Updates Galore

Since it’s been a while (cue Aaliyah! “It’s been a long time/we shouldn’t have left you/without a dope beat to step to”), I figure I owe y’all a an update on the various goings-on over the last few months.

In my last post before my long hiatus, I was waxing poetic about how much I miss Colorado. Thankfully, Brandon and I were able to head out there a desperately needed two-week vacay in February, which was awesome. What wasn’t awesome was the weather, which was predicted to be in the 40’s and 50’s and gorgeous, only to be revised (on the day we arrived, no less) as highs of 3 and wind chills of -20.  So, while we didn’t get to hike much, we did get to watch a lot of movies — and we got to see some of my favorite people, which made me sublimely happy. I did get one very brief hike in, juuuuuust as the weather improved before we flew back to DC — and of course, I had to take pictures for posterity. This is from one of my favorite local trails:

 

Bear Creek Trail

Oh, and the Broncos lost the Super Bowl. Guys, I knew it was doomed from the moment I saw that first fumbled snap. I’m not a big drinker under normal circumstances, but I made a considerable dent in my dad’s GF beer supply during the course of that game. As soon as the snap was fumbled, my dad and I exchanged one of those “oh, sh*t” glances and helped ourselves to a few adult beverages. (In case anyone is wondering, Colorado has some awesome GF beer.) To illustrate how much I love my Broncos, on the Friday before game day, I wore this shirt to work:

 

Broncos Country
I think this solidifies my candidacy for upper management, does it not?

 

While Seattle obviously played a great game and Seahawks fans have every right to be thrilled about the outcome of that particular massacre, I’m not going to want to talk to any Seattle fans about that game for a very, very long time. In fact, probably not ever. As the game concluded, I put up a PSA on Facebook to let everyone know that if any Seattle fans talk any trash to me, ever, about this game, I will summarily de-friend them. Because my devotion to the Broncos obviously comes before human relationships. I’m nothing if not logical, folks. (As an example of my irrational sports fanaticism, I still loathe the University of Michigan after they beat my beloved Colorado College hockey team, in double overtime, for the NCAA national championship…in 1995. Now I rabidly root for them to lose in all sports, all the time. But I don’t carry grudges, I swear!)

Once we got back to DC, we were met with equally frigid and snowy weather as what we’d experienced in Colorado. The good part of this was that we had a bunch of snow days off from work – yay! – but the bad news was that once we did return to the office, my bus stop looked like this:

 

Bus Stop with Snow
To give you a sense of scale here, the ice was up to my knees. It was fun times.

 

I mean, who doesn’t like a treacherous, icy schlep to work in the mornings?! They’re beloved by everyone, obviously. Thankfully, winter fiiiinnnaaaalllly seems to be releasing its vise-grip on DC, since today is supposed to be gorgeous and warm. Despite the incoming pollen-bomb, my inhaler and I are totally going to take advantage of the sunshine by going for a run outside this afternoon. I may be a wheezy, sneezing mess by the time I get back, but I think it’ll probably be worth it. (Albuterol, don’t fail me now.)

Lastly, and most exciting, two weeks ago I had a re-biopsy to see where things stand with my endometrial cancer treatment, and the results look good! Things aren’t totally back to normal, since the cells have regressed into a pre-cancerous stage — but this means that a) the cancer itself is gone, and b) the meds are working. HAPPY DANCE!

 

image
Colbert + Kermie = best happy dance ever

 

The state they’re in right now is basically a half-way point: when endometrial cancer develops, cells go from being normal to pre-cancerous to cancerous — so in treating it, the meds are supposed to make it go in the opposite direction. Since the meds are doing exactly that, my doctors are really encouraged that a bit more time will hopefully knock this out for good. I’ll remain on the progesterone treatment for another six months before we re-biopsy, and hopefully by then things will have returned to normal. My fingers are crossed — but, should you feel compelled, please feel free to light a candle/say a prayer/sacrifice a goat to add some oomph to my cause.

So, that’s a recap of the most notable goings-on during my blogging hiatus. I hope all you lovely people have been doing well!

Article Round-Up: June 30-July 6

Good morning, everyone — happy Saturday! Hopefully everyone’s weekend got off to a good start; here in muggy DC, I’m chillin’ with my numero-uno homie, Aleve, and some green tea.

As it turns out, my blissfully pain-free state on Wednesday morning was largely due to the narcotics they’d given me in post-op recovery. Blergh. That’s the bad news — the good news, though, is that now things are largely under control with NSAIDs, which is a huuuuuuuuge upgrade. Give me Aleve over Percocet any day, y’all. Narcotics, while effective, are SO not my friends. As I’ve learned recently, they give me weird, unwieldy side effects like hyperactivity, wanting to clean ALL THE THINGS, nightmares, and nausea. It’s no bueno! As it turns out, I’m an OTC and/or herbal remedy kind of gal.

Anyways, I’ve got more rest and recovery on tap for the weekend. I’m reading Dr. Lissa Rankin’s mind-bogglingly awesome book, Mind Over Medicine, and I’ve been devouring it like it’s a tray of really good GF brownies. I fully intend to park my tuchus on the sofa and read  the crap out of it later today. I also want to see This is The End with Brandon, since we both laughed hysterically when watching the trailers — and laughter, really, is the best medicine.

With that, I hope everyone has a fabulous Saturday!

There aren't enough days in the weekend, quote

 

Health & Wellness

NPR: Coke Changed Caramel Color to Avoid Cancer Warning; Pepsi in Transition

Greatist: Building an Injury-Free Body

Girls Gone Sporty: Hiking 101: Tips for Hitting the Trails

Mind, Body, Green: The 5 Healthiest Summer Fruits and Veggies

 

Stress Relief & Life Management

Lissa Rankin: 5 Tips to Help You Recover from Perfectionism

Huffington Post: 3 Yoga Moves for Anger: Poses to Help You Calm Down

Greatist: 24 Tricks to Help Survive Hot Summer Nights (Without A/C)

Mind, Body, Green: Is Suppressed Anger Making You Sick?

Regret Free Life: A Sure-Fire Way to Make Better Career Decisions

Huffington Post: 5 Signs That You’re Ready for a Career Change

 

Gender Issues

Slate: In the Coast Guard, Sexual Assault Gets Washed Away

Huffington Post: Millennial Women See the World as More Gender-Equal than Previous Generations

Atlantic: What the Rising Number of Single Dads Says About Fatherhood in General

Goldiblox ‘We Are the Champions’ Video Features Girls Who Crush Gender Stereotypes

 

Humor & Warm Fuzzies

Huffington Post: Abandoned Dog Ringo’s Story is Going to Give You Hope

Buzzfeed: 26 Invaluable Life Lessons, According to Sloths (#24 made me nearly die of cute overload)

Happy Place: 15 Brutally Honest Text Message Aut0-Replies That Would Significantly Improve Your Life

Buzzfeed: The 17 Most Epic Pieces of Presidential Fan Art Ever

Buzzfeed: 9 More Embarrassing Spelling and Grammar Errors

I’m Not Dead Yet

Soooo.

It’s been a week since I last posted, which, considering that I love y’all, is rather unlike me. I’ve been on the fence about whether or not to write about my continued medical misadventures — will they think it’s TMI? Will they hate me forever for talking about this stuff? Oh gaaaawwwwd! — but I figure that honesty is the best policy, so here goes nuthin’.

You may recall my earlier references to some epic, heinous lady troubles, as well as my (hopefully incorrect) potential diagnosis of premature ovarian failure. It turns out that my innards are having a veritable par-tay, as I also have a uterine fibroid that feels like it’s the size of Wisconsin. It may have torn into a blood vessel, which is why things have been very, very gnarly on the lady-troubles front.

At least once a day, if not more, I get a wave of cramps and, shall we say, “associated events” (now that’s a polite euphemism if I’ve ever used one) that leave me like this:

 

All this nonsense comes and goes, so sometimes I’m all kinds of happy to be pain-free, productive, and normal!

image

 

And then suddenly this happens:

 

All this means that I have to fit in normal life — cooking, talking with Brandon, calling my parents to let them know I’m not dead, and y’know, the wee task known as my job — during the windows of time when I’m actually a functional human being.

This, as you can imagine, hasn’t left much time for blogging. (Or, um, anything outside the bare necessities of life.)

So, that’s the bad news.

The good news is that I’m getting surgery a week from today to remove the offending fibroid. Exactly one week from now, I’ll be on the road to recovery — a road which, I’m told, is actually fairly short and sweet. Two weeks from now, I’ll hopefully be back in my routine of working out (a no-no for now, since it really aggravates things), blogging, and general normalcy.

And, speaking of general normalcy, I’ve never wished for my normal routine more than I do now. There’s nothing like even a relatively minor wrench being thrown into your life to make you crave normalcy and routine. I miss the gym, I miss yoga, and I miss being able to do my usual schtick.

So, hopefully, I’ll be back to my old self soon enough. Until then, I’ll probably be posting more sporadically than usual, but I promise that I’m not dead and that I’ll start posting more regularly once the surgery is over. In the meantime, maybe I’ll try the Black Knight’s approach:

 

image

image

My New Mantra: Have Faith and Let Go

So, my dear readers, I know I’ve been a bit cagey about what’s going on lately. (As a forewarning, this is about to get pretty heavy and really personal.)

As you may recall, I’ve been having some rather epic lady-problems. I went to my doctor last week for some blood work, and she called me on Monday night with the results.

They weren’t good.

My hormones are completely out of whack, and I have a preliminary diagnosis of primary ovarian insufficiency, sometimes known as premature ovarian failure. She wants to run the blood work again in a few weeks, but if the numbers hold, I’ll only have a 5-10% chance of ever getting pregnant.

As someone who’s wanted to be a mom for as long as she can remember, this is devastating news. As my doctor gently told me what this meant, my heart began to race. My hands shook so much I couldn’t hold the phone. I felt like my throat was closing.

I was able to hold it together while I was talking to my doctor, but I fell apart as soon as I got off the phone. Brandon was still at work, so I emailed him and told him that he needed to come home. I then called my mom and wept. As soon as the phrase “ovarian failure” left my mouth, I collapsed into tears. Deep, guttural, wailing sobs wracked me for a solid two minutes before I could form words again.

I’m 32 years old. I was expecting to hear that I maybe had PCOS for endometriosis, but I never expected to hear that my ovaries might be closing up shop for good.

My mom stayed on the phone with me until Brandon came home, and I buried my face in his chest as I choked out the words “ovarian failure” for a second time. He gave me a huge hug and held me while I continued crying. When I finally pulled away and was able to look him in the eyes, I could see that he was simultaneously sad, scared, and relieved.

“When you said you had bad news from the doctor, I thought you were going to tell me you had cancer,” he said. “I was really scared that I was going to lose you.”

That thought alone was enough to give me some perspective: this diagnosis is devastating, but it could be a lot worse. If nothing more, I can be thankful for that while mourning what would be lost if the diagnosis is confirmed.

This helped pull me, even if only briefly, out of the pit of despair into which I was rapidly sinking. It gave me something to hold on to. I decided, in that moment, that I must allow myself to grieve and mourn if the diagnosis is confirmed — but I also must hold on to a sense of gratitude for the things I do have.

For example: the diagnosis would be shattering, but it isn’t life-threatening. I have a husband whom I adore and who is the best partner I ever could’ve asked for. I have a wonderful, supportive, and loving family. I have dear friends who, when I emailed them to break the news, wrote back with some of the sweetest, most thoughtful responses I could’ve imagined.

After I talked to my parents again later that night, my Dad sent me a wonderful song that helped me climb a bit further out of that deep pit of sadness. It also forms the basis of my new mantra: have faith and let go.

https://i2.wp.com/media-cache-ec4.pinimg.com/736x/1c/e8/fc/1ce8fcb3558cd799b06f1f024907a670.jpg

Now, a quick caveat: I don’t like to talk about religion here, because I’m a big proponent of the “to each their own” school of thought when it comes to faith, spirituality, and belief. (I mean, my mom was a world religion professor when I was growing up — and when your formative years are spent surrounded by people of just about every faith, you quickly realize that those different religions and points of view are all profoundly valid, valuable, and insightful.)  I’m disinclined do anything that could come across as preachy — so before I get into this song, I’d like to clarify that my intent is to talk about what works for me, not what I think other people should do. *Thus endeth my disclaimer.*

With that being said, the song my dad sent me is by Peter Mayer, a singer-songwriter from Minnesota. The song, “God is a River,”  felt like a cosmic hug when I needed it most. The lyrics felt particularly meaningful for me given my life-long love of swimming:

In the ever-shifting water of the river of this life

I was swimming, seeking comfort; I was wrestling waves to find
A boulder I could cling to, a stone to hold me fast
Where I might let the fretful water of this river ‘round me pass

And so I found an anchor, a blessed resting place
A trusty rock I called my savior, for there I would be safe
From the river and its dangers, and I proclaimed my rock divine
And I prayed to it “protect me” and the rock replied

CHORUS:
God is a river, not just a stone
God is a wild, raging rapids
And a slow, meandering flow
God is a deep and narrow passage
And a peaceful, sandy shoal

God is the river, swimmer
So let go

Still I clung to my rock tightly with conviction in my arms
Never looking at the stream to keep my mind from thoughts of harm
But the river kept on coming, kept on tugging at my legs
Till at last my fingers faltered, and I was swept away

So I’m going with the flow now, these relentless twists and bends

Acclimating to the motion, and a sense of being led
And this river’s like my body now, it carries me along
Through the ever-changing scenes and by the rocks that sing this song

God is a river, not just a stone
God is a wild, raging rapids
And a slow, meandering flow
God is a deep and narrow passage
And a peaceful, sandy shoal
God is the river, swimmer
So let go

God is the river, swimmer
So let go

I have to let go. If the diagnosis is confirmed, I have to let myself be deeply, wrenchingly sad while simultaneously being grateful for what I do have and remaining steadfast in my faith that something good will come of this. I might not know what it is, but I have to let go and have faith that the river will lead to something good. I may be in the wild, raging rapids now, but I have to trust that I’ll be carried to the peaceful, sandy shoal in due time.

I need to wait a few weeks before going back for the second blood test, so I’ll be in a holding pattern until then. I know myself well enough to know that I’ll be inclined to be a hot mess until the next round of lab work comes back, so I’m going to rely heavily on my mantra for the foreseeable future.

Have faith, and let go.

Adventures in Blending: Chocolate-Raspberry Smoothie

Earlier this week, Meredith said that a rough week calls for chocolate, and I couldn’t agree more. Similarly, a rough day calls for a chocolatey, decadent smoothie!

Yesterday was a particularly rough day in my world; with apologies for the impending TMI here — and by way of explanation for why I was AWOL in the blogosphere yesterday — the lady-troubles that have been plaguing me all week became especially acute on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning.

And then, because that wasn’t enough on its own, my stomach decided to join in the party. “Oh hai,” it said, “let’s join forces to make Lillian think that maybe she acquired the Black Plague!” It basically rolled up like this:

 

image

 

Soooooo…needless to say, I was a hurtin’ cowgirl. I spent the day yesterday at the doctor’s office, and I got a ton of lab work and diagnostics done in hopes that those will lend some insight as to what’s going on.

Random medical fact about me: I have no trouble getting shots (I started getting allergy shots when I was 3, so I’m well acquainted with that whole gig), but I hate — we’re talking absolutely detest, loathe, and outright abhor — getting blood drawn. You see, I have teeny and recalcitrant veins. They roll, they collapse, and they refuuuuuuse to give up the goods when it comes time for blood work. This made yesterday’s lab workup especially fun, and after a few false starts, the lab tech (who, to her credit, was super nice) called for the big guns. Then I was all:

 

image

 

By the time I got home, I knew there was but one thing that could soothe my ruffled feathers: chocolatey smoothie goodness. I promised y’all the recipe for this baby, and it was just what the doctor (proverbially) ordered last night.

For those of you who don’t dig dairy or eggs, this smoothie is vegan; it’s packed with vitamin- and antioxidant-rich fruit, loaded with calcium and Vitamin D, and basically brimming with both nutrients and chocolatey goodness.

I drank this puppy down in a flash, at was comforted both by the delicious chocolate and the knowledge that I was pumping my body full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Bring on the nourishing, soul-soothing goodness!

 

DSC00944

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • Approximately 1 cup unsweetened chocolate almond milk (use more or less depending on how thick your want your smoothie to be)
  • 2 scoops Vega All-In-One Chocolate Protein Powder
  • Truvia, agave, or stevia to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Put ’em in the blender and mix away!
  2. Drink happily, possibly giving yourself a shameless smoothie mustache in the process. (I do this, um, every single time I drink a smoothie. I’m hawt.)

 

DSC00945

I hope everyone has a fabulous Friday — here’s to the weekend, y’all!

What do you do to feel better when you have a rough day?

What’s your favorite smoothie flavor combination?

Do you have any big weekend plans?

WIAW + My Celiac Story

G’morning, everyone!

Remember when I said that I’m easily amused, and that small things make me inordinately happy? Well, that phenomenon is at work today: I’m incredibly excited about the fact that it’s May. May, you see, is one of my favorite months — it’s when everything is in full, spectacular bloom, the weather is gorgeous, and everybody just seems especially happy.

I also think I must associate May with good memories — graduations, finally leaving the soul-shredding job I had when I first moved to DC after college, being in the home stretch of my year in Jerusalem before returning not only to the U.S., but to my beloved Colorado — because I always feel like good things are just around the corner whenever this month rolls around.

Interestingly enough, May is also Celiac Awareness Month — and, coincidentally, it’s also the month in which I made what I refer to as my Celiac discovery. Five years ago this month, we figured out one of the biggest, most important factors that had been contributing to a lifetime of chronic health problems: Celiac Disease.

Now, in order to start at the beginning, let’s rewind to the mid-80s: I’m sitting on the couch, watching Thundercats — and oh, does my stomach hurt. That stomachache was a constant companion for me, and some of my earliest and most vivid memories involve stabbing abdominal pain. We saw a bajillion doctors, but they all said the same thing: we don’t know why this is happening. Nor could they figure out why I had such severe allergies that I started getting allergy shots when I was 3 — and they had no idea why I developed a walloping case of asthma, either.

Fast forward to 1997: my stomach pains had only gotten worse with time, and I asked my GI doctor if he thought a gluten allergy could be at the root of all this gastric insanity. My BFF’s mom had a gluten allergy, and she said her symptoms prior to diagnosis had been largely the same as mine — so I thought, to quote Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, that strange things could be afoot at the Circle K.

image

My doctor’s response? “That’s just a bunch of new-age bullshit. There’s no such thing as a gluten allergy.” After decades of testing with no real diagnosis other than the catch-all IBS, I resigned myself to the fact that this was just how life was going to be.

Fast forward again to 2002: I was 21, and my boyfriend at the time noticed a weird bony nodule on the top of my right foot. A few weeks later, an orthopedist told me it’s a bone spur — which means I have advanced osteoarthritis in my feet. I was relieved to know that it wasn’t some sort of heinous foot cancer (confession: I think everything is a sign of cancer and my impending demise. Headache? Cancer. Achy knees? Cancer. A sneezing fit? Cancer.), but then it hit me: what sort of active, normal-weight 21 year old gets arthritis? It was added to the growing list of my unexplained, mysterious health conditions.

Fast forward one last time to 2008, when my dad was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. As my parents learned more about it, they both realized: Celiac would explain almost all the chronic health conditions that had dogged me throughout my life.

Celiac Disease
Image Source: NY Times

 

I was in grad school at the time and couldn’t get my school’s insurance to cover formal testing, so my mom encouraged me to just go on a gluten-free diet for a week just to see how I felt. (It was basically the starving grad student’s scientific method: isolate the variable (eating gluten) and run an experiment on myself.) I loaded up on some GF staples, and to my surprise, within 48 hours my symptoms started to alleviate. My stomach felt better, my feet weren’t stiff when I woke up each morning, and the brain fog I’d had all my life started to burn off.

I thought that maybe it was just a fluke, so I re-introduced gluten — only to get sick as a dog almost immediately. At that point, I figured it couldn’t hurt to go fully gluten-free. While I didn’t have a formal diagnosis, I could see how different and how much better I felt without gluten in my life. As I learned over the course of the next few months, it turns out I’m uber-sensitive to gluten; any time I’ve accidentally ingested even a tiny bit, I get spectacularly ill and horrible indignities ensue.It took a while for me to feel comfortable with all the ins and outs of eating strictly gluten-free, but I eventually got the hang of it. Last year I even started experimenting with gluten-free baking (from scratch, no less!), and I was largely thrilled with the results. Now, five years after my initial GF experiment, I’m tremendously grateful that my dad’s diagnosis led to my own Celiac discovery. He and I are both much, much healthier now — and although I do miss various glutinous foods, I’ll gladly surrender them in order to feel better.

People often ask what I’m able to eat while on a strict GF diet, so I figured I’d use What I Ate Wednesday — hosted by the lovely Jenn from Peas & Crayons — to highlight some of my favorite GF foods.

Peas and Crayons

I always start the morning with coffee and gluten-free toast (my favorite brand is Rudi’s Multigrain Bread — and, to my immense happiness, you can find it at Costco):

dsc00679

Other favorite GF breakfast offerings include omelets, quiches, and pancakes.

DSC00798

DSC00823-001Lunches and snacks (for this week, at least) have included curried lentil and rice soup (I’ll post the recipe for this later this week!), cantaloupe, apples with almond butter, Greek yogurt with Udi’s GF Vanilla Granola, Van’s crackers with cheese, and Pamela’s Whenever Bars.

Our dinners this week have also run a wide gamut — while we have some favorite go-to recipes, I also like to improvise. Our favorite recipes include lasagna made with GF lasagna noodles from Tinkyada:

Za’atar-crusted chicken with Greek salad (both recipes come from the Nigella Fresh cookbook)

This week’s improvised recipe was inspired by French onion soup, which I was craving like woah last week. I added caramelized onions and low-fat Swiss cheese to baked chicken, et voila:

DSC00833-001Lemon, oregano, and white wine roasted chicken with baked potatoes, caramelized onions, and salad:

Per the usual, though, my favorite thing is dessert. Organic strawberries were on sale at Whole Foods this week, which made me squeal with delight in the store (no, fellow patrons, I don’t have Tourette’s — I’m just super-expressive and easily amused). I combined them with chocolate almond milk, which might have yielded the best dessert concoction this side of self-serve fro yo. It’s not the prettiest thing ever, but gawd, it’s delicious.

If you’re new to the world of eating gluten-free, there are some awesome resources out there — one of my favorites is The Gluten-Free Goddess, who develops some astonishingly delicious recipes. I’m also building my own recipe page for the dishes I create on my own, so let me know if there are any particular dishes/foodie genres you’d like to see here, and I’ll gladly whip something up. 🙂

With all that being said (good Lord, this post is long), have an awesome Wednesday! Questions for y’all:

If you’re eating gluten-free, what inspired you to do so? Are there any gluten-filled foods you really miss? If you could take any gluten-filled food and make it GF, what would it be?

Inspirational Woman: Samantha

Good morning, everyone! It’s been a while since our last Inspirational Woman interview, so I’m proud and excited to introduce y’all to Samantha (AKA: Sam, Samoo, Muumuu) — one of my former roommates, a dear friend, and a major source of inspiration.

After five years of working in her comfortable but decidedly not gratifying career of graphic design, Sam found herself feeling unfulfilled and unhappy. After some soul-searching, she decided to make a huuuuuuuge change of course and pursue a career as a Physician’s Assistant.

I still remember the phone call where she told me she’d finally figured out what she wanted to do, and my gut reaction was “That makes perfect sense — she’d be damn good at that.” Sure enough, she dove into doing all the things she needed to do (and believe me, there were a lot!) in order to take her life in a totally different direction. Fast forward six years, and she’s busy kicking butt as a PA and is in a much happier place.

Here’s her story.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat inspired you to take action towards your goal/dream?

I realized I was not happy with the chosen profession I was in at the time. I was comfortable, but I was unsatisfied, unfulfilled, and generally unhappy with both my job and my career. As I realized this, I also realized I had control over what I did with my life – and that because I had control over where my life went, I was going to take charge and find a career that would genuinely make me happy. I explored different career paths that I thought might interest me, and before long, I decided on medicine. Since my previous career was in graphic design, I started taking some pre-reqs in math and hard sciences so I could go back to school to become a Physician’s Assistant.


What have been the high points and the low points?

The high points: I am much more satisfied now. [Side note: Sam is a seriously badass PA in an ICU, which isn’t exactly a low-stress gig. She’s awesome at what she does, which involves making life-saving decisions under high pressure while dealing with a bajillion different – and often competing or conflicting – variables. If, God forbid, you ever find yourself in an ICU, you’d be one lucky guy/gal to have someone like Sam taking care of you.]  The low points: I gave up a lot of time. The time I spent in school was time that was dedicated almost solely to my pursuit of a new career. The rough part is that this seems to have been to the detriment of other areas of my life (most notably, finding love/getting married/starting a family).


What obstacles have you encountered?

Especially early on, it was hard to give up a paycheck (and the lifestyle I had grown accustomed to with one). It was also hard to give up my free time especially when that translated to maintaining friendships, dating, etc.


Do you have a support network and/or personal cheerleaders who have helped you in this process?

My parents and friends were really helpful. They listened to me when I was struggling, boosted my confidence when I was unsure I had the ‘stuff’ it took to get to the end.  It also helped to have school friends that could commiserate with tough experiences and validate feelings that popped up along the way.


What have they done to encourage you and help you move forward?

They remind me of my strengths. They remind me I am not alone. They refresh my memory as to why I set down this road in the first place, and they help me renew my desire to get to my destination!


If you could give advice to women who are either trying to find the courage to pursue their dreams or are at the beginning of their own journey, what would it be?

There are no wrong decisions, so don’t waste energy regretting what’s already done. You have control of your life – if you’re unhappy, root out why and make your best attempt to remedy it. Although it can be scary and intimidating, you can make a change. So: if you think you need one, go for it!  A good friend had a great magnet on her fridge with a motto that I subscribe to: Leap, the net will appear. This helped give me the reassurance and strength I needed to take a big risk in making a huge career change, and it has definitely paid off.

LEAP and the net will appear, Via Facebook ~ Words of Wisdom. Trust your instincts - they are there for a reason. #quotes #beinspired

Runner With a Cause: The Charity Miles App

One thing I’ve found over the years is that I love being involved in charitable and philanthropic efforts. It leaves me feeling all warm and fuzzy, and I love knowing that I’ve contributed, even if in a totally miniscule way, to making the world a little bit better.

Commit to making a difference
Image source: weheartit.com

However, there’s one caveat on that: I’m picky about how I contribute. I know this makes me a horrible person, but here goes: soup kitchens creep me out (there’s something about me that attracts homeless alcoholic men like moths to a flame). Retirement homes give me the heebie-jeebies. I want to like them, but much like fish — which I also should like and want to like — I just really, spectacularly, viscerally dislike them. (See? Like I said, I’m a horrible person.)

In other charitable realms, I don’t have the reliable schedule needed for something like Big Brothers/Big Sisters or after-school tutoring. So, although I did a lot of volunteer tutoring in high school and loved every minute of it, my unpredictable schedule that rules out that option.

For a long time, I only knew what I don’t want to do and what I can’t do due to circumstance. Although the field had narrowed, I still struggled  to find a way to make a difference in ways that are meaningful and genuinely in line with my personality and my interests.

Image Source: http://www.beautifully-invisible.com

Although it took me a while to figure out what causes I’m most passionate about (and I mainly felt really bad about the overwhelming urge to run screaming from anything involving soup kitchens or retirement homes), I gradually started to realize that my passion lies in women’s empowerment and human rights, especially in developing countries.

This has a bajillion different angles to it: securing education for young girls, creating economic opportunities for women, and ensuring adequate pre-natal and obstetric care for pregnant women are the most critical issues, but this plays out in other ways as well.

Small things make a difference

I started to look for was to get involved, and my first step was to become a Half the Sky Community Ambassador. (Side note: If you haven’t read Half the Sky or seen the documentary on PBS, it’s worth every moment and every cent. I can’t recommend them highly enough.)

I then found other ways to get involved — and one of the best things I’ve found is the Charity Miles app. The app tracks how long you run, bike, or walk, and then makes a donation to a sponsored organization. Check out the short video below for a full run-down (pun intended) of how it all works:

After discovering the app, I saw that there are phenomenal organizations that serve as sponsors. The one that most intrigued me was Every Mother Counts, a non-profit started by Christy Turlington that aims to end the hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths caused by pregnancy and childbirth each year.

Fast fact: pregnancy is the number one cause of death for women ages 15-19 in the developing world.

For these young women, pregnancy and childbirth kill with even more ruthless frequency than the huge host of infectious diseases prevalent in the developing world. More than the endemic violence that so often sweeps through various corners of the globe. The act of having a baby — which should be a beautiful, joyful process — is often the cause of a violent, painful death for these women.

Image Source: http://www.who.int

Every Mother Counts works to prevent those deaths, and I knew I wanted to put my workouts to work, so to speak, in order to help support them any way I can. I downloaded the Charity Miles app, laced up my shoes, and hit the road. I loved knowing that each mile was in honor of the many women who don’t have access to good prenatal care or emergency obstetric services — to say the least, it’s a powerful motivator.

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=6f94ded14d&view=att&th=13d1958fd8be580b&attid=0.1&disp=inline&realattid=105bb614655cfdcf_0.1&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P-TYtb2Y1y1ya4X0X6A7vFj&sadet=1361931946287&sads=Ds5EZLHb9std2oDCtn1U0oVa56A

So, if you’re looking for a way to combine your love of running, walking, or biking and a desire to do good for people in need, check out Charity Miles. Getting your sweat on while getting your philanthropy on is the best possible way to do two awesomely rewarding things at once.