Living with MS – Courageous Risks – Jenn’s Story

Sometimes in life we just need to take risks.  Jenn Schmitt knew when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 26 that there would be some risks she would have to take.  She would be glad to do so.  That was a tough time for Jenn.  While the rest of her family lived several hours away, Jenn was single and living in Des Moines, IA.  Jenn’s doctor, a well-known neurologist specializing in the treatment of MS, was extremely positive when delivering the diagnosis but cautioned her not to have children.  This was a difficult reality for Jenn to accept and it would play a large part in her choices when considering specific treatments.

Jenn’s symptoms began simple enough.  She noticed numbness in her hand but didn’t initially seek treatment.  When she finally did have it checked, it was believed to be nothing more than a pinched nerve.  After some time with no improvement, her sister, who is a doctor, suggested Jenn see a neurologist.  About the same time Jenn’s symptoms grew worse.  She couldn’t type and do her job anymore.  After a spinal tap and MRI test that showed she had lesions on her brain, Jenn was diagnosed with MS.

Prior to her diagnosis, Jenn’s only exposure to the disease was a high school classmate whose Dad had MS.  He was in a wheelchair.  That’s all she really knew about the illness and hoped that wouldn’t be her future.  She was scared.  Jenn’s doctor began treating her with the drug Solu Medrol.  It was administered through an IV so Jenn had a nurse come to her house daily for a week to give her the medication.  Complications from the spinal tap had left her with a severe headache that kept her in bed for several days.  “We discussed a spinal block to reduce the headache but I was afraid to have them do anything with my spine again.  Instead, I drank lots of caffeine,” she explains.  The headache began to taper off after about five days but fortunately Jenn noticed a difference in the MS symptoms after just three days of treatment.  It was like night and day.  When her symptoms had cleared she had discussions with her doctor about further treatment options.  Jenn was apprehensive about all of them.  She didn’t like shots and decided against those.  Jenn researched everything she could and decided the best option for her was to make some changes in her diet and remain active.

One of the reasons Jenn decided against drug treatments was because she knew she wanted children.  That was not advised if she was taking the recommended medication.  It was a risk she was willing to take in order to begin a family.  Three years after being diagnosed with MS that dream was realized when Jenn had her first daughter.  During the pregnancy Jenn felt fine.  “I felt like I didn’t even have MS,” she says.  That all changed after her daughter was born.  “In the fall after my daughter was born, I began to lose feeling in my legs,” Jenn said.  “When I went out of town for a meeting and had trouble walking three blocks to get back to my car, I knew I had to seek treatment.”

Jenn and Daughters

Jenn had another MRI performed and while there were no real changes, there were certainly physical symptoms.  Hesitant to go with Solu Medrol again, Jenn’s doctor agreed to start her on oral steroids.  That didn’t help and she was forced to try a small dose of Solu Medrol.  That seemed to help.

At one point Jenn did, in fact, try injections for treatment.  However, she really struggled with this. “I would sit in the bathroom filled with anxiety for an hour hesitating, not wanting to give myself the shot, before I could finally do it,” she explains.  Although Jenn did give herself injections for a short period of time, she decided to discontinue them.  Between the side effects and the terrible anxiety she struggled with daily, it wasn’t worth it to her so Jenn stopped.

The decision was well worth it when, two years later, Jenn was fortunate enough to have a second daughter.  During this time, she worked from home so it was easy for her to manage her symptoms and combat the disease.   For the most part, if Jenn had any issues it was easy for her to rest and get better.  For the next 11 years Jenn experienced no major flare ups.  She did experience increased numbness in different parts of her body but those were controlled with steroids when necessary.

Many MS patients have issues with extreme temperatures.  Jenn is no different.  She notices the symptoms more when she goes from being warm to cold during the winter.  She seems to struggle more when her body temperature changes very quickly.  In addition, Jenn almost always has some numbness in her hands and she notices that she gets worn down fairly easy.

For many years, Jenn lived in silence about her MS.  She wouldn’t tell anyone she had it.  That has changed and Jenn wishes more people understood what MS was and how it affects those that have it.   She believes increased awareness makes a huge difference.  “Once I decided that MS was a part of who I am and I wasn’t going to keep it to myself anymore it was amazing to realize how many people I encounter every day that are in some way affected by it.”  Years after she had her second daughter, Jenn shared with a coworker that she had MS.  Her coworker was shocked to learn this because she had a sister that had it and used a wheel chair.  Her coworker just couldn’t believe how well Jenn was doing in spite of the disease.  Experiences like these have left Jenn feeling uncomfortable about how well she is doing.  “I hear other people’s stories and I feel bad.  People can look at me and not know I have MS.  I feel guilty about that sometimes.  Why am I so fortunate?”  There were days when Jenn questioned her diagnosis because she felt so good.  At one point she even got a second opinion.

Jenn Sisters and Dad

It is understandable why Jenn had those questions.  She has done so well that until this past fall, when Jenn had her first major attack in 11 years, her own daughters really didn’t understand how MS affected her.  While Jenn could tell she always had an issue with her balance, her daughters could not.  It was their first real exposure to witnessing their Mom struggling and having to undergo treatments for MS.  This most recent attack began with a cold sensation in her left leg and within a few weeks her leg felt numb.  If she sat too long it would become painful and she noticed a lot of back pain.  This time she also realized it was affecting her vision.  Again, a MRI showed no major changes or progression, but Jenn’s doctor wanted to start her on a medication specifically for MS.   Jenn resisted because, again, she didn’t care for the side effects.  Fortunately, she was able to manage the flare up through a small dose of steroids and rest.  Thankfully, once she began the treatment, her vision became brighter and crisper and the numbness in her leg improved.

Jenn believes it is very important to lean on your friends and family.  “At one point, in the beginning, I didn’t think I needed any help and could do it all on my own,” she says.  “I lost my Mom when I was five and so all I had at the time were my Dad, sisters and a very caring man that I was dating who would later become my husband.  I think they took my diagnosis harder than I did.  My sisters lived in the Twin Cities and one of my sisters came down for all my appointments.”  Jenn’s future husband also made coping with the diagnosis easier because it did not scare him.  “He was very supportive then and even though we are now divorced he is still supportive and has been there when I needed him,” she says.

Jenn’s attitude regarding her diagnosis was that she would figure out what her new normal was and make the best of it.  She tries to maintain that positive attitude every day.  However, it’s not always easy.  “This past fall when I had my flare up, I had just bought a house.  I try not to do “what ifs,” but this last time I really struggled,” she admits.  Jenn had stress in her life before including two pregnancies, building a house, loss of family members, and a divorce from a very supportive husband.  Through all of this she never had any major flare ups so she feels fortunate.  “I have had worse things than MS happen to me in my life, but I have a very supportive family.  I take it day by day.  You don’t often run into people that have MS that are as fortunate as me so I count my blessings.”

Jenn Family

Jenn’s faith in God has played a big role in maintaining her positive attitude.  “Since my ex-husband and I did not grow up in Dubuque we struggled finding a place to worship God and grow in our faith.  Fortunately, I found Hope Church in Dubuque.  I strongly believe my faith is what helps keep me strong and positive,” she says.  Jenn believes daily prayer and following God makes a huge difference when facing any adversity in life.

One thing Jenn can’t stress enough is how important it is to become knowledgeable about and understand your body.  “It’s important to understand when you need your rest or that you have to change what you are doing,” she explains.  “Don’t be afraid or too prideful to ask for help.”  Even when her ex-husband asked what he could do during her recent flare up, Jenn accepted his help.

There are certainly many challenges with MS, but Jenn has the mentality that she isn’t going to let it beat her.  After the births of her daughters, she had gained weight and in 2010 lost about 45 pounds.  “I knew I needed to strengthen my muscles and keep fit.  I wanted to be able to successfully minimize the effects of MS without the treatment of medications,” she explains.  Jenn started hiking and finds she really enjoys it.  She also began doing hot yoga, something that most MS patients would have difficulty with given their sensitivity to heat.  “I’ll try anything and if I find it’s affecting me I just back off.  I’m not afraid to walk out of a yoga class if I’m having difficulty handling the heat.”  Jenn hasn’t done hot yoga for a few months but has been working out with her friend, Jamie Kemp, at Planet Fitness regularly.  Through the help of Jamie she is building muscle that is making a difference.

Jenn believes her positive attitude helps tremendously in preventing MS from holding her back in all that she wants in life.  That doesn’t mean it’s always easy or she doesn’t have fears.  Does she have a fear that someday she could wake up and not be able to get out of bed?  Absolutely.  Jenn’s biggest fear is that of losing her vision. “That above anything else would be difficult,” she says.  However, Jenn also realizes that she is fortunate.  If there is one thing she wants others who are living with MS or are newly diagnosed to know it is that, “You can live a full and meaningful life in spite of MS.”  Jenn’s attitude, her approach to life, and fearless courage to try new things is certainly an example for others to follow.


Be Great!  Be Strong! Be Determined!

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Living with MS – You Are In Charge – Kate’s Story

When she began losing the vision in her right eye one night at work, Kate Knepper just figured she needed to change her contacts.  It seemed to be an easy enough solution.  Kate knew she had been sleeping without taking the contacts out and hadn’t changed them as often as she should.  A simple change of the lenses when she got home would make everything better.  Kate’s vision, however, didn’t get better so she assumed she needed a stronger prescription and went to see her doctor.

That is when the uncertainty set in and the world for this 21 year old college student suddenly changed.  Once Kate was at the doctor’s office she knew immediately something was wrong because they were putting her through many different tests that she had never been through before.  When they gave her a color vision dot test, she couldn’t read the numbers.  Kate didn’t even know there were numbers there.  Most of us would see flashing lights during a visual field test but Kate saw none of that.  Her doctor told her that she was having a medical emergency and sent her to the hospital to see a neurologist.  Kate was terrified about what could be wrong.

Over the next two weeks Kate endured numerous tests and they did not go well.  Getting to a diagnosis of what was going on was rough.  After a spinal tap the puncture in her spinal cord failed to close and spinal fluid continued to leak out.  The pain was indescribable.  Kate suffered from terrible headaches and couldn’t even stand up for days.  To stop the leak they needed to perform a procedure called a blood patch.  Doctors punctured her spine again in order to remove some blood and use it to plug the original hole.  The first attempt failed and they had to do the procedure again.

In addition to the tests on her spinal fluid, Kate also had electrode frequency testing on her brain and a MRI.  The electrode testing returned poor results and the MRI confirmed that she did in fact have lesions on her brain.  At only 21 years of age Kate was diagnosed with MS.

Kate found herself having to temporarily move out of her apartment and back home with her parents.  Once there, she spent two months on their couch unable to stand or walk.  Kate’s fears were very real and there were many.  She didn’t know what was going to happen and thought her life, as she knew it, was over.  Would she be able to graduate on time?  Would her boyfriend at the time and now husband, Josh, stay with her or decide that this was something he didn’t want to sign up for?  How would this affect the career Kate was so looking forward to beginning in just a few short months?  Would she be able to walk and regain her clear sight?  At the time, all Kate really knew of the disease was that the father of a boy she dated in high school had it.  He was in a wheelchair.  Kate couldn’t help but wonder if that was in her future as well.

Kate's Family

“It hits you like a Mack truck,” says Kate of her diagnosis.  “When the doctor met with me she certainly didn’t help calm my fears.  She went through all of the bad statistics associated with MS.  Higher divorce rates, workplace discrimination and many other things.”  It is because of that meeting with her doctor that Kate kept her diagnosis a secret and didn’t let anyone know about it for a long time.  As long as she wasn’t having a flare it was easy to hide.  Even those close to Kate did not know she had a chronic disease that caused her daily struggles with things most of us take for granted.

After the initial attack and diagnosis, Kate went three years with no flares or relapses.  She was able to keep her secret very well and no one had to know.  That all changed when her symptoms returned.  Kate was in the beginning years of a budding and promising career and she had to talk about it.  It was important for her employer to know what was going on.  Also, in the time since her initial diagnosis Kate realized that there were laws that would protect her from workplace discrimination.  Not only was it important for those around her to know what was going on, it gave Kate an opportunity to help educate and increase understanding of the disease.  Even more important for Kate was that she be the best she could be for her son.  By actively being involved with raising awareness she was an example to him that sharing your struggles is not something to be ashamed of and certainly doesn’t define who you are.

That decision to share and educate those around her hasn’t held Kate back.  She currently is the Director of Business Initiatives for Prudential and is also the site lead for her office in Dubuque.  Recently, in 2015, Kate was also named one of Dubuque’s young Rising Stars in 2015!  The Rising Stars award is given annually to area residents 40 years old and younger who demonstrate leadership in business, serve as a role model for others, and volunteer in the community.  


Kate has Relapsing Remitting MS.   She has had recurring issues with her eyesight and at times it has left her unable to walk.  Like most MS patients, Kate is also affected by heat.  When heat and fatigue are in play, her balance is off and she suffers from vertigo.  What people need to understand about the fatigue is that when she stays up too late or exercises more than she should, it affects Kate more than it would someone without MS.  At one point Kate couldn’t seem to shake the symptoms and get better by resting.  It got so bad that cognitively she couldn’t even form a sentence.  She went in for scans and found that it truly was more than your run of the mill fatigue; doctors found two new large and active lesions.  “If you don’t laugh sometimes you’ll just sit there and cry.  I’ve cried.  There’s been lots of crying,” Kate says.

Kate finds that each flare up affecting the same part of her body can be different.  One time her legs may feel like she has a rug burn all the way up and down her leg; the next time she can’t feel her leg at all.  Fortunately, Kate’s treatments are working and being affective.  At her most recent appointment there were no new or active lesions.  “I can’t remember the last time I had a scan and there wasn’t a new or at least active lesion,” she says.  The good news is she now only has to have scans once every six months instead of three and soon she’s hopeful it will only be yearly.

Kate feels very fortunate to work for Prudential.  They have very good benefits and are extremely understanding.  If she is having a bad day, she can work from home and not have to worry about trying to make it through the day at the office.  Kate also stresses that having a support system at home is important.  “My husband Josh is truly amazing.  He is a wonderful partner.  He is always there to pick up the slack and is probably better than I am at making sure I’m taking care of myself and my health.  He is a true partner.  I am damn lucky!”

As Kate has matured in her career and along with the disease, she understands what has to come first when.  She’s found that it’s more of a trade off than trying to find the right balance.  When Kate is experiencing a flare up she now realizes there needs to be a shift.  It took her awhile to get beyond being concerned about what others think about taking care of herself and her family first.  That’s important to Kate.  More important than her successful career. 

Kate and Son

“I had MS before my son was born and so he has never know anything different.  For him, Mom has always done shots.  His job when he was younger was to go to the store and pick out crazy band aids for me to use,” she says with a huge smile.  “When I was pregnant it was the best I’ve ever felt MS wise.“  After Kate’s son was born, every time she tried to go off her treatment to get pregnant again she’d have a major flare.  That began a whole new set of fears and concerns.  What if she had a bad relapse and couldn’t get back to her normal baseline?  What if she was pregnant and had a flare up and couldn’t get treatment?  For all of those reasons, Kate and her husband decided the best way to expand their family was to become a foster family. 

Kate does have advice for those finding themselves suddenly living with MS.  First, she would encourage them to find someone else close to their own age that has MS.  Kate stresses that it helps to have someone that has the perspective of living and dealing with MS on a daily basis.  It is very hard for those that haven’t experienced the seemingly random and changing symptoms of MS to completely understand what it’s like.  Having someone that has had the same experience as you makes a difference.  “You can get in your own head and drive yourself mad wondering if this is an MS symptom or not,” she adds.  

Secondly, Kate can’t emphasis enough how important it is that you realize you are in charge.  Her initial experience with her physician and the dark picture she painted is not one Kate believes anyone should have to hear or believe is their future.  “You are the one that is in charge of your health and healthcare.  Don’t be afraid to take charge in how your treatment and disease is managed.  No matter what health issues you are having it is important to have a good relationship with your care team,” she says. 

Finally, Kate believes there is a lot of benefit in advocating for the disease and raising awareness and helping to find a cure.  “That’s what makes you feel like you are contributing and making a difference.  I was delayed in doing that.  Don’t be hesitant to talk about it and answer questions.  The questions always come from a good place even if sometimes they are silly.”

Kate has always been intrigued by the invisible pieces of MS.  “I go between this place of wishing people could see more of the disease and what’s happening inside my body.  But then I’m also glad that I can assimilate with everyone and no one knows the difference.  I just find that to be interesting,” she says.  One thing is for sure, and whether you can see the awful affects MS has on her or not, Kate is making a difference.   She certainly isn’t that scared 21 year old anymore.  She is a strong and successful businesswoman, and more importantly, a determined wife and mother that shows anyone willing to look and listen that living with MS is not a life sentence.  It is not living a life in fear but rather one that, when managed, can be even fuller and more complete!  Kate acknowledges that MS may be difficult and that it causes terrible things to her body but it will not stop her determination to have the career, family and life she wants and deserves.

Be Great!  Be Strong! Be Determined!

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Living with MS – Answered Prayers – Amy’s Story

Often we pray for things in life and wonder if they are answered or not.  Many times those prayers are truly answered and we just don’t realize it at the time.  Amy McGovern is a mother of three young children and a wife to her adoring husband, Dan.  She feels as though she always prays but little did she know, over five years ago, how those prayers would be answered.  She and Dan were living in Rockford, IL and Amy wanted to move back home to Iowa.  So she prayed.  Not only did Amy pray that they would be able to move back home but, also that Dan would find a new job with regular hours and that they could expand their family by having a third child.

While pregnant with their second child, Griffin, Amy noticed she had some numbness in her feet but quickly dismissed it as issues related to the pregnancy.  She, along with her doctor, thought that it was most likely sciatica and once the pregnancy was over it would go away.  Seven months after his birth she started getting extremely bad headaches.  Amy was suffering from some post-partum as well and was convinced that she had a brain tumor.  She went to the doctor and they performed an MRI.  The good news was that there was no tumor but she did have some white lesions that were consistent with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or migraines.

Soon after she noticed numbness in her right hand and tried going to a chiropractor for about three weeks.  Then the numbness returned in her right leg and she was referred to a neurologist.  Another MRI was performed which again showed lesions.  The MRI was followed up by a spinal tap.  That was on a Friday.  After a long weekend of anxious waiting, Amy received news on her 29th birthday that she did in fact have MS.

That day was very surreal.  Like anyone, Amy had many questions in the months that followed.  During this time they were still living in Rockford, separated from their extended family.  That entire winter she was in a funk and slipped into a depressed state not knowing what her life would be like going forward.  One of the biggest questions she and Dan had was would they still be able to have another child that they wanted so badly?

McGovern Family

Amy remembers very vividly a conversation she had with her Mom on the phone sometime after her diagnosis.  Her Mom told her, “Your aunt Debbie is so impressed with how strong you are.”  Strong?  Amy had never seen herself that way in the face of this life changing disease that had suddenly rocked her world.  Soon, Amy realized that her aunt, mom and many others were right!  In spite of having MS she was still working and raising two small children.

“I’m kind of glad I have MS.  I think I have it for a reason, and I’m glad I have it and Dan or the kids don’t have it.  I think it’s made me a stronger person and has deepened my faith and brought me closer to God.  So for that I’m glad.”  Wow!  What an amazing outlook on what could very easily bring most to their knees in sorrow and despair.  Amy certainly still has days that she struggles, as we all do, but has realized that in spite of MS, she has a purpose and has every intention of fulfilling it!

Amy first began treatment with a once a week shot called Avonex.  It was effective in keeping the symptoms and flair ups at bay but it would wipe her out the entire next day.  “I kind of felt like I had the flu,” she says.  “I would also be extremely achy and get hot and then cold with the chills, but the shots were definitely worth it.”

Since her initial diagnosis the only time Amy has had issues with flare ups from MS is when she has been off the treatments.  She and Dan both wondered what that would be like if she became pregnant with their third child.  By this time they had moved back home to Iowa.  Her doctor in Dubuque didn’t want Amy taking treatments while they were trying to conceive, so she went off the shots and had a flare up.  This forced her to begin receiving treatments again.  The new treatment was with a different drug requiring daily shots.  Amy wasn’t excited about having to inject herself daily but it allowed the couple to still try to conceive.

Amy eventually did become pregnant and was told that the MS would most likely go into remission during the pregnancy.  “The third pregnancy was horrible,” Dan says.  Amy had an episode at about 14 weeks that required her to take a week off of work.  A short time after that she had a second flare up and this time it introduced a new symptom.  Up to this point her symptoms were always related to numbness on the right side of her body.  This time things were different.  She began having issues with vision in her left eye.  Her eyesight in that eye became what Amy describes as dim and it kept getting progressively worse.  She was scared and frightened.  Not only was Amy pregnant and concerned about the baby but she now had the added worry of wondering whether she could continue to work.  Amy absolutely loves being a hair stylist so her sight and being able to be on her feet all day is very important.  Would MS take that away from her?

Amy with Kids

Despite all of this Dan says Amy deals with it well.  It is easy for her to get wore down and she tires easily.  Amy has Relapsing Remitting MS and she has lesions only on her spinal cord at this time.  Her toes and feet are always numb and if she gets overheated her hands will sometimes go numb as well as her cheek.  Once Amy rests or cools down this typically goes away.

Dan is often concerned about what the next episode may bring and when it will happen.  He and Amy are now both grateful she is on a treatment plan that only requires her to take two pills a day.  It’s much better than the shots and, even though there are some side effects, the tradeoffs are worth it.  Recently, they had an issue with insurance and Amy was off the medication for two weeks.  Dan says it is frustrating when issues related to insurance could cause his wife to be sick unnecessarily and he can’t do anything to change that.

For most people that suffer from MS, the summer poses bigger issues.  The heat is difficult and the humidity is worse.  When the humidity and mugginess rises, it can really wipe Amy out and zap her energy.  Dan is very aware of this and reminds her that it’s OK to take a break.  That is much easier said than done when you have three little ones running around.  Amy says keeping up with them makes it sometimes easy to forget she even has MS.  The kids are pretty young but they know their Mom has MS and that she takes medicine every day to help her.  They got a book from the National MS Society called “Keep S’myelin” to help explain to the kids what it is and to reassure and alleviate any apprehension they had.

Even though she is very open about her diagnosis most people wouldn’t even know Amy has MS.  “It makes you realize that everyone may have something even if you don’t see it,” she says.  Having MS has caused Amy to look at things differently and enjoy life and be grateful for it.  It has reminded her to have patience and treat others kindly because you don’t know what is going on in their life or what struggles they may be trying to overcome.  “It certainly makes you look at things differently and opens your eyes to the generosity of others.  During one of my flare ups while I was pregnant, a neighbor up the street we didn’t even know that well brought us a meal.  There are a lot of good people in the world!”

Growing up Amy says that although she felt faith filled she didn’t necessarily have a strong connection to God.  That has changed now.  Anxiety has always been something Amy has dealt with but now, “I put it all into God’s hands.”  Dan agrees and would have rather the disease had affected him but believes Amy handles it with grace and strength.   “This has made our marriage stronger.  I was at my lowest and he stepped up.  You see someone’s true colors in times like that,” Amy says as they both look at each other, their faces erupting into magnificent smiles.  It was more than just smiles though; it was the two of them sharing with each other the joy and love they have for one another.  One couldn’t help but notice the peace behind those smiles that no matter what the future with MS will throw their way that they will be alright.  One strong woman determined to live her life and her adoring husband who is right there next to her for whatever she and his family needs.


Be Great!  Be Strong! Be Determined!

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MS Run the US – What Are Your Blessings?

I have been given a tremendous opportunity to do something this year that literally could be life changing.  Is it scary?  Do I have doubts?  Of course I do.  I have them because this opportunity will require me to stretch and, in many ways, step out of my comfort zone.  Sometimes our greatest moments of clarity and growth happen when we take a risk; when we choose to act!  That growth is even better when the choices we make and the actions we take are to benefit others.

Early last summer I read a post about a running relay across America for Multiple Sclerosis (MS).  My mother has lived with MS for the past 37 years so this was something that naturally intrigued me.  The relay team consists of 18 runners.  Each runner spends six or seven consecutive days running, on average, 180 miles over those days.  The purpose of the relay is to raise awareness and money for MS research and to help those living with the disease.  In addition to completing their segment each runner is responsible for raising $10,000.

I contemplated doing the relay for a few weeks and discussed it on runs with some of my closest friends.  We have the same mindset when it comes to running so I wasn’t surprised when they were supportive.  My mother, on the other hand, didn’t share the same type of enthusiasm.  Like most moms, even though I am a middle aged adult, she still worries – A lot!  When I finished my interview for becoming a member of the team and told her I thought it went well her exact words were, “Oh, crap!”  Despite her initial concerns she is now very excited about it and I plan to cross the finish line with her – running!!

Team Jill

For me, the fundraising seemed to be the most daunting aspect of being part of the relay team.  Sure, training for and eventually running 180 miles in seven days is no joke.  However, to raise that kind of money would really cause me to do things that not only have I never done before but that I was also uncomfortable doing.  I don’t like to ask for things and especially money.  In fact, when I was growing up and in scouts I hated when it was popcorn selling time.  Knowing I’d have to ring someone’s doorbell and ask them to purchase a bucket of popcorn from me would cause me to have a full blown panic attack.  I would do anything to get out of it.  This was going to be much bigger than asking someone to purchase a $3 bucket of popcorn.  Yes, I’m old and that’s probably what it cost back then 🙂

So far it’s early in the process and I’m happy to say that we are actually doing quite well.  I say we because it’s not me that’s raising this money but rather a pretty amazing community of people.  I have been beyond moved by the amazing generosity of people in my community.  I have seen that generosity not only in dear friends but also from complete strangers.  The process thus far has been enlightening to say the least.  As expected, it has caused me to have to do things I’m not entirely comfortable doing but with that has also come some unexpected growth.  That is a good thing.  However, all of that isn’t the objective of this post.  One of the things that I firmly believe is that, as with any worthy cause, educating and creating awareness is probably the single most important thing you can do.  If you can bring awareness to something it will eventually lead to unprecedented discoveries.  Through education and awareness it will touch people and cause them to act by sharing their time, talents and resources.

I have been fortunate enough to find MS Runs the US and become part of this year’s team to help raise funds and awareness.  I have met the people behind the organization and they are some of the truest and most genuine people I have the good fortune of knowing.  Ashley Schnieder founded MS Runs the US and actually ran across the country by herself in 2010!  Since then she has created the relay team and in 2016 it will be traversing the country for the 4th time.  Ashley and her husband Aaron are the real deal.  They have a deep passion for this mission and it shows in their actions.  They truly are people driven by their faith and are using their talents and gifts to help rid the world of MS.

Jill and Me

I also was fortunate enough to meet Ashley’s Mom, Jill, when I ran as part of Team Jill at the Brewers Mini marathon this past September.  Jill is Ashley’s inspiration for the relay.  MS has affected Jill in many ways and has stolen much from her but she is undaunted by that.  While we were running she told me that, “God has blessed me with MS.”  Stop reading and let that statement sink in a little bit; “God has blessed me with MS.”  How many of us would be thankful and feel blessed if we had a life altering, disabling disease?  I know there are days when something as minor as a blister on my toe from running will irritate me; and I’m the one that chose to run which caused it!  If only we could all be as convicted and at peace with our own circumstances in life.  The world would surely be a better place.

I was very moved by Jill’s comments that day and to be honest, still am.  Those words have replayed in my mind countless times since that day.  What a testimony of faith.  God has blessed me…  Shouldn’t we all – wouldn’t it be great – if we all could have that attitude and outlook on many of the not only big but even trivial things that we are presented with in our daily lives?  Jill went on to share that if it weren’t for her having MS the relay wouldn’t have been created.  She is glad the relay exists and and hopes it makes a difference in ending MS.

Recently, for one night, actually for just a few hours, I experienced just one of the symptoms that my Mom and so many others with MS experience on a regular, if not daily, basis.  Out of the blue I became very dizzy and couldn’t maintain my balance.  I felt like I was in a fog and no matter what I did I couldn’t make my body do what I wanted it to.  Needless to say, it prevented me from carrying out my plans that evening.  I literally couldn’t function.  It really gave me a new perspective on just one of the many things MS takes away from those it affects; something that I just take for granted.

I am now even more determined to bring awareness and do what I can to help those living with MS and find a cure.  I am in awe and have the utmost respect for my Mom, Jill and anyone suffering from MS.  As part of this journey I plan to share, through this blog, the stories of those living with and affected by MS.  By sharing their challenges as well as their triumphs I hope it helps raise awareness in the fight to help us eradicate this disease.  I will also share how training is going as well as my experience during the week of the relay.  The more I can write and bring awareness to people living with and being affected by MS then maybe, just maybe it will touch someone and help make a difference.  If you or someone you know that has MS wants to share their story please let me know.  I’d like to help you or them do that.  To see how things are going with the relay follow my blog and visit my relay page at

Be Great!  Be Strong! Be Determined!


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Drop Your Cape – Believe It Is Safe!

There are many people, myself included, that walk around each day with our guard up.  It is common place for many to don an emotional cape of protection akin to that of a super hero.  Many people have been hurt so badly by those close to us that we have built defenses we may not even be aware of.  It is all in an effort to keep ourselves from suffering from the same hurt again.  Unfortunately, far too often, those defenses are unneeded and often end up preventing us from realizing amazing opportunities that are presented to us on a regular basis.

Have you known someone, or maybe even yourself, who had a tremendous opportunity in front of them but end up pushing it away?  They end up squandering it by turning around and running from it, all because they are fearful that if they allow themselves to be open, to be vulnerable, they may get hurt in the end?  It may be a new employment opportunity.  It may be a new relationship.  It may even be something as simple as being the first one to say you’re sorry.  I know that I can admit to reacting this way at times as well as being on the receiving end.

Think about that for a minute. It really doesn’t make a lot of sense does it?  You consciously choose not to take a chance on something for fear of getting hurt or failing.  Yet ironically, by choosing not to explore what lies before you, you are inherently hurting yourself and in a sense, failing.

I understand that we are emotional creatures and because of that we can’t avoid these types of choices sometimes.  We all have things in our past which can hinder our ability to accept new opportunities in our lives.  This is especially true if we haven’t fully dealt with our past.  When we don’t deal with our past properly the likelihood of us pushing away or refusing to accept good that comes into our lives is much higher.  We will continually miss opportunities and worse yet, may look back someday with regret and sorrow.


Sometimes our avoidance of people or situations may be unavoidable.  However, it is more likely that we can minimize our tendency to do so by really dealing with and working through our past hurts and disappointments.  It’s not always easy confronting our past but we must find the courage to do so in order to live a full life; to prevent cheating ourselves from really good fortune and joy when it comes our way.

It certainly is a matter of trust and for many, unfortunately, trust is something that is a great struggle.  We all want to feel safe but when trust is broken we end up losing, piece by piece, the layers of security that make us feel comforted and safe.  When that happens it can be quite scary and typically transcends to all areas of our life.  When our trust is broken it is easy to become jaded.  As a society, we need to do a better job of making those around us feel safe.  Not just physically but emotionally as well.  Often, the emotional baggage that some carry with them is more excruciating than any physical pain could ever be.

What it comes down to is that we need to treat one another better.  It’s as simple as being kind to those around us; to be respectful towards one another.  That, in itself, will make even a stranger feel safer in their world.  For those close to us and even strangers for that matter, if we could promise each one of them safety we might just change more than we could imagine.

I promise to do my part.

I promise to give others safety.

I promise them safety to be themselves.

I promise them safety and help in trying to figuring out who they are.

I promise them safety to help them not loose who they are when they are in my presence.

I promise them safety in knowing that when I fail them I will do everything I can to make it right.

I promise that in the quest for my own safety I will not jeopardize theirs.

What are you willing to promise for your own safety and that of others?


Be Great!  Be Strong! Be Determined!


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Courage to Change – Achieving Your Own Greatness

I do not believe there are many people that, when given the choice, would turn down the opportunity to better themselves or their situation.  If you ask most people I bet they would probably tell you that they would love to improve their lot in life.  The real turning point would be when they discovered that it would actually take work on their part to make it happen.

Let’s face it.  We all want to be better.  Look a little deeper and if we are being really truthful with ourselves we all have areas in our lives in which we could improve.  No one is perfect.  For years I wanted to be better than I was.  I wanted more.  Here is the problem – I just sat there and waited for it to happen.  I thought that if I wanted it and hoped really hard it would magically happen.  I was doing nothing to improve myself.  I failed to do anything to help myself grow and get to that next level in my life.  Guess what?  Things didn’t improve and I didn’t change!

If you want to change then you have to act.   Improvement and growth cannot happen without a conscious choice on our part.  Think about it.  Even a tiny seed, when planted, will do nothing if certain things do not occur.  In order for it to grow out of its shell it must have water and nutrients among other things.  And yet, that alone is not enough.  It must grow and push through the earth in order to break into open air and capture the sun, which is another vital ingredient in what is needed in order for the pant to reach its full potential.  It can’t, however, get everything it needs void of effort from the seed itself.

The same is true with us.  If we just sit idle and do nothing to improve ourselves then we won’t grow.  It is impossible to do so.  This is true for our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self.  We have to work at all of these areas in order to move forward and develop into our true selves.

The real question for many is, “Do you have the desire to do what it takes to become who you want to be?” Maybe the better question is, “Do you have the courage to act in order to continually grow into the best version of yourself?”  I know what I want to be but maybe I’m not thinking big enough.  Maybe there is a grander purpose for me that, without action, I may never discover.  How can I deny myself of that possibility?


So how do we know?  I don’t know if we ever will truly know if we have reached our full potential or even if that is possible.  I do know, however, that a surefire way of not reaching it is to remain stagnant and fail to act.  Doing so would be tragic.  In fact, it would be selfish to do so.

Is it always easy?  Absolutely not.  There are going to be times when you feel like you’ve been beaten.  You may often feel like you don’t have anything left to give and yet, upon arriving home there are what seems to be a million tasks left to accomplish and many people demanding your attention.  The question is, what will you do when that moment hits you?  Will you allow yourself to be overwhelmed and become paralyzed or will you choose to at least continue moving?  Will you find the courage to continue forward one step at a time and attempt to accomplish at least one thing no matter how insignificant it may seem?  Will you choose to live or give up?

The odds may seem overwhelming but we all have it within us to do what it takes.  The key is to find that thing that keeps you motivated.  Maybe it’s your spouse or maybe it’s your kids.  It could be your passion for the community in which you live.  It may very well be that stubborn fire in the pit of your stomach causing you to refuse to let an unkind word or act of betrayal define you.  We all have that one thing that will keep us moving – that will keep our desire burning hot.  When you open your heart and listen to the possibilities you will find it!  Trust me – You! Will! Find! It!

In order to be complete we have to make sure that we work on all aspects of our lives.  For each of us the questions are different but they are there and our willingness to answer them may be the difference between our own greatness or our tumble into mediocracy.  Are you willing to get up at four in the morning to get your workout in before work? Are you willing to paint all day until your fingers are raw? Are you willing to spend your lunch hour praying for guidance and being thankful for all your good fortune?  Will you leave the TV off tonight so you can get lost in a book and make your mind sharper? Are you willing to allow yourself time to cry and grieve the loss that you don’t quite understand?  It’s as simple as just making a choice – A choice to act.

In the end, our day is filled with choices.  We can choose to remain stagnant or choose to act.  Be true to yourself and really figure out what it is that you want.  How bad do you want it? Are you willing to go above and beyond to get there?  We may not have the energy to get after it 100 percent every day but as long as we keep moving forward – as long as we continue to act – we will make progress.  That progress will be realized in the choices we make and the steps we take.  Each and every one of those decisions to take action will propel us closer to what we were intended to be.

Be Great!  Be Strong! Be Determined!


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Blurred Finish

Often in life we set out to do things with high expectations of the results.  Many times we are convinced what the final outcome will be and of the path we will take to get there.  It is easy to get frustrated or feel defeated when it doesn’t go as expected.  Often, what we envision as the final result doesn’t resemble what actually happens.  We put in the hard work and unfortunately sometimes things out of our control affect our journey and the finished product isn’t quite what we pictured in our mind.  Even when that happens, if you honestly put in a strong effort and gave it all you have it’s still a win.  It’s still a victory!

This past weekend I experienced something that I never have since I began running races.  The weather conditions caused the race to be black flagged because of high heat and humidity.  Many competitors were either forced to stop, diverted to a different course or forced to turn around and shorten the distance they had planned to complete.  I had run races in the past that were more extreme as far as heat and humidity were concerned but the difference was that I had never seen the number of people collapse during those races that I did in this one.

The medical personnel had to be overwhelmed by the amount of people needing assistance.  I am sure many of those competitors were sure they were fine right up until they weren’t.  I never felt that I was ever in any danger of needing assistance and truth be told, if allowed, I would have completed the full course.  Would that have been a wise decision on my part?  We will never know.  What I do know is that the race director, medical team, local officials and first responders were handed an impossible task.  They knew the time and amount of hard work all the competitors put in for that day.  They had to make a tough decision and in the end I believe they made the right one.

If you are a runner then you surely understand the crazy mentality I talk about when I say there is nothing that will stop us from finishing if it were up to us.  We train for and are programmed to ignore pain and suffering.  It is what allows us, as endurance athletes, to compete for such long periods of time under, many times, less than ideal circumstances.  We certainly are a stubborn bunch.  I would not have wanted to be one of the many race officials or police officers that had to break the news to many that there was a change in plans; that the race they intended to complete was just not possible that day.  After months and months of dedication and training those are words that just don’t compute for many of us, myself included.

I was one of those runners that ran through, not one, but multiple attempts to get me to turn around and backtrack to the finish.  I encouraged my friend and partner in crime on the run to do the same and we did until it was pretty evident that if we did continue and got into trouble there very well may not be anyone available to help us.  It was disappointing for sure and not something we wanted to give in to.

Blurred Finish

There were many competitors that were visibly upset on the course and, while I understand their frustration, I believe that the decisions were made for the good of everyone.  Those decisions may have been difficult to accept but they were the correct ones.  It is frustrating when things don’t go your way.  However, some of the things I witnessed on the course made it justifiable.  I had never seen that many people laying on a course getting assistance.  One was as early as just five miles into the race.  That young woman didn’t look good and I hope and pray that she is well.  After we finished I heard many complaints and it would have been easy to complain right along with them.  However, we had a good run, and when we crossed the finish line I am sure we had put forth effort that probably exceeded what we would have in good conditions for the full race.  Above all we were safe.  I am grateful for that and the experience.

After the race we received word that not everyone was as fortunate as we were.  A young man passed away on the course that day.  I am sure he was doing what he loved but that is an incredibly unbelievable price to pay for it.  I pray for him and his family in this profound time of loss.

There were many memorable moments along the course that didn’t involve pain, suffering or disappointment. One that stands out is a husband that was holding up a sign waiting for his wife to pass by.  When he saw her he started screaming how wonderful she was doing and how fabulous she looked!  I mean really screaming!  At the sound of his booming pride for his wife it seemed that all the other noise on the course ceased to exist.  He didn’t stop there. He chased her for a couple blocks emphatically screaming his praises.  What an incredible gift to give her; acknowledgment of her hard work and dedication – a genuine reflection of his love for her.  I’m sure he boosted her spirits and desire to do well.  He had that effect as well on many of us that witnessed his support.

We all run for different reasons but in the end it is the finish, the feeling of triumph, that we do it for.  In anything we do in life we all measure that satisfaction in different ways.  When we eventually got turned around there was an older gentleman that yelled out to the policeman, “Do I still get my medal and jacket?”   Before he would alter his own plan he needed assurance that his effort would be acknowledged and rewarded.  For him, he needed that medal and jacket as a symbol of what he set out to do and the dedication it took regardless of the conditions.  It didn’t matter if his original plan was altered; he was still going to finish even though the path to get there had changed.

And so it is with life.  We often have so much we desire, so much we want, and we work hard to achieve it.  That achievement may be represented by a medal or a jacket.  It is captured in the screams of excitement from your spouse or parents about how great you are doing.  It’s that message at the end of a tireless effort that leaves you speechless and in tears.   Many times it may be as simple as that little space inside you that smiles a little bigger when you lay your head down on the pillow at the end of a long day.  At those moments we have the joy of knowing that tomorrow there will be another race to run, another moment with a loved one, another goal to achieve.  No matter what it is, we will be better for it regardless if there is a medal or jacket waiting at the end for us.   That feeling, that satisfaction, is something no one can take from us even if our course to get there is altered.

Be Great! Be Strong! Be Determined!

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Dream the Impossible – I Dare You!

I wish I had been as adventurous and willing to try new things throughout my life as I have been in recent years.  I can’t imagine where I may be today had I done so.  That statement may sound a little bit like regret but let me reassure you, it isn’t.  I am who I am today because of all my life experiences and had any of them been different I may still be sitting on the sidelines waiting for something to happen.

When was the last time you identified something you really wanted and then did whatever you could to go out and do it?  We all have different interests, passions and goals.  They are all important!  I believe that when you live life to the fullest, you get the most out of it by dreaming big.  Why not dream the impossible?  Why not go for it?  There are aspects in my life where I do that quite well and others that I still need to work on and improve.

I am fortunate enough to have strong and encouraging people in my life.  They have set tremendous examples of what it’s like to be adventurous, to live like no one else.  The interesting thing is, the more adventurous and determined I become the more of those people God places in my path.  I have gained and learned so much from each and every one of them and I hope that I, in turn, do the same for them.

Every one of those people in my life have unique gifts that make them the incredibly gifted and talented individuals that they are.  If you open your mind and your heart you can see that in most anyone you come in contact with.  When you do, when you stop and take the time to really do that, you will find that truly appreciating others and the gift that they are in your life will help spur you to be better and more complete yourself.

I want to be challenged in my life and as a result I have chosen to surround myself with others that do the same.  The determination and strength that they have in turn causes me to be more determined and strong.  We feed off each other and that’s something that for so many years I just didn’t get.

Does that mean it’s always easy?  No way!  It’s difficult and not always easy to be disciplined in order to achieve what you’re after.  I don’t care if you are an endurance athlete, an aspiring actor, a promising pianist, a world class educator or any number of things you could aspire to be.  It takes work and grit! It takes strength, determination and dedication!  It takes courage!  The question is, what is it that drives you?  What is it that makes your soul sing?  That is what you need to figure out.  When you are able to determine what that is you are on your way to true contentment.


So, start today!  What is that one thing that your heart longs for?  What is it that you’ve dreamed about wanting for so long but haven’t gotten started on?  It’s time to act!  It’s time to take that first step.  Sometimes that is the hardest thing to do – to take the first step. I promise you though, once you do, the next step will be easier than the previous and with each subsequent step it will continue to get easier until you are moving at a fast pace and wondering why you didn’t start sooner.

When you can do that and reach your goal – when you realize your dream – you will have a feeling in your being like never before.  I have some friends that have been chasing a dream of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  They have been close in the past but have now achieved that goal.  I witnessed their near misses as well as all the work that they had to put into getting there.  It wasn’t always easy and sometimes it was downright defeating but they never gave up, they never lost hope.

I wish I could adequately describe what it feels like when you attain something that you’ve worked hard for and wanted for so long.  I have trouble coming up with the words today that would do it justice.  I’ve felt it myself when qualifying for Boston, learning that I was chosen to be part of a relay team across the US and even when I started this blog.  Even though I don’t have the words I do recognize when I see it.  I saw it on the faces of each of my friends when they qualified for Boston.  The look they had, through their exhaustion, was pure joy.  They dared to dream big and then they made that dream a reality.  I saw it recently at my son’s cross country meet when a blind young man was running the race along with a guide.  His body language and the expression on his face going around the course was that of complete freedom!  I don’t know him nor did I get the opportunity to talk to him but he didn’t let anything hold him back from running that race.  He dared to dream big and then had the courage to do it!

So, please, dare to be adventurous.  It doesn’t have to be something on a grand scale.  Maybe it is going on a hike somewhere new and unfamiliar.  It could be taking a class at the local college for fun that you’ve been wanting to do.  Dare to go on a date you’ve been avoiding or meet up with the local book club.  Just act!  Take the first step towards what you want!  I don’t know all the adventures that lie in front of me but I do know that there will be many and I want to make sure I put myself in a position of strength and opportunity to take advantage of them.  I gain nothing by not trying and failing to take that first step.

Be Great! Be Strong! Be Determined!


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Ironman Lesson

I recently competed in my first half ironman.  I had previously done triathlons but never at that distance.  For the past couple of years I’ve had my mind set on doing a half ironman. I remember growing up and watching Ironman competitions on TV in Hawaii and thinking to myself, “How on God’s green earth are those people doing that?  That seems impossible.  I wish someday I could do that.”  Now, I don’t know after doing the half ironman if a full is ever in my future but I can tell you that up until recently I didn’t even think a half was something I would actually attempt let alone complete.

For those that know me, one could say I didn’t plan like I normally do.  I certainly did the training and was ready for it but unlike the other “big things” I’ve accomplished in recent years I didn’t ever lay out an official training plan.  I just had an “idea” in my head of what I should be doing.  I did get very sound and great advice from some amazing people but failed to actually write out a plan.  What made me, someone who had never attempted anything like this before, believe I could do it without having a full plan laid out?  I did it and I was successful nonetheless.

The day didn’t come without its struggles however.  The weather that day saw temperatures in the 90s and humidity close to 100%.  When I was riding the bike I just kept repeating to myself, “Just get to the run!  Just get to the run!”  The run, after all, is what I am best at.  Once I was running though all I wanted to do is walk.  The first five or six miles were painful, miserable and bordering on disastrous.  I was starting to unravel and fall apart.  Those early miles weren’t going as planned and although I told everyone the goal was just to finish I secretly had a time that I wanted to be under.  I really had no business even thinking about that.  The real goal should have been what I was telling everyone else – Finish!

A bright spot at that point was seeing my kids and parents about every three miles on the run.  My Mom is always my biggest cheerleader and I know she’d give anything to be out there doing it with me.  I got very emotional when I saw all of them.  My son was always ahead of the rest of them checking on me.  It was very touching to share those brief moments with him as he encouraged me.  My first lesson of the day was remembering to never, EVER underestimate the importance of family.

Half Ironman Finish

In those first few miles I began to feel sorry for myself and quickly was letting my head take over the day.  That is ludicrous.  I was out there trying to accomplish an amazing feat and nothing, surely not my own thoughts, should take away or diminish what I was about to complete.  The mind however is a very powerful thing and I was allowing it to let doubt and fear begin to take over.  I was forgetting that I was strong; that I was capable; that I had prepared and could not only finish, but in spite of the conditions, finish well.

At that point, I’m embarrassed to say, I prayed.  Embarrassed to say you prayed?  Yes!  Embarrassed because I only asked for God’s help when I was seemingly in trouble.  I was hurting and only then did I turn to Him for help.  Only then did I ask Him for guidance and strength.  That is so true in many aspects of our life.  We take things for granted and are not appreciative or thankful for them until we are in dire straits or, even worse, they are gone.

I can’t say that I didn’t pray to God earlier in the day or the days leading up to the race because I’m sure I did; even if it was only once or twice and only for a brief moment.  What I know I hadn’t been doing regularly up to that point recently is having conversations with Him.  I had been taking our relationship for granted.  That can certainly be true in a lot of our relationships in life.  It is easy to get “busy” and neglect those that truly are important to us.  In spite of my actions something amazing happened.

God didn’t judge me on my past actions or my neglect of our relationship when I looked for His help, His comfort.  He didn’t take away the pain and suffering on that day, in that moment, but I did, somehow, feel better.  I was quickly reminded of all those, like my Mom, that can’t do what I was doing but wished they could.  It gave me a new perspective and I actually got faster.  There was a comfortable peace that came over me and I knew I was going to be alright.  I had gotten caught up in how I was going to potentially let others down and somehow not meet some unknown expectations that others and I had.  It was not only cray but ridiculous to even think that way.

What a great lesson I was taught that day.  God didn’t ignore me because I neglected our relationship.  He didn’t leave me in a moment when I really needed a pick me up.  He was there.  That is so true in our own lives as well.  How often do we find it easy to be vindictive or to write others off when we feel we have been mistreated by them?  By doing so we have chosen to make a judgement on them and their actions without knowing their full story.  We don’t know what is going on in their life and they may have some real struggles.  Maybe we should reach out to them and be their support.  That can sometimes be hard to do but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

In the end I believe it comes down to this:  Be kind to others, don’t judge and when you do neglect someone have the courage to reach out, admit your shortcomings and start over.  I know I don’t always get it right but I’m thankful for the lesson I was taught that day and vow to be mindful of it.

Be Great!  Be Strong! Be Determined!


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Be The Catalyst For Change

There is a lot going on in our world right now.  I see so much good, so much promise. Unfortunately, I also see a lot of bad and misdirection.  This country was, at one time, the greatest country in the world.  In many respects it still is.  What happened?  Yes, we are still pretty darn good and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.  The opportunities we have in front of us are abounding – if we just would stay out of our own way.

It’s difficult to watch ad after ad of our potential leaders pointing the finger at one another and arguing about who is right or who has the answer.  The truth of the matter is, no one person has all the right answers.  They seem to be more interested in bashing their opponent or spinning their words to gain the most support.  I get it.  That’s part of the game they believe they have to play in order to win.  But do they?  What happened with just being truthful and letting that determine the result?

There is divide on the issues of immigration, race, healthcare, the institution of marriage and many, many more.  It seems that each side is more interested in proving that their opinions, their actions, their “solutions” are correct and no one is listening to the other point of view.  It’s like watching a bunch of narcissists trying to one up one another.  Each, it seems, is more interested in establishing their legacy and bolstering their image rather than really looking at the issues at hand to promote real change, real solutions.

It bothers me that the city in which I live has seen four women violently murdered this year.  Prior to that in the past 15 years the average for all murders has less than one in any given year.  That is more than four times the norm.  It is certainly troubling at the very least.  The last woman didn’t even know her attacker and the person that did it not only admitted his heinous actions but said he did it because he had nothing better to do.  He wanted to get into more trouble so he raped and brutally murdered her.  What?  Are you kidding me?  I am fortunate to live in the city I live in because if it was bigger I know more senseless crime like this would happen and it would just be discouraging.

Just yesterday, I read that a group is planning to hinder runners from finishing the Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota.  I understand that they are trying to garner attention for their cause but I fear the way they are going about it very well could lead to even more division and violence.  The point many fail to see when focused on their little piece of the world is that all lives matter.  It doesn’t matter your race, nationality or sexual orientation.  As a community we need to be more tolerant and kind to others and their views, even if they are contrary to our own.


So, whose fault is it?  The real answer is that it’s all of our faults.  Yes, we each play a role in where we are at today.  Now, some may not be as culpable as others but we play a part nonetheless.  So how can we change the direction in which we are going?  Remember, there are a lot of good things going on as well.  The rhetoric for change and standing up for what is right is there.  I see it every day.

I see it in the countless posts each and every day of people helping each other to be better.  People reaching out to others to offer support and encouragement.  I recently got to meet a father who pushed his son, who has cerebral palsy, across the country – IN 60 DAYS!  Along the way, they raised money and gave away racing chariots so other children with disabilities could experience the freedom and exhilaration of movement; so they could feel the breeze in their face as the sun shone brightly on them.  Closer to home, some very dedicated and caring people started a chapter for Ainsley’s Angles so that gift of mobility could be celebrated here in our community.  Another woman I know is working tirelessly to bring adaptive and inclusive sport opportunities to those that have disabilities.  In the past few years in my community one man started an organization the makes connections for people looking for volunteer opportunities.  Above all else, it has been a hub for bringing people and resources together for those in need.

There are countless other organizations, people, and groups of people that are doing amazing things right here in our community.  I’m sure my community is not unique in that regard.  What are all of these people doing that matters?  They are choosing to act!  They are choosing to make a difference!  They are choosing to let other people know that they matter; that all lives matter!  All we need to do to change the direction we are going is to do the right thing.  If each of us could just choose to do the next right thing and be patient with one another, every day, we would be so much better off.  It’s not hard, but yet seems to be.  It’s because all too often, the right thing may not be the most popular thing to do.  Being patient isn’t how we are wired today in our society.  However, in the end, we will get much greater rewards if we can do just that – Be Patient and kind to one another.

So, instead of looking to others to change our lives, we need to concentrate on changing what we have control over – ourselves.  We may find that by doing so we’ll start to see something different around all of us.  When we do the right thing and are patient, our example will begin to be noticed by our children, family, friends and neighbors.  They, in turn, may do the same.  We may not succeed all of the time.  In fact, we won’t; we are human and we are flawed.  We will make mistakes but when we bring focus to what is important we are likely to make fewer and, as a result, change our situation.  That in turn can help promote change in our immediate community and who knows, maybe it could be the start of a movement for which we can all take credit for.

Be Great!  Be Strong!  Be Determined!


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