Monday, March 26, 2012

Day 1 (and a 1/2) in Austin...

This week is the LIVESTRONG Leader Assembly, where LIVESTRONG Leaders from all over the world will converge on the city of Austin for a 2-day summit meeting. I decided to come a couple of days in advance so that I can enjoy the city, without the kids, without having any obligations, the pressure of having to be anywhere by a certain time and with the freedom to do what I want on a whim.

I arrived yesterday at around 11am and was picked up by my friend, and host for the first half of my trip, Dave. Dave and I were on Young Judaea Year Course and has been a gracious host to me for the past couple of LIVESTRONG Challenges. Since the hotel reservation doesn't start until Wednesday, I decided to accept Dave's offer for free lodging (I did help show another technique for burping his newborn baby). Since I had to get up at 3:30 to make sure that I got the airport shuttle at 5:30am, by the time I arrived, I was still pretty tired.

Dave and his wife, Tish, had redone their backyard, complete with some beautiful stone patios and sitting areas, so after I settled in, met the in-laws and the baby, I retired to the backyard for one of the most serene hours I've had in a long time. The weather was idyllic. I sat down between two oak trees, gave myself a quick mani-pedi, finished my book, Secrets of a Jewish Mother by Jill Zarin, and took a nap. A little bit of lounging and catching up followed.

Because I don't eat pork or shellfish, and that was on the menu, I took a quick jaunt over to Tacqueria Guadelajara, per Dave's suggestion, where I had a hearty meal for less than $7. (Talk about a great deal!)

I got back, chatted for a short time, and then crashed - I was in bed by 9, long before the kids were asleep at home, for sure.

Today I awoke to this:
I KNOW! Can you think of anything better? Seriously! It was beautiful. Dave's going to have a hard time getting rid of me!

A bit of work and I headed out to LIVESTRONG Headquarters because I had an 11:30am appointment with Brandon, over at the Navigation Center (talk about a great resource!). The only problem was that, once I arrived, I learned my appointment is actually tomorrow. D'oh! I took the time to donate the painting I made for LIVESTRONG's walls, as they are bedecked with artwork from Lance's private collection. I do hope The Boss, and the others, enjoy it, and that it fits the decor!

From there, I went on what was looking like a wild goose chase to find a pair of affordable cowboy boots for Thursday's Texas Fun Party. I am on a shoestring budget, to say the least. I first went to a thrift shop 2 blocks from LIVESTRONG HQ, but no dice. However, I was starving, and I realized I hadn't really eaten breakfast. A nice lady int he parking lot who was dropping off stuff for the thrift shop offered some advice as to where I could find some second-hand boots as well as a someplace for lunch. Per Gina's suggestion, I ate at Las Cazuelas and headed on my adventure in boots.
Can you believe! $5 for all THIS! (Oh, minus 1 taco. I ate before I shot.

First, I went to St Vincent de Paul Thrift Store. Then, I went onto Heritage Boots, which didn't have anything under $300, so I had to rule that out. (But, MAN, what beautiful boots!) I hit New Bohemia, per the recommendation of a street vendor selling lovely bracelets recycled from old boots and belts. I spent almost an hour trying on boot after boot, but my feet and legs are still so swollen from chemotherapy, that none of them fit. The girls there suggested that I head to New Brohemia - their men's shop. There, I found 3 pairs of boots that fit, but none of them had that "X" factor. I found a pair for $20 that I was going to settle on, but there was a repair that would have to be made. The gentleman there suggested that I go to the shoe repair shop, the Golden Sandals Shoe Repair to find out how much it would cost.

I love the J.P.!
Well, that suggestion was beshert. Apparently, they refurbish and resell boots from customers that they abandon or decide they no longer want! There, I found a pair, with the thanks of Abel, of ostrich boots that fit me to a TEE - it was as though they were custom made for me (though, they were custom made for someone else). He gave me a great deal on them, and I'm picking them up tomorrow.

No day in Austin is complete without libation from Juan Pelota's Cafe, so, victorious, I swung by my favorite watering/cycling hole to recharge myself, my phone and my iPod.

Once I was done with that, I was off to meet my old friend, Bill, at Rudy's BBQ. While this was a repeat stop, it had to be done. Rudy's BBQ is ridiculously good. So, I met Bill with his 2 daughters and we caught up, laughed and enjoyed the evening over turkey, brisket, and, an Austin staple...

Thus ends my first full day in Austin. Here's to many more!


  1. It'd be nice if you and your fellow "Leaders" could find some time in your schedules to volunteer some time at the Austin Cancer Centers and Chemo clinics that could probably really use the help.

    1. That's a great idea and thought. I, personally, came down DAYS before the actual assembly for R&R, which, frankly, I need. Austin's a bit of a recharge spot.

      That being said, the Assembly for the leaders is only for 2 days (1 and 1/2) and PACKED with training for us to take home and implement. Yes, dinner will be a party, but I think we're allowed to eat and celebrate.

      Do understand that all of us volunteer/work with fighters & clinics back home all year round (some tirelessly), so a 2-day reprieve isn't unjustified.

      But, you make a good point. I will suggest that next year, perhaps we arrange some volunteer time as an option to those of us who can/want to come to Austin early. (Understand, most of us also work full-time, so taking the 2 weekdays off is a big deal in and of itself.)

      Do forgive me, though, as I usually pack my time in Austin volunteering Challenge weekend, and this year I just wanted to see the city freely.

    2. At previous "Livestrong Strong Challenges" we saw 'Yellow' and 'Polka Dot' Jersey riders out moving barricades, unloading bikes, cutting up fruit, and volunteering as course marshals. At other LAF events I've seen 'mover and shaker' volunteer leaders going the extra mile, helping above and beyond where it was needed, really 'walking the talk', leading my example and not by "social media postings".

      Your "we deserve a break" reasoning seems a little flimsy to many cancer survivors and activists who do a great deal of work with little thanks and even less reward or recognition.

  2. Just gotta love these anonymous posts. I'm Rica's Dad, by the way, so I'll let my bias show up front. Rica had been supporting LIVESTRONG for more than two years before she was diagnosed with cancer. The past nine months have been hellish on all counts. She has continued throughout that time to support LIVESTRONG, chairing events, raising funds, doing whatever. Don't knock her social media postings, they have brought LIVESTRONG to the attention of I don't know how many people who weren't aware of it.

    And, by the way, please learn how to sign your name. Mine is Richard Mendes.

  3. First, to suggest that all I do is put up "social media postings" is not only incorrect but foolish. Note what those social media postings are typically about: Inviting people, like you, to events that I'm coordinating. Second, to suggest that I don't volunteer at Challenge events, for example, is, pardon my French, bullshit. This year, I couldn't volunteer in Philly. I was a little busy having both breasts removed and replaced with bags of saline. In Austin, we registered to volunteer, but, fortunately or unfortunately, a couple of groups showed up and we weren't needed anymore (we showed up, but we were told they had too many people already.) We did volunteer spontaneously to help prep RftR swag for a couple of hours, though, when we stopped by and saw that they were a little short handed.

    But, generally, I was a little occupied wrangling two excited kids and underestimating how I'd feel after chemo. If it makes you feel any better, the exertion at the Challenge combined with a hellacious flight experience back home put me in the hospital with an infection for 2 weeks plus a surgery to remove and replace an implant, and leaving the possibility that if that didn't work, I might lose the implant and the possibility of reconstruction.

    But, it's possible in 2010 at our first Challenge Weekend in Austin, you missed me and my son volunteering. You see, we came down 2 days early to volunteer. We spent an afternoon stuffing all those swag bags everyone received. Then, the next morning, we were at the RftR hotel check-in at 3am helping check in late arrivals, moving bikes for the private ride into the trucks, etc.

    Not that I have to justify myself, but there's a bit of insight as to the volunteer work that we've done here in Austin at the Challenges.

    As far as what I do at home? Let's see, I'm guessing you haven't conceived, organized (conceptually and literally), marketed, gotten approvals for and actually run (and cleaned up after) too many big fundraisers or sporting events. I can say that I have. Most people only put themselves through that insanity, unless it's their job, once a year. So far, I've done it for 3. Multiple times a year. In fact, I'm gearing up for a big one at the end of April. So that takes a lot of my time, right now. My spare time.

    Because I don't talk about the full-time job that I've been working, pretty consistently, throughout my surgeries and treatments. I mean, if you would like details, today, for example, I spent 8 hours today interviewing prospective new hires for my company, posting jobs, working on graphics for tables on our website to prepare for product launch, troubleshooting with my colleague and negotiating a maintenance contract.

    I don't talk about the part-time work I do, either, with my home-business. Plus, my kids need a lot of attention, for various reasons that I'm not going into here - the details are none of your business. But the demands have been greater than in the past.

  4. But if that's not enough of an excuse for you, so be it. What I also don't detail here, because it's private, is the one-on-one work I've been doing throughout treatment and before, with cancer fighters that I come across or reach out to me. I connect them, some as far away as in Israel, to LIVESTRONG - getting them the information and resources they request (in some cases, a set of guidebooks in a country where none are available), to finding donors to help handle the remains of a loved one who died of cancer and, for whom, no organization exists, to helping other women with skin care and cosmetic needs in order to feel better and conceal the visible side effects of chemo. You see, with the exception of the Anyan family (the family I worked to help get Zoe's remains released from the funeral home), none of these people have said I can advertise what I've done. Why? It's personal and private.

    Here's what I can say: It's a newer relationship, however, I've been fulfilling all the pampering basket requests for women across the country with Crickett's Answer for Cancer, trying to tailor each one to each client. I'm just now able to communicate directly and follow up with each one to make sure their needs are met. And I'm trying to rally my Mary Kay colleagues to help support this program by sponsoring the baskets as they come.

    I'm not a doctor. I can't cure cancer. I'm not a nurse. I can't administer chemo. I'm a Mary Kay Consultant, so I've offered my services to the hospital as well as the American Cancer Society to help women. Due to whatever rules are in place, there are things that I'm allowed to do and there are things that I'm not allowed to do. There's not much I can do to change that, though I try.

    But, let's turn the table, shall we? What exactly is it that YOU do differently for the cause?

  5. One last note. The notion that I'm here because I'm special, as opposed to other LIVESTRONG Leaders, is untrue. ALL LIVESTRONG Leaders (that are part of this year's program) are being brought in for this. Senior Leaders begin their Assembly tomorrow (where I'll be volunteering, BTW), and the rest of the Leaders begin the Assembly on Thursday.

    I haven't gotten any special treatment or rewards. I just asked that my flight come in earlier so I can enjoy the city a bit and get away from home. (It also happens that my friend, here, has a newborn, and I am taking the opportunity to catch up with some old friends I rarely have a chance to see.)

    OH! And I didn't include in today's photo journal that a good 2 hours was spent in a private meeting with my new PAF case manager sorting out insurance and financial issues that arose as a result of my treatment. I mean, I can document how much time we spent on rejected claims, mystery charges, co-pays, etc, if you like...


I'm all about free speech, etc, but I have to ask that comments are respectful of other readers, the fact that I, and many of us who follow this blog, support LIVESTRONG, and that you reserve Lance or LIVESTRONG bashing for another forum. As of right now, I'm still allowing Anonymous postings, however, that may not be the case in the future. Thanks!