Square Life Round World

I'm navigating through this round world while living a square life, and it fits exactly as it should.

St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. All month long, you may have seen people changing their profile pictures on social media to #ShowYourGold or even superheroes.  

Showing my gold


On September 19 and 26, St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer events happened all over the country to coincide with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I participated in the Memphis event, and it was unlike any 5k I’ve ever done. 

First of all, it was a walk/run, with an emphasis on walk. This made it perfect for beginners and even people who aren’t active at all. There was none of the “fast people in the front, slow people in the back” business. It was not about racing. It was all about everyone coming together for one reason and one reason only: to raise awareness for childhood cancer. 

There were also so many people participating in teams and staying together as a team. Many teams had matching shirts made for the event. All that unification was a really cool thing to see. 

There was so much gold, too! Gold signs, flags, pom poms, headbands, shoelaces and even socks were everywhere! My floor made gold and black tutus to sell as a fundraiser so those were all over the course as well. I even wore a tutu for the first time. 

Traffic was crazy getting to the event so I knew the turnout was going to be huge.  

Stuck in traffic but I couldn’t wait to get there!


Despite allowing myself what I thought was more than enough time, I got there just in time for a photo with my immediate work team before heading to the start. 

My work team

I also got a quick Periscope broadcast in (@myglasssneaker). 

 

Ready to Walk/Run

The weather was great. It was a mild, overcast day, although more humid than I expected. I absolutely love downtown Memphis courses. 

I love running by the famous M bridge.

The scenery is gorgeous, although I always forget how hilly it is.  

Does this look like a hill? Because, it definitely is one.

 

The Pyramid, which is now home to Bass Pro. Except, the hospital and finish line is in the opposite direction. Shouldn’t we be heading the other way?

 

Finally, we are heading back toward the hospital!

   

The finish is in sight.

As a chronic back-of-the-packer, I really enjoyed being with the pack for the entire course. Once I was done, I stuck around for a few minutes at the finish line to cheer people on. I also did another quick Periscope broadcast from the finish line. 

It was a great day, and I’m sure it will be even bigger next year. Did you participate in an event in your area? 

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Whole Foods Market Salud Blackberry Farm Dinner

This past Saturday night, I attended a special benefit for the Cooper Young Farmers Market here in Memphis. Whole Foods in Memphis celebrated the grand opening of their new Salud cooking school with this event presented by Blackberry Farm.

Blackberry Farm cookbooks

Blackberry Farm cookbooks

Salud at Whole Foods

Salud at Whole Foods

If you’ve never heard of Blackberry Farm, it is one of the nation’s best luxury hotels and is a working farm in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. I had the pleasure of staying there several years ago and found it to be the most glorious place on earth I’ve ever experienced.

The dinner was done as a demonstration where the chefs prepare the meal in front of you and you eat what they have prepared. I knew because it was Blackberry Farm it was going to be special so I was so excited to attend. I arrived about 15 minutes early since I really didn’t know what to expect. I saw chefs in the room making lots of preparations for us but we weren’t allowed in just yet.

Let me in!

Let me in!

After most people had arrived, they invited us over to a section they had blocked off with tables for a sort of cocktail party type experience. We had our choice of Chardonnay or Merlot, which they explained were available at the store. Wait! What? Wine available at a grocery store? In Tennessee? Yep! They sell it through their Cork and Carry program, a loophole to the Tennessee liquor laws making wine sales in grocery stores illegal. Because they have the BBQ Shack restaurant in the store, they can sell wine by the bottle, but you have to drink some of it before you can take it home with you. Sounds logical! (insert sarcasm)

Wine at Whole Foods

Wine at Whole Foods

Along with the wine, passed appetizers were available. My favorite was the grilled cheese made with Benton’s bacon, Blackberry Farm Magnolia cheese, and Blackberry Farm apple and onion jam.

It may not look like much but this Blackberry Farm Grilled Cheese was a fave!

It may not look like much but this Blackberry Farm Grilled Cheese was a fave!

It was delish! I was also happy to know many of the Blackberry Farm products are available at Whole Foods so I can make this sandwich at home if I want.

Blackberry Farm's line of products is available at Whole Foods.

Blackberry Farm’s line of products is available at Whole Foods.

I also enjoyed the Blackberry Farm deep-fried bread and butter pickles with their J & S sauce as well as their buckwheat pancake with fried sunny side up quail egg and their own salami.

Deep fried bread and butter pickles with J & S Sauce

Deep fried bread and butter pickles with J & S Sauce

Buckwheat pancake with sunny side up quail egg and salami

Buckwheat pancake with sunny side up quail egg and salami

After we had all had our fill of the appetizers, we were invited into Salud for the remainder of the meal. At each place setting was a nice take-away for us, a jar of one of Blackberry Farm’s delectable spreads and a measuring spoon from Salud.

Gift for me

Gift for me

Our chefs for the evening were Josh Feathers, one of the head chefs at the farm, Ryan Burger, the cheesemaker at the farm, and Cameron Roszkowski, also a chef at the farm.

Cameron Roszkowski, Josh Feathers, and Ryan Burger, all chefs at Blackberry Farm

Cameron Roszkowski, Josh Feathers, and Ryan Burger, all chefs at Blackberry Farm

Most of the cooking demos I’ve been to involve the presenter showing a few steps of the dish while servers bring out pre-made and pre-plated versions of the dish. So, you are never really sure who made it. Not here! The chefs actually cooked and plated the courses right in front of us so we knew we were eating their food.

Chefs plating one of our courses

Chefs plating one of our courses

These were highly talented, well-educated, well established chefs, and they were right in front of me, cooking for ME! The food geek in me was elated!

The first course was a vegetable “pasta”, in quotes because the “noodles” were actually strips of veggies.

Vegetable "pasta" in cheese broth with mushroom spread on toast

Vegetable “pasta” in cheese broth with mushroom spread on toast

They were presented with a cheese broth, which was surprisingly not cheesy at all, just very flavorful, and a toast with their mushroom spread. It was so delicious! This course was paired with a Pinot Grigio. Next was the fish course. Baked salmon rubbed with kale pesto, raw kale mixed with a lemon olive oil, carrot puree, and salmon caviar was presented.

Kale pesto rubbed salmon

Kale pesto rubbed salmon

As you can see, I hated it!

What was left of the salmon

What was left of the salmon. All of my plates looked like this.

The salmon was paired with the Chardonnay. Up next was braised short ribs with a fried fingerling potato, tomato relish, sautéed kale and a balsamic reduction.

Beef Short Rib

Beef Short Rib

The chef spent a great deal of time explaining how the tomato relish is made. Their treatment of the most simple foods, their respect for food, and their passion for it really turns it into something special. It was insanely delicious! This was paired with a red blend. Finally, dessert was presented. A ball of their own soft brebis cheese rolled in candied pecans, served with a berry consomme and figs ended the meal perfectly.

A perfect fruit and cheese dessert

A perfect fruit and cheese dessert

The candied pecans were the star! They prepared them by boiling raw pecans first, then mixing one part powdered sugar with 2 parts pecans, THEN deep-frying them for about 5 minutes. I could have eaten an entire bowl of the pecans themselves.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end and with that, the night was over. But not before I snagged a few pics with the chefs!

Me with the chefs

Me with the chefs

The women in their lives are some lucky ladies!

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To Do Rock and Roll Nashville or Not

To do Rock and Roll Nashville or not, that is the question.  If you recall back in December when the Memphis St. Jude Marathon Weekend was cancelled (I was registered for the half) we were given an option of registering for one of three upcoming Rock and Roll events in lieu of a refund.  I chose to register for Nashville.  Fast forward 2 months and now I’m having second thoughts.  Let’s go through the pros and cons and hopefully I can make a decision once and for all.

Rock and Roll Nashville

Rock and Roll Nashville

Pros

  1. It’s a race that’s always been on my radar and it’s unlikely I’ll ever get another opportunity to participate without paying a registration fee again.
  2. I’ve heard so many great things about this race.  Local spectator support is supposed to be second to none.
  3. There are country music bands at each mile marker.
  4. It’s a destination race within driving distance.
  5. My sister and her family live there. (Whether or not they would come out to support me is unknown at this point but it’s nice to know I have family nearby.)
  6. It’s a goal to work toward that would get me back on a training plan, which is always good for my personal fitness.
  7. Training weather should be great.
  8. Race weather should be great as well.
  9. runDisney usually is there, and they give out pretty sweet sling bags if you register for one of their races.  I’m planning on going back for Wine and Dine weekend this year.  While I’ll already be registered for the half by then, I plan to do the 5k and can register for that then.
  10. I’ve never done a Rock and Roll event, and it would be an opportunity to try one out.

Cons

  1. I would have to board my dog for yet another weekend trip.
  2. Hotel rooms are pretty outrageous in downtown Nashville for that weekend.  (I already have one booked, and I’m still suffering from sticker shock.)
  3. Hills!  Oh the hills!  I don’t have access to hills here in Memphis to train on that would even come close to the hills on that race course.
  4. For some reason even though it’s a random weekend in April, three people in my office want that Friday off.  Only one of us can have it and since I’m the manager I get to decide.  I feel guilty taking it away from someone else.
  5. I would have to get on the training pretty immediately since I haven’t run since the Minnie 10k.
  6. I’m not sure my heart is in it.  This is probably the biggest con.  If I’m going to spend that much for a race weekend, I feel like I need to be excited about it.  For some reason, I’m not.

So, what do you think?  Should I do it or not?  I probably need to decide this week.  I’m open to any and all thoughts.

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How to Get into a Sold Out Disney Race

runDisney races have become so popular that they often sell out the first day registration opens. 

runDisney

runDisney

Since registration can open up to 8 months before the event, you have to be an uber planner to get in lately.  I love to plan, just not always that far in advance.  With the exception of the Inaugural Tower of Terror 10 Miler, all 4 of the other runDisney races I’ve registered for have been more of an afterthought, months after registration opened.  Lucky for me at the time, the races weren’t selling out in a day and I was able to get into the ones I wanted.

My luck ran out when I decided I wanted to run in the Inaugural Minnie 10k being held during Marathon Weekend next year.  

2014 will be the Inaugural Minnie 10k

2014 will be the Inaugural Minnie 10k

I had not initially intended to participate in Marathon Weekend at all.  With a half marathon planned in October, November, and December, my mind and body could not handle January, too.  That all changed when some of my runner friends suggested volunteering.  We could split the room 4 ways and I could fly virtually free on miles, making it a fairly inexpensive trip.  I have to admit, the thought of enjoying a runDisney weekend without any pressure was appealing, as was the different perspective.  I was in!

Of course it wasn’t long until my thoughts turned to running again.  I still was not willing to take on another half, but the Minnie 10k started looking better and better. 

Bling makes everything better.

Bling makes everything better.

Even though it was already sold out, I knew that closer to the event, people would back out, and I’d likely be able to buy a spot from someone else.  The thought totally crossed my mind to do this, but it’s not ideal for several reasons.

  1. It’s against the rules!  runDisney has a policy against bib transfers from one runner to another.  Rumor has it that anyone caught buying or selling a bib in this manner can be banned from runDisney events for life.  I don’t believe I’ve ever actually read this in black and white, and I know I’ve never heard of anyone who actually got banned for this reason.  However, rules are rules, and that’s the rule.  No bib transfers!
  2. Lack of recourse.  These “illegal” bib sales can happen months before the event.  Even if you use PayPal, often the time to file a claim has expired before you would ever know there was a problem.  Unless you happen to be lucky enough to know the person you are buying from, you are trusting a complete stranger to be honest and deliver on their part when it’s time for the expo and bib pick-up.
  3. Wrong name on your bib.  Ok, this may not be a big deal to some, but I bet if you are a guy named John, you don’t want to run wearing a bib with the name Heather on it. 
  4. runDisney can choose to crack down on the rules at any time.  They could easily say only the registrant picks up the packet, meaning you could have paid someone for a bib you can’t even pick up.  Do I think they will do this without warning?  No.  With Disney’s track record for changing things with little or no notice, I don’t think I’d want to chance it, though.  Edit:  runDisney has, in fact, changed the rules, and starting with Avengers weekend at Disneyland in November 2014, they no longer allow packets to be picked up by anyone other than the person registered. 

So, what to do?  The answer is right on the runDisney website.  You can register through various charities and/or travel groups.  Yes, a lot of the charities ask you to raise thousands of dollars, often in exchange for race entry fees, accommodations, even air fare and other amenities.  There are some, though, that just ask you to raise a few hundred dollars in exchange for race fees only.  Then there are the travel groups.  Many require you to book your entire trip with them in order to buy the race entry.  However, there are some that will just let you register for the race, hoping you will book something with them at some point.  At any rate, you do have to dig through the lists to figure out what the requirements are for each one.  I found one travel group that didn’t list what they had available or what the requirements were.  I just had to fill out an interest form online telling them what I wanted.  Within a couple of hours, I got an email back saying they had a Minnie 10k registration available, and for me to call them to get it set up.  I called, still thinking they might at least want me to buy park tickets from them in order to get the registration.  Nope!  I gave them my information, paid only the race entry fee, and got my Active confirmation the next day.  I could hardly believe that I had just successfully, legally, and in my name, obtained an entry for a race that had been sold out for months.  Two of my other friends also registered for other sold out runDisney races using these methods. 

The moral of the story is that you do not have to buy a bib under the table and run in someone else’s name.  Just do a little digging and research and you can either book through a travel group or find a great charity to help support.

Course map for 2014 10k

Course map for 2014 10k

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I am a charity athlete for St. Jude.  To donate, click here.

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St. Jude Hospital Tour

This past Saturday I got the opportunity to tour St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, right here in Memphis, TN. As most of you know, I love St. Jude, they are my favorite charity, and I do all I can to support them. As you can imagine, I was super excited to get to see the hospital first-hand and learn more about the wonderful things they are doing there.

At the entrance to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital stands a statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes.

At the entrance to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital stands a statue of St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes.

First of all, I learned that St. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless causes. Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude Hospital, was a devout Catholic. As a struggling actor, he once gave his last $7 to the Catholic church and later prayed to St. Jude to help him find his way. His prayer included a promise that he would build a St. Jude shrine. After becoming a successful actor, he kept his word, and the hospital was the shrine he built. One of my friends asked, why Memphis? Well, it was important to Danny Thomas that the hospital not discriminate for any reason. This is even more important because the time period in which the hospital was founded was at the height of the civil rights movement, and sensitivities were very high. Not only was Memphis centrally located, being on the Mississippi River, having a major airport and train station, but he wanted to make a civil rights statement as well.

A bust of Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude, is on display in the hospital.  His nose is brighter than the rest because visitors often rub it for luck.

A bust of Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude, is on display in the hospital. His nose is brighter than the rest because visitors often rub it for luck.

I knew that no family is ever asked to pay for anything at St. Jude, but I didn’t know the measures the hospital takes to make sure the family has zero financial burden, even after treatment. See, cancer treatment can cause other health issues, such as hearing, vision, and even dental problems. St. Jude employs all kinds of doctors and nurses so that the family doesn’t have to go outside the hospital for these other issues. They also make many of their own medicines and have pharmacy licenses in 48 states. Once the child is done with treatment at the hospital and is back home, St. Jude can send their medicines to them, also free of charge. They’ve even covered the toll an illness like this can take on the family, a marriage, and the child’s siblings. They have social workers to provide counseling.

Every part of the hospital is designed with children in mind, and not just young children. Counters, desks, and even some ceilings are lowered so the child doesn’t feel so small. Waiting rooms are more like dream play rooms. They have arcades for teenagers and even a lounge area just for teens and their siblings, no parents allowed. They even have a high school prom every year for the teens that had to miss theirs due to their illness.

Mirror, Mirror is a poem written by a patient and is on display in the patient art gallery.

Mirror, Mirror is a poem written by a patient and is on display in the patient art gallery.

I also learned that there are 8 executive chefs in the city of Memphis, and 4 of them work at St. Jude. That means that as a patient and employee of St. Jude, you are going to eat very well. No icky hospital dinners here! Another interesting note about the cafeteria is that Danny Thomas wanted the doctors, nurses, patients and families to all dine together. He didn’t want a separate eating area for the doctors. He wanted the doctors and nurses to be as close to the patients as possible because he felt it would make them better at their jobs.

There is also a pavilion on the campus that is more like a museum of the history of St. Jude and Danny’s life. Here, you’ll find awards such as Emmys and even Danny’s Hollywood Star. They also hold special events here such as the prom I spoke of earlier.

These Emmys belonging to Danny Thomas are on display in the St. Jude Pavilion.

These Emmys belonging to Danny Thomas are on display in the St. Jude Pavilion.

Danny Thomas's Hollywood Star

Danny Thomas’s Hollywood Star

There are so many things I learned about St. Jude, I could go on and on. I will leave you with this, though. Once a child is finished with chemo, he or she gets a very special No Mo’ Chemo party. Nurses and volunteers sing a song to the tune of the old Oscar Meyer bologna jingle. Here are the lyrics.

Our patients have the cutest S-M-I-L-Es.

Our patients have the sweetest H-E-A-R-Ts.

Oh we love to see you every day

But now’s the time we get to say

Pack up your bags, get out the door.

You don’t need chemo anymore.

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I am raising money as a charity athlete for St. Jude. To donate, click here.

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St. Jude Heroes Fund-Raising Kickoff Breakfast

This past Saturday I had the privilege of attending the St. Jude Heroes Kickoff Breakfast at Lichterman Nature Center in Memphis.I attended last year’s breakfast as well, and I must say they kicked it up a notch this year. I’m so excited about all the things they have planned to support us through this fund-raising and training season.

Lichterman Nature Center

Lichterman Nature Center

The only money St. Jude receives from the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend is the money raised by Heroes. All of the registration money goes to pay for the event itself. I didn’t know this until last year. All someone has to do to become a Hero for St. Jude is commit to raising funds. The success of the Heroes program has made the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend the biggest single fund-raising event of the organization, even bigger than their Dream Home campaign. Because of the success of the Heroes program around this event, St. Jude has expanded its Heroes program to include other athletic events around the country, including the Chicago Marathon, NYC Marathon, and even the Boston Marathon. That’s right! Can’t qualify by time? You can fund-raise your way into Boston with St. Jude. They’ve even partnered with runDisney to offer race entries for Wine and Dine Half and Princess Half for fund-raising.

This particular breakfast was specifically for Heroes raising funds for the Memphis event in December. I’m always impressed by any event this organization puts on, and this breakfast was no different. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, making sure we all had what we needed. There were table decorations to set the stage, and even a swag table that we were invited to help ourselves to.

Table Decorations

Table Decorations

Swag Table

More Swag

More Swag

Breakfast was provided by McAlister’s Deli, and coffee was provided by Community Coffee. They even gave each of us a training journal, a magnet with the entire calendar of events throughout our training season, a note pad, and pen.

Yummy breakfast provided by McAlister's

Yummy breakfast provided by McAlister’s

Once the program started, we found out they have some surprises in store for us in the coming months. I cannot wait to find out what that’s all about!

St. Jude Fund-Raising Kickoff Breakfast

St. Jude Fund-Raising Kickoff Breakfast

We heard from Kevin Leathers, the national St. Jude Running Coach and owner of Can’t Stop Endurance coaching and consulting. I loved working with him last year, and I am excited for even more opportunities to work with him this year. Last year, he hosted monthly group runs with us and I attended every one of them. This year, I was excited to find out he is hosting WEEKLY group runs starting this Saturday. That means I get to work with him every week from now until the race if I want to. He will also be repeating the monthly training clinics he held last year as well. I will for sure be attending as many of those as I can. Additionally, they will be supporting us through training and fund-raising Facebook chat events. These are great since not all Heroes are from Memphis. Participants from all over the world can take advantage of these Facebook events.

We then met a young man named Ramon and his mother. Ramon was treated at St. Jude for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma when he was 6. His mother told the emotional story of his diagnosis and their fear of not only the dreadful disease but also of how they were going to financially afford his treatment. They were shocked and ecstatic to learn that no patient is ever billed for anything. They were also thrilled that St. Jude didn’t look or feel like a hospital. Kids were laughing and having fun despite their diseases. They put Ramon and his needs first and took care of everyone’s emotional needs as well as Ramon’s physical needs. Ramon is 13 now and cancer-free! She truly feels that if it were not for the work of fund-raisers like the Heroes program, her son would not be alive and countless more kids would die of cancer than do. Her gratitude was genuine and hearing stories like theirs is always emotional.

The entire event reinforced for me why I am a St. Jude Hero. We truly are running for a purpose. We are making a difference in the lives of these kids and countless more to come. Ramon’s mother mentioned that she often wonders if Danny Thomas knew what he was creating 51 years ago. I’m not sure if anyone will ever know that answer to that, but we know now what he did create. He created what would become the world’s leading children’s research hospital, a place where kids and their families can come, financially worry-free, to be treated for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, where their child comes first, where there’s hope.

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To donate to my personal fund-raising page or make a donation, visit www.heroes.stjude.org/Melanie_Adams.

There is a little time left to register for my virtual run to benefit St. Jude. To register or for details, click here.

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Magic Carpet Run 2013 5k/10k–A Virtual Run

As you may know by now, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is my favorite charity.  I ran in the 2012 Memphis St. Jude Half Marathon and raised over $600 for the kids of St. Jude. 

The start of the 2012 Memphis St. Jude Half Marathon

The start of the 2012 Memphis St. Jude Half Marathon

This year, my goal is even loftier!  Not only am I raising funds as a charity athlete for the 2013 Memphis St. Jude Half Marathon, but I’m also running as a charity athlete for the 2014 Disney Princess Glass Slipper Challenge.  This means that I will be raising almost $4000 for the kids of St. Jude. 

It costs over $1.8 million a day for St. Jude to operate.  Why so much?  St. Jude never bills patients or their families for anything!  No patient is ever turned away due to their inability to pay.  St. Jude covers the cost of anything insurance does not cover.  Not only that, but they also provide assistance to patients and their families for housing, groceries, transportation, entertainment, and the list goes on and on.  Whatever the need, St. Jude fills it.  In addition, it is the leading children’s research hospital in the nation, which means they are also finding cures.  It truly is an amazing organization.

As some of you know, I ran as Jasmine in the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon, and she is my favorite princess.  I thought it would be fun to have an Aladdin-inspired virtual run.  It’s not a race because there will be no winners based on times.  Everyone is a winner and gets a unique, custom medal for this specific event. 

Magic Carpet Run Medal

Magic Carpet Run Medal

The kids of St. Jude are winners because your participation will go a long way towards helping the mission of finding cures and saving children.  So, welcome to the Magic Carpet Run.  You can choose your distance, 5k or 10k, and since the medal is the same for both distances, you don’t even have to decide until you are doing your run.  If at least 100 participants register, everyone will also receive a bonus koozie commemorating the event. 

Everyone will receive this commemorative koozie if we reach 100 participants.

Everyone will receive this commemorative koozie if we reach 100 participants.

The cost for the run is $20 per participant, and that includes shipping!  This event will close out on August 15, and all medals will be mailed in mid-September. 

Register for the run using PayPal by clicking on the Buy Now button below.  100% of the proceeds from this event will go to St. Jude.  If you don’t want to run and you still want to help the kids of St. Jude, you can make your 100% tax deductible donation here on my personal fund-raising page.

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Have you ever participated in a virtual run before?

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How To Avoid (Or At Least Postpone) The Post Vacation Blues

I don’t know about you but I always seem to come down with a serious case of the post vacation blues (PVB) after returning from a big trip. I was expecting my most recent case to be really bad since it was such an awesome vacation. However, my first week back was so incredibly busy and fun-filled that I didn’t have time to suffer. Here’s what I did.

First off, we usually have to stop for the night on the way back from Disney, and this normally means a business-travel-type hotel. That’s usually my first slap-in-the-face from the real world and is a stark contrast to the magical accommodations I’ve been accustomed to for the previous week. This time, however, we made a detour to Biloxi, MS to spend the night at the Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino. Even though it’s still not quite the fairy tale of a Disney cruise ship, it has a very vacationy feel to it. Everyone is still happy, and there’s no real world slap. The $43 I won within 10 minutes of playing the slots helped as well.

Our view from the Beau Rivage Tower--I'm not complaining!

Our view from the Beau Rivage Tower–I’m not complaining!

The first few days back from work were relatively event-free, which always helps. I didn’t have a mess to return to, and nothing earth-shattering happened while I was away, so no PVB-inducing work needed to be done to fix anything.

Then on Wednesday after returning, I went to an outdoor concert at Levitt Shell, which is an amphitheater in Overton Park, located in Midtown Memphis. Levitt Shell is a free venue, and people simply bring their chairs or blankets, coolers filled with their favorite libations and noshes, and maybe a few dollars for food trucks and an optional donation to the band. Most of the time these concerts are held on the weekends but this one was a make-up date from a previously rained-out show. The band was mediocre but the vibe was cool and it turned out to be a very relaxing evening.

Free outdoor concert at Levitt Shell

Free outdoor concert at Levitt Shell

The very next night, on Thursday, I got to volunteer with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at Target House Bingo. In case you missed it, read all about it here.

On Friday, I got to play hooky from work for the afternoon and attended the Fed Ex St. Jude Classic, an annual PGA golf tournament in Memphis.

Fed Ex St. Jude Classic Tickets

Fed Ex St. Jude Classic Tickets

Fed Ex St. Jude Classic Entrance

This year, the biggest player in the tournament was Phil Mickelson, winner of 4 majors, including the Masters. It was funny because almost the entire grounds crowd, including me, was following Phil from hole to hole.

Almost everyone was following Phil Mickelson.

Almost everyone was following Phil Mickelson.

Apparently, cameras were not allowed, and I got reprimanded when I took this shot.

Phil Mickelson at the Fed Ex St. Jude Classic

Phil Mickelson at the Fed Ex St. Jude Classic

They didn’t kick me out or confiscate my phone, though, so it’s all good. The Golf Channel was there filming, being super-serious.

The Golf Channel Camera Man

The Golf Channel Camera Man

Unfortunately, I can’t recall who won the tournament, but I know it wasn’t Phil. It made for a relaxing, PVB-avoiding afternoon, though.

Then that night I was invited to the opening of The Crossroads of Memory: Carroll Cloar and the American South, a new art exhibit at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Faculty and Honor Roll Students, Lewis School by Carroll Cloar

Faculty and Honor Roll Students, Lewis School by Carroll Cloar

I’m a member of the Brooks, and this was a perk of membership. The wine was freely flowing, and there were tables practically overflowing with cheese, crackers, and fruit. The exhibit itself was beautifully curated and seemed to go on forever. Room after room was filled with his art depicting the rural American South of days gone by. It was all so gorgeous and detailed. I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of time it took him to create each piece.

After that, I capped my evening and first week back from vacation at Chiwawa, a new bar in Midtown Memphis’s Overton Square that serves Mexican influenced bar food and drinks. This is definitely not your typical Tex-Mex, pick-a-number-from-one-to-twenty-three type places. I wouldn’t exactly call it upscale, either, though. It’s more of a hip, modern place with a Mexican flare. I started off with a Strawberry Watermelon Sno Cone topped with vodka and some guacamole with chips. The “drink” was so refreshing! It appears as though there was a lot of ice, but it was plenty strong. The guacamole was chunky and flavorful, and the chips were house made. I followed that up with a brisket taco and a pulled pork taco (pastor style). Both had the most inventive and delicious house made toppings and were so good! I also had their version of Mexican street corn, which is slathered with mayo, cheese and other spices. I’m pretty sure they also soak it in milk or something because every kernel popped and exploded with juiciness with each bite. I would say it was the best corn I’ve ever had, and I’m not really a corn fan.

Chiwawa Memphis

Chiwawa Memphis

It was the perfect ending to a week of avoiding PVB!

How do you recover from PVB?

If you haven’t figured out by now, St. Jude is my favorite charity. I’m running in the St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon in December, and I’m trying to raise $500 for the kids of St. Jude. Please visit my fundraising page here, and I would love it if you can make a donation. Any amount helps.

Also, follow me on Twitter @myglasssneaker.

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Feel Good Friday–Target House Bingo for St. Jude Patients

Last night I had the opportunity to volunteer with a charity that is near and dear to my heart, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. By far, it is my favorite charity. I’m going to apologize in advance because, out of respect for the patients and their families, I did not take any photos. I have a friend who works in the marketing department for ALSAC, the fund-raising arm for St. Jude, and in the future, I’ll have him use his channels to get a blog post with photos approved. Until then, all I have to offer are words.

Memphis has three houses that support St. Jude.  Grizzlies House is a very short-term housing facility for families to use when they first come to St. Jude.  Ronald McDonald House is a medium-term housing facility.  Families can stay there for up to 60 days, I believe.  Target house offers long-term, indefinite housing and is the only facility that actually operates under the St. Jude budget.  Each month, Bingo is played at each of the houses for the kids to have an hour of fun.  When I say an hour of fun, it’s like Christmas fun! 

It works just like normal Bingo.  The game is played, spaces are marked off, someone yells “Bingo” and wins.  There is a wall, literally a wall, full of toys for the kids.  As they win, volunteers (moi) hand out tickets to the winners.  They go to the wall, pick a toy, hand in their ticket, and it’s a pretty continuous parade of cancer patients getting toys for the entire hour.  Everyone wins so much, garbage bags have to be handed out to haul all the loot.  Another thing that makes it special is there are no Bingo police checking cards to see if actual Bingo happened.  We pretend to check, but the idea is that everyone wins!  A LOT!!

Target House is where I volunteered last night.  Like I said, I have a friend who works in marketing for St. Jude, and I was asked if I’d like to help.  He knows that I ran as a fund-raiser last year in the St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon, and thought I’d enjoy the interaction with the kids.  He was so very right!  I plan to become a regular Bingo volunteer.  True to what St. Jude always does to me, I was so happy to be able to help and bring joy to the kids and their families.  At the same time, it’s heart-wrenching that they have to face this terrible disease.  Sickening, even!  Yet, for an hour last night, there was a room filled with happy kids and their families, doing what kids do, playing Bingo, and being normal.  The visual evidence of cancer was everywhere, all over the room, but cancer can’t kill the spirit of a child.  When a child yells “Bingo” and high-fives you then excitedly collects the very toy he or she has been eyeing, cancer doesn’t exist in that moment.  That’s pretty cool.

What’s your favorite charity or volunteer effort?

Follow me on Twitter @myglasssneaker!

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Disney Cruise Line Dream Cruise 2013–The Aquaducky Derby

Thank you readers for hanging in there with me while I enjoyed fun and frolics aboard the Disney Dream and at Walt Disney World last week!  I’m back so now you’ll have new stuff to read.  I know you are excited!

First off, I want to share with you something entirely new for Disney Cruise Line, the Aquaducky Derby. 

Aquaducky Derby

Aquaducky Derby

It’s so new that ours was the very first cruise to ever do this event.  It was a fund-raiser for Make a Wish International, and we were able to raise over $5000 on our cruise for this fabulous organization.  Did you know that every year Disney Cruise Line grants 735 wishes to children with life-threatening diseases?  That’s just Disney Cruise Line!  That does not include what they grant in their theme parks.  That’s pretty awesome of Disney but Make a Wish International still needs cash to operate with so that’s where this fund-raiser comes in. 

Throughout the cruise, passengers were able to purchase cute rubber duckies for $5 each. 

Rubber Duckies were purchased for $5 each.

Rubber Duckies were purchased for $5 each.

We were asked to write our room number on our ducky with a Sharpie so they could track the winner.  This also made it easy to return the ducky to its rightful owner after the Derby.  People even decorated their ducks in all different colors.  Anything was fine as long as it was done with a Sharpie.  Then on the last day, Disney VoluntEARS were on hand to collect the ducks in these mesh bags. 

Disney VoluntEARS collected the ducks to take to the start line.

Disney VoluntEARS collected the ducks to take to the start line.

Even Donald and Daisy were there to cheer for the event, dressed in their cruise duds. 

Donald and Daisy were excited for this event!

Donald and Daisy were excited for this event!

So, basically what happened is the water was turned off of the Aquaduck (the water slide/roller coaster which can be found on the Dream and the Fantasy), all the ducks were dumped in, the water was turned back on and each duck had to fend for itself to find its way to the finish line. 

And they're off!

And they’re off!

More VoluntEARS collected the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers, the winners were announced, and the owners were presented with medals. 

Here come the winners!

Here come the winners!

It was so much fun and way more exciting than I would have ever imagined a duck race in the Aquaduck could have possibly been. 

They were also really organized about getting the ducks returned to their owners.  I was curious as to how they were going to pull that off since there were over 1000 ducks participating.  They had tables roped off and set up according to floor number.  You walked up to the table that corresponded to your floor number, told the VoluntEAR your room number, and they found your duck(s) for you.  I have to say, though, that my duck had a pretty rough ride! 

My ducky got a little scarred and bruised.

My ducky got a little scarred and bruised.

He was all bruised up from all the other duckies’ Sharpie decorations.  He was still smiling, though, so he didn’t seem to mind. 

I really love that Disney did this event!  It felt good to be a part of something meaningful on vacation, and they did a great job of putting on an exciting show.  I don’t know if they have plans to do this every cruise but if they do, I would definitely do it again!

Would you participate in a fund-raiser on vacation?

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