Blogging from A-Z – It’s all about YOU

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “Y.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)

______________________________________

A-ZwellnessquoteWe are so close to the end of our month-long Blogging from A-Z Challenge. I’m not sure who is happier about that: you or me.

It has been a long (but really fun) journey. Thanks for sticking with me. I learned a lot of things this month, not the least of which was perseverance. I hope you learned a few things, too.

After tomorrow’s Z post, we will be finished with A-Z (at least until next April), and I’m about to launch a second blog to focus on things relating to wellness, fitness and running. I had planned to launch it May 1, but an out-of-town trip and the blogging challenge delayed my plans.

Now I’m shooting for mid-May. I want to have the new blog shiny and bright by the time I invite you for a visit.

Suzy & Spice will stay the way it is: a general-topic blog where I can write about whatever suits my fancy.

CCI_logoThe new blog, To Well With You, will reflect my new wellness coaching business and stick to more specific areas. You’ll be able to subscribe to the new blog, just as you can at Suzy & Spice, but I promise I won’t hit you with a post every single day as I’ve done in April. (Believe me, that will make me happy, too.) I plan to write an average of three posts a week, and I could go into more detail about that now, but I’ll save it for the launch announcement. (Still working out some of the details.)

Those “specific areas” I mentioned – wellness, fitness and running – can cover a lot of territory, and I can’t imagine running out of things to write about. (I get positively giddy thinking about the possibilities!) That’s where YOU come in. I’d love to know what you’d like to see on the new blog – if you plan to visit.

(I also plan to cross-post a modified version of this post at To Well With You once it’s up and running.)

Obviously running is a pretty specific topic, but fitness and wellness can mean just about anything. The new blog will focus on prevention rather than cure (after all, I’m not a doctor – I don’t even play one on TV!). At the minimum, I’ll cover:

  • Exercise and fitness (including running, yoga and other types of recreation and sport).
  • Healthful eating and nutrition (including recipes – feel free to share yours).
  • Financial well-being (living below your means, giving, investing).
  • Relationships (family, friends, acquaintances, workplace).
  • Faith and spirituality.
  • Stress management.
  • Medical and health news.
  • Reviews of books and other media on the above topics.
  • Your opinions and insights on what’s happening in and around your world.
  • FUN! It won’t be all drudgery and rules. I want to make it an enjoyable place for you to visit.

I’m not an expert on much (in some cases my knowledge goes a mile wide and an inch deep, as they say about copy editors), but I know how to find good information; my job will be to guide you to come up with your own solutions. Also, I will be calling on others to contribute to the new blog, and it will be full of links and references to other resources where you can further your own education in a particular field.

If you have a topic you’re passionate about and have a fair amount of knowledge on that topic, I’d love for you to A) write a guest post or B) let me draw out your expertise and feature our conversation in the new space. Please let me know if you’re willing to do that, and we can be in touch offline.

This is a community; let’s share our wealth of knowledge with one another.

As they say, knowledge is power, and I want you to be powerful in your journey to wellness. My job is to walk with you along the path, point you in the right direction and be a cheerleader and/or a sounding board as you take charge of your own health and well-being.

So … what have I left off the list? What would you like to see in the new space? Please use the comment space below to share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

ToWellWithYouSignatureSMALL2
.
.
.

______________________________________

Tomorrow: Z is for Zamperini (as in Louie). And then we’re finished with A-Z!

Follow me on Twitter: @OakleySuzyT

Share this post:
Share

Blogging from A-Z – ‘juvenile’ (type 1) diabetes

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “J.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)

_________________________________

MaddyQuoteI can’t even come close to imagining what it’s like to be the parent of a child with diabetes.

Not by a long shot.

I remember when my cousin David’s daughter, Madisen, was diagnosed in October 2007. She was only 6.

David and Kelly freaked out for a minute, I think (wouldn’t you?), and then they got busy. They bought plane tickets to Oklahoma, where another cousin lives. Our cousin D.P. also has a daughter, Kara, with Type 1 diabetes (aka T1D), and David needed advice. He needed to hear from another dad that everything was going to be OK.

And it was, but it took a while to feel that.

He and Kelly were reeling with the new reality that their little girl had a problem they couldn’t fix. Even worse, it was a condition Maddy likely would be dealing with for the rest of her life.

Or at least until we find a cure.

Because “OK” doesn’t mean it’s gone; it means you find a “new normal” and you go with it. Whatever it takes.

You get educated. You seek advice. You get support from other parents. You use every resource you can find to help you – and your child – deal with it.

You fundraise, you walk, you advocate. You protect your baby girl as best you can.

KellyMaddyDave
Kelly, Maddy and David raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in 2011.

This is their reality, according to Kelly:

“She will never outgrow it, and every decision we make regarding her care today has lasting implications for her health many years to come.”

Talk about a heavy burden for a parent.

But Madisen also knows how serious this is.

“Dealing with Type 1 Diabetes is a constant balancing act. Sometimes I WIN and my blood sugars are good, and other times I don’t, despite all the hard work. There are no guarantees. Every day is a battle with this disease that I can treat but never control. I have always said this disease will NOT STOP ME from doing the things I love ❤.”

This girl is strong. (I suppose she has no choice.)

She doesn’t let T1D stop her from doing the things she loves. She shows her grit and strength by playing centerfield on a championship softball team:

“I love to play softball and currently play on the varsity team at school as well as on a travel team. My diabetes has sometimes interfered with softball. If my blood sugar is too high or too low the coach may make me sit the bench until my blood sugar is in a good range. This makes me so MAD! It is like I am being punished or something. It is frustrating because I cannot always know when my blood sugar is going to rise or drop. It is not like I can plan ahead!!”

Kelly considers her daughter a hero:

“This is an emotional and physical roller coaster of which we never get off! Madisen wakes up every morning to finger pokes, insulin injections, highs/lows and everything in between. Diabetes goes to school with her, where she must learn and grow as a student all while dealing with blood sugar. She has managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA all through school despite diabetes. She goes to bed each night with the fear of dangerous highs that wreak havoc on her body or even more dangerous lows that could send her into a coma or even death. We turn around and do it all over again the next day and the day after that. Sometimes we all wish we could get off this ride or simply take a break. We have learned that with diabetes there is no break!

I took this photo the day I met Maddy in 2006.
I took this photo the day I met Maddy in 2006.

Most of what I know about Maddy has been from a distance of about 2,000 miles; I’ve enjoyed her company a handful of times during all-too-brief family visits. But I follow her parents on Facebook and have seen countless photos and reports of her as she has grown from a grinning little girl (with a melt-your-heart smile) to a beautiful and generous young lady.

“She has a kind heart and wants to help other kids dealing with this disease,” says her mom.

In Maddy’s words:

“I have had the opportunity to attend an amazing diabetes camp through the Diabetes Youth Families called Bearskin Meadow, where I can be around people who face the same struggles I do. I have had the chance to meet people from all different cities. I will be attending teen camp this summer for 10 days. I hope to become a camp counselor when I am 18. I would like to pass on the important life lessons that I have learned and make a difference to young kids who battle this disease.

Maddy may not know it, but she’s a role model and she makes her family proud.

______________________________________

SOME THINGS WE WANT YOU TO KNOW:

A group of T1D parents welcomed me recently when David invited me to a Facebook group that he and Kelly are a part of. It’s a place where parents can get information and support from one another, and even share their frustrations sometimes. The first question I asked was, “Do you call it juvenile diabetes, type 1, or what?” Then I asked what else they would like folks to know about T1D.

  • “I hate referring to it as ‘juvenile diabetes’ because everyone familiar with it ALWAYS assumes once my son is not a juvenile, he will outgrow diabetes.”
  • “There is a whole movement out there to rename type 1 since all the press and public health messaging is around type 2, but tends to be referred to as ‘diabetes’ so type 1 folks are sometimes treated like ‘well if you just behaved differently you’d get over it.’ It’s an easy correction, but unfair for a kid to have to do it.”
  • Finding the right doc can be a challenge: You have to have a Pediatric Endocrinologist Specialist in addition to their regular Pediatrician to treat their T1D. Most regular Endo Docs will NOT treat kids under the age of 18 with T1D because it is much more complicated (due to kids’ constant hormone changing as they grow, the need for 24 hour on call – usually in close connection with a hospital, and growth factors, etc. complicate the regulation of the A1C).”
  • “Life insurance is near impossible for our kids that have gotten onset as a juvenile … that [our daughter] could afford. … It doesn’t seem the insurance industry is catching up to the medical progress that is being made for T1D and still penalizing all T1D.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

  • Diabetes Youth Families. DYF’s mission: “To improve the quality of life for children, teens and families affected by diabetes. The organization provides education and recreation within a supportive community, encouraging personal growth, knowledge and independence.”
  • Bearskin Meadow Camp.
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. On a mission to find a cure, JDRF is “the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D.”
  • National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. The NDIC is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. The clearinghouse “provides information about diabetes to people with diabetes and to their families, health care professionals and the public. The NDIC answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications and works closely with professional and patient organizations and government agencies to coordinate resources about diabetes.”

Until there’s a cure, young ladies like Maddy and Kara will keep fighting.

________________________________

Monday: K is for (stay tuned).

Follow me on Twitter: @OakleySuzyT

Share this post:
Share

Happy New Year – 2014 in review

My goodness, 2014 went fast, didn’t it? So much to tell, so little time to tell it. Here are a few highlights from the year in Suzy & Spice and my electronic calendar. (If I leave out anything important, please chalk it up to Old-Timers Disease – my memory ain’t what she used to be, and I’m liable to forget events both trivial and monumental.)

JANUARY

As we’d done for the previous three New Year’s, we started 2014 with Mac and Michelle’s New Year’s Day Prediction Run, a fun little event (“It’s not a race,” I always remind people), in which the winner is the person who predicts his/her finish time closer than anyone else. I won the women’s division the first two years I entered (see my 2011 post and my 2012 post) – it’s pretty much the only time this slowpoke can win a trophy. Fun times!

In January, I read the first of the year’s 12 books for the local reading group I joined at the end of 2013. We meet once a month, so I had 11 books chosen for me and a 12th that I got to pick for the group to read. I’m going to save the list for a later post because I read books not only for the reading group but on my own, too. I think I will be a bit surprised at the number, once I’ve added them up. (I plan to establish an account at Goodreads in the next week or so, in an effort to catalog the list of books I have read or want/plan to read. Lord, let us hope this doesn’t cause me to add two dozen more books to my TBR list.)

FEBRUARY

SuzyBruceMainStGang121413
Photo courtesy of Hatch and Maas Photography

On Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1), “my TV commercial” debuted. Yeah, you heard me right. Bruce and I made a commercial with a bunch of our running friends in Batesville. A few weeks after my September 2013 heart surgery, Baptist Health in Little Rock had asked my cardiologist to recommend someone for one of the five “Keep On Amazing” stories in its new ad campaign. So a huge crew brought a bunch of equipment to Batesville in December 2013 (a really cold, windy weekend) and spent two days filming us running on Main Street and down by the White River. (Did I mention that it was really cold?) The ad campaign debuted in Arkansas during the Super Bowl, and now Bruce calls me a diva and I have my very own chauffeur, aka my Diva Driver, aka Bruce.

Also that month, my cardiologist and I were asked to appear on Channel 7, the ABC affiliate in Little Rock, for heart health month, so we did that, too. That invitation was the impetus for my deciding – finally – to post my before and after weight loss photos.

Also that month, I paid a teenager to design a whimsical banner for the top of my blog. He did a great job, no?

MARCH

Not much on the blog or the calendar. I did attend a series of gatherings at church in which people interested in better nutrition got together and talked about food sensitivities and such. Very enlightening.

RingoTheRaccoon
Ringo the raccoon is very popular at the annual Chase Race and Paws charity event.

We also participated for the third straight year in the Chase Race and Paws event in Conway. The first race, a two-miler, is for humans only. The second race is a one-miler for pets and their humans. We take the Spice Dogs every year. Pepper and I sat out the pet race last year because of our experience the first time (after about 5 feet, I had to pick her up and carry her the rest of the way 1) to keep her tiny body from being trampled in the starting chute and 2) because, after that, she didn’t want me to put her down – yes, I ran an entire mile carrying my dog). Bruce and Salsa run a pretty fast mile together, and the event is so much fun. We even try to get our friends who aren’t pet owners to participate. Sometimes I whip out my photo of the paralyzed raccoon that the owners rescued and bring every year. Ringo always generates a lot of conversations and photo ops. Here’s where to sign up for this year’s event, which is March 7: http://chaserace.info

APRIL

In April, I finished a really good book, The Well Balanced World Changer, and wrote a review.

At the end of the month, Bruce and I drove to Littleton, Colorado, where we did a couple of trail runs and I got 16 hours of required on-site training to finish up my semester of coursework for wellness-coaching certification. (More about that in the “big announcement” I have for you this weekend.)

MAY

He's why I run.
He’s why I run.

Bruce and I manned the Mission Tent at the annual Take Steps Walk for Crohn’s and Colitis in Little Rock. We were on the committee that helped establish a CCFA chapter in Arkansas in 2010, so we raise money for and volunteer at this event every year.

Memorial Day weekend, we participated for the third straight year in the Easter Seals Rock Run 8K (nearly 5 miles) in Little Rock. This was my first race after getting the go-ahead from my heart doc to push it and see what I could do (I had never been allowed to do that before, having been cautioned not to do “burst activity,” such as a sprint to the finish). I was extremely disappointed in how I felt and how I performed. I finished nearly 9 minutes slower than in 2013. I wanted to cry.

Despite my poor performance at the Rock Run, I still had high hopes for a good running year. And despite the fact that I said I was taking 2014 off from fundraising half-marathons, I registered for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon and began raising money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America through Team Challenge. The race is next week (Jan. 10), so technically I wouldn’t be running a half-marathon in 2014 (although most definitely training for it), but I still had the extremely uphill and discouraging task of raising money for CCFA. (This time the minimum was $4,500.) Alas, for health reasons I withdrew in November. I managed to raise more than $3,700 for the foundation, though, so it wasn’t a total washout. (That doesn’t mean it’s not difficult to see the Facebook posts of my teammates who will be there without me nine days from now.)

JUNE

Another of our favorite races, and again our third straight year: We ran the Go! Mile at Burns Park in North Little Rock, our former hometown. Another disappointing race, and I would have made it in under 10 minutes if I hadn’t nearly choked on a ball of fluff from one of the cottonwood trees just before the home stretch. (We can always come up with excuses, eh?) As it turned out, my time was 10:02.11, more than a minute over previous year’s time of 8:46.47.

I think it was at this point that I finally admitted I was still recovering from surgery and started giving myself a break. This was also around the time I finally decided to see the doc about my blood pressure. After visits to my local doc and phone calls to my cardiologist in North Little Rock, I started taking BP medicine. UGH!

JULY

I published exactly one blog post in July, and it was nothing earth-shattering. In case you care, it was a list of my Top Ten Tuesday – classic books.

On July 31, my mom celebrated her 75th birthday by driving with me to a Little Rock hospital to be with her baby brother, who was dying of cancer. I spent that night in the room with him so his wife, my Aunt Brenda, could get a decent night’s sleep; she and Mom stayed in a hotel room on the hospital grounds.

AUGUST

The annual White River 4 Mile Classic was Aug. 2. I had just returned from Little Rock the day before and was sleep-deprived after the overnight hospital stay, so after an internal debate about whether to run or volunteer, I ended up handing out cups of water at Mile 3 instead of racing (we were short on volunteers, anyway). It was at this race a year earlier that I had an extremely difficult experience and was in tears by the finish line – I had just found out two days earlier that I would need heart surgery, and I was obsessing about it while struggling to run. That was a difficult race for several people because of the weather. We had fainting, memory lapses, an ambulance trip and more. That race is in the history books, and I’m glad. Oh, yes, and I got stung on the forehead by a wasp at Mile 2. So, while the 2014 was better all around (cooler weather, no fainting, ambulances or wasp stings), I was still glad when it was over. I was just ready for some mental and physical rest.

Me with Uncle John, circa 1967, Kerman, Calif. The boy on the left is our neighbor; the woman on the right is John's first wife.
Me with Uncle John, circa 1967, Kerman, Calif. The boy on the left is our neighbor; the woman on the right is John’s first wife.

On Aug. 21, my uncle lost his 5-month battle with cancer and went home to be with his Lord and Savior. Uncle John was 67. It’s still hard for me to believe he’s really gone. It just happened so very fast.

SEPTEMBER

I attended the fifth annual Arkansas Women Bloggers University in Rogers (northwest Arkansas) and had a blast! I listened, I learned, I laughed, I ate too much, and I won an autographed cookbook in a trivia contest because I knew the name of the Pioneer Woman’s husband (Ladd) – I recalled this because I had just watched a Pioneer Woman marathon at Mom’s house a few days earlier! (This is officially my new favorite cookbook, dethroning Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, which held the title for several years.) I came home from the blogger conference loaded with freebies, gifts, door prizes and a lot more know-how about making my blog more appealing to readers and sponsors. (Can’t tell? Well, it was right after this weekend that I started working overtime at my job, and I’m still doing it. So lots of the changes are still in my imagination, although some – more photos, for example – are already happening.) Oh, and I made some new friends at the conference. AWBU was perhaps my favorite thing I did all year. And, hey, y’all, Bruce and I even got in a 2-mile run with a couple of other blogger chicks that weekend. FUN!

I blogged a little more in September: about the previous few months (another retrospective? really?), about the top 10 book characters I’d like to have at my lunch table, and, oh, well, gee … another “catching up” retrospective-type post. (I claim it as my way to “stay in the habit” of blogging when I really am swamped.)

SuzySpiceTeamChallengeCardsI got really neat new business cards made. My co-worker Travis Hon, graphic designer extraordinaire, came up with the artwork and produced them for me via his new printing business, Charlie Bee Studio.

OCTOBER

October was a month of losses and gains for our family. On Oct. 3, my Uncle O.C. died. He was the husband of my mom’s sister Jo, who died 12 years earlier. Oct. 3 was also the birthday of Uncle O.C.’s grandson Nathan, and my brother, J.T. The day we buried my uncle, his great-grandbaby Edison Glass Richardson was born. So, while we celebrated a long and happy life at his funeral (with a wonderful retrospective read by his daughter Penny, followed her son Joseph’s incredible sermon), his granddaughter Bethany was in labor at a Little Rock hospital. Talk about high emotions that week.

DSC02846

DSC02796Just a few days later we gained a cousin when, on Oct. 11, the aforementioned Nathan made Jennifer his bride. I think theirs may be my favorite wedding of all time. It was beautiful in its simplicity, a country setting with hometown folks, food, fellowship and lots of cowboy boots! A few weeks later, inspired largely by this incredible day, I made a sentimental purchase, which you’ll read about in the December entry below.

That same week, I blogged about 1) comparison and 2) the importance of community in a post titled “We’re All in This Together.”

NOVEMBER

JacobWells_MidSouthMarathon2014The Arkansas running community lost a beloved member, Jacob Wells, 45, of Little Rock. The photo above was taken Nov. 1, just a few minutes before he collapsed of heart failure at the Midsouth Marathon, one of nearly 150 marathons he had run over the years. He died a few days later. Jacob was known for his encouragement of other runners (of any speed or ability level), his high-fives, running shirtless (in all kinds of weather) and the many ways he gave back, including running races as a guide tethered to a blind runner. We will never forget him.

My birthday was in November (Black Friday), and I worked overtime that day. Also that month, I got riled up about racism, talked about it, lost sleep over it, and failed to write the post I wanted to write. The post is still in there, swirling around in my head, but when I finally write it I won’t be as overwrought as I was a few weeks ago, so I hope that means it will be a better, more well-thought-out post. It’s time to talk about it, and I will. Soon.

I wrote a history of the White River Christmas Half Marathon & Relay, which Bruce and I were solely in charge of organizing this year (in previous years we were co-directors along with the event’s founders).

We lost another family member: the husband of my mom’s cousin Gwen. I don’t recall ever having met Johnny, but Gwen is a much loved member of our family and I know that Johnny was, too.

DECEMBER

We pulled off the half-marathon and relay, which was great because we’d had to cancel the event in 2013 because of the weather (first, because of ice and two weeks later because of flooding). We raised about $2,600 (don’t quote me on the exact figure – it was somewhere in that range) and helped six families with 18 children! The Christmas Half, the first Saturday of December each year, is a charity event – 100 percent of the entry fees go to help needy families.

SuzysNewBoots12-13-14The next weekend, inspired by a country wedding, this practical girl bought her first pair of cowboy boots. You’ll have to read the post to find out whether I choose the all-red boots, which is why I went boot shopping in the first place, or the other boot in the photo above.

I also blogged about my 5 favorite holiday movies, my 5 favorite holiday TV shows and some great Christmas (and not so Christmasy) music I’ve been listening to. Just click here for all of December’s posts.

And, of course, we celebrated the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. After a couple of months of listening to wonderful music on my own, and then a beautifully quiet and reflective Christmas Eve service at church, I spent Christmas Day with Mom and Bruce, and we quietly sat and watched Christmas movies and ate ham and mashed potatoes. No extravagant gift-giving binges or stuffing ourselves with turkey and pumpkin pie, just, “Happy birthday, Jesus. Thank you for your gift to us.”

That is my 2014 year in review. I’m still working extra hours at my full-time job, but have been pondering, learning, researching, praying over and generally obsessing about some new stuff to come. Tune in for more.

Meanwhile, here are some upcoming things I’m excited about:

  • My 2015 pick for the book group comes up next week, and we’re reading my friend Conrad’s YA novel Adios, Nirvana. He is going to Skype with us for the first 15-20 minutes of our meeting Tuesday evening. We haven’t seen each other in nearly 21 years, so this will be a great few minutes of face time.
  • I have a growing list of books on my TBR (to be read) list, and I can’t wait to dive in. Currently I’m reading Unbroken, about Olympic runner and World War II hero Louie Zamperini. It was made into a movie that came out Christmas Day. Also, my Thursday morning reading group just wrapped up Mere Christianity and this month will be starting another C.S. Lewis book, The Screwtape Letters. Both are awesome works by my favorite author.
  • Saturday I’ll do a photo shoot and interview with Eye On Independence for the February cover. They want to feature me because of the aforementioned heart surgery, return to running and desire to reach out to others with a message of wellness and wellbeing.
  • The big announcement. Stay tuned. In fact, if you want to be sure to hear about it immediately, fill out the Subscribe form at the top right of this page (just your name and email address) and you’ll receive a notification as soon as I post.

If you want to find me on social media, I’m on Facebook and Twitter the most, at least until I get a little more experience with the other forms of social media. I have Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ accounts, but I’m still learning how to use them.

2014 had its ups and downs for me, but it was a good year overall. What was yours like?

Share this post:
Share

The more things change, the more I stay insane

A lot has changed in the past year.

And yet a lot has stayed the same.

One year ago today, I had heart surgery, so I’m celebrating the blessing of another year of life and health. (Maybe I’ll call this my heart birthday! Is there a name for the anniversary of someone’s heart surgery? 🙂 )

My life doesn’t look much different from the outside, but here are a few key changes that the world at large might not have noticed, unless the world we’re talking about is my husband, my mom and my dogs (and the Spice Dogs haven’t noticed much of it, unless it involved food, warm blankets or belly rubs):

  1. I got my mitral valve repaired. Awesome medical team (GP, PA, cardiologist, cardiothoracic surgeon, their staffs), relatively quick recovery (I was back at work in 3 weeks, although it took months and months to feel “normal” again) and a once-in-a-lifetime experience that turned me into a pampered diva (shooting a commercial for Baptist Health). I now have my own chauffeur (OK, Bruce already chauffeured me sometimes, but now he does it more often – and with attitude). The diva perqs pretty much begin and end there, though.
    Oakleys and silly runners 09-12-13
    Last pre-surgery run with the crazy people, 9/12/13.
  2. I got a wellness certification (we traveled to Colorado in April for the final 16 hours of training). I’m still pondering the best ways to work this new knowledge into my “life’s mission.” Motivational talks, one-on-one counseling, writing … those ideas are all part of the little bubble that hovers over my head at all times (and frequently keeps me from sleeping through the night).
  3. I started looking more seriously at ways to make my blog a little more … marketable. (In other words, I want more people to read it! Also, I want people to pay me to write for them.) I attended Arkansas Women Bloggers University last week (stay tuned for more posts about that awesome event!), and I learned a ton, networked a lot, made several new friends, ate too much and slept too little. But it was the most fun I’ve had all year! Bruce and I even got in an early-morning run with a couple of our new blogger friends, Jodi and Fawn – both super-nice people. In February, I paid a teenager to design the Suzy & Spice banner you see above. Didn’t he do an awesome job? (Hey, you can subscribe to Suzy & Spice by clicking here. It just means you’ll receive an email when I publish a new post. Don’t worry – we won’t spam you, sell your info or do any other creepy thing with your email address.)
    Stuff I learned about branding myself and my blog to get more writing gigs.
    Stuff I learned about branding myself and my blog to get more readers and writing gigs.
  4. I started incorporating “Awesome!” into my conversations a lot more. Don’t ask me why. I guess I thought it sounded … awesome. (There is no link for this.)
  5. I went up and down, back and forth, hot and cold (the latter, more figuratively than literally) with my running. After last year’s surgery, I got a little wimpy and had trouble motivating myself to lace up and hit the road. It was a lot easier when sunrise came earlier (that’s my favorite time to run), but I let the extreme cold and the oppressive humidity bench me too many times. I’m much slower than I was last year, and I was already pretty slow, although I was gaining a bit of speed with experience. Also, I’ve gained about 15 pounds since my surgery and am still trying to get a grip on that. I’m really angry with myself about the weight gain. But the first step (for me) is admitting it, and then going public with it (I weighed 173 this morning) and buckling down to do something about it. Because it makes me feel like a big fat hypocrite. But it also makes me human, and better able to relate to those I’m trying to help. (There’s a fine line, I know.) I guess you could say it keeps me humble.
    Bruzys_orange_shoes
    Photo courtesy of Hatch and Maas Photography
  6. I lost another dear family member (an uncle, less than three weeks ago) and got word yesterday that we may lose another uncle soon. He’s under hospice care, and only the good Lord knows when his time will come. This is in addition to our loss in 2013 of four cousins (on my side) – one of them the day before my surgery – and Bruce’s precious mother.
  7. I signed up for another half-marathon to raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, through the Team Challenge endurance training and fundraising program. This will be my third year to raise money for Team Challenge, but only my second time to get to participate in the race. The first half-marathon was 2 years ago this month, and I had been fundraising for the second one last September, but my surgery trumped that event. Bruce and I had decided not to plan another Team Challenge race for me this year because the fundraising is just too hard; because last year was emotionally and financially draining for us; and because I was still recovering physically from the surgery … but then I got an email in May about the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in January 2015, and apparently I lost my ever-lovin’ mind. So, technically, I won’t be racing in 2014, but I am raising money again already. WHAT WAS I THINKING? (Oh, I know: I was thinking I STILL want to kick the poo out of Crohn’s disease. I guess that’s a good enough reason to kill myself doing something I hate: asking people for money.) If you’d like to help me reach my $4,500 goal before I take a nose-dive off the Cliffs of Insanity, please click here.
  8. Took my first yoga class in November. I’m talking live class, not read-a-book-and-try-to-figure-out-what-the-heck-they’re-talking-about, not watch-a-video-and-try-to-look-at-a-little-screen while figuring things out, but an honest-to-goodness class with a live – and very gentle and sweet – teacher. I’m telling you, yoga, while offering a calm respite from the cares of the world, is not for sissies. You feel great (awesome?) afterward, sometimes even during, but it’s a hurts-so-good kind of great. I learned some new words (and not all of them specifically yoga related, if you know what I mean), and I learned that I was really missing out all those years when I couldn’t find a class that a) I could afford and b) worked with my schedule. Fortunately, this new class and teacher meet both of those criteria. Just another stop on my wellness journey.
  9. Less than 3 weeks before my heart surgery, I had LASIK surgery. It didn’t give me perfect vision (my poor eyes are too far gone for that), but I no longer have to mess with contact lenses, solutions or reading glasses. I had already gotten used to mono-vision contacts (one lens corrects for distance and the other for close-up viewing). Post-LASIK, I have a bit of trouble on the road at night on occasion (a bit of glare from oncoming headlights), but that’s why a diva keeps a chauffeur on hand, right? The LASIK, too, falls under the category AWESOME.
  10. DrConley_Suzy_ChrisKane_Twitterpic091714
    Dr. Conley, yours truly and Chris Kane on “Good Morning, Arkansas” in February. (Yeah, I Tweeted Chris’ last name wrong.)

    I didn’t intend for this to be a “top 10 things I did last year” summary, but it looks like I’ve come up with 9 already, so let me think of a 10th. … OK, here we go: I gained confidence this year. I had prayed last year for a bigger “audience” (maybe like the Prayer of Jabez: “Lord, expand my territory”). He listened (doesn’t He always?) and gave me a wider reach. Two occasions in particular stretched my faith and built my confidence: In February I was invited to appear on Channel 7’s “Good Morning, Arkansas” with my cardiologist for Heart Month, and in August I was invited to speak one Sunday (for “no longer than 2 minutes”) at both services at my church. Both were topics dear to my heart: 1) literally, my heart, and 2) Perspectives class). So I jumped at the chance in each instance, and I survived both!

So, while a lot has happened inside, not a lot has changed outwardly. And, as always, this I know:

God is good, and He is faithful. I give Him all the praise and glory for the past 365 days, and I hope I live to serve Him for at least another 365.

Wouldn’t that be … awesome?

 

Share this post:
Share

Gluten talk and beyond

“ ‘Eating is an agricultural act,’ as Wendell Berry famously said. It is also an ecological act, and a political act, too. Though much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world – and what is to become of it.”

– Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Any time a bunch of women gets together who are passionate, interested or even just a bit curious about a topic I’m interested in, I get excited.

And just such a thing happened this morning.

During first service, a dozen or so women from my church met for an hour of gluten talk. At least that was the original topic when the class was announced, but by the time we had the meeting, it had become more of a “food group.” We talked about more than just gluten intolerance. Other food allergies and sensitivities were on the menu.

Those who led the group this morning (and, in case you’re interested, will again next Sunday – same time, same place) are:

  • Anita Swanson, who shared her story of wheat intolerance, breastfeeding, children with allergies and her journey to figuring out how to keep her family healthy. Anita is married to our pastor, Brent, and they have three precious little boys who are a big part of Anita’s “food story.”
  • Valerie Gunter, whose story is similar to Anita’s because of birthing babies, breastfeeding and having to figure out some food sensitivities and intolerances she didn’t realize she had – all because of her kiddos’ health problems. Valerie is married to Matt, a local veterinarian.
  • Sandee Steiner, local farmer, real estate mogul and mom. She and her husband, Max, host the church’s annual fall festival on their farm, where the kids get to run around until they’re silly, hang out with cows and other critters, have hayrides and generally get themselves giddy in the autumn sunshine (yeah, some of the adults do, too). Sandee, an engineer, is concerned with all the crap (sorry, Mom) that American cattle farmers and chicken producers feed to and inject into their animals. Sandee offers kefir starter to anyone who would like to make her own kefir (Anita made us delicious banana and blueberry smoothies with kefir, and the ladies also let us sample two other homemade, gluten-free foods). Sandee also offered to teach us how to make our own cottage cheese.

And then there’s me. No, I wasn’t a host of the meeting – I’m just a loudmouth who’s always interested in learning something and passing along the “insights” I’ve gained. Yeah, I can be obnoxious about it, especially if you’re not at all into what I’m talking about.

I’ve been on my own “journey to fitness” for the past three or four years, and it has taken me until recently to get serious about what goes into my mouth and that of my husband (a Crohn’s sufferer).

Sure, I’ve lost about 50 pounds (and gained a few back), but it hasn’t always been with the healthiest, wholest, least-processed foods you can buy. That, however, has been changing, ever so gradually.

I’ve been getting rid of processed sugars, artificial sweeteners, wheat and other grains in the past several weeks and increasing my consumption of “good fats” and eggs. But that’s a story I’ll tell you another day. Another story for a later day: I’m training to be a certified wellness coach (online classes, plus a trip to Colorado next month for on-site training). And … all this food and research talk has gotten me to thinking about becoming a registered dietician (I waver between the nutrition part of fitness and the physical-fitness part – I got certified as a running coach in August and definitely want to do some continuing education – maybe a second bachelor’s degree? – in some area of fitness).

But let’s talk about some of the resources discussed this morning. The ladies in charge handed us a packet of resources (including recipes, not included here), and the ladies listening wanted some of those put together online somewhere. One even requested a dedicated Facebook page for the group. Until they’re able to make that happen, I’ll collect the list of resources here, updating this particular post as I have time to add them (I’ll send updates to the church’s Facebook page). And if you’d like to suggest your own resources or tell your story, please click the comment link at the bottom of this post.

Also, I was taking notes furiously for a friend who couldn’t make the meeting because she was cheering on her daughter at the Little Rock Marathon (go, Mary!), so I didn’t get to look at all the books on the table. So, for now, I’m going to hit the high points with the promise to add to it later.

Disclaimer: Not everyone agrees with every word or claim made in each one of these resources. They are simply offered as a starting point for more information.

BOOKS

Wheat Belly and Wheat Belly Cookbook by cardiologist William Davis. I’m reading these books (with apologies to the county library, which sent me past-due notices on them last week. I promise I’ll return them tomorrow, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to buy my own copies). Some in the medical field have criticized Wheat Belly, calling Davis’ admonitions about wheat and carbs “scare tactics,” but I find it interesting that a lot of these critics DON’T EAT WHEAT. One reviewer, a psychiatrist, takes issue with his “sloppy” work in some of his medical stories and analogies. I understand her point, but at times she seems to be nitpicking.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. This one is on my to-be-read list. I read Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto a few years ago. He has good things to say. His catch phrase: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I suppose I need to move Omnivore up on my list.

The Virgin Diet by J.J. Virgin. Don’t let the word “diet” scare you away from some of the good things the author has to say – this, according to Valerie Gunter, who recommended the book. (She had to give it a catchy name, didn’t she?) Virgin guides the reader through an elimination diet to help determine whether there’s an intolerance to certain foods.

MOVIES AND VIDEOS

Food Inc., a documentary that takes “an unflattering look inside America’s corporate controlled food industry,” according to the Internet Movie Database. We didn’t have time to talk about this movie today – just a brief mention.

“Unblind My Mind,” a TEDxYouth Talk by Dr. Katherine Reid (16 minutes; also search for “unblind my mind” on YouTube). I mentioned the video at this morning’s meeting, and I had a request to post the link. Reid, a biochemist and mom of five, started researching food additives and eliminating particular foods from her autistic daughter’s diet. Within a few weeks, she noticed a marked improvement in the girl’s behavior. The culprits for Brooke: free glutamate (think MSG) – which goes by at least 50 names – and casein, a milk protein. In the video, Reid talks about the gluten/casein connection with excess glutamate. She started a nonprofit organization, Unblind My Mind, to more fully explore the topic of food’s effects on our health.

WEBSITES

Salad in a Jar. This is my own recommendation, although I didn’t have time to mention it at the meeting. On a Facebook group I’m a member of, I had complained about having to cut up one salad for work each evening (rather than a bunch of it days in advance) because of brown lettuce, and someone pointed me to Salad in a Jar. The site’s founder (who’s not selling anything) shows how to chop your salad greens ahead of time, vacuum seal them in mason jars and prolong the (refrigerator) shelf-life for several days. This not only saves time but money, as it helps cut down on food waste. (I bought a vacuum sealer, and I love it; if you’d like to borrow it, let me know.)

That’s it for now, folks. It’s past my bedtime, so I’m stopping. Later I’ll add info on some of the places, local and otherwise, where you can buy some of the natural, organic, gluten-free or other foods talked about this morning.

If you or a family member is experiencing health problems that can’t be explained, cured or eased with traditional remedies or modern medicine – or if you’re simply interested in exploring new ways to be healthy by changing your diet – talk to Anita, Valerie or Sandee at church, or post a comment here and I’ll put you in touch. I’ll also be happy to share what I’m learning as I research healthful eating and foods. And if you’d like to tell your story at Suzy & Spice, let me know – I’d love to have you as a guest writer. I’ve already recruited Anita to write a post!

Share this post:
Share

‘I could never do that’

‘I could never do that’
SuzyBeforeAfter_withText
This is the first time I’ve been brave enough to publish my “before” picture. Bruce took it 4 years ago. Photo on right courtesy of Hatch and Maas Photography.

I’ve been given an opportunity that I’ve been praying for a lot lately: the chance to tell my story to a bigger audience. (My blog has, like, three readers: my mom, my husband and our dog Salsa; the other dog can’t read.)

My hope is that my story, told from my unique perspective, will influence change – in my family, my workplace, even my community. I’ve written for about three years in this space about my “journey to fitness,” hoping to encourage those who need hope, those who think changing your life is only for a certain type of person.

The trouble with that line of thinking is that I believe there’s always hope, that determination (and a lot of prayer) can get you to a better place – if you want it badly enough. If you’re willing to put in the hours, the sweat, the mental energy, the sticktoitiveness to see it through, you can do it even if you’re “nobody special.”

You see, I’m nobody special – I’m just a girl who believes in prayer and hard work.

The problem with a lot of us (with me for so many years) is that we give up too easily.

We look at this marathon as a sprint, and if we don’t see results right away – or if we take a couple of steps forward and end up a step or two backward – we think we will never get it right. We’ll never reach our goals. Or maybe we stop setting goals in the first place.

We let the naysayers fill our heads with nonsense, and we start believing it: It’s too hard, I tried that and it didn’t work. It will never happen – I’m giving up. I could never do that.

One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I’m pretty stubborn. (It’s one of those good/bad things I inherited from my dad.) And, despite many attempts to change that ended in failure, I’m still standing. I’m still pushing. Still learning.

And I’m stronger than ever.

And because I’ve learned some lessons the hard way, I want to pass it on, maybe make someone else’s journey a little easier. Help someone know she’s not alone, that there is hope.

By the grace of God, heartfelt prayer, and much two-steps-forward, one-step-back-ing, I’ve lost about 50 pounds in the past three years. (According to my cardiologist, I need to lose a few more, but we’ll get to that.) It took maybe two of those years to lose the bulk of it (plus I’ve gained 7 back since heart surgery), and I’ve said here before that if it takes the rest of my life to get it all off, it’s worth it if I help someone else find hope and encouragement.

And my mantra – as a runner who will never be at the head of the pack no matter how much I want it – is, “Slow and steady wins the race.” (That may apply more to weight loss than it does to running footraces, but you get the point.)

Another thing I believe to my very core is that we learn – God grows our character the most – amid difficulty. We tend to forget about God during the easy times; we don’t rely on His wisdom and guidance when we’re cruising along through life thinking everything’s great because we’re great!

We learn the best lessons through challenges. And we lose weight and keep it off when we do it slowly and thoughtfully, when we learn why we turn to food when we shouldn’t. Sometimes I’ve had to learn the same lesson over and over, until I really got it. I’m still learning.

I’ve had what you might call challenges in the past three years, including heart surgery five months ago. But out of that particular challenge came a great opportunity:

I got to tell my story in a TV commercial that has been airing all across Arkansas since the Super Bowl, has aired during the Olympics, and will air for the next two years.

When I was asked to do it, someone mentioned that it would be scary to be interviewed on camera. My response: all the more reason to do it! It was so far outside my comfort zone, I knew it would be a new opportunity for growth – to depend on the Lord for my strength.

For a couple of years, I’ve been praying for opportunities to improve my very weak public-speaking skills. I didn’t know exactly why I was praying that, except that I wanted to be available – and not embarrass my family or die of fright – when those rare opportunities arose.

So maybe the interview segment of the TV commercial wasn’t my favorite part (the running part was much more fun and comfortable) but maybe my prayers made me just a little less fearful – bold, even – knowing that my desire was to bring glory to God through it all, and perhaps encourage someone along the way. Guys from the TV crew actually told me I inspired them. Go figure.

I started 2013 (a few weeks after I turned 50) with the goal of “getting to know God better,” deciding not to jump ahead of Him in figuring out the details of the next phase of my life.

I knew what I wanted to do – still want to do – and that may happen some day. My desire is to implement a healthy-workplace initiative at my place of employment. My CEO is open to that (we’ve talked), but I’m not sure he realizes all I have in mind! (I’ve learned to dream big.)

For starters, I recently registered (on my own, not through my job) to become a certified wellness coach. I’m taking online courses and will travel to Colorado in a couple of months for on-site training,

I’m not sure where this journey will take me, but I believe God put the desire in my heart and that He will bless it.

Meanwhile, Channel 7 in Little Rock (ABC affiliate) has invited me to appear on “Good Morning, Arkansas” on Feb. 17 as part of its coverage of Heart Month. My cardiologist, Dr. Conley, will be by my side if his schedule permits. I so hope he can, because he’s a big part of where I am right now.

I can tell you the exact date that I began my “journey to fitness” in earnest: April 5, 2011 – the birthday of our CEO. We had potluck that day, and I ate like a pig. By the end of the day, I was disgusted with myself, I wrote my “Going public” post, and things began to change.

It was embarrassing to admit on the Internet that I weighed 201 pounds (5 pounds less than my highest) and that I had been making a fool of myself with food. But if pigging out was what it took to make me wake up and smell the bacon, it was worth it.

I want to help others by telling my story. Some won’t like it, won’t agree with it, won’t see it. They’ll think I’m being egotistical. I can’t help what people think.

But should I let the Negative Nellies keep me from trying to help someone else?

I could never do that.

________________________________________________________

To find a Women Run Arkansas running and walking clinic near you, click here.

Share this post:
Share

I (heart) to run

Oakleys and silly runners 09-12-13
Me and some of the gang after a riverside run on Sept. 12, 2013, just 5 days before my heart surgery.

Apparently my cardiologist likes me. And for some reason he thinks I’m at least passably “intelligent and articulate.”

That’s what the Baptist Health folks asked for when they were looking for people to be in their next ad campaign, “Keep on Amazing.” They were looking for “success stories” – fairly well-spoken people who had been treated by Baptist Health and lived to tell about it.

Well, you know – not only survived but thrived.

Apparently the facts that I’ve gained 10 pounds since my heart-valve surgery and that I’m not yet back to my normal race pace didn’t deter the PR people from thinking I’m a “success story.”

(We won’t tell them about the 9 mini Tootsie Rolls I just ate while writing this.)

(Wait a minute. Make that 10.)

Apparently the mere fact that I was so eager to get back into running (that I talk about it every time I visit the heart doctor) is enough for them to think I have some atypical story to tell. Or at least the doc thinks so. He’s the one who told them about me when they were lookin’ for folks.

So they’re coming to town next weekend to film me telling my story. And running. With a bunch of my crazy friends.

Running buddies, I need you to help me tell the story (because you’re a crucial part of it), but first let me back up and give a bit of the history of this heart thing. I’ve told it in a little bit of detail on the White River Roadrunners’ Facebook page and on the Roadrunners website, but haven’t told it here. So grab a cup of coffee – I’m going into detail. (If you’re a running buddy and only want to know where you come in on the aforementioned “help,” skip to the bottom. Otherwise please indulge me because I haven’t told the whole story in one place, and some people have been wanting to hear it.) Here goes:

I was diagnosed in 2008 with “mitral valve prolapse with mitral regurgitation.” Basically, the valve didn’t close properly and puked blood back into the chamber where it wasn’t supposed to. I visited Dr. Conley in North Little Rock once a year to check it. (We lived in North Little Rock for the first couple of years, and we moved to Batesville in 2010.)

Until this year, in July, no one was too concerned as long as I didn’t do anything crazy, things like what the doc called “burst activity” – such as the time back in May when I sprinted to the finish line to try to beat that guy who came up behind me at the Rock Run 8K in Little Rock. That would be considered burst activity, a big a no-no. Plus the dude beat me by 0.42 seconds. Not worth how my heart pounded later that night. (I’d ask you not to tell my mom, but I’ve had the thing fixed since then so it’s OK.)

So in July, some criteria for deciding whether to do surgery changed, and Dr. Conley sent me to a cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Beyer, for his opinion. I saw Dr. Beyer on Aug. 1. He told me I’d definitely need surgery, but he wasn’t sure how soon. He asked me to keep a diary for a week. The diary included things like lethargy, lack of motivation to run, mild symptoms of depression, a relapse into “stress eating” …

Once he read the diary, his nurse called and scheduled me for surgery.

I had already been scheduled for LASIK surgery on the day they wanted to fix my heart, so we put off the mitral valve repair a week. (I was later able to move up the eye surgery so that the surgeries wouldn’t be seven days apart. Wish I could say the LASIK was as successful as the valve surgery, but that’s a post for another day. Or not.)

I had the mitral valve repaired on Sept. 17 at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock. With the top-notch surgeon and some newfangled equipment, they were able to do a “minimally invasive” operation. In other words, they didn’t have to hack through my sternum to get to my heart and then bind the bones back together with twist ties like some people get.

Instead, the doc made an incision under my right breast (plus a bunch of other holes in my torso that I wouldn’t know about until I woke up – I still don’t know what one of them was for) and went across under there to the valve on the left side of my chest.

I watched an open-heart surgery on YouTube a few weeks earlier, and I’m really glad mine was “minimally invasive,” despite all the extra holes. However, the doc said this to me a couple of days after my surgery: “No one has ever proved to me that this surgery is any less painful [than open-heart].” I told him I was glad he didn’t mention that before I went under the knife! Because, friends, it was plenty painful.

But at least I won’t have twist ties in my chest for the rest of my life.

So. Over the next few weeks I had follow-up visits – one with Dr. Beyer and two with Dr. Conley.

Dr. Conley, the cardiologist I see every year, and who hears me talk about running every year (and who gave me a thumbs-up – literally, although my mom didn’t believe me – when I said I was going to run a half-marathon to raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation in 2012), and who always tells me the same two stories about his other mitral-valve patients (one who nearly died showing off in front of his kids and the other who’s practically a superhero), said at my October checkup that if I was concerned about what going “all out” in running would do to my heart, he’d do a stress test.

A few weeks later, in mid-November, they did an ultrasound and then stuck a bunch of electrodes to my chest and put me on a treadmill. At first it was too slow, but they wanted to build me up gradually. They didn’t want me to jog; I just needed to walk fast. And then a little faster. And a little faster. (By then I was jogging.) They kept upping the incline and I kept muttering, “I hate hills,” but they weren’t really listening. They were just watching their little machines. Eventually, when I was at, like, 10 miles per hour (just kidding), the doc asked me how I was doing.

“Not bored anymore,” I said. I was out of breath and he said I could stop. My heart rate was high enough for him to know what he needed to know. So the tech quickly did another ultrasound – while my heart rate was still up – and let me get dressed.

Side note: Earlier, when I was changing into my paper gown, the tech told me that Bruce wouldn’t be allowed in for the testing because they were having to use a smaller room than usual and there wasn’t room for him. I told her that he was skinny and wouldn’t take up much room, and that he gives really good feedback, makes good observations and really needed to be there. (What I didn’t say out loud was that there was no way he wasn’t going to be there for this running test. I won.)

Also? She wasn’t going to let me keep my sports bra on for the treadmill test. I said there was no way I could run without wearing that support system. “We may not get you up to a run,” she said. I told her the entire point of my visit was to see how I would do RUNNING. I would definitely be running on the treadmill, and I definitely could not do it without my industrial-strength bra, especially since my right boob was still sore from the surgery. Bouncing would only make it worse. (I won.)

When the bra conversation was repeated to Dr. Conley, I told him, “If no one else has ever balked at having to take her bra off to run on the treadmill, all your previous patients must be really flat-chested.”

“Or mild-mannered,” he smirked.

I love my heart doctor!

So after all the melodrama of the stress test, during which time the doc called me grumpy (it’s OK – I got to return the favor), he asked whether I’d be interested in helping the marketing people by telling my story.

I was so hoping he meant by writing a short testimonial or something. So I gave him my card with phone and email on it. A few days later the “brand marketing coordinator,” Dana, called me and conferenced in the ad agency person.

I said I’m fairly good at telling stories on paper, not so good with my lips. I lose my train of thought, ramble and forget words.

Nevertheless, after a 30-minute phone conversation about my life, they still wanted me.

So next weekend, I get to tell my story. On camera.

I just hope I don’t do a Cindy Brady and freeze up the minute the cameras roll.

But I’ll have Bruce at my side during the talky parts and my other buddies at my side for the running parts. We’ll do the interviews Friday afternoon and the running stuff Saturday.

That’s where you come in, faithful friends.

They want you to run with us Saturday, on camera. Many times.

There are a few tricky parts. Here’s the scoop:

They’d like to air the commercials (ours will be one of five stories) throughout the year in 2014, which means they want it not to look like dead of winter in every single shot. They’re looking for areas that aren’t covered with snow and maybe have some green trees. Also, they want all of us to show up with 2 or 3 different jackets so that we can change our appearance slightly as we change locations. Also, the extra jackets are in case too many people show up wearing the same color. They’d like variety – and the brighter the better. But no plaids or “busy” patterns. (No problem, right?) Also, no glaringly obvious logos – they don’t want to deal with unintentional product endorsements. A small logo is OK, just not a huge statement across your chest, OK?

This part is a little more difficult: The schedule is to shoot us fake-running between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday. We film the first footage at 9 a.m. on Main Street, but they want us in a couple more locations and I’m not sure what those times (or exact places) will be. So we’ll have to be somewhat flexible.

It doesn’t have to be the exact same group in each location, but if any of you has a flexible schedule next Saturday (and multiple jacket colors!) we’d love for you to be at as many of the locations as possible – but especially on Main Street by 9 a.m. They also want to film us running “across the bridge on Main Street,” and I can only assume they mean on the Golden Overpass after we turn off Main. The person telling me this was not one of the ones who came up here last week scouting locations, unbeknown to me. (Why they didn’t ask us for suggestions is beyond me. They have us filming Friday’s interview portion in some retreat place in Locust Grove.)

They’ll also film all of us fake-running on Chaney Drive where there’s a gazebo. Since they don’t want Christmas lights and probably don’t mean Riverside Park, I wondered if they meant the cemetery. Dana wasn’t sure.

I’m not sure whether there’s a third fake-running location, but they also want to film us in front of “storefronts,” and I don’t believe that involves running. Therefore I’m not sure whether it involves the running group or just the Oakleys. I’ll find out early next week and let you know.

I guess we will all get an education as to how big-time commercials are filmed. The key is to be patient and flexible. We can do that, right?

So, basically, I’d love for you all to be there, and I think I’ve covered as many of the details as I possess at the moment. Except this:

The ad campaign will debut during the 2014 Super Bowl.

Pretty cool, eh?

To let us know whether you’re available to run with us on Saturday, Dec. 14, please post a comment below, text me or email me (if you have my info). You may also post a comment on Facebook, but I would rather that be the last place you reply. Thanks to all of you who can come out and help us.

Share this post:
Share

Donate: Help us wipe out Crohn’s and colitis

Friends, I’m training to run my second half-marathon for Team Challenge, the fundraising and endurance-training program of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. I ran my first half-marathon (and survived!) last fall in honor of my husband, Bruce, and my cousin Spencer. They both have Crohn’s disease, and I’d like to kick the crap out of Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and every other disease like them.

We’d be honored and very appreciative if you’d donate to my half-marathon efforts. Your donation is tax deductible and will go toward CCFA research, education and support programs. If you donated to the cause last year, a huge thanks to you, but we need your help again.

Here are ways to donate:

1. Click here to go to my official Team Challenge fundraising page.
2. Mail me a check, made payable to CCFA or the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. (Leave a comment, which will provide me with your email address. Then I’ll email you my mailing address. You have the option of making your comment private, too. In that case, I’ll be the only one to see it.)
3. If you prefer to donate to our Take Steps Be Heard walks in Arkansas, click here. Bruce and I volunteer each year at both of Arkansas’ walks (in Little Rock and in NW Arkansas).

And if you’re a runner or walker and want more information on Team Challenge, please post a comment, email me, text me or post on my Facebook page. Or simply click here to visit the Team Challenge site and browse the info for yourself.

We appreciate your support more than we can say. And when we find a cure, you can say you were a part of it.

THANK YOU!
Suzy Taylor Oakley (and Bruce)

Share this post:
Share

Kicking the crap out of Crohn’s disease

“Go out there and run to the best of your ability,” he replied. “Don’t run with your legs. Run with your heart.” On some level, even as a high school freshman, I got his meaning: the human body has limitations; the human spirit is boundless.

Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes

Mom and me, post-race.

I ran my first half-marathon yesterday morning (yes, it was still morning when I finished!)

In case you don’t know, a half-marathon is 13.1 miles. This was the longest I had ever run (12 miles was my longest training run in prep for the race.)

But this wasn’t just any run, and it wasn’t just any half-marathon. It was the one and only, inaugural (for me) half-marathon I chose because of what it supports: the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).

Many of you know that my husband, Bruce, has suffered from Crohn’s disease since just before our first wedding anniversary. He spent that first Christmas in the hospital, and he was so sick I wasn’t sure he was going to make it. (Among other things, his entire digestive tract, from mouth to anus, was full of ulcers. Sorry for the butt talk, but part of raising awareness is getting people used to talking about unpleasant things – and helping people understand how hideous the disease can be. I’m actually sparing you the grossest details.)

Nearly 14 years and two more ugly flare-ups later, he’s dealing with what is our “new normal”: functioning, but at a diminished capacity from what my once very-active husband had been used to. (He’s the one who taught me to love running.)

And three years ago, my cousin’s then-10-year-old son, Spencer, was diagnosed with Crohn’s. And we have a teenage friend at our church, also named Spencer, who has Crohn’s. And an adult at church with Crohn’s. Get the picture? I want to kick the crap out of Crohn’s disease, and I want to do it, like, yesterday.

So that’s why I ran 13.1 miles yesterday.

I never intended to run a half-marathon. Six months ago it wasn’t even on my radar. But when some of the crazy-running-chick friends I hang with started talking about running a Half in October, naturally my thoughts turned to, “Could I?” I had certainly gotten addicted to running in the past couple of years (as I’ve said before, it’s like crack). I credit my friends’ ambitions with getting me on the road, so to speak, to my decision – to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where Suzy has never gone before (sorry – couldn’t resist the Star Trek reference).

Despite the grand illusions (delusions?), I had more or less decided that I wouldn’t run such a long-distance race. I have a mild heart condition, which worries my mother but not my cardiologist so much, and I had knee surgery 13 months ago, so I thought I’d just be kind to my body and stick with shorter races.

But in mid-June, when my new love of running supercollided with a cause I believe in with all my heart, the decision was practically made. The day after I got the email about Team Challenge, CCFA’s half-marathon training program to raise money for research and awareness, I signed up. (I would have signed up the same day, but you know me: I can’t do anything big without thoroughly researching it first. I left voice mails and emails for the Arkansas and the national people in the know; I texted; I read all the info online, etc. Next thing I knew, I was a Team Challenge member!)

I want to tell you all about Team Challenge in more detail, but today’s post is more about yesterday’s event and what got me there. I’ll cheerlead for the Team Challenge program in a post very soon.

The main thing I want to say about yesterday’s race has more to do with what came before it than with the actual event.

I want to say THANK YOU to all of you who supported me. For some that meant donations of money, for others donations of your time, talents and effort, and for still others it meant prayers, words of encouragement and general moral support. Some of you donated money out of your abundance (wallets and hearts), and some of you scraped up donations sacrificially because you believed in the cause, or maybe you just believed in me – or in a gracious God who has blessed you and you wanted to bless others.

I get teary-eyed just thinking about all of you.

My race shirt, bib and “top fundraiser” tag.

And, yes, I thought about each and every one of you as I ran, walked, sweated and even endured a brief bout of stomach cramps and nausea yesterday. I prayed for you; thanked God for such incredibly generous (of heart and wallet) friends, co-workers, church members and family who helped me get to the finish line (heck, you helped me get to the start line); and celebrated how generous God has been in putting you in my life. You will never know how much you mean to me. (By the way, you helped me take fifth-place honors in the fundraising.) And special shout-outs to Bruce, who jogged shortcuts to particular mile markers to take pictures of me, snapped me crossing the finish line and was my main cheerleader, even though he really wanted to be out there with me, running the whole race; to Mom, who traveled with us to Nashville so she could watch her baby cross the finish line (alive!); and to our sweet friends the Tuckers – Betsy dropped by my workplace Thursday morning to bring me a surprise: a great card about “amazing women” and a package of pre- and post-race energy goodies (Betsy has been my second-biggest cheerleader along the way, always telling me how proud she is of my accomplishments, and Tommy has offered his share of encouraging words).

I wish I could say the finish line of yesterday’s race was the finish line of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and every other ugly disease we watch our loved ones suffer through, but for me it was just the renewing of my commitment to raise awareness and funds for CCFA.

Next month, Bruce and I will sit in the Mission tent of CCFA’s Take Steps Walk in northwest Arkansas, as we have done for the past three years. We were on the ground floor of helping establish a CCFA chapter in Arkansas in 2010. Many of you helped us with that, for the Little Rock walks and the NWA walks (thank you).

But this year in our Mission tent will be a huge poster of Suzy’s first Team Challenge half-marathon, because next year I plan to return to Nashville with an Arkansas team! (This year I and the only other Team Challenge participant from Arkansas were placed on the National Team. But we’re gonna change that!) And since my official half-marathon coaching this year was “virtual” (our training sessions were in the form of emails and a weekly conference call from Coach Dave, and we had mentors and other support for the fundraising part), next year I’ll have the benefit of a real-live, local running coach. You know who I’m talking about, don’t you? (His name starts with B and ends with “ruce.”)

So, look out, Team Challenge: Suzy’s on a mission!

__________________________________

I still haven’t reached my fundraising goal and have a few weeks left. If you’d like to be a part of curing Crohn’s disease, click here to make a donation.

Arkansas had 42 participants in Saturday’s race, including two of us from Batesville. To view the official results, visit Nashville Women’s Half Marathon

Share this post:
Share

Can’t do the Gu, and other lessons from running

I learned a few things during my 8-mile run this morning:

Gu is nasty. Gu is not for people, like me, who have a strong gag reflex.

Several running friends had told me about the taste/texture of Gu (an energy gel) when I inquired on Facebook a few weeks ago. Colyn summed it up when he said: “Gu makes me want to hurl.” (Or something like that.)

Now I get it. One swallow, one reaction: Yuck. (No, I didn’t hurl, but I had a psychedelic flashback to a 2008 medical procedure in which I had to swallow a thick, numbing gel so they could stick a scope down my throat. As I said in a previous post, there’s a reason they don’t want you to eat before these procedures.)

For sale: 1½ packets of Gu (one slightly used). Call me if you’re interested.

Watching Olympians isn’t just fun – it inspires you to do more, and better.

I watched the last 8 miles of the Women’s Olympic Marathon yesterday morning. I tell ya, those skinny chicks can run! And, no matter how many hills they encounter, they don’t slow down to a walk. Only in my wildest dreams can I imagine not walking a step during a 26.2-mile race. But today I can imagine jogging 13.1 miles without walking. (Hey, I can dream, can’t I?)

Here’s what watching 8 miles of Olympic women did for me:

Last week had turned out to be kind of an off week in my half-marathon training. Because of some unanticipated circumstances (and a dash of poor planning), I didn’t get in a long run Saturday or Sunday – both days I usually go long – so I was feeling kind of lazy.

I’m taking a vacation day today, so I had talked my night-owl husband and our young friend Sam into doing their early-Monday workout even earlier – with me – and then I kinda flaked out on them. We were going to meet at the high school at 6:30, and Sam wanted to do speed work on the trail instead of the track. Well, I can’t do speed work with Bruce and Sam (they’re much faster than I am), so I decided to do my long run by jogging to BHS instead of driving there with Bruce. It’s about 8 miles round trip, so I left at 6 a.m. (I figured Bruce would be late, anyway.)

The only time I saw either of them is when Bruce passed me in the car on his way to meet Sam. He slowed down to ask if I needed anything and then drove on.

I was going uphill when he saw me, and I was jogging, not walking. Score!

In fact, I jogged more uphills than I have in a really long time, and it was easier this time. I had gotten quite lazy in my workouts since adding distance. I told myself it was the distance or the time out there that mattered – not the actual miles per hour. So I hadn’t been increasing my speed much.

I had gotten really lazy.

The difference this morning? Determination. Inspiration. Low humidity.

I had been thinking about those Olympic chicks for 24 hours. Their perseverance really stuck with me. And then there was this Nike commercial last night during the Olympics. Did you see it?

There’s a voice-over that’s talking about “finding your greatness.” In the distance you see a jogger. As he gets closer and closer and as the voice-over continues, you realize this jogger is an overweight kid. He’s huffing and puffing, sweaty and red-faced, but he never slows down.

No, he’s not fast. But he’s not walking, either. He’s persevering. (His name is Nathan. Read about him here.)

I didn’t consciously think about that overweight boy while I ran this morning, but he must have been in the back of my mind. And I definitely thought a lot about the Olympic women. I told myself, “If they can run 26.2 miles without walking, surely I can jog up some of these little ol’ hills of Batesville.”

So I did. I jogged up several of the hills, including the Golden Overpass and the Baja. (If you don’t live in or near Batesville, Ark., let me just tell you, there’s a reason the back of our women’s running clinic shirt says “Got Hills?” We have our fair share of hills, thank you very much.)

And here’s the crazy thing: Around Mile 7, I started realizing that it was getting easier, not harder. I felt as though I could go another 3-4 miles. (I didn’t.) And in those last couple of miles before home, I kept jogging up the hills.

I was actually having fun. (Well, sort of. It is running, after all.)

Funny what an attitude adjustment can do for a person.

Having one off-week doesn’t have to derail an entire training program. I already knew that, but because the half-marathon is only seven weeks away, I got a little scared. It made me afraid I wouldn’t be able to build up to my really long run before the event. I want to do a 13.1-mile workout before I get to Nashville, and it needs to be a couple of weeks before the race. (You’re supposed to ease off on the mileage as you get close to race day.) So I’ll be cutting it close, but I’ll get there. And if I don’t get in a 13.1-mile run before race day, it’ll be okay. I know I’ll be able to finish strong, even if I don’t finish fast.

I love that my coach is also my sweetheart. Bruce has been so encouraging as I’ve journeyed through weight loss and learning to love running. Today when he got home from his workout, he said I looked thin as he drove up behind me while I jogged. I’ve learned so much from him about running, but I also revel in the fact that he loved me even before I loved running. He’s a keeper.

Running isn’t everything, but it has taught me many lessons about life. An important lesson I’ve learned, and that I will continue to learn, is that I am capable of things I never thought possible just a couple of years ago. Just look at me – I’m training for a half-marathon! I’ve always known that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13), but never had I related that to physical activity before now.

I serve a big God, and He is continually teaching me. It’s neat that He chooses to use things like running to teach me life lessons. The trick is to open my ears, eyes and heart and pay attention. There are many lessons to be learned.

My fundraising deadline for the Nashville Women’s Half Marathon, which supports the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, is only 30 days away. Please consider supporting my efforts to wipe out Crohn’s disease in Bruce’s lifetime. Click here to donate. That page also provides a link to Team Challenge – just in case you’d like to join me in my next half-marathon for CCFA. 🙂

Share this post:
Share