Friday, December 30, 2011

I resolve to.....

As I sit on the threshold of a new year, the traditional exercise of setting resolutions is too hard to resist. There are the standard ones, and ones that seem to be ALWAYS on my list, lose weight, save money... you know those elusive goals 98% of people seem to focus on. And yes, for me, they are still wonderful things to work to obtain. But this year, partially because of Leslie's new blog, I am asking myself a different question.

What qualities in me do I want to work on to make more supportive and positive than they have been in the past. You see, the truth is, those things that weigh us down are often qualities are are also a gigantic positive for the majority of the time. What are those things in you that you need to create more balance with?

Here are a few of mine. I encourage you to take a moment and think about who you are and how you can be a better version of yourself. For after all, in the end, I am a typo... I don't know about you...


There is no doubt I am competitive. That drive to be the best has taken me a long way. It also has held me back and distracted me at times from other important things. I have rarely accepted the idea that I cannot achieve anything I set my mind to. Reality is, we are not in control of everything around us. So sometimes, I fall short.

Real Estate is a perfect foil for my competitive edge. I am a great Realtor and I have achieved a lot in the time I have been working in this business. I have been the #1 agent in Mill Valley at one time. That was a good feeling for a minute, because as things go, I wasn't the #1 later. At some point I readjusted my idea of success and tried to be happy with being a top Mill Valley agent (as in top 10). But honestly, really honestly, I am not a happy person about someone else doing better than me. That is brutally honest. I am happy when I am the best. This is something I need to work on.

In the Susan G Komen 3 day, I have been the #3 and #4 top fundraiser in the walks I have participated in. Seeing other's fundraising usurp mine and move me from #1 to #3, was hard to watch. I can't control this. I imagined they planned on late contributions just to beat me! But I worked at being happy for them and for Susan G Komen. Because I had to work soooo hard at this, the time I spent doing that, took away from the meaning of how well I had actually done. But luckily I never forgot WHY I was doing this. Meeting the people I have me along the way in this journey has reminded me what the real prize is... and how important it is. That I think is where we need to put our focus... on the WHY.

The WHY is to end Cancer, to support others, to help build awareness.If I have someone around me who has the potential to do that better than me this year I will relish in the feeling of helping them do that. I love watching Myriam (my partner) build her confidence and business, especially since it is our business. If I help others be successful then part of their success is mine!


Is a little enough? Can I stand to do things part way? Well, I look around my house and in our basement and I would say... sure doesn't look like it. Yes I am excessive. I almost never do anything part way. If I do, I feel less than complete. I cook for a party and I cook enough food for an army and with the best. I throw out the budget and the calorie concerns and cook for a week.

This excessiveness has led to some wonderful creative events and moments. Because I have the ability to throw out the "cant's" somehow that becomes possible. And WHY I do this is I want the people around me to enjoy life. I like seeing them enjoy what I create. Now though, I see the remnants of this excessive life, and feel those things are not the point at all. The moment is. So my challenge will be to create the moments without the excess of things. Walks at Point Reyes, sailing on the boat, soup parties (being ok with a pot luck)...yep there is a lot I can do to refocus this area.


Criticism can help you be better. To evaluate what you do and how you do it can help you to fine tune and improve. Sort of like this posting, I am looking at what works and what doesn't. However for me that criticism can sometimes be overly harsh. Especially in the past my weight helped define how I felt about myself. In the efforts to be perfect I didn't allow myself the chance to be human. I had to be GOOD all the time or I would be very BAD. I was either "on program" or I was "cheating". Still (and Christmas is a great example) if I eat a cookie, I eat all the cookies as if by eating them I destroy the evidence of having had one.

Having one cookie, one piece of chocolate has never been something I have been able to do. It comes from a perfectionism that is not healthy. WHY do I do this? It is partially about what others think of me, but it is largely what I have come to expect from myself. If I look closer at this is directly related to that competitive side of me. It is seeing things in excess. GOOD, BAD... no shades of grey for me. And for me the answer has to be the same... refocus.

Can I accept being #2, being the weight I am at the moment, scaling back,making a mistake? If I do these things what would it give me?

To use competitiveness in a more constructive way: Being ok with #2 or 3 or 4 or even 25 would give me the ability to focus on helping others do more. If more people, do more, we all are better off. Especially when it comes to raising money for a great cause like ending Cancer.

To avoid excess: if I focus on the quality of my time with friends and use the beauty of what is around us to be our venue, then I will be able to give more of myself to them and me. I won't be left with bills or boxes of excess. I will be filled with memories and moments.

To allow for a mistake: If I take the focus off perfection I can enjoy everything more. If I focus on health versus weight that would be much easier. My walking and taking time to attend to myself is that kind of "treat" that is far more valuable than a cookie. But one cookie shouldn't lead to a dozen if I allow imperfection. It would feel good to allow the same understanding I have of others for myself.

No one on December 31st has a clue whether this retrospection and planning will ultimately result in change. But without taking the time to really access where you are you have no idea of where to go. I hope in 2012, I am able to make some progress on these three areas of my life. I wish for you a year that you are able to create full of what you value in your life.


DONATE to my WALK.... I still have a goal of $17,000 . You sure don't want me to get to $16,999!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas time was here

Time flies when you're having fun. It wasn't all that long ago, through my eyes, that we were blessed to share Christmas joy with our two little girls. With every surprise, those little faces would light up like neon signs full of excitement and belief. Santa was a jolly man who came to our house for our party and down the chimney on Christmas eve with amazing gifts, filling the needlepoint stockings to overflowing.

Now the girls are young women and I feel somewhat older and shorter than I did before. But Glenn and I did our best to still bring some magic to each of them (and to Chris our son-in-law).
It was a beautiful Christmas. We spent Christmas eve visiting Glenn's Dad and then our dear friends Chuck and Stephanie at their annual Christmas Eve feast.

All grown-up - The Youngling girls

Throughout this Christmas I listened to Allison talk about her life in Virginia and Katie talk about her life in Washington. Learning about their jobs and plans for the future you are drawn to think back about other Christmases....

The first Christmases when Glenn's train circled our Christmas tree and Allison's eyes filled with wonder. The nights when Glenn would carry them asleep one by one into their beds after visiting Oma and Opa on Christmas Eve. The carols playing as they awoke and scurried to see what Santa had left them.

This year in the morning as the coffee brewed, we were mindful that Allison's husband Chris had arrived via shuttle from the airport at 2 am. Our start to Christmas was slower for sure, but still had magic. From the "gag" boxes to hold two IPads, to the New Braunfels ham and eggs with cinnamon rolls, there was tradition and fun. The stockings were still overflowing. The smiles were still big. And my heart was full to have my family together (if only for a short while). Now as the "clean-up" begins, I am thinking back on a good Christmas. Thankful to have been blessed with a family I love. Sad we can't be closer. Longing for the day we could be again. Thank you Santa I got just what I wanted.

Now on to 2012. Maybe Allison could make another appearance as Father time?

Ok, that IS asking too much.

As you know in 2012 I will be walking in 2 Susan G Komen 3 days. That means, I need to raise at least $4600. My goal is $17,000. So I need your help. I have raised $2300 already and that is GREAT! Thanks to anyone who has stepped up to help. It means a lot to me... but more importantly it will be part of the answer to Breast Cancer in our lifetime. You are saving lives.

As you close out your tax year, a donation would be wonderful, for you and for this worthy cause. To donate.... go there

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The good in people.

Tis the season.

For the past month or so the requests come in. It may be from the Williamsburg Colonial Foundation, the local effort to save the Scout Hall, The Humane society, The Food Bank, St. Judes, the Discovery Museum, American Cancer Society, A sock or warm coat, or business clothes drive, Mercy Corp, Americorp, NAMI, Save the Children or even from Cathy Youngling on behalf of Susan G Komen. It's a time of giving and organizations recognize that at the end of the year many people do all their yearly giving. For some organizations without the Holiday Season, they would not survive.

Especially when the economy is tough, and those discretionary funds are harder to find, those requests can sometimes break your heart. You would if you could but .... can you.

Giving is a wonderful thing. That expression that is it better to give than to receive, is one I believe in. But in the past few days I have seen the giving spirit in others lift my holiday spirits, inspire and ignite my will to do more.

Last night I read a post by one of my Facebook 3 day friends. Many of these people I have not "met" yet. But I know them. This community shares a lot that make us a kind of family. We are pink sisters and brothers. There was one who had a close friend, a mother of three whose power had just been turned off. The offers to assist came in fast and furious. The original request was for firewood to heat their apartment, but the offers were to pay off the bill, provide clothes and Christmas gifts and more. It makes you take a step back and smile. There is good still in this crazy world loads of it.

I had seen a news story about secret Santa's who were going to the local Kmarts and WallMarts and paying for the layaway bills of strangers. I saw another about a man who randomly gives out $100 bills, without judgment but only with love and how that simple act changed some people's lives. They lived their lives differently with more purpose knowing someone cared about them.

Today I got an unexpected gift from Santa...Pink Santa.

Santa gave me an unsolicited donation of $10. He is doing the same for 99 other 3 day walkers. Santa (Mike) has volunteered in 11, 3 days as crew. I saw him in DC and gave him a BIG hug! But I never knew who he was. He has made it his personal mission to end Breast Cancer. He wears pink shoes for Breast Cancer Awareness. His passion spills over to people around him and he inspires them.

Today, his gift made me smile and think...what can I do to make some one's Christmas brighter. How can I share the Christmas spirit with someone who may need the joy.

How can you be a secret Santa this year.

You may find your gift to them, is the best one you will ever receive.

Our daughters are due in any minute so it may be after Christmas that you hear from me next. Let me know about how you shared the spirit this year.

P.S. Only $525 from $2300. If the spirit moves you to donate.... click here...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I see Christmas in your eyes.

Christmas is a whirling spinning twirling kaleidoscope of noise and lights and kinetic activity. It seems at times we forget why we jump in with all our hearts and minds each year to "do it again." I have to admit when I start pulling out the lights and decorating the tree, I ask myself how long can I do this? I have no children who live near home. The tall "real" tree that has always been a must at our house, is expensive and hard to manage. Ladders are a must to get up to the top, and Glenn is less than enthusiastic about lights. Our house is in a state of "getting ready" for several weeks. Instead of a home full of Christmas cheer, for those weeks it is a storage room gone bad with boxes piled high and burned out bulbs strewn about.

Every year since I owned a home I have had a Christmas party. Even 8 months pregnant with bruised feet, I made the cookies and laid out a spread for friends. I prepared a party after I felt a lump in my breast intent on not destroying the magic for the kids. The following year I celebrated the end of chemo with a few extra glasses of champagne. We have had parties through the kids baby years, teen years and I remember our son-in-law Chris' eyes at his first party. Yep those Youngling Christmas parties have had their moments.

In the past couple of years we have scaled back and made the party a grownup affair. Morphed the turkey and ham into a crab feed. But this year.... without a doubt, I knew it was the year the original Youngling Christmas party needed to make a return. Santa needed to come back to our house.

This past year has been very special. I have been supported by some incredible people as I made my way to the Washington 3 day- People who seem to always be there for me, through all these years - Neighbors who now have small children, who give me a big smile as I remember our children when they were little - Clients who have understood my involvement with Susan G Komen and my passion to find a cure for Cancer. Each and everyone, I felt, were overdo for a thank you and a little Christmas magic. But after getting to know the Purchase family, I was completely convinced, THEY all needed a party of love, magic, miracles and maybe even a little indulgence. And as we spin and get tossed around, this was for certain a time to believe in Christmas again.

And you know what... I was right. I saw it in the eyes of everyone in the room. As Santa made his entrance, it was hard to tell who was more excited, the children or the grownups.

As child by child found their way to Santa's lap, the smiles and love in the room grew. The little ones too frightened to come close, the bold ones who jumped right on board, each reminded us what it felt like to believe. To believe that Santa Claus with his bag of gifts, can come down a chimney in every home to every child in the world. To believe he could be in malls and television and the Youngling's living room. To believe.... that is the gift we each and everyone needs to accept with all our hearts.

And sometimes that is so very very hard. So we need a little help remembering.

As secret wishes are told to a man in a red suit and white beard.

And as we watch them it all comes back. Magic does happen.

Gifts are given. Dreams do come true.

Our requests become more specific as we test Santa to see if he really is all THAT magical.

Xbox 360s instead of a "real" doll.

But our Moms are taking note of the earnestness of the request.

Santa has made his notation on his naughty and nice list.

While others are still mesmerized by the eye glasses and the jolly man.

A little grown up 7 year old respectfully asks not to be forgotten.

The twinkle from Santa's eyes mirrored in his.

And then it happens. MAGIC. Olivia well enough to be in a crowd flies onto Santa's lap with her list of dreams. A very specific list for a 3 year old. While everyone in the room has one wish at that moment, and one wish alone. No more Cancer. Many more smiles. Many more years of magic for this little one.

Dressed in her finest, in a silk dress her great grandmother's crystal beads Olivia with so much joy had her moment one on one with Mr. Claus.

And I know she will get her wish. And I, will get mine.

While the rest of us will find more meaning this year as we thank God for our blessings.

And for the gifts we have received.

We are grateful for family who help us face our fears, and find in that great reward.

And as we grow a little older, how to find that magic doesn't need to disappear.

We find there is magic all around.

And even as Santa "leaves the building" we are celebrating that he came.

As we hold tight to the things and people we love.

This was a special party for all of us. I know Olivia said it was the best in her life. I have had a much longer life than she has and I have to say, it was one of the best in mine. Thank you Olivia, and all the rest of you who brought a little magic back to our house.

I do believe in Santa. I do believe in miracles.

And so do these girls. Hopefully they ALL will walk this year in the 3 day (SF ir SD). One step at a time, they will find the impossible can be made possible.

Glenn knows that!

P.S. I am $659 from hitting the minimum fund raising goal for 2012. $2300 if you donate, you can help me make another dream come true.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Getting ready to party!

There used to be a train that went around the tree. There was an angel on the top of the tree.

Now the train is put away under the house, and there is a Santa where the angel used to be.

Christmas at our house has gone through a few changes, but some things have remained the same.

Every year we have had a Christmas party. It has been different sizes, depending on circumstance and timing. In the past few years, it has been relatively small. This year will be a little bigger... (in fact I am renting a tent to put off the kitchen for a little more space.) This year we will be celebrating in the old fashioned Youngling way. My special connection with Santa has given me the gift of being able to ask for party representation, and this year he will not disappoint. Our house will be filled with excited children who get to have their one on one with the big jolly fellow. They can get in their requests for what they wish for Christmas. I always have a moment with the big guy myself and this is what I will be wishing for.

Dear Santa,

I could ask for a new range. I could ask for a
diamond ring. But I have a different wish. Please give me a world without Cancer. I know it is a lot to ask. This is a very big wish. I want chidlren
to wake up Christmas morning and from that day on, never have to fear that
their Mommys and Daddys, sisters and brothers or even they themsleves might die from Cancer.

Santa if you do this for me, I will promise to always
leave Nana cookies and whatever beverage you choose, every Christmas
for as long as I live.

Thank you , Cathy

This year Olivia and her family will be coming to our party for the first time! In the picture below you will see another Cancer survivor (Julie) who must have asked very nicely for a healthy life. She beat Colon Cancer and now is working for the Center for Integrated Health and Wellness at Marin General. It is amazing to watch her. She has done incredible things to help create a better world for those who are battling Cancer.

So you see.... Santa does listen. What are you asking Santa for Christmas?

Now on to making that Buche de Noel....

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What makes a real Survivor

What is a survivor... For you, who are reading this blog, my guess is your are thinking Cancer Survivor. But for a large portion of America, the word Survivor means something else. It means that person who outwitted, outplayed and outlasted the last contestant on the show of the same name to stand at the finale collecting a check for a million dollars.

I have watched this TV show on and off since the beginning when Richard Hatch who outwitted the competition to win the million. He also later spent time in prison for tax evasion. It may seem to most of us the people who succeed on this show are sneaky, unworthy, low lives who do not deserve the attention much less that kind of money. But the show does have lessons and I think it a worthwhile exercise to take a look at a few of these.

SKILL - Ozzie (never won) Certainly there has been people good at challenges, but none come close to Ozzie. And he knows it. The problem with Ozzie is he is blinded by his own ability to maneuver the game, and inevitably he is blind sided while he is admiring how well he plays.

TRICKERY - Russell (never won) He could be the most hated on the show, but somehow people follow along with his game. They become his pawns, and while he is admiring his skill, he finds people will award the money to the least of two evils. Since he is so evil he has lost a couple. Richard Hatch (won) the first winner. He lied to everyone and everyone believe whatever he said to them.

HONOR and COURAGE - Fireman Tom (won ), Ethan, Cancer survivor (won) These two players were honest, fair and honorable. They won anyway. Ethan in Particular has done some incredible things to benefit others since his time on Survivor. He also battled Cancer.

INTELLIGENCE - Yul Kwon (won) former attorney and current TV host. He played an intelligent game and won. Others have tried to think their way to the million, Yul actually did it.

COLLABORATION - Coach (Has not won yet)He is a little strange this one. The "dragon" slayer has in the current Survivor built a team around his high brow zen like attitude. But how real is he????

LUCK - Tina (won because Colby made a bad move)Quiet nice Tina was taken to the final tribal counsel by Colby the Cowboy who had outplayed her..but unfortunately he must have not outwitted her, because they picked Tina as the millionaire.

FLYING UNDER THE RADAR - Vecepia (she won because people didn't want other to win!)She was pretty down low during the show, until the final show where she basically won by default.
ALL AROUND - Sandra (won 2) Here's another one who laid low, played strategically, wasn't a physical threat, but was aware and made moves when she needed to. To win 2 times makes her the ultimate Survivor Survivor.

But that my friends is the making of a TV show. It's different in the REAL Survivor world. Ethan may understand that. He has had his Hodgkin's Lymphoma has returned. He had already undergone a stem cell transplant and chemotherapy and now will be getting "smart" chemotherapy targeting the cancer cells only and a second stem cell transplant from a different family member.

This is one battle that isn't a game. It is very real.


Check out the survivors you may recognize listed on wikipedia.

I am still blown away by having had the honor of standing with these survivors - each representing one of these qualities. I would far rather stand with them than Richard Hatch and that is for sure.... But Ethan, that's a different story.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

16 years ago - I felt a lump

May 1995 - 7 months before

It was in December. I was in the shower and had felt a lump. I asked my husband to come and feel what I felt. "There's definitely something there," he said.

At the time I didn't have an OBGYN, he had had a stroke and retired. But after all, it was Christmas time and I didn't think I should rush through anything at Christmas. What if it was bad news. It would ruin the holiday.

I asked a few people who they were seeing and got a few names. So, I called one and asked that they schedule a mammogram for me (after the holiday). The Doctor's office said it was unusual to do that before I had met the Doctor, but they agreed to go ahead and schedule it. The mammogram was scheduled for the first week in January.

The time I spent waiting was occupied with Santa and family, gifts and baking, carols and chaos. Inside, inside I knew something was definitely not right.

I was your stay at home Mom at the time. Allison was 12 and Katie was 10. (I have to say all this survivor math gets tricky... is it from when you were diagnosed? Is it from the surgery? Does it matter?) To me what is significant was I had two daughters one a pre-teen and one a young teen who came with me to the clinic to get my mammogram.

The woman at the desk asked about my last Mammogram, which I had gotten in SF about 5 years before. There is a history of Cancer in my family, but not Breast Cancer. She said "Be sure to give me that information before you leave today."

I went into the exam room to have the mammogram leaving my two daughters sitting in the waiting room. The young technician asked me a few questions. I mentioned I had felt a lump and showed her where. She looked surprised and said "It's a good thing you showed me because that is so low, I may have not gotten it normally."

When she stepped out from reviewing the film her face had changed. She said "I think we have all we need. You can go."

At that moment, I knew. I knew I had Cancer.

I stopped at the desk and began to give the receptionist the information about the other Mammogram. She obviously had heard from the tech, while I was getting dressed what the film had revealed. "Oh we don't need that now," she said with the same pale face and unnerved darting eyes.

I felt frightened, and then I looked at my daughters. I put on my best "ready for battle" face and said, "Let's go girls."

I was 42. And I wouldn't have become 58 had it not been for self exams and Mammograms. Have you done a self exam lately? It could very well save your life, it saved mine.

It worries me when studies say things like Mammograms shouldn't be done until after 50. I worries me when too much emphasis is on Mammograms and not enough is on self exams. The truth is, we need to be diligent about our own health. And if you have Cancer in your family you must be triple diligent. It's not fun, but it is a fact.

What is fun is life. What is fun is watching your daughters grow up, get married, have grownup jobs and be loved. It's fun to hold the hand of your soul mate for another 16 years. Its fun to breath in the air of the ocean as you walk along its edge. It is so much fun to live.

PLEASE give yourself that gift. Do self exams. Have your Mammogram.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A new teammate who comes with her own crew!

The walk of 2012 has officially begun with a Tennessee Valley "training" walk with the Purchase Family and Glenn.

Those of you who have been reading this journey have followed the challenges this incredible family has faced in the past few years. Leslie's Breast Cancer at the age of 32, one of the most daunting of of the Breast Cancers, triple negative was hard enough to weather I am sure. She got that diagnosis 6 months after the birth of their daughter Olivia. Olivia joined her brothers Joe and Jack to be children born in a world that unavoidably had been tainted by the trauma of Cancer.

Then this year as they began to look forward to a new life CANCER FREE in Marin, Olivia had a seizure, and was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer. She underwent surgery, chemo and stem cell transplant. Now on our walk we all were celebrating closing the book on the treatment and the beginning of living.

Throughout the trials Leslie and Rob have been blessed with the unending support of their parents. Rob's mother, also Olivia is often in town to lend a hand. Leslie's folks Arlene and Joe were here today for the walk, as they have been throughout these tough days. They come from Pennsylvania, and it says so much for the love in this family to see them drop everything to be close.

To listen to the conversation of this family as you walk is heart warming. There is so much support. Parents to children, grandparents to children. There is also a lot of kidding and learning and loving going on. It moved Glenn to remark to me it was like walking with a family from a Norman Rockwell painting. They are perfect... in that they are perfectly human.

Leslie has started her own blog

Here she will be blogging about one resolution she will be following for each 52 weeks of the year. She hopes to be come "a better wife, mother, daughter, survivor, citizen through 52 one week long resolutions."

So I am expecting this will be an interesting year of learning humility for me! She and they will be the source of much inspiration for me on this walk.

And on this walk I will be reminded of HOW IMPORTANT this walk is. Why do I walk? I won't have to look very far to be reminded. What a blessing that will be on those days when I don't feel like walking to have such a great reason to.
And as we walk... we will be getting closer to out goal. The goal of a world where Cancer doesn't define us as survivors. A world where the fear of Cancer will not stifle our ability to breath.
A world where the horizon is attainable, and dreams are unfettered.
And those people we love will watch our joy...
As we plan our next adventure....

bolding living life fully and completely...
as we walk this journey together.

TO JOIN US....A DONATION as a year end tax deduction would be great.

This is going to be amazing.....