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Portfolio Check Point #3

The following blog posts have been chosen because; I feel they best show my metamorphosis in writing.  I have listed them within their genre and in the order they were written.

Popular Blogs

1. https://0ddsandendz.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/experiencing-a-different-culture/

2. https://0ddsandendz.wordpress.com/2011/2011/10/07/dark-shadows/

3. https://0ddsandendz.wordpress.com/2011/2011/10/13/kids-have-the-most-amazing-ideas-2/

Business and Organizational Blogs

1. https://0ddsandendz.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/the-rest-of-the-story-%E2%80%93-part-i/

2. https://0ddsandendz.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/the-rest-of-the-story-%E2%80%93-part-ii/

3. https://0ddsandendz.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/no-more-memories/

Niche Blogs

1. https://0ddsandendz.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/change-is-a-good-thing/

2. https://0ddsandendz.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/the-best-candy-recipe-not-even-i-can-mess-this-one-up/

3. https://0ddsandendz.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/oatmeal-cake/

When the English 415 course began and I learned I would be writing blog posts each week, I panicked.  I knew nothing about blogging except the occasional online search I did to find information, but I soon realized it was not nearly as complicated as I had anticipated.  I also learned that I enjoyed it.

I already knew that my writing was flawed in specific areas.  My tendency to be much too wordy, my use of adjectives and adverbs tends to get out of hand, and perhaps my worst flaw is a lack of transition from one subject to another.  These all led to severe editing of my writing.  Armed with the knowledge of my more serious weaknesses I attempted to write my first blog post.

Experiencing a Different Culture was written to share an amazing experience in my life.  I used personal photos strategically within the paragraphs to give the readers a real sense of what I was talking about.  I now realize that even more improvements could have been made to the post such as deleting unnecessary words.

Example: “I traveled with 39 other coworkers, the majority of which had never flown on a plane prior to that time.”

Adding video links to compliment certain topics such as shopping at the grocery or riding the subway would have improved this post in addition to the word links. What graphics, links, or charts would help my readers the most was the one question I asked myself repeatedly during the semester.

Word links were the easiest option to give my audience additional accurate information.  By looking at what I had written from the viewpoint of the reader I could see what they would have questions or want more information about.  This led me to what items required links.  I have listed some of the best examples.

Nagoya Castle (Experiencing a Different Culture)

immunosuppressant medications  and portacath (The Rest of the Story – Part I)

Alzheimer’s (No More Memories)

Within The Rest of the Story – Part II post there was a need to add a large amount of data in the form of a chart so that readers would understand the statistics being discussed.  At first I embedded the chart, but it was so bulky that I felt it would cause readers to lose interest and stop reading.  After discussing the problem with my Professor, I took his advice and converted the chart to a PDF file and embedded it as a link.  This allowed readers to choose whether they wanted to view the extra data and didn’t disturb the integrity of the post.

A YouTube video (YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nag4OznBizA) gave readers an interesting visual in the Dark Shadows post.  Not only did it add actual background information, but it added historical credibility to the topic.

Not boring my readers was important, but I also wanted to appeal to a broader audience so diversity was something I wanted to include by writing about a variety of topics.  The popular blog genre is a good example of a variety of topics.

Experiencing a Different Culture’s topic is learning about another culture, the excitement of traveling, and acknowledging the fact that people are actually similar no matter where they live.  Dark Shadows is about reviving a little known supernatural TV series in movie form.  Kids Have The Most Amazing Ideas shows the ingenuity of children.

Each of these was directed at a different type audience.  ‘Culture’ had an appeal to travelers and anyone interested in Japan.  “Shadows’ appealed to anyone who liked the original series, was a fan of a cast member, or liked the supernatural subject matter.  ‘Kids’ held appeal for parents, but also anyone who could relate to the ingenious and humorous adventures of children.

Credibility was an area that I worked hard to create within my posts.  I didn’t want to sound like a know-it-all, but I wanted to sound professional and believable.  Before writing each post I did research on the topic.  For example, The Rest of the Story – Part I and Part II required that I use specific and correct statistics.  I used credible sites to find those statistics, gave credit to those sites, and linked to them.  By stating in Part I that I had experienced the transplant process first hand added extreme credibility.

A professional look in the blog theme would also add credibility.  I chose the background theme “Dusk,” because it used a blue background.  A previous writing course had taught me that blue backgrounds were considered business like.  The black text was easy to read in the light blue text box and the two column format was orderly and neat.  The column spacing also allowed for adequate white space thus feeling less claustrophobic and less busy.

To further the readability I kept paragraphs short.  This helped keep readers attention and also helped me edit out my flaws of long drawn out sentences and unnecessary wording.   I found the six principles of concision, on page 58 of our textbook “Style: the Basics of Clarity and Grace” by Williams and Colomb, to be a great help.  The book lists six principles to use when diagnosing and revising your writing.

  1. Delete words that mean little or nothing.
  2. Delete words that repeat the meaning of other words.
  3. Delete words implied by other words.
  4. Change negatives to affirmatives.
  5. Delete useless adjectives and adverbs (Style p.58)

These six principles coincided with part of my weaknesses; therefore, they helped me to diagnose and edit many of the faults of my drafts more efficiently.  They are key points I will carry with me and employ from this point forward when writing.

Another topic from our textbook was extremely helpful to me – cohesion (Style p. 36).  I found that I had to work on my active verb use and the flow of my topics.  By editing sentences such as this one, “So Kass did. saved her money and a few weeks ago she bought an iPod,” it cut out extra words and used a more direct and positive verb.

When writing No More Memories, I organized the flow of the piece using the stages of the disease.  To add a better understanding of each stage I included the medical explanation of the stage and then a personal story of how it affected my Mother-in-law at that stage.

My worst writing flaw is failing to smoothly transition from one point to another.  An example of this fault is most notable in No More Memories.  I became so engrossed in including factual data that I failed to soften the transition between the personal experiences to the facts section.  As suggested by my Professor, I have corrected this post by including this paragraph to soften the harsh change between sections.

“My husband and I, as a way of better understanding how to care for Ruby, researched Alzheimer’s disease.  We learned many things during that time, which are not commonly discussed.  Here are a few of the facts we found.”

This new paragraph was then followed by a bulleted list of facts about Alzheimer’s.  Bulleted and numbered lists are also a great way to appeal to readers.  They help to break up the body of the text and are visually appealing.  Lists are appealing, because they can be scanned quickly, they project a feeling of order, and they suggest an order of actions in some instances such as recipes.

When beginning the niche blog section of the course, I realized I had to choose a topic I knew well and could present with some authority and credibility.  Yet I needed to find a topic specific enough to qualify as a niche.  I chose food, but to be more precise I used certain criteria to choose recipes that would fit my blog and listed them within the first post, Change is a Good Thing.

  1. Easy to fix
  2. Small number of ingredients
  3. Easily transported
  4. A crowd pleaser
  5. Just plain unusual

Since the niche blog would likely attract a more female, family style audience, I realized that the old theme did not match the topic.  I felt that I should explain the blog changes to the current followers and did so within Change is a Good Thing.

This also allowed me to explain to my readers why I was changing formats and what to expect.  I chose the theme “Bouquet,” because it is a colorful bright pink and appears lighthearted with a graphic header of flowers.  It also presents a more feminine and family friendly look.

As with the previous blog genres I used word links, video links, and photos.  When writing the introductions to the recipes, I used a more personalized style.  For example, “Not even I can mess this one up,” and “When I was a small child I remember my Mother making this cake.”  By stating where I acquired the recipes it added a more personal feel to the writing.  Some examples of this are:

“A good friend of mine, Marilyn gave me this as a Christmas gift,” and “My niece Lori makes this punch.”

Another aspect of the recipe blogs I wanted to address was safety.  I wanted my readers to be safe if they chose to use the recipes.  This led me to add a warning to the posts The Best Candy Recipe and Oatmeal Cake.

 Sugar mixtures will burn your skin severely. Watch for bubbling and splatter.

To my surprise the redesign of my blog was accepted by my prior followers as well as new followers.  As of Dec. 7, 2011, the blog had received 334 views and had four followers.  This far exceeded my expectations.  I haven’t decided yet if I will keep my niche blog form or transform again to another topic, but I intend to continue my blog.

This course has improved my writing in so many ways and I hope to continue to improve by using what I have learned during this semester in future writing projects.

Works cited:

Williams, Joseph, and Colomb, Gregory. Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace.   4th Ed.  U.S.: Pearson. 2012. Print.

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No More Memories

Have you ever walked into a room and couldn’t remember what you were looking for?  How about misplacing you keys or your cell phone?  We’ve all experienced these small memory losses as a part of everyday life.  Now, how would you feel if you suddenly couldn’t remember your own child?  Imagine that you are losing your memory little by little and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

That’s what happens to someone with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease takes a toll on the individual who has it and a massive emotional toll on their family and/or caregivers.  My husband recently lost his mother Ruby, who had suffered with Alzheimer’s for almost 10 years.

Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease, which has no cure.  The loved ones watch helplessly as their family member slowly disappears.  You see the person, but the individual is no longer there.  Each person with Alzheimer’s experiences the disease a bit differently, but there are some similarities as the disease develops in stages.

Stage One – Mild

Early symptoms include confusion, mood swings, speech problems, and poor memory or forgetfulness.  The person affected may or may not realize they are having problems, but it may be obvious to the people around them.  The affected person may repeatedly ask the same questions again and again, or consistently misplace objects by putting them in illogical places.

My mother-in-law would telephone our home 10-12 times a day and ask the same question.  She was in constant motion, yet not able to concentrate on one task long enough to complete it.  This was the hardest stage emotionally for her, because she remembered enough to understand that she was losing her memory and she often cried for hours due to this realization.

Stage Two – Moderate

As the disease progresses more symptoms appear such as hallucinations, delusions, possessiveness, inability to sleep, and rambling conversations about things which have not occurred.  The individual may also experience personality changes.

This stage involves 24/7 care.  Ruby didn’t sleep and would move about her home at all hours of the night and we were afraid that she would wander away and become lost.  She hallucinated, imagining bugs in her kitchen that would only come out when the lights were off.  At this point her personality ‘flipped’ from a polite Christian lady who never cursed to being very vocal and possessive (intensely jealous) of her husband.

Stage Three – Severe

The severe stage is of course the worst with the individual experiencing appetite loss, dehydration, the inability to move about without help, an increase in infections and illnesses, trouble swallowing, no ability to care for themself, and finally the loss of long and short-term memory.

As the Alzheimer’s consumed my mother-in-law she lost the ability to drink without using a straw, her food had to be puréed, and she was confined to a wheel chair.  She no long recognized her children or grandchildren and was even unaware when her husband passed away.  My husband would feed her breakfast every Sunday morning and take her strawberry flavored milk (her favorite).  He waited patiently for that minute or two of clarity, when she would recognize him, which occurred less and less frequently as time went by.

My husband and I, as a way of better understanding how to care for Ruby, researched Alzheimer’s disease.  We learned many things during that time, which are not commonly discussed.  Here are a few of the facts we found.

°         The disease was discovered and named after Dr Alois Alzheimer of Marktbreit, Bavaria in 1906 (about.com).

°         The disease can last from 3-20 years and is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. (cdc.gov).

°         Alzheimer’s is thought of as an old person’s disease, because ages 60 and up are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease; however, people as young as 30 can have early onset Alzheimer’s, but it is a rare 5% (nih.org)

°         Four drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat Alzheimer’s: donepezil (Aricept®), rivastigmine (Exelon®), or galantamine (Razadyne®), and memantine (Namenda®) (alz.org).

More Information

Alzheimer’s Association
225 N. Michigan Avenue, Floor 17
Chicago, IL 60601-7633
1-800-272-3900 (toll-free)
1-866-403-3073 (TDD/toll-free)
www.alz.org

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
322 Eighth Avenue, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10001
1-866-AFA-8484 (1-866-232-8484; toll-free)
www.alzfdn.org

National Institute on Aging
Building 31, Room 5C27
31 Center Drive, MSC 2292
Bethesda, MD 20892
Phone: 301-496-1752
TTY: 1-800-222-4225
http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/

Mayo Clinic

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alzheimers-disease/DS00161

The Rest of the Story – Part II

Let me begin by posting a link to Part I for those of you who haven’t read it.

https://0ddsandendz.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/the-rest-of-the-story-%e2%80%93-part-i/

I received several questions concerning the emotional and psychological effects that transplantation can have on the recipient; therefore, I will discuss that topic first.  Please understand, I can only write about my experiences as a liver transplant recipient, others may have experience a totally different set of emotional effects and I would love to hear from other transplant patients about those.

My emotional journey started months before receiving the transplant.  To be entered on the waiting list is a long process in which every system of your body is thoroughly examined before you are evaluated by a transplant committee.  You are prodded and poked by each specialist’s team during their evaluation.  It is exhausting for someone who is already ill.  If that weren’t enough it seems that every time I was near a crowd I became sick despite my best efforts not to.  I was admitted to the hospital countless times for bacterial infections and gastrointestinal viruses.

To make matters worse I had to monitor every gram of protein I ate.  I was allowed only 40 grams of protein per day in order to keep my ammonia levels at bay and prevent dementia.  Through trial and error I found that I could consume only 25 grams with no ill effects.  To put this into perspective, a plain hamburger contains 12-14 grams.  Needless to say, I was on a very limited menu for many months.  Now that’s stressful.

Months of hospitals, CT scans, ultrasounds, doctors, lab work, endless nausea, and fevers, not to mention the fact you bleed more freely with liver failure, leaves you stressed emotionally to the breaking point.  My senses would take the punishment and build-up stress until one swift unpredictable act would cause me to simply fall apart.  I would literally turn in to a blubbering mess, shaking and crying until I purged it from my system.  Then I would start all over again.

Add to that the feelings of guilt.  The transplant team tells you that more organs donations occur around holidays and to be on alert for ‘the call.’  I found myself literally watching the news and wondering, “Was there an accident today?”  Afterwards I would feel awful, realizing that I was waiting for someone else’s tragedy to occur in order for me to live.  It made me feel like the Grim Reaper.

After months of waiting, I finally received a liver transplant.  During the recovery, the feeling of gratefulness was overwhelming, but I still felt awful that someone had died in order for me to survive.  I still feel sad for that family.  I also wonder why I lived while others died.  Why me?  Am I supposed to do some grand thing in life?  Is there a specific reason I lived?

Thirteen years later I still ponder those questions.  There are so many people who don’t survive as long as I have and it makes me feel very sad, yet I am still grateful at the same time.  It’s hard to explain the feeling to someone who hasn’t experience it.

I would like to share some data I found at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website listing the survival rate from the HRSA | OPTN / SRTR Annual Report dated May 4, 2009.

Survival rates chart

According to this data, I am among the 60.2% liver transplant recipients who survived to 10 years post surgery in 2009.  With the increased knowledge gathered from patients like myself and technological developments the number of transplants performed and the survival rates have increased dramatically.

As I said earlier, I feel blessed to have received a life saving transplant.  It has enabled me to see my grandchildren born, care for my Mother during her last weeks with cancer, and earn my Bachelor degree.  If you haven’t thought about being an organ donor, please do.