Friday, January 29, 2016

Why I do what I do

Four years ago today I was on an airplane back to Portland from my hometown of Spokane, Washington.  I hadn't been home since the summer of 2010 when my Dad passed away unexpectedly.

Truth be told, I never thought I would go back.  But 18 months and another death later, there I was.  And this time, the life we celebrated was also a good man, father, husband and a generous human being.  And his name was James, too.

Being home for his celebration of life impacted me in ways I never imagined.  He was my friend's husband and their children are almost the same age as mine.  I watched my friend say goodbye to her husband and best friend after a brief and fierce battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer.  And, in my hometown where I was raised, where my father spent most of his life, I found a piece of my heart that I never thought I would get back.

On that plane ride home (it's less than an hour) an idea came to me, in an instant.  It was relentless, like a two year old begging for another cookie, and I finally grabbed a pen and started writing down all the thoughts jumping in my head onto an old file folder from my carry on bag.

Both men, named James, were kind and giving people.  In the later years of my father's life he put his amazing God-given carpentry skills to work for the local Habitat for Humanity.  He supported the Custer County Historical Society, and he gave of his time, talent and treasure in many ways.

James Bennett, my dear friend's husband, also had a list of places he wished for donations in his memory to go.  Not one, but many.  That struck a chord with me.  I've always wanted to be a philanthropist, but unfortunately I'm not in a position of having a treasure trove of financial resources at my disposal.  But, as is my way, I figured out a way to come as close as I can.

On that plane ride it occurred to me that nearly every single 5K or 10K road race I was registered for had it's own cause that it supported.  But there wasn't a venue for ME to choose, at least that I knew of.  Even if there was, I felt compelled and drawn and almost REQUIRED to do something.

My plan was to create an event, a 5K/10K/Half marathon road race where the runner could choose the cause THEY want to run for, and a portion of (and someday the WHOLE ENTIRE) registration fee would go to that cause.  I didn't have a name yet, but I wrote down every damn detail of what I wanted in about 15 minutes on that plan.

Call it luck, call it genius, call it divine intervention, but whatever IT was, it wasn't going away until I put my plan into action.  I don't believe for one second that this idea just popped into my head accidentally.  No, I believe it was placed there for a reason.

And that reason is that just under four months later in the middle of planning for the inaugural Cause + Event Portland, I would be diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, an experience that has forever impacted me both physically and emotionally in ways I never could have imagined.

Four years later as I reflect on all of this I realize this: Cause + Event is MY way of leaving a lasting legacy when I do finally leave this earth.  It is MY way of being a philanthropist and supporting causes all over the world, even in a small way, as best as I can.

It means that I will, in a very microcosmic way, have done something good out there in the universe.  I will have made a difference.  I will have shown my children the value of giving back without the expectation of something in return.   And that is at the very heart of why I do what I do.

Four years later I almost can't believe that this little dream that WE had (my friends and I) is actually coming true.  Our plan for world domination, while coming along slowly (which is part of the master plan) is happening.

We now have events in three cities: Portland, Boston, and Boise.  And we are going to announce a fourth city to open an event in the spring of 2017.  So here's the scoop.  When my Dad died a little piece of me died too.  But going back there made my heart whole again.  It made me stronger.  It made me ready to face more challenges in the last four years than I ever imagined possible.  But my heart was whole again in some strange way.  Even in the face of loss, we can still find a way to heal our hearts.

I am proud of our events and the parent organization we founded, the Cause + Event Foundation.  I'm thankful for every friend that helped along the way, every sponsor, every cause, every runner, every team.  This whole crazy train wouldn't leave the station without all of you.

This blog post isn't about tooting my own horn, that is never something I wish to do.  But I DO want to celebrate the collective efforts of people worldwide who have come together to help us realize our vision of raising as much money as we can for as many causes as we can in as many communities as we can.  THANK YOU.

And I would be a TERRIBLE "founder" if I didn't take a moment to ask every single one of you to help us spread the word about our events and what we do.  And to register.  Even if you don't live in one of our race cities, you can still participate virtually and run for YOUR cause.

We have an amazing new website created by our friends who organize the Boston race.  And we have a very special YouTube video I hope you will watch. 

Please know that we are also 100% run by volunteers.  Eventually as we grow, that will probably have to change, but our goal is and always will be the same:  to someday have enough sponsors to cover our race costs in every city so that we can give 100% of every registration to the causes our runner's choose.

This is my opportunity to give back, to say thank you for the second chance that I received in the summer of 2012.

So thank you.  All of you.



Thursday, February 19, 2015

It's very, very real...

Most of what I’m about to share is private, it’s personal and it’s about my son.  Close friends and family are aware of our situation, but there are plenty of people in my life who are not. 

But after reading this article: ADHD Definitely Doesn’t Exist, But If It Did I Would Have It   I didn’t feel like I wanted to keep silent.

I honestly don’t want to publicly “out” my kid, but reading an article that says ADHD doesn’t exist makes my blood boil.  But that’s what it was intended to do, so I don’t fault the author.  I don’t fault him for laying out his opinion on the matter, and I won’t fault him for the gross overgeneralization of the situation.
I’m going to lay out MY opinion, based on MY experience because I want the other side to be heard.  And the “other side” of this is a sweet little eight year old boy who can, and will, tell you that ADHD is in fact VERY real.

Once upon a time, in 2006 a sweet little red headed boy was born.  Even as a little dude he was constantly in motion.  He was happiest when he was busy, moving, entertained.  Many people will say that’s normal kid stuff, but I have two of them and I assure you they are very different in this way.

As he grew, he just got busier.  He was, and is, a very funny and insightful child, just like his older sibling.  But, as I like to say, he came out of the womb talking to the nurse and the doctor.  Talking in his sleep (for real) and talking talking talking nonstop.  Again, people will tell you this is normal kid stuff.  I will remind you, I have two and they are very very different in this way.

I have dozens of blog posts on here about both children, but many of them were always about his shenanigans and mischief at school.  He’s not a bad kid or a mean kid, he’s just busy.  Always testing the boundaries, pushing the envelope and still, the talking…

I also have photo upon photo of him with black eyes, a bumped head, or missing fingernails.  My Dad used to say “gravity storm” when the poor kid would literally off a bar stool in the kitchen, fall down while merely standing still or trip over something that wasn’t there.  

It’s tough when you’re a kid who is always in motion.  When you brain never stops until you sleep.  I remember saying he looks like a murder scene chalk outline when he sleeps.  It’s because he’s constantly in motion, on the go and can’t slow down until its bed time and his body has to catch up and re-charge.

It all sounds like normal kid stuff.  But I have two children and they are still very different.  Busy is as busy does until you have to be in school.  Suddenly there are expectations that they can’t meet, no matter how hard they try.  Their teacher whispers after school one day “he might be ADHD”, and, as it was in my case, you won’t be too shocked.  But still, as a parent you hold out hope that it’s a phase and he will grow out of it.

But then, notes keep coming home, his academic achievements are far below what you know your bright and intelligent child is capable of and suddenly he isn’t making friends.  Your sweet, fun-loving, jovial life of the party child has no close friends.  He stops getting invited to parties, but tells you about the parties that all the other kids get invited to.  Try and explain that to your 7 year old.

And, you see him interact with others and you know why.  No one wants to befriend the Tasmanian devil.  He gets more and more riled and is less and less capable of setting himself down.  You can see the irritation on their faces.

You volunteer in his classroom and notice a marked difference in him vs the other kids, minus the two kids you know already who are ADHD.  Indeed, they are very much the same.  Impulsive, busy, in motion but they are not bad children.  They are good children who aren’t made to fit in a classroom of rambunctious 7 year olds.  It’s hard to be them.

Then you watch the children he once called friends pick on him, make fun of him and say things like “why can’t you get your work done?” or (and I can’t blame them) “go away, you are bothering me.”   

And you watch how his confidence playing sports takes a nose dive because these same children also put him down on the court and on the field.

Suddenly you find yourself with a depressed little boy who feels like he has no friends and can’t do well in school.  So you try different diets, you medicate him with coffee before school (which helps for just a bit), you make him exercise a little more and you work with the school until there’s nothing else to be done.

You face facts: your sweet, fun-loving, perfect, beautiful child feels that he has no friends, he can’t do anything right, and school is too hard.  And you know he is a wonderful boy that anyone would want to be friends with, if only….. And you know how smart he is, if only…..and your heart breaks a thousand times over when he tells you, again, about a party he wasn’t invited to.

And with that in mind, you finally, reluctantly, put him on medication because you don’t know what else to do.  And it works.  And all the guilt you feel about giving him the meds combines with all the guilt you feel about not having given them to him earlier and the huge, immeasurable relief you feel that finally, after years of trial and error, worry, pain, heartache and despair, you finally unequivocally get your son back.

For every article that says ADHD isn’t real, there’s one that says it is.  And I have an 8 year old boy who can tell you what life is like with ADHD and what it’s like with medication.  Two totally different worlds, two totally different children, but they are still, and always, the same sweet, wonderful, perfect, friendly, caring, giving children you raised.  

For everyone out there who says ADHD doesn’t exist, there’s another 8 year old boy or 11 year old girl who can tell you that thank GOD their parents did what needed to be done to make life the way it ought to be for them.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to be that child, but I can tell you what it’s like to be their parent.   

And reading things like this that say ADHD isn’t real is upsetting, to put it mildly.

If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t hesitate to put him on meds, I’d just have done it sooner.  I have my son back, and I’m thankful for that much.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The end of June

Late June is a hard time of year for me.  It wasn't always, certainly not at all until 2012. 

Late June should be the most fantastic and anticipated time of the year.....the afternoons stretch out like a cat just waking from a nap.  Evening hangs around like the friend who just can't seem to say goodnight. 

The warmth in the sun holds the promise of lazy days by the pool, sleeping in, drinking coffee in your PJs and not having to be anywhere for anything. 

And yet....

I didn't recognize it at first, certainly not last year.  But I'm a little edgier, a little more touchy, slightly withdrawn and a tad on the melancholy side right about now.  It hit me, today, on the drive down to the O.C. (that's Oregon City for us Portlanders) to pick up my daughter from basketball camp.

And when it hit, it socked me hard, in the gut, like my brother used to do when I wasn't looking.  The tears came, and they wouldn't stop.  It all came back again. 

June 24, 2012 (that's two years ago tomorrow): I found the lump in my right breast that turned out to be the one thing I never thought I'd have: cancer.  Mind you, I don't keep that day in my brain.  I remember July 12, that's the anniversary of my mastectomy.

No, I don't consciously hold on to that June 24 date, but apparently deep inside my heart I've been keeping track.  I lost my shit today when I realized how close I am to that night, two years ago, when I was laying in bed talking to my husband and scratched under my breast and found it. 

Yes, it's true, I have a sweet new rack and the wavy hair I always wanted (thank you menopause), but the price I paid to get here was steep.  I am thriving, make no mistake.  I'm just an emotional wreck sometimes, and I probably always will be.

Today I was out on a training run, it's taper week for me, in the heat and humidity and I had an epiphany of sorts.  I tend to do my best thinking with a little Jason Aldean blaring in my ears, crunching gravel under my feet and the sun, high in the sky as I fly along the path between the guardians, the trees that line the Hollister Trail across from Nike WHQ.

I made the decision, months ago, that after Pacific Crest Olympic Triathlon this coming Sunday, that I would take some time off from training.  A long time.  Will I still run?  Absolutely.  Will I race?  Definitely.  Will I be a slave to a training plan and miss out on any more precious moments with my family?  No.  Not for a long, long while.

Today I realized that two years ago I was training for my first sprint triathlon when I found the lump.  I was eating not enough and training far too much, and I lost just enough weight that the tumor was actually visible in the mirror.  I just never noticed.

So to me, it's so fitting, and ironic, that two years to the day that I made the decision to pull out the big guns and fight fire with an atomb bomb by undergoing a painful mastectomy and breast reconstruction (really, I didn't do it for the new boobs, I swear) I'll be completing an event that, while tough, can never hold a candle to what I endured two years ago. 

And it's the event that was the catalyst for me finding the cancer in the first place.

So here I am, coming full circle.  I'll be taking on yet another big challenge, one that I'm probably not prepared for (again!), but I know that my family will be there with me, cheering me on, just like the last time. 

I can't tell you what that means to me.

June is always going to be hard.  I'll probably always withdraw, cry a little bit, and be on edge for a few weeks.  But I always come back around.  I always survive.  Just like I did two years ago.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Maude VS The Conscious Uncoupling

I've been in an unhealthy relationship for the past two years.  At first when we got together things were great, at least they seemed that way.  Just like any relationship, at first it was all new and exciting, and almost sinful when we'd be together.  I really knew how to push his buttons, if you know what I mean.

But before long things just started to feel a little dirty, I mean I was taking him into the bathroom for crying out loud.  And what started out as just a fun little escape turned into an addiction almost for me.  Turns out I was in a bit of a co-dependent situation, me needing him, him using me to "recharge his batteries" so to speak.

It took me a really long time to figure it out. But when I finally did it hit me over the head like an old Motorola cell phone.  So I did what any semi-irrational female in a co-dependent relationship would do:  I decided it was time to break up.

Yes, that's right.  I have consciously uncoupled myself from my iPhone.  And, like any co-dependent relationship it's been hard.  My phone and I share a lot together: my calendar, my training tracking app, email, and the weather to name a few things.  Not to mention he makes sweet music in my ears!

I had to do the whole "it's not you it's me" speech, which is hard because the whole time you know he's thinking "bullshit, you don't love me anymore and you just can't say it" but this time, THIS TIME, it really is ME that needs a break.

Right now we're in the whole "friends with benefits" stage, so I don't take him everywhere with me, I don't use him to make phone calls or anything, but if I need him he's there, just like a good, old reliable booty call.

Imagine my surprise at the ATT store when I learned that my iPhone would become the equivalent of an iTouch, AND I'm saving $20 a month in data billing?!  Who knew!?  Best conscious uncoupling EVER!!!

So far this whole new stage in our relationship is working out just fine. I still rely on him for the things I really need (that calendar is a lifesaver) and I'm not using him for my own entertainment anymore.

I do think he's having a hard time with it, as I was leaving ATT the clerk holding the door said "See you in two weeks!", but I think HE put her up to it.  No, now that we're not together all the time, I feel a freedom I haven't felt in two years!  And now I'm free to focus on the other loves in my life: my husband and two children.

I know my iPhone is sad, lonely, and feeling left out, but I know once my kids figure out they can play games on him at home, he'll find his true purpose: buying me ten minutes to clean the toilets uninterrupted.  It's the little things in life, you know?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Detox Over

My Facebook Detox is over.  It’s been over for several days, I just haven’t jumped back on until I felt I was ready.  I needed to do a few things first, one of which is to get rid of my “smart” phone. 

I’ll be going old school with talk & text only.  Not having my calendar is probably going to cause some trouble, but extricating myself from unnecessary apps and distractions is far more important than the convenience of my calendar.

I think it’s been almost two years since I got a smart phone, so it’s fitting that I’m breaking up with it right about now.  Save for my husband, none of my relationships ever lasted that long anyways and always for good reason.  This time, it’s because life was passing me by and I didn’t even realize it.

While on my Facebook break I found myself engaging in conversation with my children WAY more and hadn’t even realized how much I was missing out with them.  Really, it was startling and also very sad.

While on my Facebook break I also discovered that I didn’t really miss it (I almost hate to even admit this but it’s very true).  I DID miss connecting with people and keeping up with everyone, but I didn’t miss that I felt an OBLIGATION to be engaged.

I just noticed a lot of things I didn’t notice before.  I noticed I had a LOT more time, which I thought I would spend writing ironically enough, but instead I spent it doing things I wanted/needed to do: FOCUS ON MY FAMILY.  That’s just basically about all I can say.  FOCUS.  On. What. Matters.

And I do need to be clear with everyone because it seems to me that some people think I’m saying Facebook is bad/evil and I NEVER said that!  I only said that Facebook was bad for ME and ME ONLY.  Let me say that ONE MORE TIME to be clear: FACEBOOK was BAD for ME.  It’s up to YOU to decide if it’s bad for you, too.  

I am hopeful that my (5 weeks? I think!) break was enough time to detox, refocus and re-engage.  But, I told myself I would go back to Facebook ONLY when I set up rules for myself, so here they are: 

1.   I will only check Facebook IF I have the time and NOT when the children are around.  They deserve my attention, as does my husband.  Although when he’s watching episodes of Breaking Bad I probably will be cruising the ‘Book.  Something about that show just turns my stomach.
2.       I will not check on days where I think I might have feelings of inadequacy because of other’s posts.  Granted, that’s probably almost every day, but case in point: last year on Mother’s Day of all days I thought about all my shortcomings as a mother because of all the wonderful insta-gram-e posts from everyone else and felt like I didn’t measure up.  If I need to shut down for 24 hours, so be it.
3.       I will not feel guilt if I don’t have time to check Facebook and comment/like other’s posts.  Honestly, for me this went from being a fun way to check in and see what everyone was up to, to feeling like it was one more thing I had to do and was almost frantic because I couldn’t see/comment/like everyone’s updates and I didn’t want them to think I was mad at them and I wanted them to like my updates and if they didn’t like them was it because I didn’t like their updates and were they mad at me and OMG.
4.       I will not feel jealous.  I will remind myself that we all (me included) post the best of the best on Facebook.  We post our best photos, status updates and life’s experiences.  And that’s OK.  Life isn’t always rosy perfect and that’s OK too.  It should be acceptable for all of us to show our best to the world and we shouldn’t feel bad about it.  And we should feel like it’s OK to celebrate things with others, after all Facebook is how we stay connected with friends & family near and far.  Let’s face it, even living in the same town with our friends doesn’t mean we get to see them in person often enough.  We’re all moving at the speed of light and sometimes the only way we can connect is in our new digital world.

That’s pretty much it, for me anyways.  If I break any of these rules I’ll put myself in a time out again.  I don’t know if I’ll do a 30 day detox again, but who knows.  All I know is that this break was VERY good for me and I’m looking forward to connecting with everyone again.  Peace out.