Miles for Mama. Cancer is hard. Running is not.

About a week after my mom lost her battle to Pancreatic Cancer, I began to get feeling back in my limbs. My heart was aching, my mind racing and my body desperately trying to figure out what normal was going to look like. Like how I was going to go to work, the gym, take care of my family and pretend I didn’t see the giant white elephant?

In a few hours of regaining feeling of the floor underneath me, I knew that pretending anything wasn’t going to be the answer. What I needed was a distraction with a purpose. Something I could do everyday for a while that would connect me to mom, while also honoring her. That was when I remembered what a friend of mine had done, and I decided to embrace it and make it my own.

Miles for Mama.

My mom began running later in life when my dad suggested they train for a marathon together. That’s right, a marathon. Skip the 5K, don’t bother with the half thing…and go for the gold. 26.2 miles. She wasn’t a runner; she was a long-since retired HS cheerleader, about to be on the other side of all that cheering. While the training was often brutal, the exhilaration of running 26.2 miles with strangers yelling you go girl as they read her shirt, completely hooked her. She ran the NYC Marathon 8 times with dad by her side and one year, just 3 weeks after the NYC finish line, they ran the Philadelphia Marathon just to see if they were still trained-up!

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My idea was to run 30 consecutive days, to honor her 30 months of surviving cancer. I didn’t know if it was going to be easy or hard, but I was going to do it as gracefully as mom did, with no complaints other than her sweet words: “I’m a little tired.”

How hard could it be? It was running. It wasn’t cancer, chemo, hair loss, burning of my skin, nausea or a question of my life plan. It was just running. Or wasn’t it?

Friends I barely knew began joining me feeling touched by my mom’s survival story. I was overwhelmed. One friend began running every day even though she said the last time she ran was in high school was when they made her run around the track. Another friend, hundreds of miles away and a survivor as well, ran through all kinds of weather just to honor a woman she only knew through stories. I was speechless and began to lace up.

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The thing is that while I am a runner, I never run more than 2 or 3 days in a week. I don’t know why exactly, but I have a lot of reasons. Not excuses exactly, but reasons: My tendinitis acts up if I run more than that, I train for triathlons and need to bike and swim, I can’t always get to the gym and sometimes it is too hot or cold and well, I need days off during the week. I can’t just train every single day without a break. So there. I said it.

But this was not going to be about my reasons or excuses. This was going to be about honoring a commitment, like my mom’s commitment to live. Not to survive with cancer, but to live in vibrant colors.

I declared that 3 times a week I would actually run and the other days I would lace up and go for a short jog. It seemed like I was making it too easy, but I had a distraction and purpose and was committed.

However, on Day 14, the snow fell heavily, with the winds whipping everywhere, and no plow trucks to be seen. I could hear my little voice yelling from down below, as I laced up, put mom’s ear buds into my ears and pressed play. The Bee Gees lulled through my head, and I could see her beautiful smile as she whispered, ‘Just go slow, watch where you step and if you need to walk…that’s okay too.’

And I headed out.

And this was how it went. I am now at Day 29 and I am awestruck by the loud racket filling my head. How could something so simple be so hard? Some days I only commit to a 6 minute run around the block in the rain, snow or whatever the universe has in store, but it isn’t that that amazes me. It is how often I don’t wanna occurs like a real thing. And it is then that I realize how hard she worked to keep living, in spite of all that she felt.

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Thankfully my complaints aren’t louder than my desire to be connected to my mom, to bandage up my bleeding heart, and to give myself something to do other than curling into a ball and giving up. Thankfully she lives deep inside of me.

And thankfully, on those days I feel the closest connection to her as I hit the streets. I swear I can hear her clear her throat as my feet hit the pavement. I can hear her little feet barely lifting up off the ground and I can hear her sweet voice say, ‘It’s okay. I’m a little tired too, but let’s run anyway.’

 

 

 

 

When Cancer becomes the Rainbow

Ok, so it is St. Patrick’s Day. And while I am Jewish and this is not a holiday I actually celebrate, I have been celebrating this day to honor the birth of my son for 19 years. Truthfully I don’t know much about the meaning of St. Patrick’s Day, except that I scour my closets every year for something green to wear, there is something about a Leprechaun that creates chaos everywhere he goes, there is a shamrock that should or maybe ‘does’ offer us some good luck, and then there is that pot o’ gold. Most of my references, though come from the commercial about Lucky Charms, where the pink hearts and yellow moons meet the beautiful rainbow.

Today is also the 23rd day of mourning the loss of my mother who fought Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer like a super hero. And while the loss of her is anything but a cause for celebration, her life surely was. She didn’t just fight this cancer. She lived, knowing she had cancer, as she strapped on her smile each morning, found the brightest colors she could find in her drawer, went to the gym often, rarely missed a family gathering, went on vacations and had a zest for life that was contagious. She did not live into the fact that they told her she had 3 months to live. Which is no doubt why she lived two and a half years with this cancer. Like I said, she was a Superhero.

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I am not making light of the loss of this woman I called mom. I can’t. I am heartbroken that this disease found her and that she had to spend that much time in ‘fight’ mode. The loss of her is beyond anything I can write here. It would sound cliché to even try to describe the heartache, the empty spot that has been created. I have tried to write about it and have found my words to only be depressing. I have found my thoughts on paper only make me ache more than I do already. I have found my words to feel like a passing of my emptiness onto the people that are kind enough to read my blogs and follow my life. I have written so often about this loss and yet have barely shared a word of it. Leaving so much darkness on others feels so unfair, especially when she shined so much light.

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And so today, on St. Patrick’s Day, Luck of the Irish, my son’s birthday and almost a full month of mourning the loss of an amazing human being, I sit and wonder how these celebrations of life connect with my mom’s cancer. My mind rewinds the tape, back to the last 18 days she spent in the hospital and one of the few that lead to a walk in the halls as we came upon this quote:

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.”

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We stopped to relish in that one. We stood in front of it with dramatic gestures and smiles, taking the time to acknowledge that not one single moment should be taken for granted.

The rabbi said it best the day after she passed away. Her life was not about cancer. She didn’t live 74 years with a relentless cancer reminding her of the inevitable thing on the other side of life. But in fact her life was filled with amazing experiences that have touched not only her family, but everyone she has ever met. With her artful way of selling (even though she hated cold calls) that lead her to becoming top sales rep in the country, her talent for exquisite mosaic art work, her ability to create camaraderie for groups of people from all different cultures, and her stamina as she completed 9 different marathons, and won dozens of road races.

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Her life was not about cancer. Cancer was one blip on her radar, the one that shortened her life, creating a gaping hole in our family’s heart. But perhaps it was also a rainbow filled with hope, enthusiasm, and purpose. Perhaps cancer was the very thing that created magical colors in that part of her life, forcing people around her to see the richness of life. What if this horrible disease, this thing we called the devil was really a rainbow in hiding? The one thing that made us all slow down, not taking a single day for granted…

There is nothing quite like a rainbow after a pouring rain as its’ magical energy stops you in your tracks.

That was my mom. A beautiful human being, inside and out; so beautiful in fact that it was hard to believe poisons were hidden beneath her skin. So beautiful and full of life that you were drawn to move closer.

Maybe Cancer was our rainbow, giving us purpose, reason to move slow and see the richness of life. And maybe at the bottom of this rainbow, there is a pot of gold as well. Because after all, this amazing life she lead with love, laughter and purpose, filled our lives with richness that only a pot of gold could provide.

If Cancer was our rainbow…we have surely been left with lives filled with gold.

 

When Tools become Distractions

With technology at the tip of our fingers, we should feel more productive than ever! So why do we feel so overwhelmed?

Fact: The tools you use now should increase productivity.

Problem: When not conscious of the way the tools are being used, they actually do the opposite and slow you down!

Here are a few simple tricks to help you become less overwhelmed and more productive instantly!

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TIP #1 – Flip Your List.
Ready for this one? It is simple but so effective!
By now we have become masterful at writing lists, but the problem is that it’s such a large list, the items near the bottom are rarely getting done. In addition to that, our brain typically has all of the easy items to do on the tip of our tongue, so when the pen hits the paper, the easy ones fall out first; Leaving the more challenging or detailed ones for the bottom.

That’s why we flip it! Literally rewrite your list. This time, start from the last one, and make it your first. The end result will amaze you. Not only will you have completed the tasks that have been following you around for days or weeks, the rest of the day will appear easier since all of the easier ones will be the only ones left.

TIP #2 – Prepare Yourself for Distractions.
The top 3 reported distractions are most likely also your favorite parts of the day: email, social media, and your cell phone. Understanding that these useful tools feed into your distraction pile will help you prepare for a productive day.

Email.
Checking email can literally drain hours from your day, unless you create a plan. So make one!

Here is one example: Allow yourself to check email every 2 hours. During that time, respond to ones that can be answered in under 3 minutes, flag those that can wait until later, and for emails needing more attention, store in mailbox folders. Then close the email window, and add reminders to your phone when to check on them.

Social Media.
Think of your social media like the walk to the water cooler. You wouldn’t go there every few minutes, knowing how many distractions will be along the way, but you would schedule it when you needed a break. So add the break and write it in your calendar.

Example: 8am check social media and create a post relevant to your business or your mindset for the day. 12pm check social media to see who is following you. 5pm check social media to get ideas for tomorrows’ post.

Cell Phone.
While our phones are often critical to our business, they also are a major distraction as many people text and call at random times throughout the day. Manage your calls.

Create a schedule for yourself that allows you take personal calls at specific times throughout the day.
Example: Perhaps the same schedule as checking on social media: morning, midday, end of day.

Keep in mind that in order to use your phone as a useful tool, you will need to manage the calls, rather than letting them manage your day.   People will let you know if it is urgent, and if it isn’t, it can surely wait.

Being busy is great if you are getting everything done, but if your busy simply fills time and leaves you more frustrated at the end of the day, these small tips will help you use your tools to double your productivity!

 

Has Your Inbox turned into an Interruption Hotline?

Did you know that your inbox may be what is keeping you from the success you deserve?

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All day long your brain shuffles through the emails it has seen and tries its best to hold onto the information, making you less effective and productive all day long. Add those mind games to the amount of times you continue to check your email, and you have lost hours of productive time in your day.

With a few quick tips though, you can control your inbox and become twice as efficient and effective…today!

Here is a simple game plan for your inbox:

  1. Deal with email at set times.  Limit yourself to checking emails 3-5 times a day at set times:

a. Upon arrival at the office.
b. Mid morning.
c. After lunch.
d. Afternoon.
e. End of day.

  1. Turn off email notifications.
  2. Treat your inbox like your U.S. Mail box and keep it empty!
  3. Delete whatever you can immediately! While some email can be answered quickly, others should be deleted quickly and still others should be filed for a more appropriate time.
  4. If you can deal with it in less than 3 minutes, do it now. Remember that you may be able to deal with it more quickly by picking up the phone or walking around the corner, so decide which one is more efficient.
  5. Delegate if appropriate.
  6. Delay if necessary. If it is an email that is going to take a while, you should simply dispose of it by adding it to your task list (or calendar) and then saving it into the appropriate file.

Keep in mind that you may have to set aside a longer amount of time in the beginning to simply delete, add folders and organize, but once that is complete, these 7 tips will lead you to a balanced, successful day!

 

Only Game in Town

My laptop sits perched warming my legs, and I pray my written words will calm my racing heart. I fear the impending doom of my 3-mile drive to work like the plague. I fear it like the disease I have just watched my mom fight with some unknown super power that I didn’t even know she had. I fear it and begin to tremble as I think of starting the car, putting on my seat warmer, backing into the driveway and connecting my blue tooth. I fear the thought of reaching for my phone to dial mom’s cell number before I have even left the driveway, and not hearing the sound of her comforting voice. I fear the three miles without her eloquent quotes, creating new perspectives for the day and my steady reminder to her that today was all any of us had. I fear that short car ride without my own voice hiding my real fears about her Pancreatic Cancer and the feeling that we were all on the same sinking ship. And yet I wonder, for only a moment, how it will be to not reassure her like I had for the 2.5 years of her continuous miracle that she was the lucky one and was going to beat this cancer.

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A lump forms in my throat as my eyes quickly dart to notice the time again. More time. How I needed more time. More time to write. More time to assure myself that I could do this. That I could get in the car alone, without her voice on the other side. That I could face my colleagues at work with her strength tucked inside her soft blue satin shirt I had chosen to wear today. More time to convince myself that today would be the day my mascara would stay in place, rather than leaking beneath my eyes. More time to assure myself that she wasn’t really gone at all, except for that vessel (or so the Rabbi says), that she once arrived in some 74 years ago.

How I just needed some more time. With her.

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I can hear my inner voice criticizing me for being weak, for allowing the absence of her body to make me feel so empty. Reminding me that I promised her in the depths of the darkness that she could go…that I was ready. That everything she had wanted to give me, I had already gotten. That everything I needed from her, I already had down deep. That we would be okay. All of us. And that I would make sure we took care of each other. I could hear the confidence in my own voice that day as I held her hand and looked at her face that had grown pale in the last few hours. She had become so weak after 18 days in the hospital yet in that moment I had become her strength. The strength she had given me. Strength that I wasn’t even sure I had. I reminded her of the love all around; the love she had created, the mark she had left on this world.

My mind raced for that strength as the clock whispered it is time to go. Time to gather myself for a short ride to work. To channel her energy in a way that didn’t need the phone, or that fair-weathered blue tooth. With her wedding band on my finger, the watch she wore each day, and the heart she had given me inside the warmth of my chest…she was here.

‘This will be the ultimate life challenge of being present,’ I said to her as I held her delicate hand in mine just a few short days ago.

Now that challenge had become mine and I could hear her tiny voice say, “Play. Because like it or not, it’s the only game in town.”