Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Lets just cut to the chase here- 2009 hasnt exactly been good to me. In a year when so much was taken away, its tough to try to find things to be grateful for at thanksgiving time. Its never been my favorite holiday, and try as I might to avoid the whole "list the things youre thankful for" trap, I found my thoughts going right to that place over the holiday weekend.

What I chose to think about was where I was over thanksgiving 2007. Rick and I took our "honeymoon" then- sure it was a few months after the wedding but thats just when it seemed to work out. We took a week and went to Paris, and its that trip I find myself feeling most grateful for. The more I thought about it, the more little things I could remember about our trip, tiny gifts that mean more to me now than ever before. It was our first and only adventure outside of the country together, and there were so many wonderful little moments to remember. And thats what its about, isnt it? What you do with the time you have, not how much of it there is.

Rick & Charissa Gribenas, Paris, France, November 2007

Monday, November 23, 2009

Electronic Saviors: Industrial Music to Cure Cancer

A couple of months ago I introduced blog readers to my friend Jim Semonik. Jim is a DJ, musician, and cancer survivor who has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and is now doing amazing things in the cancer community. Im very proud to be including Jim's story in the BRICKS for Young Adults cancer booklet coming out in March, and Im excited to pass along updates about his current project, the Electronic Saviors: Industrial Music to Cure Cancer cd compilation.

Check out the video teaser above then visit the Electronic Saviors web site for more information. The testimonials about Jim and the project are awesome, and really speak to his character and determination. More information will be posted about cd release events (which will hopefully include an appearance by yours truly!). If you are even at all interested in industrial music you should fork over the cash and pick this up- its got an amazing, AMAZING collection of artists and the proceeds go to a good cause. Its a win-win situation. You can even pre-order the comp at a special price.

Check back here for more info as the release event date grows closer!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

If there are angels

I am convinced they walk this earth in the shape of hospice nurses. I was familiar with hospice when my grandparents were ill and passed away, but my own, brief experience with a hospice nurse changed my life.

On Monday March 16th I got the news that there was not much my husband's doctor could do. That's pretty much all he said. Rick's blood was not capable of staying stable, his counts were low and tranfusions were seemingly wasted on him. The cancer was spread throughout his body far wider that we had believed, and time was short. "Ive called Forbes Hospice, theyll be there in the morning to help you.", his doctor said.

The last night of Rick's life was a sleepless one. I have never recounted the details because the changes in Rick and the struggles we went through in that one night are not images I necessarily want to leave anyone with. I knew that the nurse would be at our house in the morning, and I think in some weird way, Rick did too. He died about half an hour before she arrived.

I had called the hospice folks that morning, to see what time they would be coming. I had no idea Id be calling them back so soon to say there'd be a "change in plans". The woman on the end of my frantic, second phone call was so calm. She would call the nurse who was on her way to our house, and let her know Rick had passed. She said then that she would call me back, and stay on the line until our nurse, Jan, arrived. She did exactly as she promised- she called me back just a couple of minutes later and talked to me about Rick. She let me cry or curse or talk about my husband. I held his hand in my right hand, and my phone in the left.

When Jan arrived, she double parked in the street and walked right into my house. She introduced herself, hugged me, and checked Rick for vitals. She pronounced him and quickly wrote down the time of death. We talked for a couple of minutes, she made sure I was ok, then she went to move her car out of the street. When she came back we talked some more, and then she suggested we clean him up. We filled my best bowl, a wedding gift, with warm water, got a washcloth, and went back to the living room. She asked if I wanted to wash his face, and allowed me to do as much or as little as I felt ok doing. I remember being amazed at how well she was able to gauge my comfort level with everything. She was so respectful of him, and treated him with so much kindness. It made me feel as though we were simply taking care of my husband, not handling his empty shell of a body.

As we moved through the next series of tasks we talked about each step, and she empowered me to proceed at my own pace. I was nervous, I didnt know what "the rules" were. I didnt know how long I could keep him at home, how to tell his parents, when to call the funeral home. She assured me that I would know when it was the right time to do each thing, and she supported me in my decisions. She was kind and gentle and in no way patronizing. She stayed with me as long as I needed her there, she helped me make the calls and get through each tough task. She reminded me that each decision I made would be the right one, that I shouldnt doubt myself or my ability to get through it. When she left, I felt as calm and comfortable as I imagine I could have, all things considered.

I know that our hospice nurse was simply doing her job, but I cant imagine its an easy one. I really feel it takes a special sort of person to make hospice care their life's work. And I certainly feel a great deal of gratitude to both of the women at Forbes Hospice who helped me through what was easily the hardest day of my life.

For more information about hospice care, please visit any of the following sites:

-Forbes Hospice, Pittsburgh
-Hope Hospice, Pittsburgh
-National Association for Home Care & Hospice
- Caring Connections, a program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Frantic Heart of It benefit for BRICKS

Please join BRICKS next Saturday, November 21st for a benefit show hosted by local band The Frantic Heart of It. This is no ordinary cd release or benefit show- it goes so far beyond that.

On March 17th, my husband Rick passed away from Hodgkin's Lymphoma. On that very same day, another young adult in our little punk rock community was diagnosed with leukemia. I will never forget sitting on my living room couch that day, my good friend standing in the kitchen taking a phone call. His hand went to his face at the news he was hearing. Doug had cancer. Rick died not 12 hours earlier from the same evil disease. Could this really be happening? How much could we all take?

At the time I only peripherally knew Doug through other friends, I dont even know that we had ever met "in real life". But that day he became my brother, walking down the same road I'd been traveling for so long. Cancer was not something that was going to be out of my life after my husband died. It reaffirmed my desire to do something with everything I had learned.

I've kept up with Doug and his beautiful family, and now some 8 months after his diagnosis his band is putting out their long awaited cd. This show will be a celebration of so many things, and I hope as many of you as possible will be able to join us. I'll be there armed with all sorts of materials and free information for people. Bring your dollars and buy the band's cd. Buy them a round of drinks. Celebrate being alive.

The Frantic Heart of It cd release show
with special guests
Everything is Ruined
Playoff Beard

at Gooski's in Polish Hill
3117 Brereton St, Pgh
Saturday, November 21, 2009
9pm, 21+, $5

Monday, November 9, 2009

2nd annual Blood & Cupcakes a success!!

Im finally beginning to recover from my crazily busy weekend, which, I am happy to report, was totally worth all of the hard work. Our blood drive was a success, and Id like to take a minute to re-cap and thank everyone involved.

Thanks to Mike & Amanda Budai for use of their button press, without which we could not have made these SWEET pins to hand out. And thanks to my darling Bethany for her help making the pins the night before the blood drive!

Thanks to Jen & Jeremy Hedges for the use of Modern Formations Gallery for the blood drive. This picture is of the space before it was full of tables and phlebotomists and BLOOD.

Thanks to Moop, Garbella, Enrico Biscotti, Dale McCullough, and Friend or Foe for their raffle item donations!

Thanks to my son, Jaden, for getting up at 6am, loading the car, unloading the car, setting up chairs, putting away chairs, and dealing with a crazed mom all day. He's the best kid ever!

Thanks to Courtney, Deanna, Diana, Ruth, Lynn, Alicia, and Lydia for baking cupcakes (which clearly were being eaten by donors and other attendees!)

Extra special thanks to Nate, for designing our logo, and Lynn & Steve for their help with the mugs.

HUGE thanks to everyone who came out and donated blood, or at least tried to donate. It means so much to me that each and every one of you came out and were willing to give blood to help those in need. It may seem like a small thing, but to the person who needs the blood its so so so very important. Im most proud that our little blood drive continues to turn first time donors into regular donors; getting people on the path to frequent donation is my ultimate goal and proves that one small gesture can do something big.

I am sure there are people to thank who I havent mentioned, and I apologize. This day could not have been possible without each and every one of you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One less thing to worry about

A friend passed this along to me today and I wanted to get it posted ASAP. So many good things to share with everyone already this month!

Cleaning for a Reason is a newly formed nonprofit offering free professional housecleaning and maid services to improve the lives of women undergoing treatment for cancer. They are located in Texas, but work with professional house cleaning services around the country to help women in need wherever they may live.

Imagine having one less thing to worry about. Knowing you will be able to come home to a clean house. This is such a great idea, and there are lots of ways to help them with their cause. More info about how to apply for the service or how to help can be found on their website.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month

So lets learn a little bit about it, shall we??

- This year, 42,470 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and 35,240 will die from the disease

- No early detection or screening exam is currently available for pancreatic cancer

- An estimated 76% of patients will die within one year of diagnosis

- Many symptoms of pancreatic cancer are vague and can be attributed to a variety of other conditions

- Risk factors include but are not limited to family history of the disease, obesity and smoking

There are lots of resources out there with more information, such as the Mayo Clinic website. I recently found the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network website, and its great. You can find information about the disease, ways to get involved in advocacy efforts, and the best part- survivor stories.

Check it out!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Only 5 more days!

Until our second annual Blood & Cupcakes replenishing blood drive. There are still some time slots left, so please email us at BRICKSpgh at gmail dot com to sign up!

Join BRICKS for Young Adults for our 2nd Annual
Blood & Cupcakes
Replenishing Blood Drive to benefit Central Bood Bank
In memory of Rick Gribenas (1977-2009)

Saturday, November 7, 2009
Modern Formations Gallery
4919 Penn Avenue. Pittsburgh PA 15224

There are lots of surprises for donors, including tasty cupcakes and a raffle full of excellent prizes. If you cant donate blood, but want to participate, please stop by and see us. Learn about BRICKS for Young Adults and the things we are doing to help those with cancer in our region.

If you are planning to donate blood PLEASE send us a message to coordinate a donation time. Time slots are available every 15 minutes (9, 9:15, 9:30 and so on). Walk-ins will be accommodated day of the drive as time allows.

This is really important! Give us your bloods!!

To learn about donor qualifications, visit