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This is What the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is All About

If you're on Facebook even a little bit, you've seen video after video of people dumping ice buckets over their heads.
The ALS ice bucket challenge is the internet craze of the summer. The rules are a bit murky, but it appears that once challenged, you have 24 hours to donate to ALS and/or pour ice water over your head. (That's the part I'm not clear on.) Before the chilling moment, which is recorded and posted on Facebook, you challenge three other people (which is how the challenge keeps going and going and going.)
Earlier this month we were on vacation, out of the internet loop and ice bucket challenge clueless. Imagine my surprise when I got home, hopped on Facebook and connected the challenge to the book I just finished reading, Until I Say Good-Bye, My Year of Living with Joy.
Author Susan Spencer-Wendel wrote most of her New York Times bestselling memoir on her iPhone, tapping out each letter with her right thumb. At age 44, she was diagnosed with ALS (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.) As her muscles slowly withered away, she wrote: 
not about illness and despair, but a record of my final wonderful year. A gift to my children so they would understand who I was and learn the way to live after tragedy: With joy. And without fear. If Lou Gehrig could feel lucky, then so could I. So should I.
Living with joy and without fear isn't something I'm especially good at. I'm a worrier. I'm careful. I know what it's like to feel like a sick person. I was drawn to Susan's memoir because I couldn't imagine how someone chooses joy and fearlessness in the face of an inevitable, torturous death. I wanted her to convince me it was possible.
And she did. 
Despite her worsening health, Susan committed to creating life-long memories for herself and her loved ones. She took special trips with each of her three children, husband, sister and best friend since middle school. She traveled to the the Yukon Territory to see the Aurora Borealis (dog-sledding included.) She made a pilgrimage to Cyprus to meet the family she never knew (Susan was adopted and never met her deceased, biological father.) She joined her husband on a trip to Budapest, where they spent the early years of their marriage. She swam with dolphins.  
As a mother and wife, Susan dedicated herself to providing her family with positive, loving memories to sustain them after she was gone. But, I think it's important to note she took care of herself too and focused on living with joy. While each memory made was a gift to a loved one, it was also a moment to hold dear when the inevitable happened and she became a healthy mind trapped in a lifeless body.  
This is a heartbreaking, exquisite, life-affirming memoir. As I read, I was constantly reminded that life is best celebrated in the here and now, mindfully and with awareness. That's where loves lives and where joy finds us. 
If Susan Spencer-Wendel "can feel lucky, then so could I. So should I." 
Survival > Existence,
PS: I have yet to be ice bucket challenged, and for that I am very grateful. I hate cold. In fact, I'm allergic to it and break out in hives. Really, I'm not even kidding. So, I've already donated to ALS and there will be no video, ever, of me pouring an ice bucket over my head. If you want to donate, you can do so here. If you want to check out Susan's book, find it here. If you've done the ice bucket challenge, I'd love to see it! 
PPS: I also learned after reading Susan's book that she died from ALS just a few months ago, on June 4, 2014, at age 47. I love her quote in the New York Times article, “As you know, life ain’t perfect.”
Amen sister!

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Five Tips to Create the Comfort of Home Wherever You Go

Because it's summer and many people are traveling, I thought I'd share this blog post from the vault. 

"Home is where one starts from." T. S. Eliot 

"There's a big world outside those hedges," she said with some unkindness. We were young college commuters and her words stung. Sure, I was naive and sheltered, but life beyond the landscaping was only a matter of time.

It's many years later and now I'm the one encouraging my college-age daughter to step outside the confines of home. Yes, I'm a grown-up out in the world now, but I've never lost my nesting instinct.

Nesting allows us to reconnect, re-energize and reflect. It doesn't actually require a house, however. We can create similar moments whether we are sending a child off to college, planning a hospitalization, traveling or just looking for warmth out in the bigger world.

Here are my five tips:

Continue reading.

Wishing you comfort and peace wherever  life takes you. Happy trails!

Survival > Existence,

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You Are the Placebo - Making Your Mind Matter by Dr. Joe Dispenza

No one likes to hear, "It's all in your mind." But, what if we have the "biological and neurological machinery" to make ourselves better?

You Are the Placebo, by Dr. Joe Dispenza, isn't about positive thinking or the law of attraction. It's also definitely not about patient blaming.

What it's about is looking at the scientific evidence and exploring the possibility of taking the placebo effect a step further. As Dr. Dispenza asks, What if, instead of believing in a fake pill or treatment to experience a real health benefit, we believed in ourselves?

The book is divided into two parts. Part I (Information) takes you through the science you need to understand the placebo effect and how it works via the mind-body connection to create real, measurable physical changes. I thought I might find this information dense, especially for summer reading. Instead, Dr. Dispenza's gift for explaining complicated concepts made the material interesting and easily understandable.

I was also fascinated by the numerous case studies evidencing the placebo and nocebo effects (when a fake medication or treatment creates negative effects.) Dr. Dispenza relates numerous stories of serious illness and even death resulting from belief in voodoo curses, hexes and misdiagnosis of fatal diseases. Men in their 70's and 80's, who spent five days pretending they were 22 years younger, put down their canes, danced and played football. They even showed measurable, physical improvements, such better eyesight, hearing, and memory, and increased height and finger lengthening as arthritis diminished.

In fact, it was Dr. Dispenza's own story that brought him to this work. After an horrific accident in which he was run over by an SUV, Dr. Dispenza was advised to have surgery (resulting in disability and lifelong pain) or risk paralysis. He chose to forgo surgery and instead accomplished full recovery through the power of his mind.

Part II (Transformation) sets forth the meditation techniques Dr. Dispenza used to heal himself. The first chapter sets forth simple preparation steps and techniques, while the second chapter takes the reader through guided meditations.

You Are the Placebo is the ultimate guidebook to the human experience and how we choose to perceive it. Reading this book convinced me that I can refocus my thoughts, emotions and beliefs to create a new reality. As Dr. Dispenza says, "the ultimate belief is the belief in yourself and in the field of infinite possibilities ... And when wholeness, self-satisfaction, and self-love truly come from within, because you've ventured beyond what you believed was possible and you overcame your own self-imposed limitations, that's when the uncommon occurs."

Don't miss reading this book. If you're willing to open your mind and do the work, it has the ability to change your life.

Survival > Existence,

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

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Monday Morning Motivation -Summer Rerun Series

I've never done this before, but I think it's time. Because it's summer and I have a huge collection of Monday Morning Motivation quotations, I'm going to re-run a few of my favorites from the vault for the next few weeks. Enjoy!

Copyright 123RF Photos

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Act with Love & Be a Part of Groundbreaking Breast Cancer Research

One of the best ways I know of to give back is to participate in research studies. The information we share today is of real value to the medical community and, more importantly, to us, our loved ones, and the patients and survivors who follow in our footsteps. 

I know you might not be a breast cancer survivor, but you don't have to be to be part of the HOW (Health of Women) Study, a program of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. I've written many times before about Dr. Love's Army of Women and am proud to be part of the groundbreaking research done by this organization.

From the HOW website:

What is the Health of Women (HOW) Study?

The majority of women who get breast cancer have none of the known clinical risk factors. This means we don’t know what causes breast cancer or how to prevent it. The HOW Study is a first-of-its-kind international online study for women and men with and without a history of breast cancer.  We will collect information about your health, your job, your diet, and your family history, among other topics that can help us get a better understanding of breast cancer and its potential causes.  Periodically, we will send you questionnaires about anything and everything. All you have to do is fill them out online. It’s that simple. This is a partnership and we need you for the long haul. The more questionnaires you fill out, the more information we will have that can help us have a better understanding of why women get breast cancer.

Who is HOW?

HOW is all about you and what you can do to end breast cancer. HOW is also about the researchers who can use this data to have a better understanding of ways we can prevent breast cancer. HOW is all of us, working together, to bring an end to this disease. The HOW Study is being conducted at the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, in collaboration with City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Get Involved

All you have to do to be a part of this amazing research initiative is to register. It's fast and easy and you only participate in a study if you want to.

I just answered a survey for researchers at Duke University Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology. The survey is specifically for women diagnosed with DCIS. I answered the anonymous, eight-question survey in under ten minutes and encourage you to check it out if you've been diagnosed with DCIS. The survey is intended to help researchers fill in the gaps in their understanding as to how to best take care of women with DCIS. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that? 

If you're a breast cancer patient/survivor, make sure to check out the Army of Women, the HOW study and the DCIS survey (if you qualify.) Filling out a survey or answering a questionnaire is a small thing that makes a big difference. And giving back always, always makes you feel good too! 

Now, I'd like to hear from you. Have you participated in medical research studies? What was your experience like and how did it make you feel to contribute and give back?

Survival > Existence,

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Monday Morning Motivation

There are few people living today who are more inspiring than 17-year old Malala Yousafzai. Today is Malala Day and we have the opportunity to stand beside her to demand access to education for all girls and boys.

Together we can do this, because we are stronger than violence, stronger than fear and stronger than oppression.

What are you stronger than?

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