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Lessons in Giving and Receiving

Posted in ACTS with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 1, 2021 by runmyssierun

This week, today mostly – I spent the majority of my time preparing for the annual Homeless Picnic in McAllen with the Emily’s Meals crew. Now – let me be clear – this is not one of those humble brags so don’t be rolling those eyes at me. I’ve learned a thing or two about charities and God’s work over these last few years. Some of us need reminding every now and then so when they see a friend like me post on my social media account that some organization is in need of coats or foster children are in need of teddy bears or another group needs two more volunteers to help deliver food to the homeless, they step up and get the job done… had they not seen the post, they would have been on their recliner watching football all day. THIS is what this is now. It’s a reminder – not a brag. We can all do something – large or small – it’s not a competition – but together we can all make a huge dent in any crisis and create a whole lotta happiness around us that wasn’t there before.

So – back to my story – I was in this little storage room packed to the brim with donations sorted in plastic bins with colorful labels stating “men’s jeans”, “toiletries”, “school supplies”, etc. when the gentleman in charge calculated that we were short on coats and jackets, women’s clothing, socks and undergarments. “But most of all we need volunteers”, he said.

“How many do we need?” I asked

“We’re going to need at least 8 more groups to man each table that we have.” Denise, my prayer sister beside him responded. I felt like that Winona Ryder meme with the confused look on her face as I calculated in my head 8 groups of at least 2-3 people per table…. that’s about 15-30 more people… I can get my kiddo, ask the agents in my office, round up some of the WCR Realtors & affiliates and maybe reach out to the YPN members at the up coming mixer and post on social media I thought to myself…

“I’m on it!” I quickly yelled out.

See, what you should know about me is that I’m not super rich, nor am I highly educated. I’m not politically powerful but I DO know a lot of really, really good people. People are one of my super hero powers. (*Forgiveness is the other super hero power I have but that’s another story)

If I’ve considered you a friend of mine, that means I see something really good in you. I hope that you’ve befriended me in the same manner. Good people usually stick together. We may not be similar in lots of ways but there’s usually a common denominator of goodness among all my circles of friends. And let me tell you… they did not disappoint!

Within 48-hours, my inboxes were flooded with people who were offering help. Those who couldn’t be there personally offered to donate coats, jackets, feminine hygiene products, socks, scarfs, and other warm clothing. People gave what they could. I had friends from way back in the day show up on my doorstep with jackets, mittens and beanies. My women friends from the office called and said they were cleaning out their closets and found clothes with the tags still on them that they wanted to donate. I mean everyone was showing up with the most generous hearts ever! All it took was a simple ask.

Be the voice for those who feel they can’t speak. Stand up and show up. Be the example so others can follow. To those who matter, your good deed will inspire a new behavior among your sphere of influence and serve as an example of what one person CAN do and a reminder that we can all do small things with great love and together those small things become exponentially powerful and enough to empower immense change.

I had to be mindful of my own finances since a few of my closings didn’t happen so I was a bit off budget and to find ways to tighten my spending belt, I went to a local dollar store and found some really thick and nice quality knitted scarfs, plush blankets and prepackaged individual toiletries. I knew if I just looked hard enough, I’d find something within the amount I could spend and still be able to provide warmth and comfort for someone else in need…. and guess what? God provided with just enough.

Savvy shopper šŸ™‚

Simultaneously, the Women’s Council of REALTORSĀ® McAllen Network made a call out for their annual Teddy Bear drive that I had been donating to since 2005.

Yep – that’s me and the staff of Mujeres Unidas back in 2005 with the bears I had donated. It’s truly a great cause that I believe in whole heartedly.

I took my son with me to shops all over town to get teddy bears and check the “snuggle factor” of each stuffed bear. Every bear we “tested” was judged on how well they felt when hugged them. We chose three that were top notch snugglers and were pretty proud of our selections. We hope the children that choose them are able to feel our hugs if they have dark moments over the holidays.

Elva Jackson-Garza, long-time personal mentor and role model of mine, also with Edwards Abstract and Title Company and current Membership Director for the Women’s Council of REALTORSĀ® McAllen Network and me and my 3 bears being donated that passed the snuggle test

So here’s where the story gets really good…

While I was out and about doing these things for others, I came home to find a gift for me nestled safely in my front porch from my 7th Grade teacher at St. Joseph’s Catholic School. Now… keep in mind I haven’t been a 7th Grader for years… I’m talking decades!!! So for a teacher to remember her student and reach out the way she did today meant the world to me.

This is me and my 7th /8th grade teacher Fran Prukop at my 8th Grade graduation mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic School

See, in 7th grade, I struggled with Algebra. I honestly just couldn’t understand it one bit. This teacher spent her lunch hour and after school time to tutor me until I mastered it. Because it was a small private Catholic school, once a week, we would celebrate Mass together. This phenomenal teacher wasn’t just a teacher… she was a rock star! Well— she strummed guitar while singing hymns in church. Same thing. I remember just like it was yesterday, I was sitting third pew down from the pulpit as she sang my favorite hymn – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGHOtR-v4yQ

Songs have lyrics behind them. Hymns have prayers. There was something in the prayer sung by her that called out to my soul back then that never left. To summarize, it’s a prayer to God asking Him to use me as a tool to create peace. That’s what I wanted. My teacher – a brand new twenty-something newly licensed teacher sang that song and the prayer engraved itself into my being from that moment on. It’s the prayer best known as St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer for Peace. St. Francis is also very well known for loving all of God’s creatures… another thing that I was reminded of when I attended my first ACTs retreat, learned more about St. Francis and coincidentally (said sarcastically and looking up towards the sky with a smirk on my face) a bunch of doves and other birds came to me to be rescued and cared for.

Here’s Flutter the Bird perched on Harley the wonder dog – both no longer with us but forever in our hearts

I’ve posted a bit about this on my social media as it began with #flutterthebird and then escalated quickly. Unaware that it is considered illegal to care for wild birds without a license and proper training, I naively posted questions, updates and releases on my facebook and instagram. *I am now in the process of becoming the only certified dove rehabilitation center in the county – but not official yet. In these postings, I taught others what I was learning so that we could all help if a helpless bird was in need. A hurricane blew in and those lessons to the community came in handy. Hundreds of birds were saved and released healthy and happy because we all worked together for innocent creatures that would never be able to repay us for our care and hospitality. Ahhhh sweet story, right? But it doesn’t end there… this is how my 7th grade teacher found out about me. The teacher who sang about peace to her students found one of her students decades later who was still trying to become that instrument of peace for God.

Today that teacher left a statue of St. Francis of Assisi with the most heartfelt handwritten card on my front porch. Still learning from my teacher… still praying to be an instrument of peace.

When you give, you receive so much more. Great lesson today and so incredibly grateful for it.

Thank you Mrs. Prukop. He will be placed in my garden to watch over the birds and squirrels.

St. Francis of Assisi with the card she wrote me – my heart is full

The Journey to Healing

Posted in cancer, training for my first half ironman with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2019 by runmyssierun

IMG_3603Eight years ago yesterday, I began my journey healing from the after effects of cancer by running and strengthening my relationship with God. Many have followed my candid documentary of it through my blog (www.runmyssierun.com), social media posts and/or joined me on the jogging trail or in the church at mass, Catholic Daughters, or ACTs. I remember someone telling me when Donny died that time heals. They said it again six months later when Sissy died. And again six months after that when Momma died. Although I understand, appreciate and am grateful for them trying to console me but I’m still not sure it’s TIME that has helped heal me. What I do know is that what helped ME was a phenomenal group of genuine, loving people who care surrounded me and encouraged me to find healthy outlets for my emotions. I took up running to heal my body (not to become a professional athlete – I have to make that clear for a certain group of people who follow). I felt it was better to take out my anger on the pavement than on the loved ones closest to me. I sought out the light of God in all that I did and if I did not see Him there, I dropped it from my life. By doing both, my eyes and heart were exposed to things I had not seen before: how cancer affects so many of us, too many of us, how God is there always and too many times it’s us that are not, and when you go through things that you don’t understand and are truly horrific, its because He is having you connect the dots, become stronger and wiser so that when they ARE connected, you KNOW and BLAM! – it hits you and it all makes sense. Eight years of this and the dots are finally connecting for me. I’ve met so many wonderful people, learned so much about cancer, how far science and medicine has come, how many gaps are still left to bridge and how possible we can make the impossible happen if we all work together for a greater cause. Thank you Lord for the hardships that you carried me through, thank you Momma for the prayers you devoted to me, thank you Sissy for saving my life with your last wish, thank you to my running coaches, mentors, teams, sponsors and fellow runners who encouraged me to not quit and push harder, thank you to my family, my sons and my husband for supporting me through those heart shattering moments that lasted years and in some ways still continue, thank you to my sisters in Christ who continuously pray for me and everyone who has been and will be touched by cancer, thank you to my fellow RealtorsĀ® who have now stepped up and in to this next phase of mine, just as my Momma did – still not ready to fill her shoes but certainly am ready to follow the footsteps she proudly trekked.

So with that, a few weeks ago, a fellow Realtor and cycling amigo rounded up a few of us who run and ride and a challenge was set forth: we were all to run 1000 mile (collectively) during the month of October and some of the businesses that we work with in the industry would match $1 per mile that we run and donate the money to theĀ Vannie E. Cook Jr. Children’s Cancer & Hematology Clinic. We created a facebook group and a Strava group to encourage/motivate each other and log our miles together. As of today, 4 days into October, we already have approximately 350 miles in to our goal! As RealtorsĀ®, we stereo typically lead very unhealthy, high stress lives. Most of us spend too much time in our cars driving rather than walking, running or cycling. We eat whatever is convenient and cheap so highly processed, high calorie fast food is the norm or skipping meals and binge eating/drinking late in the day is common. It didn’t take long for our little group to explode and offer hope and encouragement to our other members. We have 5ks on our calendar every weekend in October. Tomorrow’s Chacha Run in Edinburg will be our first.

But I had a dilemma. All these years, I was known for running in ORANGE because it was my Momma’s favorite color. The Chacha run and most October Breast Cancer awareness runs use the color PINK to signify and bring awareness to the issue. Long story short – I have nothing in pink to run in and wear tomorrow.

TODAY one of my best friends surprised me with THIS and all I could give her back were a flood of happy tears and big bear hugs. She took the time, effort and creativity to design and create this and have it made custom for me in time for this race tomorrow. ISN’T SHE AWESOME!?!?!? I know I am blessed not because I’m feeling all high and mighty but just the opposite – I’m humbled and unworthy of all the greatness bestowed upon me. I am blessed because through all of this loss, hardship, heartbreak, family destruction and cracks in the foundation of what I thought was me was God’s light shining through and connecting these dots, these moments, experiences and strangers who quickly became solid life long best friends is the healing. Thank youĀ Irene Becerra ThompsonĀ and every one at Pescador Fishing Apparel! Y’all caught me by surprise today and love you all so much for it! I will proudly wear pink tomorrow forĀ #mimismilesĀ and to those who run beside me, I hope you feel the breeze from the wings of the angels around me. I hope that in the steps we all take tomorrow, today, this month, we are able to make a difference in the lives of the children fighting cancer in our community. My heart is smiling today!!!

Cattle Baron’s Ball Shocking Honoree

Posted in cancer, Mom with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2015 by runmyssierun

A short while ago, I got a message via facebook to meet over coffee from a good friend. While sipping coffee at Starbucks, she ever so gracefully mentioned honoring my mother and I at this year’s Cattle Baron’s Ball. I’ll admit, I was stunned and didn’t know what to say or do other than keep the coffee from spurting out of my mouth and onto her impeccably styled self and just nodding my head up and down.

Cattle Baron's Ball Trifold Yep, that's my family in there.

Cattle Baron’s Ball Trifold
Yep, that’s my family in there.

A few years ago, when Momma was first diagnosed with cancer, she was named REALTOR OF THE YEAR by her fellow Realtors and members of the Greater McAllen Association of Realtors. Ā I remember her hanging her head low shortly after accepting the award and shared a rare moment of doubt with me.

“They feel sorry for me because I have cancer. That’s why they voted for me,” said whispered to me.

“Momma, this wasn’t pity. We all admire you. Not everything is about cancer.”

She forced a smile on her face and gave me a hug. I knew I did an awful job of convincing her that it wasn’t pity. I wish I could go back in time and tell her something else… something eloquent, profound and full of wisdom, poetic and strong enough to have made her believe what I saw and admired in her.

Oh how hindsight is so 20/20!!! How I would do things differently if given the chance.

Momma was an officer for GMAR (Greater McAllen Association of Realtors) for several years and was President elect the year that she was diagnosed with cancer. No one told her to – but she removed herself from the position to tend to her treatments. She was never the type of person to not give %110 and she thought that her treatment away at MD Anderson would diminish her effectiveness as a leader for this organization that she loved so much.

She did an awesome job of teaching me by example to never half-ass something important to you. You do it %110 or don’t do it at all until you’re ready.

What Momma either forgot or didn’t realize at the time was that this group of Realtors, friends and co-workers had all admired and trusted her enough to make her their leader even before cancer was in the picture. And I failed to remind her of that fact.

Dad, Momma, me and hubby at the Greater McAllen Association of Realtors (GMAR) Realtor of the Year awards

Dad, Momma, me and hubby at the Greater McAllen Association of Realtors (GMAR) Realtor of the Year awards

She was Realtor of the year, Rotarian of the year, Woman of the year (and many others)… and in the back of her mind, I think she doubted whether she deserved all these incredible awards by merit or if they were given to her by cancer pity. And I think I did a terrible job of convincing her of her true worth and value to her community. I should have done more when I had the time to do so.

So now here we are in present day and I find myself in a similar situation and guilty of feeling undeserving of this honor. Ā See, I’ve never HAD cancer. I live a healthy life. I don’t suffer the effects of chemotherapy, radiation and surgical removals of organs and body parts. I don’t have to miss work or family time because I’m away at hospitals being poked and prodded for experimental treatments. I don’t have to schedule Real Estate open houses and viewing appointments around the times I know I’ll be vomiting. I just have to run or swim or ride a bike. That’s all. Why does that make me so special? I’m really the under achiever of the family.

I mean… I’m not even one of those amazing athletes that qualifies for Boston. Or Kona. Or… anything worth qualifying for.

They should have picked someone else for this award. And cancer should have taken me instead.

Yes, this is how I truly feel.

BUT… these last few years really have changed my outlook and I refuse to let myself mope around in my dramatic pity parties. Regardless of how I feel on the inside, these last few years and experiences have taught me that although honors AND criticisms are directed towards me, much of them have little to do with me. I was chosen for this because of the love I have for my mother, the admiration I have for her and all that she went through and all that she did when she could. I made a promise to raise awareness and funds for a disease that I am not stricken with and being noted for it. I made a promise to do my best to take care of the health that I was blessed with and not take it for granted and I don’t do it alone, I am led, pushed and followed by countless others….

So in essence, who is really being honored here is not me but my mother, my family, my friends, my community, my teammates, my supporters, donors, sponsors and especially the victims of cancer, their families and caregivers who know all too well what it is that my Mother saw and desperately wanted to remedy. Ā Little actually has to do with me and so much has to do with everyone else.

I bow down to you, the deserving – the ones who have loudly and silently confided, cried, comforted and competed with me. I bow down to you, the fighters, the lovers, the haters, the cheerleaders, the sick and the healthy… for YOU are the ones that I’ve always wanted never to endure what we did. It was her wish and it is my promise. And neither of us are quitters.

I will accept this honor on my mother’s behalf and bow to you… because we are all deserving to live in a world without cancer.

For more information about the American Cancer Society’s Cattle Baron’s Ball this year on September 19th at the Boggus Ford Event Center in Pharr, TX, would like to attend and/or sponsor it, please call the RGV ACS at (956) 682-8329. Once they update and finalize the website, I’ll post a link here.

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