Category Archives: Kali’ P. Rourke

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 OQM Musings and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

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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: 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 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 OQM 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!

September 3 – Life Lessons in Mentoring

by Kali’ Rourke

Kali

I started mentoring a first grade girl last year through Seedling’s Promise, a school-based, research driven and metrics based program that has great training and support. I will mentor her again this year!

My childhood family had its share of poverty, dysfunction, and divorce. I even had a Dad who committed suicide in prison when I was an adult. The parallels between me and my Mentee are many. You would think I would know everything I need to about how to communicate constructively with her, but you would be wrong.

You see, I have forty plus years on her. During that time I had a career, married, had children, became a philanthropist, and along the way I became removed from the culture of poverty and crisis. I had to re-learn these lessons. Thank heavens, Seedling’s Promise assumes we will all need that and prepares us to be intentional mentors.

Here are just a few things I learned this last year.

  1. The gifts I bring to my Mentee are hers to do with as she wishes with no expectations from me. Why? Because in the culture of poverty, all things brought into the house belong to the family. When I gave her flowered bobby pins for Valentine’s Day, she told me her mom “put them on the baby.” Untrained me might have said, “But those are yours; you should take them back!” or perhaps even worse, “Oh my gosh, why would you put those dangerous things on a baby?” Both statements would be damaging and would distance my Mentee from me because it would be painfully clear to her that a.) I didn’t understand her family at all, and b.) I disapproved of them. Instead, thanks to my Seedling training, I simply told her that she was kind to share with her sister.
  2. I must avoid judgment of her parents. One of the most damaging things a Mentor can do with a child of the incarcerated is to express disapproval of the missing parent or the caregiver who is present. I helped my Mentee write a note to her Dad in prison. It was simply filled with the unconditional love of a child for a missing parent. (And smiley face stamps, of course!)
  3. I must always respect the pride of the Caregiver. She is the gatekeeper of the mentoring relationship and it exists only with her approval.  I don’t know her story and I don’t have any right to judge anything about the way she is parenting. We are all tempted to jump in and “save” or make them fit our paradigm of success but good mentoring is combining acceptance and role modeling. If you have an effect on a child, it will be because of your friendship.
  4. I am there for my Mentee. Anything else is just distraction, and my focus in this relationship is to listen and do no harm.

What will the coming year bring? I have no idea, but I hope it includes her smiles and giggles!

Kali’ is an active volunteer in Austin, Tx, and serves on several boards and advisory councils for mentoring. She is also a mentor, an Impact Austin Philanthropist and a social media wonk.

March 22 – Becoming a “Very Best Thing”

by Kali’ Rourke

I started mentoring this year, after nearly a decade of helping provide opportunities for others to mentor.

Why did I wait so long?

Well, based on my experiences with another program, I thought I wasn’t good at it. You see, I had been thrown into challenging situation pools with little training or support…and I drowned.

Mentee 1 announced to me at the end of her 7th grade year that she had “decided to flunk.” I was appalled and said all of the wrong things. She said that flunking meant summer school, where she would “get food every day, see friends, and avoid her sister’s boyfriend.” The water slipped ever deeper over my head. I felt powerless and that I must have failed.

I tried with Mentee 2, and again, was totally out of my depth. She was an extremely manipulative person and was in the relationship for what she thought she could get out of it. I had no strategies for setting healthy boundaries. After months of becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the situation, I fled and vowed I would never mentor again.

God laughs at “never.”

When the Seedling Foundation decided to create a mentoring program at the request of Austin ISD, my opportunity to change things arrived. As President of the Board, I requested we flip the existing paradigm and invest our resources in the mentoring adults. Mentors should be a self-renewing resource, but due to inadequate training and support, society is simply wasting them. They come when called, have terrible experiences, and like me, never mentor again.

Seedling’s Promise was born and under the direction of our experienced counseling professionals, it has become an amazingly successful program.

But enough about the past. Let’s talk about now, when I am mentoring a first grader who has sparkling brown eyes, the personality to match, and an imagination that delights me every time we spend lunch time together. Milk cartons become princesses, and chicken nuggets become “booty,” to be gleefully scooped up and savored. I bring baby carrots with me, and together we are bunnies for a few minutes, imagining what sounds bunnies make as they munch.

A couple of weeks ago, I tried a little game that another Mentor with Seedling had recommended. It is called “The Best and The Worst,” and you ask each other what was the very best thing that happened to you all week and what was the very worst thing that happened to you all week.

I explained the game to her and asked her, “What was the very best thing that happened to you last week?” She looked at me with a very serious look on her face, and said…”When you came.”

I was stunned. As I left that day and reflected over the next week or so, it just kept amazing me that I was someone’s “very best thing.” How many times in our lives do we get that chance?

I am a Mentor. Join me and be a special little someone’s “very best thing.”

ia-headshot-2011Kali’ is a philanthropist and volunteer, a wife and mother, a writer and a singer and an agent for positive change in Austin, Texas. Oh, and she is a Mentor!

www.seedlingfoundation.org

January 17 – Thanking Our Mentors

by Kali’ Rourke

mentoring

It is National “Thank Your Mentor Day,” and in honor of that, I sent out my thanks to a few folks (not relatives) who shaped my life over the years.

I thanked my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Garrison, who pulled me aside one day and said, “I think you are a writer. I love this poem you wrote and I would like to send it in for publication in a magazine if that is okay with you.” My self-image changed in an instant. I was a writer! A few months later, I was a published writer!

Was it a great poem? Probably not, but Mr. G. saw potential in me that I hadn’t discovered for myself yet, and took the extra time and effort to name it and set it free to grow.

I was the new girl in my junior year of high school, transferring in at the second semester. Fortunately, the talented Phillip Burton was my Speech teacher. He had chosen “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” as the spring play, and reading through it in class; it spoke to me. I asked Mr. Burton if I should try out and he encouraged me to give it a shot. I was cast as the lead in my first play ever, and Mr. Burton’s faith in my ability to pull off a character that was older, had teenage children, a horrible back story and the dysfunctional behaviors that go along with it, was life changing. I developed a lifelong love of live theater and did many shows in my twenties. Mr. Burton also directed the Concert Choir, and some of my best memories of that time were spent with him and the other “choir and theater geeks” in my high school.

The next Mentor in my life was my roommate in my early twenties. Her name is Harriett and she was a youth counselor when we became roommates. Her insights, advice and above all, her faith that I could and would do amazing things were transforming. Much of what I have become as a person, I attribute to those few years we spent together.

There have been more Mentors since then, and each one is a precious gift.

Did any of these people know they were mentoring me? Doubtful.

They were just doing their jobs, living their lives and being the people they were. Even today, if I did not take the time to thank them for the amazing force they were in my life, they would probably have no idea.

Today I take time to thank them, to appreciate them, and encourage them to keep on being the positive force in the world that they were to me. Their examples have inspired me to become a mentor myself, and who knows what seeds have been planted?

Do you know who your Mentors are? Have you taken the time to thank them for the gifts they gave you?

It’s a great way to spend a day.

Kali’ is a Wife, a Mom, a Passionate Philanthropist and a Songwriting Diva, making a difference in Austin, Texas. She is a member of the Board of the Seedling Foundation and Impact Austin. Kali’ is also currently mentoring a first grade girl through the Seedling Foundation’s “Seedling’s Promise” Mentoring Program for children with parents in prison.

July 2 – Burning Mouth Syndrome & Me

Kaliby Kali’ P. Rourke

Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS): “Chronic burning pain in your mouth. The pain from burning mouth syndrome may affect your tongue, gums, lips, inside of your cheeks, roof of your mouth, or widespread areas of your whole mouth. The pain can be severe, as if you scalded your mouth.”-MayoClinic.com. ABC News covered it in a piece called “The Mysterious, Agonizing Pain of Burning Mouth Syndrome.”

There is no conclusively identifiable cause, no assured treatment and definitely no cure. The few research studies out there note a correlation between depression and BMS, but neglect to ask,”Which came first?”

In my case, the BMS definitely caused depression; not the other way around. Researchers suspect dental work, dense nerve tissue in “super tasters,” hormonal links, or neurological damage, but no one knows for sure.

I have been battling burning mouth since May, 2008, and after a hectic flurry of exams, specialists, tests and possible diagnoses over the first year or two, we settled on this bizarre syndrome that affects less than 1% of the population. Oh, how special!

I will not take you through the gritty details of everything I have tried; nerve blocks, GERD testing, vocal cord scoping, oh my! At this point I merely manage the pain and try to keep its effect on my life to a minimum. Most days I am fairly successful, but occasionally stress or other factors overwhelm even my best laid coping strategies and I must turn to medication. A small dose of Clonazepam (Klonipin) seems to make me drowsy and interrupts the escalating cycle of pain so that I can get through my evening. The only times I do not burn are when I eat, drink or cry.

I know I am not alone, but as those of you out there who have suffered from chronic pain know so well, sometimes it feels like it is just you and your constant companion. In fact, isolation becomes the additional thing you must battle. You have told everyone who needed to be told and there is nothing new to tell, so you stop talking much about it. When people ask how you are, you say, “Fine.”

And you move on.

I recently decided to talk to a counselor.

You see, I needed to talk to someone who would not be burdened with my pain; someone who did not feel for me personally, other than professional empathy with good boundaries.

Why?

Because I needed to vent without regard for the other person’s feelings, our future relationship, or any of those considerations that come into play when you talk to people you love, and who love you.

If you are dealing with chronic pain, whether it is physical, mental or emotional, I hope you will feel encouraged to reach out and find help and support. Sometimes your family and friends just aren’t enough, no matter how much they care.

Kali’ P. Rourke is an avid philanthropist and volunteer in Austin, Texas, serving on the board of the Seedling Foundation, Impact Austin and the Texas Advocacy Project.