Runners Go The Extra Mile (Again)

Meeting my Daily Mile friend, Keith, before being be-ribboned.

Meeting my Daily Mile friend, Keith, before being be-ribboned.

This weekend, I am reminded of what a supportive community can be found among runners.

When I was volunteering at my club’s merchandise table at the expo yesterday for the Tallahassee Marathon and Half Marathon, I asked my friend Lisa why she was wearing a blue ribbon.  She explained that it was to honor our runner friend Dustin, who is fighting a rare and aggressive brain tumor (glioblastoma multiforme). That made sense to me – I have been involved in efforts to support Dustin, enough to know that his favorite color is blue. (You can visit Dustin’s website to learn more about his situation and how to help by clicking here.)

Here’s the part that speaks to our running community. Lisa didn’t just say, “you should wear one too” (as she knew I would want to).  She walked up to me a few minutes later, ribbon in hand, cut to the right size, with a safety pin to attach it to myself.

Post be-ribboning!

Post be-ribboning!

Just a small but meaningful symbol of how my runner friends “go the extra mile” for each other.  It happens all the time.

(p.s. – there will be an Anywhere5K (Run For Rhodes) to support Dustin as well as raise awareness of Cancer Control Month on April 20 and 21!. You can get more information about that by clicking here.)

run for rhodes bib

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Seeing The Light (The Optimism Light)

I will admit it. Sometimes I hope the traffic pattern results in me being stopped at the intersection of Capital Circle Northeast and Centerville Road here in Tallahassee so I can check in on FourSquare at “The Punishment Light.” (And, living up to its title, I usually have time to check in,  peek at my Facebook, send a tweet, and whip up a smoothie.)

Likewise, I am a frequent visitor (and checker-inner) at “The Longest Light in Tally” (the intersection of Capital Circle and Apalachee Parkway). I view this checkin as a little “we’re all in this together” nod of commiseration to my fellow Tallahassee Drivers who endure plenty of time at this intersection.

Because of my route to work, the Capital Circle intersection I can guarantee being at daily is the intersection of Capital Circle and Mahan Drive. The light is not quite as long as the two mentioned above, but it’s a major intersection that typically found me fretting about how late I was to work, how I was going to get everything done that I had committed to, how I was going to overcome the problems big and small in my life. It was yet another place to give in to worry and anxiety.

Still Shot from Traffic Camera Number 013

Which is why, on my birthday on November 28, I pulled over at a business at that intersection and created my own checkin for the intersection of Capital Circle and Mahan Drive: The Optimism Light. It is an alternative to the “Capital Circle NE and Mahan Dr.” checkin. It was a gift to myself. And it fascinates me how having one small symbolic homage to the positive makes a difference. If I am stopped at a red light there, I checkin and take a deep breath. And then I:

  • Say a brief prayer of gratitude for the indisputably precious gift of another day
  • Send a positive intention for a friend or someone I know of who is ill or troubled
  • Give the person in front of me, beside me, or behind me the vibe that “it’s okay – we’ll all get where we’re going” instead of “what’s taking you so long to MOVE?!”
  • Hope that hope will prevail in the face of the world’s darknesses

And, you know, I would be lying if I wrote, “and if no one else ever checked in here, that would be fine – I created this for myself.” Honestly, I want others to check in there (and I appreciate those of you who have). It’s why I tweet the checkin every time and post it to Facebook. Around 50,000 cars pass through this intersection every day. You could argue that taking two seconds to give your fellow driver a break or say a quick prayer/intention (whatever your faith tradition) for someone else is not even a drop in the bucket. But, in my opinion, 50,000+ drops could create some waves of tranquility.

Image source: “solrac_gi_2nd”

And in a world where it’s all too easy to make waves with sarcasm and vitriol, waves of optimism surely couldn’t hurt any of us.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Nine New Numbers

I can rattle mine off without concentrating at all. My husband’s too. (Admittedly, I still have to look my children’s up.) Social Security Numbers. They pave the way for tasks that need to be accomplished in our lives – some big tasks (mortgage applications), some small tasks (looking up a grade). Without social security numbers, our lives would be infinitely more complicated.

“Infinitely complicated” is a term that has characterized Benjaman Kyle’s life since he was woke up, naked, without identification, and lacking all memory outside a Burger King near Savannah, Georgia, in 2004. His retrograde amnesia has prevented any recollection of his past. Authorities and medical experts are stumped.

“Benjaman Kyle”

I am writing this post to ask your help. If 25,000 people sign a petition to the White House, the administration will be required to review a request to issue Benjaman a new social security number. (So far he has not been issued one, on the assumption that he had one before and “it’s just not done” to issue one anew.)

You can sign the petition by clicking this link (it’s quick, I promise!).

Without a number, Benjaman can’t get hired or stay in a shelter.* There’s very little he can do. He’s trapped in a loophole that nobody anticipated. Only political intervention will allow Benjaman to work and have a place to stay. But nobody is speaking for him or his rights. Do we leave him here? He needs a new number, for a new life.

Again, help pave the way by clicking here and signing the petition.

You can watch Benjaman’s story through this award-winning documentary by John Wikstrom here:

As of tonight, the Benjaman needs 17,162 more signatures to get to 25,000 by 12/25/12 for his issue to be considered by the Obama Administration.

It’s a holiday gift you can give a stranger that is cost-free to you but will add immeasurable value to one man’s quality of life.

Other Resources:

Website:  www.findingbenjaman.com

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/FindingBenjaman

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/findingbenjaman

*Benjaman is currently employed by a business that agreed to employ him despite his lack of an SSN, and he lives in someone’s shed (as opposed to the park behind the police department) through the generosity of a fellow citizen. But the SSN issue still begs for resolution.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

When It’s Your Child, Every Surgery Is “Special”

This is Gabrielle. She has juvenile arthritis and was treated at the Hospital for Specialty Surgery. More about her below.

Because my job involves being a liaison between health insurance enrollees and health plans, I frequently find myself talking to parents whose children need specialty care. Although they have “black and white” questions about benefits, providers, and copays, I hear something else in their voices. I hear the very non-definable and nondenominational parental prayer that everything will be okay.

As a parent, I have a sense of that place from which the parental prayer comes. I have been fortunate that neither of my children needed extended hospital care when they were young. My daughter’s broken foot at the age of three was a challenge but it has become more of a “childhood war story” than an experience that still affects her life and her attitude about the medical field.

When I had the opportunity to write this post, I consulted two friends whose children needed specialty care when they were young. J’s daughter had multiple surgeries for cleft palate when she was very small and has had other orthopedic procedures. N’s child was born with torticollis which caused plagiocephaly —  as an infant he required a helmet, physical therapy, and many out-of-town specialist visits (as an older child he still needs specialized care for hypotonia, dyspraxia, visuospatial deficit and central auditory processing disorder). There were recurrent themes in each of their stories:

Coordination

We know as adults what a pain it can be to navigate the medical system. Referrals, lengthy stays in waiting rooms, confusing lingo …. the list is endless. Dealing with coordination issues when your child is the patient is even more daunting. Both parents I spoke with talked about what a difference it makes when there is a concerted effort by the medical team to coordinate your child’s care. For example, J’s child needed two different dental procedures and the provider was persuaded to do them both while she was under anesthesia, instead of anesthetizing her twice. Things that don’t seem to make a difference on paper can make a world of difference for a child who has anxiety issues.

How Do They See My Child?

J. said it best: “At the moment that provider is seeing my child, I want it to feel like they are dealing with my child and my child only.” In my experience, specialists can be pushed for time, especially if they only visit your town monthly. Does the specialist put all that aside to look you and your child in the eyes, and then to explain to you as the parent what to expect?

What is the quality of their work?

One of J’s biggest recommendations is to research the success rate of a physician you are considering using for your child. If a facility is not transparent and forthcoming with data, think twice.

I am grateful to have an opportunity to share ideas about how to make the best choices for your child (and you) should they ever need specialty care. Thank you J and N for sharing your experiences.

The Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), in New York City, is one option for pediatric specialty care, especially in the fields of orthopedics and rheumatology.  HSS recently opened the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center at the Children’s Pavilion providing comprehensive, individualized rehabilitation for both inpatients and outpatients from birth to 21 years. You can learn more about HSS via their website and their Facebook Page.

Both of my friends talked about the support and information they got from other parents. They encouraged anyone facing a specialty hospital stay for their child to take advantage of the hard-won expertise of parents who are farther down the road than you may be.

I promised you more about Gabrielle. As the parent of a dancer, I know how dismayed a motivated child can be to have physical symptoms keep her from dancing. Through HSS, Gabrielle has been successfully treated for pauciarticular juvenile arthritis. Her mother reports that she recently did a solo in a national competition and won a gold medal! Her complete story is here.

This video contains more information about the Hospital for Special Surgery:


I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Hospital for Special Surgery. A small donation to a charity of my choice was made in my name as a thank you for participating. You should consult with your physician or other health care provider before beginning any rehabilitation/therapy, sports training, or exercise program.”

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

My Vote

This past summer, we adopted Bella the kitten. We adopted Bella despite the fact that our older cat, Alice Cooper, became our cat when she was put up for adoption years ago because she was unable to tolerate being part of a multi-cat home when her owner moved in with his significant other, who owned cats. Bella has been methodically destroying and stinking up our house since she came, but hopefully she will redeem herself by, as the sign above promises, supporting my politics.

As I have watched months and months worth of Facebook statuses and Tweets roll by, I have not chimed in often. For me, I find it too difficult to communicate the nuances of various opinions in a status that I am pretty sure will be “liked” by the people who already agree with me and attacked (or ignored) by the people who don’t. I suspect that Facebook statuses and tweets rarely convince someone on the other side to change course, and I am not sure they do a lot to educate the undecided voter.

One week-long trip to a third -world country does not an expert on world politics make but when I visited Guatemala in July 2011, presidential campaigning was underway. Tensions were heightened, but they weren’t just tensions about the latest polling. Election time there created a very real danger for personal safety. One of the travelers in our group bought a hat at a political rally we had passed in Guatemala City’s Central Plaza. Our leader asked him not to wear that hat; it would have been dangerous to us, and dangerous to the organization’s non-political mission to serve children and families in Guatemala to be perceived as showing support for any particular candidate. We heard that one way the drug industry gets a foothold is by having their operatives elected as mayor of smaller communities which creates a feeder system into the higher offices. We have our issues here in the US but we are able to support whichever candidate we choose, knowing our personal safety is not at stake and that there are checks and balances on corruption (flawed as they may be).

I am ridiculously, deeply, unabashedly patriotic. When my kids were little, I probably got more excited about “Kids Voting” than my kids did. I made sure they never missed a chance to vote. I inwardly rolled my eyes when my kindergartner chose a candidate who I did not plan to vote for “because he looks nice.” But it’s never too early to demonstrate to our children that voting is not an “option,” it is a responsibility. And as my daughter has gotten older, I see her learning to ask good questions about the candidate options. Even if she and I never agree on candidates, I hope she plans to show up every time the polls open.

Lastly, we all know one person can’t change things singlehandedly. I see the layers upon layers of frequently superfluous bureaucracy and the maze of subcontractors that have become part of many federal programs and wonder if anyone out there, whether it is the president, an agency head, or my elected representatives, are willing to say: We have to take a step back and figure out how to do what has to be done, without becoming hidebound by all of the “barnacles” that accumulated between this project being a fabulous idea and it being the turf of this or that party.

[On a side note from the presidential campaign discussion, it was my insight into Bill Nelson’s management style and investment in getting things right when he was chair of the board of directors of an organization with which I was affilialted that will win him my vote every single time he runs.]

When we took a DISC assessment as part of a management training at work, one of the things my profile said about me was “you tend to tell a story more than sell it.” That may be true but I find it ironic because I feel like I spend a lot of time trying to “sell” people the idea of donating time, money, or items to particular causes. (But the assessment also recommended that people stay three feet away from me and I am actually a hugger so who knows?). What it DID say was that I thrive on being part of a team, a team that is focused into the things and causes I find important. And although I know any political campaign is going to have nastiness, something that grieves me the most about his one is the vitriol and hatred that have spewed faster than I can click out of some tweet streams and Facebook posts. It’s one thing to present an argument against this or that policy stand, but it’s quite another to attack an individual as being an inherently bad person.

With that said, I am proudly casting my vote for President Barack Obama. You may be voting for the other candidate; if you do, I am still glad you are voting and I will still respect him if he becomes President.

But as for Bella and me, we are on Team Obama all the way.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

When Work Feels Like Middle School All Over Again

Looking back on my last few months’ worth of posts, I realize there has been very little of “what I think” writing and a lot of “for a cause” writing. You know I am a fan of “for a cause” writing but I did start blogging three years ago to exercise the writing muscle. And just as with regular exercise, if you don’t vary the muscles you exercise you end up unbalanced.

Fortunately, my bloggy friend Maria from Tough Cookie Mommy asked a question on Facebook this week, and my honest response falls squarely into the category of “what I think.”

Her question was:

“Why is it that every workplace has issues with gossiping and negative competition?”

When I first saw Maria’s question, I had limited time to answer, but I knew that I could quickly find something relevant at the blog of the leader who I respect so much: Dan Rockwell. Therefore, as a placeholder, I posted a link to his post, Dealing With Tattlers, Liars, and Backstabbers, as a comment, along with a promise to come back later and expound.

Later that evening, I poured a glass of wine and wrote:

I think most workplaces have issues with gossiping and backstabbing because, whether they make widgets or teach kids (that one’s for you! [Maria is a teacher]), write code or save lives, ultimately all organizations are composed of human beings. To take a little of a tangent, I think we are all responsible for the attitude we bring in to the workplace. To some degree, we have some choice over whether the environment makes us miserable or overjoyed. To take another tangent, my measure of how difficult the workplace is, is always the military. I may be irritated because a coworker sent me a snotty email or threw me under the bus or wasn’t helpful or dumped something on me, but all in all I am physically safe, able to pursue my goals relatively unimpeded, and can go home to a safe and loving place at night. I am not getting shot at or living in danger 24/7, possibly ALSO in a place where there is whining, backstabbing, and gossip. Back to the original point — I think all places have it [gossiping/negative competition] (most anyway) but the solution to minimizing it lies in a) the tone the leader sets – the leader has far more power than they sometimes realize in crafting an environment of collegiality (in fact it’s a lot like parenting but I digress b) hiring the right people and making the difficult decision to remove the extremely unproductive and/or extremely disruptive from the environment and c) making measurements of how people perform as specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely as possible (SMART). When it is clear what you have to do to succeed, and how you can help others on the team, there is less room for sniping about who did what, who got what advantage, and everything that leads to resentment and feelings of inequity. I realize this is in some way a pie in the sky ideal. But I am almost 50 years old and still believe that it is out there somewhere — a team that puts its mission first and is willing to bolster each other in order to do it rather than tripping each other up. The end. I may have just written a blog post of my own. 🙂

Even later (thanks Maria for getting me on a roll……), I added this comment:

I think part of it goes to tiptoeing around difficult situations, and as this article says “That silence breeds gossip, obsessive thoughts, and generally disgruntled workers.” and a link to the post from which I took the quote, “How To Foster a Feedback-Friendly Company.”

And that, dear readers, is what I think about that. Most of us have to work for a living. Some of us are fortunate not to have to work for a paycheck but still give our time, energy, and souls to volunteer causes we love. The best organizations I have seen are the ones that embrace their mission from the top down andhave strong leaders who know (and demonstrate) that organizations thrive when people operate from a position that is the opposite of fear: call it confidence, call it focus on mission, call it “engaged.” The ones where everyone realizes that gossip and backstabbing are just wastes of time that interfere with progress toward getting the job done and going home happy at night.

Have you worked or volunteered someplace that was relatively free of gossip and negative competition? If so, what do you think made the organization that way?

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Then The Blue-Haired Gorilla Happened

If you follow my blog at all, you know that I love to use my blog as a platform for worthy causes.

In addition to blogging, I enjoy adding “causes” to the reasons I run. In fact, when I made my Badass Army 2012 Resolution, I customized it by adding this statement: 

I will actively seek out and promote fitness opportunities that do good for causes I support.

Back in July, I started seeing posts on Facebook (and tweets on Twitter) that stated that the miles run, biked, or walked by the individual posting had helped causes through Charity Miles. For example:

When I participated in the Boston 13.1 for Autism Speaks in September, our team learned more about Charity Miles and how the app can be used to raise support (via corporate sponsorship) for various causes via the simple acts of walking, running, and biking (25 cents per mile walked or run, 10 cents per mile biked!

Once I returned to Florida, I began using Charity Miles for all of my workouts. Then I came up with a plan. I would do a workout for each of the Charity Miles causes, and blog about that cause that week (if you’re a blogger, you may be familiar with the hunger/desperation to come up with topics!).

That’s why I did a workout on September 27, 2012 that was dedicated to the ASPCA:

But then the potential for this happened:

Read about how the loser of the #teamluau vs #teambecca October Charity Miles Throwdown for Autism Speaks has to run the difference in miles in a blue-afroed, Autism Speaks jerseyed gorilla suit get-up here.

And I couldn’t resist joining in to help some of my favorite people with a favorite cause.

(But I do feel a little guilty about the diversion from Plan A – I actually sent Luau a DM on Twitter that said “somewhere out there an unvaccinated puppy just shed a tear” – I will get back to you, ASPCA, I promise!)

And then the decision had to be made about which team I would be on, #teamluau or #teambecca?

I am a HUGE Luau fan. After all, he convinced me sight unseen to divert (I see a diversion theme here…) from my 2012 goal of running a 5K in 29:59 or less (the long run training probably actually helped that goal actually but that’s for a different blog) in order to train for a half marathon. When forced to make a decision, and noting that Rebecca is a) from Florida like me (yay!) b) someone I didn’t manage to meet in Boston (not sure how that happened) and c) a fellow mom (like me), I decided I needed to throw my miles in with #teambecca (she’s on the right in the billboard below):

Which gets me to this:

First of all, check out Charity Miles.  You can read Luau’s post explaining it all. Or you can watch this video:

Secondly, if you have been wavering about where, when, and how to start (or resume) a fitness routine, why not use this as your motivation?  Pick a cause you love and go for it. Of course, since the Charity Miles Autism Speaks throwdown is still on for the rest of October, feel free to tweet your miles with #teambecca (or heck even #teamluau) if you are on Twitter!!

Lastly, I guess this quote is more pertinent to the Nature Conservancy Charity Milers:

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

But let’s extrapolate to running, walking, biking for autism:

“The creation a thousand ways to help Autism Speaks is in one mile.”

Why not add yours to the total?

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.