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. (www.swift4running.com) 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. https://www.legacyofhope.life/ “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!
Carol

What, no vacation!?

You’re thinking of skipping your vacation again this year? How do you keep moving forward if you are burnt out?

I believe we are among the hardest working people in the world, and I also believe we receive the fewest vacation days from our employers. So why is it that every year we tend to throw away an estimated 415 million vacation days by skipping vacation! Personally or professionally, not taking time off from work can prove to be more harmful than beneficial for you or your organization. Why should you be going on vacation?

1. Revive your productivity and with it, your team’s – and remember, your family is also your “team”
We all know that small breaks throughout the day help us over the short term, but it’s vital that we take longer breaks from work to sustain and even build our creativity and productivity. Being away from your work environment for a longer period of time will help you gain a fresh perspective about your work, as well as providing you with the opportunity to pursue your other interests. By skipping your vacation, you can have a negative effect on the organization’s morale, as well as that of your family. It creates frustration and resentment and the desire to move forward in your goals. Professionally, your team may think that if the boss isn’t taking a vacation then maybe they had better not take one either.

2. Vacation time is a part of your compensation; it’s not a job “perk”
Remember when you applied for the job? Weren’t you allotted a certain number of vacation days per year as part of the compensation package? Vacation time should not be viewed as “perk”. It’s an investment. An investment in your health, the well-being of not only yourself but that of your family. Would you not accept a monetary bonus at the end of the year? Of course, you would! That’s how we need to think of vacations. Bonus time to relax and rejuvenate, build bonds with family and friends.

3. Serve as a role model for others
Whether you are in a leadership role, an employee and/or a parent, you need to take a vacation! Employees, and children will look to you for guidance on what is allowed and what is frowned upon. What you model at work will determine what your employees do. Despite the workloads that may be building on your desks, it is still very important to take time off work in order to maintain your effectiveness in your role. Same concept personally. Your children look up to you for guidance. Showing them self-care allows them to know that it is okay, even important, to take care of themselves mentally and physically.

4. Whether a stay-cation, traveling within the US or internationally, show your team they can manage without you!
While we all like to think that we’re indispensable, the reality is we need to encourage overall morale and wellness. Taking time off from work will encourage team members to develop strategies and abilities that will help them learn how to effectively hold down the fort while you’re away. And the best way we can encourage this is to make sure everyone takes their vacations so that they might bring a fresh perspective and new ideas on how to attain their shared goals.

Hopefully, this will encourage you to understand why skipping your next vacation is so not worth it! You’d be surprised who’s watching your journey, be an inspiration and just keep moving! Your employer AND your family will be glad that you did!

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

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! 

https://www.facebook.com/Barefootbobbyandthebreakers/videos/308258753111971/

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!
Carol

Why not make a difference?

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others

Bonds

For 10 years, I volunteered and sponsored an annual fundraiser event for childhood cancer research on behalf of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. I found the St. Baldrick’s Foundation through a volunteer site and wanted something I could do together with my daughter (against her will at first!) that involved children. I’m so very proud of my daughter, although she was not interested at first, it was an opportunity for her to learn about some of the struggles that children face, and how we could make even a small difference, and year after year, she was by my side helping. I can’t even begin to describe what this experience has done for me. I met some of the most amazing people that became lifelong friends, just simply sharing my time. Although during this time I was very sick, I just kept going. I pushed through tasks that come easy to others, but were difficult for me. I needed to keeping moving forward, to help others who couldn’t help themselves, who had more difficult challenges to face then I did. The friendships that were created through the years will be bonded forever. Check out this link to see how you can be involved and make a difference for a child. https://www.stbaldricks.org

Rialee, Child Honoree

Giving Back

Giving of my time as a runner assisting at water stations, cheering and/or handing medals to finishers is very rewarding, especially seeing the smiling faces of those crossing the finish line for the first time, whether it is their first race, returning after an injury or illness, or maybe running their best race. The look of these brave and inspiring runners is the epitome of not giving up, the desire to just keep moving and just do and be the best they can. As a business owner, and runner, giving of my time attending and/or sponsoring local events allows me to give back to my communities. This year I had the opportunity to sponsor several local race events, as well as volunteer with a team fundraising for fallen heroes, which provides holiday gifts to children of soldiers who have passed in the war, or suffered from PTSD. A kind word, a hug, an acknowledgment and understanding means more than you know to someone. Be kind, always, you never know what someone is going through.

Volunteering at the finish line of the Philadelphia Marathon

How about you? Do you volunteer locally, throughout the US or Internationally? Did you know that you can find out if a destination you are traveling to is sponsoring a local school or event? Some resort destinations, through the assistance of volunteers, provide school supplies to help a local school. When we travel, we can indeed help others and help to keep them moving forward.

Support while traveling

There are many reasons to volunteer while you’re traveling and there are literally thousands of charities and organizations that look for help from passing travelers. For example, the Maui Humane Society has the “Helping Paws” program where visitors can come spend time with the animals. Some, who are staying on Maui for a longer time, can actually “temporarily adopt” a dog or cat for their whole stay. Most end up taking them home with them at the end. Churches also offer mission trips and encourage members to participate as a group, usually in some specific area such as building a school.

We may not have a lot of time to give, but maybe if we each look for some small opportunity, we can all make a difference. The next time you take a vacation, consider asking what you can do to help. We are happy to assist you in learning about these opportunities as you plan your vacations. Have you ever participated in a program that you would like to share? Let us know and we will put it “out there” for all to see! 

Let’s make a difference together and help others to just keep moving! 
Carol

New Year, New You?

Blah, Blah, Blah!

Do you have resolutions each year? I prefer not to use the term “resolutions” but “short-term attainable goals”. I start each year with many personal and professional goals that I update throughout the year as needed, because well let’s be honest, life does get in the way sometimes! I do not let myself be discouraged if I am not able to reach a specific goal, however, reward myself for what I am able to accomplish. I of course strive to be the best mother and “mom-mom” I can be 😉  My grandbaby will be three in January so my main personal goal was to be as present as possible in both hers and my daughter’s life. Goal accomplished! This goal however will be a lifetime goal obviously!

Do you start the year with the intention of traveling? As I mentioned above, life does get in the way sometimes and our plans can drastically change from one moment to the next. What are your travel goals this year ~ adventure, leisure, business, destination wedding, honeymoon? Whatever your plans are, you can be assured that I am a resource to help you achieve your goal.

Have you traveled with a group previously or do you plan to? Family reunions, friend getaways, intimate weddings and incentive trips, and other small groups can be eligible for group booking benefits such as:
• The convenience of booking group travel as individual bookings while remaining a part of a group
• Discounts applied per booking, based on the total package price *some restrictions may apply based on type of travel*
• Options for additional group discounts for excursions *based on availability
And so much more!

Whatever your plans are for the new year just remember, the journey is the destination! Be sure to take time to make goals for yourself! A happy, healthier you allows you to be present for others in your life, which in turn makes the journey to all your goals the destination!

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