I write about my life and life itself seen through my eyes for who can write through the experiences of others if not their own?

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Injuries - What else is there to talk about?



Runners love to talk about running. Endlessly. From posting selfies about their solo runs, their race results and medals to striking up conversations about running every chance they get: “How many miles are you running a week?” “Did you run that local 5K last weekend?” Or they make plans to meet up for a run at some ungodly hour of the morning. Runners love to talk to runners because, frankly, the only audience that remains captivated or doesn’t run away after hours of stories about races, training runs, terrain, pace, shoes, orthotics and everything that relates to running is one made up of other runners.  

To be honest, in the absence of that common denominator, the conversations would be short and boring (to us runners), and many of those people we call friends would have remained strangers.

In addition to races and paces, there is something else runners love to talk about:  aches and pains. It hurts here, and it hurts there, and everywhere. Does it hurt there too? Yes, and over there, but I’m running that half marathon next week anyway. You should too.

Runners are resilient, stubborn, gut driven, and not always able to make the best decisions. We can figure out the most complicated registration forms, find the most obscure sites, but don’t tell us not to run. We have a hard time with that. Following the advice of a doctor if it requires taking time off is not what we do best.

Maybe that’s why we don’t talk about running to anybody other than one of our own. Why risk the chance of a person saying:

WHAT??? You shouldn’t run. Running is bad for you. How you tried swimming? Why don’t you bike! It’s  easier on your knees.

The answer is simple, my sensible nonrunner friend. It’s because I love running, and if you must ask, you would never understand.

It’s simple and it’s complicated. We run with passion, or we don’t run at all. The foot that strikes the ground doesn’t always feel the same way. Sometimes there is elation, and sometimes there is pain. Sometimes we are competing against someone, sometimes we are fighting to win our own internal battles. Sometimes we want to get somewhere, sometimes we want to get away. Passion keeps us going.

Talking to a friend about running is like being home. It’s where we hang our hat, kick off our sneakers, stretch that hamstring and say, “Damn, I could have run faster.”

 

If You Can't Write, I Can't Read - Timing


It takes doing something to appreciate it, and frankly, to respect it.

As a rookie runner years ago, my concern was to get my t-shirt, make it to my finish line and have my name listed in the results. Accurately and spelled correctly, of course.

Just because my penmanship was always deemed awful by my teachers didn’t mean the timer couldn’t make out my name on the entry form I had scribbled in a hurry minutes before the race.

The words of the late Cathy Sutcliffe, co-owner of the Fast Finishes Timing still resonate with me: “If you can’t write, I can’t read”

And then catching my breath at the finish line, husband Al Sutcliffe would plead “stay in place” So what if I let a few people who finished behind me pass me at the chute? What was the big deal?

I’ll tell you what the big deal was.

20 years ago, timing was a manual process where your bib tag was collected at the finish line and your time recorded by hand. Your placement in the chute was imperative to the proper scoring of the results. Failing to keep your place and allowing the ones behind to pass and thus their bib tag collected before yours literally messed up the order. But, did I really care?  Well, I did, when my time was not correct.

Al Sutcliffe had created a timing system on low budget and with incredible accuracy. Still I was unaware of the process and basically, I lacked the respect for the efforts involved that delivered race results.

Now, years later, as a timer and owner of the Catskills Timing, I have nothing but admiration for the Fast Finishes Sutcliffe team and the accurate results at low financial cost they provided back then.

Today, with electronic scoring equipment, timing remains a lot of work. I struggle just the same with the spelling of names, and guessing the gender left unmarked on unisex names can mean the difference between an overall female finisher who is indeed a male. Running with somebody else’s bib without notifying the registration table turns Jane Smith 24, walker, into Mark Jones 48, runner, and when people signed up for one wave or distance decide to run another one because…well, what’s the big deal? It can turn an easy race into a difficult one to score.

It took years of running, years of race directing and now years of timing to fully understand all the pieces of a puzzle that form the organization of a successful race. So, help by writing your name neatly, because if you can’t write, I can’t read.

Beauty Through the Eyes of a Runner


There is a beauty seen through the eyes of a runner. 
It is a beauty not seen from the sidelines, a beauty unique with every run. 
Sometimes that beauty comes from deep inside. Other times there are elements in the surroundings that bring the glow to the surface and with every step, every stride, we absorb those smells and sights and sounds that are absent from any of our daily chores. 
As a runner, I’ve covered many roads that have brought beauty in many forms. Much of it has been the tranquility of those moments alone in my thoughts and at least temporarily distant from my hectic life. 
As a race organizer, I have found that beauty standing at the finish line watching runners finish with a smile on their faces or with signs of having left every ounce of energy on the course. Sometimes there are tears of joy for the job accomplished, whether it be the distance covered or soothing memory of someone you hold dear in your heart. Those tears and that exhaustion are just as beautiful as the smiles. 
I have seen that beauty while timing races and interacting with race directors. The work involved and hours spent organizing a safe event are far greater than what participants realize or maybe even understand. Many of these events bring awareness to a cause that is ignored or forgotten, or to a place that we might not know exists right in our neighborhood. 
One such event is the Meadows and Trails 5K on October 20 in Cornwall. What is fascinating about this race is that it’s not only a different event run entirely off roads and through meadows and wetlands, but the proceeds benefit ​Education Programs & Events at the
​ Hudson Highlands Nature Museum​.
​ The museum is unique in its own right. It is dedicated to building responsibility for the environment and respect for the ecology in young adults with many programs offered in the education center. This is a place where kids and adults can interact with nature. Beside showcasing the national beauty of the Hudson Highlands, the race allows families to participate in a somewhat challenging and unique race. 
There are a thousand reasons to run, and maybe another thousand reasons not to run. I will never be able to fully explain why I do it. It certainly brings me a sense of peace and satisfaction and an awareness of my surroundings -- a beauty that can be seen and felt all at once.

Country Style Running



I shared with her that a friend had come from the next county and had driven an hour to come to the race. “Distance is a factor,” I said, looking to find an answer to the low turnout.

“We drive an hour to their races,” the mother replied.

We drive an hour to their races resonated with me as I drove home.

It is true. I often drive to races in Orange and Ulster counties, as do many of my Sullivan County running peers. Many don’t blink twice at the steep entry fees of NYRR races, plus the inevitable tolls and parking fees. We do it with enthusiasm because we want to participate in that event, and distance and cost is not a determent to our goal.

Our determination to travel and participate in events farther away does not receive the same reciprocation from other counties’ runners. Even our locals don’t go to events in their own Sullivan County. Why are we so willing to support races out of the area, but neglect to support our own?

With our county calendar robust with races, many go unnoticed by our local people who might choose to simply stay home. Some of the races are forced to cancel due to low participation.

I agree that sleeping in on a cloudy, misty Saturday morning is enticing, but participating in an event where the race directors have worked hard can be very rewarding. In addition to the health benefits of exercise and the camaraderie found in road races, many of these events benefit a charity, so we can feel good about supporting a worthy cause - and the entry fee is tax deductible.

Sullivan County is the home of some spectacular races:  the seldom-found 10Ks like the Turtle Trot; half marathons like The Celebrate Life Half Marathon, The Bald Eagle, The Vintage Runs, and The Livingston Manor; and a plenitude of 5Ks. Courses range from flat to challenging. All in all, great runs. Plus, the county offers the rare treat of country scenery, so the drive to races gets you away from the noise of major cities and is stimulating in itself.

You can be an integral part in making a race succeed. In fact, it’s really all about you. Races are organized with you in mind, hoping you will participate. Make a day of it. Get up, enjoy the scenery as you drive to the race, and choose to help that event thrive. Let the race planners know their hard work for you was appreciated. I can assure you, it will be a good experience. Maybe next time, drive to Sullivan County--we are friendly here!

Summer Lessons


New to Sullivan County, I was surprised when the steady population of 77,000 reached 250,000 inhabitants in the summer. That increase came from people from different cities and diverse cultures and ethnicities.

I was critical of the interlopers. The traffic became overwhelming. Stores were bursting with new shoppers. Men in long black coats and hats and women in long-sleeved blouses and dark skirts often walked in large groups, taking over not only the entire sidewalk but also the road. With a disapproving look, I wondered who these people were and how they could walk around dressed like that in the scalding sun? Why would they go for walks in such harsh conditions? Didn’t they know better?

Shortly after I started running, and with all the impetus of a newly found passion I ran the roads of my town in the scorching days of summer. My running group took over the street and sidewalks. As I ran in the heat of July, people shook their heads. Drivers looked at me in disbelief when torrential rains soaked me. I ran as the leaves changed and fell, and I left footprints in the snows of winter. How could I be out there running in such harsh conditions? Didn’t I know better?

I did. I was doing what I loved. Running was my religion and I was following it.

One day at the end of my run, tired and sweaty, I came face to face with a couple from one of the summer bungalows. The man nodded and smiled. The woman praised my dedication to running in the heat. Then it dawned on me. These people encouraged me and respected what I did even if they didn’t understand it. In that smile, in those words of encouragement, they had given me the gift of acceptance while I had questioned their rituals and their culture.

Running is the vehicle that has introduced me to other cultures and traditions and many wonderful people. One of them is the Orthodox woman I befriended in the summer of 2009. She wore a skirt and covered her hair, while I wore shorts and t-shirts. Together we covered many miles in our runs, had amazing conversations, and laughed a great deal. I was astonished to find that our similarities were much greater than any disparities.

I look forward now to the summers in the Catskills. Each morning while I run I wave at a Hasidic woman as she goes for her three-mile walk and sometimes we chat a few minutes. She tells me some of the elderly can’t make the trip anymore, and the younger generation have different plans for the summer. “We are getting old, you know?” she tells me in her noticeable accent, moving her hands in a way reminiscent of my Latin roots.

In a world so divided by the presumption that our own beliefs encompass the Universe, it’s good to be reminded that there is more to life than the narrow view from our window. Different people, different cultures have so much to offer and give. I thank running for broadening my horizons, and I thank the summer visitors for teaching me acceptance.

 
She, My Friend





We were little. I  still remember her face and her smile. I remember the night when we dressed in our mother’s nightgown and sat in the living room and pretended we were grown ups having coffee (no, no wine in my mind back then.) That evening, so many decades ago, is still clear in my mind. We talked about “our imaginary husbands”, handsome and rich. I asked Laura, “Do you kiss?” I can still see her smile!

She and her mother came for dinner every Sunday. I’d save $.50 cents to buy her an ice pop. My 50 cent coin was hidden under the mattress and she knew it. My cousin would tell me as we headed to the store “make sure you share with her” duh, didn’t I save all week for her???

Later she would move to a better school. Her mother always wanted her to be part of a higher economical status society and she worked hard to make it happen. One of the last times I saw Laura was at her house. We climbed a hill by her house. We carried a stick so we could let my mother know where we were. Just like that evening in my living room in the grown up nightgowns, I remember that day holding the sticks up the mountain.

I don’t remember how many times I saw her after that. I moved abroad and we didn’t keep in touch.

Years later, then in my 20s, I heard Laura was in Florida in an oncology hospital. I had not seen her in over a decade but I felt the impact of her condition as if I were still her childhood friend. I contacted many hospitals until I found her. When my call went through Laura had entered a coma she would never come out of.

I wrote her a letter reminding her of all the things we had done as children. One of the last things I mentioned was that hill we climbed holding the sticks. I asked her to call me.

That letter was read to her in her ear before she passed. She never knew I wrote her.

I visited her mother a few years later and saw pictures of Laura. I heard of her struggle with a disease that took the best of her years away from her. I heard of her courage, I heard of her strength.

Laura and I probably would not have been in touch if she were alive. But her departure marked, nevertheless, the departure of the only childhood friend I had.

I have spent my life looking for that childhood friend that was taken away from me by social status and later by death. But childhood can not be recreated, nor friends forced.

An emotional part of me remains the age we were when we were friends. An emotional part of me has never grown.

There is a part of me that still wants to ask Laura…”did you kiss?”

Friday, June 08, 2018

Darkness - A Cry for Help


“Please repost. I’m trying to demonstrate there is always someone listening” The post is usually followed by #suicideawareness.
That, to me, is the equivalent of “Let me know what I can do for you”
Is there really someone listening or do we want to look to our social media friends like we care or like the “Let me know what I can do for you” because we don’t know what else to say?
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that line. I don’t know either how many times I’ve asked for help, but I can tell you how many times none has been received. Probably just as many times as I have asked.
Some of those favors have been monumental like when my daughter laid in a hospital bed and I asked those offering to take my son for the evening so he wouldn’t have to spend one more day in the hospital with her. To give that boy a relief from the nightmare we were all living. Others have been easier, maybe pick up my daughter from track so she doesn’t have to stand in the dark while I drive to her from work. But usually there were things to do that prevented people from fulfilling their offer: “I was going to do laundry that night.” “I’m washing my hair, polishing my nails” “I want to go for a bike ride after work”
I have also recoursed to someone to listen to me. Those times when the darkness enters my mind. When a panic attack gets a hold of me. I know the drill now and I seldom ask for help. After all people know me as happy, outgoing, funny. Why spend time with me when I’m irrational, quiet, and scared? There are better things to do than spend time with me, but…but you offered. Yes, you did, so I reached out.
I have waited for that phone call someone promised they would make when I’ve been in that abyss of my fear hoping to find in that voice relief to my despair. That call has failed to come as many times as it has been offered.
So, let me ask you this, is someone always listening or does it feel good to post it on social media? Are you willing to listen to a depressed person who is far from fun? When you give the blanket offering of “let me know what I can do for you” why not just tell that person what you can do for them so you might be more inclined to actually fulfill that promise.
Landing a hand is not always easy. Listening is not always fun, but you didn’t offer to help because it was. It’s about helping someone in need not about you, or maybe it’s all about you.

Streak Running


As much as I love running, I don’t want to run every day. Honestly, I don’t want to do the same thing, eat the same thing, see the same person every day. Guess that explains why I’m not married anymore!
Even during my most stringent marathon trainings, I have done cross-training on the bike or the elliptical one day a week.  I certainly have enjoyed my off days doing absolutely nothing. I admit that sometimes, if I am not training for a race, I have those days when sleeping one more hour feels so good or taking another day off because “tomorrow I’ll make up for it” seems like a good idea, and then I find myself slacking too much, and I secretly wish for a structure or routine that made me get out there to run at least one mile a day.
That routine is called the “run streak.” The art of running every single day. I’ve met a few remarkable runners who have done long streaks, like Christopher Regan (896 days), Harry Owens (1066 days), and the incredible streak of Dick Vincent that lasted 34 years. You hear that? 34 years running every single day. But, I’ve never met a streak runner in the making until I started running with Heather Fassell from Wurstboro, NY.
Running with Heather is always an enjoyable experience filled with laughs and good conversation. I noticed she was running with me, and her brother, and on her own, and many of her runs were done at the break of day to ensure she would get it done. One day she shared she had not missed a day in a month. “Cool!” I remarked, and went on my merry way. But then came the second month, and the third month, and then I had to ask her--why?
Heather confided she had always battled her weight, and running helped her control it. In the past, in preparation for a race, she would follow a training plan, but when the race was over, the thought of running because she had to felt boring, so she would stop and the pounds would add up again.
One day she vowed to run a whole week, and then another week, and then the whole month. After that, she realized she was not running because she had to, but because she wanted to. It felt good. Her weight was now in check, but no longer her reason to run.
A run streak is not for everybody, and I’ll be the first to admit it’s not for me. The closest to a streak I’ve kept is having a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee every day, but I admit the structure of it is appealing. Knowing that the decision to run is already made would provide the discipline I often lack. Maybe doing the same thing every day is not so bad after all. Plus, if I need a running partner, I know Heather is out there every day.
“If I didn’t have a streak I would go long periods of time without doing it. The streak gets me going. It just has to be done.” – Dick Vincent

 

Cartagena


I started running when my children were small. Back then I ran in the morning to avoid losing any time with them. Even on vacation, I would go for my run early, then wait for them to wake up.

It was easy to do because running is so simple. I can bring it with me everywhere I go. It fits in a small bag. Running has been by my side when I felt the world was not. My kids understand that running and I are perfect together. Well, not perfect, but together we are kind of cute, and I am more tolerable after my run.

Recently, I took a vacation with my kids. Now in their 20s, they agreed to visit my native country, Colombia, and we spent a week in Cartagena.

I woke up early and went for a run on the streets of a city that breathes history. The heat was overpowering. Sunny and humid, these were beautiful conditions to be at the beach, but not for running.
A mile from the hotel I reached the Walled City, the historic old town section. Memories of elementary school stories about Cartagena under the attack of Francis Drake came back to me with ease as I spotted the cannons positioned all around the fort to protect against the impending attack of the pirates.
The many sculptures lining the streets on my run commemorate the talents of famous artists, like Botero and Obregon. I can’t help but wonder why this talent is never mentioned when talking about Colombia. I passed the statue of a palenquera, one of the black women dressed in colorful outfits who sell fruit. They carry in the swing of their hips the folklore of their ancestors, and in their wide smile the joyfulness of their culture, but in their eyes is the painful memory of slavery, and I wonder if we have come far enough away from dividing people into skin color categories.
I kept running. Fishermen greeted me politely. I ran on, and in the Plaza Bolivar the statue of La Gorda de Botero, the sculpture of a voluptuous woman rested on her side. Stores were beginning to open their doors. Past the Walled City I entered a business area where people going to work waited for the bus, the main means of transportation in Cartagena. A city so populated with one and a half million inhabitants that the traffic and drivers make Manhattan look lame. I stopped at a store to buy a bottle of water. The cashier didn’t have change yet, and a woman offered me a bottle. The hospitality of this city is a sweet reminder of the good in the world, and of a country that thrives on friendliness and warmth.
I started my run back. The sweat dripped down my neck and my shorts stuck to my skin. Looking for relief, I went in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean for a few minutes. Locals walked by undisturbed by my presence. I got out of the water and remembered I had left my fanny pack and all my money on a nearby rock. It was still there. I smiled, feeling good to visit a country that is so safe.
My kids were awake when I returned. They didn’t ask about my run, they never do, but the look on their faces told me they were concerned. Not waiting for me to catch my breath they asked, “Did you bring empanadas?”

 

 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Reply, It's Not That Difficult

In my personal life, voluntary work, and professional life, the one thing for which I have no tolerance is the failure to respond.
It is a trait that symbolizes total disrespect.
Responding to people when they reach out to someone is important in every aspect of our lives. It shows respect, it shows appreciation, it shows professionalism.
In my business, when someone contacts me for a timing quote for their road race, I respond as quickly as possible. It is part of establishing myself as a professional and it shows to my prospect customers that I respect and appreciate their time. However, after I reply if they decide not to do business with me, I don’t hear back from them even after I follow up.
As a race director, I’m in contact with diverse sources. I reach out to vendors seeking to hire their services for one of my events.  Photographers, timers, DJ, volunteers, etc. In my experience, when they are not interested in working the event they do not get back to me with an answer.
The success of an event depends greatly on planning. I depend on these people, the vendors, and the volunteers to have a good race. When they are not going to be at the event, they don’t need to tell me why, all I need is the courtesy to let me know they will not do as requested so I can cross them off the list and pursue another alternative.
I make a point to always reply when the message is addressed to me, that excludes mass emails or spam, of course. I receive several quotes from timers, t-shirt stores, website designers. I thank them and let them know I already have someone lined up for the job. I give them the respect of an answer. I do the same in my personal life. I reply to my friends regardless of the nature of the message. I always reply. By doing so I let them know I appreciate their contact, and I appreciate them. I give them respect.
I give what I like to receive.
I answer emails, I reply to text messages, I call back, I show up when I’m invited. I treat others like I want to be treated. It’s not that difficult. It is doing exactly as I want done onto me.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Drifting Away. Is That What Friendship Is?

I saw her pass by my vehicle as I was parked waiting for a friend to go for our run. She waved effusively with a broad smile. It took me a minute to recognize her under her shades and hat, but a quick search in my memory bank reminded me of her. My friend! We had been such good friends a few years ago! “Had been” was the key word. We no longer were. Well, we had not stopped being friends, we had just stopped communicating.

I thought about stepping out of my car and following her to catch up on our lives, but what would I ask other than the simple pleasantries I’ve been known to avoid: “How are the kids? What are you training for? Where are you working?”
It was not worth the effort. Better yet it would not change anything other than give me a more recent picture of my friend.
I thought about the many friends that have passed by my life in the same manner. There have been no bitter break ups or fights, no bad memories of our times together to account for a separation, all the contrary I hold good memories of those days. Yet, somehow, we drifted apart.  Perhaps we served a purpose to each other while we were together. They needed someone to listen to them, to always reply to their messages, to always answer a call, and more than anything someone they could trust with their most intimate feelings and I…well, I needed to be needed.   On occasion, one of those many friends has been someone I trusted with my own intimate secrets but that was rare, yet special.
I often wonder if in becoming friends with someone when we are in need, and drifting away when we are not, we are not using a person for our own selfish purposes.
Or is that what most friendships are?
My perennial friends defeat that theory. They have been in my life for no other reason than to be and remain my friends simply because they want to. We have been friends when it has been fun, difficult, sad, boring, and anything in between, and yet we have never drifted apart. Not even a thought of it. We are friends. And maybe that’s what real friendship is. To be friends when there is no need, only the desire to be with someone for no reason other than we chose to be friends.

 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Run For The Real Reason

It was a long time before Celebrate Life Half Marathon gave out medals. For a while there didn’t seem to be a need, but as the race grew in popularity, so did the demand. Fifty Staters, Marathon Maniacs, and Half Fanatics began to see “bling” as a prerequisite for registration, as the medals that once were the exclusivity of full marathons became a feature in half marathons. After a discussion among the long- time collaborators, medals made their entrance to this race in 2015.

Despite the obligatory increase in price to accommodate the new expense, the addition was well received. After all, awarding medals was not a new thing. Boston Marathon has been giving medals to all finishers since their debut race in 1897.
The industry rapidly changed from medals for marathoners to medals for half marathoners, then for every distance, and to bigger and bigger medals, putting at stake the quality of a race based on the size and look of the hardware received. Some of the medals are so big that, let’s face it, they come with instructions on how to carry that much weight.
 I don’t dispute the symbolism of a medal that commemorates an accomplishment. A survivor medal to a person who faced cancer, a ribbon in a 5K to a person who lost a limb, that is a tangible reminder of a major goal achieved, and one to be proudly hung on a rack. A medal is also a souvenir, a reminder of a memorable event and the effort invested in a race regardless of the distance. Just ask a person who trained to run a hard mile and they’ll tell you they worked as hard as you did for your marathon. But I wonder if in all the demand for bling we are losing sight of the real feat: the glory of reaching a goal, of following a training, of toeing a start line and crossing a finish line. Are we belittling the joy of conquering our fears, facing our demons (I see plenty of them at mile 23, believe me) and neglecting to celebrate our accomplishments?
This new “must have” and everybody is a winner in this privileged society we live in, is making race directors scramble for ways to satisfy the hunger for bigger and better while increasing the price of registration to accommodate the somewhat unnecessary expense. And while we feed the demands of the privileged we increase their demands.
Take for instance the person who, instead of being grateful for lunch served after a race demands vegan or vegetarian dishes or the ones who return and demand an exchange of their SWAG because a small thread came loose. How many times we hear of people who complain of not getting something the race had even when it not included in the race entry? Are we signing to run a race or are we trying to score the best deal in meal and attire and while we are at it, can we take some of the left overs home?
It’s not an auction nor flea market. You signed up to run a race and if you are there to support a charity, then pay an entry fee that covers your expenses and if you can, donate a little more.
What if instead of asking “Are there medals for all finishers?” or “Will there be awards for my age group?” or “Are there awards for walkers?” that runners and walkers participate just for the mere joy of doing so and celebrate their triumphs even in the absence of the weight of a medal around their neck? Wouldn’t that be a goal worth pursuing? What a novelty that would be.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

My Promise


There are moments that stay frozen in our minds whether they were of uplifting happiness or unprecedented misery.  They mark our lives and they are never forgotten.
I remember clearly, after hours of insults, walking into my mother’s bedroom and seeing her drunk husband sitting on the floor. I was 17 and my English still limited. In a firm voice I made a promise to him and to me, “I’ll raise above you. I’ll never let anything control me like it has you. I’ll never have an addiction.”
Months and years of hard work followed that day. I walked hours under the scalding sun of California to make it to a factory where I made cassettes 5 days a week and two days at the garage in the Ontario Airport. When those jobs didn’t have enough hours, I was a maid at a Motel 6 and I lasted a few months at a laundry mat where hot sheets fresh off the dryer burnt the tip of my fingers. Eventually I bought an old car and with two dollars gas a day, I made it to college in the evenings.
During those years there were times when I didn’t have enough to eat. Days when my menu was white rice with nothing else I could afford. I put back a .25 apple in the college cafeteria when I couldn’t pay for it.
But the difficult times didn’t dent my resolve. I never picked up a drug, and never smoked a joint.
Over the years I have enjoyed drinks, but I’ve made sure the drinks never enjoyed me and when a cup of coffee became too important, I made sure I skipped it a few days. Nothing, no substance will ever be a necessity in my life. Nothing will ever control me.
I have tried to help others overcome, but I can’t truly and honestly relate to them. I don’t know their struggle. I don’t know the demons that live within. I have only lived the horror of being around an addict. At times, I pity the mother who watches their kid succumb to an addiction. At times, I pity the addict and at times I am angry at both.
I sit on my porch sipping a glass of wine and I remember the dark days of my youth. I can still feel the fear, my heart beating fast to the sound of the voice of that drunk man. His tall figure balancing against the door. My mother crying yet always defending him. And I remember that promise:
“I’ll raise above you. I’ll never have an addiction.”

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

You, My Children


I often hold back from telling the world about you. There is really no need. The world doesn’t need me to tell them the person you became. The world is meeting, first hand, the human being you are. It does not need a preface.
You were born the same, yet you both have grown to be different. You have chosen to be unique. This is all your doing. I don’t take any credit for your goods. I do, however, own the bads that were the result of something I did or maybe didn’t do. I own that.
You’ve chosen to believe in fairness, love, and peace, in a world that constantly fights.
Race, skin color, gender, are not identifiers you ever remember or mention. I, at times, struggle to remember a friend to whom you are referring, only to finally ask “was that the Chinese kid?” and you, rightfully look at me confused. Why would that one characteristic make me remember a person and not all the others you’ve provided? Such is the world in which I
grew up, my children.

Sexual orientation in others does not change the way you view them and you are perplexed when it makes a difference in the way people are treated. You only know how to treat with respect and it flabbergasts you when that is not the norm.
You stand your grounds and you are strong in your believes, yet tolerant when a dissenting opinion is offered.
You are righteous and fair.
You are good hearted, and kind, and give more than you receive. You don’t recognize it when someone takes advantage of you because you have never cultivated that feeling in your heart.
You hurt when I am not treated fairly based on how I sound or simply on who I am not, but you hold my hand and smile knowing that is merely an isolated incident and not a rule.
You look at me for an answer when a decision based on misogamy confuses you, and I want so much to tell you that what you are seeing is not the world in which we live, but I don’t find the words to tell you it is.
I want to tell you there will be jobs you’ll leave in spite of the pay you get when you can’t accept the advances of the boss, or when your work is disparaged based on nepotism or some other attribute more desired than your knowledge.
You are confident and trustful and I know you will always be like that despite of how many times you will be disappointed. And I know those experiences won’t harden you because trust is an innate quality that we have or not, and you, my children, have an abundance of it.
You have faith and you believe in God or in a “something” that is greater than you, and that faith will, as it has me, carry you through the difficult times life will present. Of that, if nothing more, I can assure you.
You have yet to figure out the value of money. You give away $100 to a person in need with the same effervescence that you receive a dollar.
And you have not found out yet that you cannot change the world and I hope you never stop trying because knowing you, one day you will.