Thursday, November 24, 2011

The personal record of gratitude

Personal records (P.R.s) aren't always about times. At least in my mind, I don't see them as that narrow of a definition. Ask the experts...but I'll tell you my take today is an exception to the standard definition.
With my sister and bro in law to my left drumstick
As I crossed the finish line: a tiny un-noted dot in a crowd of perhaps 5,000 runners in the Webster Turkey Trot... I made a P.R.! The time was about the same but something was very different this year. Crossing the finish line, I felt the breeze, the sunshine, the whole moment in real time...without the fuzzy and hollow disconnect of being too exhausted. One year ago it was only a second of my first running events ever. And last year it was not  a comfortable one to run. 
Today I felt good. No pain, no shortness of breath. And all around me- perspective. 

How do you fully appreciate each day?
 When you remind yourself of the growth you've experienced to date. 
When you remind yourself to continue to celebrate this growth. 

It's easy to fall into the negative box that contains life's yet unfinished accomplishments...and easy to dread things ahead that intimidate you. But when I look at (athletically) what I can do now that I never was able to do previously, having nearly two decades of my life in some form of illness...I look up and say thanks. 

**This post was written soon after I first started running. How's that for looking back in astonishment.

I was thinking today about the person I always think of when I cross these lines. Zach. It wouldn't have been done without you, buddy. More than a year after beginning training, the concept of finish line is now a plural consideration. Without Zach's influence I wouldn't have ever believed it was in me or been just gutsy enough to try running...or anything that followed. Zach is no longer here to pump me up in person, but I carry his lesson of gratitude with me and try (for the most part) to emulate. 

Oh, and one more thing. The song that played when I crossed the finish line today? It was the song they used as my theme song at First Descents this year, called the Underdog by the band Spoon. Our awesome camp photographer Beans chose it for me. 

I faced raging rivers in July with a vessel no one else piloted with me.  And as I listen to  Beans' song again-- it reminds me of the way I used to look at things- feeling always like the underdog. No more. That cliche: you've come a long way baby, though slightly silly, it really fits a new life I'm finding. My old life is slowly peeling away, yet still remaining to guide my purpose.

Hey, there's no Flo Jo here. Make no mistake. Sometimes I can still really rock the couch potato time, but to know the definition of myself beyond it- it's everything I always imagined it would be. Zach, you WERE right.

Gratitude- pass it on.

Friday, November 18, 2011

And a child shall lead them...

In my new role as program coordinator of the Teens Living with Cancer program at Melissa's Living Legacy, I spend a fair amount of time in the hospital. It's a place I've been a lot before, but in years past the purpose was different.

In the past, I can't say I ever saw the hospital for anything other than what it was to me in dire life situations: an inconvenience, a frustration and a place of limbo between old life and the new life I was reaching toward, but just barely touching. But lately, I've experienced some rather joyful moments that are easing my transition and my thinking out of the impression left by the past.

Yesterday I was giving a hug to a friend I saw in the lobby. Simply a 'good to see you' greeting. We pulled away and began to speak for a moment when I realized there was someone below me- about three or four feet below me, to be precise. Bundled in a pink winter parka, was a tiny girl of about two with outstretched arms. Suddenly her dad was closely on her heels.

She had seen my hug...and broken away from him to wait for hers.

Tears came to my eyes and I bent down to hug her...It was the most precious moment. That's what I love about children. They remind you of the most basic truths. A hug is an important thing. The feeling of sharing another person's energy is needed. And at that moment she decided she needed it.

Hospitals, with all the difficult life experiences that melt together inside, are mysterious places. Strangers converge in the lobby...cross paths with one another...and occasionally make eye contact. Though one's stride may carry difficulty, the weight of uncertainty or the joy of a new life, it is an experience locked and unshared with their passersby.

Both intimate and anonymous are the hallways of a hospital.
But here was one little girl who broke through that wall of void.
Lesson learned-  Hug someone today.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Finding Your Happiness in 'giving it a shot

Taken from
fellow author Karen Putz's blog

The book is out! My story "I Don't Quit" is featured in the newest volume of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. It's subtitle: Find Your Happiness.

A little background on this: I never expected to make it into this book. In the throes of last year's busy winter schedule I saw the call-out for stories on a flyer. I subtly noted the due date for submission and put it on my extensive to do list. Soon it was forgotten in the flood of other priority items in my day to day life.

But on 'D-day' after having worked a full day followed by evening meetings and then some, I returned home exhausted and dropped into bed at 10:30 with little creative energy remaining. It was a lost cause. The time the story had to be in to even be considered? Midnight.

'Forget it', I said softly. But then I remembered what I had originally intended to write was about not giving up. Certainly, this was a clear callout from the universe. What person in their right optimistic mind- one who believes in "not giving up"- gives up on writing a story about precisely that. I summoned up energy for a little bit more awake time and pulled out my laptop. 

As I tapped away at the keyboard, I was well aware of the clock ticking on and the time of final submission drawing near. I was struggling, trying to crunch an almost twenty year story into under 1200 words. But I kept at it. Midnight passed. At 12:35 I finished my story,
and clicked send. It mattered not that the deadline had passed. It was of little consequence that I had missed it, but that I had given it my best effort. 

But three months later...I received an email. My story had been chosen. Evidently the editor had looked past the post time- overlooked the clear guidelines they had set.

It's important lesson- you really never know the end result, so sometimes saying "what the heck" and giving it a go anyway can pay off. True story. Happy ending.

P.S. The publisher allowed us to buy 20 books at cost to benefit Melissa's Living Legacy Teen Cancer Foundation. I am happy to report that all those books have already been spoken for. If you are still interested in purchasing a copy for $15 please let me know. If we get 20 more interested folks, we may be able to purchase another box. The best part? Knowing you will not only get the book, but fund our TLC Tuesday program for teen cancer survivors!