Richard McBlane Photography

Richard McBlane Photography

1. Back on My Feet  is a national nonprofit organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves so they can make real change in their lives that results in employment and independent living.

2. I’ve been running since 1976 and can relate to the healing power of lacing up a pair of sneakers when times get tough. Running saw me through some incredibly difficult times as a teenager, as a struggling college student, as a young adult trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing with my life. Running allowed me to overcome a painful divorce, manage the challenges of being a single mom, and successfully stare down the barrel of late-stage breast cancer. Running continues to be one of my greatest sources of inspiration and I think the idea of BOMF is absolutely worth spreading.

3. Back on my Feet has proven that this unique homeless outreach (creating self-sufficiency through running) works: 46% of their participants have moved on to a job, housing or both.

Help get someone back on their feet and back on the road.  Join me in Amplifying Back on my Feet  during Amplify Austin.

Live here. Give here. Inspire here.





rfcau_SGK_logo1. As a former board member and current advisor, I know that they continue to provide a lifeline for those of us dealing with breast cancer in the Austin area.

2. The Komen family played an essential role in giving me access to resources when I was diagnosed in 2008.

The day after my double mastectomy in 2008.

The day after my double mastectomy in 2008.

3.Our Austin chapter NEVER WAVERED in their support of Planned Parenthood, a longtime grantee. They are not afraid to advocate for women’s health, even when it means disagreeing with the national office.


Rockin’ the chemo look in ’08

4. It’s an opportunity to recognize the hundreds and thousands of Austinites who run for us every year at Race for the Cure.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Please join me in donating to our beloved local Komen chapter during the 24 hour Amplify Austin campaign.

livestrong1. I remember how comforting it was to jump on their website in the dead of night and read stories of people dealing with their cancer diagnosis – just like me.

2. I know that donations go towards free services and supports to cancer survivors and their families – so important when every dollar counts.

3. I admire the organization and all the staff that have worked tirelessly to keep the mission first and foremost upfront. It’s been a tough year full of intense public scrutiny. They’ve kept themselves focused on the people that they serve.

4. I donated to LIVESTRONG a few months ago when my dear friend Liz was newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

I donate now in her memory.

Please join Amplify Austin’s 24 hour campaign to raise funds for the very best of Austin non-profits, like LIVESTRONG.

Me & Liz  Wood 2011

For Liz…

My mentor & CPPP Board Member, Jim Hine

My mentor & CPPP Board Member, Jim Hine

1. The  Center for Public Policy Priorities focuses solely on evaluating public policy as it affects low- and moderate-income Texans.

2. They neither support nor oppose any political party or candidate for office.

3. They provide timely, accessible, credible research.

And at last year’s CPPP Legacy Luncheon, I took their pledge to heart (and wallet):

Every one of us deserves a fighting chance to realize our full potential, pursue our biggest dreams, and live a better life—regardless of income or zip code. When too many of us live in poverty, have no health care, and live with hunger, things have to change.”

Please consider donating to this organization today and join me in #Amplifying Austin!

You've Been Yellow Slipped

Yellow Slipped

So I got this notification in yesterday’s mail. It’s a letter from the Texas Health Insurance Pool (the insurance place of last resort for those of us with pre-existing conditions). It was letting me know what I already know…

1) Implementation of the Affordable Care Act is moving ahead and will be effective January 1, 2014.

2) Early enrollment through the exchange is scheduled to begin October 1, 2013.

…and what I suspected:

The Legislature could decide that Pool coverage will end and Pool policyholders (like me) will be allowed a certain amount of time to transition into the exchange or seek out other insurance coverage.

…and left a lot unsaid, notably…

That our Governor told CMS to pound sand last fall – so unlike the states that are well underway with some kind of implementation of an exchange, Texas appears to be leaving it up to the fine folks in Maryland to figure it out for us. Of course there are rumors of a workgroup cobbling together an alternative – but CMS would still need to approve it. Given the outstanding relationship between the State of Texas and CMS – my money says CMS will use that opportunity to return the favor and tell Texas to pound sand.

Lots of sand pounding. Lots of chest thumping. And I for one, am growing weary.

So for those of us that are left hanging in the balance, you might want to pick up the phone with your representatives and let them know you are concerned.


If proposal responses are like dating, then the Executive Summary is that first glance across a crowded room. This is where your organization makes the crucial first impression. In seven seconds or less.


So how can you make them like you? How do you stand out in a room full of hotties? And why did you pick that shirt?

If you are lucky, your date (the issuer of the proposal) will give you a few hints as to how to impress them, but often they are generalized: The Offeror shall condense and highlight the contents of the technical proposal and demonstrate and understanding of our objectives and goals. Ummm, alrighty then…

In any case, your objective is clear: you must dazzle and delight. So here  are a few dating tips from an old pro to ensure that you do just that.

1) Find out as much as you possible can about the other person(s) before you write. The actual proposal, if your lucky, tells you only half the story. You need to find out the other half. What is motivating the offeror, are there politics and budget issues driving the proposal (that aren’t mentioned in the proposal), and what types of folks will be evaluating the proposal? Make sure your communication style in these first few pages strikes the right tone.

2) Be natural in your approach. Nothing drives me more nuts than when my clients write in stilted, corporate-speak. Write like you would talk to someone you just met. Read your stuff out loud as you edit. Would you really say this to someone? “I offer a robust, holistic, next-generation approach to… No? Then rewrite it the way you would say it in the real world.

3) Focus on them. Nothing worse than someone who goes on and on about themselves. Yes it’s a proposal and you are supposed to sell your organization, but it’s not about you – it’s about them. So make sure you lead with benefits – not just prattle on about all of your unique features. Make sure they get the impression that you listen more than you talk. Get them excited about turning the page.

4) Don’t show off. Braggarts are boring. You may very well be the nations leading purveyor of awesomeness, but your date would like to draw his/her own conclusions – thank you. Sprinkle the Yay-Me’s! evenly across the proposal. But be careful. Third-party validation of your fabulousness score more points. If you are the only one saying how great you are, you run the risk of an authenticity fail.

5) Make the first interaction count. To make sure you are on the right track with your message – put in a little extra thought and preparation. Have someone outside the organization read and evaluate your introduction. This is akin to having a trusted pal weigh-in on whether your outfit works. Trust me. I’ve had plenty of experience is having to tell a client that their butt does look too big in those jeans. (Translation: You come off as full of yourself and you’ve haven’t paid enough attention to your perspective client).

Can you overcome a weak Executive Summary? Certainly, but why take the chance? First impressions count. If you don’t make a great one, the rest of your proposal faces an uphill battle and you may not get that second date.

$600 vs $8

October 1, 2012 — 1 Comment
A photo of doctor orders for Advil

Really? After the $600 MRI co-pay…an $8 Advil treatment is prescribed?

So I go to my orthodpedist for recurring pain along my left tibia. I was thinking: shin splints. Nothing major, but I’m in enough pain that walking and jogging is ouchy and it’s been getting worse for the past few weeks. Doc orders an in-house x-ray. Appropriate -yes?

It proved to be inconclusive (no apparent stress fracture, etc.). Whew!

Doc: “But given your sensitivity Ashley…(when he touches my leg the pain is so intense that I jump)…I’m not sure.”

Doc: “In fact given your history, I have to ask you: when is the last time you had blood work done?”

My history is breast cancer. I’m four years past the diagnosis and treatment but cancer (really any kind of cancer), is always lurking. Remission is not a cure. So of course I interpreted his follow-up question the way so many people in my shoes do: I assumed the worst. Bone cancer maybe?

Next thing you know he is recommending a STAT MRI – apparently the only way to get a clearer view of not only the bone, but the tissues around the bone. I agree. Make the appointment. Get to the MRI facility the next day. Pay the deductible (gulp). And spend an hour enjoying the “bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang” of the tunnel. The following day I’m back in my doctor’s office after two consecutive nights of no sleep.


Doc:  “Inconclusive. So I think what we’ll do is start you on some Advil with some PT to strengthen some of the surrounding leg muscles. Then we’ll see how you do for the next few weeks.”

 <A slew of vitriol followed. Edited for clarity (and scrubbed of obscenities) my message was simple, if not loud. Really loud.> 

Me:  “Why would you scare me into an MRI instead of STARTING with the conservative treatment of Advil and physical therapy? Or let me put it another way: Why did I spend north of $600 in co-pays and deductibles, when I could have spent $8 for a bottle of Advil?

To be honest, I don’t remember the rest of the conversation because I was so mad. I was escorted to the check-out window by a PA who was called to help “calm the patient.” And where I paid my bill,I declined to make a PT appointment because I can Google “exercises to strengthen calves/shins/ankles” for free thanks. And I’ll be damned if I’m giving that practice any more of my money.

I rode my broom all the way home in a fog of red, I was so pissed.

Truth is, I’m most angry at myself. I should have questioned the MRI order. I know better. I’ve been working in healthcare for 25 years. I know how this works! I know all about unnecessary testing, etc. I should have asked for alternatives and options. should have asked him what he thought the possible causes were. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.  

Lessons Learned:  1) As patients we share responsibility in controlling healthcare costs. If tests sound excessive – ask questions. 2) If you have a pre-existing condition – don’t allow that as an excuse for a provider to leap-frog over a common-sense conservative approach straight to high-dollar diagnostics.

P.S.  Happy to report that four days later: $8 worth of Advil seemed to work.