28 Days of Inspiration – Day 3

Joel Chavez

Maybe not a name you’ve heard before, or if it is, I’m probably not referring to the same person.  Joel isn’t famous, although perhaps he should be.  He’s an ordinary guy, so far as I can tell, facing extraordinary circumstances.

You see, I “know” Joel through Facebook.  I’ve never actually met him, I may have commented once or twice on his posts, but we’re connected through a mutual group for Spartan race enthusiasts.  He’s ridiculously dedicated to his workouts, is impossibly toned, and so far as I can tell runs as many obstacle course races as he possibly can.

By all appearances, he’s dedicated to his two young kids.  I don’t think he lives with them both because he’s posted that mom hasn’t let him see one or both of them – Facebook is such a strange medium: it allows you into people’s lives without really knowing them and without all the details of their lives.

Here’s what I do know: he’s in his late 30’s, with two young kids – everything in the world to live for. And he’s got cancer.

So far as I can tell, it seems aggressive.  He undergoes chemotherapy frequently.  Almost as frequently as he goes to the gym.  He shares inspirational quotes speaking directly to him.  He shares his optimism heading into treatment, the less than optimistic news he receives from the doctors, but he always seems to buck up. I’ve seen him post despair, but he finds something to hold onto and crawls back.  It must be exhausting, but he continues to find a way.

So many people would back off, crawl into a malaise, give up.  Joel just keeps pushing forward.  I couldn’t be more impressed at his stamina and his will.

I can’t begin to imagine the struggle and the fight this man is waging.  His strength – physical to be sure, but mostly his emotional – is so inspiring.  Where some say that their family inspires them, he demonstrates that through his virtual presence.

Now, I realize that on the internet no one knows you’re a dog, but he’s not looking for aggrandizement.  He’s just a guy.  A guy who’s facing a struggle but making the best of it.  He’s living his life where others might quit.

Here’s to Joel and his battle, and more particular, his spirit and courage.

Update: Today Joel shared news that was not good.  He has lung cancer, and two years ago he was given 18-24 months. He says himself that he knows he’s on borrowed time, but that he was scared to learn how massive the tumor was and what the likelihood that his cancer has spread.  He’s facing further diagnostics this week to determine next steps.

Those next steps have brought with them the knowledge his cancer has spread to his brain and within his lungs.

I learned a little more about the man from that.  He has his good days and his bad days, but he shared more today than I’ve seen him share to this point.  And it’s through that sharing that I learned just how much more I look up to him, just how inspirational his fight, his attitude is.  He’s truly a man among men, and someone I admire tremendously for his courage and will.

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28 Days of Inspiration – Day 2

Maurice Sendak

One of my favorite tales is of Max, a boy who is sent to his room as punishment and who subsequently explores his “wild side.”  With monsters he meets along the way and who crown him, he allows himself a “wild rumpus.” He is literally the king of every thing he can see, adored by all around him, yet he chooses to leave; to return home.  To safety and to those who love him.

In my world view, I see this as a story standing for the proposition that what matters in life is doing right by the people who love you, because they are the people most likely to stand by you.  After his temper tantrum, after his banishment to his room, his mother – despite her obvious irritation, if not anger with him – has a hot dinner waiting.

Carelessness. Anger. Love. Redemption.  The reality of life. In a little more than 300 words.

Sendak had a certain reality as well.  He was gay at a time when being so wasn’t accepted. To this point, while he affected my life in helping me accept some of the realities of my life, he had to hide his sexuality from his parents, “they never knew,” and really only became publicly identified as gay when his partner passed away in 2007.

In one of his last interviews in September 2011, he reflects on his career and at the end he repeats, almost on a loop: “Live your life, live your life, live your life.”  I take that to mean that you really need to accept who you are – an angry young man in Max, or the thoughtful elder artist Sendak himself had become – and be present.  Life in the present.  Be mindful.  Don’t take anything for granted.

A wildly inspiring notion once you can stop worrying about the external and concern yourself with those things that make you a more fulfilled and perhaps more interesting person. This is your life, no one else’s.  Go live it to your potential.  Achieve and thrive.

Here is the last 5 minutes of that interview

28 Days of Inspiration – Day 1

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace , daughter of Lord Byron, is considered to be the first computer programmer, albeit not without some controversy around that moniker; because Babbage’s ego was too big to allow her credit, or perhaps more precisely too big to allow a woman to share credit .  She is, however, the first person to write an algorithm to be carried out by a computer – in this case Charles Babbage’s analog general purpose Analytical Engine.  Oh, and by the way, this was in the early part of the 1800’s.

Her mathematical prowess enabled her to annotate a transcript of Babbage’s seminar at the University of Turin, annotations that were vastly longer than the transcript itself.  The notes, categorized A-G, were published along with the transcript.  Note G in specific is known for being the first algorithm to be written specifically for a computer to carry out.

She died at the age of 36 of uterine cancer, a diagnosis which today can often be cured. In 1852 however, it was a painful, terminal disease.

October 11 is Ada Lovelace day – a day dedicated to women in Science and Technology with the stated purpose of increasing awareness of the contributions of women to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathmatics) sciences and promote the hard sciences to young women considering their future.

ALD as it’s abbreviated, is based in the UK, but the mission and belief system should be universal.  Why wouldn’t you want to invest in young women making a difference in hard sciences?

 

28 Days of Inspiration

I cannot remember a Presidential election where I was as despondent about the candidates and what the future looks like as I am in 2016.  It’s hard to say if it’s the vitriol from the campaigns, the news of the world around us, general political machinations, or just reading friends’ posts on Facebook – as much as I enjoy fighting with strangers on the internet, I’m finding after a while it takes its toll even on me.

So I’ve decided that I’m going to make the time honored choice and opt out of the nonsense.  I’ve made my mind up about the candidate for whom I’m voting and it’s not likely your Facebook post is going to change that, and it’s not likely one more argument with a stranger is going to make my candidate receive any more votes, and while I can’t change anyone else’s tone, I can change mine; as such I will follow Gandhi’s teaching and be the change I wish to see in the world.

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi

When there’s too much negativity, you have some choices.  You can opt out, you can participate, or you can endeavor to change the direction of the conversation.  Today, I’m going to make the choice to endeavor to change the conversation.  You’re welcome to join me in my goal to spread inspiration instead of negativity for the next 28 days.

Here are my days of inspiration, the subjects chosen in no particular order.  The order of their appearance doesn’t mean any one is any more inspirational to me than any other; my hope is that you find some inspiration to move you forward, it’s not to rank order the relative merits of any one subject’s worthiness.

Day 1 – Ada Lovelace Day
Day 2 – Maurice Sendak
Day 3 – Joel Chavez
Day 4 – Admiral James Stockdale
Day 5 – King Bhumibol Adulyadej
Day 6 – George Washington Carver
Day 7 – O’Connor Valor Fund
Day 8 – Giving Dap
Day 9 – Apologies
Day 10 – Acting with Intention
Day 11 – Julie Creffield
Day 12 – Foster Parents
Day 13 – The 2016 World Series
Day 14 – Because I Said I Would
Day 15 – Rucksgiving
Day 16 – Team With a Vision
Day 17 – Paul Baran
Day 18 – The Principles of Unitarianism
Day 19 – New Horizons
Day 20 – Daniel Kish
Day 21 – Patrick Downes & Jessica Kensky and Adrianne Haslet-Davis
Day 22 – Witold Pilecki
Day 23 – 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg
Day 24 – Robert Cook
Day 25 – Setting Goals, Working Plans
Day 26 – Cliff Young
Day 27 – Nana Asma’u
Day 28  – Family by Choice: Adoption

Beware For I Run Fearless…

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On Saturday, I completed race 46 of my goal 46 in 2016.  The Ragnar Trail Run is a three loop trail race, completed with a team of 8 with each runner completing all three loops, and in this case it meant covering about 15 miles over the course of however long it takes one’s team to complete the circuit.  Except my team was short runners…and half way through, we had an injury.

My 15 miles became 24, 19 of which were run in the second 12 hours of the race.  It was a monstrous race.

I’m a street runner.  I’m an obstacle course fan.  Elevation gains and long distances arent my thing.  Coming down that last trail – the longest, highest elevation – running, running, running…almost unable to stop, with quads screaming to stop and yet not being able to – it was a feeling like I’ve never had, truly something alluding to what I have to believe hell must be like.  Being Ragnar, and being the last runner, as I came to the transition area to complete the race, my team joined me to cross the finish line together.  It was an amazing, awesome conclusion to the race, but a fantastic way to mark the completion of my 46 race goal.

These were folks I had met only for the race.  I didn’t know any of them.  Not one.  I responded to a Facebook post looking for team members.  Their only interest in me was that I was filling a slot that would have otherwise gone unfilled.

41337066_race_0-9710193401717151-originalAnd, yet, by the time we crossed the line together, this was their goal too.  It was important to them that they were a part of this for me.  I heard them talk with pride about the fact this was my 46th race on the year.  I kept the bib.  It was important to me, and it was important them.  That meant so much to me that over 28 hours,  we went from strangers to friends bonded by the completion of a goal.

It was a powerful experience; not just the completion of my original goal, but how these strangers came together to care about my goal.  Years from now, I will look back at 2016 and I will remember this experience fondly.

This year has helped me be fearless about setting goals.  Fearless of taking on unknown challenges.  Fearless about pushing myself for more, to be better, to compete in the unknown.  And this has made me powerful.  I’ve taken chances.  I’ve lept from safety and pulled the ripcord, not knowing where I would land.

I honestly thought it would be more difficult to accomplish than it was, but as I look back I realize I’ve relied upon my old friends, stepped out of my comfort zone and met new friends, and have joined strangers who have become friends.  It’s been a fantastic year and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year holds.

I met one person in March by happenstance who has become a solid race buddy.  I met another guy who responded to my call to join our Ragnar Relay team with whom I’ve now run a couple of other races and recorded our #Kill22 pushups together at the Providence City Hall. I jumped into a pool of ice water in the middle of February just because I was asked to, to raise money for a kids’ camp.

I feel incredibly powerful for having met my goal.  I feel incredibly blessed for having met so many wonderful people in my year of running.  I already know how ridiculously blessed I am for having such a fantastic peer group of old friends supporting me.  My family has been so loving and supportive.  Nothing happens in a vacuum.  I’m living proof.

Beware I am fearless and therefore powerful.

Goals

On or about my most recent birthday, I committed to a plan to run in 46 events for each of my years.  Actually, it kind of evolved from 50 Events by Age 50 – meaning about 11 yearly because I was going to retroactively apply the handful of races I had done the year before…you know, just to make an even 5 year period and not because I had questions.

The idea wasn’t that there is some magic number, but rather that attaining that goal would require continuous, sustained commitment to fitness over a lengthy period of time…and that I really didn’t have enough T-Shirts so this seemed like a good way to get them.

Realizing, of course, that having a goal without actually having a plan, was a recipe for failure, I set about finding these events to run.

In the months previous, I had registered for several races in advance as doing so is generally cheaper and, frankly, I’m kind of cheap.  I signed up for the Rugged Maniac onsite of last years race at some ridiculous discount, and the Battle Frog sometime in October at an equally ridiculous discount – both of which I’d registered to run by myself, something I’d never EVER tried.  Sometime later, I registered for the Spartan Sprint, so I had the nascent beginnings of a “plan,” but only that.  I suppose it’s really helpful to WANT to do  what you’re planning.

My plan slowly grew – adding a “fun run” 5k in February run by a local running group, then a series of St. Patricks’ Day themed runs and my plan was hatched.  In fact, it was at this point that I began thinking “perhaps I could do a little better than 50-by-50.”

Now, I have to disclose at this point, that I’m not much of a runner.  I don’t particularly like running, I’m not really built for speed either.  What I do enjoy are obstacle races – hence, the reason the first three on my agenda were OCRs.  They’re physically and mentally demanding, and let’s face it, pretty damn badass.  Not everyone wants to do them, not everyone actually can do them so when you want to and can, you should.

There’s little by way of a secret as to why it became important to me to pick up this mantle on or about my birthday.  As one’s youth gets progressively distant, and the questions, doubts, perhaps even fears of middle-age come into the forefront, time ceases to be your friend.  If it’s going to happen, it needs to happen now.  I didn’t want to be that late middle-aged guy who has a few tweaks and dings, perhaps a spare tire, and high blood-pressure medications.  I didn’t want to be that senior who has to sit by a window watching others go about their activities of daily living.  We’re not here forever, and we’re only here once, so I want to be sure I’m physically able to do everything I want to do.

By February I had done 4; March 10; and April 16.  By this point, I’d registered for a couple of what I would consider epic challenges: A 200-mile Ragnar Relay, a Spartan Super, and quite possibly the most demanding Spartan Beast.  A marathon relay tossed in there, and some thoughts of a half-marathon as well, although that remains unscheduled.  Some weekends I would run 3 races: once I ran 2 5ks on Saturday and a 10k on Sunday, another weekend I ran a 5k and the Spartan Sprint on Saturday and ran Sprint a second time on Sunday.  This was as much an expression of my goal motivation as it was my sometimes extreme personality.

None of this happens, of course, without accountability and without a supportive peer group.  The people I went to high school with have been the most important influence toward working to this goal, holding me accountable – because they all have their individual goals as well – and, perhaps most importantly, refusing to allow those goals to keep me from achieving more: achieve one goal, define a new one.  I’m thankful I had the good sense to define my peer group wisely and I’m thankful I have such a strong bond with these men.

Today, I run race 38 on the year – a 5.5-mile, hillfest.  My 46 has grown now to a plan of 54 and half way through the year I’m left to redefine my goal further and to set new ones.  None of which could have happened without setting that initial goal getting me off the couch.  There is a lot of literature about goals and goal setting, not all of which I’ve found helpful in this journey.  For me, having a fitness goal was important, but I needed to bite off small chunks.  I needed to have a series of successes and demonstrate such a schedule was possible before I lept in.  Had I set a goal of 100 races for the year, I could imagine being here in Mid-July deciding I couldn’t make it.  For me, having a modest goal and building out worked wonders and I can’t imagine I’d have been better off for having a more audacious goal – I may have been worse off.  I know my personality and that’s made all the difference here.

I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished to this point, accomplished with the support of my friends and family, but I’m not done and nor is my plan done.  Without my initial simple goal, I’d have never have found out where I could go and the power of ones friends.  I’m incredibly fortunate.

My Level I Grievance Against Santa Claus

Mr. Santa Claus

North Pole

I represent Mo Morrissey. As his representative, this will serve as formal notification of a Level I grievance, as required under the social contract between S. Claus, Inc. (hereinafter known as “Santa”) and “All the Good Boys and Girls” (hereinafter known as “the Kids”), for the inappropriate placing of Mo on the “Naughty” list and without good cause.

Speaking to Mo’s membership in the “the Kids” class, while he is sufficiently of age as to no longer be covered by the term “boy,” we refer you to the 1944 Mel Torme song, “The Christmas Song,” wherein the group “kids” is defined as “…from one to ninety-two.” As this definition has gone unchallenged, it is the working definition of those covered under this social contract, and Mo clearly falls within the boundaries.

We take the position that Santa without good cause placed him on the “Naughty” list and treated Mo as such for purposes of gift giving in the Christmas of 2014. Any evidence that Mo has, in fact, been naughty this year, is procedurally barred due to the failure to properly notify him of this assignment to the naughty list.

Article I of the social contract states that no kid will be placed on the naughty list without good cause and Santa will not arbitrarily or capriciously appoint such kid to the naughty list without due process. Mo was given no notice of his placement on the Naughty list, nor was any opportunity given to hear evidence or speak to the charges against him. Santa, in this case, placed Mo on the list in violation of the social contract.

Placement on the naughty list carries with it not only the stigma of having achieved a special sort of notoriety, but the additional penalty of a sub-par showing of presents on Christmas morning as defined by a minimal number of items under the tree as requested in his Article II “letter to Santa” (this document – which was delivered to the North Pole in the required format, no less than 3 weeks before Christmas morning as required – is enclosed with this letter). Imagine Mo’s surprise when, upon waking up to find Santa indeed came to his home, he found little of what he asked for on his Christmas list. The return receipt clearly shows “Hermie the Elf” signed for his letter two days after Thanksgiving day.

In consideration of Santa’s violations of procedure, we submit the following remedy of this grievance for your consideration. Removal of Mo’s name from the 2014 Naughty list, and an additional item from his Article II letter to Santa, with preference being given the SUV or in the alternative, we would be willing to consider the requested number of gold bullion bars.

In the absence of settlement, please confirm with my office a date and time for a grievance hearing. We are certainly interested in concluding this matter at the earliest possible stages of the grievance process as a protracted grievance serves no ones interest – particularly as you begin your winter vacation. Please do, though, bear in mind, the time requirements of the grievance process.

Sincerely,

The offices of Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe