Thanksgiving to World AIDS Day

Thank you. Thank you for acknowledging the power of a virus to ravage lives. Thank you for extending compassion to every human being, protec...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Risk Takers

My spin class recently ventured outdoors on a crisp, fall Saturday when halfway around the lake, Paul asked about the AIDS reference on my jersey. Then began to tell his story…

Pedaling and listening, I was finally able to answer the long awaited # 1 question in my ALC Top 10. The question I’m most frequently asked about riding is what keeps me going. My off the cuff answer tends to reflect my last ride – the sunny day, the camaraderie of my ride buddies, the scenery, etc. – but I struggled to find the common denominator in the many inspirations that keep me coming back for more, year after year.

Paul’s story began in a familiar way. This Midwest bike shop owner was ready to jump in and make a difference. He could have chosen to lend his bike mechanic skills to any number of charity events but Paul wanted to better understand his anxiety over this disease and the people affected by HIV/AIDS so he signed up to crew the world’s largest AIDS ride.

I took on that very ride for the first time this summer – the AIDS LifeCycle. Listening to Paul, my mind flashed back to the evening of Day 3. We’d arrived at our Paso Robles fairgrounds camp early enough for the sun to dry our wet towels hung over the tents before packing them away at nightfall. Our small team met early for dinner and enjoyed relaxing in the large hall with about 2000 other riders and crew waiting for the evening program to begin. Promptly at 7:30p, after our nightly update on the next day’s route and weather, the program began with remarks from a fellow ALC10 cyclist who spoke of his personal experience as an HIV+ man fighting AIDS in the early days, some 20-30 years ago. His description of those early struggles was meant to highlight how far we’d come by the efforts of such a diverse community of committed, caring individuals undeterred by the stigma of AIDS. The talk ended by recognizing today's community in this room of 2000+ cyclists and roadies – gay, lesbian, HIV+, young, old, transgender, gender-neutral and their “straight allies.” 

Paul knew the AIDS rides attracted a gay and lesbian community so he arrived in San Francisco with an open mind, withheld judgment and, over 7 days and hundreds of miles of flat tires and broken part replacements, was bold enough to admit his ignorance and accept their guidance to navigate this unfamiliar culture in a positive and caring way. Because Paul took a risk he soon no longer saw diseased homosexuals, he saw hurting friends. And Paul returned to help them, year after year.

Navigating the stigma of HIV/AIDS has challenged every prevention and treatment approach, worldwide, since the pandemic was first identified. Thirty years of HIV education programs have explained that HIV can spread by such acceptable activities as married heterosexual sex, a blood transfusion or a medical professional’s accidental finger prick yet the belief persists that the scourge of AIDS is due consequence for engaging in illicit or risky behavior. Hard to imagine it has been less than one year since Uganda considered a “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” giving government license to execute a homosexual infected with HIV.

Ironically, risk takers have been the driving force behind rapid progress to slow both the spread of HIV and its progression to AIDS: the San Francisco gay community exposing itself to call worldwide attention to a new, deadly pandemic; Ugandan midwives dispensing HIV treatments to every birthing mother in order to protect the newborn without exposing the HIV+ status of any one mother; the mayor who risks reelection to advocate for a clean needle exchange program; the teenage hemophiliac who went to court to overturn his expulsion from an Indiana public school; research scientists who reach a dead end only to test yet another theory. Fitting right in with these risk takers who make the most meaningful impression to keep me involved in these events are the unemployed woman taking time away from her lengthy job hunt to arise at 4am and serve breakfast to 3000 ride participants, the novice cyclist completing his first 100-mile day, the HIV+ peddler closely tracking his heart rate and hygiene, the elderly couple who empties their wallet to make a donation to a passing cyclist and especially those who risk opening their minds and their hearts to extend compassion without boundaries or qualifications.

This World AIDS Day, I invite you to take a risk. Take just one step further than you’ve gone before toward ending the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS. Learn more about HIV/AIDS - how it spreads, who it affects, how it is treated. Teach a child. Volunteer. Reach out to someone affected by the disease and offer your support. You have an open invitation to join me on any AIDS ride. If I'm not already registered, I'll sign up to keep you company or simply help you prepare. Extend compassion without boundaries or qualifications and AIDS doesn't stand a chance.

Some favorite World AIDS Day resources:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Top 10 of ALC10 – Red (Dress) Day

**Post is dedicated to the men and women busy being “all that you can be” who can now also proudly be all that they are in service to their country**

#2 – What’s with all the crazy red outfits?

Every multi-day AIDS ride includes one day reserved for wearing red. Veteran AIDS cyclists likely have an entire red wardrobe from which to make annual selections and are giddy stumbling across just the right article of clothing or accessory throughout the year.

My daughter (in addition to glamorizing the lunch stop) introduced red nail manicures the night before Empire State AIDS Ride Red Days leading to a growing supply of polish shades and the discovery of travel remover wipes.

After his 2008 road crew stint, a red jersey was gifted to me by my son. It became the base of my red Ride wardrobe and enough to take my place in the ribbon of ALC10 red winding through the California hillside while marveling at the creative expression that comes from providing a safe atmosphere for anyone and everyone to be all that they are!

Watch and listen as the two people closest to the source of this tradition offer their version of the story in this video shot amid the spectacle that was the 10th AIDS LifeCycle Red (Dress) Day.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Top 10 Continues

Bret’s birthday seemed the best time to follow through on my promise to complete this list of the Top 10 questions asked about my cycling escapades beginning with a few fun ones:

5. What kind of seat do you have?

When asked by a novice, I know the underlying actual question is more along the lines of “What seat could possibly be comfortable enough for all those miles when my ass is in agony after only a quick trail ride?!”

The answer is always “less is more” which draws puzzled looks so is followed by this story… When I signed up for my first multi-day ride, Steve and I owned a sign shop conveniently located across the street from a bike shop owned by another husband/wife duo interested in upgrading their signage, thus opening trade negotiations. Manny rolled over to our shop one day testing a new bike and suggested I try out its incredible, full suspension seat that was indeed as comfy as a lazy-boy on the behind and would surely bounce so lightly over any rough road that this princess would never feel a single tree root bulging through the asphalt trail.

Manny might have made a sale on the spot but was a better friend, or perhaps could tell he'd more likely make a customer for life by choosing honesty over the quick sale. Instead, Manny told me “less is more” – less for delicate parts to rub against every single time your leg rotates against it – followed by the real answer I needed to hear,  
“Tracy, the only way to stop your ass from hurting when you’re in the saddle is to keep riding.”  
For the next 3-4 years, the # 1 goal for each of my multi-day rides was not to finish first or even to finish fast but to sit down on day 2 without pain.

For the record, CC has a Terry Gellissima but I prefer Stellar’s Serfas Curva bike seat.

4. “What kind of bike should I get?”

Short answer – One that fits. I’ve already made the assumption you intend to actually ride this bike so making sure the frame fits your body and how you plan to ride (upright or bent-over) is absolutely the most important feature to consider. Everything else can be easily customized to your personal preference and budget. Don’t be fooled by charts using only your height for determining frame size. So much more is involved! Stand any 5 people of the same height side-by-side and you’ll quickly understand why this is true. I rode with aching knees for 2 years before someone told me my bike didn’t fit. I bought a bike that fit me and the knee pain instantly vanished.

This is where I turn you on to the experts I’ve relied on for 12 years and about 20,000 miles to build and service my bikes – R+E Cycles – pioneers and masters of a proper bike fit. Located in Seattle, R+E goes out of their way to accommodate and sell about 22% of their hand-built bikes to out of state customers. Even if you don’t buy from R+E, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of their website FAQs and Articles sections so you can walk into your next bike purchase equipped with a better understanding of what you want and need.

If you do visit R+E, see Smiley and tell him GiGi sent you!
Meet CC! Fit by Smiley, wheels by John

3. “How do you climb a hill?”

One foot after the other?  You’ve read many posts about how slowly I ride but you never saw slow until you’ve watched me pedal up a mountain. It’s legendary. I’ve clocked roughly 3.2 mph on both the 4 mile final leg of the climb to the Mount St. Helen’s Johnson Ridge Observatory and the 1.75 mile 23% grade up Mountain Road to finish Day 6 of the Empire State AIDS Ride. Of course, I’m capable of faster speeds on more gradual grades but whether mounting a sudden wall or a 33 mile afternoon ascent of a Rocky Mountain pass, the key to making it to the top is distraction.

One can lean on all that skill gleaned from experts only so long. At some point, your body mechanics will fare better if your head stops trying to convince them to quit! A few of the ways I distract myself through hill-climbing:
Rodney, Tracy, Mary end Day 4 of 2002 Breakthrough Ride
  • Watch the scenery
  • Count how many cyclists pass me – “On your left!”
  • Name that road kill
  • Eat (not necessarily right after the road kill)
  • Sing every verse of “Amazing Grace”. my head of course. Some people I know can sing like a bird while climbing a mountain. I am not one of them.
  • Drink
  • Count how many pedestrians pass me
  • Name the wild berry – a seasonal event
  • Sing “The Ants Go Marching”…usually out loud, in a long line of cyclists climbing very slowly through a particularly steep or narrow-shouldered section of road.
  • Start a conversation with the 1-2 people I pass, very slowly
  • Scope out home and garden ideas. After a two season search, I finally found a house with exactly the paint color combo I want to use on my house while on a short climb up W. Lake Sammamish Rd! 
  • Sing the “I Dream of Jeannie” theme song to kill the last song that got stuck in my head
  • Pray. This is high quality, you have my full attention, prayer time for everything BUT reaching the summit. I have complete faith in reaching the summit with all these distraction tools at my disposal.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Countdown From 10 Much?

Turns out the new mobile Blogger app showed my posts published but when I couldn't see them on the site, I stopped writing. Turns out the posts were held as drafts so have finally been released, albeit out of order.

Have no fear, the second half of the Top 10 of ALC 10 is on its way...

Top 10 of ALC10 - It's a Ride, Not a Race

**original posting date June 6, 2011**

#6 - the worst part about being such a slow rider is being too tired to write. So forgive me if I wait til tomorrow to fully answer this question...
Day 2 - Santa Cruz to King City 110 miles

Top 10 for ALC10 - Speaking of Gear

**original posting date June 4, 2011**

#8. No, I do not carry all my gear on my bike from point A to point B. Cyclists have the easy job when it comes to gear. Positively wonderful volunteers sign up to schlep 2000, up to 70lb, bags into trucks each morning, drive to the next camp and haul them out again. A roadie is a cyclist's ride hero.

This post dedicated to the 2 former gear crew roadies I love most - my kids, Caitlin and Kyle - and my favorite gear crew roadies on ALC10 - Chad and Toby - who have ridden with me in the past and made it possible for Jon and me to have solo tents for the next 6 nights. My heroes!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Halfway to LA

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Top 10 of ALC10 - 30 Years of AIDS

#7. Photographs - Opening Ceremonies of every ride naturally has an enthusiastic air (and lately a lot of Lady Gaga) but when you're riding to end a pandemic of suffering and death and suddenly come face to face with names written on banners and photos pinned to jerseys and bicycle bags and a riderless bike is rolled that moment, a 30 year anniversary isn't one to celebrate. Yet when the eyes are dried, you remember why you came and the photographs become beacons of hope that no more will follow in their path.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Little AIDS/LifeCycle Team

Puget Sound Rider teammate Jon, his daughter Liz and her boyfriend Luke (lunch crew) and newlyweds Glen and Mei-yen (honeymoon riders) waiting in the first of many Orientation Day lines. We just came from participating in the 30 years of AIDS group photo. Watch for it on Facebook or

Friday, June 3, 2011

Top 10 for ALC10 - One bag?

#9. Ziploc bags - Yes, that's a free plug for the brand as generics simply won't do. Over the next 2 days, 3000 cyclists and roadies choosing to follow the lead of the experienced are cramming gear into Ziploc bags, squeezing out all air and zipping them tight. This magically simple solution neatly organizes 7 days of ride clothes in a single duffel, protects them against the elements as your duffel sits out in camp waiting for your arrival, and is a safe place to securely stow the toxic aftermath of a day's ride. 2 gallons are pure gold and as easy to find. Freezer style. ziiiiip!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Top 10 for ALC10

Heading out the door for the 10th anniversary of the AIDS/LifeCycle, I leave you with the first answer to the Top 10 most commonly asked questions about my annual cycling ventures. Stay tuned over the next 10 days as I travel to San Francisco by car, then pedal 540 miles to Los Angeles.

#10. No, we don't ride down I-5. Bicycles aren't allowed on interstate highways, though once, 1000 cyclists on the Montana AIDS Vaccine Ride were allowed to use several closed lanes of I-90 for quite a distance through Montana. That was fun! Check out our entire AIDS/LifeCycle route and step out and give us a cheer if you happen to be nearby.

Thanks to everyone who helped me reach my personal fundraising goal for this ride. The Puget Sound Riders are very close to reaching our $15,000 team goal so if you haven't gotten around to it or feel compelled to give a little more, online donations can still be made all week long. Your participation makes any road smoother for everyone affected by HIV/AIDS.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Amazing Grace

I spent Memorial Day on my last training ride this season  – the Seven Hills of Kirkland. If you know me, you know how I feel about hills. Several classic team stories involve my expertise at slow-hill climbing. Yes, I can go 3 mph without tipping over! But then, for this ride, a few angels showed up…

They showed up at breakfast in the form of several teammate/friends that crawled out of bed at a crazy hour on a holiday just to send Jon and I off as the Puget Sound Rider ambassadors on AIDS/LifeCycle.  

It didn’t rain. 

The climbs were long and often painful but the downhills were amazing – smooth, clear, fast and long! 

My favorite coping mechanism for getting to the top is to work through all verses of Amazing Grace in my head (cuz Elizabeth Sanders is the only person I know who can get enough air to belt out a tune on a hill climb!). If I needed any more proof of angels on our route, I need look no further than the top of hill # 6 where there stood before me a bagpiper playing, you guessed it, Amazing Grace.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

San Francisco's Bold Response - 30 Years Later

30 years ago in a little church tucked into the Bay Area peninsula redwoods, Steve and I exchanged wedding vows. Two months later, the CDC reported the first case of AIDS a few miles north in San Francisco. The city did not succumb to attempts to discriminate and ignore. Community leaders responded with a determination and persistence that has made the San Francisco AIDS Foundation a worldwide model of innovation in education, prevention, treatment and care for those vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.
“The Foundation began, in its early days, to teach people they could fight for their lives" -Art Agnos, SF Mayor 1988-1992

In one week, I’ll join 2000 cyclists and hundreds of volunteer crew in commemorating the 30th anniversary of the beginning of AIDS with a renewed commitment to sustain the fight that ends the epidemic where it began, brings hope to the vulnerable and breaks down walls of discrimination and stigma that keep us from caring for one another.

Thank you for honoring the courage and tenacity of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation with your donation to their efforts, either directly or by sponsoring my 500+ miles of pedaling, past that small church, down the California coastline.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Angels Push AIDS Vaccine 200

Headwinds. More sinister than any mountain pass, thunder squall or heat wave to cyclists if only because you can’t see or feel it but know it’s working against you.
PSR at AV200 start line

My first southeast AIDS ride thankfully began, not in the recent 80-90 degree heat wave but on an overcast, misty morning that might have been pulled straight out of my Seattle gear bag. After a brief opening ceremony, a brass band, family and friends cheered 131 cyclists away from the Emory University School of Medicine to begin the 9th annual AIDS Vaccine 200.

Riding out once again with my cycling partner of the last 14 years and fellow Puget Sound Rider teammate, Mary, we caught up to Calvin on the smooth path leading the dozen or so miles to Stone Mountain. Calvin’s camouflage CamelBak® and pack led me to ask if he was the rider in uniform at the previous night’s check-in. Yes, in fact he'd come straight from reserve duty. Before reaching the next pit stop I’d learned Calvin would be visiting Seattle in one month on his way through Ft. Lewis to Afghanistan.  Colleagues at Emory Children's Healthcare had convinced him that training with their AV200 team would be great conditioning. 

We rolled into the Stone Mountain pit stop and were immediately greeted by Mark Mulligan who introduced himself while handing me water. Mark asked about the picture of Bret taped to my jersey and then opened his jacket to reveal a shirt emblazoned with a memorial to his brother, Mike, who had passed of AIDS two years prior. Mark told me he was with Hope Clinic, sponsors of this stop but it wasn’t until much later that I discovered he actually ran the place which is the third largest participant in the HIV Vaccine Trials Network.
Mary & Calvin enter bridge

The scenery transformed outside Stone Mountain into lush farm lands where stately oaks and massive magnolia trees gave equally impressive homes a plantation air as we navigated the two-lane roads over rolling hills through countryside that struck me as so very quiet until we rumbled over the wooden planks of the Rockdale County covered bridge. Soon after, we picked up a teammate of Calvin’s struggling up a particularly long hill. Mike was riding a mountain bike in tennis shoes. Not an easy choice on a long road trip, particularly on middle-aged knees, but we plodded along – as fast as possible down hills to quite nearly make it to the top of the next. Along the way, Calvin and Mike quietly shared area history, from the late lynching that rekindled the Ku Klux Klan upon Stone Mountain to Mike’s day job dispensing HIV drugs to, as he observes, “too many teenage girls,” immediately followed by, “but where are the boys?”  We don’t talk enough about how HIV spreads, particularly in African American communities, yet Mike goes on to explain that Rockdale County was also home to the largest outbreak of syphilis among affluent, suburban teens. “We’ve got to get the churches on board,” Mike mutters while pushing up yet another hill. I couldn’t agree more as we ride past countless churches in this Bible belt of influence who could do so much to save their children if they dared utter “sex” in the sanctuary.

Milepost 75 - Surely Calvin would successfully achieve his first century but we needed to pick up the pace to arrive at camp by dinnertime so pushed on as cicada song rose in our ears, little red cardinals flitted over field thistles and an old familiar scent of honeysuckle wafted through the late afternoon.
Mary in our Rock Eagle cabin

If I didn’t know 100% of every dollar we raised went straight to Emory University HIV/AIDS vaccine research, I’d have felt guilty about the luxurious accommodations awaiting us at the Rock Eagle 4-H Center. Trust me. When throwing a sleeping bag on a 1” mat in a two-man tent 50-100 yards from the nearest bathroom is the norm, bunking on a mattress-topped steel bunk-bed in an air-conditioned cabin with indoor plumbing is sheer luxury! We turned in early and slept well.

Cyclists were motivated to get out of camp early knowing we had only 9.5 hours to finish the day’s 100 mile return to Atlanta. Oh, by the way, did I mention that 100 mile one-way journey was really 105? Regardless, you’ll remember it’s a ride, not a race. I can complete a century in 8 hours but who wants to rush with so many sights to see and people to meet? Still, no cyclist wants to be swept off the course before reaching the finish line. Did I mention headwinds?

First you decide your legs haven’t warmed up. Then you blame yourself for not doing more back-to-back training rides. Eventually, as you hunker down into your aerobars someone is brave enough to query, “Is it my imagination or are there headwinds from…” Seattle, I decide. The day had dawned quite cool. Again, not the anticipated high heat or humidity of impending thunderstorms but instead the weekend weather in this opposite corner of the country was very Seattle-like and while the gift was welcome, its delivery on a 25-35 mph gale from the direction we were headed was not. Cyclists immediately began opting for the shorter 80-mile route. Those stronger than I pushed past with clenched jaw and muttered curses.  Many bonked or simply chose to save their knees for another try rather than push on and though energy drained from bodies, enthusiasm for the joint effort remained high.

At 90 miles into the day, I was swept into a SAG vehicle and carried to the finish line. Shortly after, every cyclist silently lined the path at Decatur Square to silently pay tribute to the riderless bike representing all those lost to AIDS then climbed back on our own once more for the 2-mile finish at the Emory University School of Medicine.

You know it was all worthwhile when Emory Vaccine Center Director, Dr. Rafi Ahmed, and several of the top HIV/AIDS scientists in the world – Dr. Harriet Robinson, Dr. Rama Amara, Dr. Mark Mulligan – enthusiastically share how they turn every one of your dollars into $150 in larger grants they couldn’t hope to receive without the seed money this ride brings to the research required to apply for those big-money grants. It was evident this elite research team humbly acknowledges, supports and works side-by-side a couple hundred cyclists, volunteers and every individual donor doing their small part toward achieving a singular goal – ending AIDS.

Yesterday morning I rolled out of that twin bed in Turman Hall and immediately started packing my bike for the journey home. For insurance purposes, I always snap a picture before closing the lid and noticed Bret’s face staring back at me from the photo pinned to my CamelBak® as if to remind me once again that while ending AIDS might often feel like those invisible headwinds pressing against us, there are quite enough angels at our backs pushing us to the finish.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Service in Action

This is Calvin. He just finished his first cycling century (100 mile ride). He did it for AIDS research. Next month he leaves for a 400 day deployment to Afghanistan. Then he'll come home and retire. Something tells me he won't be pulling out a rocking chair.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Emory Vaccine Center

The AIDS Vaccine 200 benefits research taking place right here, within the Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

Sound Sleep

Having only had about 2 hours sleep the night before, I slept like a rock last night, in an extra-long twin size bed on the campus of Emory University. Apart from my teammate, not another soul was in the pristine 4-story, sustainably designed freshman dorm yet all around us was an air of hope – Emory School of Medicine, Children’s Healthcare, Biomedical Research, School of Public Health, Emory Vaccine Center, even the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Reminds me a bit of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance triad and several other major research hubs around the world.

Personally, I could never spend my days bent over a microscope, attempting one new idea after another over an entire career with the very real possibility of never quite reaching your ultimate goal but thank goodness there are others who do. Thank goodness there are scientists and researchers and students with inquisitive minds and an optimism encouraging them to find successful applications for any important step along the way toward improving the quality of any human life.

In a few hours I’ll walk to the Emory School of Medicine to check in for the AIDS Vaccine 200. I’m incapable of curing AIDS, but sleep soundly knowing I can do one small thing to support those who are.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pull Up the Lawn Chairs, They’re at it Again

It’s the season of remembrance for Puget Sound Riders co-founders - Jon, Mary and me. It’s the subtle underlying motivation that binds us together year after year to get out in the rain, sacrifice weekends, trade in our PTO and ask every person crossing our paths for money – the memory of a brother lost to AIDS.

Mary Harding and I met in a crowd of 1000 cyclists standing at Vancouver's Science World waiting to begin the 1997 Ride for a Reason to Seattle. The picture taped to her jersey led me ask to whose memory she was riding. As she spoke of her brother Peter, I noticed the dates under that picture and answered, “He died 6 days after my brother.” Mary and I began our first AIDS ride together moments later. Next week in Atlanta we’ll ride together for the 13th time in the AIDS Vaccine 200.

Jon’s brother, Donald David Fehrenbach, led by example, riding as a Positive Pedaler in 5 AIDS rides. DD picked up a discarded teddy bear, promptly dubbed Roadkill, on one of those rides and made him an annual companion up and down the California coast. After his death in 1998, Roadkill continued tagging along on AIDS rides across America in DD’s honor. In 2000, when Jon took on the role of Puget Sound training ride leader in his first cycling event, Roadkill donned new hiking boots stuffed with mylar and joined the newly founded Puget Sound Riders on the Alaska AIDS Vaccine Ride.  This June, I’ll join Jon for my first time on DD’s California ride, the AIDS/LifeCycle.

Our brothers were the athletes - DD cycled thousands of miles, Bret's bike was his transportation all over the world and Peter walked coast-to-coast calling attention to poverty in America – we were not. And while we’ve all become stronger cyclists, age is constantly working against us. Precisely why at roughly this time every year one of us will begin painting the picture of 3 proud siblings cracking open a cold one, pulling up lawn chairs on puffy clouds above, shaking their heads with a knowing smile and, while their language would likely be far more colorful, shouting out to all who’d hear, “This ought to be good, they’re at it again!”

Dedicated to the memory of our dear brothers:
Bret M. Granato July 21, 1959 - May 5, 1995
Peter T. Harding October 5, 1955 - May 11, 1995
Donald David "DD" Fehrenbach - June 3, 1949 - April 10, 1998

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Compassion - No Strings Attached

It’s commendable that every broadcast, article or Facebook post spotted over the weeks since her March 23 death remembers Elizabeth Taylor’s outspoken AIDS activism alongside her lifelong celebrity and tabloid marriage record. That such a well-respected personality chose to defend those affected by this fatal virus long before it was trendy was admirable indeed.
"I call upon you to draw from the depths of your being — to prove that we are a human race, to prove that our love outweighs our need to hate, that our compassion is more compelling than our need to blame."   - Elizabeth Taylor, accepting a special Oscar for her AIDS advocacy in 1993
In that first decade since it was named, the fear of an AIDS diagnosis was so great that huge segments of the population were shunned or ignored. An actual AIDS diagnosis branded its victim as a deviant, outcast by family, friends, schools, jobs and churches, with barriers to medical, mental, emotional health, insurance and housing. It was during this period my brother took me on a long drive and told me he had AIDS.

Bret had tried hard for more than a year to keep his diagnosis a secret and was now asking my advice on whether or not to risk telling the rest of the family before his 12-18 month life expectancy time line ran out completely. Of what little I’ve allowed myself to remember of that day, one particular comment made clear the effect of AIDS stigma on my brother – “No red ribbons. Please, no red ribbons.” The AIDS red ribbon was intended as a symbol of compassionate solidarity to end AIDS yet Bret saw it as a scarlet letter – a label on which judgments were made and compassion withheld.

Love for my brother got me on a bike, compassion for the vulnerable keeps me riding it. This spring I’ll pedal another 1000 miles to call attention to those still vulnerable to AIDS, raising money for services filling the gaps left by fear and stigmatism and to keep the brightest minds in innovative research progressing toward effective prevention, sustainable treatments and a cure.

One can always choose how to act on their compassion but compassion itself must never be a choice.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Line in Sight

Start of the training season is best time to focus on the finish line. Even with storm clouds looming, wearing this bandanna (which she gifted me decades ago) in honor of my sister Tam's last days home before heading back to finish up her year spreading joy to the troops.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Twignorant Argument

Would I post more often & have more followers if my thoughts were summed in 9 seconds? Discuss in under 140 characters