Breast Cancer Has A Face, And Lessons To Teach

Sometimes I am just astonished by what people are capable of – and I mean this in a good way – well, I guess I’m equally astonished at the evil that lurks in people, but that’s a different story. Today I want to talk about my friend Judy and millions of other women just like her who are diagnosed with breast cancer.

Up until Judy was diagnosed six months ago I had a very peripheral view of breast cancer and its implications, particularly to the patient. I guess the truth is, I still have only a peripheral view. Until it happens to you, you can never really understand or know what it’s like. What I have learned though by watching Judy is the amazing strength and focus that it takes to “deal” with all that surrounds this diagnosis. She doesn’t know it, but she and every woman in her shoes has taught me some incredible lessons.

1. We make time for what’s important – Really!

If someone told me today that I needed to block two hours of time tomorrow, four the next day, two the day after that, six the day after that, two next Monday afternoon and two on Wednesday,  then 90 minutes everyday for the next three months, and so on and so on – oh and by the way these time slots all have to take place during working hours – I would probably say, like most of you, I don’t have time for that. I have a job, I have a family, I have other appointments, other commitments, I’m going on vacation, Wednesdays are bad, I have class on Tuesdays…Well tough, it doesn’t matter what you thought your plans for the next six months were going to be – this is your new reality. It’s hard enough you have just been dealt this blow – you have cancer – now you have to turn your life upside down to meet it head on.

What I learned by watching and listening to my friend Judy is, when there is no choice, we make time for what’s really important. In the case of a breast cancer diagnosis, it’s kind of a no-brainer that you put your life on hold and you deal with what you need to deal with. But how many other times in our lives do we let our busy lives dictate where our attention and our time goes. This lesson has shown me that prioritizing my daily life is in my control and to pay attention to what’s “really” important, because if it’s important enough I do have time.

2. We under estimate our capabilities.

I think about the number of times in my life that I have said, “I could never do that”. Whether it’s skydiving, scaling mount Everest, speaking Japanese, or enduring the pains and struggles of another human being. What’s true is, there are some things in life that we are never prepared for, we don’t get training for and there are no handy online courses to take before hand. Somethings, like a cancer diagnosis, we just simply are thrown into and we have to do what it takes to be a survivor.

There’s an inspiring lesson in watching ordinary women accomplish extraordinary things. When “not doing” is no longer an option we find out what we are truly capable of.

3. Sometimes even Super Woman needs help

I don’t know about you but, asking for help is not something I do well. I don’t think I’m alone in this, especially among other women. We have been brought up to be the caregivers, not the takers. Over the past three decades women as a whole have worked very hard to be independent, to do it on their own and to prove to the world that we are capable of managing our own lives. So, asking for help or even excepting help that is offered sometimes feels like a step backwards.

What I have learned from Judy’s experience is, people in your life love you and care about you and want to help. Helping you is how they cope with the pain and struggles you as a patient are going through. When we refuse help, whether in an emergency or just in simple daily life, we deprive our friends and loved ones of fulfilling their role in our lives. It’s become more clear to me that asking for help is much less about me and more about those who are there to support me.

We live in a society-which comes from the Latin work socius meaning, friend or ally. We all need allies, especially in times of trouble. The relationships of allies is a reciprocal one, so when we refuse or hesitate help from our allies we run the risk of sending the message – “I don’t need your help, so don’t count on mine.”

I’m grateful that Judy has allowed her allies to be there for her and to help in our own way. She’s helped me to be a better ally and to ask for help when I need it.

4. We’re all in it together

The crazy truth about breast cancer is, no one is outside the reach. We likely all know someone who is touched by it in some way. As I listened to Judy tell about her experience I could not help but think about all of those people who have played a role in the path that has brought us to this point in the treatment of breast cancer;

The countless women who came before her

The doctors and scientists who have studied for years in search of treatments and cures

The millions of volunteers who have raised funds for research by walking, biking, swimming, hiking, climbing mountains, bowling, dancing…you name it, there are allies out there tirelessly working to support the dream of a cure.

The lesson I learn from this is simple, as a society, we don’t accomplish astonishing things alone, and together we are a force. And the truly beautiful thing is, it’s working! Progress is being made everyday, treatments are working, women are surviving, and everyday we get a little bit closer to the cure.

A Very Happy Day!

The story of my friend Judy is a happy story. A week ago she learned that her body was free of cancer. She is a survivor. And as her ally I am forever grateful for that. I also realize this may not be the case if not for the many many women who came before her and the mighty efforts of all who play a role in finding the cure.

This post is dedicated to my hero’s who have taught me these lessons; Judy, Loie, Clara and Barb (you’re next Barb!)

Bless you!

Posted in Breast Cancer, Gratitude, survivor | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Shopping and Champagne

Two of my favorite things – shopping and champagne anchored my latest workation in Baltimore. There’s just something very special about spending the day with great girlfriends drinking fine champagne and discovering treasures.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that!

Posted in Champagne, Gratitude, Workation | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Your Spirit Needs Gratitude

Yesterday (March 11) devastation hit the county of Japan. A massive earthquake followed by a land swallowing tsunami. In my peripheral mind I was aware that the event had occurred but was heads down in my own daily life and work. It wasn’t until this morning when I woke that I took the time to sit down and learn what was really happening on the other side of the world. What I saw left me heartbroken.

The images of whole cities being washed way, cars driving down the road being swallowed up by a wall of water, people on the rooftops begging for rescue. It’s really inconceivable to me what these people are going through – those who have survived.

I’m not one to dwell on the negative or to allow my spirit to be brought down by the events around me. I believe our collective energy as humans needs a positive balance to help those in need find peace and strength. So, today I find myself counting my blessings and reflecting on the things that I’m grateful for. I make a practice of being grateful everyday, but today especially. Today I express my gratitudes on behalf of those who have little to be grateful for.

Today I’m grateful for:

A warm safe home, hot water, electricity, family, my dog, hot coffee, the internet, my netbook, my upcoming workation, a washer and dryer(clean clothes), safe drinking water, friends, wine, my ugg slippers, my health, meaningful work, my eye sight, laws that help protect us, my ability to reason, and soooooo much more.

Be grateful today, be grateful everyday. We owe it to those who can’t find their way to gratitude now.  There is always something to be grateful for – it might just be that you’re able to read this!

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Girlfriend Travel Has Grown Up

It never really ceases to amaze me that there are women out there in this crazy big world who have never been on a girlfriend getaway. Sadder yet, many of them have never even had a girls night out. I think I’ll make it my life’s work to get every “girl” on a girlfriend getaway before it’s too late. And by too late I mean, she’s in the grave. I don’t think it’s ever too late to start spending quality time with the girls.

For my mother’s generation this concept was nearly blasphemous. A woman did not leave her husband and certainly not her children at home so that she could run off acting like she didn’t have a care in the world. For one thing, it just wouldn’t look right. What would people think? Particularly for married women. Those days of running off with the girls ends when you get married – not any more!

I vividly remember a time in my 20’s when many of my friends were beginning to get married. I was having lunch with my mom one day and telling her about an upcoming girls camping trip. I was telling her who was going and mentioned my friend Nancy. My mother got a strange look on her face and said with a questioning tone, “doesn’t her husband mind if she goes?” Well, the thought had never entered my mind and I’m certain it never entered Nancy’s either.  We took for granted our girlfriend time and we understood the value of that time together. It occurred to me that day that the women of my mother’s generation would never have considered such an event, let alone making an annual pilgrimage of if.

Today most women have their own income, many are dominate wage earners in the family and many more are choosing not to marry or to marry later in life. Today women’s travel is the fastest growing segment in the travel industry and probably the most lucrative demographic in travel. All of these factors have contributed to the rise in women’s travel. But perhaps the greatest reason for the increase in this sector of travel is the realization by women that we don’t and can not get all of our emotional needs met through our spouses and families. In order to be whole, we need other women – friends in our lives.

Friends provide a balance in our life. The addition of girlfriends in our lives does not diminish the relationships that we have with our families but rather strengthens it by bringing each of us more to offer to others. When we gain a greater appreciation for the world, become more independent and have confidants that we can share our thoughts and feeling with, we become more whole for the people who need us most.

I’ve been blessed to always have many great girlfriends in my life. Multiple groups of girlfriends. When I hear women say that they really don’t have any close friends I can’t quite imagine what life must be like.  I also can’t help but wonder why.

Get out there and make some friends!

If this is you, if you are one of those women who find yourself lacking in the girlfriend department, it’s time to take action. Good friends don’t just appear in your life, you have to make it happen. Get involved, find activities that interest you and surround yourself with women with those same interests. Join a book club, or a knitting club, or scrap booking group or a wine club. Whatever your thing is, make the effort and make it a goal. Your life will be richer for it and your family will be the benefactors.

If you’re looking for a fun way to get to know other women and you don’t have a group to travel with, consider joining in with other women who love to travel. Check out my friend Janet’s website – Janet organizes cruises for “the girls”. What a great way to get away, meet new friends and form some life long relationships.

Make this the year you get away with the girls!

Posted in girlfriend getaway, travel | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Live Your Dreams Today

The Fisherman‘s Teaching. Author Unknown

Once upon a time, a fisherman was sitting near the seashore, under the shadow of a tree smoking his beedi. Suddenly, a rich businessman passing by approached him and inquired why he was sitting under a tree smoking and not working. To this, the fisherman replied that he had caught enough fish for the day.
Hearing his blase reply, the rich man got angry and said: Why don’t you catch more fish instead of sitting in the shadow wasting your time? A verbal exchange ensued
Fisherman asked: What would I do by catching more fish?
Businessman: You could catch more fish, sell them and earn more money, and buy a bigger boat.
Fisherman: What would I do then?
Businessman: You could go fishing in deep waters and catch even more fish and earn even more money.
Fisherman: What would I do then?
Businessman: You could buy many boats and employ many people to work for you and earn even more money.
Fisherman: What would I do then?
Businessman: You could become a rich businessman like me.
Fisherman: What would I do then?
Businessman: You could then enjoy your life peacefully.
Fisherman: What do you think I’m doing right now?
Businessman: ….. SILENCE……

I think that all too often we get caught up in the big stuff and miss the small stuff. Living your dream doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to require great sacrifice or hard work or years of paying your dues. When you truly know what makes you happy and fulfills you, you can begin living your dream today.

Posted in Gratitude, intention | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Maps Apps and Other Cool Stuff

I got to thinking early this morning as I lay in bed – how is web 2.0 going to affect Rand McNally? I know, you’re thinking, that’s what she wakes up thinking about at 6:00am on a Sunday morning? Yes, friends it is. I also wondered, are they keeping up? I really hoped so. I have always been a fan of Rand McNally and really a bigger fan of maps in general. Road atlas, gazetteer, street map, subway map, globes I love them all and can spend hours just studying a map. I find them fascinating. I used to have a map shower curtain. I would study the counties of Europe while I showered – and then they all changed and that became the new challenge.

The first time I discovered a Rand McNally store I was forever hooked. I spent hours roaming the store reading travel guides, studying maps, spinning globes and getting lost in the possibility of travel. So, when I woke up this morning with this curiosity about the health of Rand McNally I also got to thinking about all the super cool travel gadgets, widgets and apps available to us now, right at our finger tips.

I am sharing a few of my favorites and some I have yet to try out but intend to very soon.

google maps – of course is at the top of the list. Although I still love maps and will readily admit that looking at a map on my Iphone is far less satisfying than an Atlas, it is convenient and always up to date – unlike my 1998 State Farm USA Road Atlas. Don’t laugh, you have one too and yours it probably even older.

I really love the walking directions. When you’re in a big city and looking for a restaurant or store you can follow along very easily as you walk. And you don’t have to stand on the corner with a giant map screaming “I’m a tourist and I’m lost!” You just look like every other geek in town with their face in a phone.

Urban Spoon

Urban Spoon – it’s like dining roulette. You enter the type of cuisine you’re in the mood for, the price point you want to stay around, and the location(it knows where you are) and then you spin. The app will suggest places in that area that meet your criteria, if you don’t like the suggestion, you spin again. The Urban Spoon app also includes reviews of the restaurant, directions, and links to the website.

Four Squarealthough thought of by many as a purely social app, Four Square is a great resource especially for travelers. Four Square is a geolocation app that identifies where you currently are, allows you to “check-in”, earn points, see who else is “checked-in” there and track where your friends are. But, on the other side, it’s a great marketing tool for businesses. When you access the app, it will show you not only your current location but business locations around you. It also shows what kind of business it is. So, if you’re looking for a drug store, you can quickly browse through the list until you see a RX select it and get directions to the store. Slick hah? Then of course when you get to the drug store you check in and see if they have any specials for Four Square users, many do. So, it can save you some cash too. I like that.

Open Table another great app for finding area restaurants. You can narrow your search by neighborhood, cuisine and price. And best of all, make reservations right there on the app. Most restaurants on Open Table hold a few reservations just for Open Table users. So, you can often get a reservation on OT when you couldn’t by calling.

fxChangethere are a lot of currency exchange apps out there, I use fxChange and can’t tell you if it’s better than others. What I do know is, it has ended countless arguments about exchange rates and USD equivalent. A currency exchange app is a must if you’re traveling internationally. There’s no reason to pay for an app, there are plenty of free ones that work great.



TripItI’ve not yet used it but it sure looks cool. Basically, it organizes all of your travel plans and documentation in one place and groups them by trip. Say you’re going to Seattle on business, you have your flight, your hotel, your rental car, your dinner reservations all in one spot easy to access. Plus, it includes maps and other tips for the location. I’m for sure going to get on board with this one.

Language translator – a must I would think if you’re traveling internationally. There are several apps available and I have not checked them out but the next chance I get to travel abroad, I certainly will. If you have a favorite, let me know.

Airport Remote Monitor – this looks really cool. It provides real-time gate information and baggage claim information for hundreds of airports. Rather than searching for monitors in the airport you can check for your connecting gate information as you’re waiting to get off the plane and be on your way. A great tool when you have short connection times.

NYC SubwayI’m very excited about this one. I just downloaded it and get to try it out in a couple of days. The coolest thing about this app is the augmented reality feature. With an Iphone 4 it will use the camera feature on the phone to display the nearest subway stations. That’s just crazy – I can’t want to try it out.

I know that I could go on and on about the nifty apps out there for travelers. My advice to you is, make a trip to the app store as you’re planning your trip. There are tons of great local apps and apps specific to events and venues. If you’re going to Disney World you gotta have the Disney World app, if you’re going on a cruise you must have the app for that cruise, and so on. Wow, it so fun.

And, for those of you curious like me, I did a little research and you’ll be happy to know that Rand McNally is keeping up. In fact I would encourage you to check out their website. They also have an app that looks pretty cool and has some great social elements to it. I just downloaded it and will let you know what I think.

Happy trails to you…

Posted in maps, New York, travel | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

NYC Workation Anticipation

Just three days until workation in the Big Apple! For me workations are like the reward for a lot of really hard work. Don’t get me wrong, there IS work in the workation, but there is also a lot of fun.

Next week we host a large annual meeting of our membership. As the training and events manager I’m responsible for the program, the content and ultimately the satisfaction of the attendees. So, actually getting to the event and getting it underway is when the relief begins – and the fun.

An added bonus is that so many of the people who I work for and host this event for are also my friends. I get to spend time with my friends from all over the country. We laugh, learn and truly enjoy the time we spend together. Some of my best friends are in my life because of my work. This is just one of the reasons workations are highlights in my life.

During workations I get to help others achieve their life dreams and goals. Having meaningful work is what makes all the effort worthwhile. Next week I get to play a role in helping 200 business leaders find new energy, insights and skills for bringing their business and their lives to new levels. The beautiful thing is, the impact of what we do will not stop there in NY but will have lasting and real impact on the families and employees of those attending. And ultimately will impact the lives of everyone they touch. I’m grateful for this meaningful work.

As for the vacation part of the workation, it’s important to set an intention for fun and adventure with your work travel. As I talked about in In Terms Of Travel, too many people who travel for business fail to make the most of the opportunity.

So far I have planned a harbor cruise around lower Manhattan, a stop at one of my favorite watering holes, Nancy’s Whiskey Pub, dinner in Little Italy and a champagne gathering with my Grateful Group – a group of friends from around the country who share each day their gratitude via email.

Next on my planning list is to find a new adventure. Each time I go to NY I try to do something I’ve never done. This trip I’ll have limited time, so it may just be a new restaurant or checking out a new neighborhood. Who knows, but I’ll keep you posted as it happens! I’ll keep myself open to the options.

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Up Up And Away – To Taos

As I stated before, for me there are 4 phases to all travel. And I’m in one of my favorite phases right now – Phase 2 – the planning.

Every year I take a girlfriend get away with a group of great women. This year we have chosen Taos, NM as our destination. We have been through phase 1 – the decision. Making the decision of where to go, when to go and who can go is always a fun first step.

Now that we have the basics locked down including a great house to call home for three days, it’s on to phase 2 – the planning! I love the planning phase because this is where we get to start thinking about all the adventures that await us and all the possibilities.

Our trip is in mid-June so we have plenty of time to plan and the ideas and research are in full gear. Hot air ballooning is definitely high on the list. Having experienced this adventure before I will be the very first to say, it is an absolute must. I know a lot of you are thinking – no way, I’m afraid of heights and to that I say – face your fear! Hot air ballooning is one of the most beautiful peaceful experiences you will ever have. It’s a very different feeling and the best way I can describe it is a feeling of well, floating. You don’t feel as if you are rising up, you feel as if the ground is just moving away from you. We have a couple of people in the group who are nervous and afraid of heights, but they are also adventurers and they are ready to face the fear.

There is something very powerful and life affirming about facing a fear and coming out on the other side of it. Facing our fears gives us confidence and the inspiration to take on other challenges. We owe it to ourselves to live life to the fullest. So, the next chance you get – hop in a balloon. You can thank me later.

One of the best things about a girlfriend getaway is just simply spending time with the girls. Laughing. Telling stories. Drinking champagne. Undoubtedly, our agenda will accommodate plenty of time for that. In fact, we chose our rental house with these activities in mind. Our requirements included a hot tub, outdoor lounging space, a nice kitchen for cooking together and walking distance to some place fun to hang out and enjoy the local flavor – or in this case – margaritas.

The next step in phase 2 is to set intentions for the trip. This is easy with this group and the basics are always the same, to catch up, laugh a lot, and just spend time enjoying each others company. Beyond that we will each have to set our own intentions. For me, that time will come as we near our travel date. From my girlfriends I need different things at different points in time. And the same is true for them, so we are all there to support and to provide for each other what we need at that time.

One thing is always true though – we all need our girlfriends. I’m blessed to know that I don’t have to wait for our once a year outing to tap into the strength we all get from each other. It’s there everyday. We just need to reach out. And sometimes, we don’t even have to ask – they just know.

Posted in Girlfriend Getaways, intention, travel | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

ASTD Techknowledge – Learning and Sun

Yesterday was the first full day of the ASTD Techknowledge conference in San Jose. Already my brain in on overload. Partially because of all that I learned, but mainly because of what I learned.

The opening session featured Kara Swisher of “All Things Digital“. She talked about trends in technology and what’s next. It’s very exciting and a little Trekkie. Here are just a few bites from what she shared.

The desk top PC is as good as dead. She actually seemed a little perplexed when someone asked about desk tops – like she didn’t know they still existed.

Top 5 issues we need to understand:

  1. Social -it’s instant, everyone produces content, when you produce and consume the content you care more.
  2. Mobile – it’s web 3.0
  3. Geolocation – when google knows where you are, what you’re looking for and where you go from there, they can begin to predict your actions and create a dynamic web experience just for you – it’s a little creepy.
  4. Open/cloud – our browser becomes our operating system. (BTW – Google is in beta with a Chrome OS)
  5. Ubiquitous – multi-touch – everything will have a touch screen and they will appear out of no where.

Oh, and I also learned about Google Goggles – it’s visual search. Say you have a great bottle of wine while dining out and you want to purchase it. You can take a picture of the bottle through google goggles and it will search for the product and tell you where to locate and buy it and likely you can buy it right then and there. How slick.

Gotta go learn some more really cool stuff now.

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From San Jose to NY and Beyond

2011 is going to be a great year! Can you feel it? I do, there is momentum in the air and a general feeling of optimism and new possibility, it’s very exciting.


On my way!

As a girl who loves to travel I’m finding my calendar already beginning to fill will fun adventures, vacations, workations and get-aways. Right now I’m in the planning phase of 4 Workations, 1 Girlfriend Getaway, and 1 Vacation.

My first workation begins in just 4 days when I fly to San Jose for the ASTD Technowledge conference. I’m very excited about the trip for several reasons.

First, it’s a great conference and a great learning opportunity. And as a training and events manager I am normally the one planning and running the event with very little time to actually take in the learning opportunities – and I’m a learning junkie. So, it’s a huge treat for me to get to be the attendee for a change.

Second, I’m excited because I get to leave the snowy frozen tundra of Minnesota for a few days and thaw out in some California sunshine.

Third, it’s workation! And outside of the conference I intend to explore the San Jose area. I’ve got a few ideas in the back of my mind but will play it by ear when I get there.

Topping the list of free time activities are: a visit to Stanford, Palo Alto, a winery in the Santa Clara mountains, and a trip into San Francisco. We’ll see what feels right at the time and what other great possibilities might appear.

And fourth, I’m excited because I’ll get to see my great friends Dave and Jen. That’s a bonus on top of a great trip.

Next up on the workation schedule, New York! My goal every time I go to NY is to do something different and to see a new part of the city. So, I have some planning to do. I have a couple of free evenings so I’ll get to stop in at some of my favorite spots as well, like Nancy’s Whiskey Pub in Tribeca. Always a great stop, especially on a Saturday afternoon, they get a good day drinking crowd – and by crowd, that would be about 15 people. It’s a very small bar.

Aside from being a workation, NY is also a chance for me to spend time with some of my very favorite people including my grateful group. They say you are the sum total of the people you spend the most time with and after a few days with these friends I feel renewed, energized and ready to take on the world.

I’m feeling very grateful today that I have these opportunities in my life to explore and experience new places and spend time with smart, optimistic and fun people. I’ll be busy planning and traveling over the next four months and I can’t wait!

Life is an adventure.

Posted in Girlfriend Getaways, travel, Uncategorized, Workation | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment