How The Story Ended

18 Apr

It ended the way it was supposed to.

You see, when I got there, I took a moment. During the morning rush, chaos of leaving my kids, driving through traffic, and feeling overwhelmed and nervous with emotions, I stopped and took a moment. During the whole process of rising to the top, I took a moment when I saw the poster and I had it.

I had the something-bigger-than-myself emotion running through me. I had the gratitude and humility of the amazing kindness shown to me by my supporters who contributed to my cause. They helped me raise over $1000 for the American Lung Association in honor of my father, and they helped impact someone else’s life.

I had my dad’s spirit watching over me, knowing I haven’t forgotten him, knowing that he’s part of the reason I am who I am.

As the race began, I had the why in my heart and it helped my get through the how.

You see, there’s something that’s always certain about this race. It’s NOT easy. It never is, no matter how hard I train. It tests every muscle in my legs. It doesn’t make it easier to know what’s coming. I was still anxious and nervous. But I looked up to the sky and knew the reason why. So, I turned on the music, heard Los Polifaceticos bust out Camaron Pelao and took the first step. But never fear La Chona was track #3 and Footloose was on the horizon.

Then, right there on the eighth floor was a randomly placed poster of my father, there he was smiling, sitting next to me and my sister, with the title Why We Climb. There were posters of a lot of loved ones on the way to the top, and it tugged at my heart. The Rocky Balboa spirit surged.

 

As I climbed, my breathing slowed down and my legs felt heavy, my body became acutely aware of the claustrophobic dynamics and inner architectural workings of staircases. Once again, they appeared to lack the free-flowing breeze of the outdoors, which apparently is extremely necessary to oxygenate my muscles. My Randy Macho Man Savage strength was severely tested by the time I hit the 14th floor and I knew … I knewwwwwwwwwwwwww I’d be using that CVS three-dollar coupon for a tube of BenGay and that ice packs would be my knees’ best friends. No amount of pre-or-post stretching would have helped. By the time I reached the 31st floor my calves were not happy. They were intensely screaming profanity at me … in Spanish. There were a lot of people feeling that wrath as I passed some of them on the stairs resting, sitting, hunched over, drinking water, or in need of an oxygen mask.

But I never stopped.

I kept my Dad on my mind, and in my heart, and when I saw floor 61, I sprinted up the stairs like Usain Bolt until I saw the sunlight and reached the roof.

I made it to the top … 15 minutes, 28 seconds.

15 minutes and 28 seconds of intensity, of hard work, of sweat, of emotion, of heart, and of will. 15 minutes and 28 seconds of honoring a man that sacrificed so much for me.

Buen Camino my friends!

 

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But Why Do You Do It?

13 Apr

I always get a little nervous before it happens.

Anything can happen … and some people don’t make it.

I’m lucky.

Knock on wood. I don’t want to jinx myself.

But it’s an important day for me, may be not for my entire family, but definitely for me.

Well … why do you do it?  I mean I understand it’s a race and it’s for charity, but why do you do it? Why do you have to climb all those stairs?

No one had ever asked me that. They seemed to understand the why and the girl asking me also seemed to understand the why, it’s for my Dad. She was just confused as to the why of the location. Why scale 1,393 steps? Why go up 63 floors in the name of the American Lung Association?

It’s a metaphor, I thought.

It’s for all those people who couldn’t breathe, who felt the heaviness in their chest, the gasping for air, and the claustrophobic sense of not getting enough oxygen. It’s putting yourself in their position, in people like my dad, who died from Interstitial Lung Disease, or people with COPD, or lung cancer, or asthma. It’s putting yourself in their shoes and fighting your way past the challenges. It’s about feeling an ounce of what they feel and rising to the top, because they fight for every breath, just like we’d be doing.

It’s hard. But that’s probably why I do it, and why it makes me nervous. The difficulty level of it all. But it’s also the reason why I get the strength to go forward, because I got him in my heart. I got him on my shoulder. I got him and other supporters watching my back and cheering me on from a far. It’s hard but I got a good reason behind my motivation.

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🙂

For the sixth year in ‘ll be taking on the Fight for Air Climb this Saturday, racing 63 stories, 1,393 steps, in hopes of raising enough money to help others suffering from lung disease.

It’s 1,393 steps. And I feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel them every single one of them when I climb. But I make it to the top, scared, nervous, or Gatorade-Commercial ready. I make it because I think of the  1,393 times my Dad was there for me, when I was in diapers, or the 1,393 times he was there for me when I was kid, or the 1,393 times he was there for me when I was away in school. He was there … the good, the bad, and the ugly he was there. And that’s not to say that we had our fair share of blowouts, we probably had 1,393 arguments, but he was still my Dad and still my friend. And that’s why I climb.

I climb to honor his memory, his hard-working life to provide a better future, his tireless days of clocking in and out of a job he may not have dreamed of, but showed up because it’s what helped keep us afloat.

So why do I do it?

I climb because everything I am I owe to him, and it’s the very least I could do.

Buen Camino my friends!!

 

 

 

Finding My Storyteller Again.

4 Apr

I’d been inspired to be a better person. I’d been inspired to be a better parent. I’d been inspired to make a difference. Books, movies, documentaries, and shows have all had the power to affect this kind of change. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been inspired to be a better storyteller.

See the last time I felt this way, was when I finished Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture. That amazing book inspired me to be a better person and  better dreamer. It uncovered the importance of being a good storyteller and passing on those life lessons and anecdotes to the people who mattered most. And of course, it came at the right time … You know, just when I needed it. The universe helping me out, trying to get me on the right track.

That was a long time ago … And then Mitch Albom resurfaced.

You see, I hadn’t felt like a better storyteller in a long time, but this book … this book turned up the gears and found its way onto my path. And it found me just in time.

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The first time I read Mitch Albom, his book Tuesdays with Morrie, changed my trajectory. It helped me look for the lessons and wisdom that were passing me by, helped me listen to the stories and advice that my Dad, my mentor, and other good friends were trying to pass onto me. It helped me appreciate.

The next book I discovered, helped me to chase my own stories, make-believe and true. I was caught up in Frankie Presto’s story and his amazing life. I hadn’t heard of The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, but I was so glad I went looking for “something,” to read. I found it. Now that I’ve read it, I feel sad that I might not have come across it. It’s one of those amazing things you’re so glad happened that you get a little sad, because it could have almost never happened.

But it did. And I’m glad.

As a storyteller, I can appreciate how it is so beautifully crafted, woven with hints and clues and then everything connecting with the big reveal. I loved the mixing of jazz legends, musicians, and artists that came into Frankie’s life and how Frankie changed their lives. I enjoyed the different points of view and voices. I thought it interesting that Music, itself, was a character, the narrator.

Frankie’s journey across the globe, his musical and love adventure, drew me in right away. I loved this character, his passion, his humble kindness, his quest, his life lessons, his love for his guitar, the magic behind the six strings, and his love for Aurora. I rooted for him. I wished for things to happen for him. I wished for him to find his story, to know about his father, his teacher, his past, and his future. I rooted for his redemption and for his love of Aurora.

Throughout his journey I was inspired to find any lost stories of my own, stories of my father, of his childhood, stories that I never knew that could tell me something more. I was inspired to write something new. I also felt like writing my own stories, so that my kids would know my own adventure, so they could fill in the gaps when I was gone. I wanted to leave them something.

Frankie Presto reminded me how important stories are, and the importance of passing them onto the people that matter. Frankie Presto helped me find my storyteller again. When a book can do that, it’s pretty awesome. I hope he does something magical for you too.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

Wake-up Stories

23 Mar

Lately I’ve been searching for stories that move me. You know, like a judge on Star Search, looking for talent that inspires me. I’ve been roaming the Netflix, Amazon, cable television for stories that take me away or help me unwind at the end of the day. I’ve found a lot of good stories, definitely. But in this search I’ve also found inspiration in Podcasts.

It’s strange because when I was growing up I used to hate talk radio. I thought it was for older people. I thought why listen to people talk when I can hear music while I’m in the car. But I’ve found that I’m gravitating more to these podcasts than to what’s on the radio. I’m intrigued by people interviewing all kinds of artists and leaders in every field and the inspiration behind it all.

Now granted, there are some people and actors, who go out there and record ridiculous why-waste -your-time-listening-to-this-crap sessions and you have to sift through a massive amounts of crap to get to something good. But when you do it pays off.

It’s like getting exposed to all these autobiographies with insightful tidbits of wisdom for different parts of you life. And for some reason I find something I can takeaway from each session.

For the inspiration-you-can-do-it times I particularly enjoy Tim Ferriss, Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, Eric Thomas’s Secret to Success Podcast and Tony Robbins. They interview so many people from so many walks of life and I always feel better after listening to their session. I walk away feeling like something is possible as long as I keep working at it, whether it’s my professional life or just life itself. I had never heard of Debbie Millman before, and I probably would never, considering she was a graphic designer and I had no interest in that field. But what she had to say about life made me pause.

I’ve touched bases with spirituality by listening to stuff from The RobCast where some of my favorite guests have been Elizabeth Gilbert, Pete Rollins, and Mike Lewis the 112th Best Squash Player in the World. His interviews and stories help bring a lightness of being and grace into my existence. Something I always need to work on when dealing with difficult people.

The Moment with Brian Koppelman make me think about my future as a writer and I was actually introduced to Brian through Tim Ferriss’s podcasts. As a writer, I find it extremely beneficial to hear about everyone’s process and problems and how they were in such a horrible bad spot, but managed to turn it around emotionally and artistically. It’s something I find inspirational when I’m losing the umph, which I had been as of late.

These stories … all of them, help push something in me. Something that goes missing on random days. But something I can get back after I go running, or boxing, or biking … that feel-good feeling. I get an extra dose of that, a push of encouragement from these stories.

I feel like I can’t start my day with that spring in my step if I don’t hear my feel-good song and a podcast. These stories aren’t like the winding down of the day Netflix at night sessions. These are wake-me-up-in-the-morning-because-this-is-your-life stories. You got one shot. What are doing? Get on it! They’ve become part of my morning routine and have helped me see possibilities when I’ve been emotionally or professionally sidelined.

So it may not be the same as the talk radio I grew up with, or it might be. Maybe I just came around to realizing that songs are not the only way to jump start your morning. Stories. Podcasts. Talk radio … can make it happen too.

 

 

The Next Time For Everything

17 Mar

What happens when you thought you gave it everything, but realized you had some left in the tank?

I don’t think this has happened to me in a race … like ever. I give it 100%. That’s a lesson I learned in sports, relationships, and life. No half measures, because then everything is off. And I thought that was embedded in my brain, my conscience.

I thought I had it.

I thought I was prepared … until it started raining.

 

 

 

 

The unexpected has always turned things upside down and tested whether I could adapt to the social conditions. And I’m not gonna lie … it sort of put a chink in my chain. For safety reasons, like creating an avalanche of cyclists tumbling onto the pavement and requiring ambulance transportation, I sided with caution. A slower pace so that I would not injure my already clumsy body.

However, I had reserved more in the tank than I really needed, and was unaware of how much until I crossed the finish line. I was all smiles and breathing normally. I wasn’t tired at all, but during the course of events I definitely felt the weight of my muscles and the rapid pace of my breath, especially during the swim. But once I crossed I wasn’t as tired as I thought I’d be, or as I’d seen other athletes become. I thought to myself, perhaps I was just really well-conditioned, but then I saw my time and realized I could’ve gone faster during the cycling portion. I mean with slick roads and rain, there’s still a safe way to go fast. Unfortunately I was unaware of it.

I was disappointed in that fact. But I was grateful and proud to have accomplished so much. I was happy that during the running portion I passed the elite-looking triathletes with their stretchy pants and six-pack abs. While they walked, I ran. I never walked, not even during the incline, and that’s something I took pride in, but for some reason the bike killed me.

Now granted, maybe I should have prepared a bit more, conditioned my quads for that cycling movement and prepared my butt muscles for the bike seat. But I should have stepped it up on race day, regardless of the rain.

Now normally finishing a sprint triathlon in a little over an hour and half seems pretty badass for me, but I couldn’t help be a little disappointed in my time. I didn’t think I was going slow, but then again I don’t remember hauling ass either.

A tough lesson for any athlete to learn. But I got it. Reminder … check! So for the next race I’ll be ready to end it like an Olympian.

I was still proud of my achievement, as were my kids, but I felt the pang in my stomach when it was over knowing full well that I had some juice left in the tank. It wasn’t a dump-gatorade-on-my-head worthy moment. But the universe was making sure I listened next time. And not just the “next time” of a race, but the next time I wake up in the morning and I say ‘I got this!”, the next time I write a story, the next time I’m in full fledged morning routine, the next time I’m a friend, the next time I’m in parenthood existence, the next time for everything.

So now I know … haul ass during the bike ride.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

Doubt

7 Mar

I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I was still a little worried.

You see, at the end of last week something unexpected happened. A friend of mine informed me that she ran into this when logging onto my site:

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Now after a couple of days, the situation was cleared up and my site was back up. Apparently my site got mixed up with a spam site and I got voted off the WordPress island for a couple of days. The entire explanation was weird, but I didn’t make a big deal out of it. However, the reason I bring it up was because when I saw this, it kind of freaked me out a little. Even though I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, a little bit of doubt began to creep up. Had I said something wrong? Had I posted a picture I wasn’t supposed to? Had I written something offensive?

No. The answers were all no, and I knew that. But doubt was there.

Why is it that that happens?

Why do we doubt ourselves, when we know we haven’t done anything wrong? Or better yet, why did I doubt myself? It was just an instant reaction. It wasn’t confidence or assurance in the fact that they were wrong, it was … wait a minute … let me think … did I do something wrong? And that reaction bummed me out a little.

Normally, if it was a person-to-person, face-to-face encounter I think I would have reacted differently. I would have been more aware of my behavior and been positive that nothing I had done was wrong. But in this case I was in the wrong mind set, something was off and I let The Outside dictate my emotional state. That bothered me a little. I was stressed out over something I was sure I hadn’t caused, yet I was still stressed out.

That happens a lot in relationships, I guess. You know, someone accuses you of something, or makes a comment and it sticks with you for the rest of the day, or week. It makes you question little things about you, maybe taps into something you were insecure about, or something that you were absolutely sure you hadn’t done, but still plants that seed of doubt.

Now granted I was gifted the I-knew-it! moment when I got the email apologizing for any inconvenience this error may have caused me. But I thought, man, I shouldn’t have to wait for an email to have that moment. I need to gear up my confidence level a bit. But don’t get me wrong … I know that people make mistakes and you can be wrong at times. I know. I get it. But when you’re careful and meticulous, and in the present, in the moment, when you’re doing something you’re less likely to make these mistakes. You’re less likely to intentionally cause someone harm.

So I took the moment to make a mental note, and remind myself that … I. Got. This. I’m emptying the tank everyday and at night, I lay my head on the pillow knowing that no matter how things turned out, no matter what some jackass said trying to tear me down, I used what I had, to do the best that I could. Now some days I have more in the tank than others, but nevertheless, I tried. Sometimes I fail, but I always went about it with good intentions, clear eyes, and full hearts. And with that, there should be no room for doubt. Not even a little bit.

I’ll work on it some more.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

Running and Writing

28 Feb

In truth I’m pretty impressed with myself for finishing the second novel in my 12 of 12 literary quest  this year.

As you all know I’m the slowest reader, who’s a writer, on Earth, and I put this challenge forward as a way to expand my reading beyond my kid’s reading list and discover some new and exciting stories.  I enjoy the a-ha moments, or just the little tid-bits of advice that come to me throughout the chapters, something that helps me shift something inside me and keep me on the yellow-brick road, no matter how rocky the path.

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Now I hadn’t heard much about Murakami so I don’t know what that says about my literary chops, but I’m trying. I mean the cover alone made me think I was about to go on an epic journey.  I was really looking forward to reading this as it came highly recommended by a writer I’ve recently discovered through the awesome world of Podcasts. When he mentioned it the book centering on writing and running, I was like … yes. Someone else gets it! Someone can see how these two are intertwined and I embarked on this can’t-wait-to-see-what-happens enlightenment session.

However, it wasn’t a life-altering experience, which was disappointing. I was thinking it would hit me like a bolt of lightning, but it was more nuanced than that. It did have its moments though.

The narrative seemed to pick up around chapter six for me, when I felt he got a little deeper with meaning behind his running and writing, and what happens when we get older and the facts of life we have to accept. I enjoyed the parallels he made between both passions, and the goals and life lessons he learned along the way.  I especially enjoyed the last paragraph of the book, as it captured the essence of the journey. He championed himself as a runner, someone who was always determined to finish, and never give up, someone who never walked during a marathon, and I found that quality admirable. That metaphor applied not only to running, but to his his life.

I feel the only reason I was able to make this connection was because I was a writer and runner myself. If you are not a runner or a writer, this book may not be for you, you might not enjoy the details of his marathon training, long runs, or writing process. I had never heard of Haruki Murakami before this recommendation, but considering he had some bright spots in this novel I might give another book a chance. It’s always interesting to read something, even if it’s not mind-blowing, that adjusts something inside of you, no matter how small. You’re just a little bit different from the day you started the story.

Buen Camino my friends!

 

Inspired and Ready For a Comeback Win

24 Feb

It was an inspirational story that unfolded in three periods, the kind of story that pulls at the heart because you’re not really hoping for yourself to succeed, you’re hoping for someone else.

It’s the kind that every parent has when they’re cheering for their kids. I don’t think I ever had that shoot-for-the-win-as-the-clock-winds-down fantasy when I was playing sports. I wanted to win, of course, but I was never the buzzer-beater dreamer. I was more of the playmaker and defensive beast. And I had hope back then, just as I do now. But now with kids it’s different.

My hope sits with them. I hope for them, I want them to experience the win, feel what it’s like to get a victory hug from your teammates, feel what it’s like to have a redemption win, feel what that’s like.

So when my son’s team lost their hockey tournament in a shoot-out, after the score remained the same in sudden death overtime, my heart broke a little because I wanted that so much for him. But I was still proud of his effort, of his heart, and defenseman skills. I wanted to show him that regardless of the score he should be proud of himself too. And the thing is … he was.

He smiled as he got his second place medal for his weekend tournament and I was too … but I still wanted that for him. Just like parents everywhere, you want them to feel that sunshine glow. Just like fans everywhere, you place your hopes on your team and wish them to victory, not because you want something for yourself, but more so because you want that feel-good-feeling for them, the kind of feeling I got from watching the US Women’s Hockey team win the gold.

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It was an intensely stressful and dramatic moment of exuberance. I jumped off the couch, pumped my fist in the air, and said what every hockey fan that had seen Miracle had said … YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

Late Wednesday night, I witnessed the come-from-behind redemption win that had been in the sights of the women’s hockey team since the Sochi Olympics.

It was the kind of game that had this House of Sports residents fully engaged and putting all her hope on a young goalie, the kind of hope that makes players faster, stronger, and more skilled. You hope that the best version of your player is out there and that you did what you could to support them. And it is this kind of inspirational play that you hope catches the spirit of your kids.

And I’m happy to report that watching the women’s hockey team play Canada for the gold was an inspirational testament that resonated with thousands of people and found a spot in the heart of my kids.

Congrats to the women’s hockey team on a job well done. Earning some medals and inspiring future generations of athletes to give it everything they got. My son is ready for this weekend’s game and he’s ready for his Miracle making a comeback kind of win.

Buen Camino, my friends!

 

 

I Laced Up My Shoes and I Kept Walking … I Hung in There

14 Feb

Having someone point out your flaws and make you feel pretty crappy on a day where love is supposed to be everywhere kind of sucked.

Mornings like that should be reserved for times when you have strength overflowing and your feel good-song constantly replays in your mind.

All this love was going around, everyone exchanging flowers, and balloons and chocolate and someone was pointing out that I yelled at my kids four times to listen and follow directions … It was pointed out to me that it wasn’t a good thing to be that kind of parent, or person.

You know, I know that sometimes my patience runs out and if my life would have turned out the way I imagined maybe there’d be less frustration when things went haywire. But it’s something I’m fully aware of … I’m mindful not to yell at my kids for no reason. I grew up with unecessary yelling and scolding, so I make it a point to not do that. I’m very aware of what that does to a kid. So I know I’m not angry all the time and I didn’t appreciate someone painting me that way.

People see you in a moment of frustration and they know you’re having a bad moment and they use it against you. They lay things out there and judge you when you’re drowning. And the thing is … They know you. They knoooooow you and yet they say something like that, something that just feels like a punch in the stomach.

It was pretty sucky, having that feeling all day.

But then I went to get my kids Valentine’s Day cards and I found something that made me smile.  A valentine I could have gotten for myself, or just an everyday card. Something that my dad might have gotten for me, and I found the grace I needed to move on.

 

 

I laced up my shoes and I kept walking. One foot in front of the other.

Buen Camino my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Pretty Awesome To Be 99

7 Feb

He can’t wake up at the crack of dawn with you to lift weights, he can’t run the hundreds of drills with you at the stadium, and he can’t be there for the physical therapy when you’re down and out. But you best know that he is definitely in your corner and roots for you with everything he’s got, because he’s got your heart.

Being a player and pouring everything you got out there on the field is one thing … but being the person who roots for you, who’s in your corner, and wants you to have it … that’s something powerful, that’s the X factor. Being in a House of Sports my whole life, I can say I know a little bit about this.

While everyone in Philly was basking in the SuperBowl after glow of taking the crown away from the Big Bad Wolf, I happened to get lost in the story of the 99-year-old fan who witnessed the awesomeness of his team mark an important first time.

This Philly fan that went by the name of Phil Basser and it just made me smile to know that he got to experience the exuberance of such a moment live and in person. When you watch someone witness a bucket list adventure the emotion gets to you. Some people never get to see it happen and you feel bad that they’ve missed out some how. I mean they lived their life and did the best with what they had, but as we all know we can’t control the future of others. We can only control ourselves. So it’s hard when one of your dream of all dreams is in the hands of someone else.

I could imagine Phil as a five-year old with his Eagles t-shirt clapping for that touchdown, or probably watching all the close calls. But this past Sunday was probably the best way to imagine the little sports fan. I didn’t even know Phil, but I was happy to see the camera pan over to him and witness his reaction to one of the best underdog wins I’ve seen this year. To know that he got to live one of his dreams of all dreams made me heart feel good, because as an athlete and fan myself, I’ve felt those feelings. So I know … I know.

This year’s SuperBowl filled with Brady-haters, Fly-Eagle-Fly supporters, and awesome Eli Manning, Vikings, Doritos, and Sprite Commercials will definitely be remembered for one more thing … Phil witnessing the triumph of his team.

For underdogs everywhere … Buen Camino!