Editor's Note

Me and Lindsey Vonn on a Mountaintop

I learned to ski in Are, Sweden where Lindsey Vonn won the bronze medal in the world championship downhill, the final race of her skiing career this weekend. She’s tenacious, and I admire her determination and all out performance.

There were no crowds cheering me on as I tumbled down that mountain for the first time. My Swedish guides knew I’d been cross country skiing but seemed unaware that there are no mountains in Illinois. They chose a nice, high, wide mountain with a scenic view to help me remember what they considered the basics. Alas! I’d forgotten how to snowplow. Teaching me how not to fall took the entire afternoon (which is rather short during February that close to the North Pole). But like Lindsay, I kept getting up and was back out on the slopes the next day. After a couple of days on safer trails, I was able to keep up with my friends. Persistence wins, every time!

— Read more about Lindsay here:

Editor's Note

Celebrate Mother’s Day as Reality, not Idealized Perfection

FoterTulipMothersDayHere’s the deal.

I’m not a mom. Yet. I want to be, but my husband and I have been walking through the perils of infertility on our way to parenthood. It is most likely that we will adopt or become foster parents. Or just the best godparents, aunt and uncle our fifteen nieces and nephews could ever want.

So Mother’s Day is a little tricky emotionally. Not quite as much as it might be for women who have recently miscarried, like one of my friends or this particular rabbi who would really, really like us to tone it down. And she’s at least half-right. There’s a lot of pink, a lot of painful reminders about what isn’t. What isn’t in our arms, what isn’t the way we’d thought it would be.

But then there is what is. An awesome husband. Understanding parents. Sweet in-laws. Four sisters and two sisters-in-law who are amazing mothers. A new sister-in-law with her own wonderful, charming mother. As I said before, FIFTEEN nieces and nephews.

So I celebrate that, even as part of me mourns. It doesn’t help to pretend that the holiday isn’t happening. There will be a lot of chocolate and flowers floating around this weekend. I’m excited to visit and share the holiday with my sister and my mother, and we will be having some of that chocolate together. But it would help to acknowledge that motherhood is a bit more complicated than often portrayed in popular media and in our churches.

For one thing, not everyone has a mother to celebrate. One of the searing memories of my mother’s childhood is being forced to make a Mother’s Day card after her mother died. In her day, that’s what you did in a first grade art class, apparently, whether or not you had anyone to receive your folded paper gift. There are mothers who generously give their babies to adoptive parents and foster mothers who are mothers for the moment. And then there are the people who bear the scars of mothers whose abuse still costs them and can not be celebrated.

There are mothers who triumph against the weight of their destructive family histories, and mothers who struggle to lose that baby weight. There are mothers who find themselves pregnant, and single, and lost, and mothers who love being pregnant way more than parenting. Mothers who love the baby part and others who rock the teen part and mothers who just juggle the best they can until their kid learns to juggle too.

Sometimes we have this picture of motherhood that does not involve vomit or blood or meetings in the principal’s office. All of those things seem to happen to most mothers at some point. They also happen to teachers, who get an entire national week of appreciation (often organized and facilitated by the school’s mothers). One single day in May hardly seems enough, and it isn’t. We can never tell our mothers that we love them too often. We can never try hard enough to honor them through our behavior and accomplishments.

But we also can not forget the women who aren’t yet, and may never be, mothers. We must not forget the mothers who have buried their children, and those who are waiting for them to come home. We can acknowledge the mothers facing challenges they never expected. We can remember those who are mourning the death of their own mothers. We can count our own blessings, and open our arms and hearts to others.

Photo credit: zenera / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Achievements Editor's Note Team in Training

Proud of My Blisters

20140113-113901.jpgWe did it!!

Despite my fears of being last, a recurrent neck injury and my truly messed up final month of training, Roberto and I finished our first half-marathon. Yep. I said our first because it probably won’t be our last and we are already planning to be part of the Parkway Classic in April. The blisters that emerged somewhere between miles six and eight are going to have to be popped soon to prevent real trouble, but they don’t hurt much. I’m still glowing and a bit high from our accomplishment. We had set a goal of finishing in 3 hours and 30 minutes and made it with 42 seconds to spare, crossing the finish line together.

The Team in Training inspiration dinner proved to be both funny and heartwarming, partly because one of the presenters spent a good deal of her time photo-bombing. That might sound rude, but eight year old Emily Whitehead is a survivor whose parents shared the story behind the amazing film “Fire With Fire” and the hijacked-HIV cure that Emily was the first child ever to receive. Watching Emily give her parents bunny ears while her father talked about his frustrations and fears during the process underscored the importance of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s mission of funding researchers and supporting families. Thanks to our donors and the donors before them, Emily is now a pretty normal child with an extraordinary story.

There were more immediate, selfish pleasures too. For the first time since going gluten-and-dairy free, there was something for me to eat everywhere we went with a minimum of fuss. All I had to do was ask. In fact, I even got a free lunch because my post-race pasta took longer than the kitchen felt was right.  


The weekend was not perfect by any means — in fact it was raining when we landed in Orlando and headed over to the expo to collect our race materials. I chickened out of my impulse to carry Donald Duck along for the race in the spare water bottle slot on my belt, a slot that was there because one of my water bottles went missing the night we packed. The back of my race tee wound up a bit more stylized and urban than I intended when it slid to the ground right after I decorated it with glitter glue. On race morning, I felt significantly less than 100%. Those white shorts may never be truly, perfectly white again.  But never mind perfection — there’s still a medal at the finish line no matter how much chocolate fuel you spill in your pockets.

It felt great to be part of such a huge community of volunteers, athletes and families that converged upon Walt Disney World and woke up insanely early for the sake of a race. Perhaps there’s something deeply ancient within us that calls us to achieve beyond our known limits, to challenge ourselves and give witness to the extraordinary.

Tomorrow is another day, a return to work and deadlines and the rest of life. It is also a new day, and each day forward will glow a bit brighter for me with this medal in my heart. 

Editor's Note Team in Training

We All Have a Long Walk to Freedom…

HalfMastCropThe flag at a community center was flying at half mast in honor of Nelson Mandela yesterday during our twelve-mile training session, and it occurred to me that we all have a long walk to freedom. For Mandela, that walk to freedom was a very public road and it became the title of his autobiography. The world watched his transformation from an angry rebel leader fighting oppression and arguing for the justice of his cause in court to an imprisoned icon — a symbol of freedom so strong that his image and name were banned throughout South Africa — to a free and firm negotiating partner, to an elected official presiding over the birth of a new democratic state and guiding its people towards healing and reconciliation and finally to a revered elder statesman.

Most of us don’t face daily insults to our human dignity, nor do we deal with cruel, systematic discrimination like apartheid. Nor do we deal with the pressure and scrutiny of being a public figure. But we often live within the prison of our hurts and fears, and sometimes those prisons of the mind can be very restrictive and limiting. Since a whiplash injury over a decade ago (and many subsequent re-injuries), I have faced the challenges of frequent physical pain and depression. Team in Training has helped me break out of the mindset that limitations are part of my life and develop strategies for accomplishing my goals in spite of obstacles. Not only am I becoming an endurance athlete, but my approach to life has changed due to the coaching we receive about preparing and learning lessons from each outcome, good or bad.

Every week at training, we have a Mission Moment presented by a fellow team member, an honored teammate or another person connected to the program. This week, I gave the mission moment:


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Editor's Note

Some Days, You Just Take What Comes


This picture perfectly sums up today’s training session. Roberto hit another personal best, but his warm down routine required ice packs on both legs and some time on our foam roller. I got pulled off the trail by our coach because I was nearly doubled over with menstrual cramps. Though I was disappointed not to finish, I’m grateful that she made that call because it was the right and smart thing to do (especially considering that I’m still not fully upright despite copious drugs and liquids). My body seems to be foiling my ambitions and that’s frustrating.

Yet I wouldn’t trade today for anything. This beautiful autumn day is a great day to be alive and count blessings. I’m inspired by the families who join Team in Training in memory of a loved one, and millions of blood cancer survivors who are with us today because of treatments that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society pioneered. There’s still much work to do… Learn more and donate at Team Bacalski.