Monday, May 23, 2011

Once Upon a Weekend

Friday: Massages by the pool with a friend, for a friend and her friends
Saturday: A massage for a client, Set up and then check in at rodeo committee's party, followed by a birthday party for a set of one-year-old twins, followed by a dinner out with friends and ending with dessert on the terrace of my friend's new house that has an incredible view of downtown
Sunday: on my bike at 7:30 a.m. checking in artists with Art Cars for the parade, then preparing lunch with my houseguest (co-founder of Sweet Notions), afterwards it was off to a baby shower, and finally registering guests at an Equality Texas fundraiser (outside ... by the pool ... in Houston's humidity)

So ....

In one weekend I played in the suburbs, downtown, on a "farm" and poolside.

In one weekend I encountered young stressed out moms in need of massage, artists, aging skaters who provide parade support, cowboys, advocates, about-to-be moms, sailors, pirates and princesses.

I've said it before and will repeat it till my happy ending ... You can't say my life is dull.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Second Best Was a First

Someone asked me this week if I had ever failed at something I set my mind to accomplishing. I had an easy answer because I had recently reflected on that time in my life.

Less than a year ago, I was second best twice in a row. Not one, but two organizations, told me I was one of two candidates that had survived the interview process for positions I thought at the time that I wanted. Neither organization went with me.


Had it not happened, I would not have experienced Friday. And Friday was a dream manifested:

-- I woke up in a home where I can easily host guests and have done so for the last three weeks.
-- I spent some time working on social media for my client that focuses on breast cancer, in the comfort of my jammies, on a lap desk one guest gave me, using wireless another guest set up
-- A quick trip on a beautiful Houston day to my new client's office, and I was reading about passionate people willing to give extra time and energy in collaborating on how to address health and human service issues in Texas
-- Had just enough time to get back to my house, fix a sandwich for my current guest (another client who falls into the REALLy nonprofit category at the moment and is looking for an apartment so she can be bivocational and make an impact on the lives of vulnerable women), and prep for my next appointment
-- Did a chair massage for a former colleague and caught up on how inspiring she can be as she takes a pragmatist's view of making a difference in the world (I currently write what I hope are inspiring stories for the group she's with)
-- Gathered my massage materials and after another couple of hours online, headed to a table massage for someone who works for yet another client (the group who wants to convert a food truck into a job development program)
-- Drove to a friend's new place and after helping with the unpacking and a bit of takeout, gave my final massage of the day ... a freebie because I love her, she's worked hard this week, and in the move, I inherited what was once her mom's round table and four chairs.

How does mental and physical work, bartered items, and the simple things of life equal a dream?

Last July, I left a world I KNEW was not for me. I failed to help larger nonprofit organizations see who I could be in their operations. And that's when I first dreamed the dream. What if I helped small nonprofits who can't afford development directors and full-time communications managers and supplemented my income with massage?

Ta-da! Dream, meet Friday! Friday, meet Dream!

And the beauty of this new encounter? Saturday just added more fuel to the inspirational fires as I set a volunteer gig for next weekend, volunteered at a food truck festival, and spent time laughing with friends around a table ladened with good food.

Perhaps when you're second, you try harder. I've no doubt that in my case, I live larger!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Newest feature story for The Rose by Yours Truly

HOUSTON – More than 500 riders, volunteers, and supporters participated in the 3rd Annual Bikers Against Breast Cancer (BABC) record-setting ride Saturday, May 7. And at least one new rider plans to make it an annual event.

Debbie Stokes has arthritis, so she never considered a long ride an option. But as soon as she heard the BABC ride would be benefitting The Rose, she immediately signed up. According to Debbie, her daughter Elizabeth is alive today because of the breast cancer organization that provides services for the insured and uninsured.

At 21 years of age, Elizabeth found a lump during a routine breast self exam. The Liberty resident had learned about the importance of breast health care when she was 19 and a t-shirt attracted her to an educational booth at Houston’s annual Buzzfest concert. Since then, she’s taken care of herself and encouraged her friends to do so as well. However, as a young mother, she told herself the lump and her needs could wait and decided not to mention it to her doctor. Elizabeth’s father Larry had other plans.

Elizabeth’s aunt (Larry’s sister) is a 30-year survivor. He didn’t want his daughter taking any chances, so he applied a bit of paternal pressure. When Elizabeth went for her six-week checkup after having given birth to son Aiden, she mentioned the lump. Aware that she was uninsured, her doctor also knew of the services provided by The Rose and referred her for a screening. A mammogram, ultrasound, and a biopsy later, she got the news from Dr. Dixie Melillo, her physician and the Co-founder of The Rose.

She had breast cancer.

Both Elizabeth and Debbie thought of her own child when the report was received. Blue-eyed Aiden inspired Elizabeth. Debbie confesses her first thought was “Why not me?” and described the experience as “the hardest thing a parent can see her child go through.”

The Rose assisted Elizabeth in accessing the state-funded Medicaid Breast and Cervical Cancer Services Program. Soon she was insured and receiving aggressive rounds of chemotherapy at MD Anderson. She finished her last round March 7 and was pronounced cancer free on April 1.

“My mom never left my side,” the now 22-year-old Elizabeth reports.

“She kept telling me, ‘Failure is not an option,’” explained Debbie.

“I had an incentive – I wanted to watch my son grow up,” Elizabeth concluded.

Inspired by Elizabeth’s courage and tenacity, Debbie claimed her own victory when she completed the 45 miles on Saturday.

“I owe it to The Rose,” Debbie noted. “I wish I could do more. I tell everyone about what a great organization The Rose is, because, unfortunately, it’s still a secret to many.”

On top of caring for Elizabeth and helping out with her grandson, Debbie plans to continue to be a vocal advocate for The Rose and for young women not having to wait until they are 40 years of age to get coverage for mammograms.

Totals for the event are still being tallied, but 2011 BABC ride looks to be another record-breaking year. The event has grown from 125 bikes raising $10,000 in 2009 to this year’s estimated 391 riders and 85 ghost riders, raising nearly $50,000 for The Rose. A new opportunity called a “ghost rider” allowed for participation for those who would not be riding but who wanted to make a donation. In addition, more than 75 volunteers assisted with the registration, silent auction, and raffle.

“I applaud the incredible Bikers Against Breast Cancer Committee led by D’Etta Casto DeLeon for creating an outstanding event,” said Dorothy Gibbons, CEO and Co-founder of The Rose. “Looking over that sea of bikes was amazing. And I celebrated as stories were shared, tears were shed, and laughter and music made for a great day. There aren’t enough words to adequately thank the riders, committee, volunteers, and staff who made this fundraiser such a success.”

Bikers Against Breast Cancer launched in the Houston area in 2009. The committee consists of volunteers, assisted by The Rose staff. In its three-year history, BABC has raised a total of nearly $100,000 to benefit The Rose.