Month: July 2015

Well, Well, Well: tips & tools 07/27/15

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wellwellwell3 - tips & toolsEach week I bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:


I’m a member of several blogger/writer groups on Facebook, and through one of them I was introduced recently to Rita Herrmann, whom I’m so happy to have discovered. I just like the things she writes about! (And the way she expresses her thoughts.)

Her blog is She Wears Red Shoes, and I hope you’ll visit when you have a few minutes and a good cup of tea or coffee at hand.

Meanwhile, be sure to make time for this one, which reminds us that not every convenience store clerk is a grumpy lump, despite the low pay and weird hours. If this story doesn’t give you a positive vibe, you need a tuneup.

Check it out: It’s Showtime!


Dort'sVegetableBeefSoupI recently asked my mom to make some of her yummy vegetable soup, and she did not disappoint. (Food is one of the many ways she shows love to her family.)

In fact, I do believe this is the best pot of vegetable soup she’s ever served me. We discussed the reasons, as this pot was a bit different from her usual “recipe” (it’s not really a recipe; nothing is written down and the amounts are approximate).

The great thing about this soup (besides that it’s my mom’s recipe!) is that it’s nutritious and versatile. You can adapt it to suit your family’s veggie preferences and whatever’s in season. It serves a crowd, but it’s also freezable for those days you just don’t have time to cook.

Check it out: Dort’s Vegetable Beef Soup


I try to be emotionally strong and have worked extremely hard at that over the years. As I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, I ran across an article tweeted by Michael Hyatt. He’s good at finding tips that are insightful and practical.

In this article, the author took a to-do list and turned it on its head, making it a don’t-do list. I hope you’ll find the information as valuable as I did.

Check it out: 16 Things Emotionally Strong People Don’t Do

That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …


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The gift of shalom

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I’ve been restless lately.

Staying up too late. Working on blog-writing, platform-building, branding, marketing, content-producing, time-stealing stuff.

It’s all good – I love every bit of it – but it can be all-consuming, too.

It’s not so good when you realize you’ve been trying to squeeze Jesus into the cracks – those tiny slivers of space where maybe a bit of light can shine in between the piles of busyness, if you pause just a moment to notice. When maybe He’s been whispering your name but you’ve had too much mental noise to hear His call.

He tends not to shout unless He has to.

And then you start hearing the same word or message from multiple sources. I don’t believe in coincidence, so I see this phenomenon as my Maker kicking the volume up a notch, to maybe the equivalent of a stage whisper. Beats a kick in the pants.

So in a quiet moment I finally notice.

I have daily readings on my Bible App and also receive occasional emails from Christian publishers with new resources, studies, devotionals, announcements … marketing. There are times when the emails seem like mere noise, too – just more information overload in an already crowded brain.

But then one newsletter presents itself with a headline like this:

God’s Gift of Peace for Your Mind and Heart

And the word PEACE seems to SHOUT! (Ironic, no?)

I opened this one to skim and ended up reading all of it.

It began:

“Peace, shalom (shah-loam). Shalom comes from the root verb shalam, meaning ‘to be complete, perfect, and full.’ Thus shalom is much more than the absence of war and conflict; it is the wholeness that the entire human race seeks.”

That just resonated with me.

After all, this is what To Well With You is really about: my desire to help all people see their worth as His created ones and to fully realize their God-given potential. As whole, complete beings.

So when I received an email from Jen Hatmaker (I always open hers right away), I clicked a link to a post (not hers, but one she liked) with this headline:

I used to think God wanted a lot from me

“I should really volunteer at church more, lead a Bible study, organize something for the homeless. I’m the worst at this Jesus stuff. I should really be doing more for God! It’s so demanding, it takes EVERYTHING!” said the author, Sara Bessey.

But “maybe God doesn’t so much want things from us,” she said. “Maybe God actually wants things for us.”

Her conclusion was that we should …

“Run towards grace, towards shalom.” (Shalom, again.)

I love the way one of the commenters referred to Sarah’s post:

“It’s like setting aside my fifth espresso for a nice clean glass of water.”

Cool, refreshing water.

John4QuoteUnfathomable peace that satisfies like a cool, refreshing drink. This is what I wish for you today.

Shalom, y’all.


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Well, Well, Well: tips & tools 07/20/15

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wellwellwell3 - tips & toolsEach week I bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:


My dad started smoking before he became a teenager — maybe age 11 or 12. After at least two heart attacks, bypass surgery and years of attempts to stop smoking, he died of heart disease. He was only 59. (Actually, on that horrible day, the doc said it wasn’t actually a heart problem that killed him, even though his heart hadn’t been working well up to that point; something happened in his brain. Mom thinks it was the drug he was taking to help him quit smoking.) Dad’s older brother, also a smoker, died of lung cancer. Decades earlier, their father died of emphysema and cancer. They watched their dad take his last breath, yet they still smoked.

I sit next to a smoker at my job and, even though a cubicle wall separates us, I inhale secondhand smoke every morning and first thing after lunch (she sits in her car and smokes). When she enters our workspace, she reeks of it.

I had asthma as a kid and still have lots of breathing issues; it would be an extreme understatement to say secondhand smoke is unpleasant.

My co-worker is 31 and has three little girls; I don’t want to see her die of a tobacco-related illness. I know what it’s like to lose a beloved parent to this. (My dad, who in my eyes hung the moon, died 11 days before my wedding.)

I used to nag Dad about his smoking. That was before I realized that overcoming a “bad habit” — especially one that involves addictive chemicals invading your body’s systems — is more complicated than just deciding to quit. (And the tobacco companies do their best to keep your cravings strong.)

The solution, in my opinion, is to keep people from picking up that first cigarette. That, in itself, is a challenge because, for some reason, kids think it’s cool.


Here’s a powerful SlideShare presentation with some grim facts about smoking; maybe it will help at least one person decide not to start.

Check it out: (Just click the right arrow to see the next slide. And don’t worry; the slides aren’t overly wordy, so it won’t take you long to get through them.)

[slideshare id=5602255&doc=smoke-theconvenienttruth-ep-101028211434-phpapp01]


Photo courtesy of Taste Arkansas

Fellow Arkansas Women Blogger Heather DiSarro makes some wonderful dishes. In fact, her blog is called Heather’s Dish. (She’s an awesome photographer, too.) Head on over to Taste Arkansas (the Arkansas Farm Bureau’s blog) and get Heather’s recipe for Zucchini Noodle Bowls. It’s a low-carb way to have your “spaghetti” and eat it, too. 🙂

I can’t wait to try this dish. (Gotta get me some zucchini first.)

Oh, I almost forgot: If you post a comment below the recipe, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a Spiralizer. I’ve wanted one of those for a long time. (On second thought: Don’t post a comment; I want to win it! 🙂 )

Check it out: Zucchini Noodle Bowls


10 ThingsLogoMercy, I almost forgot that I’m supposed to be telling you stuff you don’t know about me. (See this post and this one for the scoop.) OK, here goes Part 3 … ugh.

I cleaned out my closet yesterday. Took out every stitch of clothing, every shoe, every sheet, every tote bag and purse, and every stuffed animal or doll (yes, I still have my babies) and flung them onto the bed.

It wasn’t pretty.

(Also, I didn’t fling; I placed. 🙂 )

Last week I mentioned a book I had read with the promise that I’d write about it in more detail this week. I’m going to post an actual book review, but what I need to tell you today is that …

I have clothes in my closet in size 8 and in sizes 14 and 16.

That’s not the hard part. This is the hard part: All the difficult work I put into losing 50 pounds in the past couple of years was very valuable, and now the weight is back on. I’ve managed to start going back in a positive direction, especially after my last cardio checkup in late May. After a hello hug, my cardiologist said there seemed to be more to me to love this time around. We talked at length about why this weight is back, all the challenges I’ve had since my heart surgery, and how stinking hard it is to lose weight. (It’s a lot harder than it used to be. I used to be able to set my mind to it and just do it.)

Bottom line: I’m working on it, and I’ve lost 8 pounds since I saw him. That’s a start, but after the initial 6-7 pounds, I’ve been losing and regaining the same 1 or 2 each week.

This is the first time I’ve written about it. It’s embarrassing, especially when I call myself a wellness coach. (Hypocrite?)

It took me a couple of years to lose the weight, and that’s as it should be — it’s safer that way, and a quick fix teaches you ZERO. And it took me about 18 months to gain it all back.

I keep saying — to myself and others — that I’m sticking by my original statement: If it takes (X amount of time) to lose it but I help someone else in her/his struggle along the way, it’s worth it.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. God either causes it or allows it, because He sees the entire picture — all we see is our little slice. My weight struggles are part of that picture — my own journey to wellness and wholeness — and my goal is to learn from this. I can only think that I haven’t learned all the lessons I’m supposed to learn on this journey, so I’m having to repeat some of them, and learn new ones.

I’m very grateful that you’re here today, and if you need someone to come alongside as you battle a challenging situation, please get in touch by leaving a comment or emailing me at

That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …


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Let’s get organized, Part 1

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10 ThingsLogoI should subtitle this post “10 things you need to know about me, Part 2” because I’m heeding the advice of James Altucher“for the next ten things you write, tell people something that nobody knows about you” — and I debuted Part 1 at Suzy & Spice a few days ago.

Now that I have two blogs, a 10-part series might be a challenge (bouncing back and forth), but I’m up for it if you are.

Also, it’s going to be hard to find 10 things that absolutely no one knows about me, so how about we refer to it loosely as 10 things only the people closest to me could possibly know?

We could also title this “True Confessions,” because I’m about to talk about something I don’t like to talk about: my messy house.

I’m a recovering packrat, but I live with a full-blown packrat (I think they have TV shows about this). In 2010, we moved from a 2,600-square-foot-house to a 1,740-square-foot house. Five years later, I’m still trying to “organize” the chaos. I cannot tell you how many books we’ve gotten rid of, but we still have a ton of books.

In less than 24 hours this week, I heard three mentions of a method, an author — a “cult” (said tongue-in-cheek) — centered on “tidying.”

Except that when I asked someone in one of my Facebook groups, “I’ve read a gazillion get-organized books. Why is this one so special?” I got an unexpected response that hooked me:

“It is not really an organizing book — it is a ‘how to discard’ book. That’s what I needed — I have way way way too much stuff.”

Bruce and I have been trying to figure out how to organize our office stuff. A couple of months ago, we turned our dining room into my office (his office is the living room), and we just haven’t figured out the right configuration. Many obstacles, which also could be classified as excuses:

  • Not enough time.
  • Not the right tools.
  • We never have the same window of time to work on it together.
  • (Fill in the blank.)

I get enthusiastic about working on it, get sidetracked after a few minutes and need a nap. And I have a messy closet, too. And dresser, and bathroom countertop. Ugh!

So … obviously there is another problem.

Marie Kondo would have you believe it’s because we’re trying to organize rather than discard the excess and keep only what gives us “a spark of joy.” (She’s ruthless about papers. Uh-oh.)

I’ll do a book review next week, but let’s just say that this woman has an unconventional method for “tidying” a home. While I don’t agree with every single thing she says, I’ll buy into 98 percent of it.

It’s going to be really weird touching all my stuff and talking to it as I decide what to discard and what to keep.

But I’m keeping an open mind and will be taking up Marie Kondo’s challenge. In fact, I said on that same Facebook page:

KonMariQuoteSuzyOakleyIf you’d like to join me in the tidying madness (er, spark of joy), leave a comment and we’ll tackle it together. Doing weird stuff is more fun with friends!

Check it out: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing


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Well, Well, Well: tips & tools 07/13/15

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wellwellwell3 - tips & toolsEach week I bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:


This item could fall under several categories. When I wrote about it last week on Suzy & Spice, I headlined it “A step outside my comfort zone.” So it could be mental, emotional, spiritual or … who knows?

What is “it”? I was given a survey to complete online, and it included the opportunity to record audio (or video) comments about the topic (buying flowers). At first I cringed, but I quickly realized it was right in line with my philosophy of personal-growth-by-discomfort.

I opted for audio only, because I wasn’t wearing makeup and my hair was dirty and flat (I’m not that brave!). I recorded several takes, but I finally got a workable file out of it. Once I finished the survey, I posted the audio file online and asked for critiques. As I told another of the Arkansas Women Bloggers who had completed the survey but wasn’t happy about the audio requirement, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

I can’t say whether I would be so blasé if this were a bigger production (larger venue, more serious topic, etc.). If and when I ever have to (er, I mean, have the opportunity to) go onstage in front of a crowd, I will be all butterflies and jelly-legs. But these smaller steps outside the “zone” are what help me work toward the bigger one(s).

Baby steps.

Now you try it. Do something brave this week, then come back here and tell us what it was. It doesn’t have to be huge. Just … something. And tell us what you learned from it. Here’s mine:

Check it out: A step outside my comfort zone


YogiBerraQuoteI come from a long line of baseball lovers, and it has always been my favorite sport. It never fails to bring up happy family memories: of my Grandpa Ben listening to one game on the transistor radio, earbud firmly in place, while he watched another on TV; of me, my best friend and my parents sitting in the stands eating sunflower seeds while we watched my brother’s Little League team in central California; of the 1978 World Series between the Dodgers and their archrivals the Yankees (I had a big Steve Garvey poster on my wall). My husband and I don’t have TV at home, so we have to go to Mom’s to watch baseball, and it’s always when the Cards play. The only time I get to see the Dodgers is when they play St. Louis. But never fear; At Bat is here.

The free version of the app has live updates, schedules, rosters, the latest news, standings, player bios, stats and, with the premium version ($2.99 monthly or $19.99 yearly), live audio and game of the day on MLB.TV. I opt for the free version until the playoffs, then I pay for a month or two; since I’ve been using the app, the Dodgers and/or the Cards have been in the playoffs (and the Series!); otherwise I probably wouldn’t buy premium (I’m cheap). At Bat is the official app of Major League Baseball. If you’re a fan of the greatest show on dirt and you don’t have ESPN or another way to get your fix …

Check it out: At Bat


A wise and wonderful woman I follow has launched a Facebook group called Create Content Every Day in 2015. She’s aiming to get us off our duffs and producing something daily throughout the second half of the year.

This wise woman, whom I’ll call Jacqueline Wolven – because that’s her name – set me on the path I’m on today with my blogs. I attended both of her sessions on branding at Arkansas Women Bloggers University last September, and her talks rocked my world. I had never thought much about “branding” as it relates to a personal blog or freelancing or other individual pursuits, but I’ve learned a lot since then. “Branding” is not just for major retailers; it’s about how you want to present yourself to the world – that is, if you have something important you’d like to say or do. You don’t have to be a rock star; you just have to want something badly enough to go for it.

The new Facebook group is about creating whatever “content” you want to create (blog posts, Instagram photos, arts or crafts, podcasts, a video clip, audio files, a chapter in your novel, whatever). Here’s the description:

“Each day just post the link or what content you created if you aren’t able to link it. Consistency is the key to growing an audience. Let’s cheer each other on!”

The group will be public through July and then go private. (That means you should join now!)

Here’s your chance. It’s a safe place. So go ahead: Get off’n your duff’n (that’s German for Just do it).

Check it out: Create Content Every Day in 2015 #DoGoodWork

That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …




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Farm2Home 2015 – for everything there is a season

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Farm2HomeLogoFarm2Home is going on hiatus for a while, but you can read the previous posts here, here and here.

Today’s post was supposed to be another in my Farm2Home series.

But I think I need to give the farmers a break. What was I thinking, trying to get folks to answer a bunch of questions during the growing and producing season?

I’m putting the series on hold for a while, and maybe I can get everyone caught up at a less-busy time of year. What they’re doing right now is more pressing than my questions.

I’m pondering the same thing about my other blog, Suzy & Spice, where I’ve been working on a Main Street Farmers Market (Batesville) series. One farmer has responded to my questionnaire, and, to be honest, I haven’t reminded the others that I’m waiting …

I just figured they were too busy to bother with my pesky questions, or they had forgotten. I’m not a farmer, but I know they are superbusy this time of year.

And this has been a wacky week for me, schedule-wise. You might have noticed.

I haven’t posted at the times I had set up to post regularly (Monday and Friday mornings here at To Well With You and Saturday mornings at Suzy & Spice).

It’s just been wacky.

To tell the truth, I’ve needed a mental break, and even though I’ve tried to stay true to the schedule, my brain simply hasn’t been working fast enough to stay on track. I hope you’ll forgive me.

I would say I’m mentally exhausted, but that’s not exactly true. I’m mentally tired but not near the point of exhaustion. Just dealing with a few stressors:

  • Blind dog who now needs even more attention than before (she was already high-maintenance!).
  • Plumbing problems that took 11 days to fix. And I realized last night – two weeks after the plumber came – that I had filed the bill in the PAID folder instead of mailing the check. 🙁
  • A full-time work schedule at my “day job.”
  • Trying to keep up with writing/blogging/publishing while learning how to do it all better (honing my photography skills, making my own graphics, learning about marketing and content, writing better, etc.).
  • Working on a wellness talk I’m supposed to give at the farmers market Aug. 1.
  • Working on a session I’ll be teaching at the Arkansas Women Bloggers conference at the end of August.

I really and truly love writing for my blogs, but sometimes it means I neglect other things, like spending time with my mom. I hate that. My family is the most important thing in my life besides my relationship with Jesus. (Oh, yeah: I’ve been neglecting that, too.)

One of the things on my to-do list has been to learn a new piece of software that’s supposed to help me keep up with all the irons I have in the fire. It has been a bit of a challenge just to find the time to make use of this tool!

Oh, the irony.

So when I get this way, I have to look up at my white board and see where I’ve written: REMEMBER YOUR WHY.


Michael Hyatt says, correctly, that this – staying connected to your why – is what keeps you on track when you’re veering off course or are tempted to give up. This is absolutely true. (Here’s my why.)

I’ve read a lot lately about persevering when: 1) others think you’re crazy, 2) things get hard or 3) common sense might tell you it’s not worth it, to cut your losses and move on.

A book I’m reading says to dispense with the “lofty” terms perseverance and tenacity and go with stubbornness:

When we’re stubborn, there’s no quit in us. We’re mean. We’re mulish. We’re ornery. … We will sink our junkyard-dog teeth into Resistance’s a** and not let go, no matter how hard he kicks.”

– Steven Pressfield,
‘Do the Work: Overcome Resistance
and Get Out of Your Own Way’


I am nothing if not stubborn. (Right, Mom?)

So, while I’m not ready to give up, I need a break now and then. And the farmers need to keep doing what they’re doing right now. If they weren’t persistent, tenacious and stubborn – producing fresh food every season to keep me healthy – I’d be eating ramen noodles for breakfast every day. (And even the ramen noodles come from … something on a farm.)

My goal for the Farm2Home series was to showcase the farmers so that they could keep doing what they’re doing. We all need to sow when we can, harvest when it’s ripe and savor the fruits of our labor when the time is right.

Even though I need little mental breaks now and then (don’t we all?), I continue to sow and water.

Someday I’ll begin harvesting, but for now I’m still in the perseveringly tenacious stubborn phase. 🙂

Ecclesiastes3cropped2What about you? Are you planting or harvesting right now?

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Well, Well, Well: tips & tools

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wellwellwell3 - tips & toolsEach week I bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:


My friend Betsy has shared some great recipes with me. The first time I had her vegan brownies, we were in the car on the way home from an out-of-town race. I thought they were awesome and told her I wanted to try making them, so a week or two later, for my birthday, here came Betsy with the recipe and all the ingredients to make the brownies, all packaged in a cute little polka-dot gift box.

Betsy’s the kind of friend who doesn’t just give you a recipe when you ask her for it; she goes the extra mile and provides everything you need! (Especially when what you need isn’t readily available in your pantry or even at the regular grocery store, although these ingredients are findable nowadays.)

If you’re picky about texture or labels, don’t think of these as brownies, because they’re not what you’ll find from a mix from the grocery store. You don’t bake ’em, and you’ll need to store them in the fridge. Just think of them as a delicious chocolate dessert that’s hard to keep your paws off of.

Call them what you want. I call them irresistible.

Betsy’s Vegan Brownies

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 8 large OR 12 medium-size pitted dates (about 1 cup)
  • 5 tablespoons cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1 packet pure stevia extract (powder)
  • pinch salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons cacao nibs (for sprinkling on top)

In food processor, grind walnuts into a flour (until it’s fine but grainy). Add dates and grind until mixture is relatively smooth (it will still be grainy).

Add remaining ingredients and mix in processor until well blended.

Spread in ungreased 8×8” pan. Press cacao nibs on top.

Store in refrigerator.


I’d never thought much about the leap second until last week, but I’m just enough of a science geek (or maybe just an information junkie) that this headline intrigued me: “The origin of leap seconds, and why they should be abolished.”

Also, I like the guy who Tweeted it, because he always has something interesting (and usually amusing) to share.

The article is a bit longish, but it will answer most – if not all – of the questions you’ve ever had about the leap second, including how and why it was born and why it should die.

And just for kicks, be sure to watch the 6-minute video with Demetrios Matsakis (“The Timekeeper”). He’s a hoot, in a dry, scientist sort of way. The other video (less than 2 minutes) is fun, too.

For something to stimulate your inner scientist …

Check it out: The origin of leap seconds, and why they should be abolished


People love their cars, and this is the season for big treks across the good ol’ US of A. In this tip, my favorite frugal guru, Mary Hunt, helps us keep a bit of our hard-earned cash when we visit the gas pump, even if the trip we’re taking is just across town.

Check it out: 10 Easy Ways to Save Fuel

That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …


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The saddest thing on earth

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“No one was sorry when he died.” I can’t think of a sadder thing to be said of someone who has passed away.

It’s not necessary that I be remembered for something after I’m gone, but I do want my life to count for something while I’m here – preferably something that will outlive me. The mark I make on the world … I want it to last, because I hope that it’s something good and worthwhile.

I want to help make sure others’ lives are better, not worse, because I sucked up air on the planet.

As I wrote on the web page that serves as my “digital business card”:

“I want my epitaph to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ I want to serve others and bring glory to my Creator while I’m doing it.”

I’ve been reading through the books of Kings and Chronicles in my one-year chronological journey through the Bible this year.

Most of the kings chronicled in these books were evil, with a sprinkling of rulers who followed the Lord and were blessed because of it. But it didn’t last. (Obedience can be hard work!) Even with shining examples to light our path, without intention and purpose it is easy to go our own way.

Of King Jehoram, the chronicler said: “You have not followed the good example of your father, Jehoshaphat, or your grandfather King Asa of Judah. Instead, you have been as evil as the kings of Israel.”

King Jehoram chose the path of self and left no legacy to be proud of.

“His people did not build a great funeral fire to honor him as they had done for his ancestors.”

My ancestors set a good example for me. As far back as I know of, they followed the Lord and passed down that legacy to me and my kin. Most of us, as far as I know, are doing our best to obey the Lord and remain open to His leading.

But whether the legacy passed down to you was good or bad, what are you going to make of it?

Are you going to use your God-bestowed gifts to bless the world, or to take from it?

My mission statement flows out of my desire to leave the world better than I found it. It is:

“To follow God’s leading and help others see the Light.”

What legacy do you want to leave?

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Inspiring stories: Shawn Mastrantonio

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Go to and vote for Shawn Mastrantonio to be on the cover. You can vote every day through July 22. The link is below. Now, go!

If you’ve known me for two minutes, you know I’m a sucker for a worthy cause.

A few weeks ago, on Self-Promotion Monday (a weekly feature on the certified RRCA coaches Facebook page), Shawn Mastrantonio posted a link to a photo of him that’s in contention to be a Runner’s World cover shot.

I pounced on it: I read a little about Shawn on his Facebook page L.U.N.A.R. (Lace Up Now And Run), Liked the page and headed straight to the Runner’s World site to vote. And, because I could vote daily through July 22, I set up a calendar pop-up to remind me to vote every day until then.

Last I knew, Shawn’s photo was third overall and No. 1 in the “inspiring” category (you have to click whether you think the subject is “passionate,” “athletic” or “inspiring”).

No, Shawn and I have never met. We first crossed paths on the coaches page.

But when I see a good cause and someone asks me to vote for it, I vote. (I also vote daily for my local humane society to win cash through Shelter Challenge contests.) I feel guilty if I don’t.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about Shawn.

Here’s why I want him to be on the cover of Runner’s World:

Shawn has a rare cancer syndrome called Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL). I had never heard of it, and to raise awareness for his cause (and his RW cover), I asked him to share his story here on To Well With You.

Through illness, surgery and everything else he’s had to contend with, Shawn also BQ’d (qualified for the Boston Marathon, which has strict requirements). That is no small feat!

But I’ll let Shawn tell you the rest of the story in his own words (edited a bit for length):

“I had brain surgery in 1993 to remove a brain tumor from my right cerebellum. In December 2009, I was told that I had a tumor recurrence and two new tumors. I started running as an escape and ran my first half-marathon in 2010. I continued my running journey until I had my second brain surgery to remove one of the tumors on Jan. 31, 2012. In October 2012, I ran the Wineglass Half Marathon in Corning, N.Y., in a PR (personal record) time of 1:30.41.

I have continued running because, to me, running is a metaphor for life. In running, as in life, you gain strength from the challenges you face. Running continues to help me both physically and mentally get through the challenges of living with VHL.”

“Within my own family, I come from a legacy of VHL WARRIORS, including my dad, uncle, cousin and most recently my brother, who have lost their lives to this disease. We believe that there are other family members [who had VHL], but too little was known about the disease when they passed away.

“My dad passed away when I was 10. He passed away on May 15, 1980, my mom’s 43rd birthday. I am the administrator of a Facebook page called L.U.N.A.R. (Lace Up Now And Run), and in some of my posts and T-shirts that I design I include “5/15” to signify the date and to honor both my mom and dad.

“My brother passed away in August 2013. During his battle with VHL, he endured over 30 brain surgeries. I never once heard him complain or ask, ‘Why me?’ My dad and brother are the sources of my strength, faith and inspiration.”

What is VHL?

In this 90-second video, actor Willem Dafoe explains what VHL is.


And back to Shawn’s story:

“Von Hippel-Lindau is a genetic condition involving the abnormal growth of blood vessels in some parts of the body that are particularly rich in blood vessels. It is caused by a flaw in the VHL gene, on the short arm of chromosome 3, which regulates cell growth. Having an alteration in the VHL gene is what is known as a predisposition factor to certain kinds of tumors, including some specific cancers.

“I continue to get monitored for the existing two brain tumors and any new ones along with screening for my kidneys and pancreas as I currently have tumors in them, as well.

“My running journey has been such an amazing experience. It truly has given me strength and often is therapy. I have had so many great people enter my life brought together by the gift of running. These new friendships are such a blessing. My rock is my wife, Kimberly; she has encouraged and supported, and her love is never-ending. She has been there through thick and thin. She has remained strong for me in the difficult times and never left my side.

Shawn and Kimberly Mastrantonio after his first full marathon and her first half-marathon.

“2014 was a great year of running for me as I set a new PR in the half marathon of 1:28.56, a 10-mile PR of 1:06.12 and a 5k PR of 19:00.08. I ran my first full marathon in 3:09.48, qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

“2015 started out just as well. I set a PR in the 10k of 39:56 and was feeling strong as I headed into the Seneca7, a 77.7-mile, seven-person relay around Seneca Lake in Geneva, N.Y. After completing my second leg, I suffered a ‘moderate’ heart attack. I was rushed to the hospital, and a stent was put in. The heart attack was caused by a 100 percent blockage of the right coronary artery. The heart attack put an end to my 557-day running streak, but I hope to be able to start a new streak soon. In the meantime, I am concentrating on my health and looking forward to representing the VHL community in 2016 at the Boston Marathon.”

I don’t know about you, but in my book this man still has plenty of heart.

Now, don’t you want to go cast a ballot for Shawn Mastrantonio, and maybe make a donation to the VHL Alliance in honor of him and all the other folks affected by VHL?

Now, go vote!

If you Tweet about this, please use the hashtags #‎RWCoverSearch and #‎VHLWarrior.

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