Thursday, September 30, 2010

One day more...

Qualification for Ride for the Roses is coming to an end. I need your support.

I'm running a number of events and projects to help me cross the finish line in Austin! Without this qualification, we can't go to Austin - we need to qualify at the level where we can earn airfare to represent Fairfield & Westchester Counties at the LIVESTRONG Challenge in a couple of weeks among thousands of other cancer-survivorship advocates.

Spread the word or join us!
RUNNING NOW: With The Band Auction - A series of autographed LIVESTRONG Wristbands by cycling professionals and other notables: - ALL of the proceeds will go to LIVESTRONG!

Sunday, October 3 - A Mary Kay LIVESTRONG Pampering Party in memory of Darlene Berggren - 30% of all sales will go to our Fundraising!
Sunday, October 3 - A LIVESTRONG 12th Birthday Party for my son, Zach, who will be joining me in Austin if we qualify! - In lieu of gifts, we're asking guests to bring a donation towards our fundraising. Zach's present will be to be treated to the Ride for the Roses, an amazing LIVESTRONG backpack and other goodies!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Timing is everything

One year ago, I had attempted to ride 200 miles in honor of what I was sure to be Darlene's second victory over cancer. I fastened the button that Darlene has made with her top consultants at Seminar to my handlebars so that our photo together led the way. But, I didn't make it. I came close, but not close enough. But she was proud of me, and knew it was done with love and every intention I had.

This year, I was intent on finishing the NYC Century - just the 100 miles. I moved the button onto my Bianchi, so I could see the pink rimmed adornment everytime I looked down to remember that I was going to finish this year for her. While I didn't conventionally finish it, I ended up finishing 95 miles. I knew Darlene had been moved into hospice this past week. But I'd also heard about how lively and vibrant she was at Seminar. I expected that it would have been temporary. That she'd be victorious again.

I was literally, moments ago, in the midst of writing her a letter, complete with photos of this year's ride (with her photo on my bike, again) to let her know I was thinking and still "loving on her" and that I was fighting for her on Sunday, when I saw an update on Facebook:

It is with tremendous sadness that I share the passing of our extraordinary Sr. Natl. Director Darlene Berggren (with me in my profile pic) with you. My heart aches. I trust that Darlene is resting in Jesus arms and that He has got amazing assignments for her in Eternity! Please continue to pray for her family...husband Denny, children Marc and Beth. Thank you with love. 13 minutes ago
On one monitor, a letter of hope and encouragement, of thanks and admiration and the vision of a cancer-free future with the promise I'd gear up my Mary Kay business and earn a spot along her side at Seminar 2011. On the other, Darlene's smiling face from this year's seminar, which I missed, looking vibrant and spunky with her epitaph posted and her passing announced. Such a dichotomy.

I know what some people like to say about Mary Kay. That the cosmetics are cheap. That it's a scam. It's a pyramid scheme. A cult of red-jacket wearing housewives with nothing better to do than to beat other women into submission and coerce them to buy makeup that they don't need. (And, yes, I've seen the parodies and cartoons.) It's easy to make that assumption from afar, and without being able to see what it's really about.

Meeting Darlene, however, would show you immediately what it was really about within 5 minutes flat. Of course the stereotypes exist. And, yes, some consultants go insane with being pushy and only trying to get to the next rung of directorship for the diamonds and the Cadillacs and the like. (And, having earned some of the jewels - including the necklace/earring set I'm wearing in my photo with Darlene to the right, and seen them first-hand, you really can't blame the ladies for clawing their way to win them.) But, after some time, the novelty wears off and you're left with what Darlene embodied: It's a business, but not a callous corporate climb. It's about inspiration. About helping women find their potential and allowing them to discover what makes them incredible, which, in turn, turns them from the student to the master. And they, in turn, simply by sharing their story and the same opportunity everyone starts with, inspiring a dream that can come true.

Darlene was a Senior National Sales Director with Mary Kay. I'm sure many reading this think, "Ok, so she was queen of a horde of a few converted houseladies." Oh no, my friends. She didn't just bake cookies and send warm fuzzies to ladies while patting them on the head. This was a woman who led about 50 Directors (each of whom have a team of at least 30 consultants below them). This was in addition to guiding 3 Directors to become Nationals, and therefore peers. Darlene mentored Mary Kay's youngest and fastest moving National Director on record, Allison LaMarr.

So, you would think a woman this busy wouldn't be able to do much more than send an encouraging word once in a while to a struggling wannabe consultant in Podunk, NY who was really having a hard time to qualify for directorship, no? Imagine my surprise and thrill when I got word from Darlene through Lisa Allison, my Future National Director, and Anita Kaplan, my Director, that she wanted to work with me through my final weeks of qualification. She spent hours on the phone with me, helping me strategize, figuring out how much money I'd need to earn weekly to pay my bills, how much product I'd need to sell to pay my mortgage, etc. No, I didn't qualify to become a director, but I came really close. And, though out of work and, as a result, in a terrible financial place, I was surviving. Most of my bills were getting paid. I had a growing business. I was helping other women back on their feet.

And I felt part of a sisterhood that I'd never felt before. I not only had a Mary Kay mentor and director, but I had a Mary Kay "mommy."

As life "happened", as we put it in Mary Kay, I put my MK business on hold for a bit to reorganize, get LIVESTRONG going, so I could get back into a place where I could devote the time and attention my MK business deserved.

I was planning to do it with Darlene's guidance in a year or so. Because her loss to cancer wasn't an option, in my mind. Here's a woman who started out just like I did and ended up in a dream home in Colorado, with hundreds of women looking up to her. She was invincible. She'd beaten cancer once, and in really great time. She was thriving and beautiful.

And then I saw the update. And I realize that she is the second in my Mary Kay family that I've lost to cancer this year. First, Carolyn, my flame-haired comedic comrade, and now Darlene, a woman I was proud of and admired tremendously. It's just not right. Darlene, I'm sorry I didn't do more with my MK business this year. I'm sorry, as a result, that I didn't feel that I earned the right to go to Seminar. I'm sorry I missed the chance to hug you one last time. I regret tremendously that I missed out on what I heard was an inspiring speech.

See the impact she had on people on her site: A page was set up for the women and consultants around the world that she touched as encouragement for her, and now, one another. It's a testimony to what she meant to us.

In Austin, I'll be bringing that photo button with me. Forgive me, I have to end this blog and update my "Wall of Strength" by changing her FIGHTER status to IN OUR MEMORY. It's remarkable how changing a few pixels on a virtual "page" can be such a difficult task when your heart is heavy.

Please consider helping me fight for Darlene's memory with LIVESTRONG.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In the final stretch....

As I get closer to closer to the October 1 deadline, and the LIVESTRONG Challenge weekend in Austin, TX, the reality of the amount of work I need to do to hit my $15,000 fundraising goal is hitting me. I think it hit me this Sunday as I was in the final stretch of the NYC Century Tour. One year prior, I was ecstatic about raising under $2,000. And now, I'm committed to raise 7.5x that amount. And I still have a long way to go.

That being said, I thought with my back problems and lack of experience, it would be impossible for me to finish a mountain bike race. Well, I did that. And I finished in 4th place in my class for the season. After having to bail on my own LIVESTRONG fundraiser, ROCK the RIDE and RUN because of my back, and consequently, being benched from my road bike since April (officially), I had no idea how I'd fare for the LIVESTRONG Challenges. Philly's result didn't thrill me. My only consolation was that really no one finished the 100 mile Challenge as it was canceled due to weather. But I barely did 35 miles. And my back was in bad shape.

Which led me to really wonder about this past Sunday - the NYC Century. Last year, I couldn't finish the full 200 mile attempt. My knee gave out and my hamstring was injured. I was determined to ride the full 100 this year, but I knew going into it I didn't do the kind of training that I should have. I'd been torn between doing the kind of riding I needed to and nursing my back. I was afraid of riding and hurting myself, preventing me from riding at all.

Well, I did some riding. I rode 12-15 miles with Sound Cyclists last week just to test the legs. The results weren't what I wanted. I struggled. I walked up a hill or two. My pace was off. And the back was twinging. But I swore I would not take the Subway back to Harlem and I'd ride the century through.

I am happy to report there was no Subway ride back for me. Due to weather concerns, however, I didn't ride out the official 100-mile Century Tour. By the time we got to the final rest area before the finish, it was already getting dark prematurely because of poor weather. It was getting hard to see the markers, and visibility is notoriously bad in the Bronx stretch of the ride, apparently. Of the group that I was riding with, only 3 were ok to finish the 100 - one was a marshal, the others not only had done it before but lived in the neighborhood and didn't need the marked cues.

But here's the good news. I ended up riding over 85 miles of the 100. And, between the ride itself and getting to and from the train and the car, I rode 95+ miles. And the better news? My back was fine. I don't just mean ok, or tolerable, I mean fine. Thighs were stiff, tush is still numb and achy. But the back was fine.

SO... Austin, I'm coming for you. Which means, of course, cancer, I'm going to kick your butt. You may have thrown your thugs "back sprain," "defeat," "hit-and-run," and a variety of other distractions my way. But you have always been in my sights. For the dozens of friends, family and associates that I ride for, you may have dodged the bullet, but I'm still coming after you.

I'm going to ride you into the ground. In Austin, I'll be one step closer to having raised enough money and awareness to make you disappear. And if I have to go through it again next year to keep my friends and family safe and protected from you? I will.

And, if I have to do it again, I'm bringing friends.

Help me kick cancer's tail into oblivion. Consider making a donation today:

Can't donate? Or want to do more? Consider one of the many events coming up - look at the top of the blog to see what's coming up!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Déjà vu... Cancer just won't go away

Darlene & Me at MK Seminar 2008
A year ago today, I was blown away by discovering that over Labor Day Weekend, my children raised over $800 for LIVESTRONG for my Grassroots attempt to ride 200 miles in one day (100 of which as part of Transportation Alternative's NYC Century) in honor of Darlene Berggren. (If you missed my interview with MOJOVATOR, listen in and you'll hear me talk about this attempt. It is what started my LIVESTRONG Leadership.)

This Labor Day Weekend, as I prepared for next week's NYC Century Tour, I counted the money collected yesterday by me and the kids for LIVESTRONG - totaling over $350 - and got word this morning that Darlene Berggren is in the process of being moved to hospice care.

Note the pink-rimmed photo button on the handlebars.
It's times like this morning that you realize how unfair things are. Believe me, without divulging too much, for me, I've been taught and retaught this lesson on a daily basis. It's just been one of those years for me. But I think anyone can understand how unfair this is. Darlene fought and beat cancer once. A year later, she was diagnosed a second time. A year later, she's still fighting.

I'm not in a condition to even attempt 200 miles in a day this year. I won't pledge to do 200 miles for Darlene knowing I won't be able to do it. But I do pledge to finish the NYC Century for her this year, with her photo on my bike just like last year. I promise to think of her every day until I hear she's done with cancer once and for all.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rica, meet The MOJOVATOR. MOJOVATOR, meet Rica

If you didn't catch the buzz this week, I was interviewed by the AMAZING Danielle Hawthorne, The MOJOVATOR, about my LIVESTRONG Leadership, who I ride for, why I ride, my cycling and more last night. We talk about how I got started riding in the first place, how I got "dared" into a 200-mile bike ride attempt, my Mary Kay sisters that have fought cancer, my friends and family, the trials and tribulations of this year and more.

Hear my story, see if you can relate, and spread the word!