Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." -Dr. Seuss

December 31st....the last day of 2011.

It has been a long year - a year filled with highs and lows.  Something I suspect we all have.

That quote in the title summarizes a lot of what I have been feeling this year.  Sadness for a lot of wonderful experiences that ended - adventures with friends, a relationship, training for races, watching my children move on in life, friends moving to new cities, milestones coming and going ....but all in all, a ton of  wonderful memories to embrace!

We all have accomplishments - some of those may just have been making it through a particular day and others may have been completing a challenge we never thought we were capable of.   Some accomplishments were filled with sadness and regret....others with joy and triumph.

Regardless, we survived each high and each low.

As I reflect back upon the roller coaster ride I endured this year,  each one of those ups, downs, twists and turns were not accomplished alone.  I was surrounded by love and support from old and new friends - many made through my involvement with LIVESTRONG, others through random meetings (again, I truly believe things in life happen for a reason), and many others virtual strangers.

I appreciate each and everyone of you - my blog readers, my #plankaday partners, my running friends, my LIVESTRONG friends, my partners in crime (you know who you are), those that have known me since grade school (and unfortunately have the pictures to prove it), those I work with, and those that only know me from social media.  Without each of you, I would not have survived the lowest lows in life or have the successes I was blessed with this year.

I welcome 2012 with open arms....and although I will continue running for LIVESTRONG, I am considering 2012 as the Year of the Bike.  Yes, a new challenge....and one that scares the daylights out of me.  But, my focus will be in cycling....with a few half marathons thrown in for cross-training.  More to come! 
As I scoured my list of favorite quotes, I couldn't find just one that summarized how I am feeling as a new page begins at midnight.  So, I am sharing my parting comments for 2012.

And one last comment from Barb for 2012 ~
....instead of celebrating tonight at midnight, consider celebrating each and every midnight....reflect upon the successes/fails of each day, have gratitude and create a goal/resolution for the new day to come!  CELEBRATE LIFE!!

“Begin at once to live and count each separate day as a separate life.” -Seneca

"The future is completely open, and we are writing it moment to moment." -Pema Chodron

"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." -Charles Swindoll

"If we look at the world with a love of life, the world will reveal its beauty to us." -Daisaku Ikeda

"Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out." ~John Wooden

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant." -Robert Louis Stevenson

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, this is to have succeeded.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Your outlook on life is a direct reflection on how much you like yourself." -Lululemon

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” -Pericles

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"It Is Not the Length of Life, But Depth of Life" - a tribute to Sean

My guest blogger is my LIVESTRONG friend I made while running the Philadelphia LIVESTRONG Challenge 5K in 2010.  Those that know us find it amazing that we only met a little over one year ago....but it is as though we have been friends for life. I have never laughed so hard as I have when I am around the point that my belly aches and I have almost fallen off my bike.She is one of my many sounding boards, a major component of my LIVESTRONG support system....and a CANCER HATER!

What follows is a euology she delivered yesterday at the funeral of her friend Sean, who fought bravely against cancer but ran out of time.  

What she shares applies to each and everyone of us.  Take a look at your own life - are you living it fully?

It is not the length of life, but depth of life.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Take good care of your body.
Your body is the greatest tool you'll ever own. It impacts every step you take and every move you make. Nourish it, exercise it, rest it.

Spend as much time as possible with the people you love 
 Human beings are emotional creatures.  Family and close friends makeup the core of your emotional support system.  The more you nuture them, the more they will nuture you.

"I would not be anywhere else than with my child who was desperately sick and fighting for his life. Every night and most days I stayed with him, watching him battle to live. Finally the day before he lost his battle, he looked at me and said 'my poor mommy'"

Be a part of something you believe in
This could be anything. Some people take active role in their council, some find refuge in religious faith, some join social clubs supporting causes they believe in, and others find passion in their careers.  In each case the psychological outcome is the same. They engage themselves in something they strongly believe in. This engagement brings happiness and meaning into their lives.

"Sean was going to be an honorary chair of the 2012 American Cancer Society's Daffodil Days campaign. It was something he was excited to get involved with. The campaign will now be dedicated to his honor."

Excel at what you do 
There's no point in doing something if you aren't going to do it right. Excel at your work and excel at your hobbies. Develop a reputation for yourself, a reputation for consistent excellence.

"Sean never saw limitations w/his niece Morgan Stephanie. He never thought about what she couldn't do, never talked about what her limits would be. He only imagined what she could accomplish. He saw no boundaries in life only the possibility of completing anything. I published my Livestrong ride of 2008 on Facebook and Tracey told Sean she wanted to run the 5k in his honor. He said I want to do it with you. She told him she would walk w/him, but he insisted on jogging and he crossed the finish line receiving his yellow rose RUNNING all smiles."

Be self-sufficient
Freedom is the greatest gift. Self-sufficiency is the greatest freedom.

"Freedom to Sean could have been being on an open road, starting, stopping, choosing a route to drive.  It could be from 2009 to 2011 when he was in remission of cancer.  I hope that it is now, being free of pain, free of cancer, and free of being scared.  I know in my heart that I will always miss and long for my brother and husband, but again freedom.  I am free to love him, free to replay all of my memories, free to know I will someday meet w/him again."

Build a comfortable, loving household 
Home is where the heart is. Your home should be comfortable and lined with love. It should be a place that brings the whole family together.

"A house is not a home until it is filled with love. Each and every home Sean entered, lived in, or visited was instantly a home."

Respect elders. Respect minors. Respect everyone
There are no boundaries or classes that define a group of people that deserve to be respected. Treat everyone with the same level of respect you would give to your grandfather and the same level of patience you would have with your big brother or husband.

"Sean was kind to every person he met, whether young or old, rich or poor. He treated others the way he would expect his sisters or wife to be treated. Sean always had the patience of a saint, it showed through the loving relationships he had with his nieces and nephews."

Mix it up. Try different things
 Seek as many new life experiences as possible and be sure to share them with the people you love. After all, your life's story is simply a string of experiences. The more experiences you have, the more interesting your story gets.

Take full ownership of your actions
 Either own up to your actions or your actions will ultimately own you.

Listen more. Talk less
The more you listen and the less you talk, the more you will learn and the less you will miss.

"Sean loved in the last few months, the people who just came to talk.  He listened intently and loved the talking."

Savor the natural joys of simple pleasures
They come in the form of simple pleasures and they appear right in front of you at various locations and arbitrary times.  They are governed by Mother Nature and situational circumstance and captured by mindful awareness.  It’s all about taking a moment to notice the orange and pink sunset reflecting off the pond water as you hold hands with someone you love.  Noticing these moments and taking part in them regularly will bring unpredictable bursts of happiness into your life.

"It is really a shame that we sometimes need a life changing event to help us appreciate moments in our lives. Sometimes the silver lining that comes from the passing of a friend or loved one is the realization that our time in this world is not infinite. We need to savor every moment that our lives afford us the opportunity to experience. Sean lived his life this way. He taught us to take every chance, dance every dance and live EVERY moment. In just the last few years, Sean experienced so many great things that should inspire us to LIVE FOR THE MOMENT. Whether it was starting his own business or supporting cancer research, he did it with an enthusiasm and passion that was unmatched. We are all blessed to have known Sean and I hope we are all inspired by his courage and positive attitude to enjoy every moment life has to offer. I know we will all live our lives SeanSTRONG."

Leave time for spontaneous excursions
Sometimes opportunity knocks at unexpected times. Make sure you have enough flexibility in your schedule to respond accordingly.

"Growing up my son, Sean always would say 'dad look at that truck going down the road.' As Sean began driving he would work around trucks. Before you knew it, Sean called me to say 'I got a job driving a tractor trailer for some company and I'm going to Delaware tomorrow.' I said Go for it! That was the start, then came California and British Columbia and it never stopped."

Right now is the only moment guaranteed to you. Right now is life. Don't miss it.

A Word of Consolation
If a tiny baby could think, it would be afraid of birth. To leave the only world it had known would seem a kind of death. But immediately after birth the child finds itself in loving arms, showered with affection and cared for at every moment.

Passing through death is really a birth into a new and better world.  Those who are left behind should not grieve as if there were no hope.  Life is changed, not taken away.  Our dear ones live on, in a world beautiful beyond anything we can imagine.
There they await the day when they will welcome us with joy.

In Sean's Own Words.-When he was re-diagnosed- "I am positive I can defeat this again. I have a lot of support of friends & family 24/7! Keep you posted! LIVESTRONG!"
'Sean NEVER gave up, he simply ran out of time, he simply ran out of time.'

Monday, December 26, 2011


Generosity is often hidden most of the year - unfortunately.  Perhaps we are just too busy to notice it throughout the non-holiday season.

I hope that I haven't overlooked any gestures of generosity towards me....and if I have, please accept my sincere apologies.  I am so very appreciative of the thoughtfulness others have bestowed upon myself and my children.  We have been the recipients of so many acts of kindness over the years. 

The past three years, you have all been very generous with your wallets - helping me raise close to $35,000 for an organization that has been very generous to me - LIVESTRONG.

This morning after receiving a gift from my children of uninterrupted sleeping in (thank you!), the Facebook airwaves were filled with notifications of a very generous bit of news.   An anonymous donor has offered to match EVERY LIVESTRONG  donation until the end of 2011, up to $100,000.


This is my opportunity to give back to an organization that has provided so much hope to my family....that has helped me to survive some very awful periods of depression and sadness due to the lack of generosity cancer provided me when stealing loved ones from me.....the sense of community this organization has created and I have been lucky to be a part of.....the list goes on and on....the programs LIVESTRONG supports for those fighting cancer, those having won their battle, and those grieving
 - LIVESTRONG at the Y, Camp Kesem, the LIVESTRONG Navigation Center....the list goes on and on.
Check out more information on how LIVESTRONG provides support and uses our donations

I am making a donation today.....and hope you will join me so we can take advantage of a stranger's generosity...and in turn, our generosity will allow LIVESTRONG to continue their generosity to those needing support during a difficult time in their lives.

Please join me  by making a donation using the link below:

Have your donation MATCHED today!

A heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you for your generosity to me, your support, your kind words and gestures this year as I have encountered ups and downs.   

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What LIVESTRONG Means to Me - by Rachel, 8 year old cancer hater

Today is Christmas Eve and as I was snuggled on the couch with my 8 year old daughter Rachel, we started talking about LIVESTRONG.  What follows is Rachel's words.   From my family to all of you - hope you have a joyous holiday season!

LIVESTRONG means to me -

  • killing cancer

  • thinking of my dad

  • not letting anything stop me

  • friends and family

  • helping others 

  • giving hope to other people

  • donating to help people fight cancer

    LIVESTRONG helps me be stronger without my dad.

    LIVESTRONG helped me go to Camp Kesem and meet other kids like me.

    LIVESTRONG helps my family because we have a lot of friends that LIVESTRONG.

    Marry Christmas to all!


    Want to help Rachel and I keep kicking cancer to the curb?  Consider joining us at the Philly LIVESTRONG Challenge on the Friends Fighting Cancer team in August or make a donation to our efforts
    RunningSTRONG for Hope & Hula Hooping for Hope to benefit LIVESTRONG

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    The New Compliment - Intimidating

    "Are you intimidated by me? Because if you're intimidated by me, that's something you'll have to deal with."

    I had a very interesting discussion with a great friend the other day.....and we came to a conclusion about how I am perceived by others after our spontaneous conversation over coffee.   And to be honest, it wasn't the first time I have wondered this....or others have suggested it.

    Wondering what we talked about, huh?

    We determined that people are potentially intimidated by me.

    Not as in being a bully but that my independent nature and circumstances causes men to find me intimidating.


    I wish some people would put more thought into why individuals are the way they are instead of just making assumptions about them.

    OK, what follows is a sarcastic rant (maybe that's why I'm often perceived as intimidating - ha ha).

    When my battery dies on my car, guess what....I have to deal with it.

    When the bills need to be paid, guess what....I have to deal with them.

    When my kids get into trouble, guess what....I have to deal with it.

    When the snow needs to be shoveled, guess what....I have to deal with it.

    When we travel, guess what.....I need to pack the car, I need to make the arrangements, I need to do the driving, I need to fill the tank, I need to plan the "potty stops", I need to map the route, I need to figure out where we are if we get lost.....I have to deal with it all.

    I am not "dealing with all this" because I want to....but because I HAVE life has become full of HAVE too's.....there are no choices, there are no decisions or dividing the duties down the line.  There is no shared custody and every other weekend free.

    My widower friends (my father was one of these men) are not considered "intimidating".....I think women take pity on awful that they need to do laundry, bake cookies for school, do the grocery shopping, clean the house, make dinner.

    Yet, when the shoe is on the other foot, a woman who lost her spouse is considered intimidating. 

    Really, who do these people think is going to do all this stuff?

    Intimidating is such an AWFUL description of my situation.  As much as I dislike always being considered strong - because I really am not - strong is not an offensive description.

    I think I speak for all widows/widowers out there - as far as I am concerned,  widows/widowers are the best catches out there.  We are single because an accident, an illness, an  unfortunate event ended our loving relationship.  We are not "needy" - we are capable of being independent when necessary.  We have limited free time but appreciate that time - and it give the other party an opportunity to have some guilt free time to themselves.

    What a shame that there are a lot of  individuals out there that are missing out on scores of great catches because they are "intimidated" by our situation or independent nature.  Too bad that being "needy" is more appealing.  I am a fabulous woman who yes, is a bit opinionated and a bit strong-willed, but am capable of wanting companionship for more than someone to handle my household tasks.

    Thank goodness all those "I need to take care of you" overbearing men find me intimidating.....I don't need to be "taken care of."

    So, perhaps intimidating, although it can be construed as offensive, is a great way to weed out those that can't appreciate a fabulous gem if it were placed on a silver platter directly in front of them.

    Of course, I won't be crying about this.....that would ruin my reputation and I certainly don't want to be labeled needy, weepy or weak!

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Planking, Planking, Planking.....Planking for LIVESTRONG

    Even Santa Planks!
    I started doing this PlankaDay thing on Twitter a few months ago to strengthen my back and core....started out doing one a day for 30 seconds....worked my way up to 3 minute planks.....then started adding some side planks, etc.  Boy does it work....65 miles on the bike in Austin last October and no back pain....NYC Marathon in November and no back pain those last few miles.
    The Twitter Plankaday movement includes the Plank Police.....and believe me, you'll be called out on Twitter if you don't get in your plank each day.  Just what I need.  Perfect to keep me motivated.  Check it out and consider joining in on the fun! Plank-a-Day Revolution
    I have already completed more than 100 planks for December and decided it is time to use my planking for help more than my core and support LIVESTRONG.
    But I need your help.
    I have a challenge for all of you.....just like I do all the running for my marathons, I'll do all the planking.  BUT, you get to decide how MANY planks I do.
    I will do as many planks next week based upon the donations made to my LIVESTRONG 2012 account (I'm currently training for the LIVESTRONG Austin Half Marathon in February).
    Any amount of donation counts.  The number of donations, not the dollar amount, determines the number of planks completed.
    Any donation between $1.00 and $9.00 = 1 plank
    Any donation $10 or greater = 2 planks
    Use this link to make a donation and get me planking
    Be quick though.....don't delay.  This special offer to make me suffer with loads of planks ends at midnight Saturday. 
    Oh, and don't forget.....this is considered a 2011 TAX DEDUCTION! A win-win for everyone involved!!!


    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    Fa la la la la.....It's Time for New Traditions

    A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.  ~ Garrison Keillor

    The definition of compulsory is obligatory; required by a law or a rule.

    Christmas as compulsory?  Is Christmas required by rule?  Is it obligatory?

    I never thought of Christmas as anything more than a time of joy, a period of gathering with loved ones, of fun filled excitement.  

    As a child, I have memories of anxiously awaiting Santa's arrival, baking cookies with my sister Janet, going to the Cathedral for the Christmas Eve children's service, thinking every red light in the air was Rudolph, large family gatherings on Christmas day, family Cribbage tournaments, and finishing up the holiday with a family tradition of cards using my Dad's homemade game board and pennies for our wagers.
    As a teen, I remember watching the awe of Christmas from my niece and nephews eyes, the excitement of Christmas for myself somewhat passed but still loving the large gatherings of my family, the tradition of Christmas caroling through my neighborhood with my high school field hockey team (I'm not sure how that tradition started but we did it every year while in high school).  The college years were filled with Secret Santa, studying for finals, and coming home.  Christmas meant meeting up with all my high school friends again.

    Once I graduated, Christmas was filled with memories of Brian.....and our own traditions.  As our family grew, we added more traditions.  But, then Brian passed away....and so did many of those traditions.

    Once Brian passed away - just a few years after my sister and father passed - Christmas no longer was joyous to me.  

    Christmas became compulsory....and obligation.  As it still does.  If it weren't for my children, I am not sure I'd even celebrate the holidays.....I'd just put my head down and move forward as quickly as possible.

    We began new traditions - with friends and within our home.

    But, in reality, Christmas has begun to be a chore for me.  Maybe it is because the boys are getting older and aren't as excited.  However, celebrating without Brian, Janet, my father, my bother-in-law Frank....and having large family gatherings I grew up with.....makes me indifferent about Christmas.

    If I had the choice, I'd skip it all together.  I would go on a trip.  I would not decorate.  I wouldn't do any shopping.

    Reality....I finally got around to decorating my house today.  The last one on the street with any lights and with a tree.  I am certain they wondered what was wrong with me....just like they probably wonder when I am going to get around to raking my leaves, mowing my yard or weeding.  It isn't that I don't want to do those things or that I am not is because I am not motivated.  Widows still grieve at the holidays - regardless of how long it has been.

    Today the tree was put up and decorated - by my daughter and I.  The teenage boys no longer have interest in participating.  Rachel has no memories of Christmas with her father.  I missed the reminiscing with my older son as he recognized Brian's ornaments.....and both Brian and Jay's favorite - Prancer playing basketball.  After I mentioned this to Rachel, we decided to honor Brian by placing a LIVESTRONG band on his favorite ornament.....a new tradition I suppose! 

    I want Christmas to be joyous but it is I am sure it is for many.  I am pretty sure we are all missing someone or something - either a loved one or an important tradition.  

    I wonder what memories my children will have?  

    Perhaps this year we will come up with a new Christmas tradition.....I'm going to put some though into this.  Something new so Christmas won't continue to be so difficult.  So it isn't something I dread.  So it isn't a chore.

    Don't get me wrong - I love the the the the the the joy.....but I just don't feel it anymore.

    No, I am not the Grinch....I am not filled with "Bah Humbug."

    I am a widow.....and cancer has taken the joy out of Christmas. 

    As you celebrate your holidays, think about those around you that have had an unfortunate change this year....or years past.   Nothing extraordinary needs to be done but perhaps add them to your address list for a card, invite them to a gathering, offer to entertain the kids so they can wrap presents or finish up shopping, see if they need assistance "building" that special gift, offer to assist with getting the decorations out of the basement/attic, invite them to a day of baking, a cup of coffee at the neighborhood coffee shop.  All these have been offered to me by others over the years - and all have added "joy" to my holidays.  Sometimes a little gesture is all that is needed to get in the spirit.

    I can feel the dread already going away slightly just by writing I sit in the glow of my Christmas tree.  

    Happy Holidays!