal changes, dental procedures, stress and more are suspected, but no one knows for certain.

For those of us who are generally healthy except for this chronic pain, there are few medications that have been shown to be effective.

I tried Neurontin and Klonopin on my neurologist’s orders. Neurontin had too many side effects, and nothing changed when I went off it. It was not helping me.

Klonopin was different. I dissolved the hard tablets in my mouth, swallowing the medicine, and although it had the side effect of drowsiness, it took the edge off my burning and helped me cope.

This summer, my latest Neurologist switched me to Klonopin ODT dissolving wafers and they have been MUCH more effective for me. I put one on my tongue and let it dissolve, holding the liquid in my mouth for at least a minute and swish before swallowing.

I am now out of pain. I still get tingling at times, but about 98% of my day is mine again. My pattern of pain is broken.

If you suffer from BMS, consider discussing this treatment with your Neurologist or Doctor.

For the first time in over 7 years, BMS is not the first thing on my mind every morning. This may be temporary or perhaps it will last, but it is a joy not to burn and I will revel in it for as long as I can.

krourke-web

Kali’ Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer/songwriter, avid volunteer, philanthropist and a proud Seedling Mentor. She blogs at Kali’s Musings.

 

January 27 – The Pity Party – Burning Mouth Syndrome

by Kali’ P. Rourke

holohololand

I have been suffering with Burning Mouth Syndrome for nearly six and a half years now. Interested in learning more about this mystery disease?

I would tell you to Google “Burning Mouth Syndrome,” but I know what mess would appear. Mayo Clinic does a fairly good overview at http://mayocl.in/1mRRGuu.

I suspect my burning was caused by dental work, but I may never know the cause. Every once in a while, what my Neurologist euphemistically refers to as “the persistence of it” overwhelms me and I have a brief, but intense pity party.

Instead of focusing on the optimistic side of the coin:

It isn’t fatal
At least it isn’t cancer
My family is supportive
There are drugs that help
I have developed decent coping strategies

I occasionally dip into the pessimistic side:

It hurts nearly every day
The drug helps but makes me drowsy and aimless
There is no rhyme or reason to the good days or the bad days
Even on good days, my tongue tingles all of the time
I think, deep down, I am angry
I fear–It. Will. Never. End.

Recently, I got a new medicine from my neurologist. It is used at a fairly low dose to control errant nerve activity and at much higher doses for patients who are dealing with seizures. Under his direction, I ramped up my dosage gradually to see if I could tolerate it. Side effects included possible lowering of blood sodium, drowsiness and suicidal thoughts.

You would think those things would scare me, but with exception of the sodium levels (which we monitored with blood tests), anything I take has those side effects, and more. They are “old hat” to me now.

Our goal in adding this medicine was to calm the misfiring nerves that cause the burning and tingling sensations in my mouth. If we could get the nerves to rest, it may help with the healing and have the added benefit of symptom relief. I could only hope.

Hope is a powerful thing, probably even more powerful than medicines.

Unfortunately this hope did not pan out, and I have added one more unsuccessful medication to my ever-growing list. I am fortunate to have one medicine that does control the pain to an endurable level and I will keep looking.

And every so often, I will pause, indulge in a brief pity party and then move on.

Kali’ is an avid volunteer, a Mentor with Seedling Foundation, and an Impact Austin philanthropist. In her spare time, she does social media for nonprofits, blogs and is also a singer/songwriter!