Tag Archives: NASCAR

Fattening the Frog

Jessica’s secure fundraising site is accessible here.

While coming to terms with my diagnosis, I realized there are experiences, moments – even things – that I want for myself. And these are consistent, no matter if my timeline is to be measured in one year or ten.

I felt a lot of pressure to track these things via a “bucket list.” But my imagination kept teasing me with this very literal vision of a stainless steel bucket far too cold and anonymous to contain hopes, dreams, and otherwise fun things.

I needed something that was more… Jessica. It had to have an animal-association, be a bit humorous, and have a touch of whimsy amidst such a serious topic. And thus, The Frog List was born! It contains all of the things I want to do before I CROAK!

It was a soft launch: I simply added a page to my existing blog. But soon two very cool supporters assembled a fundraiser page which would draw attention to my list and the resources needed to make it come true.

The fundraising is managed and secured via YouCaring.com. It is a fee-free service which connects people like me and the folks who have the means to help, no matter how small or large the donation.

Knowing my needs and wanting to be as practical as possible, we took a guess at time and donation goals. I extend the time deadline from month-to-month, and I’m not quite halfway to my $10,000 goal. I feel it is a lofty, but not unobtainable goal, given the experiences of other YouCaring users in my situation.

Some donations are monetary. Others are donations of actual experiences or items on the list. Either way, it’s important to me that I keep the site updated so the generous donors (and potential ones too!) know exactly how The Frog List has made my life easier and more enjoyable.

To date, the following items and experiences have been donated: a special lightweight wheelchair, NASCAR race tickets (and Hot Passes), Cirque du Soleil tickets (and meet and greet), and George Strait concert tickets (in progress!).

I would like to give an idea of where the cash donations have been spent too. Some of the larger expenses have been: flights/hotel/car rental for the NASCAR race; gas for trips to see my mom in WV; and making sure everyone who wants money at least gets a minimum payment. My Rite Aid prescription bill alone rivals most car payments!

While visiting friends and family for Thanksgiving, a friend gave me some really good advice. “Don’t be shy to extend the date or the fundraising goal as things change.” Her youngest daughter was born with some huge medical hurdles, but luckily she’s a thriving happy little girl today. 

My friend’s words of wisdom revisit me often these days. We are nearing completion of the most critical item on my Frog List: Move my mom closer to me. We found the new farm, and the move is about two weeks away! We must sell the existing property ASAP, but having my mom close to me will outweigh the stress of an extra mortgage.

I’m so excited it’s finally happening. I have lived through two years and two months of bad news, treatments, and hospitalization with her too far away and me too unwell to make the frequent trips I once did.

Through all the planning, I just realized that I’m going to need different accommodations at the new farm than I have had in WV (the existing farm).

Most waking hours, in order to be physically comfortable, I need to lie down or at least recline. (In fact, I often measure how well I’m doing by how many hours I was able to spend out of bed on a given day.) At home, I have a daybed in my living room. I replaced my loveseat with it about six months after my original diagnosis.
Having a bed downstairs also allows me to avoid my arch enemy, stairs, on most occasions.

At the farm in WV, I have been spending more and more of each visit isolated in the guest bedroom because there is no place for me to lie/recline comfortably in the living room.

Therefore, I want to buy a sectional sofa (maybe with a recliner) for the new farm. I want to have a place I can be comfortable and interact with everyone during waking hours. 

I definitely think this warrants an addition to the Frog List. I wouldn’t spend money on anything fancy; it seems that a basic sectional starts around $1000. (It just has to be very comfy!)

This started me thinking: How do I decide what I should add to the Frog List? I came up with two criterion: 1) Will it make my daily life easier or more comfortable? 2) Am I the primary benefactor? I am happiest when the ones I love are, too; but when asking for such generosity it’s important I remain focused on the goal at hand. (By the way, asking for help is very hard.)

Right now that’s the only ad hoc (and somewhat immediate) item I want to add. Yes, I can use all the help I can get with mountains of medical and living expenses; and I’ll be reaching out to a few key folks when it’s time to say “I do.”

But I hope to order my “comfy place” before the end of February. Thank you for everything you’ve done to date, and in the future, to help me fatten the frog!

Jessica’s secure fundraising site is accessible here: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/jessica-s-frog-list/84760


Race Weekend!

It’s time to take a break from cancer and update you on our awesome NASCAR race weekend!

On Friday night Seth and I flew to Greensboro, NC. The flight was uneventful and plane definitely reusable. (That’s how I judge a good landing!) From there we rented a car and drove ten minutes to our hotel.

The DoubleTree by Hilton was very nice and clean. After plane tickets were purchased, my mom made some calls to hotels where I have a member number, explained why I was coming to the area, and tried to get the lowest rate. Her efforts paid off! The DoubleTree manager was very nice, and with the discount, we essentially got three nights for the price of two. Another bonus? Free hot breakfast each morning.

Saturday morning we drove approximately one hour north to the Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, VA. Our first stop was the NASCAR credentials trailer. My ticket donor said there would be pit passes waiting for us. We filled out the disclaimer form and waited in line. But once we got to the front they couldn’t find us on “the list.”

“That’s okay,” I said to Seth, trying to hide my disappointment. “We’re still here and have great seats!”

The woman at the table pointed to a closed door which led to a small, separate room. “They have other packets. I don’t know if they can help you or not.”

So we squeezed our way into the tinier room and waited for one of the two women to be available. We gave our names, and she scanned her list. She was flipping pages quickly when Seth said, “Wait! That’s us!” A packet was passed from one woman to the other, and two magic pieces of paper emerged. They said “HOT.” We printed and signed our names on a form already containing others. They trashed our disclaimer forms.

I was barely able to get back to the car and tell Seth, “close your door, close your door” before going “SQEEEEEEEEEE!!”

A “hot” pit pass gives you carte blanche to be INSIDE the track before, during, and after the race, including qualifying and practice. We were there for all the events both Saturday and Sunday. One of my favorite highlights was attending the pre-race driver’s meeting. While there was no room under the tent, we were all the way up front and just a few feet from the drivers, crew chiefs, and teams.

The races themselves (a lesser series on Saturday and the main event on Sunday) were great. The Sunday race was my favorite that I’ve ever attended: it had plenty of action, our seats were great, and the track is so short, there is always action right in front of you. (You don’t wait or watch with binoculars while the cars drive around a 2+ mile track.)

Seth and I took many pictures and a few small videos; I’ll share some on Facebook when I’m up to it.

Thank you for making this trip possible. Your donations via my YouCaring site paid for the airplane tickets, rental car, and hotel. And guess what? I can cross it off of my Frog List!


Dover: Part 2

Sunday morning we had breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and arrived at the track at 10am.  As expected, traffic was much heavier; fortunately we were able to park in the same lot near the crossover bridge.

We made our way across the footbridge, past no fewer than 4 credential checkpoints, and we were back in the infield.  Another 200 paces or so brought us to the main entrance of the Sprint Cup garages.  Here we got our badges scrutinized once more, along with the hairy eyeball, before being allowed to pass.  We were IN!

The setup was a mirror image of the day before: team trailers on the left, garages on the right.  We arrived in the middle of pre-race inspections.  NASCAR inspects all cars pre- and post-race to make sure they conform to certain requirements.  This involves large aluminum templates and other mechanical guides that fit over and around the car.  A car that is too low, has the wrong angle on the rear wing, or has otherwise manipulated sheet metal could have an illegal aerodynamic advantage.

The inspection happened in three stages, and the cars lined up as they waited between stations.  This provided us the opportunity to photograph and examine some of the cars up close.  We also had the chance to talk to all the team members who accompanied the cars through the process.  Everyone was so friendly!  They were more than happy to talk about any part of the car, the inspection process, anything you could think to ask.  And seeing the cars in person, all suited up for the race, raised a lot of questions!  “What does this number refer to?”  “What is this plug for?”  “Why does that car have two ports here and yours only has one?”  We asked a lot of questions!

As we walked up and down the long line of trailers, we caught glimpses of some drivers and got to briefly meet a few.  Of note, I was able to shake hands with my favorite driver, Carl Edwards, and also meet his team owner, Jack Roush.  We also met driver Jeff Burton and crew chief Bootie Barker.

Around 11:30 we left the garage area and headed for pit road.  All the inspected cars were now lined up in their starting order.  All the team pits were setup, too, and it was fun to see the variations from one team to another.  We took a lot of pictures, especially with our favorites, which were more than halfway down the row of 43 boxes.  In fact, once we saw them both, I needed a break.  So we walked back to the start/finish line and plopped on the grassy hill behind one of the teams.  We knew we couldn’t be in this area once the cars were on the track, although the few people around us had “hot” passes and were settling in for the entire race.

Driver introductions began, and some of them walked right past us on their way to the temporary stage.  We could see the back of the stage as drivers chatted, waiting for their name to be announced.  Then came the invocation, the Star Spangled Banner, a spectacular flyover, and finally, the command to ‘start your engines.’

Seth and I looked at each other.  ‘They should kick us out of here at any moment,’ we thought.  We put the cooler between us; I took out a drink and tried to look as settled in as possible.  Then the cars started to roll out onto the track.  We plugged in to our radios and listened to the countdown to green…

‘Here they come, here they come, HERE THEY COME!’ I thought.  Vrrrrrrrroom!  We watched the start of the race sitting only 50 feet from the cars.  After a couple of laps, Seth and I locked eyes: we made it!  And then I spotted the man in the yellow security shirt.  He was at the next area over, checking credentials of the people sitting on the grassy hill.  And he was headed our way.

Seth had reentered his photography trance, and I was intently watching the race.  ‘Stay cool, don’t make eye contact, and act like you belong,’ I told myself.  After all, I deserved to be there just as much as anyone else, I thought.  As the cars sped down the front stretch, I would focus on one, follow it with my head, then intently focus on another, and repeat.  He checked the badges of the people in front of us.  I leaned back a bit, grasped my Diet Coke, put my chin up, and pretended I was the coolest thing ever.  He glanced in our direction – and kept walking.

I was thrilled.  I felt like I pulled off the caper of the century!  Of course, now we had some restrictions.  We couldn’t go anywhere, not even to the bathroom or snack bar.  Any movement might draw attention to us and our illegal status.

After a thrilling 200 laps (half the race), we decided we were ready to exit pit road permanently.  We walked through the rest of the infield (where we were allowed to be), took some great photos and videos at the crossover bridge, and headed for souvenir alley.

I purchased a t-shirt, and we had a slice of pizza before retiring to the seats for which we had paid good money.  I had prepped myself with Pepcid Complete earlier in the day to combat the problem of Saturday.  The steps still sucked.  Bad.  But I finally made it, much to the dismay of the other people in our row.  “You missed half the race,” one guy sneered.  “No,” Seth replied, “we were right down there behind Newman’s pit box.”  We didn’t get a response.

The rest of the race went off without a hitch.  My favorite driver had a catastrophic tire blowout in the first half of the race, and Seth’s favorite finished fourth.  But it was a spectacular weekend.  We got to meet a lot of people, even if just in passing, and we learned a lot about our favorite sport.  I’m so thankful to the person who was able to get us special passes and a big thank you to Seth for an awesome birthday gift!

Dover: Part 1

What a great weekend!  Seth bought tickets to the NASCAR races in Dover for my birthday.  Then in March, I was fortunate enough to get (not available to the public) PIT PASSES too!!  I can’t say everything went off without a hitch, as it rarely does these days, but we had a great time nonetheless!


We left home around 8:15 am and stopped for sandwiches along the way.  Once in Dover (DE), our first stop was the credential office.  I felt so important!  After signing our lives away, we donned our passes and set out for the disabled parking area.

Once parked, we crossed the crossover bridge (go figure) and made our way to the garages that are used for the Saturday race.  As we walked through the area, the garages were on our left and the team trailers were on our right.  Seth got 4 or 5 autographs, and I met (and got Sharpie on) one of the drivers, too!

Our next stop was pit road.  We had walked pit road 2 years ago when we got a tour with the Philly MINI auto club.  But there were no cars and no activity, so this was completely different.  All the cars for Sunday’s race were lined up to qualify for their starting positions, and we got some great close-up shots.  We wanted to watch qualifying from the stands, so we exited pit road by crossing the track at the start/finish line. (They momentarily opened a gate for foot traffic.)

We grabbed some water and a program and headed for the stands.  Much to my dismay, the elevators only went to the sky boxes – not the regular stands.  So I took my sweet time and trudged up the hill to where the stands begin.  Then, the steps.  Seth was willing to sit right at the first row so I would have only 20 steps or so, but I really wanted to have a better view.  (Saturday’s race is general admission.)  We hiked to the 10th or 11th row where we settled in to watch qualifying and eat our sandwiches.

Shortly after I finished my sandwich, I was overcome by a terrible bout of acid reflux.  It’s not something that happens regularly – maybe once every 3 months.  And it had been a year or more since I experienced anything this awful.  My mind raced through the common causes; nothing fit.  The sandwich was my regular pick, I hadn’t had a sip of alcohol, and I had very little caffeine that morning.  As part of my cancer regimen I also take omeprazole (Prilosec) twice daily.  It just didn’t make sense.

The pain worsened, and I felt like someone plunged a torch through my chest and back.  I sipped water; it didn’t help.  When I found myself nearly doubled over in pain I realized I had to tell Seth what was happening.

We left the stands and headed for the first aid building.  I knew exactly what I needed: Pepcid Complete.  Unfortunately, all they had was Pepto-Bismol.  (I had some in my backpack and had taken it at onset.  It didn’t help.)  So we headed to the nearby grocery store, and Seth ran in to buy the magic tablets.  While we waited for them to work, we figured we would check-in to our hotel room.

I was improving but very slowly.  There was no way I was going to be able to attend the race that day.  I implored Seth to go back to the track, but he decided to stay and watch with me instead.  We both dozed off during the race, and my nap continued for a few hours afterwards too!

After some research, I believe the problem was caused by overexertion; it causes the pressure in the abdominal cavity to increase, which in turn can cause acid reflux.  In short, I blame the steps!

That night we had a casual dinner, took a dip in the hotel pool and hot tub, and watched some tv.  I was tired but pain-free by the time I drifted off to sleep.

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