You too can inspire!

On Sunday, August 9, 2015, I completed my fourth ever Sprint Tri(athlon) with this as my third Iron Girl Triathlon. My seventh wedding anniversary also took place on this day.

I knew the day would take every ounce of energy-physical, mental, and emotional – I had before the day concluded. On Saturday night, while I prepared and packed for the Tri, I pinned two Angel pins near the right shoulder of the shirt that would cover my swimsuit for the cycling and running segments of the Tri. These Angels represented my husband, Russ, sitting on my shoulder as I completed the Tri. He didn’t disappoint me as I persevered through the challenges.

Many Angels surrounded me as I swam 1/2 mile, cycled 12 miles and ran/walked 31 miles. Not only did Russ and other Heavenly Angels sit on my shoulders, but Team Phoenix members were all around me. Team Phoenix this year composed of 47 cancer survivors either in treatment or remission. Most of them survived breast cancer and all of them were first time triathletes. They rallied before starting and you couldn’t help but feed off their energy. This strong group of women inspired me to keep going even when I started tiring. I stuck around until the last triathlete crossed the finish line and it happened that it was a member of Team Phoenix. The entire team went back on the run course to finish the race with her and everyone else associated with the team waited for her on the other side of the finish line. They even had a ribbon for her to cross. Many people shed tears including me. These tears represented joy, hope, strength, inspiration, and love.

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We’ve all overcome challenges and tragedies on our journeys and continue to inspire others. We’re all thriving overcomers!

Climbing Higher

In the last few weeks, I’ve personally sold book numbers 101 and 102. Book number 102 went to a friend of mine after we watched the South Shore Frolics Fireworks at South Shore Park last night. Book number 101 has a story to share.

I attended a Sunday morning yoga class at the Downtown Milwaukee YMCA. We had a sub for class that day. I really enjoyed the class and talked to the instructor after class ended. We started talking about journeys and I shared the concept of That’s All I Got! with her. She became interested in my book and told me she’d buy a copy. I always travel with a few copies of my book in the car and since we had parked near each other and she had the cash, she bought a copy. I handed her a small stack of postcards for her to put out at the gym she works at and then she suggested having a book signing event at the gym in Cedarburg later this summer. Wow! Talk about a great encounter!

There’s always opportunities to share my journey available, but you never know who cares enough to listen. They did, will you?

Expanding Awareness

Canada this week (May 4-10, 2015) recognizes mental health as part of Mental Health week #getloud. This week has a place on the calendar every year just as the United States has mental health awareness week. The U.S. also has May designated as Mental Heath Month  #MHMonth2015.

Thanks to advice from a friend who suggested that I connect with Tweeters that relate to the book and my cause. I started doing this in the U.S. and Canada since everyone everywhere deals with mental health issues and needs to create awareness on suicide prevention. Last night, I received a notification on my smartphone about tweets regarding mental health week in Canada. I chose to browse the tweets and I found one from a Tweeter that also started following me: Wellness Mindfulness @911well

Instantly, I knew I had to favorite and retweet this message and I chose to add a message: ” Let’s talk about suicide! Stigma surrounds it & we need to break it!

Not only did I choose to share this on Twitter, but also on my facebook page and the walls for the Milwaukee Out of the Darkness walk facebook page and my own event page for the walk.

I didn’t know that the retweet would receive such a positive response. Besides the followers I have the hashtags reached further. Hashtags, universally used, may relate to programs, events, life, and anything you can think of and they’re reused over and over. I chose #suicideprevention because it’s something I believe in. I chose #MentalHealthWeek because that’s what’s happening in Canada this week. I’m thankful that through technology people reach across states, countries, borders, continents…across the world…to share messages. I expanded awareness to many people in another country. To reach out to those in need for hope and promise expands knowledge and knowledge helps prevent and cure illnesses, dis-ease, and innocent lives from being lost to the completion of suicide. I feel blessed to have received the opportunity to change lives.

#breakthestigma #suicideprevention #mentalhealth

Out of the Darkness – Why we walk

Every year since 2009, the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, in Milwaukee leads me to help educate others and prevent suicide loss. In February 2015, I received an email from the walk chairperson announcing the date of the 2015 walk on October 4th. Having a secure date and location early allows more time to create awareness for the walk and promoting what it’s about. Even though more people sign up to walk, it brings a certain sadness for why we walk in the first place.

Before the walk, during check-in and registration, we receive honor beads to wear that represent why and who we’re walking for. Everyone wears blue beads to support the cause. In addition to those, I wear the red beads because I lost a spouse. This morning I realized that this year, I’ll also have purple beads representing the loss of a friend; my neighbor, Michael, completed suicide on February 11, 2015 after years of battling depression and other demons.

Here’s a listing from the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk for all the honor color beads:

White – Lost a Child
Red – Lost a Spouse or Partner
Gold – Lost a Parent
Orange – Lost a Sibling
Purple – Lost a Relative or Friend
Silver – Lost First Responder / Military
Green – Struggled Personally
Blue – Support the Cause
Teal – Friends and Family of Someone Who Struggles

I discovered on Twitter this week through the National Institute of Mental Health @NIMHgov that “Suicide research is critically underfunded in the U.S.” and linked the Action Alliance Press Release article on the subject. We walk to help fund the research and education about suicide and how to prevent it from happening. Every week we watch the news to hear about another death by the completion to suicide in the U.S. or abroad from a child to an adult as a result of bullying, depression, another mental illness whether known or unknown. We need to step up and support the cause and prevent innocent lives from being lost!

Every year I form the team, Walking foRuss, and every year I walk. I may not have other people walking with me, but I walk with other friends’ teams to offer support and then to receive it. We all for a reason…we lost or know someone who lost someone to a disease still surrounded by stigma. Please help break the silence.

Out of the Darkness walks

Milwaukee Community Walk

Support me and team Walking foRuss

Saying goodbye to save a life

Today, March 1st, has been emotionally charged as we said goodbye and bid peace to someone whose life ended too soon from the completion of suicide. He suffered from his own demons, which included depression. I know this story too well, our neighborhood grieves again. In December 2008, the neighborhood grieved the first time after my husband, Russ, passed away from the completion of suicide as a result of mental illness: bipolar and auditory hallucination, which associates with schizophrenia.

My neighbor, Michael, passed away on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 as a result of a gunshot after dealing with troubling times in life. His life has me reflecting back to the date and time of Russ’s death and how far I’ve come since. I not only survived, but I thrived.

As I sat during the funeral, I pictured Russ and now Michael Goetzinger in Heaven sitting in the yard and talking. They’re both released from their pain and looking down on their families and friends giving encouragement and making sure we’re all healing and moving forward. One of the songs played at the service, Wideness in God’s Mercy, hit home because it played at Russ’s funeral six years ago. Even in death we’re all connected.

The service composed of music, readings, and poems that found their place into people’s souls. From the poems, The Journey by Mary Oliver and The Farewell by Khalil Gibran, to music of Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, Everything’s Not Lost by Coldplay and If You Lead Me Lord I Will Follow, and an anointing of essential oils to aid in healing and hope created voices in song, hugs in hundreds, and tears of sorrow.

I’m thankful to all the neighbors who came together to support each other and for making sure that I’m doing alright and offering lots of hugs. Connected by love, connected by sorrow, all of us have a brighter tomorrow. Rest in Peace Michael and to all of people who have lost their lives to the completion of suicide.

Once again we’re reminded that suicide’s real and we must break the stigma that surrounds it. If you’re contemplating suicide, preventing suicide or support others, please see: AFSP.

If you are in crisis, please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
With your help, we can all save lives.

THRIVE!

Thrive! Thrive! Thrive! Thriver! Thriving! Thrival!

What amazing words revealing a deep concept! And yet the words have only recently revealed their shine and impact in the world.

I’ve been using the words for a good length of time now thanks to a friend who showed me the wrong way of using the word “survivor”. After the tragic loss of my husband, I became informed that I was a survivor (of suicide), but when I shared this on an Authentic Self~Kosmic Consciousness retreat, a new friend said something that it makes me sound like a survivor of cancer–that I survived it. This had me thinking that she’s right, it did sound that way. I came out alive from a tragic loss, but I wasn’t the victim, I didn’t merely survive, I thrived as a result. Since then, I’ve noticed thrive in so many places. I even used the word “Thrival” in the subtitle of my book and submitted the word with definition to the Merriam Webster online dictionary and they posted it!

thrival:
(noun): the state of thriving

Submitted by: Karen E Voss from Wisconsin on Apr. 15, 2014 16:21

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According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, thrive means:

Definition: thrive

intransitive verb \ˈthrīv\ : to grow or develop successfully : to flourish or succeed

Full Definition of THRIVE

1:  to grow vigorously :  flourish

2:  to gain in wealth or possessions :  prosper

3:  to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances —often used with on <thrives on conflict>.

—————————————————————-

In 2014, I started listening more to a contemporary christian radio station, K-LOVE. At the time, I required music to connect me spiritually and to keep me balanced. They played a song titled Thrive by Casting Crowns. I immediately connected to the song and downloaded the song from Amazon.com. Liking the song so much, I created my own Thrive radio station on iHeart Radio, which not only plays the song, but other songs by Casting Crowns, and other related Christian music. This station calms my mind, any stress at work, and for when I need to reflect. I found out a short time later, Casting Crowns has a CD called Thrive and so I placed it on my Christmas wish list (my older brother bought it for me). Not only did I receive the CD, but the CD contained a Thrive poster.

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A visit to the Milwaukee Public Library Bay View location to pick up a requested book led me to browsing other selections. I discovered a book titled Thrive by Ariana Huffington. I couldn’t resist picking it up and taking it home. The book has a subline of “The third metric to redefining success and creating a life of well=being, wisdom, and wonder”.  I had no clue what the Third Metric entailed so google revealed the book website with the following:

“WHAT IS THE THIRD METRIC?

When you stop … if you ever do…you sense something isn’t quite right. You have a long list of accomplishments that bring great satisfaction – deals, causes, and outcomes that are better because you poured your heart into them. Yet you’ve been giving and giving to every other good endeavor but yourself. You’re depleted. There’s no rest. There’s no respite. There’s no end. It doesn’t have to be that way. You CAN redefine your life to include a Third Metric — your well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.”

The book shows great guidance and insight revealing how we can thrive in our daily lives:

“We have, if we’re lucky, about thirty thousand days to play the game of life. How we play it will be determined by what we value. If we worship money, we’ll never feel truly abundant. If we worship power, recognition, and fame, we’ll never feel we have enough. And if we live our lives madly rushing around, trying to find and save time, we’ll always find ourselves living in a time famine, frazzled and stressed.

While the world provides plenty of insistent, flashing, high-volume signals directing us to make more money and climb higher the ladder, there are almost no wordly signals reminding us to stay connected to the essence of who we are, to take care of ourselves along the way, to reach out to others, to pause to wonder, and to connect to that place from which everything is possible. To quote my Greek compatriot Archimedes: ‘Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world.’

So find your place to stand—your place of wisdom and peace and strength. And from that place, remake the world in your own image, according to your own definition of success, so that all of us++women and men—can thrive and live our lives with more grace, more joy, more compassion, more gratitude, and yes, more love. Onward, upward, and inward!” –from Thrive by Ariana Huffington

The world around us continues to thrive, but it’s what you do with your ability to thrive that can change the world. I read an article by Gregory Ramsey and he states, “change your way of thinking and you can change your world”. He’s absolutely right! The way we think leads us to the choices we make in life for ourselves and for the lives of everyone around us. I could have chosen to just survive, making my way through the muck left over from my husbands completion of suicide, but I chose and live to thrive! It’s my job now to help others and that creates an impact on people’s lives.

What will you choose…survive or thrive?

“I do not consider myself a survivor anymore, but rather a “thriver”, a warrior moving forward after tragedy.” -K.E.Voss

“We know we were made for so much more
Than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive”
-Thrive, Casting Crowns

TV Show Relation

It’s amazing how the mind and heart work together or rather with one another.

Over the past weeks, a storyline on the soap opera, Days of Our Lives, has led me to tears more than once. One of the characters died in the arms of his wife as a result of a gun shot wound. While this wasn’t exactly what happened to me, it’s similar in that she lost her husband tragically.

I can relate to the loss of a husband/spouse.

Another storyline revealed how someone lost his wife to the completion of suicide due to a self-inflicted gun shot. She had bouts of depression and consumed too much alcohol

I can relate to the loss of a spouse to the completion of suicide due to mental illness.

I watched a couple of shows last week Wednesday, November 12, that I don’t normally watch (SVU and Chicago PD). I watched them because they became tied to a three show crossover week/event. None of these shows carry a disclaimer before airing their shows. From showing gruesome deaths and injuries by accident or self-inflicted, there’s no warning. Sorry, but I didn’t care for seeing someone shoot themselves in the head nor the gruesome remains of a death. I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t care for scenes like these even IF it’s only TV…in someones life, it’s real. Had I know, I wouldn’t have watched.

I’m guessing disclaimers aren’t required for the real life depiction of this stuff. Common courtesy may choose to display disclaimers.

I won’t watch one of those shows ever again, crossover event or not, with or without a disclaimer.

Reaching Alumni!

Since the year 2000, I have received the Ferris Magazine. It’s a magazine for alumni who graduated from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Printing Management from there. I have been working on getting a class note placed in the magazine with the announcement that I published or “authored” a book.

After waiting many months, I arrived home from work today with the printed copy of the Fall 2014 edition in my mailbox. I immediately jumped online to see if the electronic version got posted. Sure enough.

The magazine reaches 90,000+ alumni, which means my class note could reach 90,000+ people! That’s nuts and cool at the same time!

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Here’s the link to the full-page class notes posting:
http://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/alumni/ferrismagazine/archive/2014-fall/#44

Prevent Suicide: A story

Last night I received a phone call from a friend seeking reassurance that she did the right thing.

She had received a message from a friend who threatened to potentially harm himself as a result of a job loss. Not knowing if he was serious or not, she took the initiative and called the police. The police went over to his residence for questioning and later took him to a safe place for evaluation. Because of her concern, he no longer wants contact/friendship with her.

After she told me what happened, she asked if she did the right thing. I informed her that she did. Had she not called the police and he would have inflicted self-harm, she’d carry the guilt for not doing her part to help him.

What’s worse: carrying the guilt around forever or losing a friendship?

I’m proud of her for doing the right thing. She potentially saved another persons life.

She sought me out because I have been on this journey even though I’ve never been in her shoes.

Please,  if you’re contemplating completing suicide or self-harm reach out to a friend, relative, or trusted individual. If you’re the friend, relative, or trusted individual, do the right thing and trust your instincts. You too can help save a life.

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Preventing Suicide

Are people afraid?

On Sunday, September 14, 2014, the day after National Suicide Prevention Week ended, I hosted a table for a Little Free Library Grand Opening. A total of seven authors hosted tables at the event held at a church. The event last for 2.5 hours.

Disappointed came when I only sold one book. While the author next to me matched my one sale, he received more visits to his table. I think everyone had more visits/interests than my book did. I started to wonder if people are afraid of my book?

At the Health Fair a couple of weeks before, people stopped at the table (I sold three books at that event). During a church picnic people barely stopped by. The tables I’ve hosted a couple of my church functions were pretty quiet, but I sold more books. Go figure, then again the parishioners knew me and my journey.

Yes, a stigma still surrounds suicide. Some people won’t talk about it and others believe it’s a selfish act and not caused by a mental illness. People don’t always talk about things they don’t know much about especially if it’s only brought up when tragedy occurs and/or it’s covered in the media.

What are your thoughts? Do you think people are afraid to buy the book due to fear of what they might learn? Are they worried about what other people think if conversation around suicide entails? Conversations don’t hurt people, but sitting around and ignoring an issue that’s affecting more people, that isn’t going away, can hurt people.