Beyond Surviving

A little over a year ago, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Druker, the man who developed the lifesaving chemotherapy drug, Gleevec, and the man whom I owe my life to. The development of Gleevec is said to be one of the largest medical breakthroughs of ALL TIME, not to mention has prolonged lives like mine far beyond our wildest expecations. Needless to say, I was absolutely humbled to meet him, but I was even more amazed to witness his humble, grateful demeanor and to realize that his entire life’s work has been fueled by passion. Oh, and by the way, he grew up in Minnesota (#SKOL!). 

Early in his work, Dr. Druker lost the majority of his patients to CML within just a couple of years, because there were so few treatment options. He wrote a letter to each of their families offering his condolences and promised that he was going to work to do something about this awful disease. “We have to do better”, he wrote to them. Fueled by passion, Dr. Druker went to work in the lab, and, despite encountering numerous road blocks and setbacks, after three years his tireless work and dedication paid off He did exactly what he set out to do: He developed a treatment for CML that decreases and controls cancer cells and gives patients like me a chance to live. But not live just any life, but a FULL and MEANINGFUL one.

Since developing Gleevec, Dr. Druker hasn’t had to write any more letters. Without him and his dedication, my life expectancy would have been 3-5 years, but instead, I’ve had the opportunity to pursue my dreams, live my passions, and make countless memories with family and friends while living with cancer for over eleven years.

Dr. Druker defines the word “hero”. Not only is he brave, selfless, and tireless in his efforts, but he doesn’t need recognition to keep battling. He doesn’t score touchdowns, win Olympic medals or Grammys - though he deserves recognition as much or more than anyone I can think of. His reward comes in the form of life. We need more people like Dr. Druker in this world. Thank you, Dr. Druker, for your hard work, your determination to make a difference, and your zest for life.

Though I’d always known “someone” had developed Gleevec, admittedly, I never tried to find them. Instead, I’ve spent the last eleven years trying to live in a way I hope would make them proud. With that said, I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than reading Dr. Druker’s kind words on the OHSU Blog for National Cancer Survivor's Day (Read full the story here). There will never be anything I can say to properly express my gratitude for his unrelenting efforts, but I will continue to strive to making them worth it.

Thank you, Dr. Druker, for your passion, your dedication, and for not just giving me a chance to live, but for inspiring me to live a life worth saving. 

#Beyond Surviving #BELIKEDRUKER #SKOL

Skol,
A.Score

The Pantsless Revolution Ep 5: Paris is a State of Mind

You've heard me say it before: travel is an incredible thing. And to achieve a work/life balance and be on the go regularly is ideal for many, but the truth is: sometimes you just can’t swing it… Whether you're taking care of a sick family member, strapped by debt, or something else is holding you back, sometimes it's just not feasible. Here’s a little secret: the only thing better than traveling itself is when you don’t have to go anywhere to enjoy the benefits of “vacation”. For Paris (and being pantsless) is a state of mind, and in EPISODE 5 I'm coming at you live from the City of Love itself, Paris, France, to talk about how to stop living in the future and how to make "vacation" a permanent feeling. Have a listen and join me in the City of Light! Sante! 

Spring Cleaning

Spring is upon us!

And along with the season comes the glorious annual activity that is Spring Cleaning. Despite my sometimes seemingly relaxed ways, wannabe creative-mind, and impulsive travel decisions (I'm sitting in the London Gatwick airport as I type), I am predominantly Type A, which means organizing, planning, and cleaning are three of my all-time FAVORITE things. For me, spring cleaning is not only mandatory but also utterly enjoyed. Out with the old and in with more room for activities!

Not only is this annual tradition a good way to prevent being featured on “Hoarding: Buried Alive", but it’s also a great activity for the mind, is a responsible thing to do, and, if you choose to donate your unused items, is GREEN and environmentally friendly. Reuse and recycle versus purchasing new and demanding more production. Everyone wins - high fives all around!

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This year, after spending many an hour going through clothes and cleaning wall-to-wall, I gathered a small mountain of clothes and various goodies I no longer needed and/or used. I posted on social media in search of recommendations for whom to donate to. Yes, I am fully aware that I could have simply Google’d it. The reason I asked around versus dropping my clothes off at Goodwill was because I was seeking organizations people had worked with, whom they trust and believe in (I just used "whom" twice in one paragraph, weird). I have nothing against Goodwill, but most of my clothing is gently-used professional wear that I wanted to ensure would get directly into the hands of women who need it. For free.

The feedback I received was stellar! And in addition to a plethora of suggestions, many also requested I share my findings. SO, below is a list of organizations which were recommended by friends and acquaintances in the Central Florida area and beyond. 

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Obviously, there are a vast number of organizations in every area dedicated to assisting those in need. I prefer to research each organization I work with to ensure my time/help/donations are being utilized to their greatest extent. With that said, where you give is completely up to you. What's most important is that you GIVE period - whether it be time, money, clothing, or energy. Check out the info below and spread the love!

Have a great spring and happy cleaning!

- A.Score


NATIONAL

Dress for Success – This is exactly what I was looking for! A group that accepts gently used women’s business attire which is then given to women whom the org. is helping enter the workforce. Other great news is that they have locations across the country! Dress for Success will be receiving all of my business-wear while my remaining clothes and other items will be going to various organizations below. *raises roof and nods head*

CENTRAL FL SPECIFIC

Harbor House of Central Florida - This group works to prevent and eliminate domestic abuse in Central Florida. They providing a plethora of services to survivors, while educating and engaging the community. Your clothes will go to survivors of domestic violence and abuse.  

Zebra Youth (Zebra Coalition) – An org. providing services lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc. youth ages 13-24 who are faces all types of related social issues. Clothing is given to those entering the workforce. 

BASE Camp - This org. benefits adolescent cancer patients and their families. I've worked with them before at local hospitals providing food and hosting events for patients, but they will also provide any donated clothing to families they work with who are in need. 

Fashion Forward - An organization run by Tiff Davis of "TAD of Style" which partners with local Orlando women’s groups. Tiff will be hosting personal sessions and pop-up’s with donated clothing/accessories.

The Mustard Seed - A clothing and furniture bank that assists families and individuals who've suffered disaster or personal tragedy. They provide household furnishings and clothing and are also dedicated to being environmentally responsible to our community.

ANY LOCAL SHELTER, ETC!

The Pantsless Revolution Ep 4: Do These Pants(less) Make Me Look Fat?!

Ahhh, yes, "body image". We had to cover it at some point, right? As societal norms and expectations continuously fluctuate, many bodies tend to follow in their path. Whether it's following the latest diet craze, starving oneself in pursuit of becoming "twiggy", or squatting your life away in the gym to try to grow what your momma gave ya, many of us seem to be continuously in pursuit of changing our bodies. But society appears to be shifting. Campaigns promoting curves and plus size are becoming more and more common, but is society truly promoting body-acceptance, or is the the "curvy is the new skinny" notion just another trend that will fade like a fart in the wind? On Episode 4, I, along with smokin' hot beauty expert and curvaceous model, Lea Montes, explore the issues that so many face when it comes to their bodies, why we're so insane about it, and ways to overcome the struggle. Most importantly, I'll discuss the difference between "self-acceptance" and 'self-love"... these two things are not created equal! 

So whether your butt is bony, fat, round, square, or non existent, sit it down in a chair and have a listen. #LOVEYOSELF 

The Pantsless Revolution Ep 3: Spain and the Pantsless Traveler

Ok, so I love Spain, and in Episode 3 of the Pantsless Revolution Podcast, that is going to be quite evident! But beyond my love for the dancing, siesta-taking, wine drinking, seaside oasis I have a sincere appreciation for travel. But why? In this week's podcast (which has settled itself into a comfortable "bi-weekly" routine) you'll find out why the hell I'm in Spain so much, hear an interview from mi hermana, Tiff Score, and I'll explain why I believe travel is one of, if not the best ways to open your mind, learn, grow, and feed the soul. Enjoy!

The Pantsless Revolution Ep 2: LF Spring Break!

Cancun, Mexico! The first thing that comes to mind when I hear Cancun is Carmen Electra hosting wet t-shirt contests on MTV’s Spring Break circa 1999 in between "live" Britney Spears and Sisco performances. To me, the vision of that stage with hundreds of bros in boardshorts and girls in neon bikinis is the epitome of SB, and I assume I’m not the only one.

Yeah, Cancun has a reputation for fruit loaded cocktails, cheesy spring break bars, and rum induced nightlife, but after spending filming for Liquid Force and Alliance Wake Mag in Mexico’s party central, I got to see a different side of the city. Though we drank our fair share of Don Julio and our antics were, at times, on par with the frat boys first pumping just down the beach, most of our time was spent off the main drag and on the water riding, exploring, and creating content. After getting to know the place a little better, I can whole heartedly say Cancun has more to offer than just Pina Coladas.

In this week’s podcast we talk Liquid Force Spring Break, interview pro skimboarder Austin Keen, and consider why change can be so damn hard to accept. I also clear up a couple things from Episode 1 and, of course, provide a spicy fact that you definitely didn't know about me. 

Have a listen to the podcast and browse through the photos. Though our LF Spring Break trip was productive, I’d like to think Molly Sims and Carson Daly would still be proud of us.

(Full story to follow in Alliance Wake Magazine and on www.alliancewake.com).

 

The Pantsless Revolution Podcast

That's right people, it's for real! The Pantsless Revolution has officially begun - you're going to want to listen to this. In episode 1 of The Pantsless Revolution Podcast, you'll find out just what the hell the PR is, why you should care, and talk a little about priorities, focusing on those of us who are crazy enough to include sports as one of them. Make sure you stick around until the end to find out what's going down next week. 

So grab your Hawaiian shirt, drop trow, and press play! 

Run Through It

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  Run Through It.

Three ways to help Take On challenge

*Featured clothing is Athleta brand*

Having just surpassed Global Mental Health Day, I think it’s important to remind ourselves that no matter how someone’s life is portrayed on social media, WE ALL STRUGGLE. Likes or no likes, 10M followers or none, we all have our downs as well as our ups. And that’s perfectly okay! As a matter of fact, struggling is a big part of life. Think about it: without struggle, what is joy? Without strife, how would we attain a sense of accomplishment? Fulfillment? Or pride?

Our bodies and minds were BUILT to struggle. But even greater, they were built to endure. You are designed to overcome and succeed both mentally and physically. So quit beating yourself up for feeling down once in a while. Instead, enjoy those moments. After all, moments of pain and even suffering can end up being some of the most meaningful of our entire lives, not to mention often lead us to the greatest ones.

Don’t run away from pain. Run through it.

Here are three things that help get me through tough times:

1. Resist dwelling on what’s out of your control

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Shit happens. We all know that. And when it does, a lot of times it’s because of factors out of our immediate control. Unfortunately, we typically want to dwell on why something has happened. Why me? It’s not fair! And we’re right, there are things in life that just pain aren’t fair. However, spending time thinking about them is not only unproductive but can also be self-sabotaging. Time spent focusing on why you got a flat tire and how unnecessary it was, is time you could have spent grabbing your carjack, your spare tire, and getting your butt back on the road. Not to mention, the more you think about why, the worse you feel. Gather your tools and get to work. As hard as it may be, try not to sulk.

 

2. Take it one day at a time

When going through a tough time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Instead of worrying about how you're going to get all the way to the finish line, break it down into segments. For instance, if you’re stressed about an upcoming school semester, don’t worry about passing the final, focus on getting today's work done. Four months of work can be intimidating until you realize it’s just a series of single days. Whether it’s a stressful relationship, a health problem, or trouble at work, ask yourself: What can I do today, this hour, this very minute to point me in the right direction? Wars are won in small battles, so take on the obstacle course one monkey bar at a time.

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3. Run, literally.

I take on "health" with a holistic approach. The mind, body, and spirit are all interconnected and one aspect can affect the others. For me, physical activity plays a huge role in my overall well being. Not only does it help maintain a healthy weight and cardiovascular fitness, it also cleanses my mind and relieves stress. I use jogging and other workouts (wakeboarding, surfing, yoga, the gym) to exert pent up energy and clear my mind. If I'm worked up about something, I literally "work it out" of my system. There's medical evidence that links physical activity to better mental health, but I won't bore you with technical jargon. If you've ever went for a long walk or jog and felt better mentally when you were finished than when you started, you get what I'm saying. And if you haven't, I encourage you to give it a shot. Let me know how it goes. 

I could go on and on about overcoming adversity. Heck, I could write a book about it (and maybe I will), but these are just three of many useful tools and tips to help you face challenge and meet your goals. If nothing else, consider this a friendly reminder that it’s okay to be down, to get emotional, and to struggle. You were designed for it. And you were designed to overcome.

Keep skoling,

Lex

Sponsored by:

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Under Pressure

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Managing the expectations of others and pressures of society

If you could do anything in the world, what would you do? If you could chase any dream, what would it be? Now let’s hear why you’re not pursuing it, because chances are, you’re not.

The thought of following our dreams can be absolutely terrifying. So much so that many never even try. But why? There are endless reasons, and the one we rely on most is a financial one. Maybe you’re buried in debt – school loans, medical bills, etc -  and it would be irresponsible to take a financial risk. Or perhaps you have a medical condition that costs thousands of dollars each year, hindering you from investing in an idea or going a month without pay or benefits. 

Unfortunately, there will almost always be financial gamble involved when taking a risk, but chances are the real reason you’re not chasing your dream has to do with other’s expectations of you, real or perceived. 

“She said I couldn’t do it.”
“He'd think I'm dumb if I tried.”

and, of course,
“What will they think if I FAIL?!”

We’ve all heard other people say these things, if not thought them ourselves. But are they meaningful expectations or pressures we put on ourselves? Managing these thoughts along with what we've been told and the expectations of others can be challenging. Especially when the ideas and expectations come from sources we respect, like family. Those around us can be valuable sources of knowledge and advice, even when it's not what you want to hear, so considering the opinions of those close to you is important. But ultimately it's up to you to decide what's best for you

"Honor thy father, but make your own decisions."
- Paulo Cohelo

Society and culture add yet another source of pressure. 

Growing up in the Humble Midwest taught me values and principles I'll forever be grateful for, but the general expectation for one's life is as follows:

1. Graduate high school
2. Go to college
3. Get married
4. Have kids

All in that order and before you’re 30.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking that path so long as you are happy and fulfilled. But for those who don’t feel that lifestyle is for them, many still feel the pressure to follow suit. 

I’ve always tended the “push” the rules, but I've also never been able to fully commit to my dreams. Though I graduated high school early and moved across the country to pursue wakeboarding at 17, I still chose to go to college and received a degree in finance, something I wasn't passionate about but figured was a “safe” choice. After graduating, I  immediately took a job in commercial real estate, knowing I couldn’t handle a corporate desk job but also feeling the need for a “back up plan” for my creative endeavors. I attended school and started in real estate simultaneous to pursuing wakeboarding and opportunities in TV and writing. Though my intent was to leverage the instability of a career in the entertainment industry, I wound up half in and half out of all my pursuits and thus couldn't excel in any of them! 

When you're spread thin, it's tough to shine.

I’ve been very fortunate to have had many amazing experiences traveling the world thanks to opportunities in the TV, film, and action sports industries, and real estate has helped pay the bills, but I’ve never allowed myself to fully commit to my creative dreams. I’ve always kept one foot in my “safety plan”, prolonging many of my creative projects and prohibiting me to fulfill my potential.  

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Don’t get me wrong, being responsible for one’s self should always be a top priority. Yours truly has some serious medical bills to pay year after year, and I've always taken pride in being self-sufficient. But one also has a duty to at least give themselves a chance at fulfilling their dreams. In order to do so you need to be all in. And that's okay, so long as you’re prepared to take responsibility for the consequences should things not go as planned.

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We can all come up with countless excuses for not doing something, myself included. The funny thing is that when I think about it, what’s held me back most isn’t what I’ve been told, it’s what I’ve been telling myself. 

In recent months, I’ve pushed myself to manage the perceived expectations that hold me back. I've tried to pinpoint the sources of my hesitation and focus on my own voice versus what others tell me or what I think they’d tell me if I told them my dreams. Oftentimes what we assume people’s expectations are is actually competently different than reality.

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My friend, mentor, and all around badass, Mike Smith, recently published his first book, Legacy Vs Likes (get it here), and in Chapter 4 he talks about the pressures we feel:

“What’s the excuse bouncing around inside your brain telling you not to try? Whose voice is in your head making you doubt yourself? Is it a parent, a bully, a boyfriend or girlfriend? We all have that voice we allow to tell us we can’t do something, and too often, we let that outside voice become our own.”
– CH 4, 'Legacy Vs. Likes'

To allow ourselves to go "all in", we have to separate our own voice from those of the people around us and the pressures we feel from society. 

I’m not encouraging a single mom of four to bet the mortgage on an unrealistic dream, but if you’re willing to work your ass off, deal with the consequences of the outcome (good or bad), and are so passionate about something you can feel it in your bones, I say you gotta give ‘er. No one wants to die wondering.

So, let’s try this again: If you could follow any dream, what would it be? And no matter what you’ve been told, taught, or encouraged to do or not to do, what are you telling yourself

“If you do what’s safe your entire life, who will you become?”  
–Mike Smith

Thanks for reading and keep on skol-ing,

A.Score

 

A Survivor

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“A cancer survivor? So, you’re in remission?”

Over the past ten years I've been faced with this question countless times but answering it never gets easier. “Well, actually no,” is always the beginning of my response. Given my unique health situation, the answer is complex.

Because there's still cancer in my bloodstream, and I’m still actively being treated with daily chemotherapy, technically I am not in remission (and may never be). For year's, the situation has lead me to examine the subject of "survivorship".

Having not officially “beat” cancer, is my status as a "survivor" tarnished? What does being a survivor mean in the first place? 

The formal definition of “survivor” is:

A person who survives (duh), especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died.

From what I understand, many people view survivorship as a destination: someone having faced and overcome a certain event granting them a lifetime membership in the Survivor's Club. However, I don’t consider being a survivor a result of a certain success; I believe it’s the reason for it. Like the age-old conundrum of the chicken and the egg, we can ask the same of survivorship: What came first - overcoming an obstacle or being a survivor? I have nothing to say about the chicken and the egg but I do have thoughts on this one:

“Whoa whoa whoa, I was a badass before cancer, alright?” 

“Whoa whoa whoa, I was a badass before cancer, alright?” 

Most often, being a survivor comes first.

I frequently get praise for having battled cancer, and do NOT get me wrong here – I am humbled and filled with pride each time someone recognizes the battle I have and continue to fight - but what’s important to me is that people understand that it wasn’t cancer that made me a survivor.

Of course, I learned a lot from the experience and continue to be affected by my disease each day. But cancer isn’t what made me tough. It didn’t produce within me the resilience, grit, or the will to live and get through some severely dark times. I possessed those traits before I was diagnosed and those are what allow me to survive.

I suppose it may be a series of events early in life – our environments, upbringing, and experiences – that instill most of our virtues, but from what I’ve experienced, those traits are set early on.

The point here is that whether or not I’m in remission doesn’t decipher whether I’m a survivor. Heck, having cancer doesn't even matter, not to mention how much of it is still lingering in my veins.

 What defines us is the way in which we choose to live our lives. It’s the principles we live by and the way we approach and deal with situations, not the outcomes. 

We each have our own unique battles. Whether it’s cancer, poverty, negative self-talk, a deep dark secret, issues with body image, anxiety, obesity, a broken home, or a toxic relationship – and while some are more severe than others, we all have something. Though none of us can take full control of our external situations, ie. we can’t control what happens to us, we can all control the ways in which we handle them. I can’t fully control the how the cancer acts (though taking my chemo meds consistently does help, hah), but I can choose how to deal with it.

There are plenty of survivors out there who’ve lost their battles. These individuals were not weak nor did they ever give up; they were simply overcome by science and elements out of their control. But they fought with courage and poise, and that’s what makes them survivors.

And then there are people who have lived through certain experiences but go on with life in a flurry of complaints, moaning and groaning their way through each day. Are they actually surviving? Or merely living?

So, what is a survivor? To me, a survivor is someone who faces their obstacles with bravery and dignity. Someone who doesn't make excuses but takes responsibility for their actions and doesn’t need others’ recognition to feel proud of themselves. Because in their hearts they know what they’ve battled, and that's enough. 

Being a survivor isn’t about being “cured”. It’s not about your hair growing back, having a tumor removed, or having successful treatment. It’s about how you live your life. It’s about how you react when faced with adversity and how you face your problems each day. Surviving isn’t overcoming one standalone event and living free of strife thereafter. It’s is an ongoing battle and the willingness to face that fight with grace and pride. No matter what the challenge.

Surviving is a way of life.

Every day we encounter challenges, some ongoing and some new. And the good news is that no matter what their nature, and no matter how one's dealt with challenges in the past, with each new struggle we're given the opportunity to survive. Whether we succeed or fail is dependent on how we choose to react, not whether the issue departs. We can't control our situations, but we ultimately choose whether or not we survive. 

I didn't need to beat cancer to be a survivor and neither do you.

What Gives?!

Through my experiences with various organizations over the years, I’ve found myself asking: Why do people give? What motivates people to donate their money, time, resources, etc? Is it because they have a personal connection to the cause? Or because the difference they’ve made with their contribution makes them feel fulfilled?  Obviously there are alternative, less genuine reasons to give, but let's not focus on those.

I’ve found that people give for a myriad of reasons, and don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for their generosity no matter what their intent! However, when the drive behind their actions is genuine, it’s not only effective on the task at hand, but it’s scope reaches far beyond the original cause. It inspires those involved to take action themselves, growing the goodness like... like a champagne fountain. (I'll explain later)

How can I make such a claim? I’ve experienced the phenomenon myself. Time and time again and most recently during the past month I’ve found myself surrounded by some of the most passionate people I’ve ever met. And the passion was, undoubtedly, contagious.

I headed north mid-November for what was supposed to be a quick trip to MN, but thanks to the “champagne effect” mentioned above, “quick” turned into “not so quick” and three weeks later, I finally returned to Orlando. With no complaints, of course :) 

I was invited north by my friend and firefighting hero, Jake Lafferiere (if you haven’t heard of his story, Google it now) to attend The Red Tie Gala, his organization’s premier annual event, The event hosted by Firefighters For Healing raises money to benefit adolescent burn survivors. Besides two minor burns involving mindless fire pit accidents in my teens, Jake, a burn survivor himself, was my only connection to the cause. However, it didn’t take but stepping my foot into the door to become deeply captivated. After witnessing the fierce passion and genuine drive of everyone in attendance, I was all-in.

“Take my money!”

The Red Tie Gala was a huge success which paid tribute to past and present members of the Fire Department and raised over $150,000 to support burn survivors and their families. Never have I been to an event in which so many in attendance were there for the right reason – the cause! I encourage everyone to check out the pics from the event as well as their mission on the website here – you’ll get it. I left feeling humbled, inspired, and motivated.

Days later, I was introduced to leaders the U of MN’s Foundation which supports the Masonic Children’s Hospital by dear friend and the ultimate human connector, Al Baker. As a result, I was invited to “Rudy’s Thanksgiving Celebration” hosted by Kyle Rudolph and a crew of his Vikings cronies at the Hospital the following day. (See pics and video via Vikings.com here)

The Masonic hospital is truly somethin’ else. Not an element was overlooked. The dark, sterile, concrete shoebox that I was set to have my bone marrow transplant in holds no comparison to the comfortable, elegant, and state of the art accommodations at the Masonic Hospital. Vaulted ceilings with floor to ceiling views of downtown along with freakishly modern technology were among its endless features.

Aside from five-star accommodations, the U of M Foundation has also gathered a great group of supporters, including the Minnesota Vikings and, specifically, tight end, Kyle Rudolph and his wife Jordan, who host multiple events throughout the year for patients and their families. It was pretty neat to see Kyle and co. give back to their community. The grins on the kiddos faces could be seen from across the Mississippi, and each of the purple giants hovering above them were kind, supportive, and grateful for the opportunity to make a difference. They were not asked to be there – they were there because they wanted to be. Their humbleness was impressive.

Two days later, Tiff and I were invited to attend the U of M Foundation’s Fashion Fest benefitting patient programing and other resources at the Hospital. I highly suggest attending in 2017. Food, fashion, fun, dreamy celebrity waiters, and Goldy Gopher in a gold sequin tuxedo – need I say more? This event gathered a great group of Minnesota’s finest, and led to support for my own cause the following week.

But before that, I made the trek west to Willmar, MN to speak at the fall WeLead meeting. The group's mission is "to empower all women to discover and maximize their unique talents one leader at a time".  I spoke about my journey and what it means to me to be a "survivor", and was humbled by the people (women AND men!) of all ages and backgrounds who came together to support each other and hear my story. I've always strived to make my community proud, and their support inspires me to work even harder. 

After "missing" my flight (a phenomenon that happens more often than not), next up was Thanksgiving, and yet another reason to be grateful and to GIVE. It’s one of the best holidays; no frills - just turkey, pie, and gratitude.

But the giving didn’t end there. After extending my trip, Tiff and I threw together a last-minute party to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. We gathered with about 100 guests with the intent to celebrate life and raise money and awareness for the BeTheMatch Organization* - a cause near and dear to me. Over 30 attendees enlisted themselves on the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry (sign up here!), and as a group we raised nearly $1,000 for the organization. As a result of attending Fashion Fest, Love Your Melon donated hats for purchase, and we received two fantastic silent auction items from our awesome friends including a limited-edition portrait of US Bank Stadium courtesy of Cory Merrifield and a 2016 team signed Vikings football from Kentrell Brothers. I'm so grateful for everyone's support! 

Unfortunately, the positive momentum took a turn for the worse the night of the celebration, when I learned the devastating news that close friend and fellow wakeboarder Ben Leclair had suffered a serious spinal cord injury while wakeboarding in Orlando. At the time, Ben had no sensation and was unable to move from he neck down. Having had another dear friend, Brad Smeele, paralyzed due to wakeboard injury just over a year ago, the news was a devastating blow to our sport and industry.

I returned back to Orlando just in time to attend a fundraiser for he and his family. Our small but powerful wakeboard community came together to raise a substantial amount of money to support his already compounding medical bills. Want to see a bunch of tough guy wakeboarders cry? FaceTime your injured comrade from the party and put it on the projector. You can’t put a price on friendship and the feeling we all felt hearing Ben’s voice for the first time since his accident.

Though his journey has just begun, I’m happy to announce Ben has made steady progress over the past two weeks moving his shoulders, feeling sensations below his neck, and was finally able to eat his first meal - banana crepes with chocolate sauce, of course. To donate to Ben and his family, please visit his Road2Recovery site

So what gives? Giving does. And in a world where many apparently “don’t give a ****”, it’s nice to know that some people do. And those that do, have likely found that when one gives, they’re not out anything. In fact, the more they give, the more they receive. It's like a giant, flowing champagne fountain - yeah that's right - continuously spilling out of one cup and filling another while never losing substance. Compassion is never ending and only increases when one is surrounded by others with good intent.

So it's time to pop bottles, people! Whether you can give time, money, or just your input, I encourage you to get involved - with ANY positive cause - and fill ‘er up for yourself. After all, who doesn't like champagne?

Thank you to all who add bubbles to my overflowing cup and allow me to do the same for others.  

SKOL

Alexa

PS. If anyone has additional questions about any of the causes listed above, please don't hesitate to reach out, as I would be more than happy to provide more info! 

SKOL

If you’ve found yourself reading this, you likely either follow or have stumbled across one of my social media outlets and thus seen the word “skol” a time or two amongst my posts. In that case, it's also likely that you've asked yourself, “What the hell does 'skol' mean?” and even likelier, "Who cares?!"

In anticipation of my Ten Year Cancerversary fast approaching on December 1st as well as the publishing of my first memoir in early 2017 and also in honor of one of the the only exciting Vikings seasons to take place in my lifetime (or so we thought), I’d like to fill you in on the expression’s meaning, and why I choose to use it at any and every given opportunity. 

If you're one of those fortunate enough to hail from the North Star State or are a rare out of state Vikings fan, you are probably familiar with the word, as it has lingered around the franchise for decades and gained popularity in recent years. Though it can be heard echoing throughout the mystifying air within the brand new US Bank Stadium downtown Minneapolis on any given Sunday, even many who are familiar with skol don’t know it’s true meaning. 

For me, it’s significance sinks much deeper than football. But before we get into that jazz, let’s discuss it’s formal definition.

The Google search for “skol meaning” produces the term’s modern day translation, which reads as follows:

An exclamation used to express friendly feelings toward one’s companion before drinking.

However, this is hardly it's definition. This watered down definition only scratches the surface of the word’s essence, so let’s dive into the history books and get to skol's roots.

The term is, indeed, authentically Viking. Between the 8th and 11th century AD, warrior groups known as “Vikings” could be found navigating about the seas and rivers of Northern Europe, wreaking havoc along the way, raiding and pillaging just about every village they came across. Throughout their conquests, these fiercely determined warriors sought to capture and kill the leader of each opposing group, after which they would eagerly decapitate his (or her) head. During the celebratory feast after battle, the Viking leader would drink out of his fallen opponent’s skull, then spelled “skoll” as a sign of victory but also respect. 

From this tradition, the expression “SKOLL!” was born and regularly cried out by Viking warriors before and during battle. It was exclaimed in an effort to rally one’s fellow brothers and as a reminder of the goal: to fight ferociously as a tribe, take no prisoners, and, ultimately, win. To put simply, the definition of "skol" is to kick ass and take names. Hence, it’s adoption by the Minnesota Vikings as the football team’s official battle cry. 

Like I said, the saying holds more weight than a simple “cheers”. 

My affinity for the term began years ago and as my love affair with the word has progressed, it's become something very personal to me. But as aforementioned, for me the significance of the word goes far beyond sport. 

Keep in mind: I take myself and “life” only partially seriously at all times, including those topics which are inherently serious in nature, however, there are some things that you just feel in your bones. 

For the past ten years I have been living with a potentially deadly form of cancer, known as Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Though many are unaware, there was a period of time shortly after diagnosis when I was ill….very ill (chronicled in my soon-to-be published memoir). There were multiple occasions on which I was forced to consider the potential of defeat...the potential of "failure" (aka death), but even during the darkest of times such as those, there was a power inside of me, an indescribably force, that refused to give up. Perhaps its best described as the “will to live”.

Throughout my writing endeavors, I have spent countless hours trying to justly describe this phenomenon; the intangible force that drives one to “hang on” when they’ve gone lower than they ever knew possible. It is like a fire living in an unidentifiable place deep inside of us that burns and refuses to go out, even when life’s challenges have dwindled it down to the smallest flame.

But as the Vikings knew best, it only takes one spark to burn down an entire village. 

I continue to find myself revisiting the word “skol" as a way to describe the the blazing fire within. For me, it is, indeed, a battle cry and a verbal symbol of the drive to fight, and, thus, the drive to live. It's a reminder to kick ass, to never give up, and to battle 'til the bloody end. 

December 1st, 2016 will signify ten years since my cancer diagnosis. This day holds great importance to me for obvious reasons, as living for ten years with a deadly form of cancer is a significant feat, but the ten year mark, specifically, holds additional value in my situation.

At age 16 I was much younger than the average diagnosee of CML (like 50 years younger), which is why at my first appointment following diagnosis, my doctor looked my sixteen year old self and said, 

“The average CML patient is 65. Our goal is to keep them alive for 10 years. We’d like you to live longer than that.” 

I agreed. 

I am beyond grateful and so proud to report that as of December 1st, we will have met our goal. Though making it here hasn't been easy. 

Although I have been able to accomplish many great things in the past ten years, including graduating high school early with highest honors, being an all-state high school gymnast, getting a bachelor's degree in Finance, becoming a sponsored wakeboarder and competing on the pro wakeboard tour, representing brands across the globe, including LifeProof, Liquid Force, and Hard Rock Cafe, appearing on TV, in magazines, and in movies, raising over $50,000 dollars for various charity organizations, having a successful career in commercial real estate, and as of October, finishing writing my first book, I have done so all the while fighting an endless battle. 

Unbeknownst to many (mainly because I prefer not to display it) is the war that I continue to fight every single day with my disease. In addition to life’s daily struggles, I battle the affects of my disease and the oral chemotherapy which I ingest every day at noon. Three hundred and sixty five days a year, I wake up tired and suffer from increased fatigue throughout the day. I deal with bone pain, stomach issues, bloating, and nausea from my medication, and every time I look in the mirror am reminded of my disease at the sight of my swollen, puffy eyes. But in addition to these struggles, each day, I’m also presented with two options: give in or fight. I can either give up or I can skol. 

I prefer the latter. 

So perhaps it’s due to my Scandinavian origins and the closeness I feel with Leif Ericsson or simply because I take pride in adorning myself in purple on Sundays, but either way, SKOL has and will always have a special meaning in my heart. Though it can be yelled, chanted, or screamed, skol must ultimately be felt. It’s an inner strength and the will to not only proceed, but to excel (and to have a little fun in the process). To not just put one foot in front of the other but to kick ass and win. 

Because in the battle of life, there is no room for prevent defense. You don’t fight because you’re scared to lose. You fight you fight because you want to win. 

If I had it my way, for my Ten Year Cancerversary on December 1st I would be blowing that Vikings horn at US Bank Stadium, rallying the troops for battle, and instigating all things skol. However, wherever I end up, I will most definitely be amongst friends and family - the reasons I fight in the first place - living, loving, and, undoubtedly, skol-ing.    

No matter what unfolds this football season or the next, I will always have a Viking heart, and no matter what happens with my health, I will continue to battle. I will continue to fight to live and continue to drink from the proverbial skull of life. I will always skol. 

SKOL.

a.score

North! To Alaska!

Here's a bit of advice: Anytime you get the chance to go to Alaska, you take it! And that’s exactly what happened two weeks ago when I was sitting on the dock fishing for sunnies in Spicer, MN, and got a call from a friend saying there may be an opportunity for me to go to Alaska….in eight days. Despite the short notice, I didn’t hesitate to rearrange my schedule to make it work, including driving 600 miles roundtrip to Lincoln, Nebraska the next day to film with Mike Smith Live for The Harbor (which I was scheduled to shoot during the days I would be in Alaska). You just plain make it work when offered to go to "The Last Frontier". Having been there previously, I can whole heartedly say it is a place of indescribably beauty, but as you've probably gathered, I’m going to attempt describing it anyhow.

Mike n I filming for The Harbor

After Lincoln, I flew back to Orlando for three days to shoot a feature with Fluid Magazine and to gather my warmest wetsuits, clothes, and winter gear. Then just a week after the initial call, I made the 16 hour trek across the continent to Alaska (Orlando -> Houston -> Anchorage -> Homer).

 

When I arrived in Homer and catching a rare glimpse of a bull moose near town, I still wasn’t exactly sure just what the heck I was doing there - the project was and is still relatively secret, and I can't disclose the details, but I knew that I had to be in the harbor at 4pm on Tuesday to get on a boat which would journey into the Alaskan wilderness and not return for five days.

Since I got in on Sunday night and had nearly 48 hours before I had to be to the boat, I took it upon myself to make the most of it and my friends, Steph and Forrest Greer, graciously let me stay at their home, which conveniently sits upon the chill overlooking the Kachemak bay and the Growing glacier - one helluva coffee drinking view! On Monday, Steph and I built and installed a sign for her new business, Beryl Air, which we were and are still very proud of, and consequently rewarded ourselves with a little joyride at 10,000 feet. Steph piloted us out of the Homer Seaplane Base and we journeyed over the Kachemac bay, the Kenai peninsula, the Harding Ice Field, admiring all sorts of wildlife, terrain, and multiple glaciers from the air.

 

 

Beryl Air's offerings include: flight tours, walrus viewing, and float plane pizza delivery...need I say more? Oh, and the most badass pilot on the planet!

That night we played a little league softball, with a glacier view, of course, and then celebrated the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, which is REALLY long in Alaska, with a good ‘ol fashioned bonfire. There is never a dull moment with the locals.

 

Any excuse to party...

The next day, I found myself aboard the Milo, a fishing boat turned Alaskan surf exploration vessel, and met the captain, two deckhands, and the rest of the crew. I unloaded my gear into the lower deck and scoped out my new temporary digs - I had the pleasure of staying in “Igloo #1”, a bunk in a very small hole, and found the boat’s single toilet to be pleasantly tolerable. We spent some time in the harbor getting things arranged before heading out of Kachemak Bay and off to sea, spotting a few rambunctious whales along the way.

Here’s where I need to make a long story short (because I could easily get carried away, but also because I can’t divulge specifics about the project). We spent the entire first days aboard the Milo venturing deep into the wilderness. The seas were relatively calm and we (the captain, two deckhands, and I) made it a point to conveniently make stops every time we ran across a hot fishing spot. I applied my bass fishing skills to the Gulf of Alaska and caught a few rockfish, filleted them on a surf board, and killed the never ending evening sunlight cooking and enjoying fresh fish tacos while getting to know the seven others onboard.

After twenty hours and a couple of “hang ups” (sorry...vague again), we finally made it to our destination where we anchored and stayed for three nights. What transpired in the following days was certainly nothing that I had ever imaged experiencing, and I along with the other two "deckhands" were lucky enough to be a part of something that no one had ever really captured before.

Glacier #1

Glacier #2

Spirits were high on the journey home, and all aboard got a good chuckle when I out-fished the captain and two deckhands (three experienced Alaskans) when we stopped at a halibut hotspot. The long journey came to an end late Saturday evening, and we ended the night with a good old fashioned bluegrass ho-down at one of Homer’s local establishments, a true gem as one might suspect. It seemed as if the entire town came out to celebrate our return, even though they didn’t know it.

The Crew!

The trip was extraordinary to say the least, and for me the entire project really captured the the spirit of Alaska. When we set out, we knew what we were trying to accomplish had fairly low odds of success, but despite the uncertainty and unlikelihood of it coming together, we went anyways and decided to make the most of the adventure. We were pioneers, who set out to do something that had really never been done - something we weren't sure was really even possible, but we were going to do everything in our power to make it work despite the countless variables that could have gone wrong; that is the Alaskan way, after all - exploring the unknown and making the best of it no matter what happens.

Twenty hours at sea both ways, learning to fillet rockfish, going eight hours out of our way to find out the location was a dud, spending nights in lush, unnamed coves surrounded by waterfalls, spending five days and nights in the same pair of sweatpants, rainboots, and beanie, going days without a shower, almost capsizing the skiff, freezing our asses off in 34 degree water, drinking endless cups of tea, beer, and glacier ice cocktails, seeing sea otters, whales, and seals, feeling like a helpless speck and completely at the mercy of a one billion year old glacier, going to bed with the sun at midnight and rising with it at 4am to do it all again each day, being disconnected from any sort of media and/or electronics and having to interact with each other, tell stories, and make up games to pass the time, and most importantly, enjoying, appreciating, and never underestimating the potential of our surroundings every nautical mile and moment of the journey.

 

In the end, whether the stars aligned or not didn't determine our success, as the trip itself was the real adventure, and what was most special to me was that being that far into the wilderness, completely disconnected from the modern world, at the mercy of mother nature, and stuck with seven strangers on a big hunk of metal floating in the ocean, there were no distractions to keep one from remembering what was important - makeup, social media, money, materials - none of it mattered. We were but microscopic creatures amidst the vastness of the sea, but the adventure was larger than life.

Like the unknown adventure that is my life, we were in the wild, adventuring into the unknown but filled with determination and life. We were pioneers in the Last Frontier. We were Alaskans.

1999

Another trip around the sun and another year under my belt. I know this blog may have been a little quiet in the past months, but I have been spending my time and efforts on another exciting writing project...details coming soon. With that said, having just celebrated a birthday, I figured I’d throw some raw, unedited thoughts out there – I am older and wiser now, after all.

As it turns out, I’ve just crossed the quarter-life threshold and entered the terrifying territory known as my “late twenties”. It’s the time when many people stop wishing years would pass, eagerly anticipating “what’s to come” and start wishing father time would slam on the breaks and slow the heck down. People begin to resent getting older.  

That’s something I’ll never fully understand – why people allow themselves to hate the aging process. I understand why people feel like they should be embarrassed of their age – the pressure from society will always be there -  but I can’t believe they actually waste their time doing it. Getting older is something that happens to everyone - everyone. Every single one of us is getting older, all day everyday, and not only is it natural, but it’s one of the only things in life that NO ONE can escape – money, nor fame or fortune can stop the ticking of time. 

So why are we so scared to get older? 

There are many reasons, I suppose. One of them being the fear of death. Knowing there is a set limit on each of our clocks and having little no control over it can, indeed, be a scary thought. But even scarier than death for many, are the affects that age have on physical beauty – fine lines, wrinkles, grey hair, etc. No, NOT THAT! Regardless, both issues are inevitable, and as far as I’m concerned, worrying about them is a waste of time itself (and may add a few grey hairs, too).

I look at another year as an accomplishment; like a “Holy shit, I did it again!” type event. Each time April 28th rolls around it feels as though I’ve outsmarted the system and allowed myself to enjoy yet another 365 days of life, love, and adventure that could have easily not happened. To be honest, it feels a little like stealin’.

Of course, I too feel the pressures from pop culture, and that pressure isn't going anywhere. Our society does and will continue to encourage each one of us to feel unsure of ourselves and offer a constant reminder that we are, indeed, not perfect. I don’t care how many “love yourself” campaigns Dove runs, there’s no changing that. But like all things in life, we each have a choice: we can accept the abuse or simply disregard it.  

When you look into the mirror, you have a choice: you can either see the effects of time as a sign of lost beauty and missed opportunity, or, you can see it as a gift and an opportunity to spend time with loved ones, follow your dreams, and make memories. It's up to you; beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.

So instead of being afraid of aging, be proud that you got here. Embrace your age, the knowledge you’ve gained, and the battles you’ve fought to get you into the now...not to mention all of the beautiful memories you’ve had the pleasure of gaining along the way. 

We all have limited time here on earth, it’s true, and though some may be able to escape the visual effects of aging, we’re all on our way out. Prince said it best: 

Life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.” 

Like the Little Purple Man’s, someday each one of our parties will wind down and come to an end. But fortunately for me and those of you reading this, our's are still rocking and are hopefully far from over. 

So congratulations for making it this far! Give yourself a pat on the back and your scars a kiss. Don’t be afraid to smell the roses, love your wrinkles, and enjoy the party while you’re here. Instead of wasting time worrying about when it will end, focus on making sure your music will play on long after the party is over. 

Now get out there and party like it’s 1999! 

A.Score

American Dreams


Another Fourth, another plethora of memories made. Though each year the celebration unfolds a bit differently, for those able to spend it in the special town of Spicer, Minnesota, the end result is always the same - leaving those who were there to experience it with gratitude, pride, and a raging case of post-Fourth depression. 

The stories that unfolded this year are no less exciting than any year past, and of course worth sharing, but instead of diving right in, I’d like to share a story with you that I feel should be told first, and something that has everything to do with patriotism and community - the entire purpose of this post.

Let’s be honest, we wouldn’t have even have the opportunity to celebrate America's birthday, not to mention have America at all if it weren’t for the patriots willing to protect it. So many special people have risked it all to serve this nation, and one in particular has been on my mind a lot lately....

U.S. Army Pfc. Ryane Clark, a 22 year old NL-S graduate, was killed in action while on duty in Afghanistan on October 4, 2010. Ryane died fighting to protect our freedoms including: our right to free speech, to worship the religion of our choice, and the option to make a life for ourselves as we so choose. Let's also not forget the freedom to dance in the street, watch football on Sundays, and freedom to celebrate, splash, and hoot and holler at Lone Tree under the Minnesota sun come early July. Not only did Ryane lose his life protecting what makes this country great, but he lost it at age 22 - five years ago. Everyone reading this has has been able to celebrate at five more birthdays, five more Fourth of July parades, and acquired hundreds of beautiful memories made since his untimely death. It’s simply unfair.

But there is so much more than his bravery and patriotism that has earned Ryane the right to be recognized as a hero.

In April of 1999, Ryane’s classmate and fellow ten year-old, Cody Berg, was hit and killed while trying to cross the road riding his bicycle along the MN State Glacial Ridge Trail. In the spot where he was trying to cross there is no parking lot or designated area for trail users to park, load, unload, and/or stop to safely cross the street.

Cody’s death was unnecessary, and Ryane knew that. 

Still frustrated by the unfairness of his friend’s death, in 2003, fifteen year old Ryane decided to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. He was determined to take action - something few fifteen year olds (or adults) have the ambition or maturity to do. His idea was to have a parking lot paved next the trail so people could safely park, enter, and exit the trail, as well as cross the street. He took on the seemingly simple task as an Eagle Scout project and wished to have it completed by his 16th birthday (how’s that for a “Sweet Sixteen”?). Ryane was immediately faced with opposition and quickly realized his dream was going to take more time than he had originally thought. In the following years, Ryane persisted in trying to work with the DNR and state legislation to get the project completed. Even while overseas seven years later, Ryane was continuously in contact with family and officials at home, working tirelessly to get it done. 

But he was never able to see his dream come true. Ryane was killed in action before the project was approved.

It wasn’t until 2014 that the project was finally passed and set to be completed. The paving of the lot is supposed to commence later this summer, and project dedication is scheduled for September 27th of this year...IF they can raise enough money.

In addition to the paved lot, the hope is to create a small (and well-deserved) memorial for Ryane at the site. Customizable brick pavers are being sold to raise money for the task. Though he would have been too humble to accept it, Ryane is more than deserving of the memorial, and to be honest, I can't think of anyone more deserving of a donation. The LEAST we can all do is help ensure this project and the memorial are completed, and thus, ensure Ryane's dream is seen through. I challenge all of you to join me in purchasing a paver (or two or three) to show our respect and admiration for this community hero. (purchase HERE) Throw in with friends or family or buy one or two or three on your own. For me, I know it's the least I can do to show my respect. 

But this isn’t just about my community - Ryane was an admirable member of society and should be recognized as a hero, just as those making similar contributions in other communities around the world should be. It’s these soft spoken heroins who oftentimes don’t make the headlines, don't "go viral" on the internet, and aren't mentioned by news stations for their actions because they require no praise, yet continue to fight for what is right and work to protect and care for the people around them. Not because they have to, but because they want to.

Ryane is a hero and should be recognized as one. 

Thank you, Ryane, for being a leader, for being a patriot, and for being a role model not only for youth, but adults and elders alike. Thank you for simply being a good human, caring for those around you, and taking the initiative to fight for what you believe in. 

He gave us the chance to live the American Dream. The least we can do is support his.

"America is a tune. It must be sung together."*

Let's sing together. And let's sing for those who can't.


a.score


*Gerald Stanley Lee, Crowds

The ClusterFrance


Soooooo it's been a while....but I think everyone deserves an explanation for the situation that has become known as “The Great ClusterFrance of 2015”. (it was slim pickin's for photos - Bob's iPhone was stolen and not backed up...and THEN he accidentally cleared the memory card in his camera with all of the photos from our trip...) Anyhow, please enjoy the following words and sub-par iPhone photos describing our Euro escapade:  

In early May, I hopped on a plane in Orlando and was headed due east over the pond for (what was supposed to be) a month long adventure in France...

The ClusterFrance
The first week overseas was spent in the Southeastern French town of Montpellier for FISE, a massive action sports festival. Over 500,000 people come out to watch BMX, Wake, Skate, and Rollerblading…yes, rollerblading. To say it’s a gongshow is an understatement. I ended up 4th among the Pro Women but spent much less time actually at the festival than exploring Montpellier and the surrounding Mediterranean area. That first week consisted of exploration, endless croissants, cheese, standoffish wait service, and wine...lots of wine.   

France in particular is neat, but I have a deep admiration for anything rich with history and historical significance. And Europe is just that.

Public bikes in Montpellier - We're confident we hold the record for kilometers ridden in 24 hours
Bicycle adventure to the Mediterranean
After finals on the last of five days at FISE, I did a riding demo for GoPro and ended up booting off of the kicker and coming down with my left leg completely straight, severely hyperextending my knee. There was no twist or torque when I landed, so I was confident I hadn’t blown my ACL or anything too major, but given the severity of the pain and swelling, I knew something was wrong. Though trying to stay optimistic, I saw my entire France adventure flash before my eyes and spent the rest of the day pouting in my room and icing my leg. Erg.

FISE !
The purpose of my trip was to spend three weeks following FISE RV-ing around France and Spain, riding at dozens of cableparks with my babe friend Dom Granger for the Unleashed Wakeboard Magazine “Road to Ropes” tour. Two chicks on an epic Eurotrip wake adventure – it seemed too good to be true...  Since I knew I wouldn’t be able to ride for at least a week and was contemplating even flying back to the states to get my knee looked at, I decided to take a few days to explore more of France on my own, rest my leg, and see if my knee felt good enough to join Dom. 

So, Bob and I rented a car and headed Biarritz, a small coastal town on the Atlantic coast of the South of France. After a pit stop in Bordeaux (for.... a glass of Bordeaux, of course!) we made it to Biarritz, and spent Tuesday and Wednesday exploring, EATING, and, you guessed it, drinking wine. I wrote, felt sorry for myself because of my fun-inhibiting knee injury, and took photos while Bob surfed. Biarritz is a very neat little medieval feeling beach town, and despite being 40 degrees and windy half of the year, is littered with world-class surf spots.

Bordeaux - crepes, cheese, and...well...Bordeaux!

Biarritz
On Wednesday Bob drug me (I am stubborn) to a French ER to get my knee looked at. Surprisingly, the service was quick and the staff were incredibly friendly (they tend to like it when you’re paying CASH). In between some serious NBA talk with the 6ft 5in French doctor, we managed to take a few x-rays which looked pretty good, but based on the amount of fluid in my knee, they assumed there had been tendon damage in addition to a severe bone bruise. Being that I wasn’t willing to pay out of pocket for an MRI at that time, I decided since I was already in France, I might as well join up with Dom on Friday as planned and continue exploring France and meeting new people… even if I couldn’t wakeboard.


Recognize me?
Thursday was our last day in Biarritz - Friday Bob was supposed to fly back to the states and I was going to be picked up by Dom in the RV to travel with her for the rest of my trip. Being our last day in the region, we decided to head up to Hossegor Beach, home of multiple famous surf breaks and one of the Surfing Pro Tour stops. After multiple surf checks, Bob decided to paddle out with a group of friendly strangers. Because I was hurt, I chose to take photos instead of surfing or writing, so I left my purse and backpack in the car. (Note: I always keep my things split up when traveling: Credit cards, cash, and medication - half stays in the room in my backpack or suitcase and half comes with in my purse. I also keep my passport hidden in the room. That morning I moved my passport into my backpack, and for some reason, I brought my purse and my backpack with me in the car…not considering the fact that in doing so, I had brought every form of ID, credit card, most of my cash, and all of my medication with me in the car, which I’d not done once the entire trip.)  

Moving on...

It was definitely the most beautiful day we’d had since arriving to Biarritz, and the beach was quiet and beautiful. After about an hour by the ocean, Bob surfing, I shooting photos, we decided we’d head back to Biarritz to relax for the rest of the afternoon before we had to leave the following morning. Upon returning to the car I immediately realized everything was gone and collapsed to the ground - my purse with my new macbook (yes, the one I wrote about previously), credit cards, cash, planner, and medication, as well as my backpack with my new wetsuit, two GoPros, my journal, my passport, and some other clothes. Bob’s pants were also gone with his credit cards, ID, and iPhone. With literally no cash, no ID, and Bob without pants, we frantically looked for a police station for over an hour. After difficult communications with some locals, we found a “Poste de Police”. While waiting to speak with an officer, we met three other groups who had also been robbed – all surfers, who’d been at different surf breaks along the beach road, each having their cars robbed while in the water. These vandals stopped at every beach break for a stretch of 50 miles, wiping out each parking lot they came by. 

Despite the stressful situation, the strangers were incredible friendly and sympathetic. The police were also very helpful despite the language barrier. This was only the beginning of the hundreds of helpful, caring people we would encounter in the next 24 hours. We got our police report (in French) and were on our way. Driving back to the hotel in Biarritz we literally had NO MONEY, so at every toll we had to get out of the car and ask the car behind us for money - quite humbling. Though devastated, violated, and out $3,000, I was calmed by the fact that I still had time to get to an embassy at some point before my flight home and get a new passport. “I have emergency medication in my suitcase,” I told my sister as that was the first thing she asked when I called to explain what had happened. And then panic set in when I realized I had moved my emergency medication to my backpack just hours before being robbed. It was all gone. 

To be clear, I won’t die if I don’t take my medication every day. It wasn’t a matter of me dying on the spot in France if I didn’t get it. Here’s the concern – I can go about 48 hours without taking my meds, and I will likely be fine. Anything beyond 3 days becomes a dangerous situation because anytime you take too low of a dose or miss a dose, it gives the Leukemia a chance to replicate and also become resistant to the medication. Even missing one dose a month has an affect on my counts when I have tests done. 

I had two options – stay in Biarritz and try to get this rare, very expensive ($$$$$$$) medication within two days – which was very unlikely. OR head straight to Paris for an emergency passport and fly straight home. It was Thursday evening; Paris was a 7-hour drive, and the embassy was only open for emergency passports from 8am-10am on Friday. They would not be open again until the following Tuesday as it was a holiday weekend, by which time it would be too late for me to get my meds. Every timing variable that could have went wrong at this point, did. So after weighing the options as thoroughly as possible and getting advice from many many people via Facebook and social media, Bob and I made the decision to get in the car and head straight for Paris. Luckily I had $200 cash left in the room, so we'd be able to afford gas for the journey. As the doors closed at the currency exchange in Biarritz, I traded in my last Dollars for Euros and we headed for Paris with 167 Euros. 

On the way out of Biarritz, we parked the car and watched the sunset on the coast. We were parked next to two gentlemen, a.k.a. French Hippies, also enjoying the sunset and some “extra curricular activities” in their van. They came out to chat and we briefly told them what happened. We exchanged laughs and before leaving one of them said to us, “Hey man, they can take your things, but they can’t take the good times!”

He's right. 

Hossegor - shooting photos whilst getting robbed...could be worse?
THE GOOD TIMES
The Road To Paris 
Bob called Delta and pushed his flight back a few hours, and we drove through the night to the capital city. We peeled straight into the US embassy at 8:30am and Bob dropped me off - unshowered, no makeup, smelly, and blood shot from pulling an all-nighter. The only form of ID I had was an x-ray of my knee from the day before. Entering through metal detector on the way into the embassy, one guard said with a wink, “Get a good look at her knee when she goes through”. We all had a good laugh. Though they see stolen passports often, the embassy officials let me know this was a first for them - a girl with nothing but an x-ray with her name misspelled and no money to pay for her new passport.

Though the process took 5 hours, the people working at the embassy (picture a DMV on steroids) were very kind and made the experience about as pleasant as possible - like very bizarrely helpful and understanding (I guess it helps when you don’t even have a speeding ticket on your record). 

Around noon I walked out of Embassy, exhilarated, with a new emergency passport and a grin from ear to ear. A nice French guard approached me and said “Are you Alexa? Your friend has been waiting for you.” Not having a phone, and no means to communicate with me for the previous five hours, Bob had been driving laps around the embassy in the middle of the busiest intersection in Europe. He eventually found a parking ramp a mile away, spent our remaining $14 Euros on parking, made friends with the guards, and slept in the lawn in front of the U.S. Embassy. Where were the MTV cameras now?! (haha)


After getting my phone back (which you’re not allowed to take into the embassy with you) I turned it on and just as I hopped in the car, received a message that read:

“Ive found all your stuffs medicines and ID” with a name and a phone number.   

Quoi?! 
Delusional from lack of sleep, I thought my brain might explode. I called the number and in broken English the person on the other end said:

“I know, it sound strange, but I found your things (minus the cash and electronics) in a trash pile at the beach in Hossegor. I look you up on Facebook and see people very concerned so I find your email. I see you are in trouble, how can I get you your medication?”

Confused, skeptical, but hopeful, I told him that there was no way for me to get back to Hossegor but my friend Dom was actually driving through Hossegor THAT EVENING. Dom, who speaks French, called the stranger to confirm location, and with zero hesitation, agreed to meet him and pick up my things. Trains and flights to the south were limited, and I didn’t want to risk the chance of traveling that far not knowing if what I needed was actually in my bags. So, I made the decision to stay the night Paris (insert "One Night in Paris" joke here), and fly to the US the following morning. It was a hard decision, going home not even halfway through my adventure, but I thought it was the right and responsible thing to do.



 
Unplanned, yet convenient, sunrise sightseeing on the way to the Embassy
Paris in the Springtime 
That evening I found out two of my friends were also in Paris for the night and was able to meet them (and celebrate their day old engagement). Having no money, they treated me to dinner and brought me to the Eiffel Tower for a quick glass of wine. It was stunning. Having not slept for 50 hours, I was delirious, gross, tired, bummed, and in pain, my knee the size of a basketball…but the sight of the Eiffel Tower, lit up in the Paris sky, was a perfect ending to an imperfect trip. At this moment, the structure's stunning beauty, seen internationally as a symbol of love, travel and France, was now more than that - to me it was a symbol of life, love, and friendship.

Through our debacle hundreds of people, friends and strangers, of all nationalities, colors, and shapes, speaking multiple languages reached out to help. People in the US contacted friends overseas, overseas people contacted relatives who might be able to help, people sent links with information, phone numbers, addressees, and countless resources. And NONE of them went unnoticed or unappreciated. Every time I look back to think about it, I cannot help but become emotional. To feel cared for, to see people work together despite different backgrounds, and for people to put materialistic issues behind them and truly care about each other is the essence of life. People are always in search of meaning and purpose… THIS is the purpose. To love and be loved. If we all put the insignificant crap behind us - the problems we’ve created and put on ourselves - and simply focus on each other and eachother's well being, what a world this would be. (And what fun we could have!) 

Short and Sweet 
There’s no way I can ever thank everyone enough for their assistance and concern, but we appreciate it and can only try to pay it forward at every opportunity. Though we're out substantial money, the compassion and love we witnessed was worth the loss tenfold. Thank you for making my France trip more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. 

Postword 
I arrived back in Orlando late on the 23rd. My baggage had been lost in transit (no biggie at this point), so I arrived back in the states carrying only an x-ray, three euros, and chapstick. When Tiff pulled up to the airport, I was standing on the curb in my pajamas with no baggage but one plastic baggie looking like a total lunatic – we laughed. I was happy to see her. 

Though I returned with literally no possessions, I brought back friendship, life lessons, new knowledge, and a reinforced pride for being an American. As American citizens, we have SO many privileges, conveniences, and freedoms that are way too easy to take for granted. I try to remind myself everyday how lucky I am, but when you’re in a serious bind thousands of miles fro home and the stars and stripes get you back to freedom safely in a heartbeat, you can’t help but be filled with gratitude. I took my medication the moment I got home - not sure if anyone has ever been so excited to take chemotherapy pills.

My belongings that were recovered on the beach were delivered to my house in Florida a few weeks later with everything accounted for except my cash, Macbook, GoPros, headlamp and Bob’s iPhone. HOWEVER, for those of you dying to know: Bob’s pants were recovered (bittersweet for a pants hater like me). 

My laptop, mentioned in a previous post, was the replacement for the new laptop I bought in December and spilled coffee on. I insured this new one when I bought it in January. Sadly, the insurance does not cover international theft. Hah.

The Beautiful Dom Granger with my recovered belongings!
Some other good info/helpful resources to note:

·      While chatting with the luggage assistant at the Orlando airport who was trying to locate my lost bags, I explained to her what happened and why I had to get on an earlier flight. She then said, “Oh dear, next time call Delta. We would have flown your medication to you from the US overnight. In emergency situations, we can move heaven and earth.” Apparently so long as it is a legitimate emergency, Delta can transport items (documents, medication, etc.) overnight, overseas, wherever, so long as it weighs under 1lb.

·      Keep all valuables (cash, ID) split up while you travel, and hide your things. Sometimes you still get burned but it's worth a shot.


·      If you’re in trouble overseas, contact your nearest American Embassy or Embassy consulate whom will advise and assist you – those of us from American are VERY VERY lucky. Please know and appreciate the resources being an American citizen offers you.

·      And lastly, though bad thing happen to good people even when you take precautions, please don’t lose faith in humanity. There are bad people everywhere. But for every bad person, there are hundreds, I’d like to think thousands, of good people who care.

·      Keep the faith and keep livin’!  

Just enjoying the ride,
a.score









Life, Love, Friendship.

Bali Blog 2: Awareness


Over the past year I've done a fair bit of writing. Below is an excerpt from a larger project I've been working on. It's roughly edited, and I shortened it up quite a bit to make it blog-friendly. Hoping the idea still makes its way through the fragments...

Awareness






Each morning, after a sunrise surf, I would head down to the common area and up the stairs to the yoga loft above the “lobby”. It was a small, open-air studio, just close enough to the beach to be filled with echoes of ocean waves and just far enough away that the surfers wouldn’t’ be distracted by watching the surf. Most mornings, the only people in the loft were the young woman yogi named Nicole, pro Brazilian skateboarder Gunther Barros, and myself. The intimate setting made for an awesome practice.
One morning we took some time at the beginning of class to work on meditation. We began by clearing our minds and rinsing them of any thoughts, good or bad. The point of the art is to think about nothing – easier said that done for most. I’d spent some time practicing mediation prior this trip, at the occasional yoga class and on my own, so I was decent at it. We were a few minutes into the meditation, and I was just becoming deeply focused (on nothing), when the lawn maintenance crew began ripping around the landscaping just outside the loft. Based on the noise level, they may have had every electric lawn tool on the island of Bali. Though I was a novice, I knew this was just another obstacle to reaching full focus, and so I did my best to tune out the lawn crew.

The dawn patrol lawn patrol was on its second lap around the shrubbery when Gunther broke the silence in the loft and in broken English asked Nicole, “Can you tell them to stop??!” I noticed her chuckle to herself just slightly slightly, before standing up, walking out to the balcony, and asking the maintenance men to stop…or at least delay their noisy activities 30 minutes. Ironically they were so loud that they couldn’t hear the yogi's request. After a mediocre effort, and being less than upset when they didn’t fulfill her wishes, she stepped back into the room. 
I understood immediately why she lacked disappointment. We were practicing meditation. The goal is to be able to enter a depth of focus to the point that you are able to block out all external diversions and eventually be unaffected by them. With that said, you can be aware of the things taking place in your external environment, but after becoming aware, you have the choice whether or not to engage in them. The current situation was the perfect display of that challenge. Your external environments does not need to be in a state of perfect calm for your internal to be - heck, you could meditate at Monster Jam! Nor does your internal need to begin in a calm state; the idea is to get it there. The practice is about sifting through thoughts and throwing them all to the wayside for a period of time.
On this morning we were being challenged, perhaps to the point that would be difficult for a rookie meditator to overcome, but the challenge was to concentrate completely on our internal selves without being distracted by the weed whacker roaring just feet below us. Being aware of the disturbance outside was okay; it was deciding whether or not we were going to let it bother us that was the challenge.

Awareness as it applies to negativity
Oftentimes, people striving to better themselves put themselves down for having negative thoughts. Regardless of what it's about, they believe that once the thought comes to mind, they’ve failed. “I’m a bad person for having these thoughts.” If this were the case, we’d be living on a planet where 99% of the population was doomed. Truth is, though we should do our best to think positively, IT’S OKAY to have negative thoughts, and if you wait around until the day when you don’t have them, you’ll most likely think you're a crummy person your entire life. What is important is what you do with the thought after it's come to you. 
We all have the conscious choice to engage or not to engage in any particular thought. You can either let it go immediately, in one ear and our the next, or choose to engage and allow the thought to grow. Being lured into a negative thought allows this snowflake to hit the ground, begin to roll, and as you become more and more focused, it builds momentum. Growing rapidly in size, the tiny snowflake is now a giant snowball bound to crash at the bottom of the hill. Engaging negative thoughts carries you farther and farther away from where you started, your original mindset, until you’ve lost sight of the breadcrumbs and can’t remember the way home. This is not only harmful, but a waste of time. You can be disappointed in yourself for engaging in a negative thought but realize that next time you can decide not to feed it and get swept down the hill. Simply notice the snowflake and let it drift away in the breeze.
          
Awareness as it applies to productivity
In addition to wanting to alleviate stress and increase positivity, I practice awareness because negativity it is a time waster. Being slightly obsessed with productivity, finding myself chasing my tail around in circles is my worst fear.

Simple example: In my last semester of college, being eager to finish and perhaps having some tendencies to overachieve, I bit off more than I could chew, taking five upper level classes at the same time. I could NOT stop dwelling on the thought of not succeeding in getting good grades. I was so nervous, even having a GPA of 3.8 at the time. I actually believed there was a chance I was going to fail the most difficult of my courses. Unable to slow the constant flow of anxiety, one day I considered the amount of energy I was expending on the idea of not succeeding. I was burning incredible amounts of perfectly good energy on the idea that I wasn’t going to have enough time or energy to do well. A truly contradictory thought when I actually stopped to think about it. I became aware of the situation and realized that the stress wasn’t helping me in any way; it was actually wasting precious time and energy. Then I decided that instead of burning one calorie, or whatever unit brainpower is measured in, on worrying, I’d instead save all of my energy to actually do the coursework. And it worked. I shut my brain up and got to work. I got a 4.0 that semester.
All philosophical blabber aside, engaging in negative thoughts is bad for you, and, like a dog chasing it’s tail in a circle, isn’t going to get you anywhere. Regardless of how enticing the red apple of negativity is, following it will never lead you to happiness or any resolution for the short- or long-term. If it regards to an anxiety based thought, and you want to completely stop having it in the first place, you must DO something about it. There is absolutely nothing helpful or productive about dwelling on anything, whether it's something you can or cannot do something about. If there’s something you can do: do it; if there’s not, let it go.
Negativity Be Ware!
Awareness is something I practiced long before ever stepping into a yoga studio or learning about meditation. And until the Bali lawn maintenance crew showed up that morning, I’d never seen it depicted in a situation involving others. It’s a helpful tool that can be applied in many ways and areas of your life, including anger, fear, loss, frustration, or just time management. For me, it’s been a helpful tool throughout my cancer journey and other various anxieties I’ve dealt with throughout my life. With that said, it is not easy, and like any skill, takes practice. It’s important not to get frustrated if (and when) you can’t master it immediately. Your brain is a muscle and your thoughts are habitual – you must train your brain and kick your bad habits. With practice, it will become easier and easier, and eventually become routine. 
Difficult experiences are not fun, but each one is an opportunity for us to practice awareness. Life doesn’t get easier, but you can get stronger.


So be aware of your internal environment and your thoughts. Be aware of your external environment and what’s happening around you. You should always be aware, but remember you always have the choice in which thoughts to engage in. Challenge yourself and choose wisely.

Namaste, bra's,
a.score

Bali Blog Part 1: Adventure


“Bali Blog” – too soon??...

Surely any trip of Balinese magnitude could not be covered in one post, so the Bali Blog will consist of two installments. Part 1: Adventure & Part 2: Awareness

Adventure

By late spring, my friend Spencer and I were jonesin’ for another surf trip. Yeah, we’d already been to Barbados just a couple months prior, but we wanted to go a little farther from home for this time around. The top destinations on our list included: Hawaii, Fiji, El Salvador, and Bali. I’d really only started surfing less than a year before that, so I had absolutely no business surfing the world class waves at any of these locations, but I knew they'd all certainly be adventures.. On a mid-May Saturday, we threw a dart at a globe and on Sunday we booked two tickets to Bali. On Tuesday I flew to LA to meet up with spencer and from there we headed to the other side of the globe. Bali is literally halfway around the world from Orlando... booking just two days prior to departure made things even more exciting.

After 36 hours of traveling and a quick pit stop in Taipei, Taiwan, we arrived in what’s arguably Indonesia’s most beautiful island, and perhaps one of the world’s most magical places: Bali. We were staying at a surf resort at Keramas, a world class surf break, which included indoor/outdoor rooms and showers, a pool club on the black sand beach, and fresh exotic fruits and juices squeezed daily. This laid back paradise makes you rethink the way we live our fast paced, highly technological lives back home…
Keramas

One of those sunrises that just keeps getting better and better....
Needless to say, in addition to shoes and makeup, pants were a rarity on the trip - I was in heaven. Each morning, we rolled out of bed before sunrise and scurried our way down to the beach, hurrying to paddle out to ensure we'd be in the water on our boards to witness the first sign of sunlight peak out from behind the volcanic mountain, Agung. We'd surf the morning, grab breakfast, and spend the rest of our days surfing other various breaks and exploring the island. We hired a driver, who also happened to run a surf camp on the island, and he chauffeured us to multiple different cities and destinations each day. From hiking in the rice patties, getting attacked by monkeys at the monkey palace, to exploring an eerie old Buddhist temple late at night, our days were filled with adventure. 
More like a FUNrise!
Rice hikes, historic temples, etc.
Attention! Blond white girl in the market!
Those monkeys are nothin' but trouble!

One day we took a boat trip to Lombongan Island, a small landmass just a mile or two off the shore’s of East Bali, where I surfed my first reef pass, and we experienced a minor scooter “incident” - naturally. We may as well have had “gringo” tattooed on our foreheads.  Anyhow, we survived and caught the boat back to the mainland just in the nick of time. 
Lembongan
Managed to have a little fun, too.
In the clouds
 Having some of the best cuisine in the entire SE Asian region, smoothies for breakfast and American trail mix the other two meals of the day, towards the end of the our trip we couldn’t help but splurge on dinner a couple times. When in Bali, right? I think so. When in Ubud, Mozaic is a world class option, named SouthEast Asia's best French restaurant last year, or head to RockBar at the Ayana Resort for appetizers and drinks while you watch the sunset from a platform hanging off the side of  a cliff just above the ocean (get there EARLY as there is only room for a set amount of people and is a top sunset lurking destination) After the sun sinks below the horizon, try one of the resort's 6+ bad ass restaurants. Our choice: Dara. No Regrets.
Rock Bar
Typical street in Ubud - magical.










As any stress-less adventure, ten days flew by and we were back stateside before we knew it. Spencer and I parted ways, and I hung out in LA for a couple of days followed by a trip up to Sacramento for the Liquid Force Free For All stop at Wake Island. I ended up changing my flight from the next morning to evening so I could milk a few more west coast hours. That day, my Califriends and I rode the newly built Velocity Island Park, which had yet to open to the public.  Worn out from riding all day, I was able to sleep through my redeye back to the sunshine state. 

 Liquid Force Free For All - Wake Island, Sacramento, CA
 Adventure is good, but home is good, too. 

I appreciate vulnerability.  It's an opportunity to learn and grow, and being halfway around the globe in lands unknown for the first time pushed my out of my comfort zone, and I welcomed vulnerability every mile of the way. Yes, it's much easier to accept being vulnerable on a fun trip to paradise as opposed to some of life's less enjoyable situations, but you've got to start somewhere. You don't have to travel halfway around the world to get out of your comfort zone, learn, and grow, but if you want to, Bali's a not a bad place to start. 

TBC....
a.score

Sunrise to sunset, Bali was magical.

A post about nothing.

Let’s take a break from reliving 2014 and fast-forward to last week. On Friday, I sat down to write a post about irony. My day-to-day life has been riddled with irony for as long as I can remember. I’m not sure if it’s just me or if I just notice the irony in situations more than others but serendipity seems to find it’s way into my life often, as if Larry David himself was writing the story of my life. Most of the time, the situation is so silly, no one would believe me if I told them, but a couple of random things happened this month, and I felt like sharing anyway.  

I returned to Orlando from Aspen, CO late on New Years Eve, and rang in 2015 sound asleep in my bed. On New Years Day, Tiff, Steve, and our friend Heather cruised down the street to the Citrus Bowl to join our fellow Gophers watch Minnesota take on Missou. Even though we had phenomenal seats in the 8th row on the 50 yd line, we somehow we ended up on the field for the entire second half, but that’s another story. Anyhow, I was beat from my Aspen escapade, so that evening as the gameday bowl party rolled on, I headed home and then made my way to the gym or a late evening session. As you can imagine, the gym was fairly quiet at around 9 o’clock on New Years Day, it was only me and 3-4 other people in the main cardio room. I was on a Stairmaster climbing to heaven, when something caught my eye. I looked to my right and there was a tall kid, prob 18-19 years old, lying awkwardly on the floor next to me with a dazed and confused look on his face. In a split second, I looked up to the front desk, which was only 30 feet from where he lay. The guy working didn’t move a pinky. I jumped down off of the machine and quickly asked, “Did you just pass out? Are you okay?” The boy, very confused, replied, “Yeah……I think I was trying to get to the bathroom.”

I propped his 6 foot 4 inch frame up on mine and walked him to a chair near the front desk area. Glaring harshly at the guy behind the desk, I said, “Umm HELLO can we get a water or a Gatorade for this guy?!!” Annoyed, he said yes and leisurely grabbed a Gatorade, completely unconcerned with what was happening. The kid’s name was Brendan, and as he regained his brainpower he said, “I was sitting here and yelling at the guy at the front desk for help. I needed water. He did nothing. That’s when I got up to go to the locker room.”

Just then the desk man brought the Gatorade and returned to his perch, where he continued to take selfies, seriously, and didn’t move an eye from his phone to check on us, or anything else happening in the gym, for that matter. Needless to say, I was infuriated. It is absolutely sickening and deeply saddening to witness our human race completely lose respect and care for each other. We are SO  worried about our social media fame, knowing what other people are doing, and/or caring about how we're being perceived, to take a step back and care for each other. It’s upsetting.

After admitting to me that he’d been partying the night before, I gave Brendan a brief lecture on dehydration and the science behind water and electrolytes. For the next 30 minutes, I completed my workout and periodically came back to check on him. When I was ready to leave I asked where he lived. “Just down the road on Michigan Street,” he informed me. After minutes of banter, demanding to let me take him home, he wouldn’t accept the offer, and newly hydrated Brendan drove home. Having had enough excitement for one day, I headed home as well.

Halfway home, I saw a large dog running back and forth across Michigan St. Worried for his safety, I wanted to see if he had a collar and return him to his home. I parked three different times and coaxed him for a half hour before he came to me. No collar. Long story short, I brought the dog home, and Rod Stewart, our Jack Russell, had a new, large, friend, “Ritchie Cunningham”, for the night.

That night I posted on Craigslist, Facebook, and multiple local and national lost dog websites in hopes his owner would emerge. Nothing. The next day, Tiff and I went into the SPCA to see if the dog was chipped – he was! We were so excited, until an hour passed and the vets still couldn’t track down the owner; although he was chipped, the owner had failed to register any of their information on the account. There was obviously no way we were going to leave Ritchie Cunningham at the pound, so we brought him home and advertised him to our dog friendly Facebook friends. Near the end of the day, our big-hearted neighbor, Kyle, took him. Ritchie had found a home.  

Two days later I got a call from the SPCA. They’d tracked down the owner who then called me to get my information to come pick up the dog. I was pissed. Though fired up, I calmly lectured this person. “So, your dog was missing for three days, and you didn’t post a Craigslist ad? Or check with the SPCA? He was running wild on West Michigan Street!” “Well I live on East Michigan, so he’d only went a couple miles then. I mean he has a chip.” he responded. I wanted to punch him through the phone. “Okay, well you can come get him, but I don’t want to give this dog back to you unless you’re going to take care of him. Having a dog is a responsibility.” He, unemotionally said “Yeah, whatever” and I grudgingly gave him my neighbor Kyle’s address to pick the dog up. Just before hanging up, I asked him, “What’s your name?” “Brendan,” he said.

I couldn’t believe it.

Orlando’s population is upward of 250,000. I’d never seen this kid before at the gym, he passes out, and I get him home. Driving home I find a dog 3 miles away on Michigan St and for some reason take him in. Find owner. Owner is Brendan from East Michigan Street. The irony was unbearable.

Here's where it gets out of control: As I sat down to write this post, I was looking through my most recent writing folder on my month old Macbook Air and thought to myself, “Why don’t I have these files backed up? I can’t imagine losing them if anything happened to my computer! All of that brain power down the drain.” So, I immediately backed up the files via Dropbox, and as I did so, made a swift gesture reaching for one of my handwritten notes when I knocked my entire mug of freshly brewed coffee onto the keyboard of my laptop.  Mug FULL of coffee directly INTO my brand new $1,000 Macbook Pro. It was too ridiculous for me to even get mad.

Despite hours of effort to drain, dry, and revive my laptop, it is done for (that’s “donzo” for you Millennials). When I went in to the Apple store, the worker confirmed my fate as the first thing he said to me after I showed him the computer was, “Mmmm, smells good -  French vanilla? 

It was Hazelnut, but thanks.

So, one thousand dollars later, I’m writing from my old slow laptop risking explosion, and after all that, there’s not even any real point to this post; I wrote it mostly for amusement. However I will leave you with this closing note: Please take responsibility for and care for your belongings, your dog, your computer, the people around you, and yourself. From Brendan to the guy at the gym front desk, both were irresponsible and disrespectful not only of others, or their dogs, but of themselves. We’ve all got things to work on; Let’s start ironing out the wrinkles. Now.



Work Hard, Skol Hard.

Life's a garden, and I dig it, but that doesn't mean there aren't going to be a few weeds to pull along the way...

Just as I returned from Barbados, I was nominated by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as North & Central Florida Woman of the Year. I was one of three women and four men to be asked to take part in the 10 week Man/Woman of the Year fundraising campaign, which was to kick off on Feb 19. Participating was going to require endless amounts of work, energy, and time - a full time job in itself, really. It was looking as though “The Year of A.Score” was going to end before it had even began! 

Furthermore, unlike the other candidates whom were asked to participate months in advance, I was asked 10 days before the campaign kicked off, giving me little to NO time to strategize, plan, or line up sponsorships. The decision had me in between a rock and selfish place…. Alas, after getting my sister’s full commitment to help me, I signed my life away.

I am, after all, forever in debt to these people. Aside from being a Leukemia patient/survivor, The LLS funded the researcher who developed the drug (Gleevec) that saved my life. Which is actually how I justified taking part I the campaign and aligned it with my resolution - I, in participating, was being selfish in hopes that these donations would someday lead to another miraculous Leukemia breakthrough, in which I could benefit from (joking, obviously). The Year of A.Score lived on!

Despite being in over my head managing work, wake, and fundraising 24/7, throughout the same ten weeks I managed to have a few adventures as well… Imagine that! I made a weekend trip to Nashville to drink green beer with some Tennesseans, checked off a bucket list item by attending a Molly Hatchet concert, celebrated my buddy Shane’s birthday at his annual Clear Lake bash, made appearances at multiple Liquid Force Free For All’s at some of Florida’s finest wake parks, attended Tortuga Music Festival in Ft. Lauderdale with my pal Chase after which I took him shredding at OWC (video below), turned 24 years old, and bought myself my first Chevy Silverado. 
I will find a vineyard in any geographical location, even Nashville.
Molly Hatchet - a dream come true!
Liquid Force Free For All. See you at a park in 2015!
Chase & Mama Rice at Tortuga <3    //   Homeboy, Church            
            My friend Shane.   //   My friend Shane laughing.  //  My friend Shane surprised.
My friend Shane's party.

'merica
Work hard, play hard.

The ten weeks flew by, and three days after my birthday, the Man & Woman of the Year campaign came to a close at Grand Finale Gala. Knowing we’d raised over $34,000 as we approached the finale, Tiff and I were proud regardless of if we had “won” or not. So when we ended up coming in second to Dr. Jennifer Cultrera, who raised over $50,000 (thanks in large part to two $20k donations) we were still downright thrilled with what we and our supporters had accomplished. It was truly amazing. (Okay, so my ego was a little hurt, and I drank an entire bottle of champagne at the finale, but I was proud, nonetheless.)

FYI: As a chapter we raised over a quarter of a million dollars in ten weeks, and nationwide, the 2014 campaign raised over $27 million…Given the potential impact that money has in the fight against cancer, in the end, we all won. 
One of the many donations for the LLS Grand Finale auction. Thanks, Shecks!
Regardless of the dollar amount, the outpouring of support, generosity, and consideration behind the donations from friends, family, and complete strangers was the most rewarding part. It was a humbling experience to say the least, and to be honest, despite being a wordsmith, I can’t fully describe how grateful I am to have the amount of absolutely wonderful people in my life - I’d list all the people who deserve a thank you right here in this post, but I think I’d shut down the Internet. Thank you all!
My supportive and damn good looking crew at the Grand Finale Gala.
Being that I started the year with no plans, as summer approached and I’d already crammed a plethora of things into the first four months of the year, I was feeling pretty good. What I’ve yet to mention, is that all the while this was happening, I’d been on endless calls and visits with my doctors trying to figure out just what I was going to do about my newly returned Leukemia. The adventures were a good distraction from the reality of the situation, but it remained in the back of mind like a weed in a garden. Just when you think you’ve pulled ‘em all and you go sit on your porch and crack a Bud heavy while admiring your freshly weedless shrubbery, a little green punk has already sprouted up and shown it’s leafy little face. But that’s life, and that’s reality. You see the weed, you acknowledge the weed, and you remove it. There’s no pretending it’s not there – you get off your porch and take care of it.

Life’s a garden, and I dig it. But that doesn’t mean there’s not going to be a few weeds along the way... Acknowledge, deal, and dig on. 

A.Score
Dig it.