Ice Bucket Challenge

Update: To keep myself accountable, donations to both ALS Association (for the Ice Bucket Challenge) AND to the American Cancer Society (in memory of my father, Philip Ramsey) have been submitted. 


Yesterday (August 23), I was challenged by my mother-in-law to take the ALS #icebucketchallenge. Today, I accepted the challenge and, of course, recorded the video to document the event. However, you’ll have to wait for that.

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What is ALS?

ALS, or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that impacts nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body – the drivers of the body if you will. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost, often leading to victims becoming partially or completely paralyzed. ALS is not a contagious disease and knows no racial or socioeconomic boundaries – affecting approximately 5,500 Americans annually. (Source: ALS Association)

This is where I get frustrated.

The piece that is missing from most ice bucket challenge videos and/or posts is the paragraph above. I hate to say it, but there is a lack of education throughout the Ice Bucket Challenge on what ALS actually is and how it affects its victims. This is what people NEED to know. Now, sure – there have been some great response videos out there – Patrick Stewart, Benedict Cumberbatch, and so on. However, just as much fun as it is to watch others, it is important to know what it is you’re fighting against.

What is the Ice Bucket Challenge?

That’s a really good question. The simple answer, as best I can tell, is:

  • Someone nominates you for the challenge
  • You accept the challenge
  • You nominate others for the challenge
  • Douse yourself with a bucket of ice water
  • Remind your nominees that they have 24-hours to complete the challenge and/or donate. 

At first, I thought it was a novel way to simply engage and challenge one another. As the movement grew, it became slightly annoying, but then it also became somewhat entertaining. I’ve seen videos posted by celebrities, athletes, and even a good number of my dear friends. Of course, at a certain point, it became clear that eventually the nomination would be knocking on my door as well.

Some of my friends and I have had a number of discussions on this concept. Would we accept the challenge if nominated? Why or why not? Why has this taken off and become such a massive movement? Is it legit or just a fad? These are just a few of the questions we’ve pondered. To be honest, I had absolutely no intention of ever accepting the ice bucket part of the challenge. But, then again, I’m occasionally a proud and challenge-accepting person. Additionally, and probably more important, I see myself as something of a philanthropist. Maybe not the T.Boone Pickens (Oklahoma State) or Bob Sebo (BGSU) kind of philanthropist, but a philanthropist all the same.

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Philanthropy 2.0

The idea of giving back isn’t about who gives the most or how often they give. It’s about giving back – period. You don’t have to be the person who donates a million dollars to an institution in order to have an impact. An individual should give when they are able to so and to those organizations or causes to which they have a connection. Even the smallest gift can make a difference.

My Response & Challenge

I’m well aware that to someone out there, my actions of accepting the challenge doesn’t necessarily line up with the words here. I’m okay with that because I know what I’m supporting and honestly, it was a bit of fun in the process.

SO, with all of that out of the way and in the spirit of giving, I have accepted the #icebucketchallenge from my mother-in-law and will be donating to the ALS Association as well as to the American Cancer Society. I have nominated my wife’s aunt, uncle, and younger cousin to take on the challenge as well.

To everyone else: I challenge you to go out and find a cause that interests you and support it in whatever way you are able – financially or otherwise. 

Until next time…

Honeymoon Chronicles: Traveling by Train

Just a few days ago – 1 August to be exact – our time in Germany had come to an end, which meant another travel day and two more train rides. I should note all of our travel since arriving in Europe has been made possible thanks to a variety of European trains. In this post, I’ll do what I can to highlight the experience.

First off, know that this is the first time that either one of us has utilized traveling by train as a primary transportation method, as we usually fly or drive. I’ll be honest – I had my apprehensions about traveling by train across Europe. What if we miss a train? What if we can’t figure out the time tables? What if we get separated? More “what if’s” than I care to list. To my pleasant surprise though, the whole process has been incredibly easy and SIGNIFICANTLY less stressful than air travel.

There isn’t really any secret to train travel. You show up, get on your train, and go. For the most part, and assuming you have your ticket/reservation in advance (which I’ll talk about in a moment), you can show up at the platform for your outgoing train pretty much as it’s rolling into the station. I would not recommend doing so, but you don’t have to show up 2 hours early like you would for a flight. On average, we’ve been 30-45 minutes early for each train. And security? With the exception of the high-speed train between London and Paris, there aren’t really any security checkpoints.

Earlier, I mentioned having a ticket AND a reservation. Think of it this way – for a flight, you have to buy a ticket which will also include your seat assignment. For European rail travel, a ticket gets you on the train – and that’s all. Having a reservation in addition to that ticket will get you your seat. Without a reservation, you can sit down, but you are not guaranteed that seat for the whole trip. With that said, if you’re sitting in a seat without a reservation and along I come with the reservation for that seat – I get the seat and you get to move.

The biggest part of traveling by train…or by any method really…is knowing your travel information. This is nothing new but I cannot stress this enough though. You need to know your train number, what coach you’re sitting in, what seat your reservation is for, and where your train is going and where you get off. Not knowing your train info could quickly become a costly error. For example, there was a couple a few rows up from us on our train from Paris to Amsterdam. The train manager had come around to check tickets to find that this couple did not have the correct tickets. The gentleman in the couple was quite sure (see: arrogant) that he was on the correct train, in the correct seats, and was sure the train manager was incorrect. The train manager then pointed out, quite plainly, that the passenger and his companion were to have boarded a different regional train, not the high-speed service between Paris and Amsterdam. The couple had two options: 1) get off the train at the next stop with no penalty OR 2) get charged the full fare for the trip, as if they had joined us in Paris. They got off the train. What can be learned here? Know your travel information and NEVER argue with the man who could boot you off the train.

I can say that Tammi and I have really enjoyed traveling via train during our honeymoon. Most of our trains have been of the high-speed variety or darn close, making our travel days go by much quicker. As a result, I’m actually looking forward to possibly utilizing Amtrak in the future for travel back at home.

Until next time…

Honeymoon Chronicles: AirBnB

For our trip to Europe, we had a lot of decisions to make – such as where to visit, how to get there, and so on. One of the bigger decisions was deciding where to stay. Rather than go with hotels, hostels, or camping, we decided to try something completely new to us – AirBnB.

AirBnB Explained

AirBnB is quite simple – you’re traveling and need a place to stay, but you don’t want to stay in a hotel. Individuals list their apartments, private rooms, or couches on the site and you can browse the listings to find what suits your needs.

Another way I’d explain the concept of AirBnB is to utilize the idea of home-swapping – where you and someone at your destination swap living spaces for a set period of time. The difference, however, is that a full home swap isn’t necessary. The video clip below from the movie “The Holiday” gives a fun (yet not entirely realistic) example of the home-swap concept. Obviously, for more specific information about how AirBnB works, check out the AirBnb website.

 

Our Criteria

There are a lot of really fantastic places listed on AirBnB by some rather fantastic people. On the flip side, there are also a lot of…well…not so great listings as well. As mentioned prior, listings on the site are for 1) entire apartments, 2) a private room, or 3) a couch to crash on. When it came time for Tammi and I to decide on where to stay – seeking out apartments, mind you – we looked primarily at the following as our deciding criteria:

Pictures / Description – “You only get one chance to make a first impression” and the first thing one sees when searching through the listings are photos. What does the place look like? Is this a place in which we would feel comfortable actually living for an extended period of time? Is it welcoming or does it make us cringe? Are there multiple photos or is it a one photo and floor plan? Additionally, there should be a decent description of the property. Does the description match the photos? What is the neighborhood like?

Amenities – We really weren’t super picky here, but we did have three non-negotiables that needed to be met in order for a listing to move forward.

  • Washer – Backpacking our way through this trip means packing as minimalists. No dryer is fine – clothes can air dry after a wash. No washer, though, could smell…er, spell, disaster.
  • WiFi – Tammi was just offered a new position prior to our departure from the states, so she needs to be able to keep in touch – especially with her school year starting quickly upon our return. Additionally, I’m still searching for a new position myself (higher ed, non-profits, etc). So yes, we should be disconnected for this trip, but it just wasn’t feasible. However, we’ve managed to keep our online time to late evenings and travel days, allowing us to really enjoy our trip to the fullest. Another plus of having access to wifi in the apartments? It has made uploading photos to our Dropbox backup much easier!
  • Bed Size – Honeymoon jokes aside, we wanted beds that we could both easily sleep in without a fear of 1) smothering the other or 2) falling out on to the floor because of a tiny little bed.

Distance from Public Transport – Our travel through Europe is via train, so we needed to find listings that are close enough to public transport to make our trip a little easier. We’ve defined public transport, in most cases, as a metro line (subway). In other cases – such as our stops in Amsterdam & Munich – it was more a question of how far the apartment is from the central train station.

Overall Cost – We could have easily stayed in nice hotels the entire trip. However, by using AirBnB, we actually ended up SAVING money. I’m not going to go into great detail on the particulars, but know that on average, we saved probably close to $50-100/location by avoiding hotels. Plus, this gave us the added bonus of actually living like locals for a few days.

…and finally, Reviews – It should come as no surprise that we looked for places with positive reviews. We wanted to stay in places where people had positive experiences and had great things to say. No reviews at all? Thanks, but no thanks.

Our Experience (so far)

We’re still on our trip – currently on the train from Berlin to Munich – and thus far our experience has been great. Our hosts have been fantastic about responding quickly to our messages and, in some cases, have been good about checking in with us in advance of our arrival. A few of our hosts have even surprised us with a bottle of bubbly in the fridge – their way of congratulating us on our marriage!

Your AirBnB experience might differ from ours, and that’s okay. We’ve enjoyed it and would recommend giving it a shot – even if you just use it for a weekend getaway in the states.

Until next time…

Honeymoon Chronicles: Don’t Be “WiFi Guy”

A few nights ago during our final night in Paris, we stopped for dinner at a cafe that we had enjoyed the first night we were in town – Cafe le Dome. What made it even better was that we had the same waiter again! But that’s not the point of this post. The point is what we witnessed while sitting at our outside table.

A young man, perhaps in his mid-20’s(?), was walking by and fiddling with his phone. He approached a member of the wait staff, as if to inquire about a table for a bite to eat. However, what came out of his mouth instead just kind of shocked us.

“Can you give me the WiFi password?”

That’s it. No request for a table. No please or thank you. Not even an attempt at asking in French. Just a very blunt and arrogant request. Of course, and without losing a beat, the waiter in question responded as one would expect – with a very direct “NO”.

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Now, before I go any further, let me say that Tammi and I have not been completely disconnected on this trip. She has needed to keep up with things related to her new teaching gig (WOO!) and I have continued my job search. We’ve also been utilizing Dropbox as a dumping ground/back-up for all of our photos. The difference between us and this fellow as it would seem is that the vast majority of our online activity on this trip has happened at the end of our day, when we’re back at our place and about to pass out – not while wandering the streets, possibly missing out on awesome moments.

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But that’s not the end of the saga, as it got kind of weird after that. The young man, who I will again refer to as “WiFi Guy”, then proceeded to ask the waiter if he could access the WiFi if he made a purchase. He just seemed desperate at this point. The waiter ignored him, I think – my back was to both of them by this point, and the young man persisted once more to no avail. He left soon after, frustrated, mumbling and still in search of his precious wifi. Tammi and I were just dumbfounded by the whole exchange.

Now, in his (limited) defense, “WiFi Guy” could have had a very legitimate reason for seeking out access to the web. It could have been for any number of reasons, but it just seemed as if he had taken an epic selfie and was desperate to post it.

Moral(s)of this story?
Make an effort to disconnect while abroad as much as possible. I say this as I blog, but again – this is during our down time before or after heading out for sightseeing. Enjoy what is happening around you.

Oh yeah, almost forgot – Don’t be a dick to locals in a foreign country over a wifi password. Your selfie can wait.

Until next time…

Honeymoon Chronicles: Our European Adventure

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As some of you might know, I got married (just shy of) two weeks ago to my amazing partner-in-crime, Tammi. The whole weekend was fantastic and the day of the wedding went incredibly smooth. We are truly thankful for the friends and family who joined us in celebration as well as for those who couldn’t join us, but who celebrated from afar.

A few days after the wedding, Tammi and I left the tiny hamlet of Lodi, Ohio and headed toward Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to begin our honeymoon. We decided that we did not want to go on a cruise or even to a location in the Carribean. We don’t see anything wrong with these locations at all and we know plenty of people who have had amazing honeymoons in these places, but they just weren’t for us. Instead, we chose to trek across Europe – which is where I am right now, writing to you from our apartment in Amsterdam.

So far, our travels have included:

  • Cleveland to Detroit to Boston
  • Boston to London
  • London
  • Paris
  • Amsterdam…with Berlin, Munich, and Switzerland up next prior to returning to London and then heading back to the states.

Tammi is, by far, the primary travel blogger for our trip – having composed a series of posts documenting our travels and experiences. If you’re interested in checking those out, go ahead and click here. As far as my own writing, I have a few posts still in the queue – term I definitely look forward to continue using once we get back home – that need to be finished and posted. Some of those are honeymoon related, some are not. But I digress…

As you’d probably expect, we are definitely taking quite a few photos of our travels. To date, we have easily snapped over 900 photos between our DSLR camera and our two iPhones (in permanent airplane mode until we’re back in the states). If you are linked to either one of us on Facebook, you can look forward to seeing a pretty decent chunk of those photos upon our return.

Well, I think it’s time to go find a local watering hole and enjoy the evening sights and sounds along the canals of Amsterdam.

Until next time…

90 in 90 – To Be Continued…

On Thursday (or day 60), I was able to log two more miles at a pace of 8:25/mile toward my personal challenge of running 90 miles in 90 days. This two mile run had put the number of miles completed at 61. I was ahead of schedule again!

And then this happened: Hello foot, have you met the couch leg? Allow me to introduce you. 

Yep. Inadvertently slammed my left foot – my 4th & 5th toes to be exact – into one of the legs of our couch. I’m no stranger to stubbing my toes, but this time was different. It was all over pretty quick, with me hobbling over to an open spot on the floor, laying down, and thinking (and saying) some rather unpleasant things. The worst part was that I was pretty sure I heard something snap or crack when it all happened. Last night’s treatment of said injury consisted of taping my toes together (“buddy taping” or “buddy splint”), elevated my foot and applied some ice, and then went to sleep hoping that it would be fine the next morning – nothing more than a little sore and bruised.

Nope – not so much.

Remember that snap or crack sound I though I heard? Well, I definitely fractured (broke) my little toe, which has become my first ever broken bone in 30 years, 11 months, and 23 days of life. For those of you playing at home, that’s just a week short of my 31st birthday. Ugh.

What does this mean for my 90 in 90? Well, it means that the remaining 29 days and any miles I would have accumulated during them will have to be postponed for about 8-10 weeks. No running until closer to the end of August. I’m very bummed out about this, especially since I was in a position to get a comfortable lead of miles over days.

So for now, and with only 29 miles and 29 days left, I’ll just hit the pause button, save my progress, and come back to conquer the end of my 90 in 90 challenge another day.

90 Miles in 90 Days: Update 2

With my upcoming wedding to Tammi now only 33 days away and since I haven’t updated in a while, I figured it would be a good time to post an update on my personal challenge of running 90 miles in 90 days.

Since the last update, I was able to stay on pace fairly well. Every day or every other day, I’d get out there and run maybe 2 miles at minimum just to stay on pace. However, then I took a personal vacation across the country and while I fully intended to run during this time, I slacked. I dropped off pace and it’s been a gradual up-hill climb to cut down the, at one time, almost 10 miles that I was off pace.

So, here’s the update: I’m officially back on pace.

Tonight, I completed a two mile run that puts me at 57 miles over 57 days (or 63% complete). My average distance is hovering around 2.5 to 3 miles per run, with my average pace per is right around 9:45/mile. Running a little further per run as of late and just a hint faster on average. I’d say that’s progress, even if it’s slow going.

Keep in mind, I had said the following in my last update:

“…this goal could be completed by running one mile, every day, for 90 days. Personally, I would much rather get ahead and stay ahead.”

So yeah, I dropped off pace and fell behind, but I’m right back in it and set to get ahead again. Lesson here? Simple. Just because you fall behind, doesn’t mean your goal is out of reachit just means playing catch up will suck. And catching up DOES suck, but it’s not impossible.

Going for 90 miles in 90 days might not be the biggest goal in the world, but it’s MY goal. And with just over 30 days left to go, I can’t wait to crush it in the next few weeks.

Sidenote / reminder: if you need motivation to start running or to keep running, get on Twitter (or Instagram) and search #nikeplus and keep up with my journey to 90 by searching #90in90.