Archive | August, 2012

7 Billion People – 7 Billion Stories to Tell

31 Aug

So last week I was in Las Vegas for the annual Development Conference. I was the only person from my office chosen to attend, and even though I really shouldn’t, I felt kinda honored and proud of myself. My first event this year will end up coming in $10k+ over goal, raising the most money since 2008, which is an incredibly good feeling. There is also the potential for a promotion/increase in responsibility possible by the end of this year. I’m feeling very confident about the place I’m in right now, and that’s led me to reduce the dosage of my medication, and go 3+ weeks without a panic attack. (There are other factors involved in not having panic attacks, but I’m not going to dwell on them, or share them. Some things do need to remain private, even for the Queen of Social Media over here.)

So anyway, the whole point of the conference was to get the development staff to change their way of selling our events. It’s really tough to be a fundraiser right now, especially in a city with so much oil & gas money – everyone is waiting to see what happens with the election before they commit to giving any of their money to charity (except most oil & gas companies have posted record first-half profits, so this whole thing is kind of annoying and selfish when looking at it from my angle, but whatever. I guess they didn’t get filthy rich by spending willy-nilly. Oh…. wait.)

Lemme walk you through a typical sponsorship meeting, just so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about, because I think you’ll be able to see the difference a little better if I explain instead of just glossing over this.

Previously, we’d walk into a meeting armed with numbers. Facts, statistics, dollar amounts:
Arthritis affects 50 million Americans, 300,000 of them are kids. 1 in 5 Texans has arthritis. 1 million Houstonians. 5,000 Houston kids under 18.
Arthritis is the #2 cause of  disability in this country. It led to $120 billion in lost revenue in 2011 alone. Since 1948, the Foundation has contributed over $450 million to research grants.

50 million? 120 billion? 1 in 5?

Don’t get me wrong, numbers are great. They prove things, they make your eyes wide. But they don’t tell a story. There isn’t much feeling behind them.

On the other hand….

“Meet Essynce. Until October of 2011, Essynce was just like most other teens her age.  A friendly, outgoing high school freshman, she was popular and very involved with multiple activities.  Because of this, it was very noticeable when her health began to gradually decline late last year.  She  had never been sick a day in her life, so it came as quite a shock when she was diagnosed with Lupus and told that she would require daily medications for the rest of her life.  One of the symptoms of Lupus is early-onset of arthritis.

There are days when it is difficult for Essynce to perform tasks as basic as jogging or even bending her leg.  However, she has not allowed this to slow her down.  She remains active in her school and community, serving as an  Athletic Trainer for Manvel  High School Athletic  Department, working as a Children’s Patient Advocate for Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and recently winning the title of Miss Teen Silverlake 2012-2013.  Upon graduating from Manvel High School, she plans to attend the University of Texas San Antonio, to become an Occupational Therapist. 

She is currently working to develop an organization dedicated to promoting self-esteem and confidence in young girls, particularly those suffering from a chronic illness. In her own words, Essynce challenges us to ‘challenge our minds, open our hearts, and realize that no matter what our today looks like, we are more than a diagnosis. Let’s do something about it!'”

Or how about…

“About a year ago my now five-year old little girl started limping, when I asked if she was in pain, she said no. I couldn’t accept that the limping was normal so I took my baby to the doctor where they proceeded to tell me her leg was broken, common for children her age. Despite my persistence that I didn’t see what they were talking about on the x-ray, we put her in a cast up to her waist. When the cast came off two weeks later she could no longer walk because of the pain. This was not something common.

Following blood tests, x-rays and extensive testing, my daughter was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. We now give her methotrexate (or chemotherapy) shots every week, steroid shots about twice a year and many other medications. 

Once I was asked if she comprehends what she is going through. I answered, “No, because all that my baby knows is that pain for her, IS her normal.”

What makes it so hard for us is that the disease is so silent. You look at my little girl and wouldn’t fathom she lives a life of pain … or how long will she endure this. What we do know is that we are proud of Reagan and proud to partner with the Arthritis Foundation to make a difference in the lives of the 300,000 kids suffering from this disease.”

This new approach is so different and yet SO POWERFUL and SO NECESSARY. My absolutely favorite quote from the conference, which hit home for me, was this:
“50 million Americans. 50 million stories. 50 million reasons to make a difference.”
50 million stories? Absolutely. 50 million ways this disease has impacted lives and relationships and routines. Holy shit. This is powerful information. This is a new way to look at something every fundraiser does on an almost daily basis.
Tell the story, don’t just recite the numbers. Anyone can give you numbers. Not everyone can tell you the stories behind them.
And that got me thinking (950 words later, you’re finally gonna figure out what the point of this post is):
We all have a story.
You’ve read my story, at least as to how it relates to my anxiety issues, but every single person on earth has a different take on life. We cannot allow ourselves to only see the numbers – how many people are jobless, homeless, on welfare. We have to remember that each of those numbers is a real, live person, with a tale to tell. We cannot be blinded by our preconceived notions.
It’s time we stop talking and start listening.
That’s my challenge to you, dear reader. Take a step back and look beyond the numbers and the things we think we know. See the people in your life (and the strangers you’ve yet to meet) with new eyes, and a new understanding. We all have a story to tell.

Celebration!

31 Aug

It’s time for a mini-celebration.

It has been over three weeks since my last panic attack. I’m pretty sure that’s a record for the last year.

Who’s up for a celebratory cocktail?!?!

🙂

 

(Knock on wood this streak continues. I had to make some pretty big changes to get to this point, and it wasn’t easy. Or fun. Or without tears and days of not being able to get out of bed. But we’re headed in a good direction. Life is moving on. Life is getting brighter and happier and more amazing by the day. I feel…. stable. In charge. Ready to take on the next challenge. Thank you.)

Do you remember…

17 Aug

Do you remember when you were about 15 years old, and your parents were seriously the most uncool people ever in the history of the world?

Don’t lie to save face, either, because I know that’s how you thought of them. You rolled your eyes when they made a rule. You openly defied their attempts to turn you into a better person by forcing you to go to bed early, or get off the internet before 2 am, or volunteer at the humane society. You genuinely thought you knew what was best for you.

HA!

I’ve recently discovered, as I push 30, that my parents are the smartest people I’ve ever met.

My Dad retired shortly before I moved to Houston, and since then, he’s done all kinds of interesting things. He goes on motorcycle trips. He goes four-wheeling “up north” (that’s northern Wisconsin, for you southern folks). He calls me randomly at 1:30 in the afternoon on a Tuesday and innocently asks what I’m doing. (Well, Dad, since we can’t all be retired and living the high life, I’m at work, so I can pay my bills and pretend to be a grown up. Oh, and so I don’t have to call you and ask for your credit card number so they don’t turn my electricity off.) He does random odd jobs for friends, which sometimes even includes getting paid. Since his retirement, he joined a gym and has lost over 30 pounds. He also learned to send text messages, which may be the best or worst thing he ever learned.

Before he retired, I didn’t see him much. He worked seven days a week as a forklift mechanic for the people that make the pepperoni you put on your pizzas. I won’t name them, because I don’t want to be sued for pointing out they made their employees work in a factory with no air conditioning in the summer, and didn’t think a 45 minute commute through a blizzard was enough reason to stay home. He woke up every morning at 3:00 to be at work by 4:00. Icy roads, two feet of snow – it didn’t matter, he was always there. His seven days a week work life put me through college with no student loans. It also ensured that he’ll be a very comfortable retiree.

I suppose I could be bitter that I didn’t see him much growing up. I guess maybe I was when I was younger. But the truth is, it made the times I DID see him incredibly special. Every trip to Michigan for the Father’s Day Weekend NASCAR race. Every time he took a random day off to go to the water park with me. Those memories all stick out. He came to every play I was in. (Even though, if you know him at all, the theater is certainly NOT his cup of tea.) Every Father/Daughter Dance with the Girl Scouts was attended. He never missed the important stuff. This is the man who taught me how to drive (and is responsible for my lead foot, though he’ll deny that until the day he dies), taught me how to shoot a gun, and taught me that hard work and money is great, but some days, there are more important things to do.

By contrast, my Mom has been an ever-present figure in my life. She was the one who made sure I went to college (and that it was paid for – my beautiful momma dropped out of modeling school and moved home when she couldn’t afford it anymore – and she made sure her daughter didn’t have to worry about that). My mom was the disciplinarian, because my Dad was so rarely home that he didn’t want to spend what little time he had with me being the bad guy. There were times when I hated my mom, and I told her I did. I can’t imagine having your child tell you that. But she was always there for me. Without her, I wouldn’t of gotten through my high school heart break. I remember standing in the rain, sobbing, smearing make up onto her white rain coat in the driveway because I was so broken inside I couldn’t do anything else. She has always been my rock.

She also recently retired, and now owns her own business, a yarn shop, which has been her dream since I can remember. She’s a good business woman, and she enjoys what she does. She’ll never be rich, but she’s so happy it doesn’t seem to matter. She lives with her two dogs and two cats in a house she owns herself. This woman is my idol: a perfect example of grace under fire, following your dreams, and not letting the small–minded, small town hypocrites get you down. She has always pushed me to do my own thing, be myself, and never compromise who I am for someone. She is perfectly fine with never becoming a grandmother, perfectly fine with never being a mother-in-law, because, as she says, the greatest joy in life is seeing your child happy, no matter what.

My parents are the coolest, smartest people I know. They’ve given me the strength to become the almost-adult I am today, and they’ve shown me that failure isn’t failure – it’s a chance to learn. They’ve also proven that they will always be there for me, no matter what time, no matter what the request. No matter what kind of trouble I find myself in, I know that help is only a phone call away. I know that when I fall, they will catch me. And it doesn’t make me spoiled, although sometimes I am. It makes me very, very lucky. Because not only do I have two of the most amazing parents in the world, I am also blessed to have two of the very best friends anyone could hope for.

I’m worried.

8 Aug

I’m worried.

I’m worried because I’m going to spend the rest of my life blaming myself for not being good enough for you. That forever, I’m going to compare myself to her, and wonder what’s wrong with ME, instead of wondering what’s wrong with YOU. Or, more productively perhaps, not thinking about you at all.

I can’t lose you, but I don’t know if I can be your friend.

That is all.