Lending and Learning

This weekend was a chance to help. Myself. Saturday was all about carving a pumpkin to make me happy. Sunday was walking 5 miles for Baystate’s Rays of Hope Breast Cancer Charity Walk then having good girl time (as opposed to bad?)…

I am making a vow to walk the Rays of Hope every year. I may not walk as part of a team again (too much pressure to want to stay together), but I will definitely make this an annual thing. I will never, ever call attention to myself for the hurts I have faced but I am proud of the healing just the same. This walk was just what I needed. Maybe a certain someone will want to join me next year (what do you say, Smiley?)… So, anyway, this is a picture of me waiting for the rest of the team to arrive. I sat on my car and watched the others roll in. I won’t admit to how ridiculously early I really was, but it gave me a chance to watch walkers unite, hug, cry. Out came the pink ribbons, the pink balloons, the pink hats, the pink face paint (yes, yours truly smudged hers within moments of application), pink pink pink. Everywhere. I own so much black I actually had to go out and buy the pink shirt in the pic!

This was a day of coming together for the cause. Coming together period. I didn’t think of anything me, myself or moi. I wore no name except for that of my Team. I was not one person but an army of ones walking. I think that’s what knocked me silly on this Sunday. Running, you run for yourself. You lose the crowd. Everyone spreads out and becomes their own warrior. Walking binds you to the footsteps in front of you. Makes you move as a group. We were pretty in pink, proud in pink, perfect in pink.

S~ Thanks for hanging out later. While we didn’t talk about this walk all that much, it was nice to have that gabby, girly time. After the day I just had, it was perfect.

October Is…

October is Halloween! For anyone who knows me, Halloween starts on October 1st and runs for 31 days. This is the way it should be. I have a whole big box of Halloween stuff and every October 1st out it comes. Okay, so this year it was a little early. I bought a tiny skull completely off timeline, too! The skeltons, black cats, bats, witches, goblins, and of course, my fave – jack-o-laterns!
October is also another chance to slip away to Monhegan for a handful of days. Home Sweet Autumn Home. For music it’s Sean, of course. There are other trips, I’m sure. Just ask Joe.

For reading, here’s how it stacks up. For the Book Lust Challenge:

  • Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler ~ in honor of Anne’s birth month
  • Artimis Fowl by Eoin Colfer ~ in honor of National Fantasy Month
  • Big If by Mark Costello ~ October is the best time to visit New England
  • Carry On Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse ~ in honor of Wodehouse’s birth month
  • Crime Novels: American Noir of the 30’s and 40’s by Horace ~ in honor of Crime Novel month

That’s about it. Pumpkin Fest later. Big charity walk for breast cancer on the 26th. Natalie’s birthday…

Sarah’s Challenge

See Sarah Smile!

See Sarah Smile!

This is my friend Sarah. We started off as coworkers. Even though she has moved onto bigger and better things we have remained friends. She has a huge smile and an even bigger heart. Here’s the proof: she walking a full freakin’ marathon for charity – yup 26.2 miles in one day. Here’s her story:

You are a charity walking machine, but this is your biggest yet! What made you sign on?  

 Last year I walked the half marathon and I loved it. Even though i was sore for a few days afterwards. I asked my dad to participate with me this year and he really wanted us to walk the whole marathon. I knew I couldn’t get a better walking partner than my dad (who has RUN many marathons) so i agreed to walk the full 26.2 miles!

How are you training for it, besides one foot in front of the other?

My ideas for training started with a book, and a set schedule but I struggled to get into it. Yesterday I walked 6.2 miles, and i am feeling it. my plan is to walk at least twice during the week for 3 miles or more, and then do my long walks on the weekend. my long walks will be 10, 13, 18 and 21 miles. In September I will start to shorten the mileage to get ready for the event.

When and where does this HUGE walk take place?

This is the part that hooked me both last year and this year. The walk is the Boston Marathon route. I have watched my dad run this marathon so its an honor to be able to experience this with him. Especially since neither of us our in running condition to do the real marathon. This is the next best thing.

This is something I asked our friend Rebecca: most athletes I know have a ritual or lucky talisman – something that inspires them before the event. What’s yours?

The things that inspire me most at these events are the volunteers and the photos that remind of us we are participating. The marathon has a mile marker with a photo of a child who is battling cancer. Those kids are fighting for their life, all i have to do is keep walking.

Here’s another question I asked Rebecca: Are you walking in anyones honor or memory, and if so, what is his/her story?

i am not walking for one particular person but for the general cause. I am amazed at the courage of anyone that goes thru cancer. To be honest, I am scared of someone I love or myself having to go thru something like that. I admire the strength of those who have cancer, their loved ones, and the people in the medical field who try to beat the odds and get them through it.

I’m not trying to guilt anyone but if walking a marathon and asking for your help in donating can help the fight against cancer then it is the least I can do. It is what I’d hope someone would do for me or someone I loved.

Speaking of donations, how much $$ do you have to raise?
my dad and i need to raise $250 each.

How can people donate?
my website is http://www.jimmyfundwalk.org/sb08

my dad’s site is http://www.jimmyfundwalk.org/bb

if you can donate that would be awesome. no amount is too small.

To learn more about you or the walk where can people go?

if you do not want to donate online, email me and we’ll figure something else out

my email is sburke81@yahoo.com

And when is that walk again??

September 21st

Most Ridiculous

wtfI’m calling the Darfur run “most ridiculous” for several reason. Where do I begin? First no sleep the night before. Tossed and turned in an unfamiliar bed, listened to drunks outside the window at 2am, worried about cracking my head on the nightstand, missed kisa…

The next morning checking in was odd. Confused by the box of cookies for sure….

But, here’s where it gets really ridiculous. Initially I was scared to run. I won’t lie. I wasn’t feeling up to it. A friend hadn’t shown, I kept thinking about the last time I tried to run anywhere (and failed), and I was dead tired. Suddenly, everything didn’t seem important enough. I didn’t feel important at all.
Then, the race began. Uphill. Within a few minutes I lost focus on the race and lost myself in a cemetery of souls. I will say this a million times to anyone who will listen. This was the most beautiful race of my life. From just a few minutes into it, I forgot I was running. The course was beyond spiritual. Beyond gorgeous. Beyond meaning. If I wasn’t staring at graves or flowers or water I was gazing up at some of the oldest trees I have ever seen. We went up crazy, slippery, gravel hills but I didn’t see them. We went down crazy pounding hills but I didn’t feel them. Instead, I craned my neck to read tombstones, did the math on who died when. How old? At times I would turn around and run sideways, even backwards to look one last time at someones angel in stone. From Amalia on I was lost in names. My husband’s secret track was all drums and I started to cry. Darfur’s genocide, the friend that didn’t show, these graves, and the trees that seem to live forever. The impact of everything finally overtook me.
Towards the end of the race a man yelled to me, “sprint it, baby!” and suddenly I was brought back to the race. Back to reality. Sprint it? What do you mean, ‘sprint it’? Where am I? How much more of the course is there? I honestly had no idea how far I had come or what was left. Suddenly I recognized the pavilion where we checked in, the gazebo right before the finish line, the flags for the end. I remembered I was in a race and the urge to really run kicked it (it meaning me…in the azz  🙂 ). I sprinted the last 30 seconds.

27:49. I’m irritated with myself. This is my best time ever, but I didn’t even try. I can tell. No red face. No coughing uncontrollably. No cramps. As far as running goes I didn’t give anything. I was too busy gawking at people’s final resting places. I was too busy communicating with trees. I was too busy remembering the dead. Darfur’s dead.
To Darfur, I gave everything.

Scammed By Schenectady

course mapFor weeks now I have been trying to find more information on the upcoming run. Okay, I admit it. I really wanted to check out the course and scope out the hills. Yes, I’m afraid of hills. If you have knee problems then you know what going d-o-w-n hills can feel like. But, as time went on and I wasn’t finding the slightest bit of information I began to think I was being scammed. I actually started to believe I sent money in to a race/charity that didn’t exist. Despite claims that the run was sponsored by Amnesty International I couldn’t find anything on their site supporting that. I kept finding the same website that brought me to the run in the first place.

Then, just last night – two days before I am to make the trip to NY – I get a packet of information. Scammed by Schenectady not. Directions, check-in times, and that all-important course map. Of course, hills aren’t marked but at least now I know where I’m going. At first glance I thought we would be running through a cemetery. How cool would that be! I pictured Vale souls cheering me on from beyond the grave. I love the idea of ghosts and spirits by my side. I already have an angel and a few demons, why not have a whole party?

So, now my mind is at peace. I’m not thinking the worst of this run. Instead, I’m using it to free me from the crap that haunts me, the sh!t I need to leave behind. I’ll have Daoud Hari’s courage and determination to make me strong.
And just in case that doesn’t work I’m using music from BB’s Gasparilla run to kick my azz. Forget the African beat (for now). Setlist to follow…

African Generosity George

African GenerosityI was going to ask everyone I knew to play the music game again. This time with a twist: give me African music for my next 5k. Darfur. The rules would be simple: stay away from South Africa, get as close to Sudan as possible, and mention nothing that would put me to sleep. No zzzzs please. I thought it would be a fun challenge & had bets going that not many people would suggest anything.
But, before I could post anything, before I could put my musical dare in print, a guy named George blew the challenge away. I mentioned my run, mentioned my music, mentioned my need and before I knew it had more music than I knew what to do with. Well, I have a plan, now. Between now and next Saturday I’ll listen to as much as I possibly can and make a mix from what moves me. George knows music.

Bill, My First (not)

CancerI sent in my registration today. It’s in the mail which means there is no turning back now…unless I want to commit a federal offense. I’m committed alright! Committed to the run. Bill, your challenge will be my first even though it’s your third. No. That’s not entirely true. I’ve run one other 5K in my life. Just as I’ve only run one other race besides that. So, come to think of it, your third annual challenge is technically my third race ever. Go figure.
March 15th. Mark my calendar in red. I signed up. I paid to play.
Here’s the deal: Look Park – twice. 8am. Bill’s Challenge III is sponsored by Cancer Connection. Bill was CC’s first client. He was so involved in Cancer Connection that after his death the 5K challenge was created in his honor. Somehow I missed the 2006 & 2007 challenges but thanks to my father-in-law, hello challenge 2008, here I come.

Here’s my deal. I am not running for personal time. I could care less about beating anyone else (least of all myself). I run to fight cancer, honor someone special, raise awareness for issues like domestic abuse, bring places like Darfur into focus…I could go on. I run to help. Always have, always will. If I’m not moving my feet for something good, it’s not worth doing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, show me the cause and I’ll find the fight.

For Heather


Would you believe I have no idea who this person is? Absolutely no clue. This is what I do know. I keep my promises. Or, I try to. Really. This is Heather. I don’t know a lot about her. But, I think I know the best thing about her: she’s doing that Hike for Discovery I talked about oh so long ago. I don’t think I need to point out that I never did it. Running 13.1 miles and doing a “doozie” on my knee scared me bad enough I’ve been glued to my recliner for the last year and a half. But. But, but, Heather found my blog about the desire to do something good and she called me out on it. So, I donated. Heather, I have no clue who you are but I applaud you and your cause. Good good good luck. If you find this and read it, hike for my grandmothers, Bessie and Irene. Both cancer victims, their absence is my everlasting ache.

If anyone else wants to help Heather, please go here. Do it! Every little bit counts. Really.

Here’s the deal: The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has been circling my soul for some time now. Everything is coming together in one perfect storm. One crazy desire to run again, to race again, to train again with TNT. Could I? It’s all adding up. Seeing their faces in Florida, finding courage in an amazing friend, subtle support from family. It’s all building to something bigger. Could I be getting closer to something bigger than myself? Could I? Should I?


This was my team. These were my people. Imagine my surprise when saw them again yesterday. Okay, okay, so I didn’t see these exact same people. Maybe some of them were there. I don’t know. But, I saw their colors of royal purple and kelly green and I recognized their cause. Running either 13.1 or 26.2 – it didn’t matter. New Hampshire or Florida, I recognized them and cheered them on just the same.
Here’s the thing. Before getting to FL not once did I think about Team in Training. Not once did I consider their presence in the Gasparilla. I didn’t think of them at all. Out of sight, out of mind. Really. I was there for one reason and one reason only – to cheer on my friend in her first 13.1. So, when I saw the familiar purple and green I was taken by surprise. My heart caught in my throat and I felt tears well in my eyes. The Cause was here. My own run came back to me mile by mile, minute by minute. Without warning I was overcome with emotion. Seeing their decorated race bibs and TNT decals I couldn’t help but yell words of encouragement. Calling their names, yelling Go Team in Training! You. Can. Do. It. With every thumbs up I felt it wasn’t enough. Something was missing. The run. Bottom line: I wanted to run with them. There’s something else I learned – I will always be a TNT runner. I will always have a place on the team.

Bill Bryson’s African Diary

African DiaryBryson, Bill. Bill Bryson’s African Diary. New York, Broadway Books, 2002.

I added this to the December list when I read a review describing it as “short.” It’s much shorter than I thought – only 49 pages of “diary” and a few more pages of statistical information. So short that I was able to read it over a lunch break. I’m glad it was a quick read because I couldn’t put it down. I’m a sucker for charitable tactics, especially unique ones, and this book definitely qualifies. CARE International (a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting global poverty) funded Bill Bryson’s trip to Nairobi, Africa with the request that he write about his eight day adventure. Bryson is known for his travel literature, his humor, and his expressive way of describing life around him. He would certainly be able to describe the poverty, the landscape, and best of all, the people of Africa. Many reviewers called this book a charity puff-piece, a lengthy advertisement for the work of CARE, and were bitter about the $12 price tag. What they missed out on was the stunning photography, the wry humor and the painless way to do good (all royalties and profit from the sale of the book went to CARE International).
Speaking of humor, here are a few of my favorite lines: “…tireless commitment to mediocrity” (p 2), “you had to be really unlucky to be shot and stabbed” (p 4), “Kenyan Railways has something of a tradition of killing its passengers” (p 21) and, “Watamu was tranquil to the point of being comatose” (25). There are other funny moments: “flying toilets,” and flying for real, to name two.

For more information on CARE, International go here.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust and the chapter “Bill Bryson: Too Good to Miss” (p 36). This being my first introduction to Bryson I am looking forward to more.

Dot3 Dash3 Dot3

I had been connected, plugged in, and glued to the Live Earth concert pretty much all day. Somehow, we managed to go out for breakfast (gotta love it when the waitress remembers the vinegar the first time requested), write up menus and grocery lists for the island trip (we’ve decided on pizza the first night – go figure), exchange the xBox360 so my kisa doesn’t go insane, pick up ankle weights and two running books so tigrelily doesn’t go insane, walk five miles and still had time to witness some of the best bands from the day. I am sorry I missed out on Corinne Bailey Rae and John Legend, though.
Shakira, Snoop Dog, Missy Higgins, Genesis, David Gray, Metallica, KT Tunstall, Yusef, Chris Cornell, Joss Stone, James Blunt, Xuxa, Foo Fighters, Beastie Boys, even Nunatak, the Antartica band of scientists. I was really excited to see them since I have such an affinity for the Antartic. Dave Matthews Band (just knew they would perform Too Much and Don’t Drink the Water), Alicia Keyes, Madonna, and of course Bubblicious. I loved his decision to call it “We’re NOT Waiting on the world to change”….
I am anxious to go home. My carbon footprint on the island is much smaller than the one here, in this life. At home I am a 0.9 as opposed to a 12.7. Here, I am big foot. Giant foot. Embarrassing foot. It feels wasteful, awful. Today we bought eco-friendly lightbulbs and talked about the Prius, maybe my next car.
Answer the call. I suppose I should think of that literally because my phone is ringing.

Edited to add: TiVo loves me. It recorded all the artists I missed (and wanted to see): Jack Johnson, Corinne and John and even one I didn’t know I wanted to see – DRUMMERS! Yay!

Top Ten Tragic

Doctors Without Borders sent another plea for help this week. This time they sent their “Top Ten Most Underrated Humanitarian Stories of 2006” and since I can’t afford to send them another check I thought I would help spread their word by blogging about that top 10…Do what you can do.

  1. Somalis Trapped by War…still.
  2. Fleeing Violence in the Central African Republic
  3. Tuberculosis Taking a Deadly Toll
  4. Conflict in Chewchnya
  5. Civilians Under Fire in Sri Lanka
  6. Preventing Malnutrition Deaths of Children
  7. Disease Outbreaks and Violence Plague the Democratic Republic of Congo
  8. Ongoing War in Colombia
  9. Relentless Violence & Sexual Assaults in Haiti
  10. Ongoing Clashes Displace Civilians in Central India

To read more about these top 10 go here.

I think was amazes me is that Medicins Sans Frontieres is in each and every one of these areas of poverty, disease and devastation. In some cases they have had to flee the country for their own safety (as was the case in Sri Lanka), but they returned. They go where no one else wants to be. That’s become their motto. It blows my mind.

A word about donating – they are serious about the money they collect. In every mailing they include the statement, “Doctors Without Borders operates in a manner consistent with the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP’s) Donor Bill of Rights and the AFP Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice.” For more information on their commitment to supporters, go here.

International Campaign for Tibet

map of TibetOver the vacation I received another prayer flag garland from the International Campaign for Tibet with another letter from the Dalai Lama. It reminded me that the Dalai Lama was in my town not that long ago. Someone I know actually bumped into him on the street and, knowing her friends would never believe her, snapped a picture of him with her cell phone (she even stalked the poor man while he was trying to have lunch, but that’s another story entirely). In the Dalai Lama’s letter he mentions coming to the United States and how he enjoys these visits. I’d like to ask him how he liked my friend nearly knocking him over!

Something I just noticed with this fourth letter from ICT is the list of famous people involved.  Harrison Ford is on the International Council of Advisors. Richard Gere is on the Board of Directors (okay, he nearly IS the Board of Directors). How did I miss these famous names before? I wonder if their involvement improves ITC’s chances of fund raising?

Women for Women International

Women for Women InternationalHere’s a new one. I’ve never been contacted by the Women for Women International charity before. I think their slogan is “see what you can do” because it was plastered on every piece of paper possible. Here’s what I got from the mailing: the ever-popular “Dear Friend” letter (four pages long), a strip of yellow paper outlining the critical situation of women in Southern Sudan, the ever-present donation card & envelope, and what looks to be a Women for Women International newsletter.

Here’s what I found out from the information sent to me:

  • Zainab Salbi is president, CEO and founder of Women for Women International in the hopes of women helping women.
  • WFWI has provided more than 93,000 women with tools and resources to get themselves out of poverty in places like Sudan, the DRC, Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Columbia, Bosnia and Kosovo. I’m thinking they should partner with DWB/MSF because they are in the same places, doing almost the same work.
  • WFWI is a 501(c)(3) organization. Weirdly enough, their funding information wasn’t in the letter but rather on the back of the envelope you mail back. You can write to the charity to receive a report of their annual finances. Each state has a different process and they’re all listed on the envelope.

Clear Path International

Too Many YearsMy first exposure to Clear Path was through Natalie. She provided a song on a benefit cd (Too Many Years) which was released in the spring of 2005. Even before that I knew Natalie was involved in the project. She would talk about CPI’s mission during her shows. She called such conversations (when she wasn’t singing) “patter”. I called it education for she was always talking about charities near and dear to her. CPU caught my attention when it broke my heart. So I donated. When I ordered the cd I asked to be put CPI’s mailing list for their biannual newletter and discovered I went to school with the vice president and the Cambodia advisor. Small world. They don’t know I subscribe to their newsletter, nor would they recognize my name when I donate. I’m a different person, literally and figuratively, since high school. But aren’t we all? 

But, I digress. Here’s the quick and dirty about CPI: Clear Path International is a six year old nonprofit out of (U.S.) Bainbridge Island, Wash. and Dorset, VT. They have offices in Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand (the places that really make sense) as well. Their mission is to serve the families and communities who are victim to landmines and oh so much more.  Their website is chock full of information – including a blog of videos worth checking out.

                                                    CPI logo