Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Rant for the Week

"So, why are you single?"

I was asked this question 3 times over a 48 hour period of time.

Excuse me while I rant for a few moments....now is your opportunity to change to another web page.

I am single because CANCER SUCKS.....and stole the love of my life from me.  Shattered all my hopes and dreams.  Shattered the plans I had for my future when I said "I do".  Yes, I realize it was for better or worse (and believe me - there was better and worse along the way) and until death do us part....BUT, I had no idea death do us part would be so soon.

This is what I really wanted to SHOUT at the top of my lungs in response to this question.

No, instead I politely replied, "I have no idea why I'm single."

I mean seriously.....what kind of question is that to ask someone?  How many people will respond...."Oh, I choose to live my life in a lonely existence with plans to grow old alone."  SERIOUSLY!!

I have to admit....the third time I was asked this question, I almost cried.  It just touches a nerve - obviously.

So here is my public service announcement for today...please be mindful that single people are single for a variety of reasons.....and most do not want to be single.  The last thing we want is to be reminded by others in relationships that we are single.

So, just as we all know it is awful to ask a couple "why don't you have children" or "when are you going to have children" (we all realize that is rude to ask....right??), pointing out someone's personal status is just as awful.  There are so many reasons and circumstances.....and no one really likes to have these pointed out to them.

OK.....I'm done.  Thanks for putting up with another free counseling session for Barb!

Addendum to original post....

I do realize that I am a wonderful person with great attributes....I am kind, I am thoughtful, I am fun, I am strong, and most importantly....FABULOUS!  And, I do realize that when people ask this question, it IS a compliment because they are always surprised that a woman like myself is available.  But, it is still tough to hear....over and over again (especially 3 times in such a short time span).

I have mentioned to others that I question myself often why I am single.  Maybe my situation is intimidating, maybe I'm not convenient enough because I don't have every other weekend free like those with a shared custody situation, or maybe my fabulousness is just too overwhelming (I like to think this is it).  But, just remember.....if you are thinking it....the individual you are asking has probably asked themselves the same question a million times.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Another 13.1 Bites the Dust....Team LIVESTRONG Pittsbugh Half Marathon

Two weeks ago my 16 year old son and I pulled out of our drive way in the dark and headed eastbound for Pittsburgh.

Our mission for this road trip:  To run another 13.1 miles as a member of Team LIVESTRONG and continue running for those that cannot because cancer has stolen them from us; to provide hope for those fighting each and every day to beat cancer; and most importantly, to support LIVESTRONG.


Another 13.1 miles down....for a total of 78.6 raced to raise over $6,000 for LIVESTRONG.  And another 121.4 to go before the end of the year with a goal of raising a minimum of $10,000.

Jay and I had never taken a road trip with just the two of us since he was in Kindergarten.....and that trip involved Paris and London.  Pittsburgh isn't nearly as glamorous but this time he was a teenager with a license....so his first road trip as a driver.

I had a great time chatting with him in the car, listening to him analyze the upcoming Bulls/Heat series and why Microsoft purchased Skype (what 16 year old knows this stuff??).  When did my little boy that was just interested in Legos and Star Wars become a young man?

Once we arrived in Pittsburgh - which is a BEAUTIFUL city....take time to visit it if you have the opportunity - I headed off the the convention center for the Expo.   Of course, in true Barb fashion, the clouds opened up as soon as we checked into our hotel....a torrential downpour that reminded me of the monsoon in LA.

After tracking down an umbrella and avoiding as many puddles as I could, I arrived at the Expo.  A very well organized event....and the coolest part?  All participants received "green" swag bags.  An e-mail arrived a few days prior to the event with links to all the coupons, etc that are normally in the bags.  Runners only received a few items at the Expo...bibs and shirts - great long sleeve tech shirts individualized for the 5K, Relay, Half or Full.  Off for a quick trip through the aisle of venders.  I've attended a lot of race expos and to be honest, for the most part, once you've been to one, you've been to them all.  But, there were some new venders at this event so it was a welcome surprise.

Next up....the LIVESTRONG booth.

I was greeted by three amazing LIVESTRONG employees.  I was asked prior to the weekend if I would relieve them for a few hours so they could attend an event for the charity groups.  What an honor!  I received my instructions and for the next two hours met fellow participants picking up their gear as well as loads of folks just passing by.  It was such an amazing experience to engage in conversation with individuals that were interested in LIVESTRONG, hear their experiences and answer questions about this outstanding organization.

Just as I was about to close up shop, I was greeted by my fellow LIVESTRONG teammate, Katie, and her husband, Scott.  Katie and Scott have been involved with LIVESTRONG for years and are captains of the team I participate on for the LIVESTRONG Challenge - Friends Fighting Cancer.  Check out their site to learn more about this group.

1000's of names on a wall but we were right by each other

A little history.....

Katie and Scott are bikers.  I was introduced to them by a mutual friend - that friend of mine here in town that encouraged me to read Lance Armstrong's book "It's Not About the Bike" and to get involved with the LIVESTRONG Challenges.  I showed up that first year in Austin not knowing anyone.  The Friends Fighting Cancer team welcomed me as one of their own.  And not being a biker, Katie helped me through that first 45 mile bike ride.

Fast forward to this past August.  There was a LIVESTRONG Challenge in Philadelphia and it landed on the anniversary of Brian's passing.  My 12 year old, 7 year old and I loaded up the van and headed to Philly.  Scott and Katie, and the FFC team, welcomed us with open arms....it was like we were with long lost friends.

Another trip to Austin this past year for another Challenge.....and this time Katie never left my side as we rode the 45 miles again - in hill country no less and 2 weeks after I had run the Chicago Marathon.  Not even when I collided with another biker (in front of Team RadioShack).  She hung with me while I signed away my life in order to obtain a band aid.   It was during this bike ride Katie mentioned that she wanted to start running again.

So.....when I signed up to run with Team LIVESTRONG for the Pittsburgh Half, Katie signed up as well.....and Scott signed up to volunteer at the event.

Fast forward back to Pittsburgh....

It was great to see my fellow cancer kickin' pals....and Katie is a true cancer kicker having survived cancer (check out her story here).   Katie had encountered an unfortunate injury which derailed her training a bit but was still determined to attempt the distance, even if she had to walk.  Once again demonstrating the LIVESTRONG attitude that allowed her to beat cancer.

Katie & I meeting Jeff Galloway
Another highlight of the weekend was walking through the Expo with Katie, turning a corner, and walking into Jeff Galloway.  For those of you wondering "who is Jeff Galloway?" he is a running guru that has created a training program which involves integrating periods of walking into your running.   I have never followed the program but do know others that have with great success, and this was the program Katie was following in her training.  A very approachable man and he provided  encouragement to both of us.

Katie, Scott & I carbing up
The sun eventually came out and we enjoyed spending time in Pittsburgh, including a great pre-race carbo loading meal outdoors.  The four of us met up for great conversation and food.  It was a very proud parent moment to see my oldest conversing with ease....and educating the three adults on a few topics.
Back to the hotel for a good night rest and prepare for race morning.  This involves quite a bit of watching weather forecasts....and second guessing myself several times on the most appropriate weather related outfit.  Oh, and most importantly, prepping my race shirt with my bib and the names of those I was running in honor and memory of.  Unfortunately, the list is getting much too long to wear with each event, but a full list can be found on the Tribute Wall within this blog.


Staying dry at the start
As is typical on race day for me, we were welcomed with clouds and scattered showers.  We pulled on throwaway ponchos and headed for our corral.  I was placed in a faster corral due to my previous race times, however, I had decided some time ago that I was sticking with Katie throughout the entire race.  She tried to get me to run my own race, but this particular race meant more to me than running yet another 13.1 at the same time I had the previous 16.

No, this was about accomplishing something with a friend that never left my side when I was doing something new - biking.  Katie NEVER considered peeling off from me.  She made sure I was doing ok throughout the ride, kept me company and gave me advise along the way.  I had no idea what all those gears were for....she educated me along the way.

It was payback time.

We chatted about a million different topics, did the run/walk Galloway method, high-fived kids, danced along with the bands on the course, made each other laugh, and 13.1 miles later.....we FINISHED!

Katie's first half marathon....showing cancer who is boss.....as she continues to LIVESTRONG!  One of my proudest finishes EVER!

Next up for me?  The North Shore Half Marathon in the Chicago suburb, Highland Park.....home of Ferris Bueller.  I doubt we will be running through backyards and hurtling hedges like Ferris did....but how appropriate to be RunningStrong for Hope to benefit LIVESTRONG in the town this movie was filmed.  A film that definitely is about living life to it's fullest.

I'm slowly but surely approaching my $7,000 goal for June......please consider donating any little bit you can....maybe forgo dinner or a movie?
Click here to donate to Barb's fundraising efforts for LIVESTRONG

One of my favorite signs in Pittsburgh......and I think many of my friends would agree this probably applies to me as I race 13.1 miles each month.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Less than two days.....

4 am....

....and my 16 year old son, Jay, and I will be embarking on our first road trip without the rest of the crew.

Destination:  Pittsburgh....the location for my May half marathon.

Six months ago I came up with this crazy idea to run a half or full marathon each month to raise funds for LIVESTRONG.  I was already planning on raising the funds for LIVESTRONG - I had done this for several years.  But, I wanted to do something different this year.

As I did in Los Angeles a few months ago, I will be participating as a member of Team LIVESTRONG.  Running alongside others with a common goal - we all hate cancer and are supporting the LIVESTRONG mission.

I have always taken a few weekends a year for myself....my way of keeping my sanity....and would work in a race in some fun destination with friends during that weekend.  Over the years I have run through The French Quarter, down the Vegas Strip, through Churchill Downs, around the Indy 500 track, on an island in Oregon, crawled through mud at a farm in Northern IL, rode my bike up and down the Texas Hill Country.

16 half marathons, 3 marathons, 3 LIVESTRONG Challenges, 1 Muddy Buddy, 3 St. Jude Relays, countless 5 & 10Ks....

.....and Jay has never seen me compete in any of them.

My younger two, Rachel and Nolan, have participated in 5Ks with me and gone to a few local half marathons and cheered me at the finish.  Last August, Nolan joined me on a 25 miles bike ride on his mountain bike through the hilly Philly LIVESTRONG Challenge course in the pouring rain a day after Rachel celebrated her 7th birthday by running her first 5K with me.

I'm excited to embark on this adventure with Jay.  Eight hours in a car with a teenager does not sound enticing but I am really excited about it.  Only two more years and he will be off to college, and if he is anything like his mom or dad, he will only be home for holidays.  The one-on-one time with Jay has been very limited since his father passed away.

I'm excited for Jay to see the energy surrounding a LIVESTRONG event....to meet other people that are running for those that cannot....that are spending their free time training and fundraising.  I'm  hoping that this experience will allow him to understand a bit more WHY I am so committed to LIVESTRONG and what volunteering for a cause you believe in means.

What do you do to encourage volunteerism with your children?

If you have an interest in supporting my efforts and the LIVESTRONG mission, please click on the link below:
Barbara's LIVESTRONG fundraising page

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sisters as Mothers.....Mothers as Sisters

"Both within the family and without, our sisters hold up our mirrors: our images of who we are and of what we can dare to be." ~ Elizabeth Fishe

Sunday is Mother's Day.

If you have been reading along with my previous postings, you should be aware that I am a single mother due to my husband's passing from cancer at age 38, leaving behind our three wonderful children.  But you may not be aware that I was also raised in a household in which my own mother passed away from cancer at age 39, leaving my father to raise five children on his own.

Because I lost my mother at such a young age, Mother's Day really never held much meaning to me until I became a mother myself.  As I was reminded of the upcoming holiday this weekend -  primarily due to pleas by my 7 year-old to close my eyes as she created craft projects in every room of the house as "surprise" gifts -  I reflected on the fact that although I was raised without my mother, I have had several "mothers" in my life......my sisters and mother-in-law.

I am the youngest of that crew my father raised alone....three older sisters and one older brother.

My three older sisters have always been like mother figures to me.  As we were growing up, they were the ones that played games with me, made sure I understood the womanly changes I would encounter, taught me how to cook/bake, took me shopping, hosted wedding and baby showers for me, traveled to Philadelphia to help me with my newborn children when we came home from the hospital.  I had a very different relationship with each of them.....but I suspect those relationships would have been much different if my mother had been there for all of us.

I have a very vivid memory of my oldest sister, Janet, taking me to get a shots before high school and being mistaken as my mother....something she was not to excited about at the time; taking me camping with her and her boyfriend (eventually husband); taking me to the circus, and as I got older, talking to me about my job, marriage, children. etc.  I remember my sister, Audrey, playing game after game of Payday with me in her room; teaching me how to change diapers on her own children.  I recall Ruth going to movies with me, taking me on my first bike trip to Vermont; sending me care packages in college and attending my college field hockey games.

Janet unfortunately has also passed away from cancer at a young age - leaving behind two amazing, successful, independent and caring children.  

Audrey and Ruth were both very instrumental in helping me get through the loss of my husband.  As soon as she received word Brian was in the hospital, Ruth dropped everything and flew out to Bloomington to help with my children.  The day Brian passed away, he was asking to see our older son, Jay.  Ruth woke Jay up, helped him prepare for seeing his dad, stayed by his side, and took him out for a talk and donuts afterward.  Our youngest was celebrating her first birthday the day after Brian passed away.  None of us had any interest in celebrating but Ruth made sure there were presents, decorations and cake.  She got the boys involved, took pictures and I am eternally grateful for this....I can't imagine if we had not celebrated Rachel's first birthday.

Ruth and Audrey helped me sort through boxes of pictures as we put together memory boards of Brian for the visitation.  They kept our friends informed, assisted with arrangements, kept us fed.

Six months later Audrey was passing through Chicago on a business trip and added a few days to visit me in Bloomington.  She helped me with that daunting task of sorting through Brian's clothes.  It was her idea to save several to make quilts for each of the kids - something I still have not yet but it is always on my to do list.

When I moved to a new house, Audrey and Ruth flew back again and helped us with the move.  They emptied boxes, organized my kitchen, put pictures up around the house.  Then planned an impromptu trip to Chicago with me after making secret arrangements with my friends.  A very much needed escape from reality.

The next year I celebrated my 40th birthday.....and I was surprised by a visit from Audrey and Ruth....along with another trip to Chicago and Pat Benatar at the House of Blues.  We had a great birthday dinner with a friend at Smith & Wollensky overlooking the river watching the sunset.  A great way to ring in my 40's (which is never a depressing birthday for any of us because it meant we outlived our mother....strange perspective I know but you really do look at life differently when you've been surrounded by untimely deaths).

Another time I was heading out of town for the weekend - can't remember the circumstances at the moment - but I asked Ruth if she would fly out to spend the weekend with the kids.....no hesitation whatsoever on her part. 

Three women who have had a significant impact on me becoming the mother I am today.

But there is one other woman in my life that has a substantial impact on me....and continues to love and support me every day.  The mother of the love of my life - Brian's mother - my mother-in-law.

I have always had a wonderful relationship with her - since the day I met her.  She has never had in-law status with me.....she has always held mother status.  There is NOTHING Robin wouldn't do for me - before and after Brian passed away.  She is a confident.  I trust her 100% and is someone I trust for sound advice about life.  I would truly be lost without her and am blessed to have her in my life.

So although I never knew my mother, I have plenty of loved ones that have filled that void.  Thank you to all of you.....and I dedicate this post to you.

Look around you....are there other women in your life that have supported you and been motherly to you?  Be sure to share with them your gratitude, give them a hug and wish them a Happy Mother's Day.

To honor the memory of my own mother and my sister Janet, I made a donation to LIVESTRONG.  If you would like to honor the mothers in your life with a donation, please click on the link below:


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Another 13.1 Miles to Kick Cancer to the Curb

Last Saturday I found myself at the 50 yard line at Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus. 

I wasn't there for a football game but I was actually winning a game against cancer. 

I had just finished the Illinois Half Marathon - my April race for my RunningSTRONG for Hope Coast to Coast Tour benefiting LIVESTRONG.   I started out in December with a goal to race 200 miles against cancer.  To date, I have raced a total of 65.5 miles - from Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and now Champaign, IL.  I have run in sunshine, monsoon rains, around an ice rink and in 40 mph winds.

And along the way have raised $5,500 for LIVESTRONG.

A very important fact about this race.....the rain on my parade - I mean race - jinx was officially broken.  Although, I was running with my friend Kristin who tends to have a extreme heat curse of her own during her races, so perhaps our bad weather patterns just canceled each other out.....and brought along 40 mph wind gusts.

Yes, you read that correctly.  No monsoon or hurricane rains this time....but none stop wind....and the occasional 40 mph gusts.  But, let's keep in mind why I'm embarking on this journey. 
  • It isn't for PRs - although I did get one in Vegas and would have been rather close this past weekend if I didn't have a untimely upset stomach.
  • It isn't for the competition - although I suppose I am a bit competitive at times.  
  • It isn't for the race day swag.
  • It isn't for the exotic locale - nothing against Illinois but Champaign is far from exotic.  If I was looking for exotic, I would find a race in Hawaii. 
    No.....it was for LIVESTRONG.  Every step I take, every line I toe, every time I lace up my shoes, pull on my gear is for LIVESTRONG.  It is to bring awareness and raise funds for an organization that has done more to bring cancer into worldwide discussions, identify and provide resources those fighting and surviving cancer.  

    The following story is not mine but was recently shared with me and provides a great example of the resources LIVESTRONG provides with the dollars I raise - and you donate!

    "Four and a half years ago I heard the words: “you have cancer.” I had gone through a miscarriage at five months pregnant and had no time to grieve. Shortly thereafter came my diagnosis and I began treatment for ovarian cancer. I was only 31, and all of my decisions were connected to this six letter word.
    It was during that time that a friend told me to call LIVESTRONG as they could help with many questions about my diagnosis such as: Am I entitled to a second opinion or third opinion? How do I talk to my insurance company about things not covered? My job is having me go on medical leave of absence, with 30% of my pay, how do I make things work for me financially? I can’t work out in a gym right now while in chemo, are there any options for me to stay connected with my fitness? I only needed to call one number, and I was directed to great resources that I believe saved my life four years ago. I was able to talk with social workers who helped guide me through each of my questions. And the best part about this resource—it’s absolutely free". 

    LIVESTRONG Navigation offers free service in English and Spanish for people who need help moving through their cancer journey. You can call 855.220.7777 or fill out an online intake form. This is what our efforts are going towards....what every dollar I raise,  every step I take during my training and races.

    Please consider supporting my efforts so we can continue to provide resources like these to those that we love or perhaps ourselves as these three words "You have cancer" are mouthed by doctors around the world. Please join me in helping others make the mountain of decisions they are faced as they take in these awful words.


    My next race is in 10 days and I am just $250 shy of the $6,000 mark.  Can we make it to $7,500 before I toe the line in Pittsburgh surrounded by 100 other Team LIVESTRONG runners?

    Donate in honor of your mother for Mother's Day.  Pass up one margarita on Cinco de Mayo and donate the cost.  Celebrate a cancer survivor's birthday with a donation.

    Any donations made in honor of an individual will be added to the RunningSTRONG for Hope Tribute wall.