Moose The Loser

Wow, if the title of this blog is a symbol of the way I treat my friends, they’re going to start dropping like flies!

I don’t want people to drop from my life like flies (of course) but I do want something to drop, and that is my friend the weight of my friend Greg (a/k/a Big Moose).

Tallahassee Health Kwest

Greg wants his weight to drop too, and that’s why he is applying to be the Tallahassee representative in the 5th Annual Genghis Grill Health Kwest. If selected to represent Tallahassee, Greg will get a free healthy meal at Genghis Grill every day for 60 days, will track his progress on social media, and will be able to compete to win $10,000 (by accumulating the most points).

I am positive that the $10,000 prize (awesome as that would be!) is not what is motivating Greg. He is motivated by something priceless: the ability to play with his young son and see him grow up.  This is what he said in his application:

My son is now almost 4 years old, and is getting to the point where he wants to go to amusement parks, play (and play HARD) at the park, and just run around like 4 year olds do. This is GREAT, my son is a very active 4 year old…I, unfortunately am not the average dad. Going on rides is out of the question as I just don’t fit, and playing at the park or running around is short lived because I just can’t keep up, and that’s just not fair to him.

Tallahassee Health Kwest

Greg and I first met on Twitter (that breeding ground of many fun exchanges that sometimes leads to great friendships). We did The Color Run together in 2012 and had a blast!

Tallahassee Health Kwest

Team WTF (Where’s The Finish?) September 2013

For Greg to be chosen to represent Tallahassee, Genghis Grill will be evaluating his awesome application in addition to his social media presence. There’s no reason we can’t all pitch in and help him make it into the finals!

Here are the ways to help:

1) Go to this link, comment, then pin, tweet, and share away between now and January 26!

2) Join us Tuesday night, January 20, at 7 p.m., at the Tallahassee Genghis Grill location (830 E. Lafayette Street) to dine together and show Genghis Grill that Greg has great potential to be a “loser“! Here’s a link to the event. Even if you can’t come, please share it with anyone who can!

3) Click here to tweet the following:

greg revised tweet

 

A last note from me: I have had so much fun with Big Moose on Twitter, in person at The Color Run and (ironically considering the purpose of this post) scarfing down food at Dunkin Donuts during a promotion! Behind all that fun, I so respect his work ethic, his devotion to his family, and the fact that he’s an all around good guy….

…..an all around good guy who I want to be a loser in the best way!

Tallahassee Health Kwest

Is It Crazy To Think An Online Community Can Succeed?

One of my tasks with Weaving Influence is managing the Lead Change Group community. This is a fairly new role for me, and taking it on has me thinking almost constantly about what makes an online community work.

Although in my opinion the success of an online community boils down to a handful of characteristics that sound very simple, there is something intangible that has to take place between assembling the right “ingredients,” following a trustworthy “recipe,” and “cooking” everything to result in a tasty product. These include:

A Cyber Welcome Mat

Although I believe it is important that there be a cadre of “regulars” who contribute to the community, there should be plenty of acceptance and respect to make someone who is visiting for the first time feel welcome. (Many people probably read your posts frequently before venturing to comment.) I have been active in one of my favorite online communities (more on that later) long enough to know many of the “inside jokes” that would mystify a newcomer. The inside jokes are part of what makes the community fun, but there’s a fine line between inside jokes that make you want to keep coming back in order to “get them” and inside jokes that are so plentiful, pointed, or cryptic that a newbie can feel excluded.

People Keep Showing Up

This is the next part after the welcome mat. People like what they read, how they are treated, and how they feel after interacting with your community. You know you can count on seeing some of the same people week after week, and connections grow deeper roots that way.

Good Writing

This language freak has long ago given up on grammatical perfection in the online world, so I am not referring to a draconian management of spelling and grammar (although consistently sloppy use of language is a turn-off). I am referring to good writing. The kind that makes you laugh at your desk, that makes you stop mid-post and tweet the author saying “I haven’t even gotten through this post but thank you,” the kind of words that stay with you long after you click off of the post. Writing like this Spin Sucks guest post from Cindy King.

Connecting Across Other Channels

As a blogger, I will tell you I will love you forever if you will share my post via your other social media channels (unless you’re a creeper in which case of course I won’t love you forever). There are times when I read a  Spin Sucks post that is quite technical (such as this one) and I have nothing useful to contribute but I know I can trust the content enough to share it via Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and/or Linkedin. If I am going to keep the cooking analogy going, we’ll call the “connecting across other channels” the equivalent of allowing our product’s fragrance to waft into adjoining rooms and make everyone salivate over what we’ve made!

Knowing Your Place

It would be easy as a Spin Sucks Crazy to think that the blog is all that happens at Arment Dietrich. I say that because the activity stream is constant. That’s not because the blog is all they do, though; it’s because they make sure to delegate responsibility for reining in interacting with the community throughout the day to someone on staff. I have to remind myself that the blog is only a part of what they do and respect that, although they would point out that the blog is the entryway for many business leads (80% of new revenue, to be precise — details about that in this post).

Telling Me Specifically How To Get Involved

Tonight’s post is an example of what I mean. Back when Spin Sucks posted this, I said the following:

spin sucks post

(The pigeon is a story for a different post!)

This is not the first time I have commented about doing something, and been encouraged to follow through. The very first time was when Spin Sucks rescued me from weekly habit of #FollowFridaying a long list of people by publishing this post which in addition to convincing me to rethink how I was using Follow Friday, instilled in me a secret little goal to get featured (which I did, here).

Moderating Closely

It is no small task to moderate the comments section of a blog. There is no faster way to lose me as an online community member than to make me wade through a stream of trolls, spam, and other trash. An unadulterated comments section does not happen by accident; it takes work. And I appreciate that.

green pen two cropped

As a new community manager, I can tell you that I am hungry for the people in my community to blend their unique ingredients more thoroughly. There’s so much great content; staring at a comments section with a line of “0’s” on my dashboard makes me sad. There are many times during a week when I utter a little prayer that the Lead Change Group community will acquire some of the attributes that make Spin Sucks great: dynamic people, talking to one another, evolving into something more than a set of comments on a blog.

Want to help me out with whipping up something delectable at the Lead Change Group? Here’s a recent post that provided useful tips for helping people work to their fullest potential. Take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments?

And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a last “thank you” to Spin Sucks for being such a tremendous example of an online community that works. I would also be remiss if I didn’t try to earn some brownie points (because I love brownie points!) by asking you to tweet the following:

tweet

(Click here to tweet!)

101_3367

Yummm…….brownies!

Why I Am Gettin’ Dirty**

**This is definitely a G-Rated post. I just love the catchy title!

I had one attendant at my wedding on August 8, 1992, on the Brooklyn Promenade in New York City, Mary Jane. Mary Jane and I had worked together at Fordham University for almost three years. We had shared many laughs, a few tears, and quite a few conversations about our mutual love of figure skating. I do have a serious picture of us taken that day:

Multiple Myeloma Advocacy

Photo Credit: Dan Carubia

But it is pictures like this that most capture Mary Jane’s enthusiasm (I wonder what she, my friend Audrey, and my friend Jennie were reacting to):

Multiple Myeloma Advocacy

Photo Credit: Dan Carubia

Although my return to Florida from New York and the busy nature of our lives as we each pursued our careers and grew our families kept us from seeing each other very much, we have always been there for one another, and especially enjoyed meeting up twice for the National Figure Skating Championships (we were in Detroit when the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding situation went down).

A few years ago, Mary Jane called me with very serious news: she had been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (I didn’t know what it was and had to ask). After a demanding, grueling course of treatment, she is in an excellent place, all things considered. However, there is no cure for Multiple Myeloma and true to her enthusiastic nature (see picture above), she has gone “all in” for participating with Team in Training to help fund research, support, and advocacy for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

I have lost track of the number of Team in Training events Mary Jane has already done, the number of people she has mentored, and the amount of money she has raised. I can be certain, though, that it is a lot and that she brought fun and encouragement to every single event. (The 13 minutes it takes to watch her Inspiration Speech is worth it, I PROMISE.) 

For my 50th birthday in November, I asked my family to send me back to my favorite place (New York City). I am always ecstatic to be in New York City but this trip has a purpose: I will be participating in the 2015 New York City Half Marathon with Mary Jane and Team SOAR (Spirited Optimistic And Relentless) For A Cure.

I was thinking about my participation with Team SOAR this Saturday when I ran the Swamp Forest Trail Race. Although race day wasn’t as frigid as it was in 2014, a surplus of rain in Tallahassee had made the trail muddy and treacherous. In addition, the heart rate issues I have been struggling with cropped up at a point in the race when I was feeling incredible and forced me to switch to a run/walk strategy 2/3 of the way in. Even though the race wasn’t easy, and my body did not cooperate with my race plan, I was thrilled to be making my debut as a member of Team in Training, wearing my TnT shirt. I don’t figure anyone who has dealt with leukemia, lymphoma, or other blood cancers really felt that their body was cooperating with them, either, so it’s time to stop spinning around in circles of frustration and direct my energies toward making a difference.

I have committed to raise $2,500 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as part of my participation in the New York City Half Marathon. Here is my plan as it stands now:

1) I am accepting donations via this link. Seriously, no amount is too small.

2) There will be a “pairs” workout on Saturday, February 7 at Badass Fitness at 10 a.m. This is the first “gettin’ dirty (by gettin’ sweaty) opportunity. In a pre-Valentines Day workout, couples (it can be spouses, friends, siblings, whatever) can partake in pairs-based exercises. A portion of proceeds will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Sign-up is OPEN. Visit Badass Fitness, click “Sign Up For A Badass Fitness Class” and follow the prompts for the 2/7 class at 10 am!

3) Please join my Gettin’ Dirty Benefit at Madison Social. The date is 2/7 (you know, work out in the morning, drink in the evening!) and one featured bevvie is Dirty Tequila. A generous portion of the proceeds will go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. Here’s the link for tickets ($25 per person and a portion to goes to LLS).

I raised $500 for Autism Speaks in 2012 for my Boston Half Marathon. That was hard. $2,500 will be harder. But when it comes to a priceless friendship, I’m all in to do the work.

Multiple Myeloma Advocacy

Photo Credit: Fred Deckert

Print

 

The Finish Line of 2014

This is my last post of 2014. This weekend’s experience participating in the Biggest Loser Run Walk Half Marathon in Panama City Beach encapsulated so much of my year.

2014 Review

I Got To Travel

I love traveling so much. Getting to take a quick road-trip to Panama City Beach in order to participate in this race fed a bite-sized morsel to the voracious travel lover in me. Packet pick-up was at the Edgewater Beach and Golf Resort, home of several memorable gymnastics experiences back in my Gym Mom days. Wow did that make me nostalgic.

2014 Review

Packet Pickup at The Edgewater Beach Resort and Meeting Danni Allen, Winner of Biggest Loser Season 14

I Got To Run

Running is so central to who I am. A trip that does not involve running is very likely not a trip I am on! It was so nice to enjoy the sound of the ocean waves as we traversed Front Beach Road throughout the half marathon course, to share my friend Tabitha’s first ever half marathon (yay!), and to experience just a little bit of relief from the stress that has hung over my races and runs since the Turkey Trot. (Note for anyone following the health part of the Turkey Trot post, I have an appointment with an electrophysiologist on January 6 and will hopefully get closer to having some answers.)

2014 Review

Tabitha (white visor), Robin (pink visor), Minnie Pinnie (pink and blue harness) and I mid-race!

I Got To Cuddle With A Dog

Okay, cuddling with a dog doesn’t represent a component of my year, but spending a half marathon with Minnie Pinnie was a SURPRISE! Oh how I love this 5-month-old, 4 pound bundle of awesomeness who did the entire 13.1 miles (carried for much of it) in a tutu that matched her mom’s. She made every single person who passed her smile (even the ones who mistook her for a chihuahua). She spent the ride back to Tallahassee curled up in my lap, fast asleep (admittedly, I did a little snoozing too). Takeaway for the year? Be open to new surprises. This “not a dog person” was won over in short order.

2014 Review

I Got To Support My Friends and Be Supported By Them

Ostensibly I was doing this race to support Tabitha as she ran her first half, but making the arrangements reminded me that it is okay to ask for help sometimes. Neither of our cars is really up to a long trip, and I was hoping to make it cost effective by sharing a hotel room, so I asked for help. All of that worked out, and moments along the way, such as this exchange with my dear friend Arlene, said “support” without saying a word:

2014 Review

I Got To Be Myself

As I wrote about in this post and this post, some of my struggles this year have been related to insecurity and lack of feeling accepted, with a dash of the feeling that I am more “myself,” and less inhibited on social media than I am with the people I spend time with in real life. The camaraderie, jokes, and shared moments of this weekend built rather than eroded; that was a plus.

2014 Review

Race eve dinner!

I Got To Write About It

This should be self-explanatory. The finish line of the last race of 2014 behind me, now I write. Although it’s true I will write about anything, but deeper truth is that I am inclined to write regarding just about everything. Look for that to continue in 2015.

Lastly, I Am Looking Ahead to Making The Finish Line Count

In thinking back through this weekend’s half marathon, I have noted how it captured many of the parts of 2014 I loved, including travel, running, friends, and writing. One of my main projects for 2015 will be participating in the 2015 New York City Half Marathon as part of Team SOAR which is running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. What do you know? I get to travel to it, get to run at it, will be with friends old and new, and will inevitably write about it! It’ll have everything except the miniature pinscher! (I do have a commitment to fulfill in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in order to participate, though. Here’s my link if you feel inclined to donate — no amount is too small!). I just received my training shirt today, and it seems perfect as I start 2015:

2014 Review

 See you next year!

Want, Ignorance, and Adoration

I went to see the Red Hills Players production of A Christmas Carol today. As the allegorical twins “Want” and “Ignorance” swirled around Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present, I was struck by the role each one, but especially Want, has played for me this Christmas.

WANT

I auditioned for A Christmas Carol in early November. We had to sing a traditional Christmas Carol, and I had chosen O Come All  Ye Faithful. I wanted to be involved in this production. To quote Laura Kelly Fanucci, who wrote the lovely devotional, Longing Together, my inner dialogue was I want, I want, I want.

Although the basic want was to be involved in the production, what I actually wanted was more complex than that. I wanted to belong.

The challenge of social media is that we often feel more familiar with people than we really are, and that’s where I found myself with many of the people who would have been my castmates. In my mind, spending the time it takes to bring a production to life had the potential to bridge the gap between that surface familiarity and hopefully create a more intricately woven bond.

In all this wanting, I lost sight of the fact that a production first and foremost can only select the best of the best (as it should be), and I saw in the mirror of my psyche someone who feels very disconnected from her true self.

IGNORANCE

may have thought participating in the production would cure that disconnect, but as November rolled over into December, I realized:

I had been ignorant of how rewarding it would be to focus on the community service project I coordinated for my Toastmasters club. In this joint project with the Leadership Toastmasters Club, our two small clubs came together to have a big impact for a local resident who moved to Tallahassee then promptly had to have surgery and a long rehabilitation. With no rehearsal conflicts, I was able to be at her home when we delivered a sturdy, beautiful dresser for her bedroom (thanks to a friend who donated it), as well as sheets, towels, fresh fruit, and a Walmart gift card to help her and her teenage son through the challenges of this time.

I had been ignorant of how many times I am reminded how much my running friends have my back. Free from the demands of rehearsals and performances that the production would have involved, I have been able to indulge fun meals (with adult bevvies), run to the Christmas lights in Oven Park and make a new friend, and go to our Gulf Winds holiday party and dance the night away.

I was ignorant of how moved I would feel when being hugged by the mom of our Badass Fitness Christmas Connection family, how stellar it would feel to pull up in front of her home and see Santa knock on her door and tell  her 4 year old HO HO HO. The fact that her teenage daughter shares the same name as my deceased mother-in-law Barbara was not lost on me. It was a good day.

Ora Family

ADORATION

I have sung the first verse of this song many times this November and December, first for the audition, and then because I was so dissatisfied with my performance at the audition that I improved it with the help of the highly talented and flexible Rachel at Music Lessons Express in order to contribute it to the Ninth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert.

“O Come All Ye Faithful” exhorts us to pursue a place of adoration:

O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

The song doesn’t say:

O come let us adore the sound of our own voice (fortunately!)

O come let us adore the idea of what we think will make us happy

O come let us adore other people who are equally as fallible as we ourselves are

O come let us adore those eggs that we have been methodically and hopefully putting into our own baskets …

This Advent…

nativity with writing

Seven “Humbugs” and a “Ho Ho HOLD” on the Snark

I really enjoyed preparing the four posts I submitted to 12Most, such as this one about twelve great vine videos. There was one draft that never came to fruition, though, because every time I started writing it, I began feeling like its negativity would outweigh its informational value and that I may hurt the feelings of people I care about.

Writing about the topic I addressed in that draft on my personal blog seems a little less offensive, though, since I can just say my opinion and not be representing an entire cadre of writers. I am just going to get it out of my system once and move on (with, of course, a segue to a somewhat more positive ending).

The Humbug Part

I believe we have made some life events that are simply that, life events, hyperpublic and over produced. In doing, there is a danger that the personal, unique, cherished nature of these events may be diluted in favor of the public, commonplace, “how-could-I-top-that” qualities. These events include:

Promposals

A promposal is an invitation to the prom that is elaborate enough to be classified as a proposal. There are some examples here. The high school student seen here had her intended date pulled over, had the cop fake an arrest, and waited in the back of the car with a sign that said “prom.”

My humbug about promposals: First of all, what if the intended date says no? Secondly, as much as I love a theme and a fun creative project, I am still just as charmed by a young man who approaches a young woman in person and simply says, “Will you come to prom with me?”

Prom Photo Sessions 

Prom photos have become more and more sophisticated (so click here to see what I mean).

My humbug about elaborate high school dance photo sessions:  If the girl felt beautiful, the guy felt handsome, and the family could afford the dollars, what does it matter? These sessions have an “engagement photo-like” feel that seems out of place for couples who may not be embarking on a long-term romance.

Marriage Proposals 

Maybe it is the ubiquitous nature of YouTube and our ability to create and share video documentation of our lives. Something is happening that has resulted in a proliferation of marriage proposals that goes far beyond one individual getting down on bended knee and asking the other individual to spend a life together.

For example, a sand art proposal whose story can be found here.

marrymekelly

For more “beyond bended knee” proposals, click here.

My humbug: My humbug about this one is a little challenging to define. So many of the ones I have seen are full of love and beautifully done. These people are old enough to be somewhat confident the relationship will “stick,” which differentiates them from the high school students referred to earlier. I think I would distill my opinion down to: make sure you spend as much time clarifying that you feel the same way about money, kids, and sex as you do editing your proposal video.

Pregnancy Announcements 

When I got pregnant in 1995 and 1998, the  news traveled the “old fashioned” way–by word of mouth, phone call, email, and snail mail. This is no longer the case. Pregnancy announcements now fly over cyberspace as quickly as you can press “like” on a Facebook status or retweet someone on Twitter. The graphics behind these shares are pretty darned creative (like these).

My humbug: This is another one where I am blown away by the creativity but simultaneously a little taken aback. Maybe it’s the fact that such rapid shares separate the prospective parent from the recipient of the news. Half the fun of announcing your pregnancy is seeing the expression on the other individual’s face. I’m not sure 50 “likes” can do exactly the same thing.

Gender Reveals 

Putting aside those disciplined people who wait  until their baby is born to find out its gender (I was not one of them), the “gender reveal” process has gotten complicated! Here are three themes on one Pinterest Gender Reveal Board:

Ties or Tutus

Cupcake or Stud Muffin

Boots or Bows

For more including a gender “lottery,” click here.

My humbug: I am pretty sure the first gender reveal party I saw was on television. I can’t remember which celebrity it was, but the event was elaborate. There was a Hollywood party planner, caterer, favors, tents, the entire festivity checklist. Now I see them routinely on social media. Again, nothing is really damaged but having a gender reveal party but it seems easy to lose the exceptionally personal nature of the moment.

Maternity Photo Sessions 

I have seen some gorgeous maternity photos (such as these). What a beautiful way to commemorate that moment in a family’s life.

My humbug: My humbug is with the unduly revealing ones such as these. I am not a prude about the female body, especially the beauty of the pregnant female body but there is something about these photos that makes me feel like an invader (and I know, I can just “not look”).

Using A Baby’s Name Before They’re Born

Perhaps it is because we can now personalize pretty much anything that a baby is often given items with his or her name on them while they are in utero.

My humbug: I don’t know if this is a southern superstition or what, but I have always been leery of applying a child’s name to a product until they have been born. I am sure my feelings are influenced by having lost two pregnancies and by my mom’s having lost a baby, but loss happens. I just feel like it’s tempting fate.

In many of these cases, maybe my issue is green (and not the fun green of Christmas), but the green of envy. Since I couldn’t afford to throw a gender reveal party, for example, does that feed my humbugosity? If so, I own that but don’t think that’s the root of my opinion.

Switching Gears to the Positive

Since it’s Christmas, let’s address the most ubiquitous over-the-top phenomenon this time of the year, the Elf on the Shelf, who is hovering around many homes this season:

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Over the past few years, I have found myself increasingly thankful that the EotS wasn’t a “thing” when my teenagers were little. If it had worked to modify my kids’ behavior, though, maybe I would have bit.

My world, in-person and on social media, is filled with über creative types. These adults have possibly missed their calling in production design for major motion picture houses. For example, toilet fishing:

tumblr_lw1fazz8h51r755nso1_500

Source: www.diycandy.com

Toilet fishing is almost rudimentary compared to the attention to detail of my friend Diary of a Mom (I mean would you look at those little tiny oxygen tubes coming out of “Hazel’s” nasal passages?).

THEN there are the “alternate” EotS folks, who do tableaus like this (this was one of the tamer ones! Visit the Good Time Elf Facebook Page to see the others.):

for-a-good-time-elf

The voices of the Elf on the Shelf detractors are louder than ever this year (at least it seems that way to me). This article, for example, outlines one parent’s view.

I have had the elf skeptic conversation with friends on Facebook about EotS. We all gleefully pile on (yes, me included), smirking our disdain for the effort, the misguidedness, the adult energy, time and effort required for a “children’s” phenomenon.

Here’s my Ho Ho HOLD the snark point: I am through snarking about EotS.  He isn’t for me, but if he had been a “thing” when my kids were little, I may very well have given in and loved every minute of it.

I have had teachers say EotS is a “friend” in the classroom, someone the kids love and enjoy. I see families I care about and respect enjoying the heck out of creating their EotS scenarios. I see kids who *may* be doubting Santa’s existence still looking forward to their elf’s whereabouts in the morning.

It’s not for me, but there’s enough snark this holiday season (and, let us admit, all year long). If EotS is your thing, enjoy! I’ll even send you a Big Green Pen for your elf’s use if you’re running out of ideas!

snark santa

We Can’t All Be Santa

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board, through my role as a Believer Blogger. All thoughts are my own.  

Cropped Santa Mail

I don’t remember exactly what Wayne put on his Santa list in 2005, when he was in first grade. I am sure the general theme was “transportation” as in toy trains, remote-controlled cars, and anything else that had wheels, made noise, or (ideally) moved while making noise. All items on the list were meant to be enjoyed “RIGHT NOW.”

First Graders Aren’t Worried About College

First graders aren’t worried about the distant realities of college tuition, how they will pay for their residence hall when they are 18, or the advantage of “current plan pricing.”

First graders don’t know:

  • Individuals with bachelor’s degrees earn an average of $23,700 a year more than those without, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
  • A recent Georgetown University study estimates that a student with a bachelor’s degree can earn $1.6 million more in their lifetime than a student with only a high school diploma
  • It’s projected by a study from Georgetown University that by 2018, 59 percent of jobs in Florida will require post-secondary education
  • In 2013, the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders was 4 percent. For those with only a high school diploma, it was 7.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics

I don’t know Santa’s academic credentials, and good for him that he’s got his gig pretty locked down (and oh the cookie benefits!). But he’s certainly the exception to this general truth:

Graph

The Gift of a College Education

Purchasing a Florida Prepaid College Plan for your child now is a gift that will long outlast the stuff that kids beg to see from Santa. As I wrote in my last post about Florida Prepaid, my parents bought Florida Prepaid College Plans for my children with lump sum payments of around $7,000 when they were infants. That investment will result in approximately $32,000 worth of college education for each of them.

I know it’s a hectic time of year for all of us. I know that part of the fun of sharing the holidays with our children is indulging in some of their favorite “gotta have it now” treats. I’ll tell you what ….. there’s a way to secure your children’s educational future and free up some cash for a treat.

Enrollment Fee Waived!

Sign up for your Florida prepaid plan before December 31 and the $50 enrollment fee will be waived*. It’s almost like found money! (Your prepaid payments won’t begin until April 2015.)

For more information, visit the Florida Prepaid College Plan by clicking here. If you prefer to speak with someone by phone, please call 800-552-GRAD (4723).

education gift

*The Open Enrollment period closes on February 28, 2015, but the enrollment fee waiver ends December 31, 2014.

Alice Cooper and Bella, Our Family’s Cats

It is almost time to put up our Christmas tree (no, we aren’t one of those families whose home is transformed into a holiday wonderland before the Thanksgiving leftovers have been consumed).

You could say our tree-topper is very lifelike:

Bella-Tree

(To see our pre-Bella topper, click here.)

Our daughter Tenley rescued Bella two years ago. I don’t know the specifics of where she was found, but she had been abandoned by her mother and did not face much hope for survival.

It was a little risky to bring Bella into our home, since our other cat, Alice Cooper, had been put up for adoption because she couldn’t tolerate being part of a multi-cat home (her owner had a new significant other, and that arrangement brought new cats into their household).

Tenley and Wayne meet Alice Cooper, 2006.

Tenley and Wayne meet Alice Cooper, 2006.

I wouldn’t trade Alice or Bella for any traditionally acquired pet. Our family, having chosen to adopt, is in the minority, however. Of all the pets in American homes, only 29% were adopted from a shelter or rescue. On this 5th annual Celebrate Shelter Pets Day, I am hoping to see that number rise as rapidly as Bella can scale a Christmas tree (and trust me, that’s FAST!).

Seventeen million people per year acquire pets. Approximately 3-4 million of those pets are adopted, but 2.7 million still lose their lives each year for lack of a home. I don’t want a guy like Kuma to meet that fate:

For more information on rescuing a shelter pet, visit www.theshelterpetproject.org, where you can search for a pet from a local shelter or rescue group, read adoption success stories and learn valuable information about pet adoption.

Shelter Pet

I’m pleased to partner with Element Associates to bring you this information about Shelter Pets Day. In addition to Element Associates, Alice and Bella encourage you to “paw”se what you’re doing and consider a shelter pet!

Dramatically Doubling Dollars on #GivingTuesday

After Thanksgiving, Every Day Is “Special”

My daughter and I went shopping Friday morning (yes, on Black Friday.) We didn’t get up at a ridiculously early hour, but she was in town from college and we were both intrigued by the idea of a deal, so we set off to see what we could find.

Although we did find some bargains, the best takeaway of the day would not fit in a shopping bag. The best takeaway was time with my daughter, lunch at our favorite sushi restaurant, and catching up on each other’s lives.

Bonding Over Bento

Bonding Over Bento

With Black Friday and Small Business Saturday behind us, she returned to college, leaving me with a social media stream full of all the “deals” available on Cyber Monday.

It’s the activity in cyber space on #GivingTuesday, though, that comes closest to fulfilling the message of the upcoming holiday season.

Why Is #GivingTuesday Different?

December 2, 2014 is marked #GivingTuesday – a day of giving. This global day inspires personal philanthropy and encourages bigger, better and smarter charitable giving during the holiday season, showing that the world truly gives as good as it gets.

Many causes I love are having campaigns on #GivingTuesday, but I do want to take a moment to highlight Shot at Life, one of the Giving Tuesday 2014 causes nearest and dearest to my heart, and one which has the potential to have an enormous impact thanks to matching donors.

This Giving Tuesday, Shot at Life is focusing on pneumococcal disease, which kills an estimated 1.1 million children under the age of five annually.

The only cute pneumonia is a stuffed pneumonia.

The only cute pneumonia is a stuffed pneumonia.

This disease hits hardest in communities weakened by poverty. Malnutrition and undernourishment leave babies without the ability to fight infection. This video, originally created for World Pneumonia Day, really made me think: What if this were my child?

Five Dollars Will Become Ten …

$5 can immunize a child against pneumococcal disease. I am committing to either raise $5 from 5 friends or donate $25 myself because that $25 is going to magically become $50 (yes I wish it always worked that way but this is a very limited time offer for some extremely deserving children in our global family).

giving tuesday graphic

Bill and Melinda Gates believe that vaccines are one of the best investments you can make to improve global health. They are very supportive of Shot@Life advocating and fundraising for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. With replenishment coming in early 2015, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would like to support Shot@Life and Gavi by matching donations on #GivingTuesday (up to $200,000)!

In addition, this #GivingTuesday, MAM (@mambaby) – a global leader in pacifiers, baby bottles and infant oral development products – is supporting Shot@Life. Their generous donation of $25,000 will help provide thousands of pneumonia vaccines to children in need around the world. Donate to Shot@Life and help give children everywhere a shot at a healthy life and join the conversation on Twitter by following @ShotAtLife and #GivingTuesday.

Thank you, MAM, for making the first gift of $25,000 toward our $200,000 goal!

Makes my $5 seem pretty do-able, right? How about you? You can easily donate your $5 at this link.

five dollars

 

Turkey Trot Race Report 2014

I love the Tallahassee Turkey Trot. I mean, love, bolded, in RED, italicizedunderlined love the Turkey Trot. I love the Turkey Trot so much that when my husband suggested I go to New York for my 50th birthday (which fell the day after the Turkey Trot this year), I refused to even think about it (and trust me, me turning down any hint of going to New York is big!).

"Tuning Up" with the Cycling Turkey four days before the race!

“Tuning Up” with the Cycling Turkey four days before the race!

Before talking about Thursday’s 10K race, I have to add a caveat. I wrote this post about finding “ands” instead of “buts” in your running and am the most ardent of believers in the fact that every runner matters, and that the joy of running can be found at the front of the pack, the back of the back, and everywhere in between.

Post-Turkey Trot Questions

But Thursday was a day that shook me up a little bit, and it will most likely be a milestone in my running journey. Around the 5.5 mile mark, and right at the moment a runner came up to me and said, “your pace has been great; I have been trying to catch up to you to tell you that,” my pace immediately became a walk as this happened:

Turkey Trot HR Chart

“This” is my heart rate going a little bit wildly off the charts of what is normal for me. (My normal is 143-186 (with 143 being where I could converse with you while running and 186 being my “sprinting as if my life depended on it” pace). There’s a good basic explanation of heart rate training from Chris Russell of Run Run Live here.

I have been training by heart rate (under a coach’s supervision) since April 2012. As far back as February 2013, when I ran the Flash 12K race, I have had odd HR spikes. I remember the “angel” runner who ran through the finish line with me saying, “we’ll do this together.” The issue started cropping up again this summer, at the Pot Luck Bash and each of the summer trail series runs. I sort of chalked that up to the heat and race adrenaline. I had a racing HR issue during one training run this summer but again … Florida is hot in the summer (mild understatement).

I finally decided to discuss this (and a few other “small” issues) with my primary care physician. He did an in office EKG (fine) but decided to go ahead and refer me to our health plan’s staff cardiologist (props to the health plan for having a staff cardiologist). He had me do a stress test (thanks for the mile, doc!) (fine) and went ahead and had me to a cardiac echocardiogram (fine).

Feeling relieved, I thought “I can put all of this cardiac worry behind me since I checked out okay.”

When My Gut Said “WALK”

I arrived at the Boston Mini Marathon on October 25, my second half-marathon, feeling great. Although it was cold outside, the weather was perfect for running. I felt so good about my weight loss, my improved nutrition, and the cause I was running for (Miles 2 End Prostate Cancer). I felt confident that I would shatter my previous half marathon time and at least finish in less than three hours. I was well on target to do that until around mile 5 when my heart rate started going a little nuts. I kept running, thinking I could run through it. When it refused to settle down, I started walking. I kept moving forward, and turned around at the half way point of the out and back race. I decided to try running again, remembering the cardiologist asking me “does it just feel like your heart is racing or do you feel loss of power, like you’re going to pass out, etc.?” Since it had “just” felt like my heart was racing, I decided to run again. That’s when it felt “not right” (I know, not a medical term but ….). I spent the last six miles of the race run-walking. The good news about the run/walk approach is that my HR stayed down. The bad news it took longer to finish the Boston Mini-Marathon than it had taken to finish the Boston 13.1 in September 2012, when I was definitely in relatively inferior shape.

Between the Boston Mini Marathon and Thursday’s Turkey Trot, my training runs have been solid (no HR issues) and I had one of my best 5K times ever (sub 34:00) at the Vet Fest on November 11.

The Turkey Trot day dawned perfect from a weather perspective. I felt great (again). Well trained, nutrition dialed in, happy to be running the last race of my 40s with 6000+ of my favorite people.

When my HR spiked at around that 5.5 mile mark, I didn’t bargain with myself as long as I had at the Boston Mini. I stopped to walk (very disappointed but knowing intuitively that it was the best decision). Again, this was more than “feeling a racing sensation.” It wasn’t right.

When I saw my friend Gabrielle close to the finish line, she was so encouraging. I don’t know why I felt compelled to explain (except that I am me, and that is what I do), so I told her I was having HR issues. I did run through over the actual finish mat, and since my friend Adrea was finishing the 15K at the same time, had a chance to hug a friend and celebrate a bit.

THEN I texted my coach, and eventually I just called her because I couldn’t drive home to all the people dying to move on to Thanksgiving dinner and explain my complex feelings via text.

It was during that talk that I first floated the “maybe I need to move to a run-walk for the longer distances idea.”

The important point here is that although I have zero, none, nada issues with run walking, I have always said “it is not for me” (which is why my friends who saw me walking at Boston knew there was an issue). I love the feeling of continuous motion; I love the feeling of speed (even though I know I am a slow runner). Once I move to run/walk there’s one more piece of technology getting between me and my mental bliss.

(I am also hesitant to limit myself to running only when I can find others with whom to run. I love running with others but also love running alone; it’s the most peaceful part of my day.)

The morning I ran the Run for Andy Nichols 5K in Blountstown, October 11, I went into my DailyMile and revised my goal of running a sub 30 5K to something less specific:

dailymile

I know the likelihood of meeting the sub 30 goal is unlikely at this point. I also want to preserve my ability to run longer distances. Since these HR issues don’t seem to occur (yet) at the 5K distance, perhaps there is a middle ground for me in racing 5Ks and participating in 10s and halfs by run walking.

I have chidlren to raise and a second half century of life that just started; I don’t want to jeopardize it all just by being stubborn.

The Medical Part

It bears mentioning that I have done this drill before (in 2005). I was not actively running at the time, and after several EKGs and a nuclear stress test, I was told to drink less caffeine and given a clean bill of health. This time, the cardiologist has given me the same mini-cardiac lecture both times I visited him. He describes the heart’s anatomy and the little electrical bundle that coordinates the entire process. Ultimately, after three EKGs and an echocardiogram all were normal, he said I could wear a holter monitor for 24 hours but it’s really hard to wear a holter monitor and run (because the leads would get sweaty and fail to adhere). The other option is implanting a device that can track HR, and that invasiveness seems illogical in my situation. To his credit, he did refrain from suggesting I stop running until the very end of each conversation, and the gist of that part was, “if it only happens when you are running, you need to consider modifying your activity choices.”

I have asked myself if I am fretting for all the wrong reasons. With a congenital heart arrhythmia on Wayne’s side of the family that has led to the death of one member and life-changing modifications for many members, there’s been more than the usual chit chat about heart issues over the years and I always had the “luxury” of worrying about my kids but not myself (since they shared genetics with the affected person and I didn’t). My friend Lisa, one of the best athletes I know, had a massive heart attack while on a run and was saved because an RN was there. Another friend of a friend collapsed and died in the middle of a day on a regular training run.

I don’t know what the outcome of all this will be. I am going to focus on these four things and pray I’ve chosen the right four:

1) Continuing to work with Coach Kristie of KR Endurance to be the best (and healthiest) runner I can be

2) Knowing that each race is “mine” and no one else’s; I have only myself with whom to compete

3) Supporting causes I love through my activity, especially Charity Miles

4) Being grateful for all that running (and, ahem/sigh/okay I will say it) and run-walking has brought to my life and will continue to bring to my life.

Those four things deserve a big thumbs-up, in my opinion!

Photo Credit: Fred Deckert

Photo Credit: Fred Deckert