Wednesday, August 27, 2014

No Problems Without Solutions

Have you seen the latest horrible video/image/story about ThisMan/ThatWoman/ThosePeople?

If you're on Facebook, the answer is most likely yes. Someone you follow has been "alerted" to something mean, illegal, immoral, or cruel, and they want you to see it, too.

The stories are everywhere. Just look!

Hypocrites pontificating!
Companies violating!

Bigots discriminating!
Scandals... um... scandal-ating!

I get it. These are bad things happening and your friends want you to know about them.

But why?

What's the point, exactly? What good does it do to learn about these things if you are powerless to change them?

Ah... but what if you *could* do something about them? That would change things, wouldn't it? Instead of just being a bystander and mumbling "tsk, tsk" under your breath, imagine being able to take actions to make bad situations better.

Well, all of this talk about "your friends" and the things they post isn't about other people at all. It's about me. I have been the person posting these links and ranting and raving about the bad people and the terrible things. But if I'm not doing anything else, it makes no sense to post at all.

My solution? No more posting stuff like this unless I also include a very specific, very direct call to action. If I read that a retailer is discriminating against a group of people, I will take the time to look up a corporate contact, share that address or email with my friends, and write a letter myself to the company explaining why I am bothered and what I expect them to do. If I read about legislation (proposed or enacted) that concerns me, I need to make sure that my elected officials hear from me directly. When I share the story on Facebook, I'll include a request to friends to contact their own representatives. And if I hear about something local that I think deserves more attention, I'll reach out to area news teams and encourage them to report on it.

My point is, instead of just railing against stupidity... and really, I'm preaching to the choir when I post on Facebook... I will identify specific actions that can be taken and make it easy for my friends to follow my lead.

Yes, there are problems in the world. But fixing them requires more than just me complaining about them on social media. Actions are what lead to solutions.

Oh, and if you see me forget this pledge, say something. I won't be perfect but I can always get better.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An End to The Rainmakers.

You know those Facebook memes going around that remind you, "hey, don't take this status personally because it might not be about you"?

Well, sometimes, a person posts something that obviously IS about you. And then you're left wondering how best to respond.

For example, yesterday I posted this:

And this morning, I awake to see this as a Facebook friend's status calling out someone for lashing out at others instead of accepting their own blame for their situation.

Which explains why I'm wide awake at 4:45am writing this blog. Because the person who posted this status is the same person who sent me a private message Friday evening asking if our Rainmakers group could help a family member of hers in need.

I get it. She sent a message asking if I would take the time to check out the GoFundMe page, create a Rainmakers project for it, and try to assist her family. On Saturday, I replied that I would read through it and see how we might help. And then Monday morning, she reads my post and is bothered enough by it to call me out, albeit anonymously, in her own Facebook status.

She says she fails to understand. So for her, and to anyone else wondering, let me explain.

I get it. You have a family member, or a friend, or a co-worker, or a friend's buddy... someone... that you know is in desperate need. You want to help them, and that's wonderful. You think, "hey, maybe Rainmakers could do something?" So you share the information with me. And now it becomes mine to sort out.

But here's what you don't know. Your request for help is not the first one I received Friday. It wasn't even the second. It was the fourth. In one day. And the other three were just as important to someone else.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to sort out requests for help that came in LAST WEEK. Because the requests keep pouring in. Now that the word is out that Rainmakers has helped folks in need, there is a non-stop flow of stories of people in terrible situations who need help.

And now, to the specific Facebook status criticizing me for my own post:

You certainly got one thing correct. You fail to understand. Because for someone like me, reading endless stories of people hurting breaks my heart. I take it all in, because I don't know any other way of processing it. And then I carry all of them around like they are my own problems, hoping that I will find some inspiration or have a stroke of brilliance as to how I can somehow fix everything.

Here's what else you don't understand. All of these stories over the last few months have taken their toll on me. Learning about so much pain and misery and tragedy has nearly broken me. Where before I was a generally happy person, I've become moody and sad. Where before my attitude was positive and my outlook bright, I've become negative and everything seems dark and bleak.

How can I be happy when there is so much pain and suffering? How can I go about my day acting as if things are okay when they obviously aren't?

And here's some more information to help you understand. That darkness threatened to consume me. My real-life friends are very concerned about me, worried that I'll reach a point where all of this is too much to handle and I'll do something stupid. Yes, a couple of people closest to me fear that all of this pressure will be enough to push me too far and I'll end up trying to kill myself. Yes, it's come to that.

I'm not saying the demands of Rainmakers are the only factors. But they are certainly the most public and the most heartbreaking. Because I know that each and every request is critical to someone, and it is horrible knowing that we can't possibly fix them all.

So you criticize me for making a public statement that I can't save the world? Fine. That's your right. But you should also know that making that post was my way of saving my own life, so you'll understand if I don't feel the least bit apologetic that it seemed to bother you.

Are people to blame because they ask for help? No, of course not. But each of them only knows their story and what they are asking. They don't know that they are one of a hundred similar stories that are asking for the same help. They don't seem to realize that I also have a full-time job and personal demands that require my attention, and coordinating efforts to raise money for other people takes not only time but also energy that I don't always have.

Well, people know now.

You want me to take ownership of my problem? Absolutely. Because of my involvement with Rainmakers, people bring countless stories of need to me with the hope that I can find solutions. But I can't. And then it becomes my problem, because I take them all in and personalize them. It's my problem because I can't stay detached and objective. It's my problem because I hurt for each and every one of these people.

So yes, I agree. It's absolutely my problem. It's me to blame. And it's me that has to fix this for myself.

And here's how this story ends. I'm going to make this very public statement that I am stepping away from Rainmakers. I expect that will be the end of the group, though I am open to someone else stepping up to head the group. If that happens, they will continue to have my individual support. But I am going to save myself first, and that means no longer taking ownership of the dozens of painful stories that have been sent to me.

Yes, we did some amazing things for a few families. But in the end, the need was way more than the resources we have available. And I can't continue to shoulder the guilt of not being able to help all of the people that have asked for it.

To all of the Rainmakers who stepped up when called, thank you. We made a difference in the lives of so many people. It was a good thing and I am so grateful to each of you.

To anyone else - and especially to those who feel it appropriate to criticize - I invite you to step up yourself and take on this responsibility. Open your Instant Messages and your Email to the steady flood of need. Find a way to sort through all of that. Decide which gets your attention and which gets passed over. And then, do something about it.

I tried. It was more than I could handle. Perhaps you'll do better. I wish you luck.

*Edited to add*
The person I quoted here responded by telling me that her Facebook status had nothing to do with me and that she was talking about something else completely. Is that possible? Sure, it's possible. And if it's true, I apologize to her for thinking it was about me. But the two posts are here in unedited form. Make your own call if one is related to the other.

*Second Edit*
She insists that her comment was not about me, and I choose to believe her. Which means that there's another casualty from my current mood, my inability to stay objective and my willingness to reach out and talk to someone directly if I think there is a problem. I have removed her quote from this blog and apologized to her for my words, but really, that damage is done.

Yeah. What I need right now is some serious down time. And I'm going to take it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bend Until You Break.

Sometimes, you just have to say enough. And I'm there. I'm officially and completely overextended beyond my breaking point.

I have committed to things already and I will see them through. But if you ask me to do something in the future and are surprised to hear me say "no," know that it isn't about you. It's about me and my need to take care of myself first.

I can't keep trying to be everything to everyone. It's making me crazy. I'm snapping at people I care about, finding myself angry for no reason, and forgetting what a full night's sleep even feels like.

Enough is enough.

To my friends, be patient. I'll work through this. But know that I'll be spending less time on the skyline and more time on my own.

To those who feel they have the right to criticize me for how I spend my time, what I choose to support, and where I choose to help, feel free to piss off. You no longer merit any time of mine nor do I care what happens to you. Go be someone else's problem.

To the rest of you that might be reading along, my only advice is to be as good to yourself as you are to anyone else. And work to find the balance between caring for others and caring for yourself.

And finally, to my husband, who has spent the last seventeen years trying in vain to convince me that I am good just as I am, I get it. I hear you. I'm listening.

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing


Put your make up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim so they like you, do they like you?

Get your sexy on
Don't be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong, so they like you
Do you like you?

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try
Yooou don't have to try


Get your shopping on, at the mall, max your credit cards
You don't have to choose, buy it all, so they like you
Do they like you?

Wait a second,
Why should you care, what they think of you
When you're all alone, by yourself, do you like you?
Do you like you?

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try
Yooou don't have to try


You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try, try, try, try
You don't have to try
You don't have to try

Take your make up off
Let your hair down
Take a breath
Look into the mirror, at yourself
Don't you like you?
Cause I like you

I like me, too. More than that, I really like the me I am when I'm with you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Read. Think. Challenge.

What is the difference between being ignorant and being stupid?

Ignorant means lacking knowledge or information. Ignorance can be remedied with education. But stupid? Stupid is a choice. It's a willful decision to remain uneducated of the facts.

Ignorance, I can handle. I've been ignorant of many things in my life and being open to learning changes that. But stupid? No. There's no excuse for stupid. Want examples? Here, have examples:

Taylor Swift released a video yesterday and was immediately met with criticism for showing women of color twerking. It's pop culture, so it's fair game for debate and discussion. But there's this, instead:

I haven't watched it but I'm going to weigh in, anyway.

That's stupid. If you haven't watched something like a music video, how can speak with any authority on whether or not it's offensive? You can't. But people do it all the time. We mock people we don't know and we criticize things we haven't seen or heard personally.

Likewise, Facebook and other social media continue to be hotspots of people weighing in on topics without taking a moment to educate themselves on the subject matter. Why read an entire article when you can just react to the headline, instead? Why take the time to follow a provided link when you can just ignore it and pretend it was never posted? And why bother to think critically about a claim someone makes when it already fits in perfectly with your already established beliefs?

And just yesterday, I got into a heated discussion with someone about the murder of Journalist James Foley. I won't repeat the specifics here, because I don't want to derail my own train of thought. But the person posted a partial quote and claimed the very opposite of what it actually meant. I posted the full quote and showed that not only was he citing half a statement out of context, he was also making flat-out lies about the overall subject. And his own partial quote was the source I used to show he was not being truthful.

That's stupid. It's like selecting this statement "only a fool would run a marathon without proper training" but only citing, "only a fool would run a marathon."

It's dishonest. Obviously, the message was intended to stress the importance of training, but the selectively edited quote appears to mock anyone who runs a marathon as a fool. That's just a flat-out lie.

And while I'm on my rant, here's a little more. Just because someone posts something on Facebook that you agree with, it doesn't make it true. Check your sources. Check Snopes. Check Politifact. Check anywhere and everywhere. It's tempting to jump on the bandwagon because you agree with what you're reading, but in the end, reposting nonsense makes you appear foolish and gullible.

Read. Think. Challenge. Take the time to educate yourself on what is happening before spouting off like an expert. It will keep you from sounding stupid.

And I should know. I've said many stupid things, even recently. And I'm taking my a step back to assess my own critical thinking skills to minimize the odds of that happening again in the future.

And you? Does the truth matter to you? If so, make an effort. The world needs it and your friends should demand it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Of Hooks and Tethers and Folks On Belay

Recently, I wrote about my own issues with depression and anxiety and how often suicide crosses my mind. More importantly, though, I shared that the thought is only fleeting. I have so many reasons to work through the dark times and keep on moving forward.

Right now, though, I'm talking specifically about the tools that give me strength.

Hooks. Tethers. Folks on Belay.

Hooks. You see them hanging near swimming pools. If someone is in trouble in the water and needs to be pulled out, the Shepherds Hook is the safest way to help rescue them.

The hook allows the person outside of the pool to reach the swimmer and drag them to safety without requiring them to also jump into the water. Simple and effective.

Tethers. Usually attached to a harness, a tether is a line that secures someone to a safety connection. Most commonly worn by workers on power lines, in trees, or up on bridges, the tether gives the person the freedom to move about while reducing the risk of injury should they stumble and fall.

In rock climbing, the term "on belay" refers to the person who maintains a hold on the climber. If the climber loses their grip and begins to fall, the line draws taut and their descent stops. In other words, the person on belay is the safety for the person climbing, and they can only fall so far before they are stopped.

Each of these things help keep a person safe. It would be foolish to swim without safety devices nearby, work at heights without safety equipment, or climb by yourself. And it's equally as foolish to go through life without emotional hooks, tethers, and someone on belay.

So what do all of these have to do with my blog about suicide? It's simple. In this life, because I have opened up and shared my feelings honestly, my friends understand what I'm going through. They know that I will have dark days now and again, and they are prepared to help me handle them.

More importantly, those friends and I have talked candidly and made promises to each other.

"I promise that I will talk to you before I do anything stupid to myself."
"If I feel overwhelmed and out of control, I promise to tell you and you promise to listen without judgement."
"I promise to be there for you, any time of the day or night, if you need me. Say the word and I'll be there."

Does that really matter? I mean, in a time of complete depression, is anyone really going to give a crap about a promise they made to someone else? Maybe. That's something, right?

And speaking for myself, the answer is yes. Many, many years ago, when I was in my darkest moment, it was a promise I made to someone else that kept me from taking my own life. When I made the promise, I really didn't think that I would honor it if things were truly bad enough. But when it came right down to it, and everything was going wrong in my life, the one thing that mattered was that my friend knew that I wasn't a liar. So I called. And I'm still here today because of it.

My advice to you, if you have felt yourself struggling to find reasons to hang on, is to secure hooks and tethers and get someone on belay. Speak to trusted loves one and tell them what is going on. Let them know that you need them and that one day, you may be in crisis. And believe them when they tell you that they are willing to do whatever it would take to keep you safe.

Make them a promise. Ask them to make the same promise to you. And together, know that you have one more reason to keep fighting no matter how bad things might seem in that moment.

Trust me, friend. I've got you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

You Get What You Work For.

This is one of my favorite quotes:

Sadly, it's also the quote that most accurately reflects what is happening with me right now. And I need to own up to it if I'm going to change it.

I had great plans for the Summer of 2014. I was going to start it off by running the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon, dedicate myself to my running and strength training, and run the Ventura Marathon in September for a Personal Record.

Yeah. Not so much. My plan went off-track right from the start when I had to sit out the Rock and Roll Marathon because of bronchitis. The rest of June was a mixed bag. My running was on track but my strength training was non-existent and my eating was out of control.

And then came July. My running was somewhat on schedule, but again, no strength training and poor eating choices.

And August? Pfft. It's bad. My running has been hit and miss, no strength training, poor eating choices and I've been hit with one thing after another in the real world.

At this point, realistically, I'm still confident that I will be able to complete the marathon but I have no chance of a personal best. It will be all I can do to not slow my running buddy down and throw her off her own marathon plan.

This is a tough blog to write. I'm telling the world that Captain Awesome is not so awesome after all. And I have no one to blame but myself. I have an arsenal of inspirational and motivation tools to get me on track, and I'm not using any of them. I'm just checking off days and going through the motions.

I'm going to spend some time today thinking this through and figure out what I can do to get this turned around. It's a little late to dramatically improve my marathon performance, but I have three relay races on the calendar this Fall and I'd like to avoid embarrassing myself in front of my teams.

I'm not giving up. I'm not giving in. I'm just taking a long look in the mirror and not liking what I'm seeing.

Reality check? Done. What's next? I'll figure it out today.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Want more of a good thing? Yeah, we can do that.

Yesterday, in all fifty states and countries all around the world, people performed acts of kindness in tribute to the late Robin Williams. We did this to honor Williams' personal commitment to charities and causes and we did it so something good and beautiful could come from such a tragedy.

There were 3,500 people participating in our "Something for Someone Else" event. That means over 10,000 acts of kindness. Seriously. How amazing is that?

But that was yesterday. What about today? And tomorrow? And all the tomorrows after that?

I'm glad you asked. Because there are three different but equally amazing ways to take all of this feel-good momentum and continue making a difference.

1. BOOST. It's a Facebook group of people all around the world, each doing their part to make the world a better place. The group is free, it's open to the public, and it's a non-stop source of energy and kindness. Here's more details:
MISSION STATEMENT:  For individuals to contribute to the common goal of making our world a warmer and more kind place for all of us to live.  
We have all been there on some level or another.  We have all needed a shoulder to lean on, a stranger to give us an understanding smile, an ear to listen, a leg up with bills or arms to grab us in a bear hug.  We have all needed love and understanding.  
The BOOST group encourages each one of us to look around our world and be compassionate to others.  Here, we make it our goal to help who we can help, daily.  That can mean sending a friend or family member a card telling them how much you appreciate them, helping a stranger pick up groceries when their bag rips, encouraging someone who is going through a rough time, buying lunch for a person without a home, paying for someone's coffee who is behind you in line, giving hugs to anyone who needs them.... the list is endless and is only limited by your imagination!  
Whether you are the recipient OR the warm soul performing a Pay It Forward, the kindness is contagious!  The magic of love changes us and influences others to do the same.  Please join us in our mission!!!
Want to be part of it? Of course, who wouldn't? Just click on the link (BOOST), request to join the group, and enjoy being part of Random Acts of Kindness all the time.

2. The Rainmakers. Also a Facebook group, Rainmakers is a grassroots organization that uses the collective power of a few to make a big difference. We offer assistance of all types (financial, emotional, resource, etc.), to people in need. When called into service for a specific project, we look to our members to take action. It may be a $5 donation. It may be sending an item like clothing or food. It may be a greeting or post card to give encouragement. It may be connecting someone you know who can assist with the family in need. Whatever assistance you are able and willing to provide, that's what we ask. If you are interested, please send an email to for more information.

3. Billion Dreams. Want to help see a billion dreams come true by the year 2020? If the answer is yes, we have an easy way for you to get involved.
Difference Makers International’s global movement ignites the power of acknowledgment, encouragement and support for all generations, so that children and adults alike may live, love and dream.
Become one of a billion pioneers who dare to share our dreams, pledge support for each other's dreams and empower all in pursuit of a successful, happy and abundant life.
Together we are the fuel that transforms anger, apathy and violence into a sustainable safe, healthy and prosperous environment for all people and all life on our sacred planet.
Are you a dreamer? What's your dream? How can we support your dreams coming true?
Campaign purpose:  To raise awareness of the DMI Movement of 1 billion dreams being recognized, supported and created for this generation and all generations to come.
Ultimate goal: World Peace via a safe, healthy and prosperous environment for all people and life on our planet.
This is the biggest, most ambitious project I have ever been involved with, and it is just now kicking off. In fact, it's so new, it hasn't even officially started. But you can sign up to learn more about it and be notified when we launch the project. Click here to receive email updates.

The most important thing to remember is that all of us, each and every one of us, can make a difference in this world. Take action and be the good that this world needs.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

What great things come from a simple idea...

Last Sunday, I wrote this blog in response to news of a Northern California man's suicide.

And then, one day later, I learned that Robin Williams had taken his own life, too. And it broke my heart. I wept for him, I wept for the loved ones he left behind, and I wept for all of us who know that darkness and loneliness in our own lives.

But weeping has a time and place. And when I was done, I knew that I needed to do something, to take some action to offset the loss and pain I was feeling.

So, I came up with a simple idea. Robin Williams has long been known for his kindness and generosity. With that as inspiration, I decided that I would do three acts of kindness for other people. And me being me, I shared that idea with my friends.

Then they shared it with their friends. Who shared it with their friends. And on it went, until it grew to a major Facebook event with more than thirty-five thousand people invited and more than three thousand joining with me.

Seriously. Three thousand people. We have folks participating from each of the fifty states and from countries all around the world.

Thousands and thousands of acts of kindness, compassion, and generosity are taking place today. All because of the smallest of an idea that caught fire through the passion and spirit of others.

If nothing else comes of today, I am hopeful that this message will be heard loud and clear:

You matter. You are loved. And we need you to stay.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

That Suicide Could Have Been Me.

This wasn't the post I planned to write this morning, but sometimes life makes other arrangements, right?

Last Friday, I shared a post on Facebook about a man who was missing. His wife was concerned because he had been depressed and had left without saying anything to her. This morning, I learned that his body was found in a park near his home. It appears that he committed suicide, leaving behind a grieving wife and children.

I will start by saying that I never knew him nor do I know his family or friends. He was a stranger to me. His death could be just another story that I glance at and scroll on by. But it isn't.

His death hits me hard because it could have been me.

Just writing that last sentence gives me a sick feeling in my stomach. But I share it because it's true.

Ready for some more truth?

I think about suicide often. More specifically, I find myself so overwhelmed by everything in my life that I find myself imagining a way to make it all stop. I just want everything and everyone to go away, to stop asking and needing and demanding things from me. Everyone's individual request seems minor to them, but piled one on top of another, it gets to be too much.

Add to that my own unrealistic expectations. I'm in a documentary about weight loss and fitness, so I'm a failure if I gain weight or skip a run. I'm a founding member of a non-profit, so I'm a failure if I can't find a way to help everyone in need. I'm nearly fifty years old, so I'm a failure if I'm not financially secure at this age. On and on the list goes, a litany of all that is wrong and terrible about myself.

When that happens, my mind goes to dark places. Instead of thinking logically and prioritizing the things I can and cannot do, I respond emotionally with an all-or-nothing mindset. And since I can't do everything, I immediately feel like a failure. And right behind that, my desire to escape it all.

Be clear. When I say, "I think about suicide often," I'm not saying that I consciously work out a plan to kill myself. It's more a passing thought, like, "damn it, enough already." But it's still something that concerns me.

Cognitively, I know everything that I should.
  • Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
  • I'm not alone in dealing with anything in my life.
  • I am loved and appreciated.
  • My death would cause terrible harm to those I love the most.
  • I don't want to die. There is so much more I want to experience.

But knowing something in my mind doesn't change how I sometimes feel in my heart. And all of my life, I have struggled with that conflict. And quite likely, I will struggle with it for as long as I live.

So why am I sharing all of this now? Because there is great power and comfort in learning that we are not alone. Knowing that someone else struggles as we do, that someone else understands our pain and our fear, that can be enough to give us the strength to carry on.

I know that sharing this blog will upset some people. Am I really okay? Should my friends be worried that my thoughts may one day become my actions?

I'm fine. Not every moment, not every day. But in this life, I am fine. I am surrounded by more love and true friendship than my teenage self could have ever imagined possible. I have people I can call in times of crisis. I have resources to assist me should I find myself spiraling out of control. My plan so far? Surround myself with the very best people I can find and try to live up to them. And sometimes, that just means clinging to them when I don't have strength of my own.

I am okay. In fact, most days, I'm awesome. But if standing up and sharing my truth helps one other person find their own strength, fine. Here it is:

I am a happy person with a great life, and yet sometimes I feel so overwhelmed that I just want it all to stop. And in those moments, it would be easy for me to forget that my sorrow and pain are only temporary. Instead, I seek out the best in my life, the friends and other loved ones, who help me shake off that darkness and find my way again into the light. Instead of hiding away, I cling to those in my life who give me strength. And I survive.

When I read this back, I am sure that I will find a hundred things I wish I had written differently. But I'm not editing this. I'm not going to make it perfect or polished. I don't even know that it will make any sense. But there is one thing I know to say clearly:

The only thing worse than feeling overwhelmed is believing we are the only one feeling that way. If any of this sounds familiar to you, and you are struggling and feel lost and alone, there is help for you. There are anonymous hotlines that you can call. There are websites you can log into. There are friends and family begging for you to call.

And there is me. I get it. I've been there. And some days, I'm there still. So I know what you are going through. And I know what it takes to survive it.

You matter. You are loved. And we need you to stay.

Life. It's worth living.