Monday, January 11, 2016

Introducing the OM Adventure Scholarship!

Happy New Year!
The year end gives us time to reflect on the year, and take a big breath to settle the mind and return to a positive state of being; whether we experienced something tragic, enlightening, or downright dull. 

With the New Year, comes the view of the horizon. It’s time to look forward to a better future and plan to take action.

At OM we look at the New Year as an opportunity to reengage, reignite, and re-imagine the future.

To start, I and the Executive and Advisory Boards will be having a retreat on MLK weekend. We will be reflecting on our accomplishments, examining our current state, and planning for a big future! These are exciting times at OM! And in the spirit of reigniting the spirit, I am excited to introduce a brand new program:

The power of the outdoors to lift our spirits, to clear our thoughts and center our state of being, in history, was a gift that only gods could give. For many of us, the time we spend outside and in nature defines our character and how we view the world. We may dream of climbing that special peak, travelling to that amazing place and living that once in a lifetime experience. These experiences bring strangers together and friends closer, with memories and feelings that will be shared for the rest of their lives. It is at these precise moments when you take a deep breath and say, “this is what life is all about”!

Outdoor Mindset thrives on those moments and understands that the impact these extraordinary experiences have on our health and wellbeing is priceless! OM never intends to compete with the gods, but perhaps we can help provide the funding for you and a friend to get closer to experiencing a special peak, an amazing place and a once in a lifetime experience – an item on your bucket list that you have always wanted to complete.

Our goal with the new Adventure Scholarship is to help support OM’s mission to enhance the quality of life of our members, engage our members and encourage our community to connect with one another and get outside and live big!

El Chalten, Patagonia. Put it on your Adventure Scholarship
bucket list!
OM will be awarding at least one Adventure Scholarship per quarter. We will be awarding at least $500 per Adventure Scholarship! Applications will be accepted starting today, and applicants will be given until February 12th, to submit. Applicants must be an OM member, and the Adventure Scholarship must be used for an outdoor activity with at least one other OM member. Keep in mind, anyone can become an OM member and it’s FREE! And most importantly, the Adventure Scholarship awardee must have a great time!!!

Please click here to view the official rules and apply. Good luck!


Don’t forget to Participate, Engage and Promote! 

I can’t wait to see you outside and look forward to sharing more exciting news in the coming months!


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Meet-Up Spotlight: Ohio's Maggie

Meet Maggie, our Ohio Meet-Up group leader. Her connection to Outdoor Mindset runs deep and we're fortunate to have her as part of the OM family. Here she tells her story about her neurological history that has an amazing outcome... because it brought her to our organization!

"I remember one day when I was probably a junior or senior in high school. I came home from school in severe pain and instead of going straight to bed or taking a hot bath, my anger got the better of me and I decided to go for a run. I was so sick and tired of the constant pain and the feeling that I couldn't really be myself. I was fed up and pissed off. So I put on my running shoes and ran.

I don't remember running, but I do remember stumbling into the house about twenty minutes later, doubled over, pressing the palms of my hands into my forehead as hard as I could to keep myself from vomiting. I could hardly see; everything was too bright and blurry. I couldn't talk, because my own voice triggered a chain reaction, starting with the nerves behind my right eye and radiating down my spine. I couldn't eat, because the nausea made it impossible to swallow. At that point, there was nothing I could do but crawl in bed and wait it out. The next day would be the same, but about 15 hours of sleep might give me the energy it would take to make it through school the next day.

It's strange to look back over the last 10-15 years and realize how much has changed. In the days before I found an effective treatment, it was hard to even imagine spending more than a day without pain or nausea. Now, my bad days are few and far between, and I feel like I finally have the ability to be myself and do the things I want to do.

I was finally diagnosed with migraine after my family doctor put the pieces of my genetic puzzle together: my dad had mostly recovered, but had suffered from severe migraine when he was younger, and while my symptoms presented differently, they all pointed to migraine. At the time, I didn't really understand what that meant. I later learned that migraine is actually a brain disease that affects the entire central nervous system, and it explained the severe stomach pain and nausea I'd experienced when I was younger, as well as the cognitive impairment and other symptoms. Several years later, when I was in college in Kentucky, I was also diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which could have a connection to migraine and contributed to the severe fatigue.

During the two years I was in Kentucky, I struggled with pain, nausea, fatigue and sometimes even cognitive impairment, making it difficult to have a normal social life and succeed in school. Medications I had tried before just made me sick, and I didn't know if I would ever find a treatment that would help me be "normal," whatever that meant for me. At the time, I just wanted to be free from the pain. But I didn't realize how many areas of my life were affected until I got better.

When I transferred to go to school back home, I spent the summer working with my doctor to find a treatment. Around the time school started, I was beginning to adjust to the medication that would change my life. I was starting at a new school, with a new major and hoping and praying that this time things would be different. I didn't really like high school, so I had always looked forward to college: the chance to start over, study things I actually cared about and get the real "college experience." Kentucky had been a bust, but going into my junior year armed with a medication that actually worked, I knew things could be different.

And things were very different. I was no longer afraid to be around people, worried of what they would think when I couldn't keep up with the conversation or it took me an unusually long time to respond to a question. I could go to events and meet new people, because I was there to have fun, not to merely survive until I could get back into bed. I could run for fun; I could go to parties; I could even speak up in class discussions, because I was able to follow them. That's when I realized how much I had been missing out on. It wasn't just the physical pain and limitations that had made things so difficult, I had also lost my personality, my passion and my ability to make connections with other people. I literally didn't know who I was. It was almost like meeting myself for the first time; I learned that I was actually an extrovert and loved meeting new people. I found a passion for fitness, running, biking and other outdoor activities. I joined a sorority and found out that event planning and fundraising was another passion of mine. I learned photography and picked it up as a minor, because why not? I took advantage of every opportunity I could, and I wasn't afraid to try new things.

When I ran across the Outdoor Mindset website, I had no idea there was already an organization that combined some of the things I care about most. I am now a trainer for Planet Fitness and I'd eventually like to specialize in working with clients who have neurological challenges and mental illnesses. I feel like I can relate to some of the challenges that those with neurological diseases face, and I know from experience how exercise can change lives.

I also know how important it is to be surrounded by people who care and support each other, especially when you're facing a chronic illness or disability. I was lucky to have my family and a few close friends by my side while I struggled with my illness, and I don't know what I would've done without them. That's why I'm so excited to be a part of Outdoor Mindset and grow a community in Ohio. Through outdoor activity and social connections, we CAN make a difference in the lives of those with neurological challenges!"

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Super Woman Sally

Sally is an old friend and colleague of many of us at Outdoor Mindset. A few years ago, she scared us all senseless when she was in a serious backcountry skiing accident in Jackson, WY. We, along with her 8 billion other friends and admirers, have had the pleasure of rallying around her and watching her come-back from this accident. She is a true inspiration and rock star, and it's an honor to have her be a part of the Outdoor Mindset family.

Raised in Colorado, I started skiing at age three. (But I went in my dad’s backpack in the backcountry at six months old!) My family has a cabin in Leadville, so when I was young, I skied at Ski Cooper. Once my brother and I “graduated” from Ski Cooper, at about age 12, I went over to Copper Mountain. I skied there for most of my younger years, and at age 15, I started the Junior Ski Patrol program. While I was in college, and for a few years after, I was a volunteer patroller, with skills as an EMT.

After college, I worked many ski-related jobs in Boulder, including being the online editor for SKI Magazine. I worked there for a couple years, considering it my “dream job.” I skied in places like Canada, New Zealand and Chile, and trips like these were fully paid for- but I was laid off from that job. That was a Wednesday, and by Friday, I had another offer on the table.

I accepted that job, and within two week, I packed everything I needed in my car, and headed to Jackson, Wyoming. I absolutely loved it there: the PR company I got a job with, Denny, ink., had major ski industry clients like Arc’teryx, Dynafit and Nordica, so I went skiing for part of the day and it was considered “work.”

Skiing with three of my Jackson friends one Saturday, we rode the tram up at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and hiked to where we wanted to ski. We were going to ski “Once is Enough,” but we had to ski another, narrower run to get there. When we got to the top of our run, we clicked in, and my friend went first. He gave me two thumbs up, telling me it was safe to go. I started downhill, took a few turns, and then my ski fell off. I crashed, and slid downhill for 550 feet. I came to a stop by bashing my head on a rock. I was unconscious, but everything else was fine. My one friend who went first hiked up to me, and my other two friends skied down.

Once I got off the slope (which took a really long time), I was airlifted to a hospital in Idaho Falls, where I was placed in an induced coma. Even though I was only in Jackson for a short time, a lot of friends I had came to visit me. I stayed there for three weeks, and then was okay to fly back home, to Colorado.

I had multiple injuries—a broken back, neck, and ankle, and I had to have back surgery to fix that break. I wore a neck collar for a long time in the hospital so that my neck would heal. And I still have foot problems from the break. I wasn’t eating at that time, so I have a belly scar from where they put in the feeding tube. I lost a ton of weight- 30 pounds- so they gave me a smoothie with stuff that made me gain weight.  I remember when I first got to eat by myself, and I forgot how great that was.

A few months after I lived at home, I got to go back to Jackson and thank all the people I knew there. Since the PR company I worked for had some clients in the ski industry, a lot of ski stuff was donated, which gave people another reason to come.

There were a lot of things I had to go through to recover- physical, occupational, and speech therapy. And even though I was 25 (and I turned 26), I lived at home. Living in Colorado Springs wasn’t great, because most of my friends were in Denver or Boulder. But I needed that time to still recover- I wasn’t able to live on my own.

Now that I live in Boulder in a condo that my parents helped me buy, I’m in a much better spot- I can see friends more often, and since I don’t drive, I can take the bus everywhere. Getting back to the life I used to have will never happen, so I struggle with loneliness. My friends from before my accident are finding new jobs, getting promoted, and/or having kids, but I feel like I’m stuck in the same place. I used to have a great job, and was doing really well at it, so this injury has stopped that. I just have to find a new way to gain happiness, beyond my job. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m still working on it.

I am so glad that I have come this far, when I was so very close to death during my accident. But the way my friends acted during my accident saved my life, and luckily, worse things didn’t happen with the bones I broke. My life will never be the same as it used to be, but I’m lucky to be alive so I can adapt to the changes.

Post accident, there are a lot of things that are important to me now, that I never used to consider important. Balance is one of them- I still have trouble walking. I don’t ski like I used to, and that was so important to me that even my job revolved around that. Riding bikes is a problem- I never realized how balance plays into that. My parents have kept their tandem, though, so I can still get my biking “fix.”

Yes, things aren’t how they used to be, but I’m learning new ways to do them and find other things that make me happy. I’ve now realized that the sports I used to do were the main source of my happiness. Now that I can’t do them the same way, I’m trying to learn other things that make me happy.

Outdoor Mindset has really shown me that there are more people who struggle with the same things I do, so it’s good to know that I’m not alone. It’s the simple things like having coffee with another Outdoor Mindset member that matter the most. I find pleasure in the simple things now, because I’ve realized how important they are. Before my accident, I thought bigger things were more important—like traveling, being a bridesmaid in someone’s wedding, or having success at work. Now, it’s the little things that matter the most to me, and Outdoor Mindset helps with that.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Heidi joins OM & the Denver Meetup Group

Heidi is a new Outdoor Mindset member, who recently joined the Denver meetup group. We're super excited that Heidi is part of the OM Community and appreciate her sharing this blog post:

I don’t even know where to begin – this I know for sure:  I know I am a typical Colorado native.  I love the great outdoors; skiing, camping, hiking, you name it…………………. .oh, and of course The Broncos!

I was an educator. I love learning and had taught children for 17 years.  I love people, cultures, and travel. I traveled to Croatia, Germany, and Switzerland, studied in Italy, taught in Mexico and explored the US too.  Backpacking the Grand Canyon was incredible. My 5 yr. old niece and I are going to “The Big Hole” when she’s 12. I possess the independent spirit that accompanies all of this.     
Well, I suppose I don’t know where to begin because I also know that I am beginning a new life.

Although the desire that beats the heart of all of these “known’s”, these “loves”, essentially the pieces of my identity, still exists, my ability to live them altered.  I must fulfill my identity differently because who I am is not going away and nor are the challenges that brought on by epilepsy.  How do I marry these two?  That is what carving this new life is all about.

I began having seizures four years ago.  The seizures increased in severity and occurrence over these years until I was only safe under supervision or just within the walls of my small condo.  Often my bits of solitude merely came on the heels of persistent insistence.  My independent spirit was wearing on me and my dear loving and supportive family.  However, it usually produced our only refuge.  I had taken every medicine, suffered extreme side effects, and withstood countless tests and hospital stays. 

My family had been stretched immeasurably.  I was completely dependent, a bus ride let alone a drive were out of the question.  It had been four years of an incomprehensible whirlwind.  My mind could not begin to process the changes my life was going through at even half the pace with which they were happening.

This complete redefinition of life, health, and future led me to a decision that, as difficult as some may find, was rather obvious to me.  Three months ago I decided to have brain surgery.  I couldn’t be more grateful; language is inadequate to express this. The world has supported in ways I didn’t know were possible…friends, family, doctors, acquaintances, and beyond.                                                                                     

I have now experienced three months without a seizure and have even begun to dip my toe back into the outside world. I have gotten out on my own, ridden the bus, taken walks, and even met friends for lunch.  Okay, I won’t be hitting the back bowls or even jumping on a bike.  What do they say about, “Running before you can walk.” ? 

I am taking it very easy and so glad that through my struggles I have met Lisa Avram, a leader in the Outdoor Mindset Denver Group.  I met Lisa, and a really moving group of people who also struggle with epilepsy, through an art therapy group.  Our continued gatherings regularly provide me with a unique strength.  Through their support and my experiences I have learned the importance of listening to my limits vs. what our culture expects of us.  I am enjoying things I never believed I would.  A bus ride is quite an adventure, a joy all its own and one to celebrate!  Sure, not the south rim nor Yellowstone but a gift nonetheless.

As I get out again at the pace that my health dictates, I am grateful for the resource of Outdoor Mindset.  Yoga is wonderful, I look forward to walks around Cheesman and eventually there is hope for much more.  What I appreciate is the spectrum of challenges I can choose from through OM. I believe I have found a tool to help me marry who I am and the challenges in this new life. 

I look forward to it all and am so grateful - bus rides to mountaintops!   

 - Heidi

Monday, January 27, 2014

New Member, Katie McCurdy, Attends Hut Trip & Tells All

Katie McCurdy is a new Outdoor Mindset member, who recently attended the NH Meetup hut trip. She enjoyed meeting new people, talking about neurological challenges, and spending time in the outdoors! We appreciate Katie sharing her experiences.

We made our way along a snowy trail in the woods of New Hampshire, a small train of 6 backpack-toting, sled-pulling women (and one man). The area was still recovering from an ice storm, so beneath the inch or so of snow was a thin layer of glare ice, which we navigated and slid along until we reached the ’66 Dartmouth cabin. The log cabin was more like a lodge; what I imagine an old logging camp in Northern Michigan (from where I hail) would have been like. It had a giant main room with a wood stove and fireplace; multiple sleeping lofts piled with those humorous vinyl-coated camp mattresses; gas lanterns and moose paddles hanging throughout. It was rustic and charming. 

My companions were a group of mostly strangers, members of the Outdoor Mindset community in the Hanover, NH area. Outdoor Mindset’s goal is to help patients with neurological conditions spend time in the outdoors, doing activities they love. My old friend Jeanie had invited me to the outing; we’d been co-captains of our college ski team back in the 90’s, and Jeanie’s now in med school at Dartmouth. Her husband, Jake, is a co-founder of Outdoor Mindset. 

Most of the people on the outing were patients with various neurological conditions like MS and epilepsy, and one woman had multiple autoimmune issues (like I do, but hers were different from mine.) I don’t think they knew I was a patient at first, as I was kind of a random and unexpected addition to the trip, so my pointed questions about their symptoms and diseases might have been a little off-putting at first. But as we walked through the woods, first on our way to the cabin and then from the cabin to the top of a small mountain lookout nearby, we spent a lot of time talking and getting to know each other. I found that many of us had symptoms in common - even if our diseases were different. A lot of us talked about neuropathy - tingling and numbness in our extremities. The conversation swung seamlessly between health talk and outdoors talk; from the cost of healthcare to a hiking trip at Kilimanjaro; from treatment options to a climbing trip or a trek through the Indian Himalayas. 
Now these are my kind of people! Maybe just a ‘little tiny bit’ noncompliant patients who don’t always accept the limitations of their diseases. Who push themselves to spend time outdoors and find ways to mitigate the impact their symptoms might have on their abilities. I’ve had the autoimmune disease Myasthenia Gravis for over 20 years, and I’ve recently been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome as well - both neurological autoimmune diseases. But I’ve always been able to maintain an outdoor lifestyle; I was a ski bum in Montana for a few years, and I’ve lived/hiked/skied in VT for about 8 years. I understand what it’s like to push through symptoms to get outdoors and keep up with the activities that make you feel alive.
Later in the evening, a friend of Jeanie and Jake’s came to the cabin and taught an intro class on Pilates. She was hilarious and a great teacher, and we worked on our ‘six packs.’ Jeanie and the dinner crew made a great meal, and we spent time chatting into the night over a shared bottle of wine and some cream cheese brownies. I shared a personal project I’ve been working on that aims to help patients tell better stories about their healthcare when they’re visiting with their doctors, and I got some good feedback and input from the group. 
Overall, I was so pleased to have the chance to refresh my mind and body in the woods with some like-minded patients. I’m excited to have now joined OM officially, and I’m hoping to make it to more events and to help spread the word up here in VT!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Outdoor Mindset teams up with Bones For Bruno in February!

What could be better than treats that help animals and their human friends? 

Outdoor Mindset is excited to team up with Bones for Bruno. Bones for Bruno hand makes gluten free treats sure to delight dogs of all shapes and sizes. Their mission is simple: Love life while helping people, their pets and their community.

Here's the deal. For the entire month of February, buy a bag of Bones for Bruno treats, and Bones for Bruno will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Collarship fund AND Outdoor Mindset! 

  • Collarships provide financial assistance to those in need of paying veterinary bills for their furry friends.
  • Outdoor Mindset unites and empowers people affected by neurological challenges through a common passion for the outdoors.

Dogs love the outdoors, so this is really just a match made in outdoorsy heaven.

Wanna know how you and your pooch can make a difference? It's easy.
During the month of February, buy a delicious bag of doggie treats (or two, or three) here, and enjoy the benefits of helping people, pets, and your community!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Outdoor Mindset Announces Partnership with NMSS CO-WY Chapter

January 2, 2014

Outdoor Mindset announces new partnership for 2014 with National MS Society CO-WY Chapter.

The National MS Society CO-WY Chapter mobilizes people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by MS. The Colorado-Wyoming Chapter of the National MS Society has been serving individuals diagnosed with MS and their families for over 75 combined years. They are committed to providing education, programs and services that empower you to live a healthy productive life. To learn more, visit their website.

Outdoor Mindset unites and empowers people affected by neurological challenges through a common passion for the outdoors. OM enhances members' quality of life through Meetup Groups and the Connect Program. Meetup Groups strengthen connections and empower members to get outside with scheduled group activities in local cities around the country. The Connect Program allows members to search other members and connect 1 to 1 with another member who has experience with a similar diagnosis and shares a common passion for the outdoors. These relationships inspire hope, instill passion for maintaining outdoor lives and enable our members to receive support from someone uniquely familiar with their experience. You may sign up for Outdoor Mindset's free membership community on their website. In addition to gaining access to empowering programs, members also have access to online-based tools, member perks, and exclusive giveaways. 

Outdoor Mindset looks forward to partnering with the National MS Society CO-WY Chapter in many exciting ways in 2014. Look for an Outdoor Mindset presence at future Walk MS events. Outdoor Mindset plans to set up informational booths for walk participants. Also OM will encourage local Meetup Groups to get outside and attend Walk MS events. To view upcoming dates and to register for Walk MS events, head to the website. Boulder OMbassador, Kat Drake, has set up a team called "Mountain Strong" for the Boulder Walk on May 17th. If you would like to join the team and participate with the Boulder Meetup Group, please check the OM calendar and/or contact Kat for details: 970-231-7980.

This partnership is a win-win for both organizations. With complimentary missions to empower people to live a healthy and productive lives, the National MS Society CO-WY Chapter and Outdoor Mindset look forward to working together and raising awareness on behalf of each other.