Advice to Newly Motherless Daughters… and Anyone Who Grieves

Two years ago, a good friend and admired colleague suffered the unexpected death of his wife – a vibrant, intelligent woman in her 50s. I was devastated for his entire family, but my thoughts turned to his 18-year-old daughter. I, too, lost my mom when I was in college. And, while I’d never met my colleague’s daughter, I felt compelled to share with her my learnings and advice. My friend recently asked my permission to share a copy of my note with yet  another young woman who was grieving the recent loss of a mother. In the interest of helping others more broadly, I decided to post the letter here. With the exception of the recipient’s name, little is changed.

Dear Jane,

You don’t know me but I’ve worked with and admire your dad.

My mom, Betsy Paterson May

My mom, Betsy Paterson May

My mom died suddenly between my third and fourth year of college. I was 21. She was three days shy of 48. She died of complications related to a rare benign brain tumor. She was healthy her whole life. She was sick (surgeries) for about a month and a half.

When she died, she was the person I loved most in the world and the person from whom I received the most love. Like your mom, she was a rare and exceptional woman. I see my mom in pictures of yours. This summer I turn 42 and will have spent half my life without her.

Hope Edelman wrote a book called “Motherless Daughters.” It came out about three or four years after my mom died. I was given no less than four copies, but I didn’t find it particularly helpful. Then she released this one [book was enclosed] – letters that “Motherless Daughters” had written her. And it remains the only helpful thing I ever read about joining the “Dead Mom Club.” So here it is.

Here are some things I learned that may be helpful to you:

  • It’s her. If you think something is your mom (a song, a butterfly, a coincidence), especially over the next few months, you are right. So don’t even question those things. It’s her.
  • Why? There is no answer to the question “Why?” It took me about a year to figure that out. Someone told me in the last year that “Why?” is a human question, not a spiritual question. I thought that was interesting and maybe you too will ponder that one day. Regardless, you will never, ever, ever be able to make sense of why this happened. Maybe it will be helpful to know that now because things become a lot more peaceful when you stop asking that question.
  • Write. You come from writers. If you don’t have a journal, get one and try writing about this. The first entry is the hardest. I found that when I wrote things down about my mom – things I would miss about her, things I wish could be different, things I wish the doctors had done, a dream I’d had about her, whatever – the buzz in my head about that particular topic would be quieted. Something about writing it down allowed me to turn that subject off in my head. It gave me great peace and it also gave me something to do at night besides sobbing when I had a roommate in the freakin’ dorm room with me. I filled two books with grief. What therapy that was. And it made me a better writer. Big time.
  • Be gentle to yourself. You have internal bleeding right now, honey. For the next year, offload needy friends, reduce the volunteer stuff, take on only a bare minimum of responsibilities. Seriously. For a year.
  • Get a therapist. This summer – about three months from now – when people stop asking you daily or weekly how you are and start to go about their lives and when all your good friends have cried with you and heard your most horrid tales of anguish, get a grief counselor or join a grief group or just talk to someone with fresh ears once a week. After two consecutive weeks of visits with that person/group where you don’t cry, you’re done with that. But as long as you are crying weekly in someone’s presence, keep going and keep crying. I learned I needed therapy when I had an anxiety attack – out of nowhere – at about three months in. Save yourself that mess and get pre-emptive help. I saw a crappy free college therapist for three months, and it was really good for me. I ditched him when he couldn’t make me cry anymore. This was the first and only time I ever used a therapist. It did me a world of good.
  • She’s there. After you cry and beg for a sign from her and hope that she will make a book fall off a shelf or turn a lightbulb on and off… after you plead for her to show you anything to demonstrate that she’s still there with you, you’ll end up bawling. And after you do, resignation and exhaustion will wash over you. That’s her, honey. She’s holding you then. That’s her. And she’ll give you peace after your tempest. So just exhale and know that she’s got her arms wrapped around you and she’s kissing your lovely cheek and wiping off your tears with the back of her finger.
  • You will be happy again. The Greeks have a great word – palimpsest. It refers to a piece of parchment (a manuscript page from a scroll or book) from which the text has been scraped off or erased in order that the precious paper could be used again. For the next nine months to a year, every experience you have will be written on the same parchment that documented your mother’s tragic death. So previously joyous experiences will not be joyous. And you will question, through false smiles in social settings, if you will ever experience true joy again. Please know that you will. You absolutely will. You will be soaringly happy again. But it takes time. Time is a wonderful gift. Nine months after my mom died, I was so relieved and even shocked to experience a taste of joy again – on clean parchment. Not on palimpsest. It occurred to me then that it takes nine months to bring someone into the world. Maybe it takes nine months to let them out of it.
  • She will inhabit you. After you stop wanting to call her. After you stop wanting to tell her about the childhood friend you ran into. After you almost don’t even think to miss her because you’re so used to not having her there, you gradually will realize that she inhabits you. You will see her face in the mirror. You won’t miss that she didn’t “meet” your husband or see your kids because you will have a very certain knowledge that she inhabits you. Her love never, ever leaves you, and she is part of everything you do – not watching from above, but watching from within. She’s in you, honey. The love, her love, never leaves. That deep, deep wonderful love will be with you forever. She will be a part of your life forever and ever. Sincerely. My mother is with me all day, every day. She is in me. She knows my husband, she treasures my kids, she sees everything I do, she is proud of me still. She’s in me. I don’t even miss her these days. I just adore her.
  • Don’t sweat the thank-you notes. People will understand if you don’t write them. Your mom just died.

If you ever want to talk to someone, absolutely call me. It would be an honor to speak with or correspond with you. I am so deeply sorry this happened to your lovely, exquisite mom.

(As always, I welcome comments… about this post or on this topic.)

The contents of my purse and the benefits of a life coach

In my second blog entry after winning this contest, I confessed to being “fearful about the whole ‘life coach’ thing,”specifically the prize of “six life coach consultations via phone.” It turns out, the life coach was really a gift.

Here are some highlights from my five life coach consultations thus far:

Your life is like a purse. Lauree Ostrofsky, my life coach and founder of Simply Leap, began our series of sessions explaining what a life coach does. Imagine your life is like a purse, she said. A life coach is someone you can take your purse to and just dump it out – someone you can “let in” on all your crazy madness. For me that includes a jumble of business and appointment cards, balled up tissues, a finger splint I no longer need, an expired watch battery, coach’s whistle, pediatrician’s pamphlet on “Puberty in Boys,” and a battered “emergency tampon” that I would never actually allow anywhere near my body. 

Life coach Lauree Ostrofsky

What a good life coach does, Lauree explained, is help you make sense of all that madness – helping you decide what you don’t need, organizing what do you need, and figuring out what else ought to be in there. After dumping out “my purse,” we quickly agreed that she could be of greatest assistance in time management and household organization.

Start small. Lauree had me start small, managing one day at a time. We pondered the things I had to do each day (freelance writing work, household chores, feeding people), the things I failed to do each day (household chores, remembering my daughter’s weekly violin lesson, working late into the night on work I should have completed during the day) and the ways I wasted time each day (Facebook). Together we came up with two simple solutions: First, I would create a highly visible, daily to-do list. Second, I would reward myself with time-wasting activities only after completing mandatory activities.

My homemade daily to-do list

By the end of that day, I’d purchased a five-dollar 8” x 10” frame from Target. Behind the glass, I inserted a piece of paper that said “What I’m doing today.” A series of lines invited a daily list, written in dry-erase marker, of things I felt I could reasonably accomplish during the day. At intervals of completion, I rewarded myself with a little time-wasting indulgence. For me, an insanely social person who works in solitude from home, that meant the validation festival that is Facebook. And… it worked. I began churning out work and remembering to do stuff. I started going to bed earlier too.

Get bigger. In subsequent calls, we moved from days to weeks. Wouldn’t it be nice, I said, to assign specific days for my weekly tasks? So began the conversation that resulted in my weekly fridge calendar.

Lauree asked great questions:

  • What do you need to do each week?
  • Is there anything you do that you don’t need to? Can you drop something?
  • Is there anything else you should be doing?
  • Who can help you get these jobs done? (“Oh my gosh, that’s right! My kids can do some of this stuff! That would actually be good for them!”)
  • What would be a good day of the week to do that?
  • How can you get everyone on board with this program?
  • What tools do you need? How can you make these jobs easier?

 The result? A weekly calendar I created in Word. It has five rows (one for every member of the family) and seven columns (one for every day of the week). Each box in the 5 x 7 grid has a small checklist. For example:

  • my son’s Monday says “feed dog, make bed, empty dishwasher, homework,”
  • my daughter’s checklist includes “violin practice” nearly every day,
  • each Sunday, two of my kids split cleaning the upstairs “kid bathroom,” while the other one does the downstairs half bath (we even supplied little rubber gloves for everyone), and
  • my Thursday cleverly includes doing my “delicate laundry” since it makes sense for me to wash work clothes immediately after a regularly scheduled Wednesday client meeting.

 Weekly vacuuming is life changing. Without question, the two most life-changing days on my calendar are Monday (“vacuum upstairs”) and Friday (“vacuum downstairs”… in anticipation of Friday’s fun “have friends over”). Gosh. What a difference weekly vacuuming makes. You can’t really vacuum your house without pretty much cleaning up the whole house. Vacuuming weekly means nothing ever gets crazy messy.

Making a weekly calendar with Lauree’s help and prompts was actually fun. (“Hey! If I’m vacuuming the “downstairs” every Friday, that means every Thursday night, the kids should clear the whole first floor of their stuff! I’ll put that on their lists!”)

I printed out a pile of the weekly calendars and put a new one on the fridge every Sunday.

Bribes work. The incentive for my kids to complete their daily checklist is simple. They love watching “Fetch” on PBS. If their checklist from the previous day is complete, they get to watch it. If their list isn’t complete, you can be sure they are using their lost television time to earn “Fetch” on the following day.

The benefits of a life coach. Had I not “won” a life coach, I probably would have been the last person to hire one. I’ve got a pretty decent life (great family, friends, career) and, like a lot of women, I hate asking for or admitting I could use help, much less paying for it.

Yet working with Lauree has had clear benefits. It forced me to make time to think about my goals and things in my life that need improving. It gave me a framework to think about my problems – a framework that I’ve since used to help my own friends with their problems. It’s made me realize the value of having a thinking partner and someone to hold me accountable as I seek change. It’s also made me realize that I am the best-qualified person to solve my own dilemmas and that the solutions to my problems are often very simple, if I just take the time to examine and ponder them.

Today my house is cleaner, I’m getting more done, my kids are gaining responsibility, I’m working fewer nights, and I’m dropping fewer balls. I still have no idea how much a life coach costs. (I do know Lauree usually advises clients to purchase a minimum of nine calls.) But I will say that, despite my apprehensive early blog entries, I’m more than happy to pay prize-winner taxes on Lauree Ostrofsky. I’m grateful for her every afternoon when I open the dishwasher and smile when I see that my son has faithfully emptied it before leaving for school. And I’ll be sad when we conclude our final call.

 DAYS KAYAKED: 13 (no change; it’s winter)
GUEST KAYAKERS: 4

Secrets from the highest-grossing Cookies for Kids’ Cancer bake sale

On September 11, 2010, Richmond, Va., was host to the highest-grossing bake sale in the two-year history of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. I was proud to have had a hand in the event and recently was asked to write a recap of what made it so successful. Here’s what I sent the nonprofit:

The Japanese have a form of martial arts called “Aikido.” It focuses not on punching or kicking your opponents, but rather on using your opponents’ own energy to gain control of them or throw them away from you.

Our sale wasn't slick. We were all about hand-painted signs and banners.

Anyone who has ever faced pediatric cancer will tell you that – despite being an abhorrent coward – it’s a powerful opponent. Medical professionals use surgeries and toxic treatments to fight it. Friends and families use hope, love and prayer (among other things).

But imagine if we could redirect cancer’s own rage and power right back at it? This, I realized recently, is exactly what Cookies for Kids’ Cancer does.

On August 22, 2010, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Founder Gretchen Holt Witt posted this status update to her Facebook page:  “It wasn’t good news. It was awful news. We start high-dose chemo on Monday morning. My heart is literally shattering into a million pieces. But I’ll pick myself up and go at it again. Liam needs me. He needs all of us. Pray for him and hold a bake sale.

Those words were read 300 miles away in Richmond, Va. And just 20 days later – in direct response to cancer’s attack – a handful of bake sale coordinators, a dozen “team captains” and hundreds of moms, dads, caring souls, big-hearted businesses, kids, scouts and students raised more than $34,000 to fund pediatric cancer research. Every dollar earned was matched by a grant from “Glad to Give™.”

Our best bake sale tip: Tell a story
The single biggest takeaway from our successful Richmond bake sale is: Tell a story. Think of it as practicing Aikido. Speak and write powerful words about the sickening blows that pediatric cancer intends for the most vulnerable among us, and then just stand back and watch as the world rises up and redirects that force and fury right back at cancer.

Our children – with aprons around their necks and signs in their hands – earned more money than grown-ups ever could.

Here are some other things that contributed to our team’s success:

Act quickly. Gretchen’s heart-breaking plea gave us a sense of urgency, and our fresh emotions translated to dollars. If something compels you to raise money for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer (a diagnosis, a surgery, a relapse), act swiftly and you will be rewarded for it. Set your bake sale date just weeks, not months, away. Don’t give volunteers or donors much time to ponder their participation. Just share the story, then say, “I really need your help in two weeks.”

Ask and you shall receive. There is something about pediatric cancer that is so, so wrong. Speak the words “kids’ cancer,” and people will do almost anything you ask.

We asked for an anchor location and the Carytown Merchants Association gave us a mile-long shopping district and merchants that donated a percentage of their sales. We pleaded for bakers and Gretchen’s former employer – CRT/tanaka – volunteered its staff for a 12-hour baking blitz. We asked for industrial ovens and got the Mixing Bowl Pastry Shop. We asked for cookies and got 6,000 frozen cookie pucks from Jacqueline’s Gourmet Cookies.

We asked for anything and everything – public service announcements, cardboard boxes, big photos of affected families, gift bags, donation jars, rolls of kraft paper and mistint paint for banners. When it was apparent that our sale was going to be big, Amber van der Meer (mother of Richmond warrior Ber van der Meer) simply told her “Caring Bridge” subscribers that we needed another corporate sponsor. The next day, Qdoba Mexican Grill donated a thousand entrée coupons (a $6 value; we sold them for $3 a pop). If you have any need, simply tell your story, flash the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer logo, and ask

Use what you’ve got. We had a talented media relations professional, so news of our city-wide bake sale was on all three network news shows, local newspapers, blogs and a popular radio station. (See links below to listen/watch.)

WINN Transportation donated the first-ever Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Mobile Bake Sale Trolley

A family connection to WINN Transportation earned us the first-ever Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Mobile Bake Sale Trolley that conducted business-day visits to some of Richmond’s most generous companies as well as a popular, outdoor lunchtime plaza. A vacant restaurant turned into the first-ever Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Drive Thru. Girl Scout volunteers helped us score two grocery store locations that otherwise wouldn’t have allowed solicitors! And our children – with aprons around their necks and signs in their hands – earned more money than grown-ups ever could.

Call on every kind-hearted, hard-working person you know!

Recruit what you need. Look holistically at all the skill sets you need. A major event needs: sales people (able to secure locations and make big asks), team captains (to recruit volunteers and staff a single bake sale location), a publicity person and/or spokesperson, people with corporate connections, a professional baker, a financial person (to tally dollars), and a local family or two willing to be the courageous face of pediatric cancer in photos at every sale location.

Use social media and technology. We used Facebook and e-mail to plead for team captains, volunteers and bakers. An online “First Giving” account made it easy for friends to contribute to our specific from afar. A Facebook post simply wishing for a single donation in the memory of a former classmate, Scott Newhouse (who died of cancer at age 12 back in the 1980s), generated hundreds of dollars in long-distance pledges from Scott’s former classmates, warming the hearts of his mother and brother. Facebook posts on the walls of contributors thanked them for being a “good cookie” and included a link to the First Giving page.

Got trolley?

A coordinator’s blog told the story behind the event and everybody involved found a way to link to it and to the blogs and journals of families fighting cancer. A Facebook event page was created and featured excitement-generating updates (new locations, new donations) and hundreds were invited to “attend.” A week before the event, a Flip camera was used to create a music video of several families painting dozens of banners and handheld signs in preparation for the big day. The closing message said simply, “September 11th for Gretchen and Liam the Brave.” The video captured the spirit of our sale and the event preview was watched by hundreds on Facebook and YouTube. Our media genius used Twitter to tweet about our latest news or needs.
 
Keep it simple. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer can be a lemonade stand, a bike-a-thon or a pub crawl. It can be whatever you have the passion to make it. The magic of our Richmond bake sale was its simplicity. We might have had a media machine behind us and a trolley with professional banners, but we were anything but slick. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer allows for local creativity and local customization. Our volunteers felt that. Our sale was about cardboard signs and hand-painted banners. It was about teams of moms running up to cars at stoplights with baskets of cookies, and about kids in smudged aprons spontaneously setting up new, little sales locations on their own and glowing at the results. After just a few hours, our bake sale tables had the look of a favorite stuffed animal.
 
A million amazing moments
The Richmond sale was unbelievably inspirational for everyone involved. (Watch the video of sales held in Carytown.) Several mothers approached our team captains asking, “How can my family get involved in something like this?” One woman bought a pile of cookies. After listening to our sales pitch on the need for better treatments she said, with tears in her eyes, “I know… I’m a nurse in a pediatric cancer ward.”

Two young harp players randomly set up across the street from this sale to busk for cash. Later a rainbow appeared despite a lack of rain. At the end of the heavenly day, we learned we'd surpassed our goal & sobbed with gratitude at the generosity we'd seen.

A young college student expressed her delight at our cause, explaining that she was a pediatric cancer survivor. A Hispanic man on a bicycle gazed at an image of Ber van der Meer in the hospital and handed over a crumpled bill. When a volunteer encouraged him to take a bag of cookies, he shook his head and said, in broken English, “I just want to help.” As he rode away, she unfolded the bill and discovered it was a twenty. Her Facebook status at the end of that day said what we all felt: “What I know for sure: more people are generous than not.”

 Relevant links: 

DAYS KAYAKED: 13
GUEST KAYAKERS: 4

Personal trainer haiku

Today I had my first session with my personal trainer. I’m too tired to properly blog about it. So here’s my experience in haiku form. I’m saving my energy.
 
Personal trainer:
Evan Settle, owner, Sweat.
“There are no shortcuts.” 

 
My goals: drop ten pounds,
get rid of my belly fat,
improve my posture.

First weekly session.
Took my weight and measurements,
then he kicked my butt. 

Started on treadmill,
then he made me do lunges.
I’m so out of shape. 

I don’t understand
why moving my own body
is so exhausting. 

I lie on a mat,
arms above my head, legs straight.
Then limbs point up. (Not.) 

One leg back on stairs.
Face forward, dip other leg.
Fear it will give out. 

Kettlebell: I could tell from his face that I was endangering myself with this thing.

 Lots of squatting stuff.
Why the hell is this so hard?
I mean, it’s bending

He pries shoulders back.
It reminds me of my dad
at the stupid mall. 

He explains muscles,
the ones you need for posture.
Too tired to hear. 

It was all basic.
Basic stuff is exhausting.
I’m so pathetic. 

After two attempts
with the stupid kettlebell
he just had me stop. 

 Finished with some squats.
I was panting, taking breaks.
Doing freakin’ squats

After shaking hands,
I spilled into Shockoe Slip,
hoping knees would hold. 

If I had been jumped
in the spooky parking deck,
it would be over. 

Barely drove my car;
felt like I’d just given blood.
Held railings at home. 

I should have held out
for Prince Daniel of Sweden.
But now it’s too late. 

Coping strategy:
Pretend I’m recovering
from a surgery. 

Refuse to admit
that I have let myself go.
Think of fatter friends. 

DAYS KAYAKED: 13
GUEST KAYAKERS: 6

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Bake Sale

100 percent of your tax-deductible donation will go directly to pediatric cancer research & will be matched by Glad Products (maker of Gladware).

My “Year of Wellness” officially begins in September but, compared to six-year-old Liam Witt, I’ve already had a lifetime of wellness. So have my kids.   

Liam is the son of Gretchen Holt Witt, a former Richmond co-worker and the founder of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer (CKC). When Liam was two and a half, he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer of the nervous system. That was three and a half years ago, and since then cancer has given him very little peace.    

Pediatric cancer remains the number one disease that claims the lives of our children. Each year cancer kills more kids under the age of 18 than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS combined. Yet pediatric cancer research is grossly underfunded by the government and largely ignored by pharmaceutical companies. Imagine being told that your child has a 30 percent chance to live and that the reason why is directly related to how little money is spent on research.  


Lion-hearted Gretchen Holt Witt
What would you do if you were in Gretchen’s shoes? The answer is different for all of us. Like her, I’d seek out the best doctors in the world. I’d immerse myself in information. But here’s one thing I can’t conceive of doing simultaneously: founding a nonprofit that has enabled thousands of everyday folks to raise more than one million dollars for pediatric cancer research, one bake sale at a time.     

Gretchen is hunting down a cowardly disease that preys on children. A former athlete, she’s been a warrior for more than three years now. That’s why her Facebook post last week stopped me in my tracks.      

It said, “…It wasn’t good news. It was awful news. We start high-dose chemo on Monday morning. My heart is literally shattering into a million pieces. But I’ll pick myself up and go at it again. Liam needs me. He needs all of us.” It concluded: “Pray for him and hold a bake sale.”       

Gretchen with Liam (when he was in remission)

 

I remain haunted by an interview that Gretchen gave more than a year ago to CBS National News. In it, she declares, “I have to know that I did everything that I possibly could…” to save her son’s life. You don’t have to know her to see that she means that.      

 Having created an idiot-proof way to for anyone to help, she gave me no choice but to act when I read her post.       

Why Richmond, Virginia, is “Easy to Love”
Here’s the timeline of what happened over the next 96 hours:       

Sunday, August 22 – I send a late-night, bake sale proposal via e-mail to three good friends –  Jennifer Pounders, Michele Rhudy and Marcy Walsh, all former co-workers of Gretchen’s – saying, “I think we need to do this, guys.”       

Monday, August 23 – All three women jump on board immediately. A phone call decides the bake sale date and time (September 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and the tentative location (Carytown, Richmond’s answer to Georgetown). By the close of day, we have two Girl Scout troops and a professional baker. Best of all, the staff of my old public relations agency, CRT/tanaka (where Gretchen formerly worked), agrees to handle bake sale media relations and to close their office on September 10 in order to bake thousands of cookies. Their regional offices in New York, D.C. and Los Angeles quickly agree to bake as well.     

Wednesday, August 25 – the Carytown Merchants Association agrees to host our “mile-long bake sale,” and the Mixing Bowl Pastry Shop donates its industrial kitchen for a 12-hour baking blitz.       

Thursday, August 26 – Jacqueline’s Gourmet Cookies in Massachusetts donates 6,000 frozen gourmet cookie “pucks.” CRT/tanaka steps up to cover the shipping, secures the Short Pump Wal-Mart as a bake sale location, and scores the event’s first television interview. WINN Transportation offers up its trolley for CKC’s first-ever Mobile Bake Sale.       

Small contributions make a big difference
Since then, there have been too many acts of kindness and goodwill – large and small – to enumerate. My e-mail Inbox is a popcorn kettle, and I can only imagine what the next 12 days will bring.       

More than anything, I hope it brings piles of money – healing, curing, life-saving dollars.      

Gretchen recently e-mailed to say how small contributions make a tremendous difference. “We could be so much further ahead on this bloody disease if we just focused attention on it,” she wrote. “The first [modest] trial we helped fund had been waiting for funding for years. Years, Wendy! Why don’t people understand that what’s happening to my precious child could be happening to their child just as easily? We should all care and get involved and demand more for our children and be outraged that we’ve accepted this as a nation.”      

Be a good cookie
Liam currently is fighting for his life. And if his story rips your heart out, here are three easy things to do:     

1. Come buy cookies! Honor Liam’s family, all the courageous parents and children battling this disease, and this tremendous volunteer effort by supporting this cause and buying some cookies (or anything from a wide variety of baked goods) from our Cookies for Kids Cancer Bake Sale on Saturday, September 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be tables up and down Carytown (many merchants are donating a percentage of that day’s sales; Ellwood Thompson’s is stocking its booth with vegan treats!) and we’re even offering a “Cookies Carry Out & Drive Thru” at 2901 West Cary (across the street from the Byrd Theatre). Other locations include the Barnes & Noble at Libbie Place (in the near West End , look for the trolley from 10-2), the Short Pump Wal-Mart, the Sam’s Club on Midlothian and the Midlothian Kroger. (Checks payable to “Cookies for Kids Cancer.” Please check back for additional locations).  

2. Have cookies delivered! Invite the CKC Mobile Bake Sale Trolley to your Richmond office location on Friday, September 10. Help secure internal approval, communicate to your co-workers through whatever channels are required and get people up out of their seats to come buy some life-changing treats. (Contact Jennifer Pounders at 338-4514 or pounderspr@verizon.net.) 

3. Make a secure, online donation to our Cookies for Kids Cancer Richmond Bake Sale. (…by clicking on the preceding sentence; it’s a hyperlink if you are new to those!). 

One hundred percent of your donation will go directly to pediatric cancer research and your donation will be matched by Glad Products (maker of Gladware). Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a recognized 501(c)3 public charity. Your donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law.       

Thank you for being a good cookie.   

Useful links: 

 

DAYS KAYAKED: 12 (including some lovely mother-daughter outings)
GUEST KAYAKERS: 4

Georgetown via the C&O Canal

Any parent knows that a “Year of Wellness” ought to include a night away from the kids. Todd and I got that last week, and we made the most of it with our new touring kayaks.     

Lockhouse 6
Todd found the perfect place to stay: Lockhouse 6 on the historic C&O Canal. Less than two hours from Richmond, Va., the lockhouse is precisely what we’d sought. After discovering it online, Todd burst into my home office in such a way that I was sure some Lady Diana car crash thing had happened. (“Is your computer on?!”) It took me at least 20 seconds to realize that no catastrophic world event had occurred. (“It’s on the canal! On the canal!”)    

Lockhouse 6 on the C&O Canal

Built in 1829, the restored lockhouse has witnessed the travels of millions. That fact is made abundantly clear by the fabulous photographs, gallery, scrapbooks and library inside. I’ll tell you what: some volunteer out there loves Lockhouse 6. And their passion for its historical significance is infectious.     

The canal was mucky with algae at Lock 6, so we put in at Lock 5, just down the way.     

Off we went, in the direction of Georgetown. We’d hoped to paddle to Georgetown for dinner, but were advised by former Olympic kayaker (who helps to oversee Lockhouse 6) that it was probably too long a paddle. On his recommendation, we headed for Fletcher’s Boathouse.     

The canal is lovely, but initially there seemed a lot of noise pollution from the adjacent Clara Barton Parkway and screaming jets above, tracing the Potomac into D.C. The din was less noticable, however, after encountering four noble blue herons with speckled breast feathers that, up close, resembled a chieftain’s regalia.     

We reached Fletcher’s after about 45 minutes of easy paddling. From the maps we’d seen, we knew that the boathouse was about halfway to Georgetown.     

So… should we grab a snack at Fletcher’s, paddle back and then drive to Georgetown for dinner? Or should we exceed the expectations of an Olympian and go for bust – paddling to dinner in Georgetown?     

 Georgetown it was.     

Locking up in the heart of Georgetown

Paddling to dinner
We spied steeples as we approached the city and wondered how many people on the historic canal had identified Georgetown’s skyline that very way.     

After being photographed by half a dozen surprised pedestrians, we reached Lock 4, in the heart of Georgetown. Todd locked up the kayaks, as you would a bicycle.    

Minutes later, we emerged onto M Street – Todd in cut-offs, I in my workout clothes clutching a half-eaten quart of blueberries and a life vest. Not exactly what you wear to split the vegetarian sampler at Zed’s Ethiopian Cuisine. Damn…    

So we went someplace else that I can’t mention because my new dietitian knows about this blog.  (We had lunch at Zed’s the next day.) 

Over dinner we concurred that paddling into Georgetown for dinner is exponentially better than driving in.    

After perusing an art gallery, we raced the sunset “home,” paddling those 4½ miles like mad and stopping only to stare down an urban doe.   

Setting out from Lock 5

As always, if you enjoy this, please subscribe (top right).
DAYS KAYAKED: 8

GUEST KAYAKERS: 3

My Shelvic Exam – Part I

Last week, just one day after receiving notification that I was the official winner of the Year of Wellness, I heard from Dave Grotto –the guy who will be providing me with “eight registered dietitian sessions via phone.”       

Dave Grotto: "Here to help!"

Already I’m confident that I will not mind paying taxes for Dave Grotto. Forget the cave name; he’s actually quite enlightened. After reading his website, I felt sort of flattered that he’s bothering with me.     

Reading Dave’s introductory e-mail, it occurred to me that this prize isn’t just about getting cash for kayaks. I’d lost sight of that recently… because the credit card bill with the kayaks is nearly due.     

Hearing from Dave made me optimistic about “My Year of Wellness” and my family’s future diet. Dave said he was “here to help,” encouraged me to get Todd on the phone for our first two-hour session, and said I was free to blog about him (even after reading my blog!).   

 Nutrition Housecall
In Dave’s first e-mail, he was all business, asking me to provide:     

  1. Pictures of the inside of my kitchen cabinets and refrigerator/freezer. He usually meets with patients for the first time  in their home environment to perform what he calls a “shelvic exam.”
  2. A completed “Nutritional Housecall” questionnaire. This requests my family’s chief dietary/health concerns; my medical history; information related to vices, exercise, sleep, daily activity and stress factors; and a lengthy part about my eating habits. This will help him tailor a complete dietary program for me.
  3. A picture of me wearing a form-fitting, single layer of clothing plus measurements of my neck, stomach and butt. (He actually wrote “butt,” so I knew we would get on fine.) He calls this “a tool to measure progress.” I call it “embarrassing.”

So, today I began work on Item Number 1.      

My Shelvic Exam
Who would have guessed that embarking on My Year of Wellness would result in me nearly losing an eye and almost throwing up three times?     

I decided that making a quick Flip video of the fridge would be better than a photo and the next best thing to actually having Dave here.     

Before filming, I decided it was time for an epic fridge cleaning. Todd agreed to participate. (Remember, a Scout is “helpful… obedient… and clean.” Since the fridge hadn’t been cleaned like this in some time, it was convenient that a Scout is also “brave.”)     

 Highlights of the Fridge Cleaning     

Does anything really get "crisper" in that bin?

The “Rotter” lived up to its name. A few years ago, after getting a label maker, I changed the name of the “Crisper” bin to the “Rotter.” Does anything actually get “crisper” in that bin? No. Here’s what happens in that bin: You put in fresh vegetables and salad and the next time you look in there, you find scary, soupy madness in a bag. Today’s scary, soupy madness featured a half a cucumber that I can’t even think about without gagging.     

I found condiments nearly as old as my youngest child. (She turns seven next month. Enough said.)    

Bag 1 of 3: Nothing here was older than our children.

I put myself before the planet. I was unable to recycle some food containers because if I’d had to dump out some of that stuff I would have become physically ill. 

 I nearly put out an eye, touching a wet sponge to the fridge light bulb. (Pop.)
 
My dog’s life was momentarily in danger. Actual conversation: Me: “Should I give this to the dog?”  Todd:Yeah… if he won’t die from eating it.” Me: (Pause… toss in the garbage.)   
 
So, Part I of my shelvic exam is complete. The video has been sent. Next up: Part II – The Pantry.
 
As always, if you enjoy this, please subscribe (top right).
 
DAYS KAYAKED: 6 (including a sunset/moonrise, after-dinner kayak trip with Todd last Saturday)
 
GUEST KAYAKERS: 1