Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winding down the year

So much has happened in the last two weeks!  Roger ran the Richmond Marathon.  Thanks to many of your last minute donations (as well as a wonderful anonymous matching gift), we reached the $10,000 fundraising goal.  As promised, Roger ran the 26.2 miles in his hot pink running skirt.  He finished the race in somewhere between 5 and 6 hours (depending on whether you go by the "chip time" or the "official time") and after a few days of recovery, he was fit as a fiddle (or at least no worse for wear).

Thanks again to Rachel Pustilnik of Stroller Strides and the Mother Runners fitness group for providing training and moral support during this last year.  Special thanks to Dr. Anna of Atlee Chiropractic for the regular adjustments that keep Roger's joints limber!

Roger's next marathon will be the Big Sur race in California in May.  If anyone is interested in running this race (or the many smaller races associated with the event), please contact Roger so we can build a Race Team

One week after the marathon, Ashland was abuzz with Citations for CJ.  This event helped us raise over $650 for the Foundation.  Special thanks to everyone that helped make this event a success, including:
    Kellan Morris tries to get bailed out!
  • Ashland Police Chief Doug Goodman
  • Celebrity Judges Faye Prichard and Mark Joy
  • Chick-Fil-A Virginia Center
  • Susan Greenbaum
  • Alpha Phi Omega chapter at Randolph-Macon College
  •  Henry Clay Elementary School 
  • Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at Randolph-Macon College 
    Ashland resident Dan McCaffrey gets cited for "failure to trim beard"

Roger and Celebrity Judge Mark Joy give the "thumbs up"

Board Member Meredith Hayes gets a "sobriety check"

We finish off the year with another distribution of Financial Assistance Grants.  We received over 17 applications for this round and we were able to award 12 grants for a total of $6000.  The remaining applications will be held "in place" until our next distribution period in 2011.  For more information about the good work we have been able to do thanks to your generous donations, please check out our Annual Report

On the personal front, Roger and I have been inundated by all kinds of emotions over the last few weeks.  Any of you who have experienced a personal loss know that the holidays can be a difficult time.  We are flooded with memories of holidays of the past and sad that we cannot share this year's holidays with our dear Charlotte.  In all honesty, it is difficult to have a Happy Holiday.  Last year at this time, we were preparing for our amazing Make-A-Wish trip to Florida and I think often of those days.  We are grateful for the support and space that our friends and family continue to provide for us at this time.  Though the year is coming to a close, there is still much to do at work and that will keep us busy and (somewhat) distracted.  In addition, we plan to take a few days after Christmas for some personal "retreat" time.  I am definitely looking forward to that. 

Thank you for joining us on this journey.

Thank you for helping CJSTUF become a reality.

Thank you for helping us give back to the community that gave us so much in 2009.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chicago Part II

Saturday was a day of rest and trying to make sure I got as much healing time in for my feet as possible. I was kind of nervous about how they were going to feel the next day and not running the race was most definitely NOT an option so I had to baby them.

Mike and Rebecca Connelly took us to a matinee of the revival/revamped version of the musical Candide in the Goodman Theater downtown. The music was written by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by a bunch of guys, “and re-envisioned” by Mary Zimmerman.

Supposedly it was made simpler to follow. It was quite odd as it was. Not sure if I want to see the harder-to-follow version.

But let me say one thing…It was phenomenal! Everything from the singing to the orchestra to the strangely perspective-skewed set was top notch and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. (High praise coming from a quartet of musical snobs!)

After the show, we dodged the two and a half trillion kids going to see Yo Gabba Gabba Live and headed off to an Italian restaurant for some serious carbo-loading. I had no trouble downing a basket of bread and a big ole plate of pasta.

Then it was back to the “flat” for an early night of tossing and turning. I get rather nervous before a race and sometimes I don’t sleep so well. I sure am thankful that we were staying so close to everything because, for a 7:30 start time, we didn’t have to leave our place until after 6:30.

Rachel and I walked up toward Grant Park and since we were getting there relatively close to the start time, we were greeted by quite the mass of humanity. We got a picture of ourselves taken, we stood around for a bit, and then Rachel headed off toward the first meeting point and to hook up with the Connellys.

Before I committed myself to the race by joining with the crowd, I got to talk to a running celebrity. It was the guy who juggles while running. I have forgotten his name and I can’t find it online but here’s a pic: The first time I ever saw him was in my first ever marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon up in DC. I actually got to talk to him this time and he seemed pretty cool.

The start line of the Chicago Marathon is in the north end of Grant Park and runners are herded north on Columbus through the tunnel. It took me almost a half hour to get to the start line but that’s ok. I got to talk to several people as we moseyed forward.

I also got another try at proving my theory of races: The farther back you start, the fewer people pass you.” (I came up with that. It’s copyrighted. Don’t steal it!)

As I waited in the crowd, I met a guy named Jaimie who was running his first marathon ever. He was pretty excited as were his relatives who were hanging with him until the throng started moving. One of his relatives had a big odd and ugly Mylar vampire balloon. He said his wife originally tried to get him to run with it so that they could find him in the crowd. Fortunately he was able to talk her out of that idea and the family members ended up taking it with them so that HE could see THEM and veer toward the balloon if he needed something.

Then there was the quartet of college boys all running the race for the first time together as a sort of defacto team. It was cool to witness that camaraderie.

I also ran into a couple of women, both of whom were running their first marathon. As we reassured each other, I told them, “Just think. After you finish this race, and you WILL finish, you’ll be a marathoner forever!”

We finally made it to the official start line and I remember thinking, “No turning back now!” which is kind of silly but I guess I needed the mental lockdown at the beginning.

Talking to other runners and being nosey about what they do and all that is probably my favorite part of running races. It all comes from a documentary I saw several years ago about a guy who ran the Boston Marathon and filmed his conversations with people as he went. I thought that was the coolest thing and decided to talk to people like that when I ran.

The next guy I met was Chris (I think). He was running his first race of any kind EVER! Crazy dude. He was a Physical Therapy student at a nearby college and really didn’t have a plan for the race. I tried to warn him about the “walls” and told him to wave when he passed me later on in the race. As slow as I went, I never saw him after he stopped for water and I kept going.

Susan was the next person I met and she was a marathon vet. She was trying to do all the high-profile marathons like Los Angeles, Chicago, NY and all that. Her husband was usually the support crew (her version of Rachel) but he decided to run this one (much slower than her) so she was on her own. Her next race was supposed to be London and then Berlin. Not a bad existence.

One of the nicest persons I met along the way (beside the “joggler”) was Bob Spielberger. He works downtown, has run the Chicago Marathon for 12 years, and was planning on going back to his office to do some paperwork after finishing the marathon. As I ran with him, he pointed out historic buildings and made sure I knew where Rod Blogojevitch’s office was located!

We separated at another water stop and I kept going.

I saw Rachel, Punkin’, and Mike here and there along the way but I guess they saw me a couple of times, including the halfway point, when I didn’t see them. They seemed to get around very well and in the end they calculated that they had walked over 7 miles following me around.

I was very amazed at how quickly the miles seemed to be melting away. Before I knew it, I was at 18 miles! I almost let myself believe that this would be the race I finish without walking very much. Famous last words…

Right around mile 18 there was an Accel Gel point where packets of the nutrient replenishing goo were being distributed. I went ahead and took one and by doing so violated the first rule of running. “Don’t do something new during a race that you’ve never done before.” I hadn’t ever had Accel Gel before but I was feeling the need to get something in my belly. Bad idea because within a mile I was getting a very nervous stomach and that was the beginning of the end for Mr. Roger.

I had to walk an awful lot after that but found myself surrounded by many, many others in the same boat. As it warmed up, and it ended up in the 80’s, there were more and more people dropping out and needing attention by the side of the road. Fortunately, the marathon officials learned their lesson from a few years ago and had plenty of medical personnel along the route to assist runners in need.

One very cool thing was the neighborhoods through which we ran/walked. We went through Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Mexico, there were little patches of Koreans and other ethnicities that were all out cheering on the runners. We passed Elvis, a fortune cookie factory…There was even a mariachi band that I’ll bet was out playing for most of the day. More power to ‘em.

As we came up to the last few miles, my brain started getting a little “altered.” I started thinking about Charlotte and why I was there and started getting pretty emotional as we turned north on Michigan Ave. for the last three or so miles.

What kept me from losing it was the annoyingly loud music that blasted from huge speakers located about every tenth of a mile along Michigan. I also saw the “joggler” guy and we moseyed together for a little bit until we turned the corner to head up the hill before turning into Grant Park and the last tenth or so. I guess The support crew was there cheering me on at the end but I never saw or heard them. I did finish running but it wasn’t very pretty.

The best part of the entire run was the free beer they gave out at the end. MAN! Was that tasty! And they gave everyone TWO of them! One at the finish line and one at a special booth at the “Runners’ Park.” I also got a quick massage there from two therapists and started looking for Rachel and the Connellys.

I actually had to walk back past the finish line to the forest-of-metal-guys piece of art to meet up with them. Mike actually had to leave to relieve grandma who was watching their son so it was just the girls waiting for me.

On the way back, I wanted to stop for ice cream and we popped into a shopcalled the Marble Slab Creamery that was right on the way. The owner saw me and a couple of other runners and gave us all free ice cream! What a great way to end the day.

The next day was Monday and after one last visit with Rebecca and the very verbal rug rat, we headed home with little fanfare. It was interesting to see the number of people wearing their metals as they walked through the airport.

Let me just say this about Chicago: For all the corruption that everyone keeps talking about, everything works. The marathon was very well organized and run and as we were walking back, they already had the streets pretty much cleaned. I was very impressed.

One of the street sweepers was painted up with White Sox logos and the one right behind it had Cubs colors.

Next post…Richmond!

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Turn To Post

I haven’t posted on the blog in quite some time. Rachel’s been doing most of it lately and she has done a fine job of keeping everyone updated and all the announcements flowing.

My offering today will be more of the personal type. Much of it will be repeat information so I apologize for that.

Let’s start with Chicago. I know, it seems a little past its freshness date to talk about our trip to Chicago but I’ve been meaning to for a bit and I finally sat myself down to do it.

Traveling up to and back from Chicago was pretty much uneventful except for the silly things they make everyone do at the security checkpoints. Not sure if that will change any time soon. I personally don’t see how me taking my belt off will help thwart a would-be terrorist, especially when a nut with explosives in his underwear got through anyway.

When we got to the Windy City on Thursday, we had no trouble navigating the “L” from Midway Airport to downtown. We stopped at a great little restaurant called the 11 City Diner where I had a most amazing turkey burger.

After lunch, we went walking around the Grant Park area while we waited to meet our hostess, Susan. She met us near the Congress hotel and walked us down to her very cool condo, which was located just a couple blocks south of the park. It was less than a mile from the finish line of the Chicago Marathon, which was why we were there in the first place and which ended up being very convenient on Sunday.

One of the side bonuses of being in Chicago was the fact that our very good friends, the Connelly’s, live nearby. Rebecca (a.k.a. “Punkin”) is probably Rachel’s best friend from the University of Miami (and Sigma Alpha Iota) and they’ve stayed relatively close over the years. Her husband, Mike, is a fellow Sinfonian from UM and has probably one of the way coolest jobs on the planet: Composing music for gaming machines using actual elements of the original soundtracks of movies as well as much of his own creative effluvia.

They also have an amazing son who put me squarely back on my “read-to-your-children” soapbox. He’s smart, communicative, and can THINK and I give most of the credit to the fact that his parents have been reading to him since birth.

So read to your children no matter how old they are or whether or not they SEEM to be getting anything out of it. They are.

It was great, and very therapeutic, to spend so much quality time with them while we were there. We ate several meals with them, hung out at their house a good deal, and they accompanied Rachel as marathon support crew on Sunday.

On Friday morning, Rachel and I walked the mile or so down to the marathon expo to pick up my race packet and “run the gauntlet” of vendors who always set up between the front door and the packet pick-up area so that you have to get through all that before you can get your bib, t-shirt, etc…

I actually don’t mind it as there’s always interesting stuff to see and people to meet. We found several non-profit booths and talked to people from Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation, Open Heart Magic, and Running Skirts (who donated the pink skirt I wore when the Mother Runners raised $1000 for the Double Marathon Challenge)

You also always end up with a bag o’ accumulated crap that includes the official program, extra course maps, cowbells and kazoos, posters, food samples (some of which were quite good), fliers from every marathon on the planet, and a foot shaped refrigerator magnet from a local podiatrist (I sure needed him by the end of this day).

After the expo, we walked the mile back to Susan’s place to drop off the bag o’ accumulated crap and set off on the plan for the rest of the day, which was to walk up through Grant Park, see The Bean (the big shiny silver art piece on the north end), and we weren’t sure what else.

There was a ton of last minute setting up going on where the start and finish lines would be in the park and a large part of it was inaccessible but we did get up to The Bean, saw the “Spitting Fountains,” and found ourselves surrounded by lots of country music fans. Didn’t know that there were that many in Chicago but the Country Music Festival was going on up there and they had come out in droves! (Probably a lot of the “urban cowboy” types.)

I had worn my “Bald Chicks Rock” shirt (sent to me by the New Mexico contingent) with the picture of CJ on the back and I loved all the looks I got. One guy out in front of a store trying to get people excited about whatever they were selling saw my shirt and started whooping it up saying, “That’s right! Bald Chicks Rock! Yeah!” until we passed him and he saw Charlotte’s picture on the back. He realized what it meant and we could hear an, “oh…” It was like someone hit him with a shovel or something.

Actually we didn’t mind rocking his world a bit. Maybe it will stay in his mind a bit and next time he sees a commercial about one organization or another, he’ll consider it a bit more deeply.

I don’t go out to ruin people’s days but I love spreading the word. At another point, a woman walked by us as we ate a snack and noticed my shirt. She actually came back after passing us with her friend asking about what it means. She then proceeded to whip off her own wig and let her beautiful baldness shine. Literally! It was quite the moment.

We then made our way down to the Navy Pier where we walked by the tour boats and makeshift haunted houses. I actually wasn't all that impressed with it but I'm sure it's a rockin' place in the summer.

By the time we headed back, my feet were starting to hurt and I was thinking, "Uh-oh!" Just what I needed to do, injure myself two days before the race.

We ended the day by eating dinner at an Irish pub and restaurant nearly across the street from where we were staying. It was quite the full day.

There’s more to talk about and the Richmond Marathon is TOMORROW!!! (Yikes) But I don’t want to completely overwhelm everyone. There will be more, later. Fair warning.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Peace Train...Crazy Train...Love Train

So we made it to November.  Oh my goodness.  There is SO much to share and talk about with CJSTUF I don't know where to begin.  I think I will just direct you to the website.  Your attention please to the following announcements:

  • First and foremost: VOTE!  Yes, Election Day was yesterday but CJSTUF has applied for a Pespi Refresh grant.  We are hoping for $50K to help us get the CJ's Meal Fairies program off and running.  We need EVERYONE's help.  Voting can happen through Facebook, the Pepsi Refresh website, or text 103934 to PEPSI (73774).  Most importantly, you need to vote EVERY DAY.  We are currently ranked 352 and we need to crack the top 10 to win.  Tell all your friends.  Links to the site are on our website
  • Did you get an email from us recently?  If not, sign up for your email newsletter here.  If you don't follow us on Facebook or Twitter, it's another great way to know about all the things we are doing.  We will try not to harass you with spammy emails but we hope this will be another way to keep everyone up to date and informed. 
  • Start your holiday shopping with our jewelry auction.  Twenty-one original pieces created by Sarah Blankenship of Crystal Paintbrush on ebay.  Just search for CJSTUF to find the pieces.  100% of the proceeds will benefit our organization and eBay credits our listing and final fees so it's a great way to support our organization.  Each piece was inspired by Charlotte and many feature pink and purple Swarovski crystal butterflies. 
  • Wanna see a DUDE run the Richmond Marathon  in a skirt?  If we raise $3000 before November 12th Roger will don the pink skirt and wear it as he runs all 26.2 miles!  The goal is $10,000 total.  We can do it!
  • Citations for CJ is coming November 20th.  This is an easy way to support our organization.  The Alpha Phi Omega chapter at Randolph Macon is building our jail and our celebrity judges are getting ready to hand out their "verdicts".  Come on out for a fun morning and donate from the comfort of your own car.  Tell your friends!
  • Finally, our Biz of the Month is our corporate sponsor, Jade Enterprises.  This family business specializes in web design, web hosting, data management, and many other business applications.  Jade Enterprises is donating 25% of all contracts signed during the month of November to CJSTUF.  If you run your own business and are looking for a great way to improve your web performance and visibility in the marketplace, please give them a call. 
Now that the business is out of the way, let's talk.  It's been a crazy year.  As we approach the end of 2010, it seems that my emotions are ramped up as well.  November 6th was the day last year when we learned that there was nothing else we could do.  That was the day that we had to accept what we had seen coming down the pike for about 5 months: the treatment was not working.  We prepared to say goodbye to our girl. I miss her so much.  I know that many of you do too.  I look at her pictures every day and I just think: DAMN.   

I don't understand why she is gone and I don't think it's fair in any way.  I am so grateful for the time I spent with her, especially the last 10 weeks of her life.  We were so blessed with the generosity of friends, family, and strangers who moved mountains to bring us amazing experiences: pro football games and field trips to the aquarium; meetings with Giant Pandas; horseback rides in our cul de sac; spa days at the salon; the most amazing Disney World vacation that a kid could ever have (slight aside: have you seen the new Disney commercials where they show the home movies of  the kids who get all excited when they hear they are going to Disney World?  It makes me cry every time.); days sitting by the ocean; days spent reading and singing; days when her firsts were often also her lasts. 

Some of you know that I took the opportunity this past weekend to go to the Rally to Restore Sanity (and/or Fear) in Washington, DC.  It was a fun event with tons of people.  My aunt and I were squarely in the middle of the craziness and we were fortunate to fix ourselves in front of a jumbotron so while we couldn't see the stage directly, we got a great view of the event.  Great music, funny sketches, and a throng of people to watch.  If you've seen the show on TV, you know that there was a bit where Jon Stewart brought out Yusuf Islam (AKA Cat Stevens) to sing Peace Train.  Not to be outdone by "hippy music", Colbert brings out Ozzy Osbourne for a rendition of Crazy Train and a musical mashup ensues.  Finally, the compromise is to bring out the O' Jays for a unifying version of Love Train.  It was a creative skit.  It also seems like a somehow apt metaphor for my life right now. 

We feel so supported and comforted by our friends and family. That Love Train  is pushing us down the road, allowing us to give back through CJSTUF and to support others in their individual journeys.  At the same time, no matter how much love we feel, I'm still rockin' and rollin' on the Crazy Train.  Each day the stress in my life continues and every stressor is like a freight car adding to the length of the train.  It weighs down each aspect of my daily responsibilities and threatens to derail at the slightest hiccup.  Sometimes it takes three engines just to make the train run on the track.  There are times when I feel the Peace Train coming.  I have moments when I sense its presence and I hope that someday it will be the guiding force in my life.  Someday I hope to leave those freight cars at the depot or abandon them in the railyard.  Then my engine will run smoother, faster....more peacefully.  For now, the Crazy Train seems to rule the roost. 

Anyway, thanks for all the love and support.  The holiday season is going to be rough this year.  We've already acknowledged it and sometimes that's half the battle.  The more you do to support our cause, the more we are able to feel at peace with what is, in all honesty, a crappy situation for everyone involved.