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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Coffee mug IED ... aka holiday airport nightmare

Okay, so I have no one to blame but myself. I bought my ticket late, so it ended up looking like so:

December 30, 2010


The first sign of trouble came early in the morning when I sent my bag through the x-ray machine in Cleveland and my new stainless steel coffee mug set off the alarm. The TSA agent marched me over to the corner and ordered me to watch and "not touch anything" while he swabbed the mug with white cotton.

I remembered this test from the security checkpoints in Indonesia. After they wipe the object down, they put the gauze in a microwave-looking thing that checks it for bomb residue. It was freaking early, my caffeine blood level was dangerously low, and I was not amused. I made a point of checking my watch and scowling through the whole process.

Maybe that un-zenlike attitude turned the wheel of karma against me.

After clearing security, I flew to Chicago, where the weather was foggy. The flight to Fargo was delayed 15 minutes and sat on the ground for 20 more.

As we approached Fargo, the pilot announced that since the visibility was only 1/4 miles, we couldn't land. At 12:15, we were still circling in the air. I prayed my connecting flight was grounded. We finally landed, and as we taxied through the thick fog, snow blew past the windows in horizontal streaks.

For reasons unknown, they sent our gate-checked carry-ons to baggage claim. As I raced down the stairs, I caught sight of the DEPARTURES board. My 12:03 flight had apparently left ON TIME.

The customer service line stretched all the way back to Terre Haute. Stranded travelers grumbled about renting 4 x 4s and trying to make it to the Minneapolis airport. I noticed with rising panic that there were A) only 3 more flights out of Fargo that day and B) no food for sale in this airport.

Suddenly an announcement: UNITED PASSENGER MAURER, PLEASE COME TO GATE 4 FOR IMMEDIATELY DEPARTURE. I raced up the stairs to the security check-point where by some miracle there was no line. Pulled off my boots. Wrestled the laptop out of its case. Shoved everything through the machine.

The alarm went off.

"I have to search your bag," said the TSA guy.

I wanted to strangle him. "That person they just called is ME!"

"It's too late. They already closed the gate."

I felt like snatching my bag back and pounding him on the head with it. "So what do I do?" I shouted. I stopped short of demanding that he supply me with Subway for the entire week I was about to be stranded here.

"Well, you can check the gate. Sometimes they'll open the door again. A-ha!" He pulls out the culprit -- my coffee mug. Seriously, are coffee mug IEDs becoming a terrorist trend? For good measure, he swabs my hands for residue.

I grab my bag and run for gate 4. The woman at the podium smiles and opens the door. I tell her I want to hug her, and she laughs. "You have no idea how many people wanted your seat," she says.

The moment I get on, I recognize the flight attendant. I was never in any danger of missing my connecting flight. The plane to Denver is the same one I just landed on from Chicago.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A moving birthday guest post from my mom!

What a treat! My mom agreed to write a guest post on her personal experience with lymphoma, and right on my birthday too! Read, enjoy, laugh, cry and if you feel moved to make a personal donation to blood cancer research, just click right here. - SM

When I heard the words “you have cancer,” I reacted just like everyone else hearing the diagnosis. This can’t be true. What am I going to do? I was terrified. Then a thought entered my mind: What about Sarah?

At the time, Sarah was a young adult living on her own for a number of years. Out of nowhere these words came to me, “Sarah isn’t ready yet,” and I knew exactly what those words meant. Sarah is not ready to live without her mother. She still needed my support on her way to becoming the woman she is destined to be. She was so close to being there, but just not quite done.

This kind of makes her sound like a cake baking in the oven. Our children are like that. They bake for an allotted amount of time and eventually the timer goes off. They are done and come out light, springy and eager to get on with life. At the time of my diagnosis, Sarah was not quite done yet, and I knew I was going to dig deep and fight for more time.

I was blessed. My lymphoma responded well to chemo and monoclonal antibodies. I was given the time I needed. Sarah is out of the oven now and an extraordinary young woman.

I thank the medical community everyday for giving me those years and all the years to come with my daughter. The research done with the money raised is a gift beyond measure. It gives survivors time to spend with the people we cherish most.

Thank you to everyone supporting Sarah’s Canyonlands Half Marathon to raise money for blood cancers! Sarah is blessed with so many extraordinary friends. Thanks to all of you for being there with her on her journey.

Yours truly,

Kathie Maurer

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Team In Training Donations Map -- December 2, 2010

Thanks for all the awesome support! Let's keep coloring in the world map with donations!

Bottled Water Alternatives

Kampung Pulo neighborhood in Jakarta Indonesia -- See the water on the ground? That's drinking water.

So here's an article on Shaun Phillips (of Shaun and Julie, subjects of another post here), who is working to educate people about the stupidity and pointlessness of bottled water.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I can't hide the fact from most of you (especially if you've known me the last six years) that I have drunk a lot of bottled water in my time. Yes, evil Nestle and Coca-Cola branded water! I had it delivered to my apartment by the barrel in China, and in Thailand I (gasp) bought bottled water by the case because I was too cheap to buy a water cooler for 65 USD. So yes, I am part of the problem. But thanks to projects like Shaun's, I am waking up and changing my evil ways.

Having lived in several places where access to clean water is a huge issue (as you can see in the photos above), Shaun's cause is one close to my own heart. So if you'll indulge me for a moment, I'll hop on my soapbox -- and try not to bore you to death =).

First of all, in defense of tap water ...

I know it sounds crazy, but one of the greatest things about being home in the States is the ability to drink yummy tap water 24 hours a day. (Mmm, chlorine!) When you consider that less than half the world's population has access to improved sanitation, and that the ancient Romans had better water quality than half the people living today, the fact that we can just turn on the tap and drink clean, high-quality water is, well, rather miraculous in my mind.

If you're convinced that tap water is the root of all chronic illness and won't touch it, I invite you to live in rural Kyrgyzstan for a few months. Not only is the tap water undrinkable, if you even have running water, it's rarely on. Yup, we used to leave the taps on all the time with catch buckets underneath, waiting for the water. During the wetter months, we'd have maybe two hours of running water each day. We'd have to filter or boil the water we collected, but seriously, that's not bad as far as the world water supply goes.

In the drier months, no one had running water and we had to walk a mile to the only working well in the center of town and haul water back in buckets (our neighbor eventually took pity on us and started bringing us extra water on his donkey).

While this wasn't fun, it was a vastly better water situation of many people around the world. It was mildly labor intensive, but we had water and the means to purify it. (We did have to give up luxuries like a flushing toilet.)

Contrast this with urban Jakarta, where millions of people in the so-called "informal settlements" (er, slums) drink swamp water from the reclaimed land that's contaminated by fecal matter, pesticides, and everything kind of crap that runs off from the city.

Gross, eh? OK, so now you know why I have so little patience with people who insist that our U.S. tap water is tainted and filthy. It's all a myth perpetuated by the bottled water industry.

(For more water facts, check out

On to bottled water ...

Ever been to Bali after a winter storm and seen the miles and miles of plastic water bottles that wash up on Kuta Beach? Blech. There's so many they bring in bulldozers to clean them up. But the whole bottled water industry has other bad effects that aren't so visible.

** Puts on geology major hat **

When you sink a well anywhere and start pumping tons of H2O out of the ground in mass quantities, the entire region is affected. Levels are reduced in aquifers, rivers and lakes. Less water becomes available for farmers and for household use in areas where people rely on wells. Regions may dry up, making agriculture impossible.

Remember our Kyrgyzstani village? If Nestle, Coca-Cola or Pepsi (all big bottled water providers in Asia) ever sink a water well in the Chuy Valley, that little well could run dry, or become so low that it can't supply our village of 5,000 people. It's a situation that's becoming more and more common around the world.

Besides being expensive and bad for people and the environment, there's no guarantee that bottled water is healthier than tap water. Many popular brands including Dasani and Aquifina ARE tap water with a few extra stages of cosmetic enhancement. And tap water is much more closely regulated and goes through much more stringent quality control than most bottled water.

Consider also the amount of oil involved in mining and transporting bottled water. Not to mention making all those plastic bottles that wash up later on the beach.

Okay, so to be a more savvy water consumer:

1. If you live in the developing world (or you simply don't trust the water supply in your area), consider a water filter rather than relying on commoditized water.

Yup. One tip only. Though it takes some set up, a filter is more convenient and cheaper in the long run than taking a refillable jug to a health food coop or ordering Nestle water by the barrel for your water cooler.

And if you want to join Shaun in advocating for improved water supplies straight from the tap, here's a petition you can sign with Corporate Accountability International.

And here's another article called Illusions of Purity.

How's the water quality in your area of the U.S.? Here's Forbes on the best cities for drinking water.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Leukemia: Been There, Done That

Been There, Done That

Click the link above to read a fantastic essay by our TNT Team Hero Kim Fields. It appeared this summer in Coping With Cancer magazine.