Posted in Your Story

Shawn—Laces Up And Runs, Because He Can!

I like to read… whether it’s long books, articles or short quotes. Words keep me going, so on Facebook I like a few pages that post encouraging and motivating sayings. Last year sometime I started following a page called L.U.N.A.R. (Lace Up Now And Run) which posts sayings related to making the most of life and running.

shawn LUNAR head photo

Almost every time I saw something L.U.N.A.R posted, I found myself agreeing and often sharing some of his posts on my Because I Can page. For a time, I assumed L.U.N.A.R was simply the page of person who loves to run, but a few months ago I realized that while it is the page of someone who loves to run… it’s also the page of someone who has and continues to face tough physical challenges. He posted this picture a few months ago.

shawn LUNAR running

Brain surgery? Second brain surgery?! I had to find out more about the story behind L.U.N.A.R.


Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Shawn Mastrantonio, I’m 43 years old and live in Sayre, PA with my wife, Kim, who is my rock. I have a rare genetic cancer syndrome called VHL (Von Hippel Lindau). As young child, I was familiar with this disease as my Dad, brother, and cousin had it. My dad and cousin along with other relatives previous to my birth passed away from VHL. I didn’t realize it then but through the challenges that VHL had handed to my family I was learning lessons about faith, acceptance of what is given you, and finding the strength to make the best of it. My Mom, who is one of the strongest people I know, (the other being my brother, Brian, who has had over 30 brain surgeries related to VHL) taught me so much through the way she lived her daily life.

There’s a common thought that we can overcome obstacles… I’ve found that sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t, but we can learn to live well even with difficult obstacles. What obstacles have you learned to live with and/or overcome?

I was diagnosed with VHL in 1993 when it was discovered that I had a large brain tumor and cyst in my right cerebellum. Given the type of tumor, hemangioblastoma which is common in VHL and the family history the diagnosis was easy. I had surgery and lived life for quite awhile as a “passenger” as my outlook was dismal due to what I had seen people go through with VHL. So, I lived a dual life. I took care of my body through working out but I also abused it by consuming alcohol. I didn’t think it really mattered and there were times that I didn’t think I would make it too far into my 40’s.

That changed when I met my wife in 2002. It didn’t happen overnight and is still an ongoing process as I carried a lot of anger and fear regarding VHL. Life was going good for us but I had stopped doing my annual MRI checkups to monitor any new brain tumors. In 2009 I scheduled a MRI after getting the “treatment” from both Kim and my Mom. The MRI found 3 tumors, 2 new and the 3rd (and most concerning) was a recurrence from my previous tumor.

That night I had my “pity” party and the next day I started running.


Reposted from L.U.N.A.R


At that time, I was trying to run away from the new challenges I faced. I ran out of anger and fear but over the course of a few months that changed as running began to be a testament to the strength I didn’t realize I had. I used running as a tool to prepare to face battle, surgery, rather than run away from it. I got nearly 2 years of running to prepare myself and prepare myself I did. Then on January 31, 2012 I had surgery to remove the tumor recurrence. I came out of surgery well, that part is due to the great surgical team, but my body recovered very quickly and was only in the hospital for 3 days post op..

What goals have you reached that you or others thought you couldn’t?

Since surgery, I have run a few local 5k’s and 2 half marathons. The first was in less than 9 months from surgery and a new PR! I have some races planned this year as well but my overall goal is to continue to enjoy running as it is truly a gift. I am blessed everyday that I get the opportunity to run so I try not to take it for granted.

Shawn LUNAR view run

Reposted from L.U.N.A.R

What motivates you to keep on doing what you can?

What I have learned from running is hard to explain. To me, it has helped me find strength I didn’t know I had, to face a challenge and the beauty of overcoming it, that we were born to run, I love taking in nature on runs and thanking God for the beautiful earth he has given us. I’m sure it is different for everyone but one thing I am certain of is anyone who runs will definitely say that running has changed their life.

Shawn LUNAR couch

Reposted from L.U.N.A.R

What does a well-lived day look like to you… or in other words, if you knew you were dying tomorrow, what would you do today?

If I knew that I was dying tomorrow it would be a day filled with family, friends, laughing, tears, love, and of course I would have to squeeze in a run. It’s like the song by the Rascal Flatts, “I wanna be running when the sand runs out.”


Shawn LUNAR bio pic

Important things in Shawn’s life.: being a VHL warrior, successful brain surgery, running and Kim.

Shawn says, “The main purpose of my page is to spread awareness of VHL. I am just one of many VHL WARRIORS fighting the battle.”

If you are like me, you’ve probably never heard of it VHL before, so click over to and learn more about it.

Shawn is always encouraging others, so how about today we encourage him. Leave a quote and/or note of encouragement for Shawn in the comments below. And if you are on Facebook. go LIKE his page, L.U.N.A.R. and you’ll be encouraged everyday also.

More of Your Inspiring Stories 

Nik Toocheck—Running the World for Children, Because He Can!
Russell Selkirk—Enjoying Life on a Roll, Because He Can!
Brian Simpson—From Disability to Marathons, Because He Can!
Beverly Shantz—Living and Laughing, Because She Can!
Chris Kaag—Doing What He Can, Because He Can!
Troy Roland—Hockey and Running, Because He Can!
Running at Age 72 and Age 84—Because They Can!
Living Each Day Well–Because She Can
Michele Lynn—Believed She Can… and She Did!
Consistency Helps Dawn do Anything—Because She Can! 


Posted in Your Story

Nik Toocheck—Running the World for Children, Because He Can!

When I had a book table at the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon expo last fall I met a number of inspiring folks. One was Brian Simpson, whose story I shared a few weeks ago and another person I met was Nik from Nik Runs the World and I want to share Nik’s story with you today.

Nik and Janet

Along with being runners, I think Nik and I share something else. Neither of us likes to be cold and we dislike hearing about others, especially kids, who are cold. Other than complain, I don’t do much about it, but Nik does! He is taking his energy and using it for an amazing dream he has.

Nikolas Toocheck is a nine-year-old boy who is Running the World for Children – he is going to complete a marathon on each of the seven continents – and he may very well be the youngest runner to accomplish this! He has created a philanthropic campaign called “Running the World for Children,” raising money for a non-profit organization called Operation Warm, whose mission is to provide new winter coats to children living in need – so that every child wearing a new winter coat feels warm, valued and able to attend school on even the coldest of winter days healthy, full of pride and ready to learn! -from Nik Runs the World

I’ve often said running is for all ages and Nik is proving that… here’s his story.


Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi I’m Nikolas. I am 9 years and I love to run. I love lots of sports like race walking, football, hockey, and baseball. I am excited to start baseball soon with a team.

nik first M finish

Nik with his parents and sister after finishing his first marathon

You are pursuing an amazing goal… tell us about that.

My goal is to run a marathon on each of the seven continents to raise money and awareness for Operation Warm. Operation Warm is a nonprofit organization that provides brand new winter coats to kids who can’t afford to buy them. I have run one marathon so far in Delaware. (The Fortitude for First Descents marathon on December 1, 2012… see his recap video here)

Nik running with a hero of his (and mine), Dean Karnazes

Nik running with a hero of his (and mine), Dean Karnazes

Why did you decide to do this?

Well, I have so much fun running and I thought it would be so much more fun to help kids at the same time. I think it’s awesome that I can try to help kids while doing something I love so much.

When we follow a dream, we usually face some obstacles to making it happen… what challenges have you faced? 

Some races haven’t let me in because of my age so we haven’t chosen all races yet.

On tough days, how do you motivate yourself to keep going? 

Eat a donut and an A3 bar :) But seriously,  it has been so, so cold outside and I think if I keep going, I can hopefully inspire people to donate and get kids coats to keep them warm.

What can others do to help you reach your goal?

My million steps for a million dollars idea was created by determining that I will run about 1,000,000 feet to complete 7 marathons.  Hopefully people will want to sponsor some of my steps to help children in need.

By going to Nik Runs the World people can donate. The donate tab goes to a special page and money goes directly to Operation Warm which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.  Just $20 provides a new coat to a child to keep them warm.

nik sister coats

Nik and his sister at Operation Brotherly Love helping pack and give coats from Operation Warm to kids

Nik’s next marathon is in Antarctica (yes, that’s Antarctica!) on 2/25/13.

I hope Nik has a warm coat, pants, shoes, hat, mittens and everything else needed for himself when he runs there! Leave some encouragement for Nik below and if interested in helping Nik get a step closer to his goal… visit Nik Runs the World for more pictures, info and the donation page.

Wishing you the best Nik!
Keep doing what you are doing, one step at a time…
because you can!


More of Your Inspiring Stories 
Russell Selkirk—Enjoying Life on a Roll, Because He Can!
Brian Simpson—From Disability to Marathons, Because He Can!
Beverly Shantz—Living and Laughing, Because She Can!
Chris Kaag—Doing What He Can, Because He Can!
Troy Roland—Hockey and Running, Because He Can!
Running at Age 72 and Age 84—Because They Can!
Living Each Day Well–Because She Can
Michele Lynn—Believed She Can… and She Did!
Consistency Helps Dawn do Anything—Because She Can! 


Tuesday’s Treat—The World’s Best Oatmeal Bar

I don’t remember if it was after my second or third child was born (my mind was mush back then) but at one time I joined a diet support group for a few months to get rid of some extra pregnancy weight.

The best thing about that was shedding a few pounds, the second best thing was getting a recipe to make an easy no-bake oatmeal bar. I have no idea where my original recipe is or exactly what the ingredients were, but I know there were a few things about the recipe I didn’t like, so over the years I’ve tweaked it to make it exactly how I like it.

It’s simple, basic… but so easy and heathy, that I keep coming back to it.


Oatmeal Bar recipe

Oatmeal Bar Recipe

I have wondered about exchanging the hot chocolate mix with chocolate protein powder, but I’ve never tried it. If you try it, let me know how it works.

Of course the list of of optional ingredients is endless… dried blueberries, ground flax seeds, and whatever else your heart desires.


Other Tuesday Treats
Hot Toddy
Chai Tea
Black Bean, Salsa and More

Friday Facebook Fact or Fiction—Post 1

Facebook… it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. 

Some people complain about it a little and others complain about it a LOT. Some people can’t live without it and some people can’t live with it. Some encourage it and some forbid it*

I love Facebook. If I ever meet Mark Zuckerberg, I will give him a kiss and I’m generally stingy with my kisses.

One thing that is popular on Facebook is sharing memes/infographs/pictures with messages/etc. Many are inspiring, encouraging, funny, and/or informational.

Then there are some that make me shake my head, I reread them a few times and I still don’t know what they mean. Or worse, I do know what they mean, and I’m baffled as to why anyone would share them. Then I wonder if I’m the only that has questions about them. So I thought it would be good to talk about one each week. Welcome to…

Friday Facebook Fact or Fiction.

Every Friday I will post something I saw on Facebook (I’m random and have self-diagnosed ADD, so there will be no rhyme or reason to them) Some will be simply questionable, other will be more serious. Then I will post the first questions that came to my mind when I read them.

You can answer the questions or leave a comment simply saying fact or fiction. Not saying both fact or fiction, just one of them (I’m a mother of three, I know I have to preempt things like this) But then again, sometimes both fact and fiction might apply…. so do whatever you wish.

So without farther ado… here’s the first one:

parents children respect


My questions:
  1. By saying you wouldn’t be here, what do you mean?
  2. If you aren’t respectful, do your parents ground you from Facebook? (even if you’re 18+)
  3. Or are you saying your parents would have kept you chained for life… or killed you??


*The strict Mennonite sect I grew up in and most of my family is still a part of recently forbid Facebook. 
Posted in Personal

Master in the Art of Living by James A. Michener

I read this recently and love the message of it, so I wanted to share it with you. Is every day going to be perfect—no. But I’ve found having a full life with a balance of interests and  activities has been the most meaningful to me.

Master in the Art of Living

A master in the art of living

draws no sharp distinction

between his work and his play,

his labor and his leisure,

his mind and his body,

his education and his recreation.

He hardly knows which is which.

He simply pursues his vision

of excellence through whatever

he is doing and leaves

others to determine

whether he is working or playing.

To himself, he always seems

to be doing both.

-  James A. Michener

Running along the Oregon Coast – November, 2012


Posted in Personal

Beyonce or Janet—Who was Bored and/or Sexist?

After Beyonce preformed at halftime during Super Bowl 2013, I posted this on Facebook…

Okay, so I’m not a prude, and I agree that took tremendous energy,
but overall I found the halftime show to be boring & sexist.

Soon after I posted that I found myself thinking about the word sexist and I realized in posting that quick update, I had used a word that probably didn’t accurately describe my thoughts and feelings. Suddenly the update made me uncomfortable, and I wanted to delete it, but I decided I would see if it creates a conversation and see what I could learn from it. And learn I did!

Later I checked Facebook and read the comments on my update. A number of friends agreed with me. While some like Beyonce, they weren’t thrilled with this performance either, calling it too “sexy”.

And there was a question from my son, Joshua… Does a sexually liberated woman scare you that much?”  What? Me… scared? Is that what my update showed? 

I went to bed wrestling with what I did or didn’t like about the halftime show.
(and wondering what I was thinking when I raised my kids to be critical thinkers. I must have forgotten to stress that they’re supposed to ask questions about everything and to everyone, except their mother.)

By the next morning, I was still wrestling with myself, but one thing I had solidified in my mind was the boring part of my comment. I still stood by it, but I needed to own it, not put it on Beyonce or the show. Because there was nothing boring about her or the show, there were all kinds of things going on… singing, lights, non-stop action, etc.

But it was boring to me because I simply don’t care for some of Beyonce’s songs… the music, the style, the message, the words, etc. Hey, we all have different tastes in music.

Having said that, I admire Beyonce’s talent, intellect, energy,
confidence, and incredibly well-executed performance.

But I was still struggling with something about the show—the part I had called “sexist” in my comment. But sexist was totally the wrong word to use. Sexist means “prejudice or discrimination based on sex”. Beyonce’s show at halftime didn’t have any of that.

The only prejudice or discrimination related to the halftime show
were the comments people made about it… myself included.

So why did I make that comment… I’m still sorting it out…

I’m not one to call what Beyonce wore immodest, because that word is so relative and subjective, it’s hardly fair to use it. (when I’m wearing jeans, I’m considered immodest by most of my menno family) 

Was I offended as I watched the show? No.
Did I feel it was soft porn as some called it? No.
(as Matthew Paul Turner said, if you think that was soft porn, you’ve never seen soft porn).

But there was something that bothered me about it and my friend Susan hit on it in her Facebook comment… Women “celebrating being women” and showing that they can be powerful is well and good, but why do they keep objectifying themselves? Doesn’t that negate the power message?”

My son Joshua responded on Facebook with, “A person isn’t objectified by what they wear or how they dance. Objectification happens in the viewer’s mind, and is a symptom of a shallow culture that represses sexuality (especially female sexuality)… The presence of a sexually repressed second party is necessary for objectification to occur.”

I think I’ve been schooled… by someone I used to school.

What Joshua says makes sense and I realize I need to adjust some of my mindsets.
But yet there’s still something I’m bothered by…

I’m concerned about what it does (or doesn’t do)
for the treatment of women and for the image of women.

I respect my body (especially after the hell it’s been through) but I am so much more than my body and I want to be respected for a range of things… including the fitness of my body, but not limited to it.

I’m glad that Beyonce is comfortable with herself, her strong body, her sexuality… I wish more people would be more confident. Actually I wish I’d have more of her confidence… so maybe that’s my problem… maybe I’m jealous?

But yet… when a woman or a man wears minimun clothes and/or dances in suggestive ways, it doesn’t add to the performance for me, nor does it make me respect them more… actually in some ways, it makes me respect them less.

And when it’s a woman, it only compounds it for me. I’m all about equality (yes, call me a feminist) and for too many years and still in too many places… women are seen and treated as second-class citizens. Men love them for sex, but heaven forbid, if a woman should expect her opinion to be valued and/or expect equality with men.

When a woman uses her body for “show” I feel like it sets women back and like she’s resorting to the oldest trick in the book… like the waitress who wears a low cut blouse in hopes of getting better tips, rather than improving her skills to actually be a better waitress.

I know, Beyonce isn’t like that waitress, she didn’t only rely on her body. She used her voice, talent, skill and she worked her butt off (I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere) 

Thoughts tumble and whirl in my mind… falling over each other as I try to pull out some consistent logic from myself. I can’t yet… but one thing I do know is that my update was wrong. Beyonce and the show were not boring and sexist… but I was both. I’m sorry.

And as I process all this, I can’t help but wonder if I’m exposing a double standard I have. I’m all about using what we have to be our best. After all, my saying is…

do what you can, with what you have, where you are…
because you can!

So does that mean using every trick in the book?
Does that mean if you have the body, flaunt it?
And if a woman does that, doesn’t it continue to perpetuate the idea of women being recognized for their sex appeal, rather than for their intellect, competence, etc.?
And if someone uses their body, along with skill, talent, hard work, etc. and it bothers me… does that mean it’s my issue?

I wanted to wait and post this until I had more resolved within my mind, but it’s already 3 days after the event and in the blog world that’s like 3 years, so here goes… as I continue to think about all this…