Alex’s Lemonade Days: Thirsty for a Cure

Can you remember the last time you made lemonade? I can’t (unless you count the powdered lemonade mix I used for this Hippie Juice a few years ago, and I don’t think you can!).

The time has come to make lemonade, because Alex’s Lemonade Days are coming up (June 12-14) and this lemonade will do more than quench thirst: it will help raise funds for research to cure childhood cancer.

Alex's Lemonade Days: Thirsty for a Cure

Lemonade Days is held each year during the second weekend of June – the time of year when Alexandra “Alex” Scott always held her lemonade stand – to honor Alex and all childhood cancer heroes.

Alex's Lemonade Days: Thirsty for a Cure

Alexandra “Alex” Scott, Founder
Photo Credit: Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation

Since Alex’s first front yard lemonade stand, there have been more than 20,000 Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) lemonade stands held across the country and world. Alex’s Lemonade Stands make a meaningful difference at any time of the year, however Lemonade Days is a time when supporters join forces and hold stands simultaneously to be a part of ALSF’s largest annual fundraiser. In the spirit of Alex’s ambitious goal to raise $1 million, which she reached before she passed away in 2004, Lemonade Days weekend consistently raises $1 million annually.

Want to Host Your Own Stand?

If you are interested in hosting a lemonade stand for ALSF, click here by June 5 for a special edition Lemonade Days fundraising kit. The fundraising kit includes materials such as posters, banners, thank you notes, fundraising tips, ALSF merchandise and more. (Note: If you are here in Tallahassee, I’ll be glad to help you with your stand!).

Want to Tweet Instead (or Also)?

Please join @AlexsLemonade on May 28th from 1-2pm ET using #LemonadeDays to learn how you can fight childhood cancer and to chat with some “hero families”.

What I Am Doing

  • I am going to dedicate my first race of the Gulf Winds Track Club Summer Trail Race series (May 30, 2015) to Alex’s Lemonade Stand. I will wear my Idiots Running Club bright yellow (or an ALSF shirt if it arrives), and hydrate with lemonade afterwards. I am dreading this race a bit because, although I am adequately trained for it, there is every likelihood I will finish utterly last (the medication I am taking does not exactly speed me up). But this cause will help me keep my perspective. I will remember my young friends like Lauren and Grayson who have had to deal with a lot more than a last place race finish as they have dealt with childhood cancers. My goal is $50, which would pay for an hour of cancer research. If you would like to donate as part of this race dedication, here’s the link.
  • Alex's Lemonade Days: Thirsty for a CureI made a donation to Florida’s “Hero” Family, the Hendrix Family, whose daughter Carolyn had Ewing’s Sarcoma (she is currently “NED” (No Evidence of Disease)). If you are in Pensacola, visit their Lemonade Days event on June 14 from 1 pm to 6 pm CST at Trinity Presbyterian Church! If you can’t attend but would like to donate, there’s a link hereAlex's Lemonade Days: Thirsty for a Cure
  • I am hoping to visit one of the Lemonade Days events hosted by Georgia’s “Hero” Family, the Johnson Family, whose daughter Julia was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2009. The Georgia Family lives much closer to me than the Florida Family, so I hope to make it to one of their stands!Alex's Lemonade Days: Thirsty for a Cure

Down here in Florida, summer is heating up. For families dealing with childhood cancers, the heat is always on to find a cure.

Some people associate yellow with cowardice. In this case, yellow represents the opposite, bravery. Let’s rally around these families and “lemonade up” for a great cause!

Alex's Lemonade Days: Thirsty for a Cure

Gold Macbook Giveaway

Macbook Giveaway

As much as I love writing with a “Big Green Pen,” there are times when I need something a bit more high-tech, powerful, and COOL to get my point across. I think a Gold Macbook would do nicely, don’t you?

I am joining other fabulous bloggers in a Gold Macbook giveaway. Check out these other great bloggers below then scurry on down to the Rafflecopter to enter for your chance to win the Gold Macbook!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize: Gold Macbook ($1299 value)

Co-hosts: Film+Fashion+Fun True Story Book Blog Life’s Cheap Thrills The World Is My Jester Krystal’s Kitsch Stripes ‘n’ Vibes NYC Recessionista  EncinoMom California Lifestyle Jenn’s Blah Blah Blog Libby’s Library Style Tab  Bay Area Mommy Lauryncakes Behind Blue Eyes A Labour of Life Laurita Always Womanly Woman Finger Click Saver Nicole to the Nines [oomph.]  Robinson Style

Giveaway organized by: Oh My Gosh Beck! (Please email becky@ohmygoshbeck.com with any questions.)

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Giveaway ends 6/15 and is open worldwide. Winner will be notified via email.

Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog? Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

green pen

Run With Your Friends

Over the past three years, I have become more and more distanced from my local running friendships, and a couple of Facebook conversations this week prompted me to share my conclusion that in-person running friendships are not something to take for granted, that despite your specific training plans which may make it hard to “lace up and go” together, it’s worth figuring out how to make it work.

RUN WITH YOUR FRIENDS

When I first started being coached, I began heart rate based training. The result was that my workouts were structured around lengths of time at specific zones. For example, as opposed to “run three miles,”  a typical workout may be “warm up ten minutes at Zone 1, run 20 minutes at Zone 2, 10 minutes at Zone 3, cool down 10 minutes at Zone 1″ or “here’s a workout on iTunes — put it in your ears and do what it says” (not an instruction from my current coach) or “every 20 minutes, run at a higher heart rate zone for 3 minutes and then slow back down”). It was a little complicated to get my head around and I felt awkward telling people “even though I can run faster, I have to watch my heart rate monitor and stay within a zone so don’t pay attention to me.”

Run With Your Friends

A typical “with surges” workout in Training Peaks.

Related to this change, I began isolating myself from group runs I previously had participated in. In addition to the specificity of the workouts, my first coach did not want me racing as much as I had been (translation: almost every Saturday). The withdrawal from frequent racing made sense from a training standpoint but took me further away from the Saturday morning visit/run/sweat/eat routine.

My initial goal of being coached was to prepare for my first half marathon (September 2012) but after that I was single-focused on my goal of the sub-30 5K. That’s why I stuck so religiously to the “less racing” and “more following coach’s instructions to the letter” plan even though it meant being separated from my running peeps.

I vividly remember one friend saying of the Saturday morning group runs, “We’d invite you but we know you do your own thing.”

To be fair, a certain amount of my running has always been solitary. Early morning runs before work are sometimes more easily accomplished by just knocking them out in the neighborhood. I’m not always able or willing to meet a group at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. I love running alone but I also love the people in my running community. The farther I got into my little training world, the more distance grew between my local running friends and me.

I can’t say exactly when I began refusing to accept the impact my coaching plan had on my local running friendships, but I saw a subtle shift about a year and a half ago, when I started meeting a group of Moms Run This Town (MRTT) runners on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 5:30 a.m. for their runs. I was always the “caboose” and still running alone but it made a difference to start out with a group, to say hello to friends, and for someone to know I was out there (and to have a change of scenery from my neighborhood loop). It was a little silly to drive 20 minutes there and 20 minutes back, sometimes for a 40 minute run, but some actions that add quality to our running lives are not measured solely in minutes spent.

Run With Your Friends

The term “local running friends” should be broadly interpreted to include Miniature Pinschers, of course.

The more obvious shift came when I began experiencing challenges with my heart rate, leading to my April 2015 EP study and diagnosis of multifocal atrial tachycardia (MAT). Because an ablation was contraindicated (for now), I am currently taking a beta blocker half an hour before I run and, although I am sure there are plenty of runners out there accomplishing a sub 30 5K on beta blockers, I am dubious that is in the cards for me, so I am re-assessing my goal.

And it bothers me that before I got to the point of reassessing that goal, my path took me farther and farther from my local running friends, leaving me with a goal unaccomplished (I hate that!) and social bridges whose support pilings were on the verge of being washed out due to neglect.

That is why, when I got into those two Facebook conversations last week, I sent back responses that were hopefully articulately, sensitively, and diplomatically worded but were intended to say:

RUN WITH YOUR FRIENDS!

IT IS MORE COMPLICATED AND YOU’LL HAVE TO BE CREATIVE BUT …

RUN WITH YOUR FRIENDS!

I am not saying that coaching is a bad idea AT ALL (I LOVE my coach and my team at KR Endurance) and I believe in the effectiveness of heart-rate based training. BUT don’t abandon your local running friends.Whatever happens with your coaching journey and however many workouts you check off as complete in an online training system, none of that can replace:

  • Scrambling to make it to pre-race photos
  • Shared Finish Lines
  • Conversations over breakfast/coffee/beer/pizza (and Tuesday Post-Track Tacos of course)
  • Sacrificing your time goal on race day to help a friend who is struggling or has injured themselves
  • Sweaty hugs
  • The growth of trust and history with fellow runners that only accretes through being together regularly

Run With Your Friends

Notes from Sub-Waiting

Judging by the SIX emojis I used when I checked in to the TMH Cancer Center (I am calling it “The Cancer Center” in this blog) yesterday, I was happy that it would be our last day there. My father-in-law was completing his 35-treatment regimen of radiation therapy for neck cancer. That’s 35 days almost in a row, excluding weekends and the two-day “break” Dr. Sharp gave him before he began the last week.

Notes from Sub-Waiting

I had been in a radiation waiting room before, when I was one of the people asked by my friend and former boss to accompany her when she was having radiation treatments for a soft tissue cancer ten years ago. At the time, I recall the professional yet somewhat crowded setting on the first floor of TMH, the limited parking, how kind the staff members were, how kind the patients were to each other, and most predominantly, the visual I would never be able to shake of the permanent tattoo on her skin where the radiation would be aimed, and how for those moments of making sure the treatment was administered accurately, her body was a mass of skin, tissue, and bone to be “done something to” — everything else about her life: her accomplishments, her failures, the people and things she loved and hated, her hopes — were of no importance.

When Dad was diagnosed with neck cancer and we were referred to The Cancer Center, the process began with an intake session, paperwork (of course!), and an orientation to what lay ahead.

Immediately upon walking in to The Cancer Center, it was clear that a lot had changed in ten years. The center, located at 1775 Healing Place, is a standalone building, with plentiful parking (yay!) and a lovely healing garden (I never had a chance to spend time there, but each day’s quick peek as I entered the building gave me a little glimpse of beauty.) There were always plentiful wheelchairs (and we all know how I feel about a scarcity of wheelchairs!). The receptionist always greeted patients by name. En route to the radiation area, a caretaker passes two full candy dishes as well as smiling volunteers and staff.

Although there are kind medical professionals other places, I am positive the cream of the crop works here. 

There is a dressing area where the patient can go to change into a gown before heading in to “sub-waiting,” where they wait for their turn to be treated. (Because of the location of his tumor, Dad was excused from the gown-changing routine early on. No complaints from me about that!)

The actual process of receiving the radiation treatment is quite speedy. Still, 35 days of sitting in the same room with other people who are in the middle of being treated for cancer is not like 35 days of sitting in a car service waiting room or even in a general doctor’s waiting room until being called for a check-up. It’s the kind of 35 days that makes a person take notes …

Notes from Sub-Waiting

Connections Matter

I missed Day 1 of radiation treatment because I was on my way back from my trip to New York, but on my Day 1, I nodded politely to the fellow patients/family members, but did not chat much. It was all new to me. By Day 35, I looked forward to seeing people I had come to know by name and was sad when our schedules resulted in missing each other. As “veterans,” we welcomed the people just starting their treatment plans and helped them feel comfortable.

Connections were established, and these people came to matter to me (and us to them).

Hospital Gowns Equalize

People who would dress completely different from each other outside of the cancer center all clothed themselves in the required hospital gown … and socks. Although Dad didn’t have to change, he did have to take off his outer shirt and sit there in a t-shirt. I wonder if I would have made different assumptions about these people if I had seen them in their street clothes. I hope not, but these patients rocked those gowns more confidently than Rihanna at the Met Gala. And socks-as-footwear has to be more comfortable (and affordable) than Manolo Blahniks, right?

Will the puzzle get done?

For most of the 35 days, there was a puzzle in sub-waiting for people to work on while they sub-waited. It was an autumnal foliage/church scene with an infinite number of shades of burgundy, gold, and rust. I never saw anyone working on it (my husband said he did (??)). I sort of messed with it one day but got distracted by the TV and my desire to finish reading Through Rose Colored Glasses: A Marathon from Fear to Love by Donna Deegan (which seemed an appropriate choice of reading considering the environment!).

Notes from Sub-Waiting

The day I walked in and the puzzle was gone, however, I was sad! Did it get finished? Did someone just get annoyed with the snail’s pace at which it was getting completed? What happened to the puzzle?!

Notes from Sub-Waiting

We Had Our Laughs

The fact that these people are dealing with cancer doesn’t mean it’s all anxiety and resigned faces in sub-waiting. As we got to know each other, we had our share of laughs. From the caretaker who said she used to be a stand-up comedian, with her “Help I’m standing and I can’t sit down” joke, to the array of unusual things you see on daytime TV, to Dad saying, “Booze? Yeah I like that” when the dietitian asked if he liked Boost.

We may not have chosen to be in sub-waiting but we chose to find reasons to smile.

What Will Happen?

Despite making connections and finding humor in our situations, you still don’t know why anyone is there specifically, nor is it appropriate to talk about it. While none of us needed to know the reasons the others were there, curiosity is human nature. Besides the curiosity about the reasons people were there, I want (futilely, I know) to know how their next chapters go. Will their time in sub-waiting end up being a footnote in their life story or is it a stop on the way to more treatments, more challenging health issues, less years in their lives?

Certificate

Did you know you get a certificate when you complete your radiation treatment plan? AND as a bonus, your radiation mask. (Side note: check out this art made from discarded radiation masks.)

With the exception of a follow-up visit in three months, we are done. Some other patient will enter The Cancer Center Monday for the start of their treatment plan. Their caretaker will probably be as clueless as I was, having to ask where the dressing room is, how to get back out to the parking lot, what the phone number is for the treatment room.

Of course I am happy to be through with the daily trips that exhausted Dad and gobbled up time. But I am unhappy to leave behind so many lovely fellow patients, supportive physicians and staff, and unfinished stories.

Admittedly, I found this image on the internet and never saw this wording as I was leaving the building, but it is my wish for all of the fellow sub-waiting patients that they, too, “go in peace.”

Notes from Sub-Waiting

Multiple Myeloma: Saying Thanks and Hanging On

March 15, 2015, was a chilly day to walk 13.1 miles as part of the United Airlines NYC Half. At about 12.5 miles, Mary Jane managed to convince me to take off my red sweatshirt so my purple Team in Training singlet (and race number) would show in the finish line pictures. I had been trying for about a mile to reposition my number from the sweatshirt to my singlet in order to make the change, but my fingers were frozen and uncooperative.

She took things under control and did the pinning duties for me (being at a different angle seemed to be part of the equation of solving this conundrum) and we were able to cross in a unified line of purple!

Half Marathon Thank You

Team SOAR at the finish.

The road to this finish line began in November 2014, when I decided that what I wanted for my 50th birthday was for my family to send me to New York City in March 2015 to be part of Team SOAR. This would mean raising $2,500 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). (For more on how, where, and why, click here, here, here, and here.)

The road to March 15 was paved with efforts on several fronts:

Training

A March 15 half-marathon, which I knew I would be walking or doing at a very manageable pace, fit in very well with my training plan. I kept up my training via my team, KR Endurance, which essentially boiled down to two weekday runs per week as planned out in a build/recovery model by my coach Kristie Cranford, a longer run on weekends, cross-training and/or yoga the other three days, and a rest day. (The only bump in the road was the cardiac oddness that happened throughout but I persevered!) I enjoyed representing Team in Training in several races as I prepared, including the Swamp Forest Trail Race in January and the Run for the Cookies in February with my awesome friends Suzanne and Laura.

Half Marathon Thank You

Fundraising

There are so many causes out there deserving of our time, money, and support. I wish I could give to them all. In choosing to fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I chose a cause that is personal to  me, because it affects a close friend, as well as acquaintances and people I will never know. Refusing to choose because there are too many options is a not a choice that sits well with me. Therefore, I will pray every deserving cause receives adequate support and I will give every ounce of time, money, and support I can to this one.

I do not find it easy to fundraise. I don’t like being told “no.” Fundraising is not something I consider my strength. However, I do admit to liking the challenge and this is one of those areas in life where I will become a better, stronger person for having ventured outside of my comfort zone. Here is how my fundraising for this event came together:

The Tequila Social

On Saturday, February 7, 2015, Madison Social hosted a Tequila Social for the cause. It was such a fun time and they paid such close attention to small details that enabled every attendee to have a good time. Madison Social donated a generous portion of each ticket sold to LLS, as well as an additional donation.  I am so thankful to this local business with a big heart for its community. They deserve your patronage and enthusiasm. Thank you, Madison Social.

(I also want to thank the Tally Connection for hosting a giveaway of two tickets to The Tequila Social, and for making a donation for every comment that was made on their giveaway post.)

Half Marathon Thank You

The placemats explaining the three tequilas.

Benefit Workout at Badass Fitness

Shannon Colavecchio, owner of Badass Fitness, hosted a “couples workout” and donated the proceeds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. A fun time was had by all (not that we necessarily would have said that mid-shockwave)!

Half Marathon Thank You

Superbowl Squares

I did a Superbowl Squares event which culminated (of course!) on Superbowl Sunday. A couple of the winners donated at least a portion of their proceeds back to me! How nice was that?

Frequent Asking

I did a lot of asking/reminding/pleading via my blog and my other social media outlets. Thank you to those of you who stuck with this “One Note Paula” throughout that time.

When I was talking with Mary Jane on the way to Central Park for the start of the half marathon the morning of March 15, we were discussing our team goal of $100,000, and the fundraising process, especially how to approach corporate donors. Since her diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma a few years ago, and her subsequent choice to be involved in Team in Training (and her rapid ascendancy to mentor/superstar which surprises no one), she has, she said, learned the following:

“I ask everyone.”

Pretty good advice, I’d say.

Charity Miles

I was already a Charity Miles user prior to committing to this event, but between my November decision to do the United Airlines NYC Half and the event itself, I did almost all of my miles for LLS. Twenty-five cents from every walked/run mile went to LLS. It didn’t go to my Team SOAR fund specifically, but it went to the greater goal of research, support, and advocacy. I also hope it raised awareness every time I posted my Charity Miles for LLS to social media.

Half Marathon Thank You

Special Thank-Yous

An analysis of the donations made to LLS as part of my fundraising lists 54 entries. Fifty-four individuals/businesses who gave in order to help me achieve my goal. I appreciate Kellie, my first donor, whose sister had been diagnosed with lymphoma. I thank Jon, whose donation came in while I was out on a training run, after which I came home to an email informing me I had reached my goal. And I thank EVERYONE IN BETWEEN! All of you have a special place in my heart!

Half Marathon Thank You

My fellow Idiots Running Club (IRC) members deserve a shout-out. The number of “Idiots” among the 54 donors is disproportionately high and that’s fine with me!

Speaking of Idiots (as in IRC), Amie of JunieBalloonie went to great lengths to make my effort bloom! Her custom-designed flowers are beautiful, and her creations for Team SOAR, LLS, and Team in Training, from which a portion of proceeds goes back to the cause, were no exception! (To inquire about purchasing a TNT or LLS flower, click here.)

Half Marathon Thank You

I also appreciate Greg Angel and Shannon Colavecchio, who gave me some excellent late-in-the game PR advice when I was making a final push to get the word out about The Tequila Social.

WTXL also helped out tremendously by having me on their noon show the day before The Tequila Social!

Half Marathon Thank You

Max Tsaparis, Me, Kellie Bartoli

Being a Florida-based runner on a Long Island-based team, I had the opportunity to work with two chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Thank you to the Long Island Chapter and the Northern and Central Florida Chapter for your help!

I have been impressed all along with the coaching and mentoring received from Team in Training. In addition to the pre-race communication (emails and encouragement), numerous coaches checked in with Mary Jane and me throughout the race. They gave specific advice about technique, helped us find the best restroom (yay!), and kept us talking as the miles clicked by.

My family also deserves a “thank you.” Each of them sacrificed in different ways, including my husband and son who did the duties of eldercare for my father-in-law with one-third of the team missing, and my daughter who loves going to New York with me but couldn’t make this trip.

Remembering The Reason Why

In the midst of all the running, walking, fundraising, Facebooking, Tweeting, Google+ing, Instagramming, and blogging, I never want to lose sight of the actual individuals behind the efforts. So many people told me their personal stories over the course of this few months. I thank you all for informing me and helping me understand the impact of blood cancers on your lives.

Half Marathon Thank You

Lynne is a survivor who came to The Tequila Social and quickly became a friend.

And of course Mary Jane, who was one of the first people to befriend me when I started working at Fordham University in 1989 and has remained such a treasured friend.

Half Marathon Thank You

What is Next?

When I started this process, I viewed it as a “one and done.” I saw it as an endeavor that would allow me to support Mary Jane, combine an athletic cause with an altruistic one (as I love to do), and go to New York City (which I really, really, REALLY love to do!).

I have come to internalize in a way I did not prior to this event, though, that blood cancers are not a “one and done” for the people living with them, or for their families and  friends.There are people out there “hanging on for a cure,” like Mary Jane…

Half Marathon Thank You

….and I intend to “hang on” with them.

What This Means Exactly

While I have not decided exactly what this means, I know:

1) Team SOAR set a goal for itself of raising $100,000. We accomplished an awesome $64,643.03 and were the second-place fundraisers of the NYC Half Marathon LLS Teams. The team fundraising page will be open for a few more weeks. Feel free to get us closer to $100K!

2) I will be doing the Light the Night Walk here in Tallahassee on November 12, 2015. In the interest of not diluting Team SOAR’s work, I will hold off on posting my fundraising link (but never fear — it will come!!!).

3) I will target a “big” event in 2016 for Team in Training/LLS. I don’t know if I will be fortunate enough to go to New York again, but I will find a way to “hang on” along with Mary Jane and others.

The intent of all these words is to say, in as sincere and heart-felt a way as possible:

THANK YOU

Half Marathon Thank You

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

HOW SOON IS NOW?

When I was running recently, the lyrics to one of the songs on my Playlist were “How Soon is Now?”

Since I became a Shot at Life Champion in 2013, and a Champion Leader in late 2014, I have learned a lot about vaccine-preventable diseases and the potentially fatal barriers children face in many countries. I have met incredible people, and seen I have seen government “at work.”

If it were up to me, I would take a plane across the world and personally administer a child in Nigeria, Afghanistan, or Pakistan, the three countries where polio still exists, a life-saving vaccine. I would put together the $20 worth of vaccines that will give lifetime immunity from measles, polio, pneumonia, and diarrhea to the children who are currently dying every 20 seconds from those diseases and just do it.

The problem: simply vaccinating children is not simple.

Simply vaccinating children takes the intricately coordinated efforts of people in the affected countries, manufacturers who make the vaccines, vehicles who transport the vaccines, copious amounts of funding, and an alphabet soup of accounts and programs including UNICEF, GAVI, CDC, and USAID. “Simply” vaccinating children a world away takes the involvement of us here in the United States. Although there are many reasons, three of the main ones are:

  • the existence of these diseases anywhere is a threat to children everywhere (as we have seen with recent US-based measles outbreaks)
  • prevention is infinitely more cost effective than treatment
  • it is the right thing to do.

As a Champion and Champion Leader, I have had many great experiences in two short years:

Two Shot at Life Summits in Washington DC

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

With fellow champions Nicolette Springer and Sili Recio in March 2014

Meetings in the Washington, DC, offices of my Senators and Representatives

Meetings in the Tallahasssee, FL offices of my Senators and Representatives

In-Depth training on vaccine-preventable diseases, advocacy methods, and communication strategy

Meeting Jo Frost of Supernanny fame

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

Meeting other Shot at Life Champions who are hands down among the most committed, intelligent, creative, funny people on the planet

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

Publication of two Op-Eds, including this one, and a Letter to the Editor in the Tallahassee Democrat

An appearance on WTXL to discuss World Immunization Week 2014 (tune in again on Monday, April 27, between 6 am and 7 am for this year’s appearance!)

In the midst of all these opportunities, I can grow frustrated though. It is easy for doubt to seep in:

  • How will this lovely hotel luncheon/fancy hors d’ouerves event/[insert very first-world goodie or experience here] make a difference?
  • How will that e-mail, letter, phone call, or tweet I sent to my legislator matter?
  • How can I, “just a mom,” do anything for that child in Pakistan?

I recently read A Simple Idea With Huge Potential by Mark Miller, and his post helped me channel those worries in a different, more productive way. Mark described a plan to accelerate his team’s performance by “assigning a champion to each large body of work.” Among the attributes expected of his “champions” was this:

Ensure the work gets done. 

I may not be able to travel to Pakistan to vaccinate a child personally, but I can develop the expertise to make sure our government supports the President’s budget fully so that funding and support for critical global health and global vaccine programs is sustained.

I can inform, advocate, and fundraise for the cause of global vaccination.

I can recruit fellow committed, intelligent, creative, funny people to join me. Heck, you don’t even have to be funny!

We are holding a Champion Training this Wednesday night, April 29, from 8-9:30 p.m.. Please join us, even if you aren’t sure you want to commit to being a champion. It will be a fantastic opportunity to learn more! Click this link to sign up and get on the distribution list for the April 29 call.

I may not be able to completely fix the problem now, but I can commit to being a champion for ensuring the work gets done.

WHO WANTS TO JOIN ME?

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

Shot@Life–UN Foundation, Mozambique, Wednesday, June 1, 2011 (Photo/Stuart Ramson)

I am joining my fellow Shot at Life Champions in Advocate 2 Vaccinate, a coast-to-coast challenge for global vaccination that coincides with World Immunization Week (April 24-30). I am pleased to be joining several of them in a blog relay. Here’s the lineup:

Friday, April 24: Jennifer DeFranco with Let the Relay Begin…S@L, A2V, and Me! 

Friday, April 24: Nicole Morgan with Want to be a Super Hero?

Saturday, April 25: Nicolette Springer with Advocate to Vaccinate: You Can Be a Champion! 

April 26 – Pam Brown Margolis with It’s World Immunization Week! Let’s Keep My Little Readers Healthy #vaccineswork #WIW15 and ME!

April 27 – Cindy Levin with Many Actions Save Many Lives

April 29 – Ilina Ewen with Advocate2Vaccinate During World Immunization Week

April 30 – Andrea Bates with Advocate2Vaccinate: World Immunization Week

Felisa Hilbert also wrote about her champion experience in The Power of One.

Making a Difference: How Soon is Now?

Is Your Mind “in the Boat”?

Is Your Mind "in the Boat"?I just finished reading a thoroughly enjoyable book: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I didn’t love it quite as much as I loved The Perfect Mile, but that may have to do with the fact that I am a runner, not a rower. I first listened to this book on audio but then picked up a paperback version. I am really glad I did, because the paperback had pictures that really helped me understand the scale of the details discussed in the book: the size of the shells, the size of the rowers, the vibe of the times in which they lived.

Mind in Boat

What I really, really loved, from this book was the passage about the team’s mantra that got them through challenging times and, ultimately, to the outcome of their race for an Olympic medal in 1936. This mantra was “mind in boat.” The University of Washington team began using it in 1934 when the inability of individual team members to focus threatened to throw off the unity (and therefore productivity) of the entire team. The coxswain, George Morry, would, according to author Daniel James Brown, shout, “‘M-I-B, M-I-B, M-I-B’ over and over to the rhythm of their stroke. The initialism stood for ‘mind in boat.’ It was meant as a reminder that from the time an oarsman steps into a racing shell until the moment that the boat crosses the finish line, he  must keep his mind focused on what is happening inside the boat. His whole world must shrink down to the small space within the gunwales. He must maintain a singular focus on the rower just ahead of him and the voice of the coxswain calling out commands. Nothing outside the boat — not that boat in the next lane over, not the cheering of a crowd of spectators, not last night’s date — can enter the successful oarsman’s mind.”

Why Trusting Your Team Matters

There is a passage in the book when George Yeoman Pocock, who built the shells used by the University of Washington (and a significant number of championship teams) from 1913 until the early 1960s, is speaking with Joe Rantz, one of the team members who has been struggling. Pocock is so much more than a builder of shells; he loves the sport and understands it (and its competitors) intimately. After discussing a few pieces of technical feedback about the way Joe could improve his mechanics, he got to the heart of the matter: he had observed in Joe a tendency to act like he was the only oarsman in the boat. While explaining why this approach was detrimental, as Brown writes, Pocock said: “When a man rowed like that, he was bound to attack the water rather than to work with it, and worse, he was bound not to let his crew help him row.”

[Note: if you obtain the book, this passage is on pages 234-235. It’s too long to quote in its entirety here, but it’s profound.]

Pocock went on to explain the concept that rowing is like a symphony, with every player having a role. If one player’s volume or tempo is out of sync with the others, even if it would be lovely as a standalone piece, it destroys the beauty of the piece as a whole. He ends the talk with these two gems:

If you don’t like some fellow in the boat, Joe, you have to learn to like him. It has to matter to you whether he wins the race, not just whether you do.

AND

Joe, when you really start trusting those other boys, you will feel a power at work within you that is far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. Sometimes, you will feel as if you have rowed right off the planet and are rowing among the stars.

LGB

One point at which the team’s progress threatened to unravel was when they lost sight of their “MIB” approach. One particular group of rowers, when vying to be the team selected to compete for the national championship (and the eventual opportunity to compete in the Olympics), changed their mantra to “LGB.” When asked, they told people it meant “Let’s Get Better” but in actuality it meant “Let’s go to Berlin.” The problem with that choice is that it took their minds exactly OUT of where they needed to be: in the boat.

Is Your Mind "in the Boat"?

Photo Credit: ClipArt Panda

Why This Resonated With Me

I have always been a little bit sentimental about boats and nautical themes. Maybe it comes from growing up as a Navy kid. I incorporated a “ship’s wheel” into Wayne Kevin’s baptism banner:

Is Your Mind "in the Boat"?The one post I have written in the almost-year since I left my job had a “boat” theme.

This “boat book” carried messages for me, including the beauty of teamwork and the importance of not relying only on your own talents and strengths to make a project successful, but learning to be in sync with others.

Most of all: the “MIB” image spoke to me. As much as I tried to find my focus in the last few years at Healthy Kids, it eluded me. Although I think everything happens for a reason, I can’t escape the idea that it is possible to find yourself in the totally wrong boat. My body was in one but my head and heart were either back on the dock or in a different boat entirely.

This book is not a suspense novel. The full title basically gives away the ending (from the standpoint of the Olympic outcome). The Perfect Mile, that other book I loved so much, wasn’t a suspense novel either. Who knew hours upon hours of audiobook about men going 4 times around a quarter-mile track could carry so many non-running messages?

For me personally, suspense infiltrates my journey to find a boat my mind and heart can occupy simultaneously, fueled by the gift of a team I can trust while I row toward a power beyond me.

Have you ever experienced a life voyage with “MIB” moments? Tell me about it!

Target Giveaway!

Target

My most recent post was a little on the “heavy” side what with all my medical drama and whining about not being able to run, so let’s change things up with a good old-fashioned giveaway!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Prize: $300 Target Gift Card

Giveaway organized by: Oh My Gosh Beck!

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter daily. Check the Rafflecopter for the link to our other Target gift card to double your chances of winning! Giveaway ends 5/12/15 and is open worldwide. Winner will be notified via email.

Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog? Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

green pen two cropped

From Human Microchip to EP Study and Beyond

In the 24 hours leading up to my EP Study on Monday, I asked myself quite a few times if it made sense to go through with the procedure, especially since my high heart rate episodes only occurred when I was running. In other words, even though the risks are minimal, is it worth having a doctor thread a catheter up through my groin into my heart in order to figure out what was going on in there and to possibly “ablate” any problem areas?

For a recap of the history leading up to Monday, click here.

EP Studies

Now let’s talk about EP Studies.

To get to the point of today’s blog, we will fast forward past the referral process to get to the electrophysiologist, the initial appointment with the electrophysiologist, the implantation of my loop recorder, appointment number one with the electrophysiologist’s nurse, a between-appointments phone call with the nurse where I was instructed to begin taking two baby aspirin every night (I was already taking one) and appointment number two with the electrophysiologist’s Physician Assistant (PA), where I was given the choice of medication or an EP Study with Ablation. Because I was hesitant to settle for a medication-only option (I was concerned medication would make me more tired than I already am all the time and would not yield any answers), I agreed to proceed with the EP Study and Ablation on the premise that a) at least I would have answers and b) if I did get an ablation, I would be able to return to running with a likelihood of less risk, more satisfaction, and a relieved mind.

I reported to the hospital at 7 a.m. on Monday, and did a combination of laying around, prepping (there is some cleaning with grown up baby wipes to be done), having a baseline EKG taken, having baseline vitals taken, chatting with the anesthesiologist, a visit from the PA, and a final visit from the electrophysiologist before the process began.

From an anesthesiology perspective, the goal with an EP study (at least with this team) was not to keep the patient completely “out.” I did have them promise not to share any crazy tequila stories I told while I was in and out (apparently either I didn’t give them anything to work with or they are very discreet people!). I was given oxygen. I remember nothing of the actual insertion of the catheter. I remember significant parts of them manipulating my HR to try to replicate the issues I have been having. One of the cool parts of an EP study is that they essentially “GPS” your heart. I had stickers all over my chest that were a part of the mapping process (and is it a good thing when they say they don’t have much real estate to work with?!). The anesthesiologist told me that he could tell at a certain point that I was really getting anxious (and I was trying to stay calm but I guess “trying” is a relative thing in that situation) so he put me farther out.

Fast forward to the recovery room. and beyond. I remembered how still Wayne (my husband) had to be after his catheterization, and how we had to bring Wayne’s dad back to the hospital when he began bleeding from his insertion site after a catheterization so I was determined to be the perfect patient on that front. But I think the process and technology have both improved. Although you are told to remain very still, there wasn’t a nurse yelling at me when I moved my head a millimeter (as one did with Wayne).

All of that to get to this answer:

I do not have Atrial Fibrillation (this is mostly a good thing!). My issue involves SupraventricularTachydardia (SVTs). The good news is that SVTs, even though they feel totally bizarre and abnormal, do not usually lead to adverse cardiac events or fatalities.

Dr. Silberman chose not to ablate – he found two “hot spots” that activate at around 160 bpm, but they return to normal as my HR rate escalates and several other spots activate. It was taking so much medication (isuprel) to get my HR up enough to replicate the issue that they were afraid they would run out mid-procedure and apparently there is a manufacturers’ shortage of it so they couldn’t get more. One option is a different (more involved) procedure with a balloon that can discover/ablate more surfaces at once, but that is not necessarily that obvious route to go. For now, the recommendation is that I take a beta blocker before running and keep my HR to below my zone 4.

Here are the takeaways for now:

Technology is pretty awesome

I am still in awe at what medical professionals can find out via technology. From my Garmin which provided preliminary data about the patterns of my heart rate issues, to the loop recorder that provided more specific information, to the map of my heart and its electrical patterns, we have access to so much data.

Physicians with good bedside manner are pretty awesome

I am grateful for the way in which Dr. Silberman has explained everything at each step of the way. I appreciate the fact that he respects the role of running in my sanity (even though he does say, repeatedly, “you know, you don’t have to exercise at 170 bpm to be fit”).

EP Studies

Dont ask me to interpret but this is the whiteboard from Dr. Silbermans explanation to Wayne.

Good nurses are pretty awesome

I am a little fuzzy on my ability to evaluate the performance of some of the nurses, but all the ones I was “with it” for were great. They were patient, answered my questions, and provided plenty of attention (along with a nifty “discharge note” (below) and a follow-up phone call the evening I was discharged. My last nurse had an interesting mantra — “be assertive” — she said it ten times if she said it once. She’s right of course but it still struck me as interesting.

EP Studies

Remember that post I wrote about how hard it is to get a wheelchair at TMH?

I have to admit, when I remembered (duh) that I would need one of those very same wheelchairs to transport me out of my room and down to my car, I was a little afraid the staff would see my name and all of a sudden develop a very lengthy d e l a y! But my complaint was never about the transportation staff themselves, just the challenging process of getting a wheelchair for my father-in-law, and I am happy to report my chariot arrived to sweep me away from the hospital relatively promptly.

Frequent naps and permission to “take it easy” are awesome

I was told to avoid running/exercise (sigh) and not lift anything heavier than ten pounds for a week. As much as I have missed my usual high-intensity, rapid-fire life, I have to admit having permission to take it easy has its bonuses too. I have probably taken more naps in the past week than I have in the past year (or five…). I think I needed the rest.

Not running is not awesome

Double negative that may be … but if you know me, or if you have had your own period of enforced non-running, you know what I mean. All of a sudden everyone’s off-hand remarks on social media about their “quick three-milers,” “couldn’t help signing up for another race,” and “awful run but I am glad I did it” seem like they are coming from a completely different universe. My paper workout chart, my Training Peaks, and my Daily Mile are all completely blank this week. So is my endorphin quota. It’s odd and not awesome.

So much of your running mojo is in your head

This has messed with my mental status. As much as I have advocated endlessly for the power of the back of the pack, for the fact that every mile matters, for the fact that runners should all support one another, the truth is that I have felt very close to the edge of being excommunicated from the runner fraternity (and I know if anyone else said all that to me I would immediately jump on them and tell them the thousand reasons why they still belong). I’m just keeping it real here. I have finally gotten a little tiny bit of traction and credibility as a Fitfluential Ambassador and am having to work hard to convince myself I still belong.

Not running messes with your nutrition

One beautiful thing about running combined with relatively clean eating habits was that I had a little wiggle room to treat myself to “fun food” occasionally. A few weeks prior to the procedure I announced to my coach that I was “tired of logging.” although I knew what to do to maintain my weight, I also know how easy it is to wander once you are no longer making yourself accountable. Logging and reporting my food logs to my coach every night incentivized me to, for example, have salads on hand for lunches, to skip bread in the evenings, and to keep the long-term goal in mind.

And I think that’s the rub now: there is no long term goal now that I have ditched the sub-30 5K. The things I run for still exist: Gareth, Charity Miles, my team at KR Endurance, my running friends, my health and my sanity.

The challenge is getting my head (and my heart) back in it.

EP Studies

****NOTE: I really hate talking endlessly about myself like I have ended up doing throughout this cardiac health  journey. I continue because I know it has helped me to read of other people’s experiences. It’s a scary and lonely feeling to feel like “the only one” facing this type of issue. A lot of people have helped me, especially Mary Jean Yon. While I don’t feel ready to be anyone’s lifeline yet, it is important to know you are not alone, and to be your own most assertive advocate when it comes to your health. That’s why I keep talking about it. Maybe next week I’ll post about dancing unicorn kittens or something lighter!

Toastmasters: An Open House Invitation

toastmasters

Frequently, when I mention my involvement in Toastmasters, people express an interest in participating themselves.

This week, there’s a perfect opportunity to find out what it’s all about — our club (Podemos Hablar) is holding an open house!

Here are the details:

Date: Monday, April 13, 2015

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Where: La Fiesta Restaurant (2329 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida, 32301)

(Note: one reason I was attracted to this particular club is that it is a Bilingual Toastmasters Club (Spanish/English). It is especially helpful for people trying to improve their Spanish (or for Spanish speakers trying to improve their English). But don’t let that stop you from joining our open house — there are speakers of all levels.)

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know!

toastmasters banner

En Español*:

Frecuentemente, cuando hablo de mi participación en Toastmasters, todos expresan su interés en participar ellos tambien.

Esta semana, hay una oportunidad perfecta para descubrir de qué se trata – de nuestro club (Podemos Hablar) está ofreciendo exhibición publica!

Aquí están los detalles:

Fecha: Lunes, 13 de abril 2015

Hora: 18:00 (6:00 p.m.)

Dónde: La Fiesta Restaurant (2329 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida, 32301)

(Nota:.. Una de las razones que me atraido a este club en particular es que este club es bilingüe (Español / Inglés). Es especialmente útil para las personas que tratan de mejorar su español (o para los hispanohablantes que tratan de mejorar su Inglés. Pero no dejes que eso te detenga de asistir la exhibición publica – hay hablantes de todos los niveles).

Si usted tiene alguna pregunta, haz favor de comunicármelo.

toastmasters juan

Juan, Past President.

 

Shaking hands with Teressa, our club Vice President (and my mentor) after I spoke.

Shaking hands with Teressa, our club President (and my mentor) after I spoke.

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”

(Los límites de mi lenguaje son los límites de mi mundo.)

Ludwig Wittgenstein

(Thank you to our club past president Juan for helping me with the translation. I take full responsibility for any errors that remain. // Gracias a nuestro presidente pasado del club Juan por ayudarme con la traducción. Yo soy responsable de los errores que quedan.)