Effort In, Results Out. Bring on the Crow Pose!

This is one of my best friends, Sarah, who just so happens to be a yoga instructor :)

Photo Credit: Sarah Simos (one of my best friends), rocking the dancer’s pose in South Africa. #shesayogainstructor

About a month ago, I shared with you my humiliation when I attempted to take a Latin dance class, otherwise known as Andanza, at my gym.  The post was appropriately named Decisively Defeated.  And in my humbling reveal, I also shared how I started taking a pretty hardcore Vinyasa Flow class on Monday nights.

It’s vinyasa, up-dog, down-dog, warrior one, warrior two, reverse side warrior,  revolve, one-legged downward dog,  chair pose, boat pose, halfway boat, hold it, seated chair, halfway fold, vinyasa, up-dog, down-dog, lunge, plank, pulse, arm up, leg up, yinyasa, up-dog and on and on and on for 60 minutes, super fast.  I actually was thinking bad thoughts about Betsy, the lovely instructor only 4 minutes in when she had us holding forearm plank for a solid 10 seconds and then added 3 more things on before we got out of the pose.

I really do love this class, I swear.

I have been seeing Betsy once a week for about six weeks now.  It doesn’t get easier, per se, as she changes up the class a lot, but, I can move with ease, I know the language better and I can tell I am getting stronger.  I know this for many reasons but the main reason is THAT I DID THE CROW POSE FOR FIVE SECONDS THIS WEEK!

Oh yeah, I did.  In the world of yoga, I am guessing crow pose falls into a medium-to-high category of awesomeness and difficulty.  But take that with a grain of salt as I literally am the furthest thing from a yogi.  (This week while I should have been focusing on my breathing and doing 46 downward facing dogs, I was annoyed at the girl next to me as she put her mat so close that her stretched arms nearly poked me in the face a few times, her feet had rough calluses and her pinky toenail was really weird.  And her eye makeup was running down her face and distracting me like five times.  So yeah, a yogi I am not.)  Okay, back to crow.  First, let me show you a couple pics of crow pose.

Years ago when I took yoga, I could rock a crow pose.  Years ago.  So when I started this Vinyasa Flow class, I had one goal in mind…to be able to do the crow pose again.  And tonight, for a whopping five seconds straight, I did it!  As I was coming out of the pose (and by “coming out” I mean rescuing myself and my full body weight from crashing my face into the floor), I literally said out loud, “Yes!”  And I looked over at callus girl and she had been in crow for like a half an hour.  But, that didn’t get me down.  I was so happy.  In fact, when I came home, Rick and I were on our patio and I showed him a SECOND time in one night!  BOOM!

You see the point here, people?  I am not a yogi.  I am not a crow pose master.  But week after week, I have pushed myself and the work paid off.  Well, it’s paying off.  I still want to refine the pose.  Do it with ease.  Ensure the position is correct.  Stay there for more than five seconds.  Then try side crow.  And other poses. That will take more work, more weeks of seeing Betsy.  But, I know I can do it.  And what a darn good feeling that is!

When you put the effort in, you see the results.  Not immediately.  Over time.  When you set goals and go after them.  With patience, endurance, faith.  Perhaps you want to run a half marathon.  Or to become a chef…or to just start kicking more at home. Or  maybe you want to start a blog.  Or lose 5 pounds.  Or have more balance in your life.  Or become a better spouse.  None of these thing happen over night.  They happen over time.  When we have intention.  And next thing you know, you are in yoga class doing the crow pose.  

{Photo Sources:  Top –  http://www.yoganonymous.com, Bottom Left – http://www.smittenblog.com, Bottom Center – http://www.yogatrail.com, Bottom Right – http://www.doyouyoga.com}

Six Hours of Bliss.

ann-written-notes-bliss-spa4As a marketer, a consumer and a chick, there are brands that I am more drawn to and have a higher affinity towards vs. others.  For those of you who have been with me for a while (confession – I don’t know the grammatically proper way to use “a while” vs. “awhile” so I just wing it and take the 50% chance I am accurate and hope you guys don’t think I am an idiot if I do screw up), you could probably name a few brands that I love.  For example, J Crew.  Ahhh, J Crew.  The colors, the patterns, the jewelry, the global influence.  Or, Jayson Home.  And certain restaurants, like NIU sushi in Chicago (sorry, but I am married to a Japanese dude so I feel I carry enough weight to state that they have the best cuts of sushi in the city).  Or Balthazar in NYC. And travel.  Well, ahem, I am clearly loyal to Starwood Hotels.  And from an airline perspective, American Airlines has 100% of my business unless they don’t fly where I am going. And if that’s the case, I usually will not go to that destination. Seriously.  In the marketing world we call this loyalty beyond reason.

Anyways, another brand I have been very loyal to for about eight years now is Bliss Spa.  Many of my friends and family can attest to this as now, they are, too, Bliss loyalists.  And while I am not a spa connoisseur, I have been to my fair share of spas around the world and Bliss is number one for me.  So after a pretty rough few weeks, I decided to use up my gift cards, take the day off of work and be blissed away!  And that’s exactly what I did.  For a whopping six hours, I received a 75 minute blissage massage, I ate three brownies, I read Vanity Fair, I had a 60 minute fabulous facial, I drank hot tea and ate cheese, crackers and two more brownies, I took a steam shower, I received a hot cream manicure, I watched HGTV and finally, my feet received the fabulous feet pedicure.  Then I snuck back in for two more brownies before I finally left.  This is no joke. And the best part is my bill was $17 total as I had a bunch of gift cards!  #spoiled #blissbrownies

So, why do I love Bliss?  Let me give you 5 good reasons.

  1. Their branding.  It’s clever, memorable and different from the typical “let’s put plants and a hot stone massage with cursive type in an ad like the rest of the free spa world” spa branding.  Go to their site.  Sign up for their emails.  Go to the spa.  You will see what I mean.  I mean, how cute is this chick?!
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  2. Their brownies.  Now, let me be clear here.  The brownies don’t exist in every Bliss spa, but, they exist at the Bliss in Chicago at the W Lakeshore Hotel and they are like chocolatey chip delicious crack.  They cut them into mini bite size delights which makes you feel okay having a couple but I usually have like 6-7 of them which probably equals 3 whole brownies and guess what?  I don’t care.  They are worth every single calorie.
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  3. The locations.  They are in almost all major cities in the U.S.  (Boston, Chicago, South Beach, Atlanta, Dallas, LA, NYC, San Fran and the list goes on) which makes it super-duper convenient, tempting but also comfortable and you know what you will get.
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  4. Their treatments.  This speaks for itself.  And it includes their products. I have never (literally, never) left Bliss without my expectations being met or exceeded and in most cases, they are exceeded.  I’ve done facials, massages, manicures, pedicures and I have yet to walk away less than pleased. And relaxed. And happy.  And I  do own some of their daily products like lotions and washes and they are top-notch.
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  5. The ambiance.  It’s not stuffy or pretentious.  It’s comfortable and relaxing.  It’s energetic (but not like a toddler energetic, more like a classy but not pretentious spa energetic).  The playlists rock (not literally).  I want all the songs.  I ask every time and they can’t give the playlist to me because it comes from an iPod from their corporate offices (no joke…and I sort of think that’s funny and cool to go old school iPod on us).  The smells are sensational. The Bliss smell.  Anyone who has been there knows exactly what I am talking about.  It’s this lemony, sage, fresh ridiculously awesome smell. Oh and they have the best eucalyptus steam shower in. the. world.  (Because there is such high competition for eucalyptus steam showers out there.)

ann-written-notes-bliss-spa-5Are you ready to go to Bliss now?  Have I convinced you?  Well, I try to treat myself 3-4 times a year and today’s six hours of Bliss were just what the doctor ordered and would recommend some pampering for you as well!

Thank you, Bliss Chicago!

The Longest Miscarriage in the History of Miscarriages

The pain awakens me out of my sleep and I think to myself, I have not had cramps like this ever before.  What do I even take?  What do I do?  I moan and bend over, arms crossed and tucked into my stomach.  Rick wakes up.  The tears start to flow as the pain increases.  It’s 1:30am and I knew my night of sleep was over.  Not wanting to keep Rick from sleeping, I grab my pillow and a blanket to try to sleep downstairs on our couch.  As I leave our bedroom, he says to me, “leave the door open…so I can hear you in case you need me…”  30 minutes later I am sprawled across my cold marble floor in my bathroom, vomiting, sweating, bleeding, weeping.  The pain was unbearable.  I use all my energy to scream for Rick.  I hear the sounds of his feet running down our hallway.  He opens the bathroom door to see his wife more vulnerable than ever.  I say “call 911.”  Those were my words that came from my mouth and in my head all I could think about is that I hadn’t imagined death would be like this.  I was not ready to die.  I begged God.  The ambulance arrives and two women calmly walk through my front door.  Scared, in pain, raw, I was picked up off of my floor by the woman.  She helped get me dressed.  She gave Rick instructions.  Moments later my eyes are shut, oxygen tubes fill my nose, IV in both arms and I hear the sound of the ambulance siren as we drive to Northwestern Hospital.  This cannot be happening right now.  I open my eyes and ask the woman “Am I going to die?”  She said she didn’t think so. 

For those of you who read my post back in late July, you know that I had a miscarriage.  And in my post I had written these words: It was clear it was going to get worse before it will get better…  Well, nobody could have prepared me for the worse.  Nearly two months had passed from the day where  the words “there is no baby” suffocated me and I experienced what I had thought was the physical aspect of the miscarriage.  In my mind, it was over.

And then one morning in mid September as I am working from home, I began to hemorrhage and experience blood clotting (trust me, you want no more details than this).  Faint, shocked and not understanding what my body was doing, I called the doctor and my sister (naturally).  I won’t go into the experience I had on the phone with my doctor’s office as it irks the crap out of me.  But what I will say is at the recommendation of my sister, I called my neighbor and dear friend, Rayah, who rushed me to the doctor (right after bringing another neighbor’s children’s diaper to wear…this part of the story always makes me laugh.  And no, I did not wear the children’s diaper).  An hour in the waiting room and ten minutes with the nurse (not a doctor), the bleeding had subsided and she couldn’t confirm whether this was the end of the miscarriage and my body taking its course or a horrific first period post miscarriage.  She sent me to the lab to get my blood tested.  (This was a regular routine for me.  I had been going to the doctor once a week to track my HCG hormone levels to zero.  HCG is the hormone in your body that indicates you are pregnant and when you miscarry, and especially if you let the miscarriage happen naturally like I was attempting to, you have to track this hormone to zero and get a period before you can start trying to conceive again.)  On July 27, they were at 24,000. After this appointment, they were slowly moving down and were at 72.  This seems like a good thing, going from 24,000 to 72.  But remember, it had been over two months since the miscarriage.

After that incident, I felt the weight of our loss more than I ever had.  I had anger in me, I was confused, I was sad, I was exhausted.  Actually, exhausted is probably the most accurate of how to describe my emotional state.  And I was starting to become hurt by Rick and his inability to understand me, understand the loss, understand the pain that comes with going to the doctor every single week and watching couples come and go through that waiting room, belly’s big, smiles wide.  I tried to pray and while I know God is always there and always listens, I couldn’t hear his voice, sees his signs.  The disconnect there and with Rick prompted me to set up time with my therapist.  I would say this calls for some therapy, right?  Well, needless to say, thank God for Paul!  Paul is the therapist both Rick and I have been seeing for 3 years and is one of the reasons Rick and I are here today, married (no joke).  In short (and note I am being short for the sake of this blog…Paul is very kind, gentle and not as blunt as the below), what I learned in my session were a few things, some of which may seem strikingly obvious, yes:

  1. I will forever grieve this loss
  2. Everyone grieves differently
  3. Let myself grieve (ahhh, interesting…hadn’t done this yet!)
  4. Rick will truly never understand how I feel (ouch)
  5. In fact, men in general have a very difficult, if not impossible time truly understanding women as it relates to miscarriages
  6. That said, tell Rick what I need from him.  Ahhh, right!  The age-old reminder that Rick can’t read my mind!  That alone was worth the $175 therapy fee.

Four weeks later, which brings us to now, here I am.  And if you are wondering the outcome of my adventure to the ER, it was this:  15 hours in the hospital.  My mom, sister and Rick at my side.  3-4 {loving, caring} nurses.  3-4 {smart, kind} doctors.  A few technicians  that would come and go and talk with me.  Three ultrasounds.  3-6 (I lost count) exams.  A series of questioning my miscarriage history at least 6 times, if not 18 or 19.  Me arguing with one of the technicians that the scale was wrong.  Him saying okay and changing the weight amount on the papers (no joke…only someone on Weight Watchers would be this insane).  HCG test (count was at 2.7) and this time the needle had to go in my forearm as my other veins were already preoccupied with pain meds and fluids.  Awesome.  Catheter (don’t remember why).  Dry mouth like I have never experienced.  A move from the ER to a room at Prentice through a secret passageway that made me feel like I was on ER, awaiting Clooney’s arrival.  One technician coming in and asking me if I was here for my chemo.  Ultrasound results.  And finally, Dr. Garb, the main doctor comes in to see me.  I take him through the history and answer all of his questions.  His response?  “This is the longest miscarriage in the history of miscarriages!”  I had to laugh.  After reviewing all the test results, it turns out I had a mass of what I will call “miscarriage tissue” in my cervix which the Dr. believed was the reason for the pain.  His recommendation?  Get surgery…in this case, a DNC.  A DNC, standing for dilation and curettage, is a common surgery post miscarriage.  His description made it seem like it was as easy as boiling a pot of water.  I looked at Rick and Rick gave a very strong, “Yes, do it.”  A ten minute surgery, I feel nothing, have no pain during or after and I leave the hospital physically around 1,000 times better.

Why did my regular doctor not recommend this over the last three months?  Well, it’s a good question one that raises my blood pressure a bit.

And then I remember.  God has a plan.  And His timing is perfect.  I don’t understand it, but I trust it.

There is no baby.

“There is no baby,” the ultrasound technician said firmly, but with a heavy heart and sadness in her eyes.  “No!  No!” I said in disbelief as I covered my eyes and wept.  “No…” I kept saying over and over while the tears streamed down my face.  Rick grabbed my hand while the technician finished up.  She gave us a moment and said she would be back to take us to speak with the doctor.

This was not the blog post I had in mind when Rick and I found out in June we were having a baby.  Instead, I envisioned a creative announcement entailing a flirty city photo shoot telling the story of how God blessed us with the miracle of a child (it was an amazing story but God has since intervened and our story now has taken a turn).  And so, here is the different news I have to share.  And for those of you who know me, I do share.  Some people would keep something like this private.  For me, while I certainly don’t share every single thing about my life, I felt inclined to share this amidst my pain.  If I happen to touch or help one person, it is worth it.

Excited, nervous, anxious and filled with joy, Rick and I received the news that we were expecting a baby in early June.  We had been trying to conceive for exactly one year when the vivid positive sign on the pregnancy test had me in disbelief saying curse words (but ones of joy) in my bathroom, barely able to breathe.  The first few weeks were surreal and apart from being tired and peeing every 14 seconds, I felt great.  And then weeks 5-7 were really hard for me.  My hormones were beyond the point of having overtaken my whole body, physically, mentally and emotionally.  It was rough and I will spare you the details, but it didn’t feel good.  Around week 7, I had to go to the doctor for an emergency ultrasound as I was spotting.  It only happened once and not again and the results came back generally okay.  The technician was able to see the yolk sac (where the baby lives), my uterus was growing, I still had all the symptoms of being pregnant and while she couldn’t actually see the baby during the ultrasound, she said this was okay.  There was, however, a small leak of blood from the sac, which is common and occurs in a high percentage of pregnancies and because mine was so small and I had not bled again, both the technician and the doctor felt there wasn’t anything to be concerned with.   They would see me again in a few more weeks for the first big ultrasound.

I remember vividly waking up on Saturday, July 14 (almost 8 weeks pregnant) feeling 99% back to myself.  I couldn’t believe it!  The hormone takeover had exponentially subsided.  It felt amazing.  I had energy and my drive for life back.  In fact, I took a run (albeit slow) as I was feeling so good.  Oddly it felt as if I wasn’t pregnant.  For so many days of not feeling good to then waking up and feeling great, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat empty.  Right or wrong, I went onto a forum I had visited before and looked at what other women had experienced related to this (one day feeling so much better, but then not having the “pregnant feeling”).  And for the most part, the responses were that it was okay, and the women went on to have healthy babies.  Furthermore, the comments reaffirmed how crazy hormones are in the first trimester and your body is going through so many changes that any change like that is arguably “normal.”  I put the word normal in quotes because honestly nothing is normal in the first trimester and because every woman is different, it’s almost impossible to rely on any source of information.  Other women on the forum, a lesser percentage, did miscarry.  I, of course, focused on the positive and didn’t worry.

On Friday, July 27, Rick and I were 10 weeks pregnant as we went in for the big ultrasound.  The one where, if you can hear the heartbeat, you move into “safe zone” as they say.  Safe zone essentially is the start of the second trimester (recognizing I still had a couple more weeks technically until that point) where the risk of a miscarriage decreases significantly.  Yes, of course, things could happen post first trimester, but the stats are far more in your favor.  As I lay awkwardly on the table (no matter how many times you visit an OBGYN office, it’s so incredibly awkward) waiting for the technician to arrive, I looked at Rick and asked him if he was nervous.  He looked at me like I was nuts.  Meanwhile, I felt like I was going to vomit.  This was it.  We will hear a heartbeat or we won’t.  Something didn’t feel right to me.  The technician came in, greeted us and asked me “do you feel pregnant?”  That was weird, I thought.  I told her about how I felt awful and then felt amazing and ironically, no, I didn’t feel pregnant (though I still had some of the basic symptoms).  And moments later, the words “there is no baby” suffocated me and broke my heart.  I couldn’t believe it.  I actually thought for a second I was having a nightmare and that I would wake up.  How could that be?  I haven’t bled, I have had no cramping.  I still have symptoms of being pregnant.  But there is no baby.

As we spoke with our doctor, it was clear it was going to get worse before it will get better.  I, at that point, technically had not yet physically miscarried. And to spare you the details, what this essentially means is the physical aspect of the miscarriage is yet to come, either naturally or surgically.  The doctor did confirm that because of the abrupt change of not feeling well to feeling great (or how I described it, the feeling of “not pregnant”) while still in my first trimester, that was likely around when the development of the baby stopped.

When we learned we were pregnant in early June, apart from sharing the news with a few very close people in my life, I methodically thought through others we (okay, I) would share this news with.  You see, when you get pregnant, your immediate thought is not erring on the side of pessimism, it errs on the side of the optimistic and perhaps fear-based “I know that has happened to others, but it won’t happen to me.”  Which then leads to the unbelievable excitement to create a special moment with certain people in your life that you know will not only be equally excited about the news, but that will support and love you deeply along the way.

I have recently learned that the reverse is true.  Not only will those people celebrate with you in times of joy, they will mourn with you in times of sorrow.  It reminds me of a bible verse that says “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).  And I have to admit, prior to being pregnant, I perceived miscarriages as a sort of common occurrence.  Something that while is so sad and unfortunate, it is a reality and many women go through it.  Well, I guess my thoughts could be true.  But what you never really understand is that painful reality that a miscarriage is a death.  It is a loss.  One that is confusing.  One that requires grieving time.  One that shakes you.  One that hurts deeply.  One that requires those around you to weep with you.

And during this time of grievance, I do feel loved deeply and for that, I am beyond grateful and thankful to God for blessing me/us with an incredible community of people.  Those who rejoiced with us when we shared the news, also wept with us. A few specific moments stand out to me specifically:

I remember reading my daily devotional after I came home from the doctor on July 27 and the words “hope is a golden cord connecting you to heaven.  This cord helps you hold your head up high, even when multiple trials are buffeting you.  I never leave your side and I never let go of your hand.”  It was in that moment that I had comfort and security knowing God was with me during this process and while I didn’t understand why this had happened to us, I trusted God’s plan.

I had Rick holding me while I wept in his arms at the doctor’s office and his words of I love you meant more than I could have imagined.  The safety and security of a loving husband is truly something I do not take for granted.

My best friend, Eileen, was at my house even before I got home from the doctor’s office.

I received phone calls from friends where I could actually sense pain in their voices for me.

Text messages and emails came through with words that, in that moment, offered me healing:   “I’ll be praying for you.  Love you, God will bring you through this.”  “Lots of prayers your way and always here if you need to chat.”  “I am so sorry Ann.  I am here when you feel you want to talk.  You’re very loved…don’t forget that.”  “I am sorry, I am here for you.” “I love u.” “Let me know what I can do.” “I’m sorry.”

My sister was on vacation in Mexico and knew I had my ultrasound that day.  She called me from her trip as she could sense something was going on.  She obviously wasn’t sure what, but I found that to be truly one of those sister moments.  It was as if she could sense I was in pain and had to call.

The most special note came from my mom.  She wrote, “Ann & Rick, I can’t tell you how sorry your dad and I are about the baby.  I know it hurts terribly right now, but God usually has a reason for this even though you can’t see it now.  I am sure I told you I also had a miscarriage, so I do know how you are feeling and it will take a while for that feeling of emptiness to subside.  The good news for me was that 3 months later I was pregnant with you, so that was when I realized there must have been a reason for my miscarriage and was able to have you.”

Trials will come and pain in this world is inevitable.  But with friends and family and most importantly, faith in God, we are able to get through life’s toughest challenges.  And while the pain of our loss will likely be with us forever in some way, the love and comfort of people is what makes the pain bearable.  And I know that each day will get easier and with time, we will be able to see God’s story play out in HIS way, not ours.  And that is exciting…and of course, scary 🙂

Philippians 4:13 is what I am hanging on to right now:  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Continue To Be Bright Pink. And Love Your Boobs.

I have heard from at least five people today on how fast fall is whipping through the Midwest and I couldn’t agree more (I actually exaggerated this morning that I needed to go get my turkey out of the oven as Thanksgiving is about five minutes away).  Christmas music is now on that crazy Delilah radio station that I actually live for as I am obsessed with Christmas and fine, I MAY have listened to the Jessica Simpson Christmas album once or twice on my fall runs.  Starbucks launched their holiday cups today.   Wow, fall is flying by and I am not sure why or where it went.  Sigh.  For me, it may be because I was either on an airplane, attending 436 meetings, networking at TED,  on 320 conference calls, planning wedding showers, planning a charity event, celebrating my one-year wedding anniversary, running, reading Danny Meyers’s Setting the Table or sleeping.  Good excuses.  But, excuses nonetheless.  I did get to see amazing fall foliage in Galena, Illinois this past weekend so that’s a plus.

As I reflect on fall so far, there is one thing that stands out to me and one that I want to stop, pause and pray on:  A time  period that arguably is the most important in our country during the fall season that holds SOME place in everyone’s lives:  Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The extraordinary work of so many organizations, companies and people with regard to Breast Cancer Awareness  has, to me, been incrementally more alive, more visual and more social this year.  Linebackers in pink.  American Airlines website in pink.  Women wearing pink.  Buildings in Chicago lit in pink.  Celebrities supporting the cause (in fact, Bethenny Frankel just posted something today).  Pink cocktails.  Today is November 1 so technically it’s over, but how can we have that same level of momentum all year-long?  After meeting such incredible social entrepreneurs in the past month, I  decided that once or twice a month I will dedicate one of my blogs to one of these people or one of their companies with the hopes that even ONE person could be impacted and/or convicted to do something.

And this month in an effort to continue the momentum and support the cause, I wanted to write about an amazing woman named Lindsay Avner, Founder and Executive Director of Bright Pink.

Okay, moving right along.  Here’s the deal.   About 6 months ago, my friend JR said to me, “Ann, I have a woman you have to meet.  Her name is Lindsay and she runs a non-for-profit called Bright Pink to help prevent breast and ovarian cancer and you will love her…”  That was the simplified version, there were many more superlatives and reasons behind why I should meet her, according to JR.  Wow, I thought.  She sounds amazing.  Time went by, I didn’t meet Lindsay.  And then, two weeks ago, Lindsay Avner magically appeared in my network for the TEDx Midwest conference.  It was clear to me God was telling me I needed to meet her 🙂  So, I connected with her through Facebook and told her who I was and that JR Kerr thinks we would like each other.  So random and sort of stalker-esque.  But if you know JR, he’s usually spot on with this stuff so I trusted him.  And low and behold, I see Lindsay in the midst of over 1,000 people at TED.  I made sure to grab her (not literally…come on, people), introduce myself in person and I instantly could sense why JR spoke so highly of her.  Her energy, her poise, her sweetness and the fact that she has dedicated her life to trying to help women all over the United States be proactive about understanding their risks of getting breast and ovarian cancer.  Wow.

As quoted from Bright Pink’s website, “Bright Pink is a national non-profit organization that provides education and support to young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. We arm young women with knowledge, options and a great attitude, and offer companionship and empathy during their journey. We empower them to take control of their breast and ovarian health and in turn, grant them the freedom and peace of mind to live a beautiful and fulfilling life.”  There is an amazing video that explains this even further…I strongly encourage you to check it out.

So, a huge round of applause to Lindsay Avner and her incredible team at Bright Pink.  They offer loads of education, support (PinkPals – I know I would need many of these if I was going through something as tough as cancer) and a huge community of people and sponsors to help the cause.   Everything from networking events, becoming a sponsor, speaking with a genetic counselor, online forums, outreach groups and so much more, Bright Pink has truly done an amazing job being an innovative non-for-profit organization.

And the ask of you (ladies) today is:  Do some homework about your boobs, give them love, for a brighter future.  Get involved.  Educate yourself.  Donate your time.  Be Brilliant, Be Bold, Be Bright Pink.

[photo credit: http://www.brightpink.org]

Bank of America, Hot Chocolate and Navy Pier.

What do these three things have in common?  At a glance, you may be thinking you can deposit a check and grab hot chocolate while you are visiting Navy Pier.  I am sure that’s possible.  Or maybe how each of them generates money in some way.  Again, possible.  But you still wouldn’t be right according to this Ann Written Note.  There is one thing they have in common:  CHICAGO RUNNING! 

As we are just days out from the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, I have to say what I say (and think) every year.  Holy crap I cannot believe the unbelievable mental strength, will power and discipline marathon runners have!   And holy crap those calf muscles are awesome.  I saw a pack of trainers recently and the level of teamwork that I witnessed was remarkable.  They all waited for each other, there were tears, emotions and lots of sweating.  And this wasn’t even the real marathon (granted it was probably a 20-mile run…I actually think I shed a tear just watching them).

My mind has a hard time wrapping itself around running 26.2 miles.  Truly, I am fascinated that a human being can actually do this.  And while I wish these last few sentences were a tease and build up to “SURPRISE!  I’m running the Chicago Marathon this weekend!”  they aren’t.  And I am not.  The closest I have come to a marathon was running the last 6 miles of the 2010 Chicago Marathon with my dear friend Karla and admittedly, I did feel a killer high but it wasn’t enough to make me do it 🙂

And so in the meantime, I will be training for and allegedly completing my second and third 10-mile races this year (which for me, a 10 mile race equals a marathon!):  the Hot Chocolate race on November 5 and Chicago’s Perfect 10 Navy Pier race on November 12.  Man, I sound pretty lame with these 10-milers after talking about these overly impressive 26.2 milers.  Which brings me to the big question:  Why Do I Run?  Good question, Ann!  Let me explain.

I began running in 2007 when I moved into a studio apartment which was two blocks from Lake Michigan and two blocks from Lincoln Park, two of Chicago’s ultimate running paths.  I was going through a divorce, living in a space that was as small as my college dorm room, dating a guy who was married, a tad confused at life and broken.  And everything in me was saying RUN!  Run very far and don’t come back.  So instead of actually doing that and pissing my parents off even more, I grabbed my tennis shoes, sports bra, t-shirt and my lululemon pants and I did something I never thought I would care or want to do.  I ran.  On the lake.  For maybe 10-15 minutes.  And there were tears, emotions and a lot of sweating (not to be confused with the marathon trainers referenced above).  It was therapeutic to say the least.  I would run and pray and listen to amazing music and pray and run and some days absolutely hate the run but would finish.   It was (and still is) a personal therapy session for me to get peace and talk to God.

One ran led to the next and there I was, weeks later running in a 5k race.  In 2008 I think I ran in 10 races and in 2009, 15-20.  It became semi-addicting.  And I loved it.  The adrenaline of running with hundreds of other runners through one of the most amazing cities in the world, jamming to my favorite tunes, brings a smile to my face and a pep in my step, literally.  Addie Horton, that one was for you.

Therapeutic, addicting…and an awesome workout.  I have been an athlete my whole life and generally have kept in shape (let’s not count that Freshman 15 – I mean Freshman 20 – from good old U of I).  I would go to the gym and use the elliptical, walk on the treadmill and lift weights.  I would play on softball teams and volleyball teams.  But nothing has given me greater joy and a greater sense of an amazing workout than running.  Nothing.  Even if I only run a mile or two, I feel rejuvenated, recharged and healthy.  There is just something about running.

And the last reason I love to run is the time alone.  I cherish the time alone appreciating God’s earth and letting my mind run free.  Actually, most of the content for these blogs has come to me while I am running.  I think of my best ideas, the worst ideas and the most random thoughts (imagining myself as a back-up dancer for Justin Timberlake…wondering what other runners are thinking that pass by me on the riverwalk…how much I love music…etc…) while I run.  It’s so fun!

If you are reading this and you are a runner, I am sure some of this resonates with you and I am sure you, too, have your own unique reasons for running.  If you are reading this and you hate running or think you can’t run or don’t want to,  maybe, just maybe I have said something that would peak your interest and cause you to dust off your gym shoes, grab your iPod, put on some Black Eyed Peas and let your mind wander.  My sister did…and so can you 🙂

2011 Chicago Marathoners – GOOD LUCK and BE SAFE!  My prayers will be with all of you for an amazing run, good weather and tons of fun.

Weight, the Scale Says WHAT?!

Summer is an amazing time of year.   The sun wakes us up in the morning, kids are outside playing, people are more active, dining al fresco is the norm, Skinny Girl Magarita’s at noon is acceptable and the social life of many is taken to a new level.  Women have prepped for the summer bikini season doing P90X or Crossfit on North Avenue beach at 6am.  Some dudes ride their bikes casually along the lake in their Speedo’s (hey, to each their own).  It’s just an amazing time of year with energy, laughter and hospitality explosion.  My summer started with training for my first 10 mile race which was a success and kicked off Memorial Day Weekend healthy, confident and ready to embrace the [dreaded] bikini head on.  Three months later (after drinking Skinny Girl Magarita’s al fresco), on Friday, August 19 at 10:13am, I had the grandiose idea of stepping on my scale.  It couldn’t be tha…OH MY GOSH!   I jumped off the scale, terrified as if I had just seen a cockroach.  And then I thought, “oh it was an error…I hadn’t stepped on it for a couple of months so it probably just needed to adjust and get warmed up…”  Let me try it again.  I slowly placed my left foot, then my right and weighed in (buck naked, mind you) for the second time.  FRICK.  It’s not lying.  It’s a digital scale.

I guess for me, summer actually meant [a little too much] dining al fresco, cheeses (ahh, I love cheese so much), french fries from the French Market, sauvignon blanc and my daily handful of dark chocolate peanut M&M’s.  Come on, you have to enjoy life, right?  Okay, maybe not as much as I did this summer.  And now, I have a choice.  GAME ON! The self-proclaimed 8 pound weight loss challenge is on, officially as of Monday, August 22.  Get excited for this journey, it’s going to be a fun one and one that I will not hold anything back, admit to my french fry cheating’s (in journalism this is called foreshadowing) and track my weight loss through this blog.  How’s that for accountability?

On a lighter note, pun intended, I wanted to share with you my Monday win, my Monday discovery and one of my tools that will be in my biggest loser toolbox.  Pret A Manger and their ridiculously delicious, ridiculously healthy spicy shrimp and cilantro wrap.  Not only is it amazing, but the in-store experience is efficient and informative…they show you the calorie count on all of their sandwiches, salads and wraps!  And if that isn’t amazing enough, how about the fact they they DO WELL AND DO GOOD FOR SOCIETY?!  Everything they make is made that day and whatever they don’t sell at the end of the day is donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.  I love it.  Made Today, Gone Tomorrow.

If you have a Pret near you, go (and go fast) and get ready for my 8 pound weight loss challenge!

[photo credit:  http://www.pret.com/us%5D

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