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Celebrating Imagination and the Wonderful, Wild Ride that is Life

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's not that I haven't been creating...

it's just that I haven't been creating as much, and when I am creating, well, I want to create!
One of my absolute favorite things to do to keep my creative mojo working is to visit estate sales, antique stores, etc. to spark my excitement. Somehow, old well loved things really get my thoughts rolling. Of course I never seem to catch up with all of the ideas, but visiting a cool shop or sale is almost exactly like opening a new box of full of potential!
So I have to show you something I picked up that really set me on a burst of creativity. Here it is!

I can't tell you how much this ribbon made me do a little dance when I found it. I drooled over the retro silver squiggle and well, for heaven's sake it's pink! So this beauty (yes I have a half-full roll of it. Yippee!) has spurred me to work on a special mini book. I really had no theme, plan, or end result in mind. But, boy, have I been playing and it's been messy! You can tell how messy by the state of the paper I taped to my work table in the ribbon pic...that was the cleanest spot! Here's a sneak peak of the inside of my little project.

I would totally be lost without gel medium. Here's another peak.

I am not ready to show definitely isn't finished yet. Somehow I'll just know when it's right. If you haven't ever played with paint, vintage things, gel medium, or gesso...what are you waiting for?
I initially started this project thinking it could be a class for our upcoming Scrap for Survival fundraiser for the Young Survival Coalition. (Check our our crop blog for more information.) Unfortunately, the ideas just kept coming and this became way bigger than one class. But I'm still hoping it might lead me to some manageable, vintage messy project everyone can have fun with. In fact, it will most likely involve these little treasures:

Don't you just LOVE them? They're milk bottle caps...a whole tube full, in fact! This was a sweet bonanza at a recent estate sale. Seriously, these babies are HOT in the scrapping/crafting world right now. I have to come up with a way to share the fun with everyone who comes to the crop. Hmmmm...I just love the tube printing that reads "National Caps are Tops!" They sure are!

Monday, October 19, 2009


Finally I am posting again.
Finally I got to ride my bike again.
Finally I have come back down to earth so I can attempt to pull my thoughts together.

I honestly have not been able to post since my last entry. First and foremost because I was emotionally overwhelmed. The Tour de Pink was a physical feat that left me tired, and I still had a cold to recover from, but it was my heart, soul, and mind that needed to process everything. Of course it didn't help that I came home to October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is an exciting month because it shines a spotlight on my cause and gives me plenty of opportunities to talk with people, share my story, and hopefully influence them to care, to support, to have a mammogram; to touch them in some way. On the other hand, this month is exhausting. It is day after day of planning, arranging, calling, visiting, and sharing. All of those good things are draining at the same time as being exhilirating. Of course, I live this life every month. But October shines a spotlight in a special way that makes everyone else live it too. There has not been a day that has gone by that I have not longed to be back on my bike, pedaling through the hills and valleys of eastern PA with nothing but my own stamina to keep me from going faster.

To make it even harder, we returned to Minnesota to find that winter had decided to start threatening its arrival. It was snowing the day we got back and the temperature had dropped into the thirties. The leaves have been falling off of the trees while they are still green; they didn't even have time to turn their gorgeous fall colors. It feels like we are being punished for having the audacity to travel. Of course my dreams of flying on my bike through piles of crispy, colorful leaves were blown away with the sun. There was ice on the ground, a steely color to the sky that threatened snow, and worse: rain.

You can imagine the sheer joy I felt yesterday when I got back on my bike for a ride. It had warmed up into the 40s and the sky was blue. I could almost pretend that the leaves were as brightly colored as usual. I rode my usual training loop to celebrate having made the long journey. My happiness at being able to ride was tempered a little when I hit the half way mark and turned toward home. Then it really hit me: the wind. It was more than a blustery day, it was a strong headwind that put me to work and took my mind off pleasant things to focus on pedaling and moving forward instead of backward. Still, I made it home and wondered if it was my last ride of the year. I hope not, but I doubt I'll enjoy many more. A bike trainer is on the top of my list of purchases, so soon I will be moving inside to continue riding. Somehow I don't think it will be the same.

I don't really feel the need to recap what happened on the official last day of the Tour de Pink since it seems that most people saw it unfold along with me, right on television. Strangely not many people here at home saw it or are aware of what happened there. So I will tell my story, my experience for their sake. I hope those of you who have been bombarded with the tale aren't zoning out as I go on.

We were put to bed on the final night of the ride in the gloriously comfy beds of the Hilton Hotel on the corner of 56th St. and 6th Ave. in NYC. As an official Hershey's Bliss and Tour de Pink spokes-survivor I had been briefed as to how the morning would proceed. All of the riders met at an appointed time on the sidewalk in front of the hotel to bike in small groups (less than 15) to the sidewalk in front of Fox & Friends Studios in Times Square. The official spokes-survivors were told to be in the very last group to leave. That way we would be up in front of the larger group. Our duties were to:
1. Make it to the studio without incident.
2. Stand behind the man being interviewed (Mike from the Hershey Co.)
3. Smile and hold a big sign.
I believe I have made it pretty clear that all throughout the ride, I was very emotional. I was regularly shedding tears of joy. I was literally having the time of my life. My kids, my husband, my family, my friends, the survivors I have known, the people I have met, were all on my mind. But no thought was more prominent in my head than this: you are the luckiest person on earth. I am lucky to be alive. Tears, tears, tears of joy were flowing. And they were flowing that morning. I admit that I was a little sad that the ride was over. Brad agreed that he was, too. In fact we were both ready to get back on the bikes and keep going. Instead, we took our place in the large group of riders, waiting as they slowly took off through the streets. It wasn't long before it was our turn and then we had to remain very focused as we inched along through the busy morning traffic, one foot clipped into a pedal, one foot out ready to grasp the ground if necessary. Honestly, it was hair-raising. Taxi cabs and trucks came very close. Car doors opened in front of us, and we didn't know where we were going so we had to stay with the group leader even if it meant riding through a red light which surely meant a quick demise. Before long we arrived on the scene and had to maneuver our bikes through the crowd of other riders, past the balloons and I prayed that they didn't have any microphones on that caught me saying fearfully, "shit, shit, SHIT!" We made it safely, dismounted our bikes and looked for our places.

There were instructions, a complete shifting of the crowd, bright lights and suddenly someone thrust a sign into our hands. Lots of photographers were there, including one particular woman who took shot after shot. I remembered that I had gotten up early to do my hair and put make-up on (which seemed ridiculous with all my biking gear) but I was glad that I had, with Brad's encouragement. Before long, there were two TV personalities on the scene, a man and a woman, who were wearing heavy pancake make-up. Suddenly, the cameras were rolling and Mike was being interviewed. We stood and smiled, and I tried not to cry. The tears were lingering there, on the edges of my eyes.

The show went to commercial and everyone seemed to relax. I heard someone say, "Who's Alane Davis?" "That's me," I said, wondering what they wanted. "We have to get a mike on you," the young man announced matter-of-factly. Huh? "Uh, okay..." I stumbled. I turned to Lisa Frank, co-survivor-spokesperson and founder and coordinator of the Tour de Pink, and asked her "Why?" She replied that they needed someone to talk about the organization, blah, blah, blah...the next few moments were filled with stuffing a mike up my shirt and answering questions posed by the two heavily made up individuals. I chatted with the woman and she said, "You know, it just so happens that today I'm going for my mammogram." I told her that I would keep her in my thoughts all day, and I did. Beyond that, all I could think of was, the CEO of YSC is here in the crowd! Remember the Mission Statement! Don't screw up!!! And then, I could feel the tears. I couldn't stop them. Lisa said she'd tell me a joke to keep me from crying. So everytime I started to sniffle she said, under her breath just loud enough so only I could hear, "Nice tits!" It had the desired effect.

Before I had time to think again they were back from commercial. I honestly don't remember what I said. Something about being misdiagnosed at 30. Then I heard the interviewer say, "Your family is here with you." And I thought, well, yes, Brad is here with me. She said, "They wanted to be here with you." And I thought, oh, my Mom and Don must be here. That's nice. She said, "They flew all the way..." and around the corner came... Erin... and Cory... and my Mother-in-Law, Mary Ellen. Somehow, for once in our marriage Brad kept a secret.

I don't know how. It was as if the universe had been listening to my thoughts. It was as if all of those people had somehow managed to make manifest exactly what was burning in my heart throughout the whole trip: the gratitude and love I have for my kids.

The moment I was diagnosed, they were the first things I thought about.

I will never forget the day when I was sent for a mammogram. It was the day after a needle biopsy had confirmed I had cancer in my breast and lymph nodes. I was shaken to the core, and didn't want to enter the area behind the solid door with the large sign readng "no men allowed". It meant Brad had to stay behind and I was on my own. I undressed in the small booth and sat in the waiting room overwhelmed with a breaking heart, thinking of my kids. I was sent to the same waiting room as any other healthy patient, and I was the youngest one there by at least 10 years. One woman was crying because she was nervous about getting a mammogram. I tried to sit quietly in that cramped room, and not start shrieking. Honestly, I was gripped with the fear of dying. It wasn't long before I couldn't hold back the tears. The other women in the room didn't know what to think. I knew I was losing control, so I went into the dressing room. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I don't know for how long. There was a knock at the door. In came my surgeon, Dr. Mary. I had only met her the day before. She hugged me and knelt at my feet in the very cramped booth. She wanted to know why I was crying. All I could say was, "my kids". She didn't say anything, but stayed with me until I calmed down and it was time to go in for the mammogram. Of course it showed the cancer, big and clear and frightening. Suddenly the women who worked there were nice to me. They didn't make me go back in the room with the others to wait. Finally, I got dressed and went out the same door I'd come in. After that, it was true: Brad was with me every step of the way and dealt with his own fear and pain about my diagnosis. But I was alone. There was no way through but through. But all I ever thought about, all I ever wanted were my kids.

this ride was not just about me and what I've been through.
It was about what my family has been through.
It was about all of the mornings that Brad had to wake me out of a sound sleep so he could give me a painful shot that would help my bone marrow keep producing white cells to fight infection, and keep me on my chemo schedule.
It was about the nights when I would wake in the dark, crying, and Brad would hold me and listen to me wail.
It was about the times I frightened him to death; passing out in the shower, sleeping for hours, refusing to take it easy and do what I was told.
It was about the courage it takes to love a woman completely who might turn around and die on you tomorrow, next week, or next year.

It was about the countless mornings when I watched my kids get on the schoolbus and waved goodbye to them as they smiled out the window, gripped with the irrational fear that the bus was taking them away forever.
It was about the feeling of being told by my surgeon that I was not allowed to pick up my kids while I was healing, and feeling like I was being told not to breathe.
It was about all of the little moments that have taken my breath away, made my heart skip a beat, or left a cold finger on my heart that maybe, just maybe this would be the last time I would see them dance, dress up for Halloween, feel their head on my shoulder, hear, "I love you, Mom", hear their laughter, or see them trust in my presence enough to get angry and tell me they hated me.
It was about the times that I wasn't sure I'd be around: sixteenth birthdays, prom, driver's tests, boy and girl talks, college searches, days I worried would never come that have passed swiftly or are right out of reach.

This ride has left me with a question: "Why me?"
It isn't the first time I've asked it. I've seen and heard of countless women and men, better, braver, stronger than I who deserved just as much if not more to survive, who have had better prognosis than I...I've seen them not make it, not be granted the splendor of all that I have received. I don't know why. There isn't anything special about me. There are thousands of women just as deserving like me in the world. Why did they die, why are they dying and I get to see my kids, the greatest gifts I have ever been given, come around the corner on national TV like they'd been there, waiting for me all along.

One of the first things I said to Brad afterwards was that I felt guilty. It was bad enough that I was one of the survivor-spokespeople, one of five chosen from the rest that they kept calling "the honored survivors" as they snapped pictures of us over and over again. I felt the presence of all the other women behind me. And their husbands. And the partners, brothers, sisters, and kids who were there wondering why me and not them, too. I didn't really understand when Brad replied, "It isn't about you." (Which to me, seemed patently wrong. I mean, after all, I was crying like a baby on national tv!) He informed me that I was now the face of the cause. Let's suffice it to say I was only mildly comfortable with that. I can't even fathom what that really means! But, eventually, I understood.

Understanding didn't come until long after the cameras had turned off.

We left Fox & Friends and rode the short distance through Central Park to Tavern on the Green for brunch. I was flying high, completely blissful at what had just occurred and pinching myself to stay aware of the fact that I, Alane Davis, was riding her bike through Central Park. We met up with Erin, Cory, and Mary Ellen for a very brief breakfast. I barely had time to eat. We were compelled to say hasty goodbyes to friends we had made on the ride that now felt closer than family. We had to say goodbye to the kids since they were flying straight back to Duluth but we had to fly out of Hershey. It was incredibly hard to leave and ride back to the hotel, pack our bikes on a truck and get on the bus to Hershey. All in all, I think we were all together a total of 45 minutes.

It was a long ride to Hershey, and I was replaying everything in my head. I was still plagued with the question, "Why me?", and Brad kept answering "It's not about you." I kept checking the internet on my phone to see if I could watch the clip of the surprise. It wasn't online yet, but I kept checking every now and then. I decided to check my emai while I was at it. And there it was: the proof that it wasn't about me at all. Complete strangers were emailing me through Facebook because they had seen me on TV. There was a woman from Israel, a Catholic Bishop, a man with thyroid cancer who wanted someone to talk to, and a woman who said she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, had two kids, and didn't think she'd be alright, but after watching me she thought she would. I had to stop reading the messages after a while because it was too much to digest. But all of these people are now part of my life, part of my story, and I am part of theirs.

it really isn't all about me.

I have never been so grateful. I am grateful among many things, for the gifts this experience has given me.

I'm already in training for next year.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Maybe I could have saved you the time of reading what I've written by showing you these. I think they do a pretty good job of letting you know how I feel.

Monday, October 5, 2009

This will have to be a two-parter.

I am sorry, but it's true. This is going to have to be a two-part post. The last four days, and especially the last two days have been so incredible, that I literally cannot emotionally handle covering it all in one entry.

I also have to apologize to everyone for not posting yesterday. I was so physically and mentally drained that I had to wait. So, following is my update on yesterday.

Day three of the Tour de Pink was absolutely phenomenal. We woke up to a day that was in the low sixties ranging to the seventies, sunny, and gorgeous. We left Trenton by police escort (so cool!) and went for about 25 miles rolling up and down hills through farmlands, valleys, and horse country. Anyone who thinks that New Jersey is not a beautiful state needs to truly visit. There's a lot more to be seen than big cities. It was an absolutely glorious ride. Brad and I were feeling pretty good despite his sore knees, my cold that had migrated to my chest, and well, more than a little "saddle soreness" for lack of a better term.

One of the brightest spots in an unimaginably beautiful day was when a motorcycle came zooming up alongside us on the route. We weren't concerned since many people each day had been pulling up alongside us and asking us how far we were riding, what we were riding for, etc. But this time I was completely blown away when I took a closer look and realized it was my sister, Laura, and her husband. They had spent all day driving up and down our route, stopping at the rest stops and asking people where we were. It was such an incredibly awesome treat!!! We were so surprised and overwhelmed that they would take the time to show us their support in that way.

We were only riding 55 miles yesterday, so we went at a little bit faster pace and enjoyed the sites as we went along. We wanted to finish, but we didn't really want it to end. Finally we reached our destination, Duke Island Park, New Jersey, the former home of Doris Duke and the Duke Family. We had reached the finish of a long, hard ride!!! (Of course we had a few miles to ride the next day in New York, but the major part was done.) It was very emotional and we celebrated with all of the riders and support people who had become our family over the previous few days at a wonderful barbecue. I have literally never eaten as much in my life as I have eaten on this ride. Normally I would be worried about my weight, but we sure did burn it all off!

After the barbecue, we all piled onto buses and loaded our bicycles onto trucks that drove us all into New York City. It was a great time to talk with the other riders, share stories of what we had experienced along the route, and make plans for staying in touch, and coming back to do it again next year. Yes, that's right, I said next year!

We arrived at the Hilton in NYC and spent a bit of time unloading our bikes and getting settled in our rooms. Eventually we were let loose on the city in search of food. It was hard to believe, but we were starving!!! Brad and I had dinner with a couple we absolutely fell in love with: the Cobbs from Tulsa, OK. Actually, Heather and I have been friends through the Young Survival Coalition, but we knew our husbands would hit it off and they didn't disappoint us. (Matt Cobb is just as awesome and fun as his wife and Brad now has a man-crush on him.) I was absolutely giddy from exhaustion and couldn't stop laughing as we stumbled around the blocks surrounding our hotel looking for a great place to eat. Thankfully we found it; It was a wonderful Italian restaurant with delicious wine, wonderful service, and a great atmosphere for talking, reflecting, and making great memories.

After dinner we weakly walked back to our hotel to make sure we got to bed at a good hour since we had to get up bright and early in the morning. (More to come on that in the next post!) I must close by saying that if you ever ride over 220 miles on a bicycle in three days and are looking for the most comfortable place to lay your weary body, look no further than the Hilton Hotel on 54th and 6th. Honest to Pete, I laid down on the oh-so-perfect mattress with the oh-my-sweet-heaven-so-perfect pillows and literally felt the need to call someone, anyone to tell them how dang comfortable I was. Yes, it was that good!!!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Coming Home

What a difference a day makes. The wind had died down by today, and even though the day started out rainy it never really poured. Instead it was a fairly pleasant mist and then by the middle of the day the sun had come out and it had warmed up long enough so we could shed some layers of clothes.

The first third of the ride today had some hard hills just like yesterday. But after that we started to get closer to the part of Pennsylvania where I grew up. We hit route 563 which I knew would be full of some long rolling hills and it didn't let us down. Finally we stopped for lunch at Lake Nockamixon. I have such great memories of going swimming there when I was a kid. After lunch I got to see most of my family that had gathered to cheer us on from the roadside. They were so great. They had awesome signs, a bell and a nice shaded canopy so they could wait, cheer and watch all the riders until we rode by. We had a short but sweet visit and we were on our way.

From there on, it was like riding down memory lane. I got very nostalgic and had a wonderful time riding by so many of my favorite places. Everything looks so much different from the seat of a bike; you really get to take it all in differently. We went up and down some more hills, and really enjoyed the awesome downhill stretches that brought us out on River Rd. which runs all along the Delaware River. From there we passed by some of the most gorgeous scenery you could imagine. There is a lot of history here, from centuries old cabins and homes, to the area where George Washington crossed the Delaware, appropriately named Washington's Crossing, to one of the coolest towns you could imagine: New Hope, PA. It was a Saturday so it was crowded with people shopping and eating, but we had our final rest stop there and it was fabulous.

Brad and I took off from New Hope and finished up the final leg of the ride to Trenton, NJ. In order to cross the Delaware we had to walk our bikes over a long bridge into Trenton, the Capital of New Jersey. We didn't have far to ride before we had made it to the hotel and put another 85 miles under our belt!

We just got back from a terrific pasta dinner at the Masonic Temple where we listened to some great speakers. Nobody touched me as much as the woman who has worked for the last 25 years for the New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services. She has been instrumental in building a health care system in the state that brings healthcare to un- and underinsured women. She was a very inspirational speaker, but she brought us all to tears with her a capella rendition of Amazing Grace. It was absolutely beautiful and the perfect end to a great day.

I thought I'd add a picture we took of Brad and I with some of our cheering section. Not pictured: my nieces Morgan and Nicole, and my brother-in-law, Kyle. Fromleft to right: My niece, Theresa, My oldest sister, Laura, Brad, Me, my Mom's hubby, Don, My Mom, and my second-oldest sister, Sharon. (My sister Maureen was broken-hearted not to be there, but she is travelling overseas for work.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day One is Done!!!

We got up early this morning to a cold drizzly day. The kick-off event was at Chocolateworld and then we hit the road. It was absolutely brutal, no doubt about it. By the end of the day we rode 90 miles. The wind was against us all day and there were a lot of hills, but we made it!!! Everyone, including the Professional riders who are here, said it was the hardest day of Tour de Pink in the whole six years it's been going. The word everyone seems to use when you ask how it went is brutal! Thankfully, the weather tomorrow is supposed to be better. It might be rainy for the first part of the day, but it is supposed to turn sunny and most importantly, the wind won't be a problem. Today was inspiring, grueling, fun and hard. I am looking forward to a good night's sleep and then, hopefully, a tailwind tomorrow!

The following is a photo of Brad and I wearing our custom made "Two Boobs Riding Abreast" t-shirts for our friends Bob & Lisa Koch who generously donated to our ride with the stipulation that we wear these shirts. You don't need to tell us twice! It's pretty obvious we'll do anything for money. A huge thank you to Barb & Steve Payette from Stewart-Taylor Printing for creating these great shirts. They were a huge hit at dinner tonight!

This is a pic of me up on stage with the other survivor spokespeople at the Chocolateworld kick-off this morning.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

We're Ready To Roll!

This is going to be a short post because I have to get to bed, but I thought everyone who has been supporting me would like a quick update. We're here in Hershey, PA ready to start the Tour de Pink tomorrow morning, rain or shine (and right now they're forecasting rain.) And it's surprisingly cold here. Oh well, not much we can do about it.

Besides the weather, what really has thrown me for a loop is the fact that I came down with a cold two nights ago. I have been feeling pretty badly today. We flew in and my ears are completely clogged shut. I can't hear a thing! Well, except for myself talking, and we all know how pleasant that is! But I have been swallowing Zicam like crazy, taking Vitamin C drops and decongestants and now that it seems to have migrated to my ears, I've broken out the precautionary antibiotic we packed with us just in case of such an emergency. (Thanks, Dr. N!)

Anyway, we head out early tomorrow, cold or not, rain or shine, and I just keep telling myself that no matter what, it could never be as bad as having cancer and going through chemo. Some sniffles and some water are nothing in comparison. I am going to try hard to go at my own pace and enjoy the ride.

Tonight we had Chocolateworld all to ourselves where we had a big feast of pasta and plenty of delicious desserts. (Not to mention there's plenty of chocolate around, too!)

I'll try to post tomorrow, but I'll leave you with a couple of snapshots of the festivities.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

One of those moments

When you work on behalf of a non-profit organization whether it be for a short period of time, such as fundraising for a specific event like selling daffodils for the American Cancer Society or ringing a bell for the Salvation Army, or working in an official sense as I am now doing for the Young Survival Coalition, one thing you can expect, but never get used to are what I call, for lack of a better name, "One of those moments."

These moments are characterized by someone sharing a story, or going beyond the usual effort required to donate and support a cause, and truly touch you in a way that will never be forgotten. It isn't the generosity of the monetary gift, or even the generosity of a person's time that makes these moments sepecial. Instead, it is the generosity of these people's story, a window into their soul that touches you, that opens your heart like a flower, and that for an instant, makes anything in life seem possible. It is a moment as close to grace as anything I can imagine.

Each one of these moments is precious, like a childhood memory; they never cease to give me goosebumps or to fill me with near incomprehensible emotion.

Forever etched in my soul will be the man, from a donation attempt for our first annual scrapbooking event, who worked for a manufacturer of tote bags and camera cases. After he agreed to give me a donation, he asked, "How much can you carry?" I responded, "As much as you want me to." As I began openly crying, he said in the kindest voice possible, "Don't cry, honey, just make a difference." and sent me on my way totally encumbered by bags of all shapes and sizes.

There are also those strangers, faceless and nameless, who anonymously sent me donation checks when I walked in the Avon Breast Cancer Walk with my sister. I will never cease to be amazed by their generosity. To give money to someone they don't even know was a remarkable thing. Due to their help, I raised over $6500 that year without hardly trying.

Then there was the homeless woman along the route of that very same Breast Cancer Walk who thanked each and every one of us for coming, for walking, for working to make a difference. That angel saw us and understood what we were trying to do even when she didn't know if or when she'd eat that night, while dozens of others, sitting at outdoor dining tables up the street had completely ignored the line of walkers as we passed by. I will never forget her.

There are all of those individuals who have shared their story of cancer, or that of their loved ones with me. There are those people who are moved by something I say who take the time to tell me that it touched them in some way. Each one of these moments is a gift.

Of course every donation, every pat on the back, every word of encouragement is a blessing, but some people, some occasions, just take my breath away and make me choke on tears.

This ride has brought about lots of those moments, too. But the most recent example, truly the most generous, has left me speechless, humbled and touched beyond words.

It came from a woman who works with Brad. It seems that she had shared the story of my ride with her son. He decided to put together a donation for me and included the following card.

I can't even describe how touched I am by this card. I absolutely LOVE this drawing. I especially appreciate that he drew me looking very, very happy which is indeed the way I feel. But beyond this fabulous drawing, it was what was on the inside that rose this gesture of generosity above any other than I have ever experienced. Here is the inside of the card:

Yes, that's right. It turns out that Nathan is a cancer survivor. Apparently, when he was three years old Nathan was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer. He underwent treatment with chemo, surgery, and radiation just the same as me. Nathan is now nine years old. I am most touched by the fact that Nathan decided to sign his card with "Cancer Survivor". I believe this was his way of reaching out and letting me know I'm not alone. There truly is no more selfless or generous gift that I could have been given. Nathan, you are at the top of my "Moments" list.

Thank you, and thank you to your Mom. Hopefully I will be able to come up with something special for you in return.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Two cancer journeys, only one way through.

Yesterday Brad and I got to go for a great ride. He planned the whole 40 mile trip which took us down to the tip of Park Point, back along the shore of Lake Superior, and up a hill that loomed large in my psyche. We had ridden up it about a month ago.

It is a very steep, long hill. I am still stinging with the knowledge that the last time I tried to make it up, I gave up. I let my mind overpower me, and I simply gave up. I am usually not a quitter, but it was clear that I had made the decision from the start that I was not going to make it up the hill. I quit way sooner than I needed to, and Brad rode past, making it all the way to the top. I did a walk of shame up the hill which had no shoulder, bad footing, rocks and chunks of asphalt, garbage, etc. as cars whipped by me at 40 mph. Honestly, it wasn't all that much easier to walk the hill. By the time I reached Brad (who had kindly pulled over to wait) my calves were screaming from trudging up in my bike shoes. I felt so darned defeated. To his credit, Brad didn't say anything. He knew my pride was hurt; not because he had made it, but because I had done the one thing I hate: quit.

So yesterday he informed me that we would be taking that hill on our way home. I was nervous all the way, wondering how I would fare. But to my surprise, it was a completely different experience. My heavier training schedule, coupled with our friend Mike's "Confidence Building 70 mile Killer Ride" from a couple weeks ago had worked wonders. I breezed up that baby. I was even ahead of Brad. I felt so good, in fact, that I suggested adding on to the ride. It really is amazing how much attitude can effect the outcome of certain situations.

Yesterday took me up another kind of hill. Julie called me in the morning to tell me it was time to do something about her hair. The chemo had finally kicked in and it was coming out fast and furious. I had agreed to cut it for her. I was dreading seeing her beautiful naturally curly mane fall away; I knew it would be hard for her, but it was going to be hard for me too. Baldness makes it really hard to ignore the fact that your friend is fighting cancer. Again. So, this wasn't really my hill alone, but it was a hill: and an even bigger one than the one I conquered on my bike.

I got to her house and Sara, her neighbor and friend, had brought over a beer for each of us (perfect!). Plus, our friend Kim was put to the task of photographing the process. Julie had decided this was not something to be sad about. It was something to try to have some fun with. So, that's what we did. I started out by giving her a cute little wedge cut in the back. Then she ended up with a long, curly mohawk which we all agreed looked fantastic! I thought Sara would explode with distress over the short mohawk and lone lock of long, curly hair we left on top. It really got weird when her whole head was shaved and only that long piece was left. She looked like a seriously twisted Kewpie Doll. Finally, the last cut was made, and she was bald. Smiling, laughing, the same Julie as always, just a little lighter on top. Truthfully, she was absolutely radiant. We all put on some lipstick and gave her a kiss on the head.

I realized that the experience of cutting off her hair was the exact same as riding the bike up that hill. It was all mental. Cutting off her hair was a threatening hill to climb when we first thought about it, but once we were over the hump, we were all relieved and happy, especially Julie. I can't imagine a better example of attitude effecting the outcome of a given situation.

Here are a few photos of the transition:

While I get to ride my bike, Julie has to sit for countless hours of drugs being pumped into her veins. Drugs that do NOT make you feel good. But drugs that are clearly doing the job. And both Julie and I know what we need to do: keep our head down, with our eyes fixed on the horizon, our mind focused on the long term gains and not the short term discomfort, holding tightly to only those things that we really need to get us through, and casting away the baggage. We're both going to make it. Neither of us are quitters. I know this to be true. I love you, Julie, my friend. Pass the beer, and I'll laugh with you all the way through to the downhill side.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

For Audrey

I would like to introduce you to my friend, Audrey. She is, to put it mildly, a remarkable woman. Perhaps you know someone like her. The first time I met her, I knew I needed to become her friend. She makes everybody want to be her friend. In fact, everybody is her friend!

It is fitting that her name is Audrey (though she doesn't usually go by it) because she reminds me of Audrey Hepburn, another heroine in my life. My Audrey is very much like that Audrey in that she is stylish, classic, and beautiful even while wearing a t-shirt and jeans. She is also like that Audrey because she has a beauty that goes all the way to her core; she knows what truly matters in life, and seems to sow seeds of happiness in everything she does. She is unfailingly kind, optimistic, but also enjoys a naughty joke once in a while. She gets my sarcasm, and she likes me despite my flaws. As far as I can tell she likes everyone. I have never heard her utter a rude or unkind word about anyone. She is patient. She is everything I wish I could be, but know I can't. She is a dove. I am a labrador retriever. Audrey's home and family completely match her temperament. They are the kindest, most generous, and most welcoming people you could know. That is a direct testament to her quiet influence. To visit Audrey at home is to always be greeted like you are returning home after a long journey; it's exactly like coming home for Thanksgiving.

I am introducing you to Audrey because I want to share a simple gift she gave me. It was the kind of thing she does every day, to everyone. But although to her it may have been a little thing, to me it meant a great deal. Perhaps you give similar gifts in your daily life, and don't realize how small things can mean so much, so I was hoping in a way, to thank you, too.

Training has gotten harder as the Tour de Pink gets closer. I am having to squeeze in the time to take longer rides, and I'm trying to ride everyday. The anxiety of whether I will be able to complete the ride is starting to weigh on me. Unfortunately, since I work as a breast cancer advocate, my schedule is getting tighter and crazier as October (breast cancer awareness month) approaches. I'm planning fundraisers, events, etc., and well, I'm getting a little grumpy. I should also mention that my daughter is a senior and the crunch to start filling out applications, and making serious decisions is also weighing on me. My house is a disaster. I come home to hairballs so large that it looks like our cats have had kittens. I can only avert my eyes, dim the lights, and leave it for yet another day.

It is harder and harder to enjoy my rides. But two days ago I went for a ride that was just great. I was feeling strong, like maybe I could manage the Tour without trouble. I was feeling so good on that day that I added an extra leg at the end of the route that takes me up a big hill to get home. I always dread that hill. But that time, I felt strong. I felt confidant. And I ended the ride feeling even better than when I left. It was pure gold.

Yesterday, was another story. I had a busy day and was feeling all the pressures weighing on me. I got home late to a kitchen full of dirty dishes and whatever impulse I had to ride was slowly draining away. I did the dishes and turned my attention to the pile of mail that had gone unsorted for days. All the while I made excuses as to why I could just skip the ride. It was too late. I was tired. Too much to do. It would be getting dark before I got back. I had completely convinced myself to skip it when I listened to the days' phone messages. Message #1: some saleswoman who won't stop calling. Ugh. Message #2 was from Audrey. And it went something like this:

"Alane, I just wanted you to know that we were driving up the hill yesterday and we saw you riding your bike. I wanted you to know that you looked so strong and so ready for this ride. I am really proud of you. You looked so strong."

Small. Simple. But it got me on my bike. Audrey doesn't know what that small push, which wasn't even meant as a push, put in motion for me last night.

After listening to the message, I immediately suited up and got on the bike. It was chilly, but a beautiful evening. The first surprise came when about a mile and a half up the road, I saw my husband, biking home from work in the opposite direction. I love him. My heart still jumps a little whenever I see him, so this was a special treat. We waved and the evening air echoed with our "I Love Yous!" as we parted. I got to take a moment and think about what a remarkable husband I have. He has been doing the work of two people this week, is on call, and was riding home to drive our son to practice after which he would go back to work, and pick our son up again. What a guy. Thanks, Audrey, I needed to remember that, and told him how much I appreciate him later.

Those thoughts led to more thoughts; thoughts of Audrey. Her own family is dealing with a cancer crisis right now, and she is heartbroken but upbeat, and making the most of every moment. I thought about the grace and kindness it took for someone, in that situation, to think about me on my bike. And then these words came to me like a bolt of lightning: "You have to breathe out to breathe in." It is a wonderful physical phenomena that our respiratory system works so well, without our help, in simple rhythm to keep us alive. But the words stuck with me for the ride. You have to breathe out to breathe in. You have to give to receive, you have to love to be loved, you have to share to be a part of something, you have to spread happiness to be happy, and life will fill you up as long as you let it in. Thanks again, Audrey.

This thought was so overwhelming to me that I barely felt my legs pumping for the rest of the ride. But I was struck with a constant stream of images; Images about my life and how incredibly full it is. The opening of a flower, the feeling of my daughter's hand as a toddler, the first time I really felt the deep connection between us, the light in my son's eyes, the arms of a friend, laughter, faces, and more. I began to cry a little as I became truly in touch with how full and wonderful my life is; how my cup truly does runneth over. How I am so, so grateful for all that I have.

Because of Audrey's small gesture, I cried tears of joy as I remembered moments long forgotten. I had an incredibly beautiful ride. The evening was golden; it was my favorite time of the day. And my ride ended with a swift turn around a cul-de-sac circle where a beautiful deer stood in the center, motionless except for its head which it turned to watch me as I passed. Quiet, serene, and truly blessed.

I am going to try to make change in other people's lives today. Even if it's only in small ways. Because Audrey taught me how a ripple can create a wave, how a chain reaction can be started with one small gesture of kindness. You never know the effect your actions will have. But I hope Audrey knows this time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On the sweet side.

Hands down, bicyclists seem to be the nicest people around. At least the ones that I have met, anyway. But I'm pretty sure that statement would hold true for any cyclist. I say this because, every single one of them that I have met on this journey has been supportive, kind, eager to help, full of advice, and very gracious. From the guys at Ski Hut, my local bike shop, who have done nothing but encourage 2 novices like Brad and myself, to the hard core cyclists who have shared training routes, insider tips, and even taken us on a grueling "Confidence Building" Ride (see my last post "I don't know which was harder"). Not a single one of them expressed shock or incredulity at what we were about to try to do; instead, they have been nothing but enthusiastic.

My belief that all cyclists are nice was further enhanced today when I took off on a longer ride. First I have to tell you that all week, Brad has been fighting a nasty cold and hasn't been able to ride. Plus he had to take a trip out of town for work. So, I've been left to train on my own. Some days it's awfully hard to force myself out the door, especially if I know I'm pushing myself to do a longer or harder ride. Today was particularly tough since with my spouse gone, I have been turned into even more of a taxi driver for the kids. Soccer, drama tryouts, more tryouts, more soccer, games, homework projects, grad pictures, the list goes on and on. (My hats off to every single parent out there. I honestly don't know how you do it.) Anyway, with Brad gone I am on constant high alert, which means I don't sleep well. Being on call 24/7 with no backup is definitely no picnic.

My training goal for this weekend was to go on two back to back medium-to-long rides. I was hoping to do 40 today and possibly 50 tomorrow. Of course, between a soccer game and driving Cory where he needed to be (with a stop to purchase alka-seltzer on the way: I heard something about rockets) I was left with only 2 hours and 20 minutes to try to ride 40 miles. I was very grumpy when I started out. I felt rushed and out of sorts. Not to mention the fact that today was hotter than it's been in weeks and I was heading out in the hottest part of the day.

So I started out, climbing up a street of hills when I saw a bicyclist ahead of me in the distance. I thought that perhaps it might be someone I know. I was in a hurry, so I was trying to climb the hills a little faster than usual. After a couple of miles I caught up with her. I was a little surprised to see another woman riding alone; usually I'm the only one out there. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't someone I know. Darn. I was hoping for some friendly company. So, being in a hurry, I passed her. After I passed her I realized she had caught up to me and was saying something. She was asking if I wanted some company. I couldn't believe it, and wasn't sure of the etiquette in these situations. I wanted company, but I wasn't too sure about a stranger. But I said "sure". It turned out she was taking the same route that I was, but she was almost done. Her car was parked a few miles up the road. We rode along together (at a faster clip than I was intending) and talked. She kept riding with me for quite a way even though we had gone long past her car. In the end she turned around and headed home, but not before she gave me her cell phone and email so I could call her for company if I wanted to another day.

I have to admit that after she turned around, the ride got harder. I had trouble keeping up the pace, even though I'd been breezing along before, talking all the way. But I managed to bike 38 miles (just short of 40, dang it!) in 2 hours and 24 minutes. I couldn't have finished so quickly without the company, of that I'm sure.

I spent the rest of the ride thinking about why bicyclists are so nice. I decided that it is because we're traveling at a slower speed. We're developing an intimate relationship with the world around us while everyone else whizzes by in their cars. (Me too, at all other times of the day!) It made me think about all the great things I've seen from the seat of my bike. I saw Spring finally come to the Northland. I watched the roadside, normally ugly and inhospitable burst forth with the beauty of lupines. On more than one occasion I startled nesting herons who took to the sky in a frenzy. I will never forget riding silently behind and then alongside a beautiful, patient gray wolf. I've seen turtles and watched Brad rescue more than a few from death on the center lines. I've seen ugly things too, like the heaps of trash people toss out their car windows, angry, rude drivers who want you to get out of their way, and the worst: all the small, seemingly inconseqential animals who have died on the road; possums, skunks, deer, a kitten, turtles, garter snakes, and even a hawk. Everytime I've passed by, I've said a small prayer. I say, "sorry, little animal, I'm sorry." Bike riding gives you the time to do that. To pray, even when you're normally not a praying person. To reflect on things you'd otherwise miss because of the fast pace of life. It forces you to slow down and see the world at eye level. And it gives you the opportunity to meet total strangers who become friends.

Monday, September 7, 2009


In a (somewhat) lame attempt to prove that I still have a life outside of the YSC, I thought I'd post a few pics of some recent pages I've made. Take that, Kos!

This is one of my favorite photos of Brad and Erin when she was a baby. You can totally feel the bond between them just coming straight through the picture. It was fun to finally scrap it. I LOVE that she's sucking her thumb in this picture. She was so adorable. I had a lot of fun trying to create a soft, layered look on this page.

Again, this is one of my favorite photos of all time. Cory was such a huge fan of Toy Story (1 & 2). He loved his "Buzz Yightyear and Woo-y" Toys and carried them everywhere. If you're familiar with the 1st movie, there's a scene where the boy has a cardboard box costume to pretend that he's Buzz Lightyear. This was our facsimile.

I love doing new things and trying techniques on my layouts. That's what makes it really fun for me. I only had one photo of Cory in his Buzz costume, but wanted to include more because it was so special. So I printed the same image (smaller) onto printable shrinky-dink material, cut them out and heated them in the oven. I was left with these great customized 3-D page elements. Then I added eyelets all over the background to simulate space. FUN!

Again I scrapped some absolute favorite photos. Cory has always been able to fall asleep wherever and whenever he wants. There was a time when we were in K-Mart that he actually cleared a shelf and fell asleep right on top of a pile of Martha Stewart towels! If only I had a picture of that. Instead, I had these three photos from him on the sidelines of one of Erin's soccer games. He was chilly and tired, so he zipped himself up into my jacket and took a nice nap, still sitting up!

Here's a close-up proving to my friend Julie that I met her scrap challenge and used one of the chipboard borders she retrieved from our yard sale! I also had fun playing with paint, sewing (which I seem to do on every page these days), and scalloped borders. I hand cut these, including the one out of veneer. I also really liked the way the title came out...I wanted the letters to be a little 3-D so I curled them up a bit. If you notice, this is really the same layout format I used on the first layout of Brad and Erin. I've been doing that a lot lately, too. I don't know why. It just feels right. And if it feels right, go for it!

I don't know which was harder.

I spent two days this week doing two very different things, and honestly, I don't know which was harder. I'm still processing them both.

First, and way more important, on Thursday I went with my friend Julie for her first round of chemo. She has been diagnosed with cancer for the second time after being cancer-free for six years. That will most definitely ruin anyone's summer, but somehow Julie remains to stay afloat and enjoys herself as much as possible. She's just wired that way. She's a good person straight down into her soul; let's face it, she's the only person I know who is friends with the Jehovah's Witnesses that frequent her house. (Since it's the only place they are greeted with friendly converstaion, I suspect!) Anyway, Julie is exactly the type of person you hate to see go through this: she's someone everybody loves. So, I picked her up Thursday morning for her appointment in our convertible. We're finally getting a few days of summer here, so we need to enjoy it whenever possible. And can you really think of a better time to be in a convertible?

Suffice it to say it turned out to be a lot longer day than we thought: seven hours. We actually closed the chemo ward down. To be fair, this was her first visit and she had to meet with her Doctor, hear all the "possible side effects" of her treatment and sign off on any paperwork. But she was in that chair for a very...long...time. The nurses were awesome, friendly, helpful, and not too intrusive. They kept her meds coming as quickly as they could. But it was a long, hard day. Julie came through it with her laughter in tact. Thank heaven she enjoys my sarcastic sense of humor, while the final nurse we saw that day did not. The conversation went something like this:
  • Nurse (directed at Julie) "We're letting you go home a little earlier than normal, but be aware of any of the following side effects: shortness of breath, heart racing, chest pain, falling down, lightheadedness...if that should happen, go to the E.R."

  • Alane (also directed at Julie) "Oh, NO. That WON'T be happening. You are NOT going to do THAT!!!"

  • Nurse (directed at Julie but clearly meant for Alane) "This is your friend? She's mean. What'd you bring her for?"

  • Ouch. No sarcasm allowed on the chemo floor.

Suffice it to say, the day was hard for Julie. But she came through it very well. I drove her by the Portland Malt Shop for a chocolate malt on the way home. (They are the best: hurry up and go before they close for the season! The mint chocolate malt is my fave...I love the little cookie on top!)

I was so happy to hear the next day that despite feeling flu-like, Julie was doing pretty good. No nausea to date, and I hope she is out enjoying this awesome weekend.

Of course that night, I couldn't sleep. I get into a routine when I'm stressed but can't process it: I grind my teeth a lot when and if I do sleep. My feelings about her going through this are being held deep right now. I know when they do bubble up, it's gonna hurt, but for now I'm dealing with it. Being on the other side of the chemo bag is no picnic, I'm not gonna lie. But it's nothing like having to go through it yourself. That is the truth. Mystery solved, people: as survivors we often say watching what it's doing to your loved ones is harder than going through it. I can officially, and authoritatively say, "BULL!" It's a lot harder to go through it. Trust me.

So on to difficult day 2 of a completely different sort. Around the time of Julie's chemo I started getting calls from our friend and neighbor Mike inviting Brad and I to go on the killer ride that would test out mettle and prove we were ready to ride the Tour de Pink. I will admit, I was dodging his calls. Every time I heard his voice on the answering machine, I'd tell Brad he needed to call him. Needless to say, Brad was in a similar stance of avoidance. On Friday Mike caught me on the phone, and of course, because he could sell anything to anyone, I agreed. Plus, I knew it had to be done. The plan was to meet at 8 AM on Saturday for a 70 mile ride. Which he promised would be "Low Key".

At this point I should tell you that Mike rode his own individual TDP ride earlier this summer: he started out on what was to be around 800 miles from his High School Reunion in MI. The important thing to know is: he was doing it alone. No back up. In the end, he made it 500 miles before the knee pain and numbness in his hands was so bad he had to call for a ride home. But he'd done 500 miles in 4 days. Yikes! Needless to say, I was not certain that his definition of low key and mine were one and the same. Here's a photo of me & Mike after his ride, when he was awarding me with some of the over $5000 he raised for YSC:

So shortly after we agrred to the ride, the next shoe dropped. At about 10 or 11 PM, I get a message from him that another friend, Steve, and Bill S. were coming with us. It is hard to describe my reaction to this news. Bill S. is a bit of a joke in our household (and not in a mean way because he is a very sweet guy). He runs, bikes, swims, skis, you name it, constantly. He is literally an Ironman. Brad and I often joke that we stand in our front window eating donuts watching him run, bike, and ski by all day long. Needless to say, the intimidation factor was at an all-time high.

So Saturday 8 AM arrives. We suit up and head out for our "low key" ride. Very quickly, it became clear that we were so out of our league. Anyone who knows Duluth, knows the nature of the hills. The city is built on a cliff, for heaven's sake! We zipped along Skyline Drive in fog as thick as peanut butter. The pace was a little faster than what we're used to, but at that point in the ride, we were feeling okay. It was what came after our first rest stop that nearly killed me. We rode into Jay Cooke Park, a state park near here that has two absolutely brutal hills to get up. The three of them were chatting about the view, while Brad and I prayed to suddenly have the ability to fly. Don't get me wrong: they were awesome, and encouraged us every bit of the way. I literally would have quit many times if Mike had not ridden next to me and talked me up the hill. He was like Yoda. "Patience...take your time..." It was brutal and painful. Then we got to rest stop #2. I have never consumed so much sugar in my life. By the end of the ride, I actually didn't want anymore. (That's a definite first for not want sugar or chocolate!) We hit the "easy" portion of the ride with lower, rolling hills and straightaways. Mike was leading us, and suddenly the speed increased tremendously. I though Brad was going to kill him. (But of course he'd have to catch him first!) In the back of my mind (and I'm sure Brad's) was the fact that we needed to save the last bit of energy we had to make it up the hill that leads to our house. That hill loomed like a demon in my mind. It loomed until Mike gave us the choice to get the inevitable climb into the city over with in one fell swoop rather than dragging it out over a series of inclines. Fools that we were, we fell for it. After riding 55 miles, we hit it. I almost wept. A one mile long hill going straight up, back up to Skyline Drive. I honestly cannot believe I made it. This time Mike tried to talk to me, and I couldn't even expend the energy to do that. It was all I could do to keep pedaling. The cruelest part of all was that there was a curve at the top that made it look like it was the end, but when we hit the curve, it just kept on going. Brad said a little piece of his heart died at that moment, and I believe him. Finally, we made it to the top and the others were like "Yay, that was totally kick-ass! You made it!!!" But they failed to notice, that even though the big hill was done, we were still on an incline. If I was a violent person and had access to a firearm at that moment, I would have used it. Don't judge me, you would have too if you'd been there.

Remarkably, in the end we made it up our last hill to home. I can say without a doubt that was the most physically difficult thing I have ever done. Today is the first day that I don't feel like crawling back into the bed.

All of these guys were stellar, including Bill. He drifted back and chatted with us, and never left us in his dust even though for him, this was an easy ride. Steve, thank God he was there. The man is in incredible shape (he practically bounced up the hills, chatting all the way.) But he made us laugh and kept us out of our heads. And Mike, we can't ever repay him for building our confidence like he did. It really was a gift, and he was a great cruise director.

I thought I'd include a pic I took while on the ride. It's terribly out of focus since I was bouncing on potholes when I took it. But you can see Brad in the pink shirt in the middle of the pack. Way to go, honey! That's Steve on the left, Mike on the right, and Bill at the back. They are a truly great group of guys.

So which day was harder? I'd take the physical stuff anyday over the mental anguish. But this time, they were both hard and rewarding in their own way. I'll have to reflect on this question for a while....if I come up with an answer, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ouch and oof and aye-aye-aye!

I have seriously upped my training. It's hard to always find the time to ride, but I have been riding every day. I'm trying to mix up my routes, take some hills or some longer rides, or just go slow (like this morning...when slow felt like the only alternative to backwards.) Riding on the roads around Duluth gives you quite a varied experience (and I don't mean multi-culturally, although that could be accurate too.) To give you an idea of what I mean, Brad and I set off last night for a ride. He quickly mentioned that he wanted to steer clear of certain roads. (Roads I take practically every day, by the way.) Apparently he is not too fond of the surface conditions. I can't say I blame him. Those of you who aren't from Duluth, may not realize just how bad potholes can be in a place that's frozen seemingly nine months out of the year. Travelling some roads is literally like picking your way through a mine field. But, I believe in the old adage that "what does not kill us, makes us stronger." Or at least it puts callouses on our bums. We'll show those East Coast riders how to handle a washboard road!!!! I am regulary cursing at the painful beating I have been taking from these roads. (Embarrassingly, sometimes in front of others. Including children. I'm not proud of it.) In my defense, it is impossible not to let out a few choice phrases when your teeth are rattling and you are concerned about possible spinal cord injury! I am well acquainted with the local vernacular use of Uff-Da!!!! Or even better: Uff-Da Yay!!!(Which I have quickly and strangely modified into my own version: Uff-Da Oy!!!) I feel that this better expresses my East Coast roots. So, yes, last night we circumnavigated the worst parts and had a nice, smooth, and fast ride. But, being a glutton for punishment, this morning I got up and went for a little bone-crushing-joint-jolt riding. As my friend Corey (that's twice you've made it on here, man!) my bike guru has pointed out, I am seriously decreasing the resale value of my bike. I can only imagine what that means about my own personal resale value. Brad, you're stuck with me...even if all this riding just keeps making me shorter! Soon I'll be a head with shoes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Feeling melancholy...and a dedication of sorts.

So I was thinking about yesterday's post. I had so much more I wanted to write, but it was stepping into emotional waters, and I did a little side-stepping to avoid it. But I woke up this morning with those same thoughts on my mind, feeling melancholy. I knew I needed to finish my thoughts, let some of it out, in order to find some peace today. Of course, I am riding the Tour de Pink for so many reasons beyond myself, my family, and my past. There are hundreds of others who will be making the trip. They will most definitely be with me on the ride. For one, I will be thinking about all of the people who have supported me on this ride by donating, sharing riding tips, and just being great cheerleaders: Michael, you are an inspiration. Steve, thanks for the laughs and the beers, Lynn, you inspire me everyday to be a better person, and Bill, I hope I can feel just one iota of the physical strength that you have when the road gets tough. Kim Kos & family, you are the laughter and the light I so often need; thank you for always being there.

Aunt Sue, Mary Ellen, Donna & Richard, Sarah, Laura, Kim & family, Lisa & Bob, and all of the rest of you who have donated and left amazing comments on our site, I will have all of your smiling faces on my mind. And to all of you die-hard garage salers out there who helped us raise over $3000, all I can say is "Wow!" Every penny is so important. It makes me think of all the young women out there on the YSC boards who are fighting, surviving, and dying; who will get support thanks to your generosity. I hope you know what a difference you are making.

I often think about the young woman who is just finding a lump, or just going in to her doctor. I pray that she gets great care, and if the news is bad, I hope she finds the YSC; that faceless young woman will be with me, too.

But weighing most heavily, most close to my heart are those who I have met on my own cancer journey. Those who helped me fight the battle: Jim, Leslie, Greg & Kendall, I don't know if you realize what a life raft your home was for my family during our cancer storm. Bonnita, my 10 year Cancerversary buddy, my lone cancer support group, I will have your voice from all those phone calls where we dared to talk about living and dying deep in my thoughts. Lisa S. and Carolyn, and all the Docs & others, and the warrior women at the YWCA, for putting your faith in me and trusting that the YSC could make a difference, you'll be on the ride too! Cara, my confidant and life coach: I'm taking you for a ride! I will be thinking about the doctors and nurses who fought with me during my battle: Doctor Mary, Dr. Christie, Dr. Dalton, and Dr. Nikcevich, thank you for daring to know me as a person and not just a patient.

And finally, to those who have blessed me with their stories, who have shared their fear, sadness, longing, hopes, dreams, and laughter: the ladies (& gents!) I have met through our YSC cancer support group. I will have each and every one of you with me. You all have an important chapter in my story. Julie, I know you know what is in my heart; imagine yourself on the handlebars. Wendy, I wouldn't be where I am with YSC today if it wasn't for you; strap on your helmet, lady! Stina, Kathy N., Roxanne, Barb, Janelle, Debbie, Chris, Eileen, Ann, Diana, Natasha, Laura D., Jami, Karole, Marcy, Shana, Mary & Patrick, Lorena, Kathy T., Silva, Pam, Maribeth, Binner, Jessica, Mary, and all, words cannot express how grateful I feel to have your trust. I have learned so much from you; you have supported me much more than I think I have done for you.

Of course, the faces that will help me get up the hardest hills will be no surprise to those of you who understand; Tricia, Chris, and your wonderful girls. Tricia, when I feel tired or beaten, or find it hard to breathe, when I feel my heart pumping so hard that it feels like it will burst out of my chest, I will be grateful. I will remember how hard you fought, and I hope I will find the strength to keep pedaling. After all, what is a bike ride in comparison? I miss you. And I promise to have you with me on the downhills, too, enjoying the long, casting ride of relief and peace.

I apologize to anyone whose name I may have ommitted. There really are far too many to name you all. Just know that what you have said or done has mattered and will never be forgotten.

I'm sorry for the length and the sadness of this post, but sometimes the well is too deep, and needs to be released.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A gorgeous day and plenty of time to think.

One thing riding a bike for a long time gives you, especially if you're riding alone, is plenty of time to think. I just got back from a 34 mile ride. It was a new route that a friend shared with me and it passed by lakes, farmland, and even a quarry. (Not nearly as pretty, but interesting!) Anyway, I spent a lot of time thinking. Especially since I wasn't exactly feeling up to a long ride. I was having some aches and pains, and I find the best thing for me to do in that situation is to try and let my mind wander. This time, I started to think about the big ride coming up. It dawned on me that all along, ever since I chose to do this ride, I have said that it was for me. So that I could feel like I had conquered something. I don't know that I can ever go so far as to be confident enough to say I've conquered cancer, but at least I can conquer a bike ride. But, on this ride I was feeling a lot more weight on me than I usually do. Mental weight. I realized that in truth, this ride isn't just for me. It is also for the me that used to be. The me before cancer. I could almost feel myself reaching back into the past to grab that young, idealistic, hurting person and pull her close. To show her where we've come and that the future is unpredictable, that everything can, in its own way, be alright. I also have my kids, both now and then, with me on that bike. And my husband. Our whole life story, with all the twists and turns and surprises that have popped up along the way. That's a lot of people on one small bike, but they do help keep me pedaling. And like I said, I've got plenty of time to think.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Diamonds and Chocolate...that is bliss!!!!

So, it's time to explain the feed posted yesterday about the diamonds and chocolate. If you haven't followed the link, you really must. I can't think of anything better. They say diamonds are a girl's best friend, but I would go so far to say that chocolate is a girl's spiritual adviser. Well, at least this girl.

The tie-in comes around due to the fact that the Tour de Pink is sponsored by the Hershey Chocolate Co. . Hershey's is the largest corporate sponsor of the Young Survival Coalition. They give a check for $30,000 each year as well as the funds that are raised by the event.

This year they asked for survivors who were riding in the TDP to submit their story. They subsequently chose five of us to serve as spokespeople. You guessed it, I am one of the five. (I assume that only five submitted their story, hence I get to be a part of the fun!)

They flew us to Hershey for a whirwind one day/one night trip during which we posed for photographs, were interviewed, and here's the best part...ate chocolate! Seriously, it was a great experience. I met four other awesome young survivors and have four new firends. Each of us had a unique story and it was truly amazing to hear each one of them.

Hershey's Bliss is the chocolate that will be turning pink for YSC this year. It is delicious, creamy, and everything I need. They even put little pink ribbons on the wrapper. The YSC logo is on the bag, and you may even be blessed to see my face (or I am hoping not anatomically correct cardboard cut-out of me at the candy display in your local store!) Yes, that's right, mine is the face of bliss! Of course, Brad always says that!!! (Ha!) So look for the chocolate in your local store and buy! Buy! Buy! Do your Halloween candy shopping early and support the YSC!

I've posted some of the photos from the shoot here. All I can say is, God bless professional make-up artists and photographers! They are amazing!

The interviews will be on the Hershey's Bliss Tour de Pink website starting October 1st. Keep your eye out!

Monday, August 17, 2009

I call her "Crash"...

As I said in my original post, the bike pictured above, my Dolce, is not the one I am using in the Tour de Pink in October. Despite what you might think, breast cancer has its perks. One of them being that when you sign up as a survivor to ride in the TDP, you are given some pretty nice swag. I got a great new helmet, biking gloves, the coolest bike shoes on the planet, and the best... a shiny, new, fancy, super duper road chomping bike: the Giant for Women Avail. She is sized perfectly to fit me (with a little help from my bike guru Corey, at the Ski Hut in downtown Duluth.) And as many of you may have noticed, I am on the lower end of the stature scale. So, yes, my bike is an extra small. As in just barely not a circus clown bicycle. But, seriously, this baby is sah-weet!!!! The only disappointment came when I picked her up from the dealer and she was not breast cancer pink and pretty. No, she's fire orange. But I have learned to deal with it. She has attitude, and I like it. She is now a treasured member of the family. Why the name "Crash" you say? Well, that has to do with the experience of trying to adjust to the clips that were needed for my cool new shoes and hot new bike. I may not be a master at getting in or out of them, but I am beginning to be a master at falling! Speaking of falling... well, you'll just have to wait for that story for another day.

Here's a photo of me and Crash (don't we look smokin'?):

We had a great 25 mile ride this morning. The leaves are already turning. I'm trying hard not to notice.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Where in the world?

For those of you (okay, Kim) who have been wondering if I have fallen off of the face of the earth, you can check in on my other blog, Dreaming On Two Wheels, where you can catch up on what I have been up to when not shuttling my soon-to-be-senior around on college visits and working like a fool for the Young Survival Coalition. Unfortunately, I haven't had much time for creative pursuits, but I'll post some when they come about...hopefully soon! I have to keep this other blog updated more frequently...that explanation coming soon over there! Come visit!!!

A Long Ride...the First of Many

So yesterday afternoon Brad and I set out for a long ride which quickly became longer than anticipated. I had a map that I had created on a website called BikeRouteToaster but, not surprisingly, the directions were bad. Roads that it said existed did not exist. Right turns were actually left turns, etc. It just goes to show how far out in "undiscovered country" I am living! It definitely brings to mind old maps with the phrase "There be dragons here"! Just when I was begining to seriously be concerned about the future of our marriage, I came upon a familiar road. (Well, at least the name was familiar!) After many mistakes, turn-arounds, and dirty looks we rolled home about 3 3/4 hours later, having ridden 55 1/2 miles averaging 15 mph. Not too shabby. Of course, it's pouring rain today and am happy to have an excuse to stay dormant. Brad decided to go fishing/paddling in the downpour. I guess he really needed some alone time!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Sweet Life

The photo above is my bike. But it's not the bike I will be riding in the 2009 Hershey's Tour de Pink . Thanks to the awesome sponsors of the ride, including Giant for Women bicycles, I have been outfitted from head to toe with new biking gear. Luxurious Shimano shoes (with clips...more on those later), Giant helmet, gloves, and bike bag, etc. But best of all, I was given a brand new, sized to fit me personally, Giant for Women road bike. She is, without a doubt, a she-beast. I will be featuring her in future posts, but I felt I would be remiss if I did not honor my Dolce. She has been a good friend: My guide and faithful companion at the start of my road biking journey. She is aptly named "La Dolce Vita": The Sweet Life. That name sums it all up for me. That's why I ride. That's why I'm seting out on this crazy adventure. Because for me, it really all is about the sweet life. Salut, Dolce!

Friday, April 24, 2009

I hope it was worth it!

I did something I am afraid I will regret. I donated my art canvas "Dream" and the little series of canvases to my kids' schools' auction. I am telling myself it is a good idea because if I want to sell my art, I need to test drive the market. You know, see what people's reactions are. But it is so hard to let them go. I really poured my love into them, and I will miss not being able to see them again. I know that sounds crazy! But they really are a part of me. I've done things before for other people, but I have never had this reaction. Maybe this is telling me that I am on the right path creatively since I have so much invested in these pieces. Still, I am going to the auction, so they might come back home with me for a price. (I hope my therapist...and my husband...aren't reading this!)

On another topic, I'm sure you've noted how long it has been between posts. My new job is currently kicking my a**. I can't believe how busy I have been! Now I not only have all of the work to do that I've always had, but I also have responsibilities with the national office. Not to mention that May 9th is the Mother's Day Walk/Run (our largest fundraiser) and work is at a feverish pace. Perhaps you can feel my stress presence coming right through the computer screen!

Well, I'm off to speak at a local Relay For Life event. It's raining and cold. And it might snow. It figures that I would be asked to speak at an outdoor event at 10:00 at night. Fun, fun! How are you celebrating the start of the weekend?


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool...Hey, are you talkin' to me?

So today is April Fool's Day. I'm sure you are aware of that, but I just want you to hold that nugget in your brain when I tell you the next thing:

I have been hired to officially work for the Young Survival Coalition - Duluth. Try to follow me here, I know it's a little mind cramping. "Haven't you been working for the YSC - Duluth?" you ask. Yes, I have, and risking the appearance of immodesty here, pretty darn hard, too. The difference is: a couple months ago I worked hard (along with some other wonderful people in the YSC offices in NY)  putting together a grant proposal to the Susan G. Komen Foundation's Minnesota Affiliate. (Maybe you've heard of them: their name and logo is on everything from paper towels to luxury automobiles, and soon the International Space Station! Kidding, of course!) The Komen Foundation takes all of that paper towel, auto, and space station money and gives grants to organizations they deem are fulfilling a need in their community. (For more info on the experience of writing the grant proposal see my previous post "Brain Baby" here.) Our grant proposal was written with some specific things in mind: new programs for breast cancer patients, some equipment, Newly Diagnosed Kits for young women diagnosed with breat cancer, and's the point of today's post... a salary for a part-time Program Manager. The great news is that after sending in my resume, etc. I was told last week that I have the job. (Although...the contract has not yet been signed, so, perhaps I should not be counting my chickens...) 

Here's the punch line, though: I was told I would officially be starting today....April Fool's Day. 

From experience I can tell you that cancer survivors tend to have a finely honed wit which I normally wholeheartedly enjoy, but I'm not going to be laughing if someone is playing a hideous joke. Joke or not, I have to hand it to the power of the Universe that he/she would play the ultimate joke on me. This is a little snarky karma from the "wizard" at the controls of my life...seriously, you know there a more appropriate day for me to be hired?

So how am I going to work today? I am left with the fact that my office is in a state of limbo: full of boxes and stuff but really unusable for any practical work: the computer's on the way, though, and I will be able to work there regularly once it arrives. So for now I'm working out of my home office, the back of my car, the real office, and a rolling crate which is stuffed full of important items. Go ahead and laugh. Since today is the official start of my employment, I am planning on getting dressed up and putting my coffee in a travel mug...even if I'm only going as far as the computer. April Fool, indeed!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Just a quick addition..

If you enjoyed the beckoning of lovely video below, learn more about Amy Krause Rosenthal, the children's books she has authored, and watch more videos and catch up on the beckoning of loely project at her blog, who is amy?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beckoning Lovely Things...

This is a wonderful video & project from Amy Krouse Rosenthal,  the author of "The Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life". I love creative people and I am so enamored with the way this woman lives a creative life. Watch it and enjoy....and maybe you will feel beckoned to send in something lovely! This is just a little gift from me to you: a bit of sweet goodness for a happy Friday and the start to a lovely weekend.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Time to kill...

I have some time to kill before I have to sit in on a conference call meeting thingy...there's got to be something better to call it. Anyway, I have to share this website. A HUGE shoutout to my main blogophile Kim Kos over at Kosmatka365 (check it out...she's doing an awesome 365 photo challenge blog and she rocks my world!) Anyway, in her fave blog list (which I am sure is difficult for her to pare down since she is totally an ADDICT) is this little piece of heaven: The "Blog" of Unnecessary "Quotation" Marks. It is totally random, totally mindless, and 100% hilarious. I love goofy signs and wierd turns o' phrases (gee, ya think?) and this is right up my alley. Thanks, Kim! I needed a diversion and this site totally delivered!
I am in Apple land right now...I am typing this on the donated Mac computer we received for the office and let me say...I feel like I am in a foreign land. I am so lost without the ability to right click, I feel like I have lost the gift of opposable thumbs. I'm sure I'll get the hang of it, but I just spent 30 minutes trying to open an email attachment. I never claimed to be a computer geek. Usually I just fumble around until something works...kind of like searching for a lightswitch in the dark.
Speaking of random, my cat just stepped on the keyboard and typed : "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee". Do you think he's trying to tell me something? Man! still not time for my phone call....what to do, what to do...?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Forrest was right. Life is most definitely like a box of chocolates.

...You never know what you're gonna get.

It just goes to show that you can jinx yourself. Especially when it comes to Minnesota and Spring. I did it! It's all my fault!!!!! I blogged in my last post about the beautiful weather we were having, gushing about the sunshine and the incredible snow melt. And what happened? Well the weather turned distinctly south....downward in a negative way, not more "southern" in nature. On Friday the weather was damp, gray and began sleet/snowing in the afternoon. It was just plain gross. To top it off, while Cory and I were driving home from running errands in order to pick Erin up and drive both of them to guitar lessons (yes, that about sums up my life these days)....the road conditions were so awful that, when faced with a woman who suddenly stopped for no apparent reason in the middle of the road, I hit my brakes (we were traveling 10 mph tops)....whereupon I slid on the slushy crap that had fallen a la a very slow ice puck and tapped her bumper...of course, I'm sure you can guess.....moments later I was smashed from behind. No damage to the car I bumped or to the front of my car, no damage to the front of the car that hit me...but my lovely, beautiful Caledonia (yes, that's the name of my comely black VW Passat wagon) got a crumpled bedonkadonk. She and I are distinctly not happy. In fact we are bordering on a full blown depression. Just to highlight the irony, right after the incident Erin called on my cell phone to say that we'd gotten a call from the guitar teacher: lessons were cancelled due to the road hazard conditions. Wow, thanks for the update, buddy! Yesterday, the weather improved slightly in that it didn't spit sleet on us, and today is much the sun is shining, it's grey and well, depressing. I'm doing my best to cope, but, geez!!!!!!

...I have to step away from the computer for a bit...hum some bad musac (is there any good musac?) for yourself while I'm gone. Sorry for the brief interruption....

Okay I was away from the computer for a few moments so I could get something that truly brightened my day: a donated computer for the new office! That's right! A kind, incredibly generous couple heard that we were opening an office and, as the gentleman regularly repairs Apples, he got an eMac donated and filled it up with loads of software and other goodies. Now, it isn't the fastest, it's used, but it's ours!!!!!!! We are still needing to spend the money on a faster laptop for my official YSC use, but this baby is going to come in incredibly handy for file storage, document production, etc. Yippee! I am so happy and incredibly grateful for the kind people in the world. Life is nothing short of an amazing ride, and I am so glad to be on it! You just never know what the day could bring!!!! Wait a won't believe it but the sun is shining! Happy, happy day!

Evidence of a Life