Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Elijah Update: My Sweatshirt Goal

Always smilling
Even though he is done with chemo, he has to stay at the Clinic for at least 6 weeks to be monitored for various things and to undergo more tests. A couple days ago, he was visited by Josh Tomlin and Cody Allen of the Cleveland Indians and their wives and received tickets to the game and an autographed baseball! How cool is that?! Today he is fighting a fever, he received transfusions for blood and platelets with possible surgery today as bacteria grew on the blood culture from his line so they maybe be replacing it. Through the highs and the lows, in typical Elijah fashion, he is all smiles and in good spirits. Gotta love that kid!

As you know, I am running this years Race for the Place 5K in his honor. We are only 17 days away from race day and I'm getting more excited as it get's closer! So far I have 11 people on my team Just Keep Swimming…and Running I have raised $289.25 in donations so far. Thank you to everyone who has joined my team and/or has supported my efforts by making a donation.

My end goal is to raise $1,800 in honor of the 18th birthday Elijah had to spend at the Clinic. If I am able to raise $500, though, I will earn an embroidered Gathering Place sweatshirt. I would love to give that sweatshirt to Elijah since he is my inspiration for this years and I am only $210.75 from that goal. Will you help? All donations are tax-deductible. To make a donation and help me earn the sweatshirt for Elijah, visit my personal race page. There is still plenty of time to join my team, too, so you can also join my team there.

Thank you for your support. It means more to me than you know!

A sweatshirt for Elijah

Some Cleveland Indians stop in to say hello

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My brother's 45th birthday

Rick holding my son, Kelly
Fourty-five years ago today, my baby brother, Rick, was born. Even though we fought like brothers and sisters do, he was so much fun to grow up with. So many happy memories! I will never forget how he would make us laugh, especially when we were camping: we'd be at the pool and he'd do his crazy dives and belly flops, or when Janna and I made him talk like a girl and called him "Suzie" because we had to take him into the girl's restroom since he couldn't see at night. There are many other happy memories, but those are the two I remember most often, especially since we still camp to this day. And the happy memories continued as we got older. Rick had the most amazing smile and even more amazing hugs and there is not a day that goes by that I don't miss him terribly. But I know that for every day I miss him, I am one day closer to seeing him again.

I think one of the hardest things about his birthday this year is that in the next week or so, I will welcome my first grandchild. It really hit me like a ton of bricks this morning when I came across the picture of Rick holding my Kelly when he was a few days old or remembering when he came to see me in the hospital and how excited he was to be an uncle again. Knowing my brother will not be here to welcome Kelly’s son, Kelly Jr., or hold him, or knowing he is just one more family addition who will never have the pleasure of knowing my brother, makes me miss not only him, but Papa D, all the more.

There are so many songs that would be fitting for this day, but rather than trying to choose the “best” one, I decide to repost the YouTube video I made in May, 2011.

Happy birthday, Rick. I know you are smiling down on us from heaven and I am thankful for God’s promise that this life isn’t the end and I will see you again someday. Love you, brother! Give Papa D a kiss and hug from me. xoxox

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Elijah update: 5.9.17

Nurses attack with silly string
Elijah update from his mom:

"Today was this boys last day of chemo! He is officially done. Now we wait for his blood counts to drop and come up. Praying he doesn't get fevers or mouth sores. His body handled it really well. He had to have a heart echo and an EKG, as well as a CT due to some chest pains. So far he's doing OK. The Minimal Residual Disease (MRD) came back negative for any small amount of Leukemia. My boy is still leukemia free. We are still anticipating about 6 weeks here and then we will find out what happens from there. There is also a cytogenetic test result we are waiting for as well but won't get back until Monday. God is still good. Thank you everyone who has continued to pray and come alone on this journey with us.

He was starving today. He is eating French onion soup...x2. You'd never know looking at him that he's been fighting a life threatening disease for the last 4 months! I've seen a quote the other day that said, "people who say winning doesn't matter never fought cancer!""


Thank you to everyone who has been praying, sending good thoughts, positive vibes, wishes, etc. over these last several months for Elijah and his mom. They continue to win the war but the battle is not over so keep them coming. They are truly making all the difference.

As you know, I am running the Race for the Place 5K on June 4 is his honor and my goal is to raise $1,800 for the 18th birthday he had to spend at the Clinic receiving treatment. I would love for you to join my team: Just Keep Swimming…and Running! Not a runner? No problem, you can walk the 5K or sign up for the 1 mile walk. If you aren't able to participate in the race in person but would like to make a donation to support our efforts, you can do so on this page using the "Give Now" button on the right of my personal race page.

Thank you for your support.

Monday, May 1, 2017

It's Time of Year Again: The Annual Race for the Place 5K

Elijah after he was
admitted in January
If you've been following my blog over the years, you'll know that The Gathering Place's annual Race for the Place 5K/1Mile Walk is a special race to me for many reasons and I run it every year for the ever-growing list of friends, family members, and other loved ones who have been diagnosed with cancer. It was the race that "started it all" for me running wise in 2014 and what I now refer to as my "race-a-versary." It is held the first Sunday in June, rain or shine, on National Cancer Survivors Day

In 2016, there were a lot of races I wanted to do and decided with so many on my schedule, I would pick one to serve as my "goal" race meaning it would be the race I worked towards setting my 5K PR for that year. With all this race has become to me, it only made sense so 2016's race would be "for" me and I decided to make my goal to run the 5K in under 25:00. I also decided to branch off from the team we were with and team Just Keep Swimming…and Running was formed. Not only did I finish in 24:43, achieving my goal, I finished 3rd overall in the Female Cancer Survivor division.

This year, I am running it in honor of Elijah, a young man whom I got to know through the Young Marine program I have been a staff member of for the last 11 years. Elijah is currently undergoing a long and very intense treatment at the Cleveland Clinic for AML, a very aggressive form of leukemia. Since Elijah had to spend his 18th birthday in the hospital, I made my fundraising goal $1,800. My time goal for this year is to set a new PR of a sub 24:00 5K also in honor of him.

We are team "Just Keep Swimming...and Running" and I would love for you to join us to support this wonderful cause! Not a runner? No problem! Walk the 5K or sign up to do the 1 Mile Walk. Either way you are supporting an wonderful organization. Even though this event is a fundraiser for The Gathering Place, there is no pressure to raise a certain amount of money when you join a team like there is with other charity races. As a matter of fact, several people solely pay the race fee which serves as their contribution. Of course, donations are always appreciated but certainly not required.

To learn more about The Gathering Place and the free services they offer to cancer patients and their families right here in our community, please visit their website at or their Facebook page.

Thank you for your support!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Every Mile a Memory: 10 and 20 Mile Drop 4.23.17..."Unstoppable Hope"

The 10 and 20 Mile Drop will always be a bittersweet race for me. Sweet because I always do better than expected running the 10 mile distance but bitter because it was after my first go at it in 2015 when I was so excited with how well I did that day, I would go to my parent's house later on to share my excitement with my dad, only to see his time here on Earth quickly coming to an end. I didn't leave his side that day and two days later, I would watch him take his last breath at 1:23 PM. I was devastated. I couldn’t even LOOK at my running shoes without reliving that day of going from ultimate high to lowest of the lows or reliving my father's final hours or the days that followed so I was done. My heart was broken and so was my running spirit. Luckily that spirt was renewed several weeks later but I swore I would never run the 10 Mile Drop. My heart just wouldn't let me. Fast forward to December. For whatever reason (coincidence my dad's birthday is that month?? Perhaps some angels at work??), I decided to sign up for April's 2016 race again. My goal was to finish 1:23:00 in honor of my dad's last breath. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make that goal but I DID finish in 1:29:36 shaving over 8 minutes off my time from the previous year. A victory for sure and my love for this race would be renewed. This year, my goal was 1:22:00 which again was a lofty one but why not? In 2015, I was 14th in my AG and in 2016 I was 9th so my goal for this race was to make the top 10. Paul told me I should try for the top 5 which would be nice but after having a week of "blah-ish" types of runs, I wasn't feeling too strong about that. Not to mention, I woke up out of a dead sleep Sunday morning around 2 AM and never really went back to sleep so I was tired to begin with, making a top 5 in my AG finish a lofty one, at least in my mind.

The course

This is a point-to-point race with two distances: 10 and 20 miles. The 20 mile race started at 7:15 and the 10 mile at 8:15 and the 10 mile course is the second half of the 20 mile. They bill this as a "downhill" race (hence the "drop") because of the change in elevation from start to finish but there are definitely some hills you have to run up as well so it's still quite challenging. They caution the 10 milers to not go out too fast the first 5K because there's a hill to contend with between miles 3 and 4. A good portion of the course is on a scenic exercise path with both asphalt and crushed surfaces but you also run through neighborhoods and some pretty heavily traveled roads so they have police officers at every intersection stopping traffic. There are also several sets of active railroad tracks you have to cross and even though the RDs give the rail company a heads up about the race, there is no guarantee you won't encounter a train or two. Luckily for the past 3 years, my race has been train-free.

Runners are bussed to each starting line run to the finish at Fairport Harbor Beach Park (another beach finish…my favorite!). Since Paul always goes with me, he takes me to the starting line. This year, he was going out of town right after the race so we had to leave a Jeep at the finish line. This worked out well because my co-worker/racing friend was walking the 10 miler again and we were able to pick her up there so she didn't have to ride the bus.

The Get Up

As you all know, I am very particular about what I race in, especially when a race has some meaning behind it. Since this was more that "just a race" to me, I wanted to wear something to reflect that. The weather was supposed to be pretty decent; lower 40's at race time and mid 50's by the time I'd be done with sunshine. Such a contrast from last year when we had a blizzard two days before and a cloudy and balmy 27 degrees. They were calling for rain for weeks before the race but a day or two before, the weather decided to cooperate. Yay! Since it was going to be perfect race weather, I was excited I was going to be able to wear the special tank top I ordered with some arm warmers. I debated between my SmartWool ones or the lighter weight ones but remembering back to the 5K I did a couple weeks ago when it was much colder, the SmartWool was almost too warm. When I picked up the race shirt and bib on Saturday and saw the shirt was the color of my favorite forgetful fish, I took that as some good race juju and decided to go along with the blue theme. I also decided to wear a pair of Balega running socks that had the words "unstoppable" "hope" on them.

The race shirts never disappoints. Gotta love the Dory blue!

Race morning

I was not very happy with the fact I woke up at 2 am and never really went back to sleep so when I finally got up at 6 am, I was not a happy camper. Thank goodness for my two cups of coffee ritual. Our goal was to be at the finish line by 7:20 so we could drop off the Jeep, pick up my friend, and head to the starting line before the busses got there. Last year, they didn't have enough port-a-johns so the race was delayed by several minutes while everyone was making their final head calls so I wanted to make sure we were there in plenty of time. Well, just as we are just about to get to the beach park, we see the buses leaving. Luckily, we were able to get my friend and get to the start just as the busses were pulling in. Whew, talk about timing. We stood around and chatted for a bit before I went to do a quick warm up run, one last stop at the port-a-john, and headed to the starting line. Last year they had pacers so I had been debating whether I'd run with one but apparently they didn't have them this year so that made that decision easy. I was also planning on lining up closer to the back so I didn't start out too fast but when I saw there was no timing mat and this would be a gun start (which was odd because they've had one the last two years), I decided to squeeze in somewhere closer to the front.

Could that ray of sunshine photobombing our picture be my ray of "hope?? Kind of neat seeing this after the fact. Things that make you go "hmmm." 

And they're off

The gun went off and away we went. The half mile or so is pretty much all down hill and this, along with the excitement, of the race, had me running too fast. There were times I'd look down at my watch and see paces in the mid 7's and panic started to kick in. I decided I would only look at my watch on the mile splits and even though I missed the first mile split, the 2nd and 3rd ones blew my mind and I kept telling myself I needed to slow down or I'd never make it to the finish. The conversations going on in my head were a lot of back and forth between "you can do this" and "you'll never make it" and I really started to reconsider this being my favorite race. The whole thing was so much harder than I remember from past years. Around mile 4, I decided to quit obsessing about my pace and just run. Run fast, run slow, run however, just run…or walk if need be. I kept telling myself I had nothing to prove to anyone and however fast or slow I got to the finish line, finishing it is all that mattered. Every once in a while I would try to find someone to use as a target and other times I would just run and keep the positive self talk coming. I would also try to distract myself by noticing whom of the people were passing me were those running the 20 mile distance and wonder how they were feeling. On top of everything else, I was also dealing with a side stitch which started around mile 2 and didn't really ever go away and I was worried if it was going to force me to stop running. There were several water, Gatorade, and gel stops along the course and several times I thought about stopping just to get a couple of walking steps in and give my legs a break because I do remember doing that once during last year's race and I'm used to stopping during my training runs while waiting for traffic but every time I'd see one coming up, I say "I'll stop at the next one." Needless to say, I never stopped.

Flash backs to Ragnar

There were several parts of the course that reminded me of my legs at Ragnar as two of them followed a paved exercise path very similar to what I was running during this race. There was even one spot where I went under the freeway just like I did during one of my legs and it made for a good distraction as I drifted back in my mind to how much fun that race was. What also made it similar is there were several spots Paul was able to cheer me on and I went past. That was a nice surprised because he hadn't done that in year's past (since we lived so close, he'd just go home and then be at the finish line). It was also nice because I was able to hand him the arm warmers when I took them off.

The finish

Last year at mile 7, I distinctly remember how good I felt at that mile and was hoping for the same this year. Nope, didn't feel good at all and I really think that starting out as fast as I did "blew" it for me this race because the whole race was a lot harder than I remember from last year and when I got to mile 7, I was starting to doubt how this was all going to end. I did tell myself though that unless I totally tanked the last 3 miles, I'd probably beat last year's time so I kept reminding myself on that. One good thing about mile 7 is I was finally able to keep my lead over is the girl whom I kept playing the passing game with (I'd pass her, she'd pass me, etc.) for a good majority of the race. Every time someone would come up behind me, I'd wonder if it was her and it kind of kept pushing me to try not to drop my pace too much. I also remember last year hitting mile 9 and feeling super strong and mighty (to use one of my sole sistas, Jaime's words) for a fast finish. That didn't happen this year either. But rather than dwell on how tired or "bad" I was feeling or how hard this race had been, I just told myself I beat my time from last year and my mission was accomplished. I was also running against a head wind coming off the lake which is not something you want that last mile of a race. LOL

The last 0.10 of a mile to the finish was an uphill dash through a grass field. As I rounded the corner to the final stretch, I said to one of the race directors "looks like another cross country finish." He laughed. Ohhh, but I was in a for a big shocker…. My thoughts of holy crap, please God, don't let me twist an ankle to holy crap, the time clock is at 1:22:23 and if I kick it up, I'll come in right under 1:23:00, beating the time goal from last year!!! Not sure how I was able to muster up the energy but I did it! I have to be honest with you, last year it was A LOT easier running through 12 inches of snow like last year than it was the grass! It sounds crazy but it's true. This was not manicured like the NXN course but rather filled with lots of holes and uneven ground. Plus it's up hill. But anyway, I turned off my music and heard a couple women who had already finished telling me to be careful and watch my step. And just like last year, there was a bunch of mud and a little dip JUST before you hit the timing mat. Last year I jumped it. A lot of my races have this DJ (who also runs the race) commenting at the finish line and it's always entertaining to hear what says. Kind makes for a fun finish, too. I don't recall exactly what he said but it was something about needing to jump the mud and when I ran through it, he started laughing and said "or just run through it." I was so out of breath when I stopped I could hardly catch it but I was glad the feeling didn't last long. Paul, who cheered me on through the finish, came over and we went to the pavilion on the beach for the post race snacks (pancakes, sausage, bananas, chocolate milk, coffee, hot chocolate, and of course, my favorite…bagel bites). They also have live results so we went over to the computer to see how I did and woot woot woot I made the top 5, coming in 4th and only a minute and a half for so behind the 1st place finisher. Super stoked! I wanted to stay for the awards just in case the 1st place finisher took a female OA spot which would bump me up to 3rd in mine but she did not and Paul needed to get on the road so we left.

Final thoughts

Another sweet and unexpected surprise when I crossed the finish line at 1:22:47. What's more, in three years, I've gone from 14th in my age group to 9th to 4th. Never in a million years did I ever think I'd reach the top 10, much less the top 5! This race wasn't easy by any means and there were plenty of times I thought about giving up but I kept thinking about all the reasons I was out there in the first place so I pressed on. Those reasons got me to the finish line today and made the 10 Mile Drop a little more sweet and a little less bitter. Not because I did well, but because it just goes to show when you have unstoppable hope, you can finish whatever race life puts in your way, often times with results better than ever expected.

I have to say it's taking me a bit long to recover this time around. The only time I've been this sore after a race was my first HM in 2014… I didn't have much soreness after my HM this past fall nor after last year's 10 Mile Drop but this year I was sore enough I haven't run in two days. I COULD have run but I'm at 90 miles for the month and only have 10 more to go to reach my goal so being a "slacker" didn't bother me too much and figure my legs could use the break. What's interesting is my friend from work said the same thing and she also said the thought this year's race was a lot more hilly and tougher than last year. It was the same course as last year so it was the same hills so the only thing I can think of is it's from pushing myself as much as I did. Who knows. I just can't wait to get back to running!

Thank you for reading.  
Cool finishers medal with movable bus


Splits per garmin

Splits per chip
5K 08:00
10K 08:10
Last 3.8 miles 08:28
Finish 08:17

Race placement
Overall 69th of 320
Female 22nd of 202
Female 45-49 4th of 25

Friday, April 14, 2017

Missing Papa D: Two Years Later 4.14.17

I'm everything I am because you loved me
I always loved the month of April.

April meant April Fool's Day when we as kids would play silly but memorable tricks on our parents and each other; it meant spring flowers, longer days of sunlight, the beginning of flip flop weather (although let's be honest, I had them on as early as the first day of Spring if not before); it meant the start of a warming trend that would eventually lead to summer… and camping…and the beach. Sure, Mother Nature has been known to throw a blizzard or two our way during this time of year but it has always been a little more tolerable knowing it would be short-lived because better days were coming. Two years ago today, however, April became bittersweet. 

It was the beginning of April I would watch cancer steal my dear father, affectionately known as Papa D, away from me faster than a freight train and no matter how hard I begged, pleaded, or prayed, the train didn't stop. At 1:53 p.m. two years ago today, I would watch him take his last breath here on Earth and join my brother in Glory. The month of April would never be the same. Heck, my life would never be the same. 

It makes me sad my dad hasn't had the fun of watching Rick run like a rock star at cross country meets and I know he would be at every single one because that's just what Papa D did, or see Kelly get married and have the pleasure of not only knowing his beautiful wife, Jaime (and girl, he would ADORE you!!), but holding his great-grandson who is due to bless us with his presence any day. Gosh, dad, I hope God allows you to see us down here… I know you would be so proud!!

What a blessing it is to say I had the most amazing man for 45 years of my life to call my dad and even though I am 47 now and have lived the past two years without him and will live the rest of my days the same, I know he is with me always and I am thankful this life is not the end because I know I will see him one day.

Until we meet again, Papa D….

Papa D, my brother, and me at my cousin's wedding in 1995.

My sisters, Papa D, and I. Our last Christmas Eve together 2014.

One of the last times I would get to hold my dad's hand.

In honor of my dad's second angel anniversary, I finally finished this post and wanted to share it. Better late than never: "For I know the plans I have for you"...the unexpected tattoo trilogy is complete 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"For I know the plans I have for you"...the unexpected tattoo trilogy is complete

For I know the plans I have for you, plans for peace and not of evil, to give you a future and hope." Jeremiah 29:11

After I got my hope tattoo on May 12, 2015 in honor of Papa D's one month home going/angel anniversary with my son, Kelly, I had no plans to get another. I had a tattoo on my stomach which was done in 1997 in memory of the one year anniversary of my brother's murder and then I got my hope tattoo for my dad and that was all I needed….or so I thought. As time went on, I got to thinking I wanted something in memory of my dad's sixth month angel anniversary. Well, that date snuck up on me and I didn't want to just get any tattoo so I decided I would get one on his birthday in December. The timing would be perfect since my brother's 20th angel anniversary would follow in January and I decided whatever the next tattoo I got would serve as a memorial to both my dad any my brother.

On my dad's birthday on December 8, 2015, I got my "until we meet again" tattoo. A few weeks before my appointment, I came across a picture of a woman with a tattoo on her neck, one on her shoulder, and an Irish blessing scripted between them. I loved that idea but wasn’t sure I would be up for another tattoo after the second one so I had the artist position it in a way that it could stand alone should I chicken out. Second tattoo was complete and I'll admit, as soon as I got home, I knew another tattoo would be happening in the near future. I decided the one year anniversary of Papa D's home going in 2016 was going to be the day I completed this unplanned trilogy. The question was: what saying would I have done?

When I first heard the song "The Light" by the band, Disturbed, the words "sometimes the darkness can show you the light" jumped right out at me as a definite possibility. Those are great lyrics with a very deep and profound meaning for me (and truth be told, I will probably get those tattooed on me at some point), but I wasn't really quite sure that's what I wanted for this tattoo. I remembered my life verse, Jeremiah 29:11 which says "For I know the plans I have for you, plans for peace and not of evil, to give you a future and hope." That would be the perfect verse. However, I was having a hard time deciding what part of it to use. While I liked all of the words, I didn't know if it was going to be too much. I just couldn't envision it. One morning, I was talking to my cousin, Michelle, and the subject of tattoos came up. I told her what I was thinking and she suggested to just use the first part of the verse. Hmmm. That could work I thought. As I drove to work that morning, I was thinking about what Michelle had suggested and all the sudden it hit me: the two tattoos I already had would "complete" the Bible verse if you think about it; the hope tattoo was obvious what it represented and the infinity tattoo represented the "future" part of the verse; because of my faith and God's promise that this life is not the end, one day I would be reunited with my loves and live eternally with them and our Heavenly Father. Perfect! Now I was ready to get it done.

Since getting a tattoo is more than just getting ink, I have to get it done on a day that means something. It probably sounds weird but it's just the way I am. If am going to endure the pain, that pain would never compare to the pain of losing someone I love so I originally had the tattoo scheduled with Jeff at Iron Clad Tattoos (who also did my hope tattoo) on the one year anniversary of my dad's home going. Unfortunately, there was a family emergency so I had to cancel and thought maybe I'd get it done on the anniversary of my dad's celebration of life service, but that didn't work out either. Then I remembered my brother's birthday was coming up May 10 and that date worked out with Jeff's schedule so May10th it was; a tattoo in honor of Papa D's angel anniversary and my brother's 43rd birthday. Perfect!

I wasn't really sure how it was going to all come together so I told Jeff what I wanted, sent him a picture of where I got my inspiration from, and when I got there, he had something drawn up. After a few weeks, we were ready to go. I am so glad my good friend, Nissa, was able to come with me, not only for moral support, but her creative input was invaluable. Since I was already going under the needle, Jeff touched up my hope tattoo as well. I wasn't really mentally prepared for that but surprisingly, it barely hurt at all. I must be getting tough in my old age. LOL

Jeff was done in no time and once again, he did not disappoint. My tattoo turned out better than I ever imagined.

The unexpected tattoo trilogy was now complete and a perfect way to honor Papa D's one year angel anniversary and my brother's birthday.

Afterwards, Nissa and I went out to get a bite to eat, a beverage, and, of course, a shot of Jager.

Of course, Squishy Dory had to come for moral support (AKA my right hand fish...literally.
I thought she was a gonner after this round of getting inked)

Note: I know I am a little late in the game as I got this tattoo in May of 2016 and it is now April of 2017 and I have gotten another tattoo since. It has taken me over a year to write this post for many reasons but it was my goal to make sure I had it posted for Papa D's second home going anniversary which is in two days.