Self Vacation

Wait, what?! I already try to plan a vacation each year, usually every other year, what is a “self” vacation? To me, it’s learning to say no. I do so much already both personally and professionally that I often over-extend myself. I feel guilty if I don’t volunteer for an upcoming event, make a donation, attend a group run, etc. But why? Because I care.

We often have such a busy schedule we don’t take time sit back and relax, have a cup of tea, read a book. How many tasks do you have in mind that you never get to because other obligations get in the way? Is the only time you take a break, when you are so stressed out you just can’t get out of the house or want to talk to anyone, in person or on the phone? Breathe.

You are no good to yourself, your family, your friends, your business, etc if you are burnt out. Although it can be difficult in the beginning, it will get easier to tell yourself, I need time, I need a break, I need to take time to get this-that or the other thing done you’ve been wanting to. If there are some in your life that get offended if you say no to an invitation to go out, to go to an event, to make a donation or to participate in an activity, you need to shift your inner circle. You are allowed to say no. You are allowed to say that you have other obligations. Most importantly, you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

So how did I take my “self vacation”? I blocked out one week per month where I am taking an evening vacation. No group runs, no large social events, no meetings, and no work. Unless of course there is a personal or business emergency. Don’t worry, I will still be working during the day, duh! I reviewed my calendar, picked a week each month with no obligations already and I blocked it out-in bright bold colors. I love having a calendar in my hand that I can write in each day, and it’s color-coded. My electronic calendar is as well, both personally and professionally. I will use this time to read, take the dog for a walk, have dinner with a friend I haven’t seen in awhile, clean out clothes to donate, take a yoga class ~ whatever I want to do!

Do it…try it…it just may be the most freeing feeling in the world. I challenge you and let me know how it works out for you!

And remember ~ just keep moving!

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful!

It Takes a Village

I’ve said it before, and probably will continue to say it a lot….Many of us struggle in all aspects of our life, especially when we are injured, sick or depressed and are not able to get out and do the things we want to do. It takes a village to help us through.

When I received my diagnosis in 2003 of Ankylosing Spondylitis, and then Lupus, my first thought was, what the **** is that, and why me?! I’m sure so many have said the same thing with any diagnosis they have received. What is important is what do you do with that news, what is next? Many fall into depression, often severe and they just can’t seem to get out of it. Others, thrive in a way many of us wish we could. They look the diagnosis in the face and say, not today, you will not get me. I honestly, didn’t know what to do because I didn’t understand any of it. No one in my family, that I knew of at the time had anything like that. And it didn’t end there, from 2003 to 2009 I was diagnosed with multiple auto-immune conditions. I considered myself pretty healthy and active, so what was I doing wrong? My family wasn’t sure what to do with it either. The more I talked about, the more I tried to describe how I was feeling or why I couldn’t do something, especially my daughter, they had a hard time hearing it, and many times didn’t want to hear it, because it sounded like excuses. Those famous words ~ but you don’t look sick. Honestly, please don’t ever say that to anyone with a hidden disease ~ autoimmune, cancer, depression, PTSD, anything. It is a gut-wrenching painful thing to say to someone. You have no idea the internal struggle that is faced.

As I read more about what my conditions were and what could be potential causes, as I listened to the doctor’s about treatments, I continued to question, why me. This isn’t my life. As I lay curled up in a ball most of the time feeling sorry for myself, I had that ah-ha moment while my daughter watched me struggle. Nope, this is not how my life is supposed to be. This is not what my daughter is going to think her life is going to be. I found a new doctor that would listen to ME, helped me on the path I wanted to follow and I was on the road to a new “normal” life. I changed my diet and began walking more – just keep moving. The more I moved the better I felt. My family and friends were my village, my support system cheering me on every step of the way, and they continue to do so. I am forever grateful for them. Eventually I started running and from 2010 to now, I’ve run numerous races including four full marathons. Currently, I am training to complete my first ultra marathon. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days, but I learned how to handle them better and how to help feel better both physically and emotionally. Even if people don’t want to hear it, I verbalize it. I share my story in the hopes it can help even one person handle what they are going through.

It’s not easy for those not experiencing what you are experiencing to understand. We try to educate them however it is hard for them to grasp. More and more though conditions such as depression, PTSD, addiction, etc are being brought to light so that family members and friends can learn to understand and find ways to help you through the darkest days. It should no longer be shameful or be kept a secret. Embrace it, understand it and just be kind for you do not know what others are going through. Just keep moving.

It truly does take a village. Whether you are an injured runner and you are down, frustrated or depressed because you are not out doing the things you want to do, you can form a group such as my running group, S.W.I.F.T. ( did. They basically created an injured reserved meet-up where those unable to run or walk at the time can meet with others and just get out of the house for coffee or a drink and socialize, boost the mood and provide support.

When an individual and their families are depressed and struggling to pay their bills due to cancer treatments and depression, it takes a village to help them through this process. There is an organization in Philadelphia, Legacy of Hope, that does just that. “Because we believe no family should lose their home or go without food because a loved one is fighting cancer and no promising cancer research should go unfunded.”

Life throws us a curve, all the time. It redirects when we least expect it. We allow it to suck the energy and sometimes the life out of us. It becomes toxic. We get lost and our life spirals out of control and we just don’t know how to get out of it. We find others in the same or similar situations and together, you unfortunately become toxic. We convince ourselves that we can’t. You can’t because you won’t. I know that sounds harsh, but you can, if you just try, one step at a time. It won’t happen overnight. But if you continue to allow yourself to stay stuck, to settle that this is how your life is supposed to be, you will remain stuck. You have a choice. You can say to everyone that is trying to or has tried to help you, that they can’t help you, that life sucks and there is no way out. You have a choice to at least try, to tell yourself one positive thing each day, or in each moment that you are struggling. I truly believe a positive mind leads to a positive life. Life can be unfair and shitty, but you don’t have to allow it to win because you will miss so many amazing moments that are wonderful. Remove the toxic self defeating language and feelings. Do me a favor, just keep moving. Find your village, even if it’s just one person. Because whatever your pace is, forward IS a pace. Others believe in you, just believe in yourself.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful!

There is Strength in Numbers

You’ve heard the old quote…”There is strength in numbers”. Well, there is also a heck of a lot of fun in numbers, especially when you travel with like-minded and fun-seeking friends and family members. Unless you are planning a honeymoon, anniversary trip, or simply a romantic getaway for two, you might want to consider asking a few friends or family members to join you on your next vacation. Here are several reasons why it can really enhance your experience:

1. When a work-related group or profession, such as emergency services gets away from everyday stresses most people can’t even imagine, they get the chance to blow off some steam and make fantastic memories together. That can lead to happiness in the workplace, and even improve the long-term employee/volunteer retention numbers. I will say that the fire/ems/police profession I have the pleasure of knowing and accompanying on cruises over the last 10+ years, are some of the most thoughtful, kind and generous people I have ever met…and it shows in the spirit of their dedication to saving lives. The epitome of what it means to just keep moving.

2. Extended families often live miles apart and the average family with children usually has such an incredibly busy schedule that is often impossible to enjoy each other. It is becoming more and more common for a member of the family – usually a grandparent – to spearhead (and sometimes pay for) a multi-generational family group to get away together. I am currently working with a family group who is planning a custom tour of Ireland this summer to trace their heritage – funded by Grandma. She would rather enjoy the vacation and experience of having all of her children together now than leave them the money later. Cruising is also a very popular extended-family getaway because there are so many onboard activities that appeal to all different age groups. It’s a very relaxed and fun atmosphere that allows all ages to have fun and spend time with each other.

3. It’s also becoming more popular for groups of friends to get away together. Especially friends who have kids with the same ages! How much fun would it be to have the kids all playing together at the beach or pool while the adults enjoy a cocktail and a little adult R & R. If there are older kids involved, they can even take turns watching the younger ones while the grownups go out for a rare childless dinner. There are built-in playmates for both the youngsters and the adults alike! When I have a family book a spring break getaway or summer vacation, I usually ask them “are there any friends or family members that you think might enjoy joining you on this trip? Most of the time, they end of sharing the info and thanking me for thinking of the idea…Hey…that’s what I do!

4. Special interest groups – such as music, or perhaps sports. Many having the same interests get away together, get to know each other better. How much fun would it be to have everyone together – well let me show you this video of several groups that got together on one cruise to Bermuda – a group of ems/fire/police, a group of outdoor adventurists/runners and a group of musicians and friends – for one amazing time!

Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas group cruise to Bermuda 2018

As a runner, traveling for a race weekend has been a very exciting experience the last 7+ years. Whether you like to run with your friends, or enjoy the solitude of running alone, you are never truly alone. The cheers of the hometown crowd supporting strangers, your friends lurking in the crowds with signs, goodies and hugs. That moment when you are almost finished that milestone race and hear the screams of support from your daughter, her husband and granddaughter not even knowing they traveled three hours to see you run (yes, I certainly bawled my eyes out during the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon at approx. mile 23 when they surprised me!). It gives you a boost of energy that carries you to just keep going, to keep moving forward. That exciting moment when friends you’ve known for over 30 years, travel with you to have a fun weekend away, and watch you finish a race celebrating 7 years of being healthy, and one of them jumps in to run the last sprint of the race to the finish line ~ that is the true spirit of strength in numbers!

My friend Sandy jumped in for the finish!

So, have I inspired YOU to get a small group together for your next adventure? It could end up being your favorite vacation EVER! Why not get away with some friends and family and make some amazing memories at the same time?? While you are spending the day today with family and/or friends, why not plan your next adventure together? It’s a true “Win-Win” for everyone! If someone you know is having a tough time, it just may be what they need ….to just keep going.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful!