27 June 2009

A Friend in Need is Friend Indeed

That's what Friends are For

As the song says in the friends in need are friends indeed - this note was posted by a friend of mine Kelly Kappmeier on Facebook and the original note she posted on Facebook (warning these link probably requires you to join Facebook). Here's the note:

Hello all my Facebook friends and family. I'm reaching out to all of you now for help. Please read.

This story will break your heart. I want to tell you a true story of the struggles my best friend's family has had to go through the past few months. Rachel Amato VanAtta was diagnosed with complete kidney failure two years ago when she was 27 and a mother of four small children. This January after two years of hell with dialysis and excruciatingly painful treatments and 13 blood transfusions she finally received a kidney from her brother. This was January 21st. I went to her home twice a week and watched her children while she was stuck at Stanford hospital two hours away.

In February three weeks after her transplant her body started rejecting her kidney. During that week my Mother went into the hospital while I was watching her kids. Rachel made it out of rejection and instead of going home she drove from Stanford and came too the hospital to see my Mother. My Mom died the next day. Now remember, this is a woman that Rachel has loved for the past 18 years of our friendship. Amongst of all her hell she made every effort to be there for me and my family.

For a little while (maybe a month) everything seemed to be getting back to normal until her 18 month old was found to have lead poisoning at his 18 month check up. They tested the other four children and found that one of her 3 1/2 year old twins also had lead poisoning. Now they have the State of California on them and in their home trying to figure out the cause. They determined it was the paint on the outside of the house. While they were getting their landlord to re-side the house and remove the paint, her husband was laid off from his job due to the economy. The house was resided a month later. They moved back into their home for two days to then be told exactly 5 months after Rachel received her kidney transplant her 3 1/2 year old son Andrew was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (sp?). She has been at the hospital with him now for a week. She hasn't seen her other three kids at all. Why you ask? That's a very good question and brings me to the point of my diatribe.

On the extremely limited income they have they cannot afford to pay for a hotel to have their children up there with them. Their grandmother is with them now but is having a very hard time managing three small children and has to go back to work on Monday. Stanford will actually allow all the kids to be with them throughout the entire day if only they could afford a hotel where one parent and the other three kids can sleep at night. They have worked with a social worker who's been trying to get them discounted housing in the Ronald McDonald house but their family is too large and they are way down on the waiting list. The doctors have told Rachel that at the earliest Drew will be able to go home is three or four more weeks. At that time they have the option to come back to Stanford twice a week for his aggressive chemo therapy and labs which will continue for no less than three years. Until he starts taking to his chemo and turning around his disease, he has to stay there and a parent must be with him at all times.

So, what they need is donations so they can afford to bring their other children up to Stanford. Can you imagine being this family and not being able to see your other children? Can you imagine being a 3 1/2 year old stuck in the hospital getting poked and prodded and losing your hair and throwing up and not being able to eat or move around too much? Also, this little boy has a twin brother. He has not been without his brother for a day in his entire life! Can you imagine what that is doing to the twin at Grandma’s? The only thing Rachel can do is call her other children and hear them crying and begging to be with her and their brother.

The social worker was able to secure hotels with a heart that will offer them a severely discounted rate of approximately $60 a night for two full sized beds. If we think best case scenario and Drew will get to come home after three weeks, that’s around $1300. That does not include food for the other five members of the family. I was there yesterday and bought lunch for Rachel, Brad, and myself and it was over $30. Dinner was the same expense.

My goal is to raise them $2000 so they can be a family for the next three or four weeks and all be together while Drew is going through this horrible experience. Eric and I have already donated $500 to help pay for their rent in Turlock for July even though they aren’t even able to live in it. At least they’ll have a house to come home to. Our friends Dyani & Jon Gingerich have given them $100 for incidentals this week which they will go through in a couple days just on meals for the two of them.

How you can help? Here are some options:

1. Donate money directly into their PayPal account. You go to www.PayPal.com. Their account is under rachamato@hotmail.com. From what I understand, that’s it.
2. Send a check a money order to me and I will bring every dime to them. You can private message me on FB or email me at kelly.kappmeier@gmail.com and I’ll provide you with my mailing address.
3. Purchase gift cards for Target, Gas, etc. and mail them to me. Again, contact me with the info above.
4. The last thing and the one thing that doesn’t have a monetary value is to PRAY! They need all the prayers they can get.

Thank you all for reading and hopefully helping a family who is in great need. I know that in this economy it's a terrible time for everyone but right now, I'm hard pressed to find someone else in more need then this amazing family. Thank you again.

Kelly Kappmeier

Andrew VanAtta - One week into diagnosis two days into chemotherapy. Really happy about his R2D2 toy I got him.

So if you can help - please contact Kelly directly at her e-mail address: kelly.kappmeier@gmail.com or you could send money directly to via PayPal (here's the link to Paypal Send money) to Rachel's Paypal Account under: rachamato@hotmail.com
Every little bit helps......

19 June 2009

Don't Block Fire Hydrants

Picture says it all

When things in Life Seem Too Much to Handle

When things in your life seem, Almost too much to handle,
When 24 Hours in a day is not enough,
Remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class

And had some items in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly,
He picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar
And proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students, if the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured
them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.
The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.

He then asked the students again
If the jar was full... They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand

And poured it into the jar.. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded
With an unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced Two cups of coffee from under the table
And poured the entire contents Into the jar, effectively
Filling the empty space between the sand.
The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor, As the laughter subsided,
'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life..
The golf balls are the important things - God, family,
children, health, friends, and favorite passions –

Things that if everything else was lost

And only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter Like your job, house, and car.

The sand is everything else --
The small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' He continued,
'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.
The same goes for life..

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff,
You will never have room for the things that are
Important to you.


Pay attention to the things That are critical to your happiness.
Playwith your children.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your partner out to dinner.

There will always be time
To clean the house and fix the disposal.

'Take care of the golf balls first --
The things that really matter.
Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand
And inquired what the coffee represented.

The professor smiled.
'I'm glad you asked'.

It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem,
there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'

Please share this with other "Golf Balls"

I just did...

10 June 2009

Airport Security and our Military

What a sad event to witness....the security "process" loaded onto our young men and women who serve our country. I found myself in the middle of a block of twenty or so of our active members of the military - most in uniform, all apparently taking a few days leave.

I watched with dismay as they passed through security - all carrying their distinctive backpacks loaded with their personal possessions. Time after time I watched as they pulled a range of cosmetics and were forced to throw expensive items into the trash in the name of security. The TSA employees were polite and as nice as they could be but you could feel the frustration of these young men and women as they were forced to throw away perfectly good and in some cases expensive cosmetics. As one young soldier put it
That's forty dollars right there
As he threw away two bottles of skin care solutions. The TSA employee suggested he could go back and check the bag and could keep them. But it turns out that the airlines punitive policy on checked baggage is a deterrent - it might not seem like much but it all adds up.

There appeared to be some flexibility in the standard security policy - this group were not forced to take off their shoes unless the security system beeped indicating metal (interesting side note the security screening devices actual indicate a general location - high/low of where the sensor indicates the presence of metal). So there was some flexibility (the one individual who was not in uniform was forced to take off his shoes).

Good lord - these men and women risk their lives in the name of our country every day and yet are subjected to the same miserable experiences that purport to secure air travel (there are many reviews suggesting that the liquid ban has little to do with risk and more to give the impression of giving the appearance of security - Bruce Schneier on evading the security and here on the implausibility of the liquid explosive plot).

They all carry secure digital ID's with encoded personal information and are easily identified. Who wants to bet that the pilots and law enforcement officers who travel and go through their own separate security carrying a legal weapon probably get to take more than 3oz of liquids in their carry on....?

It was a sad sight to watch these individuals - they all took it in good spirit but you could tell in their voices and actions they were frustrated.

04 June 2009

Know Where You are Going - You May Already be There

A boat docked in a tiny Hawaiian village. An American tourist complimented the Hawaiian fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Hawaiian.

"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The Hawaiian explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life."

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."

"And after that?" asked the Hawaiian.

"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Honolulu, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Hawaiian?

"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.

"And after that?"

"Afterwards? Well my friend, that's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?" asked the Hawaiian.

"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."

And the moral of this story is: ... Know where you're going in life... you may already be there!

03 June 2009

Minority Report One Step Closer in Our Living Room

Minority report got one step closer with the "Natal" announcement from Microsoft for their XBox system. The motion sensing add on features gestures and attempts combat the big success of the Nintendo Wii which makes the interaction simple and intuitive

You can read more about it here

01 June 2009

H1-B Misery Leads to Brain Drain

In the current climate it's unpopular to talk about overseas graduates taking American jobs but having personally experienced this process I can attest to the misery that many suffer trying to get in to the US legally. The H1-B process is a quagmire of inefficiency but it is one of the main routes for high quality and highly educated graduates to get into the US

Yes it's a tough economy and we are loosing jobs but that's true worldwide. It's no reason to change one of the key factors in the success of the United States that created an attractive welcoming environment that highly educated productive overseas national want to come and work in. These are the individuals we want to stay and to attract to help build and strengthen our country and our economy.