Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

I know Jack, you should too November 14, 2017

IKJfoundationlogoAs we enter the end of the year giving season for charities, I’m focusing on some of my favorite nonprofits. I recently wrote about two that help animals and cancer survivors.

2

This charity feature is the I Know Jack Foundation. This foundation was started by a family in Iowa, people I’m honored to call friends, to support those touched by cancer. The foundation raises money to support cancer organizations, including LIVESTRONG, and provide Jack Packs to those affected by cancer.

2

The Jack Pack is full of helpful, motivating items to support someone going through cancer. It includes a backpack, water bottle, inspiring book, meditation stone, journal, LIVESTRONG planner, comfort items, knit cap and more. All items meant to bring comfort to someone in need. This year I sponsored a Jack Pack in gratitude of being alive 20 years past diagnosis and in memory of my sweet dad who died from cancer. I remember the grateful emotions I felt from people bringing or sending me small items to help comfort and support me during my own cancer treatment so I love the thought of helping others.

2

To understand the core of the foundation, you have to know Jack. I am blessed to say that I know Jack, and his awesome siblings and parents. Jack was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer at 5. There was no protocol to treat his cancer and no survivors of his cancer at the time. Through a long, tough fight, Jack turned 18 this year. He still faces challenges related to treatment and diagnosis side effects, but he is an amazing example of resilience, strong attitude and miracles. His family is an example of love, courage and kindness. Because they were so grateful for the support and kindness they received during Jack’s journey, they began the I know Jack Foundation to help others. And it does.

2

Many of you followed my stories of committing to ride my road bike across Iowa with Team LIVESTRONG during RAGBRAI in July. You read of the miles of training, some of my reasons for making the commitment, the great fun I had during the week-long event, and the amazing memories and lessons learned about myself and my journey.

2
HH_IKJfoundationJersey

This jersey always motivates me to bike!

Jack is also part of that story. I met Jack and his family during last year’s RAGBRAI when I joined the team for a few days. Jack is pretty straightforward with his thoughts and comments. On the day he was riding out with the team on a bike built for him, I stood beside the bike chatting with Jack while his parents prepared for the outing. When I wished him luck and said I’d see him at the next camp, he gave me a very puzzled look and asked why I wasn’t riding a bike. I briefly explained I had a rod in my leg and wasn’t sure yet how far it could handle. He was puzzled with my answer, shrugged and replied, “So what? Why are you not riding?”

2

Taking a deep breath, I thought, “I don’t have a good answer for this guy, except I’m nervous to get hurt.” In that moment I looked at this young man and thought of his struggles, looked around the camp at the team members, many survivors and others who overcame physical, mental and emotional struggles, yet were strapping on helmets and preparing to ride miles. I too had overcome many physical, mental and emotional struggles from cancer and other. And I would continue to. Isn’t that life? I learned long ago, as did Jack, his family and all these other people, that it’s how you overcome these struggles that matter. When I saw Jack at the next camp, congratulating him on the ride, he again wondered why I didn’t ride with him. Persistent that he is, I honestly answered, “I don’t know anymore.” Then I laughed as yet another hook locked readying me to commit to the team the following year. I gave Jack a big hug, promising to do my best to ride with the team next time.

2

As you know, I did ride with LIVESTRONG at RAGBRAI this year. Jack was away at camp that week so we didn’t see each other but I often thought of him as I pedaled against the wind and wondered when the next rest stop would appear. He became one of my many motivators that week, and always.

2

I’m so very lucky to know Jack. I hope you know him a little now too. Please consider helping Jack and his family help others – donate today.

Advertisements
 

Film retraces bike racing history November 12, 2017

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 9:27 am
Tags: , , , ,

cycling_sunsetI recently saw promotions for a new documentary about a team participating in the 1928 Tour de France. Le Ride is a film by Phil Keoghan (the host of the Amazing Race television show), that tries to recreate the route ridden by the four-man team from Australia and New Zealand. I wanted to see the film so was happy when my cycling club sent notice of a viewing in the area.

2

I’ll share some highlights of the film without giving away too much (most of it follows well-documented history of the 1928 event and teams anyway). The film follows New Zealander Harry Watson and his Australian teammates, Ernie Bainbridge, Percy Osborne and Sir Hubert Opperman, on their journey to this great race. Yes, this team only had four riders compared to other teams of 10 (I already felt tired for them upon learning this). They were the first English-speaking team to participate in the Tour.

2

Phil did much research on the race and the team, providing interesting insight into the bikes of that period, bike racing, the Tour de France and France in general. I loved watching the many people he met during his research and learning fascinating facts.

2

It seemed crazy that he, and his friend, Ben, were going to ride circa 1928 bikes through France, high into the mountains! Especially after being used to the brakes, design, handling and comfort of today’s bikes. These vintage bikes were steel frames with no gears. No shifting during hill climbs or descents. No carbon frame or shocks. They did use some modern day equipment, such as cycling clothing and helmets, which was smart.

2

As you may imagine, today’s France is much different than 1928 France. The road system is paved, more expansive and much busier. Some of the route no longer exists. Keep in mind that today’s Tour de France is approximately 2,000 miles; in 1928, the race was over 3,300 miles in 29 days. Yikes! The race back then was meant to eliminate riders, and it did – 164 riders started, 41 finished. It was quite stunning to learn that the cyclists rode more than 100, sometimes 200 miles in a day with climbs of 10,000-20,000 feet. They sometimes biked up to 20 hours in a day, starting at midnight or before dawn. And I thought biking RAGBRAI through Iowa was a physical challenge!

2

I can’t tell you how many times my mouth dropped open in surprise, awe or disbelief. I’m already in awe of the grueling physical, mental and emotional challenges that cyclists today master to participate in the Tour de France and other rides. But learning about the riders in 1928? Total respect and awe. My leg with the titanium rod seriously started aching as I thought of the physical challenges facing these riders (I know, I have a hard time turning off the empathy in me)!

2

At the end of the film, they showed a picture of the four Australian cyclists before the Tour began and then at the end of the Tour. Have you ever seen images of our U.S. presidents before they start their presidency? And again after? You usually note physical changes, aging and stress/worry lines after these challenging years. Well these notable changes appeared in the riders in less than a month!

2

A few of my favorite highlights:

  • Amazingly beautiful scenery captured with great filming skills.
  • The camaraderie between the crew was evident. I often laughed.
  • I loved seeing all the towns they visited. I would have loved to be there, meeting residents and taking in the different areas, cultures and experiences.
  • Learning so much about the evolution of cycling over the decades.
  • I am motivated to someday attend the Tour de France.

The downside to the movie? I’m so anxious to ride my own road bike outside again in warm, sunny weather! I look forward to watching this film again.

 

Baking my favorite banana bread November 8, 2017

Filed under: do it yourself — Heather @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,
bananabread

Delicious smells and tastes with this banana bread!

There’s something about the drop in temperature and the clock falling back that jump starts my cooking interest. Maybe it’s something to keep me busy while stuck inside. It sort of amuses me to suddenly want to cook only because I swear I should be super skinny for how often I forget to eat (thankfully my stomach growls pretty loudly!).

2

But alas, I walked past some quickly ripening bananas several times today before finally stopping at my cupboard where I store recipe books. One binder holds many recipes I’ve collected over the years. Among my favorites is a delicious banana bread recipe. Amazingly, all of the ingredients were in my cupboards and refrigerator. This rarely happens so I’m going to chalk this up to kicking off a great week!

2

I originally found this recipe on the Weight Watchers website years ago when I was looking for a semi-healthy version of banana bread (the recipe used the old points system so I’m not going to share any of that information). Sometimes I swap the egg substitute for shell eggs (like today because I’m out of egg substitute), the cranberries for dark chocolate morsels (no judging; dark chocolate is the healthy version!), once added nuts (didn’t really like) and another time left out the cinnamon (I forgot it, oops). My point is, as with most recipes, you can make it what you want. Here’s the recipe:

2


INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp light salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup fat free egg substitute (or 2 eggs)
  • 3 medium ripe, peeled and mashed bananas
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries, dark chocolate chips, nuts or any ingredient
2

INSTRUCTIONS:
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

2

Combine both flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in medium bowl. Stir and set aside.

2

In separate large bowl, beat sugar and oil with an electric mixer on medium speed until sugar begins to dissolve, about 2-3 minutes.

2

Beat eggs in to large bowl mixture. Beat in mashed bananas.Don’t forget to scrape down sides of the bowl. Remove beaters. Stir in flour mixture and cranberries (and/or other ingredients) with rubber spatula. Be sure to scrape sides of bowl to moisten everything.

2

Pour batter into sprayed loaf pan, smoothing top. I lightly tap the pan on the counter to ensure batter is evenly distributed. Bake approximately 45 minutes or until browned – a toothpick inserted in center of loaf should come out with only a few moist crumbs. Place pan on wire cooling rack for about 10 minutes, then transfer loaf from pan to directly on rack to continue cooling.

2

Cooled loaf can be sliced to enjoy and stored in plastic wrap at room temperature.

2

Another idea is baking the batter in multiple small loaf pans (see my picture). I like these smaller, individual loaves as you can freeze for later, and this size is great for giving to family and friends. The cook time is a little shorter (usually 30 minutes for my oven) so keep an eye on them.

 

Imerman Angels offers cancer support November 5, 2017

Filed under: Cancer Tips — Heather @ 3:08 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
HH_cancersurvivorshirt

Supporting cancer survivors is important.

Between the turn of a calendar month and Michigan’s recent weather, there’s no denying the end of the year is coming. Besides the holidays, this time of year also means many people might be thinking of giving to charities. There’s still plenty of time to support great charities and get a tax deduction. It’s a win-win!

2

In my series featuring some of my favorite nonprofits, I’m next focusing on Imerman Angels. This nonprofit provides one on one support to cancer survivors with any type of cancer, at any stage, any gender, age, living anywhere in the world. Imerman Angels pairs up a cancer survivor who has completed treatment (Mentor Angel) with someone seeking support. This free mentor service offers “the chance to ask personal questions and receive support from someone who is uniquely familiar with the experience.” Support is also offered to cancer caregivers and those who have lost someone to cancer. With a database of thousands of cancer survivors and caregiver from around the world, the Chicago-based organization strives to match people with as similar cancer types, stages, treatment and situations as possible. With technology, no need to be local to each other.

2

The founder, Jonny Imerman, is originally from Michigan and it’s an honor to call him a friend. Jonny is a young adult cancer survivor who is one of the nicest people I know. Seriously, his heart is huge and full of kindness. And the cool thing is that everyone I’ve met associated with Imerman Angels has the same qualities.

2

I learned about Imerman Angels several years after I finished my own treatment for bone cancer. Jonny and I crossed paths when I was involved with another nonprofit (the cancer world can be small and well-connected so it wasn’t a surprise we eventually met). I loved learning about the organization’s purpose, and was impressed that Imerman Angels has fine-tuned its mission and values to become one of the leading one on one cancer support nonprofits in the world. I registered to become a Mentor Angel within hours of talking to Jonny. These connections inspire, motivate and touch my heart more than they could know. I remember all too well the emotions and day by day journey that cancer takes you through. The journey doesn’t stop when you finish treatment.

2

The organization’s core values provide a glimpse into the heart of the people involved. My favorite is: “Be humble. Cancer is an equalizer. There’s no room for ego in the cancer fight.” These words are SO very true. Cancer has no mercy on who is touched. I am certain every one of you personally knows that.

2

I’m committed to this organization and their services because I know firsthand how valuable and comforting it is to know others have not only been through similar circumstances, but also survived. Cancer is terrifying. It’s uncertain, emotionally challenging, mentally draining and physically commanding, no matter your cancer type or treatment protocol. Even if you’re fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends to support your journey, as I was, it’s still a little isolating and lonely.

2

Those I’ve met through Imerman Angels don’t of course have exactly the same cancer stories as me, because no two stories are the same. No two treatment options work the exact same or affect each person the same. A drug that made me puke for days may not make another nauseous at all, or vice versa. But it’s still comforting to be able to connect with others who faced the same treatment protocol, and most importantly, understand the whirlwind of emotions constantly circulating through your head. As I’ve mentioned before, cancer is the one thing I think of daily for the past 20 years. It shaped who I am, often affects my physical decisions, and drives me to help others.

2

If you are a cancer survivor and/or caregiver to someone facing cancer, consider becoming a Mentor Angel. Your experiences can truly make a difference to someone needing support. If you have been touched by cancer, as a survivor or caregiver, and need support, I encourage you to reach out to this organization. And if you are feeling generous, please donate.

 

Galloping into the giving season November 1, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons,Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 9:00 am
Tags: , , , ,
Shecky_HH

Visiting Horses’ Haven is inspiring.

As the year begins to wind down (where did time go?), it’s an important time for nonprofits that work year round to make a difference in our lives. From fighting diseases to protecting nature and animals to helping people with food and shelter, thousands of charities rely heavily on the generosity and kindness of others.

2

I hope you’re considering a year-end, tax-deductible donation to a charity, if you haven’t already donated. I’ve written much about various charities over the years, those that touch my heart and I personally donate to and volunteer for as I support their mission, programs and services. Since November and December are big months for charitable giving, I wanted to provide an overview of some of my favorite charities. To be frank, there are so many that I could probably write posts every week all year!

2

I’ll kick off November with the lovable animal charity, Horses’ Haven. Horses Haven is a local organization that rescues horses, donkeys and other animals who are abused, neglected, unwanted, aged or whose owners can no longer afford to keep them.

2

Horses have ranked, along with dogs, as my favorite animal since I can remember. I think “horse” was one of the first words I spoke as a child. After years of begging my parents, they finally let me take riding lessons when I was 9 years old. I still remember dancing around the house singing “I’m so excited” by the Pointer Sisters.

2

For the next 13 years, I lived and breathed horses. My first trainer spotted my talent for handling horses and riding so invited me to work at the barn every Saturday for a few hours to earn riding time. I rode hunter/jumpers, having no fear of riding a horse jumping 3’-5’ fences or riding the high-energy, mischievous horses. I switched barns when I was 15 to ride with a trainer who pushed me a bit more. I never owned my own horse, however, always had requests to ride others’ horses for lessons and at horse shows.

2

When I went to college, I couldn’t get home often enough to ride at my regular bar so found a farm that bred and trained Quarter Horses near the university. I offered to work around the barn in exchange for riding opportunities. The owner happily accepted so I spent the next four years learning much about training horses. I loved spring time when the new colts and fillies would run around the pastures. Nothing brought a smile to my face faster. When I was 21, near the end of my senior year, I got a job exercising racehorses for a local trainer. It was at this farm that I finally stopped ignoring the growing pain in my left knee. I went to a walk-in clinic near school and discovered my bone cancer.

2
Shecky52010

Such a handsome boy.

It changed everything. As scared as I was with the cancer diagnosis, I was devastated at the idea of not riding again. Since my knee and femur were to be replaced with titanium, I could very much jeopardize my leg if I fell off a horse. Despite that fear, I decided to try riding for pleasure after I finished chemo. I didn’t have the previous carefree attitude, however, I was thrilled to be back in the saddle. I unfortunately had to soon replace my titanium rod again after a fall at work and my surgeon said I would have to decide – continue to ride and risk losing my leg in a fall from a horse or stop riding.

2

It wasn’t much of a choice of course. I was blessed and grateful to still have my leg. But I took giving up horses very hard. I became a little bitter and angry toward cancer, and hated those feelings. I cut my favorite animals from my life – sold my tack, took down pictures, gave away books and movies. I thought it was easier. For so many years of my life, horses were my escape from school, peer pressure, work and life in general. I relaxed the moment I crossed into the barn. I could stand in a stall with a horse, run my fingers through his mane, rest my cheek against his shoulder and enjoy minutes of peaceful quiet. I lived for these moments. And cancer took it away.

2

About 10 years ago I decided to get those feelings back. I found Horses Haven. I attended one of their farm tours and felt an odd pull like I had come home. Horses Haven began in 1995 and is completely volunteer run – no paid staff at all. That fact still amazes me when you consider how much time and energy goes into feeding, watering, cleaning stalls/pastures, taking care of many animals who often have health issues, and just ensuring these well-deserving animals feel love. Dedicated volunteers work in shifts throughout the day, every day, to keep the farm running and the animals taken care of.

2
HH_Sheckyheadshot3 1009

Horses have been my passion since childhood.

I often wanted to volunteer to help at the barn, however, the farm isn’t very close to my home and my schedule fairly full so I decided to sponsor a horse – basically my monthly financial support helped take care of him.  I sponsored Shecky, a gorgeous chestnut Thoroughbred, for many years. He was neglected when Horses Haven first rescued him years ago, then adopted by a great family. Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep him so he returned to Horses Haven. He had bad knees at that point so couldn’t be ridden. I thought we were a perfect pair with my rod that prevented me from riding. He enjoyed a relaxing life with his pasture mates until he died (of old age) two years ago. I loved visiting him, and all the other horses. They each have special stories, of overcoming the odds. Some from neglect and abuse, others from kind owners who could no longer support them.

2

There are many ways to support Horses’ Haven – volunteer regularly, on their farm work days or special events, sponsor a horse as I did, donate to the general fund, provide items from the wish list. Some of the horses are available for adoption as companion animals or for riding.

2

This volunteer organization makes a wonderful impact on the lives of the animals they support and provide shelter and love to. Donate today.

 

Creating pretty pottery at local studio October 26, 2017

unfinishedpotteryvase

Starting the project.

I’ve been wanting to head back to the local pottery studio to make something artsy. It was meant to be when my friend mentioned she wanted to try her hand at pottery painting. So we picked an afternoon for our outing, choosing to meet at Creative Arts Studio in downtown Royal Oak (I took my niece here for an aunt/niece outing).

2

The studio is a welcoming, sunshine-filled location that offers pottery painting, mosaics, glass fusing and more (I’ve only tried the pottery painting). Walk-ins are welcome and you can bring your own drinks and snacks. This studio charges a flat studio fee for adults and children, in addition to the price of the item you choose (ranging from under $5 to over $100).

2

There are a lot of pottery pieces available, from vases to serving dishes to seasonal items to tea sets and more! I spent (too much) time wandering the rows of items, picking up one item only to spot another that interested me. Should I paint a coffee mug? Turtle for my great room floor? Horse-shaped bank? Bookends? Maybe a Michigan-shaped platter? I finally made myself focus, settling on a small vase since I’m a lover of flower bouquets placed around my house (hint to future boyfriend), although I mentally logged some other items I want to work on at a later time. The studio was fairly busy, plus a small birthday party group arrived shortly after us, so it was fun to look around at what others were working on. There were some really great ideas and talent in that building!

2
potteryvase2017

My new vase!

The staff was very friendly and helpful. We were directed to shelves of glaze colors. The glaze is food safe on the finished product. I selected a few colors for my vase, then settled at a table with my friend to start the creative process.

2

Three coats of each color is required for a deep color upon finish (it’s helpful that there are sample color tiles of the finished, three-coat color). I discovered the only challenge to working at a table with another is you ‘might’ lose track of how many coats you’ve painted while talking. Ha! So one of my colors got an extra coat because I couldn’t remember and decided I’d prefer a darker color rather than lighter.

2

You write your name or initials on the bottom of your item and leave it at the studio to be fired. Pick it up in a week and you have a great item to keep or give as a gift!

 

5 activities for fun with girlfriends October 23, 2017

girlfriendsonwall

Sometimes simple fun is the best fun!

I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by kind, courageous, fun people, including a wonderful group of women who I call my good friends. I’ve certainly learned over the years that it’s not the quantity of friends but the quality of friendships that help make life meaningful and fun. I love spending time with these friends. And as with most circumstances, it’s not so much what we do, simply that we’re spending time together.

2

One thing I look forward to during the cooler months is indoor fun with friends. Our activities of choice change a bit when the weather changes. Makes sense as we want to be outdoors to enjoy beautiful, sunny weather and move indoors when the weather isn’t so beautiful.

2

I love spending time with girlfriends, especially lately as I’ve really built some strong bonds with amazing women. We’ve been talking about activities and plans for the winter months. Here are some ideas I’m working to put on our calendars:

2

Ceramic/pottery studio: I recently went to a local ceramic studio with a girlfriend and had a blast creating a vase. I love being crafty and artsy so enjoy the opportunity to paint something to take home. It’s a nice time to relax with friends, enjoy girl talk and see what creativity we can spark.

2

Painting class: You may think you aren’t an artist and can’t paint, but the popular step by step painting classes are really for anyone. I’ve even seen great pieces by children! These group classes are often by reservation so get a group together, choose the piece to paint and get artsy. It’s fun to compare paintings at the end because no painting looks alike!

2
spinningclassImage

Motivate yourself with others!

Girls night in: Sometimes the best fun is hanging out at someone’s home, with drinks, food, movies, games or whatever, and girl talk! As much as I’m dreading the cold weather, I’m looking forward to inviting some girlfriends over, building a fire (a requirement with my new home!), serving snacks, pouring drinks and enjoying time with friends – perfect indoor fun.

2

Fitness class: While not everyone loves to work out, many of my friends are willing to try classes if someone goes with them. And I’m usually ‘that friend’ who is game to try something new! Indoor cycling, Zumba, Pilates, yoga, boxing, water aerobics, whatever. There are SO many choices of fitness classes (almost too many) and it’s always better with a partner or three! I love attending Zumba classes for the great exercise I get while dancing to fun music, however, more so lately, I enjoy seeing the girlfriends I’ve made over the years of attending the same class. I even arrive early for the chance to catch up with them, and we meet for happy hour now too (when we aren’t sweaty!).

2

Progressive dinners: These can be fun, simple events if you live in close proximity to your girlfriends. Someone hosts the appetizer course, you all move to another house for the main meal and then move to another home for dessert. Have 2-3 women take on a course so it’s more fun, schedule 1-1.5 hours at each stop, and enjoy!

2

What are some fun activities you look forward to with your friends?

 

 
%d bloggers like this: