Two Week Update on Brody the TriPawd

Brody lookThank you all so much for all of your support and well wishes from my last post. We have felt the love from our closest friends to complete strangers here, on Facebook, Twitter, your calls and texts – not to mention the cards and flowers addressed to Brody O’Brien. As of today, Brody has been home for two weeks from his hind leg amputation.

With two weeks at home, I thought it was time for an update. I have had a long couple of days so I cannot promise you the finesse of my last post but I can get you some good news and facts.

So far Brody is doing fine and adjusting so well. Adam and I are amazed at how well he is getting along. To be honest, he is adjusting much better than I am. We were told when we were making this decision that dogs get along just fine and that it is the people that have a hard time adjusting – they were right. I am so unbelievably happy to have my best friend but obviously I am sad that he had to go through this.

As we reach the two week mark, we can start getting him off some of the medication. He was taking 6 pain meds, 2 antibiotics and 1 anti-inflammatory a day. Now we only need to give him the pain medication as necessary. I am happy about that. I always feel weird giving dogs medication, because they can’t tell you how it effects them. Brody has been sleeping a lot. Of course, a lot of that is to heal but I am curious how much is from the medication.

Getting around

Brody has been getting around pretty well. We have gated off the inside stairs, they are really slippery and a little narrow. There just isn’t enough room to be clumsy and it is hard for him to get his grip, for now. He can do the outside stairs great! So we have him coming in and out the back stairs and he is totally fine with that.

We have been carefully working on building strength in that back leg without over doing it. We have no idea what we are doing but we are trying. That back leg gets pretty tired and he hangs his rear pretty low when it is tired.

Last Thursday we were in the front lawn and Brody decided to run down the street (we obviously live in a no traffic area, I didn’t let him run into a busy road or anything), so I let him go – as far as the stop sign and then we turned back. Each day since, we have gone a little farther – yesterday we even did a full circle of the block.

Chili is ok too

My neighbor asked me the other day how the other dog was doing. For those of you don’t know Chili, he is the master of this house. He is a border collie mix who makes sure we are all in our places, he is fed on time and that Penn will never go out of business – just to keep up his tennis ball supply.

Chili and Brody have a very brotherly relationship. Not the ‘we love each other so much’ brotherly relationship but more like the push you down the stairs, steal your toys, take your bone, tattle on you when mom and dad get home kind of brother. Nothing there has changed. Dogs don’t seem to know that something is different the way a human does. Chili is just being Chili and he is just excited we have got so many new toys lately.

Brody is still Brody

Lots of people have asked about Brody’s personality and I am very happy to say that Brody is still very Brody-like. He is goofy and silly, cuddly and funny, loves his walks, eating fine, drinking plenty and he seems to be loving all the attention and visitors but he has always loved that.

I on the other hand seem to be the shell shocked one. I feel like I have been to battle and I know there is still more to come. We still have some other things to figure out, we still have physical (maybe emotional and mental too) strength to get back as a team and we have more things to get used to and figure out. The good news is we get to do it together.

Thank you all again for checking on us and sending your love, good thoughts, advice and for listening. We wouldn’t be pulling through this as well as we are without the love and support of our friends, family, community, new friends, people who have been through this and complete strangers. Thank you very much from me and from Brody.

Brody Has Three Legs – Just Don’t Tell Him That

Brody Sleeping Day 1One week ago, on Easter afternoon, we took the dogs for a long walk in Robinson’s Woods in Cape Elizabeth. Our walk was probably 3 or 4 miles and no one could have been happier.

When we got back to the Jeep, Brody went to jump into the car and something went very wrong. He screamed in pain and there was obviously something very wrong with his hind, right leg. We calmed him as best we could and got him to lay in some leaves at the edge of the woods. We knew we were not going to be able to get him into the small Jeep and had to find someone to come and help us.

After a good friend drove from three towns away to help us, we as best we could scooped broken Brody into the back of the vehicle and made our way to the Animal Emergency Clinic. Poor Brody was in so much pain, it was absolutely heart breaking.

When we were able to see a vet, the first impression was not good and he eluded to some very big problems that they may not be able to fix. Brody was knocked out and xrays were taken.

Brody has bone cancer – Osteosarcoma

Brody xrayBrody had severely broken his right, hind leg right at the hip. It was shattered. The cause for such shattering with such little force was that he has bone cancer, or Osteosarcoma. The bone cancer had left the bone so pockmarcked and hollow that just the force of jumping into the car shattered it.

They were going to keep him heavily sedated and have a surgeon look at it in the morning to confirm that she could not repair the bone. There was just too little to work with.

We were sent home to wait. Adam and I didn’t talk much. I was beyond hysterical and did not/could not sleep. I could feel my heart breaking and was most frustrated that I didn’t even have anything to hope for.

Very few options

The surgeon called. The bone could not be repaired. She was in agreement that it was Osteosarcoma. She said he could be a candidate for amputation. Brody is 11 years old; don’t tell him that either – he thinks he is 5. Dogs his age were less likely candidates for amputation because their other leg that would need to support them was old or arthritic, and their blood work could come back poor because their body is already fighting the cancer or the cancer could have already spread into their organs – especially their lungs.

I asked for the support of my family and my husband that this decision was mine to make. It has been ‘Brody and Amanda Takes on the World’ for 11 years. He is a momma’s boy and I am completely enamored with him. There were two paths to take – let him go, or amputate and hopefully buy the guy some more time. I can’t even begin to walk you through every thought I had while making that decision. What were you doing for the dog and what were you doing for yourself? I can say after all of it, I decided that Brody wasn’t done yet.

It was a long shot but we had to let the Brody man give it a try. For the first time in this whole experience, I had something to hope for.

So we got more tests taken:

  • His other leg… remarkably strong
  • His blood work… normal except some elevated counts that were from the trauma of the broken leg
  • His chest xray… totally clear

11 year old Brody, was cleared for surgery to remove his leg.

Three legs… ain’t no thing!

Brody’s broken leg was removed Tuesday afternoon. We were able to pick him up Wednesday morning. Late Tuesday and early Wednesday Brody had decided he didn’t want to vet techs helping him anymore and wouldn’t let anyone near his cage. As we walked in and I started to talk to him, he started talking back (he thinks he can talk). We pulled his blanket out of the cage and he buried his head deep into my chest.

Amanda O'BrienHe was heavily medicated, very bruised, wearing a cone and most notably, missing a leg. We removed his IV, he continued to bury his head and ‘talk’ to me until we asked him if he wanted to go home. He clumsily (think Bambi on ice) got up and did his best to run all the way out of the vet’s office. He crashed into a wall or three but he was intent on breaking out of this joint. Outside, he took the longest pee with a new aggressive lean maneuver and let Adam carry him into the car.

The car ride home was very emotional as he continued to bury his head into my chest and ‘talk’ to me. I felt like he was telling me about the very bad last few days he had and I would like to think he was thanking us for making the decision we did.

Brody FlowersWednesday at home was slow. Still heavily medicated he was not very interested in eating or drinking. He slept a lot but did make it outside on the leash a few times. He even tried to make a go at the back steps when we took our eyes off him for a second.

Thursday was better. We began to get our appetite back (including me). We drank water on our own. The heavy medication was worn off. Outside trips were easier and when Adam came home that night, Brody got up to meet him at the door all smiles and wags. Not a dry eye in the house.

Brody and his duckFriday was even better and we moved the recovery room to the upstairs. He navigated down steps well but needed a little help on the way back up. He would look back at Adam with an look that was easily read as ‘little help here?’ and Adam would carry him the rest of the way. He even spent some solid hours outside in the lawn, just standing and smelling but it was awesome. He also snuck out of the bedroom at night and helped himself onto the chair in the living room.

Saturday, we may have outdone ourselves the day before because Saturday was a little slower. Appetite was back all the way though, he was interested in toys and loved having a few visitors. He slept really well through the whole night in his bed.

Today, well today has been awesome. Our first adventure outside was hysterical. Brody even attempted to chase a squirrel. He pranced around for awhile and even mistakingly tried to lift the only good back leg he has to go to the bathroom. He was literally standing on his two front paws for a second, until that obviously ended they way you expected. My parents came to visit their grand-dog and brought delicious bones. He has gotten on and off his chair a few times, rested in between adventures but Brody seems to be back.

Adjusting to Three Legs

Brody StandingI am shocked at how quickly Brody has adjusted to three legs. Of course he slips sometimes but he doesn’t seem to be phased by it much. There was an incident where he rested against the fence to go to the bathroom, stairs are tricky and need supervision, backing up and tight turns are hit or miss but it is absolutely amazing how well he is adjusting.

The surgeon told us that dogs don’t feel that sense of emotional trauma that humans have when they lose a limb, they just adjust. She also warned us that is was harder on humans to see a dog with three legs than it is on the dog. She seems to know what she is talking about so far.

What is next?

Physically, Brody is under surveillance for two weeks after the surgery. We don’t want an infection or for him to fall on that already very tender area. Then after that, we adjust as a family. I am looking forward to some good walks and enjoying Maine in the summertime with my best friend.

The cancer will be back. In my non-medical way of explaining it, bone cancer is already in the rest of your system. It is in your body and your blood – just because we amputated that ‘bad’ part doesn’t mean it went away. We had them send the leg away for more tests and hopefully that will be able to tell us more about how advanced this is. Hopefully we will get more of a timeline on how long we may have with old man Brody.

Emotionally, we heal and try to get back to normal, or what our new normal is. After the decision was made I found some really awesome resources online. A friend sent me Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Beyond Surgery, Chemotherapy & Radiation, which then gave me a better idea of what things I should be looking for. I stumbled on Tripawds – A User-Supported Three Legged Dog Blog Community. I am still going through a lot of information but it is a whole online community for dogs who have lost a limb, usually from this type of cancer, and their owners.

Huge Thank You

This was honestly one of the hardest weeks of my life. If you are a dog lover, you may understand. If you are not, you think I am crazy. I got Brody when I was 20 years old, living in an apartment in Durham, NH. He has done more than change my life, I honestly think he has saved it. He changed me, he showed me our new life and he is my bestest friend.

I didn’t talk to a lot of people as this was happening. To those that I did, I owe you big time. A huge thank you to our families that let this be my decision and who backed me after I had made it. A huge thank you to family who brought us food, when we didn’t realize we weren’t eating. To the family and friends that sent Brody flowers, toys, cards and their thoughts and prayers – every single one of them helped.

Thank you in advance to anyone who wishes us luck from here forward.

The biggest thanks is of course to my husband, who grieved with me, cried with me, accepted my decision, made the cutest pill calendar in the world, who carried my 80 pound dog when I cannot and who loves me and my very special dog Brody.

Wish us luck!

A Few Thoughts on Big Decisions

We make decisions all day, every day. We make big decisions often too. Sometimes, we have to make big, life-changing decisions – and those are a different beast. Decisions about your health, about switching jobs or careers, about friends and family are what I am talking about. Ones that actually are going to forever change your life. Decisions that if you choose wrong, you may never get a do-over.

I am fortunate that I haven’t had too many of these. A life changing decision done wrong, could have major consequences, you may hurt someone who loves you, you could never get back to what you had. On the other hand, you may choose right and reap the benefits of a new path in life.

I unfortunately had to make one of the hardest personal decisions of my life this week*. I won’t know if I made the right decision for awhile but a decision had to be made. I hope none of you are ever in the position I was in this week.

Over the last few days, I have thought a lot about not only my decision but decisions in general. Although I am not willing to discuss my decision this week because it was my own, I do want to talk about making large decisions.

Here are some of my thoughts on making life-changing decisions

  • You don’t know what you would do, until you are actually there – We do it all the time, I know I do – we project what we would do if we were in someone else’s situation.
    “I don’t have children, but if I did I wouldn’t let them do that.”
    “I know I don’t have her job, but I would totally ask for that promotion.”
    But we are not in that person’s shoes and we don’t have all the information on why they choose a decision. It feels like each time I am faced with a big decision, I seem to do the opposite (or some version of) than what I thought I would do. You just don’t know what you are going to do sometimes, until you are there.
  • You need family – Family is important and if you don’t have a close family you can make a close family with your nearest and dearest friends. ‘Family’ always want what is best for you, family doesn’t care what you look like or if you haven’t showered for days. They bring you food when you didn’t even realize you hadn’t been eating and you can call them and just cry and they will listen. They may project their opinions, it is only because they care but they will support you in whatever your final call is.
  • Saving is so important – When life throws a road block up and a fork in the road, you want to be able to make a decision that is right for you, not the decision that you can afford. If you need to leave your job, that is easier to do when you have a savings to catch you when you fall. If someone gets hurt, or needs something it is much easier to have a net to catch you than to have to make the decision based solely on money.
  • Social Media might not be ready for big decisions – I live and breathe the internet, quite literally, it is what I do for work. I work with businesses on how to use the internet, social media and blogs to market their businesses. I think things like social media and blogging are so interesting and watching how it has changed how we communicate is crazy. I don’t think it is ready for life changing decisions. I think that is related to my first point. Our major decisions will change our lives and I don’t know if you need the input from your friends, people you went to high school with, work friends you met at conferences etc. Someone may have been through something similar but what they did and what you should do may not be the same. You don’t want to put your future in someone else’s hands.
  • The faster your brain goes, the slower times goes – Anyone who has gone through a big breakup** or been near to someone who passed knows this. When you think so fast about all the ‘what ifs’ and what you would do differently, time goes by so slowly. What feels like hours has been twenty minutes. You can also multiply that if you are waiting for calls for news. Waiting for an update or a call can be the worst wait there is. You don’t even know if what you hear will be good news or bad news and each minute feels like an eternity.
  • Writing helps you process your thoughts – As I am writing this sentence, I am still not sure if I am going to post this but it feels good to write it. I was never into journaling, but the times I tried were times I felt down about something. Just the act of getting some emotion out of you and onto a piece of paper (or a computer screen) is empowering.
  • Once you have made that decisions you should own it – You might have to explain it for the rest of your life so once you are there and you have made a decision you better back it.

So those are a few thoughts on making life changing decisions. They are usually never easy and often there isn’t a right or wrong, just what you choose. The worst thing you can do is not make a choice so you need to make one, own it and live on with it. Hope (if I post this) it helps someone, somewhere process something.


* No, I am not pregnant, I really wish everyone would stop asking me that. I think that is very personal and it is shocking how many people feel they have the right to ask if you are pregnant. It is ok to be married and not get pregnant right away. That is a whole other blog post though right?

** Please note I am not going through a big breakup. Adam and I are healthy and happy. I love him very much. I love being married to him and I couldn’t get through any of my big decisions without him.

Happy Boston Marathon Day and How My Race Went in NYC

Happy Patriot’s Day, a special little holiday just for Massachusetts and Maine. The holiday is also most notably, Boston Marathon Day. Some of the best runners in the world drop in to our little section of the planet and run their guts out.

I watched the elite men’s and women’s finishes via the live stream and both were so close. It was emotional watching them push past their bodies and minds, farther than most of us could ever imagine to break personal and world records.

The men’s winner from Kenya finished in 2:03:02, which is technically a world record but the Boston marathon isn’t classified as a ‘flat course’ so it won’t be recognized by the Guinness World Records.

The women’s race was a back and forth battle up to the last second (or two) and the US almost had their first women’s victory since 1985 but Desiree Davila was beat out by two seconds. She did break a record for an American woman on the course though. Also, American runner Kara Goucher came in fifth – she had a baby 7 months ago, ain’t no thing.

Congrats to all who ran, who are still running, who had family and friends in the race or who were there to cheer people on!

More Half Marathon in NYC

Two weeks ago now I ran the MORE/Fitness Half Marathon in NYC and I haven’t gotten to write about it yet. I think with the Boston Marathon still wrapping up, now may be a good time.

Adam and I headed to New York City for my third attempt at this race. I like this race for three big reasons:

  1. It is large – There is something really cool about being part of a huge event. This event reaches capacity earlier and earlier every year. There are 10,000 entrants.
  2. It is all women – I am not usually a huge ‘women only’ event person but there is a unique spirit about this race and I think that it is the thousands of powerful women, cheering each other on while their husbands, boyfriends and family scour the crowds for them.
  3. It is in New York in April – I like New York. We have some great friends in New York. Mostly though, by April, I am pretty ready to get out of Maine. You want it to be Spring so bad and it isn’t. Head a few states south and it is warmer, greener and Spring-ier.

This year’s race

Amanda O'Brien More Fitness Womens Half MarathonThe past two times doing this race I had a posse of women doing it with me. This year I was flying solo but I didn’t feel like backing out just because I had no one to play with, or panic with, or puke on.

The race went well. I beat my time at this race last year by over 20 minutes and I beat my Disney Half Marathon time by 10 minutes. My official time was 2:26:06.

The weather was 40s and sunny, which is much better than the two years prior. The first year we did the race it was a freak 93 degree day and last year it was 40s and 50s and down pouring rain the whole time.

The whole race went fine. We had so much snow this winter that training and doing all my long runs was really tough. I don’t think a long run on a treadmill even compares to a long run outside. So I felt like I didn’t train as much as I wanted but I felt stronger than I have the past few years. I also knew I had picked up a little muscle and gotten a little faster from participating in the Nor’Easter Running Group this winter and spring.

It wasn’t fun but I never thought I would walk or that I couldn’t do it. I did have one really low point for the 9th mile. I don’t run with a watch so I depend on the clocks at the event to keep an eye on how I am doing time-wise. I take the time on the clock as I pass it, subtract the minute that was on the clock when I crossed the start and then divide by however many miles I have done at this point. Yes, a watch may be easier but at least this gives me something to think about.

Adam Half Marathon FinishI must have done some very bad math at mile 9 because my calculations told me I was at the same pace as last year but I knew I didn’t have enough gas in the tank to go any faster for the next 4 miles. So I beat myself up pretty good in my head until about mile 10 when I did the math again and realized I was almost 20 minutes ahead of where I thought I was. From there on in it was not quite as sad.

Adam had a good spectating race, for those of you who were worried after the bagel incident of ’09. New York was great to us. We got to see lots of friends and eat some amazing food and I was proud of how my race turned out.

Next?

From here I plan on doing some local 5Ks, the Beach to Beacon and ending with the Disney Wine Dine Half Marathon in October. After that? Not sure. I still don’t have an itch to do a full marathon. I think I will just work on strength and time and get batter at these halfs. I like doing two a year, I think it has to keep me in check all year round.

Thanks for all your encouragement and support during my training and my race! The best reward so far hasn’t been weight loss, or strength or some weird love of running but it has been seeing how many of my friends and people I know start taking up running because they said I encouraged them to.

What We Did Before Cell Phones

… and what it should teach us about how we use them now.

Zack Morris Cell PhoneI have had a cell phone since 1999 or 2000. As new features are added, I upgrade. I was one of the first people I knew that texted, I had to be one of the first to have a picture phone, then an iPhone (and each iPhone upgrade).

I have my cell phone with me almost all the time. My iPhone is my calendar, my most used camera (and photo album), my most used video camera (and video player), my email, my social networks, my place to track my running distance and my entertainment (Angry Birds much?)… oh AND it is my phone, not that I use it for that often.

I will give myself a break on my phone though… I use it for me. I don’t answer personal calls at work, I don’t answer any calls when I am having dinner with my husband and I usually don’t text or take a call at all when I am in the company of other people. But I am very dependent on my phone.

Cell phones don’t work in Aruba

Last week, Adam and I had the pleasure of going to Aruba to celebrate a dear friend’s wedding. Not only was it a dear friend’s wedding but my closest group of friends were also in attendance. How fun is that?!

Know what didn’t work in Aruba? Our cell phone (unless we wanted to pay a lot for it). How did we do it? How did we possibly survive? Well we did and it made me think a lot about how I use my phone, when I use my phone and who exactly is in control here.

Here is what we did without cell phones:

  • We made plans and stuck to them – We had to plan ahead. We decided who was going to meet where and around when. Once that plan was made, you had to stick to it. If you said that you were meeting a person or a group in the lobby around Noon, you did. You didn’t text them and say ‘actually I got hungry so we just stopped at a restaurant to grab lunch’. You went to the lobby, waited and then possibly you ate lunch after you met up.
  • We had to remember numbers – God forbid something happens and I need to make a phone call to anyone other than Adam. For serious… I don’t think I could tell you my mother’s cell phone number. The phone numbers in my brain are Adam’s, my parents land line, my mother’s work (she has been there for 25 years), my grandparent’s land line (they are now answering phones in heaven but thank goodness my uncle moved in that house so I don’t have to feel like knowing that number is a waste of space in my brain) and my own cell phone number (sometimes I slip and can’t get that right and spit out my NH cell number). That is it, that is all the phone numbers I think I know.

    In Aruba, each hotel room did have a phone in it. So you know what we had to do? Remember people’s numbers! They weren’t in a directory, I couldn’t Google it and they weren’t in my address book. We had to learn them. We did and we got pretty good at it. What is that area of my brain doing now? The part I used until I was 19 or 20 to remember friend’s phone numbers… it is apparently still there. I just must be using it for different things.
  • We left notes – Remember notes? Remember the excitement of passing notes in school, hoping a boy would circle ‘yes’ that he liked you, or a note on your whiteboard on your college dorm, or how about just notes left around the house from roommates or family? One step further – what about letters, cards and notes we receive in the mail. There is something so much more exciting about finding a note than receiving a text or an email.
  • We banded together and pulled through awkward moments – This one is huge at conferences or networking events; you are talking to someone and the conversation gets a wee bit lagged. A semi-uncomfortable pause, a break in the conversation and you both pull out your phones. The conversation picks back up commenting on what someone just tweeted, a video on Facebook or by checking in on Foursquare. What would happen if you just muscled through that little pause? I bet you would have come up with something to say, maybe even gotten to know who you were talking to better.

    There were a few times in Aruba that I would be talking to someone and a story would end, one of us would get distracted and forget what you were going to say or whatever else happens to cause those pauses. For those, we couldn’t distract ourselves with our phones, we had to muscle through. Needless to say, the conversation would sputter back up and I think I had more in depth talks with many of these people that I have known for years this week alone.
  • We told stories not status’ – Yes, sites like Facebook and Twitter or email are a great way to keep in touch, to tell people what you are up to, where you have been, where you are going or to make them laugh. In person though you don’t tell 140 character stories. You tell long stories with grand hand gestures and voices and maybe a little dancing here and there (depending on the story).

    In Aruba no one said ‘Crazy night out last night with the guys. Boy am I tired.’ They said ‘…did you hear about what Simon* did last night? No? Well we were all out at this club and the guys decided it would be a better decision to get bottle service than to just keep buying drinks. Everyone was acting ridiculous…‘ twenty minutes later ‘and that is how we found him sleeping on a roof‘.

Six days after getting to Aruba we touched back down in the US, Philadelphia specifically. While we were preparing to land I told Adam I was excited to turn my phone back on. Then when we were taxing on the ground, I was a little apprehensive on turning my phone back on. It was the end of that silence, that stillness of not checking something or listening for a beep or a vibrate. I did turn it on and I am still going though emails, tweets, texts and Words With Friend’s moves even today.

I have tried to maintain a little bit more control over my phone, we will see how long that lasts. I have my ringer to silent and the vibrate off. When I look at my phone is when I want to, not when it summons me. I don’t know how long that will last, probably until I miss something important.

I do want to remember how that felt though. How we had to be creative, make plans, leave notes and trust our friends to communicate well with them for almost a whole week. It somehow made me feel more in control than perhaps if each person was just a text away.

How about you? Is your phone for you to keep in touch? or do you think it controls too much of you and your relationships?

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

FYI There ARE Still Some Good People Out There

The news is depressing. People seem to be letting other people down a lot. Mother nature is being a bitch lately. More people take, than give.

BUT apparently there ARE still good people out there

These good people are people you know and complete strangers. I have had the pleasure of two of these strangers in my life lately.

I have lost my wallet not once but TWICE in the last FOUR days! For serious. Have I mentioned I have had a lot going on lately? And yes, this is real blond hair.

The first time was grocery shopping. I carefully unpacked my bags of groceries in my car and responsibly walked my cart back to the cart holder. I also carefully left my wallet in the top compartment of the shopping cart. I went home, unpacked my groceries and began to make dinner. Soon after, I had a voicemail on my work line. It was a woman who had found my wallet with my business cards in it. She called my work number and left me a message letting me know she was placing it at the service desk.

The second time was today. I had a stressful morning at work and decided stepping away from the office, running a few errands and getting some fresh 40 degree air would help. After my errands were run and I got in my car, I called my mother. Ten minutes later I drove into a gas station and realized I did not have my wallet. What is worse, is I remember exactly where I put it last – on the top of my car. Smart.

My wallet made it as far as the corner of Preble and Marginal Way (not the best part of town) where it fell off and tumbled in the middle of a busy intersection for who knows how long. That is where a man named Gerard, who works at AAA found it. He stopped his car, grabbed it and he also went through it, found my business cards and called my work and left me a message. My wallet today had a hundred dollar bill in it and four $20 gift cards to Bard Coffee. It was a wallet worth stealing but Gerard didn’t touch any of it. He called and I met him at his office and got my mangled, run over wallet.

What did I learn?

  • I learned that I need to slow down, breathe and keep track of my things better.
  • I learned that I think I need a purse. I have too many things in my hands and I put things down.
  • I learned I have a patient, kind and loving husband who will help me look in trashcans on Marginal Way and not get mad at me for doing this TWICE in FOUR days.
  • I learned not all homeless people don’t have homes. Adam paid a man with a cardboard sign $5 and asked if he saw anyone with a wallet. The man was nice and helpful and even gave us his home phone number to call him later to see if it turned up.
  • I learned that everyone should have business cards and leave them in their wallet!
  • Lastly, I learned in a world where you hear mostly about the bad – there are some really, really good people out there who will do the right thing.

I leave for New York in 3 days and from there we go to Aruba for Emily’s wedding. I don’t even know if I would have been able to go if I didn’t have my wallet, my license, my debit cards or anything else that is in there that I would need. My wallet was stolen (actually stolen, not left in a dumb place) last summer. I think I am just now getting back on my feet since that happened. We don’t realize how many things we tie automatically to our cards or how hard it is to replace many of the important things we keep in there. I would have been so upset if I had to go through all of that again.

So thanks lady at Shaws and Gerrard from AAA. I really needed a boost in my opinion of humanity and I really needed my wallet. Thank you!

Someone Will Always Take More

Whether it is personally or professionally, someone will always take more. There is rarely ever an end… except of course the big end {gulp}.

  • On your dating anniversary, people want to know when you are getting married. When you are married, people want to know when you are having kids (when you have kids, I am not sure what they ask but I assume there is something).
  • When you give a service or product away for free, people always want to know what else they can get for free or when you are giving that item away again for free.
  • When you host an event for 85 people each month, people want to know why not have 100.
  • When you say you are running a half marathon, they ask if you will ever do a full marathon.
  • When you donate $50 to a charity, there WILL be another call, email or letter thanking you for your donation but asking for more.

So what do you do? How do you quiet the voices and the insecurities that you are not doing enough?

  1. Focus on what you have and what you have done – I heard a woman on the Today Show talking about a book she wrote. She lost all of her life savings in the Bernie Madolf scandal. It stuck in my head that she says she didn’t focus on all she lost but she focuses each day on what she has. Sometimes that meant focusing on the smallest things like being able to drink tea out of her favorite mug each morning.
  2. Remind yourself why you do what you do and what you stand for – Lines can get blurred when you are busy doing all the things you are doing and giving away your time money, expertise, friendship etc. Of course you want to make everyone happy, but you have to take care of yourself first. Or as Christopher S. Penn says, pay yourself first. My company, that pays me, is in the business of making money. If there is a venture we are going to be a part of, the goal should be to make more money for my business, so that they can inturn continue to pay me.
  3. Reward yourself and don’t leave reward up to other people – Take control of your own emotions and take the time to reward yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything special but pat yourself on the back for what you feel you contributed. That could mean just sit and reflect on how your actions helped another person, go get a Boston Shake at Red’s and call that dinner, turn off the phone and computer for a night and have a night in – whatever it take to let you reflect on your efforts.
  4. Write it down, reflect later – I am a busy person. Sometimes (this week included) I get overwhelmed. Know what? I have ALWAYS been a busy person. The first page of my Day Planner is a page from my Day Planner my senior year of high school. The thing is packed! Every day lacrosse practice or games, afterschool events, friend’s parties, work at the ice cream store etc. Every day is full from wake until sleep. My mom also forwarded me an email I sent her from college and it is a frantic description of all the things I had going on that week like tests, papers, work (upgraded to a coffee shop for college), events and meetings. When you are in the frantic-ness, you are caught in the moment but you will get out and look back and either learn something from your reflection or it will at least make you laugh.
  5. Give to someone else – Sometimes we give to people or organizations because we have to, or feel like we have to. Perhaps if you learned something new, or a better way to do something – pass it on to someone else that could use that advice, trick, tip or product.
  6. When in doubt and you feel like the world is trying to keep you down or take all you have to give with no just reward – listen to Matthew Wilder’s – Break My Stride. THAT will definitely put pep back in your step.

Feel better? I know and you know that we all are doing a lot for lots of different things. It isn’t bad to let yourself take credit for all the things you do.

Not to end this abruptly, but I have had a very long, stressful and busy week so I am going to go on a date with my husband to see the ballet – because I deserve it!

What I learned at SXSW – The Not So Official Version

Photo credit: Dave Delaney

I just returned from South By Southwest (also known as nerd Spring Break). This is where nerds of all areas of nerd-dom convene in Austin, Texas. This is where new products and apps are launched, the fancy nerd people come to rub elbows (this year brought the likes of Ashton and Demi, PeeWee Herman, Mike Tyson, Danny DeVito etc.) and get their geek on, or watch movie premiers or perhaps just for an ego boost. The conference has three parts: Interactive, Film and Music.

This was my second SXSW and I felt much wiser. The whole thing can be quite overwhelming. There are really cool events happening from 8am – 4am and if you could, you would want to hit them all. You have no idea when a walk turns into an interview with Brad Womack, when a panel has a celebrity guest appearance or when your next big client or business partner is in line with you to get coffee.

With all the content, activities, giveaways, iPad drama and celebs you learn things in different ways than you expected. If you want an official search of takeaways from the conference – sit tight, I am sure those will fill the interwebs by the thousands soon. This is my not so official version of what I learned at SXSW.

  1. Real, in-person relationships mean more than any online relationship – I have met some really cool people online. We have shared thoughts, ideas and jokes. You almost feel like you ‘know’ them but there is still no replacement for an in-person relationship. Some people you know from online aren’t as great in person and some people in person are way better than they are online. Sites like Twitter have a lot of noise. Great for meeting people but if you really want to get to know them, don’t forget to take the relationship from online to offline.
  2. It doesn’t matter what the nerds think in business as much as it matters what everyone thinks – I had a lot of good conversations about tools and apps that are out there and that are being launched. In the nerd world, we are constantly trying to out-nerd the other nerds. The tools we have created are too complex, have too many features and that isn’t what businesses and users want. If you want to succeed (like make money, not just be nerd famous) you need to find something your average Joe from Maine or Minnesota or West Virginia wants, not just what the nerds want.
  3. If you have a good story people want to tell it for you – Friends of mine launched the beta version of their app, Pathcrosser, at SXSW. The hosted an awesome party (that wasn’t too in your face) and spent the week fluttering about meeting this person and that. No major marketing roll out, just connecting. Their app is smart, the audience they are trying to reach is real and they are good guys. People WANT to tell their story. They want to introduce them to influencers and get them interviews. They didn’t dress up in Chipmunk costumes to be noticed but they did get interviewed for Read, Write Web, talked to traditional media outlets and won for buzz on the street.
  4. When you are not in New England you can’t say you are from Portland and expect people to think Maine – This is pretty self-explanatory, but I got awfully tired of letting people down by telling them I was from Maine and not Oregon.
  5. Some things are just supposed to happen – Especially at SXSW where almost everything you do has major potential, you can’t try too hard. Some things are just supposed to happen for some reason or another. I know a few girls who were part of a major promotional campaign, things didn’t go as planned and the original goals were not met but both of these groups of girls came out with something life changing that has altered their course in their lives and careers. I also had a dream about Gary Vaynerchuck and the cast of the Jersey Shore. I tweeted about it, Gary laughed and an hour later, I was in a small room and he walked in. Not too shabby of an ice breaker to connect about a hysterical dream. We had a good laugh and I was lucky enough to get a copy of his new book. That introduction wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for Ronnie being such a jerk in my dream.
  6. Glasses for fashion bother me – As a girl who had to wear glasses or contacts her whole life (until recently) I get upset when people admit they are wearing glasses just to compliment their nerd outfit.
  7. Only having the internet makes you disconnected – The night I arrived in Austin, there was the terrible earthquake in Japan. I was actually awake when it happened and we saw it all over the news. The internet can make you feel so connected to other people but it can also make you disconnected. While at SXSW most people are armed only with their iPhones, iPads or laptops. The whole tragedy in Japan seemed removed without being to connect with the people you care about most on how this makes you feel.
  8. I don’t consider myself a blogger – On my second night at SXSW, I was at an event that was off the traditional SXSW routine. It was for a group of people who work more in the fashion arena. This event was primarily for fashion bloggers. One very nice woman asked me ‘so are you a blogger too?’ I told her I wasn’t. The question stuck in my head the rest of the week. I currently write for 6-7 blogs regularly and I don’t call myself a ‘blogger’. I call myself an internet marketer and blogging is just one piece. I just thought that was interesting.
  9. I am a pretty lucky lady – My life is pretty ok. My husband is fantastic. He even registered me for Beach to Beacon because I couldn’t do it from SXSW. He also really makes me laugh. My family is amazing. My mother finally got her cowboy boots after some inspiration from my photos at Allen’s. I have also got to surround myself with some pretty smart and motivated people (I attribute a lot of that to Rich Tucker and the Social Fresh Cruise). I am home with a full brain, full notepad, some great pictures and an even closer network of people I am lucky to get to talk to, laugh with and pick eachother’s brains.

So that is it. That is my first impression, unofficial version of what I learned at SXSW this year. I haven’t unpacked, I haven’t gone through business cards or the notes I took but these 9 things are what I have already taken away from this conference. I look forward to seeing what other opportunities and relationships come from the people I met this week and the things I learned.

I Cut Off My Hair and Sent it to Locks of Love

I brought it up once to Adam. I wasn’t sure until I sat in the chair at Envy Hair Salon. My hair was really long. The thought of cutting of 5-6 inches seemed selfish when you only needed a few more to donate to Locks of Love.

Ashley from Envy is fantastic

Braid for Locks of LoveThe woman who cuts my hair and puts up with my hair laziness is Ashley. She is fantastic. If you know her you should vote for her for the Best of Phoenix issue. She is talented, patient, kind, likable and I trust her. So much like the LASIK situation, when Ashley said she thought we would pull this off without a buzz cut, I trusted her and I was on board. Moments later she braided my hair and then snipped off the braid.

I was surprised when I asked her how often people did this she said she only does about 5 a year. I thought it would be more than that. She thought of it though in a nicer way; if each stylist a year gets five Locks of Love donations, that is a lot of hair for kids.

Donating to Locks of Love

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. To donate you need 10″ of hair (or an 8″ braid). My braid was snipped off, we put it in an envelope and I brought it home to put in the mail.

Adam’s creepy little pet

Adams Creepy petAdam likes long hair. I think he is glad he went with me so he got to be a part of the process and we made the decision together. After the braid was cut off he had a little too much fun playing with the huge hair ball. We started to call it his creepy pet.

Later in the day he sent me a text of his first walk with his creepy little pet. He is funny (and weird). We are both happy I did it and other than figuring out how to run with my new hair not getting in my face, I don’t see any problems.

The other reason that I did it

I miss my grandmother. We were really close. She died 10 years ago as of last month and it feels like yesterday. She died of breast cancer. Once when I was in college, right before I moved to Disney World, I cut my hair really short. I didn’t like it. You know how even if people don’t like your haircut, they SAY they do? Not my grandmother. She told me she hated it and I better let it grow back out. I wasn’t mad. She was right.

I thought chopping my hair off might get her attention again and let her know I still think about her all the time. This time though I think she will appreciate where I mailed my hair off to, especially since she had to get all to familiar with wearing a wig. I think she is probably pretty proud of me.

So that is it. I cut off 10″ of my hair today. It is only hair. It will grow back. Half a day in and I like the short hair. Again, might need to figuring out a new running situation because I can’t tie it back very well but I am sure I will figure something out. I am happy my hair is going to a good cause.

I Can See My Alarm Clock…

And 4 Other Real Reasons Why You Should Get LASIK Eye Surgery

Warning this post is long but I wanted to give some background on why I decided to get LASIK. If you want to skip right to the 5 reasons you should get LASIK click here.

Scary Eye Measuring MachineI have worn glasses since the 3rd grade, I think. They were cool. Pink plastic frames that covered most of my face. I used to lose them a lot. Summer camp especially. Once when looking over the side of a canoe and down into the lake *splash*. My mother wasn’t very happy. My glasses were expensive because my astigmatism was so bad I always had to have the thickest, most uncool lenses.

As soon as I got the go-ahead to get contacts, from said angry mother (who cursed me with these eyes, mind you – love you momma), I did. I again always had to get the yucky kind. The kind you wear for three months (more like 6) and they were really expensive too. They were thick and moved around a lot. They had to be custom made because of the severity of my astigmatism.

I was the girl that when I got a new doctor I got ‘oohs and aahhs’ at how bad my eyes were. A few times, a doctor would call in another or an assistant to witness the wonderment of my messed up eyes. Adam was with me once when my astigmatism was labeled ‘a condition’.

LASIK is scary

I had obviously heard the grossness of LASIK. You are awake while they tape your eyes open and they shoot lasers in your eyes (maybe it isn’t quite like that). There are bad sounds and even worse smells. It is a big deal and don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t. You need to come to this decision on your own.

For me, I had a really bad experience with a new eye doctor who could not get my prescription right. For the first time in years and years, I was forced back into glasses to avoid headaches, stress and the urge to claw my own eyes out. I went straight from a mean office assistant at this optometrist and made my appointment to get a consultation for LASIK. I hate to say I was pushed by a mean office assistant who had no compassion for what I was going through but for me, that was the last straw.

I made my consultation at EMG (Eyecare Medical Group). My appointment was with Dr. Sterrer. After the appointment was made I realized not only did he do my mother’s surgery (remember her? the one who gave me these bad eyes? Love you momma!) but he also played hockey with my husband and my boss. Hockey haunts me but that is a whole other blog post. For me though, that semi-personal connection with Dr. Sterrer almost sealed the deal. I trusted him to shoot lasers into my eyes because I knew if something went wrong, my husband would beat him up at hockey. That isn’t true but it was nice to have a personal and professional connection to him.

Dr. Sterrer was kind, answered all of my obscure questions (even the one about what happens if you sneeze during surgery) and had a humor about him that was calming. After the consultation we got right into it and set up the next appointments. Weeks later, I was going under the laser. If this is something you want to do, you should consider getting a consultation to hear more about it.

It WAS scary but after a long nap, I could see. Six months later I still see 20/20, if not 20/15.

5 Reasons You Should Get LASIK

So minus the obvious, being able to see, here are 5 reasons you should consider getting LASIK.

  1. You can see your alarm clock in the middle of the night – Once I wake up, I cannot get back to sleep for a long time. So when I woke up in the middle of the night and struggled to see my alarm clock, sometimes that would be the end of a night’s rest. Now I can wake up whenever and see my alarm clock with no strain at all and I can go right back to bed.
  2. Take back control of your medicine cabinet and travel accessories – It was so invigorating to throw away contact cases, contact solutions, boxes of contacts etc. etc. It took months. I kept finding them all over the place in the car, in every bag I own, in different rooms – they were everywhere. I don’t need them any more.
  3. Sports and activities – My contacts were a heavier plastic. They moved and wiggled a lot, especially when wind was involved. Sports like skiing and running and activities like boating have taken on a new level. I can go as fast or as slow as I want but I know my contacts aren’t going to shift and my vision isn’t going to get blurry. It adds a confidence to those activities that I didn’t have before.
  4. Opening your eyes under water – Ok this one I haven’t actually done yet but I am so excited to. Months before my surgery and months before I even knew I wanted the surgery I had the opportunity to go sailing in the British Virgin Islands. There are 4 things to do in the BVI – sail, eat, drink and snorkel. Snorkeling was hard for me because I had a bad set of contacts so either I would have them in and be uncomfortable or I could take them out and not see very well. I can’t wait to try snorkeling again and be able to really open my eyes under water.
  5. Feelings you hope to never feel again – There are feelings you just get used to as a contact wearer. Like wondering if you put your contacts in the wrong eyes, getting a bad box or getting the wrong prescription, a hair between your contacts, not having your solution and having to sleep in your contacts, the feeling of a pair that is a little too old, dry eyes at the end of the day and on and on. Since my surgery I have had ‘dry eyes’ once. Just once! It was cool to know it was because of dry eyes and not because I needed new contacts or the dozens of other reasons your eyes dry up when you wear contacts.

That is it. That is my top five reasons to look into getting LASIK. They may be superficial to you but they are not to me. The price to pay for a higher quality of life is worth it. For me, with my expensive, heavy contacts I will also make the money I spent back in 5 years (that isn’t including the cost of solution and cases).

What say you? Have you had LASIK? How has it changed your life? Have you thought about it and not done it? If you have questions too, I can do my best to answer them. I only hope this post helps someone with a hard decision.