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Thursday, November 13, 2014

23 Things you didn't know about me...


OK so it all started when I was searching for a good, I mean GOOD, vegan egg nog recipe.

Trust me. Being anti-dairy, anti-meat, all that, doesn't mean I don't yearn for the good ole days, like when I was a kid.

I am always on the lookout for good replacement recipes and I've found, more often than not, those clever vegans seem to come through.

That's when I stumbled onto this blog - http://www.produceonparade.com/

The woman's name is Katie and she is an animal saving, mammogram taking, vegan who lives in Alaska. *Author's note: this is SO begging to be a character in a book.

Anywho, not only does this person seem genuine, I found that she used a unique way to introduce herself by listing 23 things that most people wouldn't know about her.

OK, ok, yes, Facebook LOVES to make a game of 23 Titles You've Read, and 58 Selfie Locations and so on....

Many people know me and my family. Let's face it, Rhode Island isn't just a small state with the most awesome restaurants. It's just flat out small.

Still, I wondered what it would be like to introduce myself this way.

I DO NOT like the spotlight. But my goal for this blog is always to show that we are, in many ways, all the same.

23 things you may not have known about me....

1. I hate to fly. Check that...I used to hate to fly. On a particular air trip across the country, I was virtually paralyzed - then the light came on. I'll never see parts of the world if I don't get over this affliction. Now, I sit near the window seat (not comfortably) but I can look out for a few minutes at a time.

2. I am cryptic. Correct. As black and white as I am on this blog, I still talk in metaphor and riddles. Why? Because it stimulates conversation. Just a habit, I guess.

3. I was lead singer in a rock band. Sure it wasn't at Gillette Stadium but for a year? It was fun to pretend to be a 'rock star'...

4. I always firmly believe, beyond a doubt, that I am faster, stronger and smarter than I look.

5. I am an author - yes, I still get surprised looks about that.

6. I am a three time cancer survivor - This is a fact. And I'm not going for a fourth time.

7. I never had a prom date.

8. I was raised a Catholic but I have replaced that religion with music to fulfill my spiritual needs.

9. I have loner tendencies but I love people.

10. After my dog Yukon died, I don't have it in me to have a pet in my life (I confess to owning two goldfish called Cuff and Link)

11. I love football today, because I wasn't allowed to play as a child.

12. I was a true introvert in my teens. Every sense of the word. People scared me. Although I shed my introverted self in my late 20's, I still hold those traits. They come out at THE wrong time. I am still not thrilled about throngs of people I don't know.

13. I abhor cruelty of any kind - ANY kind

14. Two topics I can't tolerate hatred in, is religion and politcs

15. I do believe my spirit guide is a wolf....macho crap aside.

16. I made THE wrong education decision and the wrong college choice.

17. It took me almost all of my life to discover who I am and, more importantly, allow myself to be that person.

18. The nickname Mad Maz was made up by me after the character Mad Max

19. To further that point, I am told I can be intimidating but I do that to see who will look past it. If they do, they are worth it.

20. I grew up loving Spiderman but graduated to Wolverine in my teens.

21. I don't like horror movies.

22. Someday I want to visit Tokyo.

23. My biggest motivation comes from someone telling me that I can't do something...



That's all for now....no big life secrets or home of the Yeti...Until next time...




Monday, October 20, 2014

Answer The Call


Every now and then I'll get a call to play.

I play ice hockey less often these days. I prefer the solitude of individual routine now. Still, I haven't officially retired from goaltending.

I ask myself why. It's not the late nights. It's not the freezing temperatures at 6 am in the morning. It's not the aches and pains of vulcanized rubber hitting you in the few spots that don't have armor.

Why indeed.

Eleven years ago, I was told I may not play ever again. I may not be able to do what I want to do. Walk. Run. Lift. Whatever.

Five years ago, I thought I was going to die. More scars, recovery, healing.

I was told all of this and yet here I am.

This isn't a reflection in a spotlight. It is an acknowledgement of thankfulness.

To breathe is only part of our autonomous functioning but on certain days, I find myself saying Thank You for what someone may feel is no reason.

I am thankful to breathe. I appreciate being alive. I want to grasp, throw, shout, be physical, stay mental (interpret that as you wish) - all that.

We will say Something Strong....Boston Strong. Planet Earth Strong. We should say Me Strong. Sure it falls as a byline in a bad Tarzan film, but it's true.

Mentally, being much more problematic, then physical.

You may lift 200 lbs, but mentally, you have to hold the world on your shoulders.

You can run 5 miles, but you may still cry yourself to sleep.

There is tragedy all around. Life is for better and for worse. Don't mistake the answer - it's both.

There was a time I was so obsessed with seizing and sensing every moment of every day, I would stay up until the dawn - afraid to die in my sleep. Afraid of missing life.

We seize our moments. We get them in 24 hour increments. Most of us ignore a great deal of what happens around us.

A smile. A wink. A laugh. The wind. Birds...leaves. Sun. Rain. On and on and on.

We concentrate on tasks in front of us - a product of our ancestry to be sure. But even our forefathers would stop to see a double rainbow or the lay of the land. An awesome image burned into their minds and our genes.

We can't change tragedy. We sometimes can't alter cataclysm.

But you are breathing. We are breathing. As long as that happens, then life will continue to happen.

It can be on the road, on the ice, in the fields, in your room - anywhere.

Say what you mean. Give what you can. Move someone else to do the same. It's a simple formula.

The average life of a wolf is only 6 to 8 years give or take. If I retain anything from my spirit animal, then I plan to skew the numbers.

May you do the same...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Taking The Plunge



For the most part, I blog to create a reality that some may not understand. Many instances are inspirational to some, many are simply informational/casual to others.

There is a battle that isn't discussed but, rather, hinted at, glossed over, or scientifically/politically cleansed. It's the ultimate battle - the battle within.

Physical trauma.  Emotional upheaval. Call it what you need to call it. D) all of the above.

I've stated the fact before - The roller coaster ride will start without giving notice and all you can do is hang on.

Maybe one isn't as helpless as that statement rings. But it does ring of some truth.

The range of emotion ebbs and flows from calm to calamity. Pain to healing. Psychotic to well-being.

Some of these emotions are absolutes....then again, you sign the treatment papers that states you will have all of these side effects or you will have none at all.

See? Absolute...

True or false - yes.

A patient turns into the ultimate roulette wheel. Spinning, forever spinning until the ride is over.

Where you stop depends on the minute, hour or day.

Anger - Go ahead....make my day. Who are you and why are you in my way? And how dare you  assume you know what I am going through. Don't ask me to be normal just to make you feel comfortable. Your job is to excuse me while I take it out on you and know that I don't really mean it.

Sadness - Why me? You will see a ripple from your shore to the horizon and you only hope you get to continue to see the sun set and rise. See Anger.

Depression - More why me. What's next in every sense of the word. Sleep can be difficult making being awake more painful. The future isn't what you thought it would be.

Sobriety - This is it. I go forth. I can't do anything about it so I am going forward. Today I am resolute - tomorrow...we'll see.

Impatient - Well? Let's get started. You've been threatening me since Day 1 so let's dance. Let's go. I have a life to lead.

Bravery - Head held high, you aren't taking me down. Attitude is everything. Mine is just fine. Bring it.

Fear - I know nothing of what you tell me. And the internet has everything from real life medical publications on my disease to places where voodoo is still practiced. In fact, all of this is witchcraft to me. Stop it from spinning.....just stop it.

But the wheel continues to spin. There are hundreds of shades to every inner thought. Too many avenues to take and too many tributaries being formed to keep it all straight in your head.

There will be moments of calm in the eye of the storm. Today you step forward an inch little by little until at the end of the day, you are across the hall.

Don't bother looking back - you are HERE.

Survivors who thrive today live their new normal. It's not even 'new' any longer - just normal. Their normal. Our normal.

Maybe that's why, after the plunge, the air tastes that much sweeter when you break the surface.




Saturday, August 23, 2014

Thriving not Surviving


Eleven years running.

This is literal and figurative.

Eleven years, I've had to take a stress test because of the heart condition caused by radiation therapy.

Two nurses, and one technician later, I was launching off the treadmill. This, too, is a literal statement.

It's a tricky maneuver. You have to jump, electronics and all, to the resting table, flip on your left side and get your arms out of the technician's way so that they can get the all important heart picture while it's pumping hardest.

Eleven years.

This time was a little different, however. Voices, dialogue, all commonplace in my head as the nurses chittered on, sorted themselves out until one voice whispered through.

A fragment of texted conversation slipped through the barbed wire and murmured to me.

My friend and fellow survivor, Ali, poignantly pointed out her disdain for the word survivor.

"I prefer thriver..."

Those words echoed as I threw myself onto the table, with a waiting sonic wand being pushed into my ribs.

Since the first patient with cancer was diagnosed, we have all been tabbed as survivors - People who held on just long enough for the storm to pass.

Some more than others. It's as if a prophet spatters you in paint, showing you to the gods as one who has been afflicted. You've been compromised. You have the scarlet letter.

All true? Perspective.

I will sip from this cup. I have my days of doubt, more than some, less than others. But I am thriving.

As the saying goes, I am not just strong for my age, I am strong.

I can move.

I can think.

I can work.

That's not surviving. That's thriving.

We aren't hanging on. We aren't digging in waiting for the tornado to pass by any longer.

The day you walk out of the doctor's office, the hospital, the treatment room - you are replanted. You are back in the soil of life and you have a shot to thrive.

Circumstances change? Possible. Then you replant yourself again. And again...as many times as it takes.

Look in the mirror. Show yourself how strong you are. You may see yourself in a new light - someone staring back that you've never seen before.

Be angry. Curse.

Smile.

The nurses handed me some ice water. I stared at my time on the treadmill and guzzled. Sure, someone can do better. I don't care.

Many do worse.

Me? I am too busy thriving...






Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fear and Motivation


Cringe as some people may, there are few things in the world that motivate more than fear.

Fear of failure.
Fear of rejection.
Fear of dying...

As a survivor, I've lived with all sorts of fear. Many of which most people share. We've all been in a fearful place.

What we sometimes won't admit is that the fear itself motivated us to do something.

It's fight or flight. No wrong answer.

There is no sin in living for another day.

I've learned, or should I say continue to learn, to use my fear as a positive.

Fear can be the worst kind of constriction there is. Perspective is the judge.

A doctor who presents life and death before you.

A plan to treat you that can be construed as cruel torture.

Suffering until your innards can suffer no more.

That's real fear.

The perspective weighs in when your other worldly life presents the common fears in a different light.

Standing before a crowd.

Failing on your first attempt.

Afraid of the results from personal change.

Fear? Maybe. Perspective says it's not the same.

Don't suffer in the name of fear but succeed instead. At this moment, you can have that choice. Change the situation. Fight out of the corner that fear put you in.

Easy? No. Motivating? Yes.

Getting out of bed to run in the rain. Lifting until you hear a pop. Fear motivates me to move beyond what I thought I could do.

Writing a chapter to be the artist I know I am.

To not be afraid to tell people you love them.

What do you fear? And what happens when you react to it?

The crime is to do nothing.

Learn to do it. Do it now...


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I Am Another Person


Racing legend Jackie Stewart once said, "When you put the visor down, you become another person."

I've been seriously thinking. It is time to up my game.

Do I really know if any of the changes I've made in past years is doing anything for me? Is it time to do more?

Today was a typical spring day. There is still a chill but it fades quickly in the morning now.

Spring holds a sensation of promise. There is renewal, literally, in the air.

I am always filled with sensations of yesteryear. Spring was a harbinger of summer. I would break out my baseball glove to take in the smell of broken in leather. Freshly cut grass was the world's cologne and clouds would hurry out of the way to give you the best blue sky you have ever seen though you saw the same sky the previous day.

Today was also Survival Clinic day.

I remove my work tag from my hip when I walk in because in a hospital people associate anyone with a photo tag as an employee.

The clinic always makes me jittery for one reason and one reason only.

I was the first to open their door today. Ten minutes later, the flock of children began.

I've documented the clinic in the past but I can never get used to it.

One year olds. Two year olds....etc. The parade continues - All balding or with no hair showing scars that run up the back of their naked skulls. Multiple tubes on multiple poles sustain them.

I'm the enigma or at least I feel that way. Nervous parents shoot quick glances wondering where, if any, is my child.

It's just me. I try to shrink in my chair.

A flock of bald boys hound one of the workers for the Spiderman House. Another wanted his mom to reset his video game for him. Still another sat in his stroller, wilted, his eyes barely staying open. He may be 5 or 6 years of age but he barely weighed 20 lbs.

A teenaged girl wheeled her way around the room in her wheelchair - All of this in a room no bigger than 20x20.

Chaos. Desperate chaos. Parents faking small talk. Children trying to be themselves.

I had no phones to play with. No technological distraction. I was thankful for that. I did it purposely. I find it cathartic to severe myself from the world even for a little while. This is what's real to me.

Still, I found myself looking out of the window. I followed a trellis made of pipe where starlings were hopping from point to point, heedless to what is going on inside.

One particular bird was busy ruffling its feathers over and over. He sat above a small roof paved with smooth gray and beige stones. I tried to find the flattest one for skipping along an imaginary lake. This takes up my time as more children poured in.

It was finally my turn. They called the only Joe in the room. As I slid my way around the large table filled with an enormous puzzle and a quizzical little girl who was lost in what must have seemed an infinite amount of pieces, I tried not to interfere with all of the play. Truth is, I tried not to step on the tubes, wheels and strewn clothing. I was the odd puzzle piece here.

I was sharing their world but I felt like an outsider. I am always reminded of how my parents must have felt when they took me to the clinic.

It was a long survivor conversation. Again, questions abound but it is all good. I am doing the right things. I am asked to tell others about it at some point. I have testing to perform for next level conversations. Always vigilant.

The nurse practitioner kept talking but my mind was elsewhere. The children get to me. I damn myself for thinking some may not make it to their next birthday. Many can't comprehend the precarious position they are in.

This fuels the nagging thought I've had about what is 'enough'. Can you make a difference? Can we change it all in the end?

Some days I say yes. Emphatically, yes.

Other days, I trip. In my head, I wonder. Lift your weights. Eat your greens. Run like crazy. Rinse. Repeat. All for what?

The children really had gotten to me. They always do.

Tomorrow, I will resolve to do it all better. Tomorrow, I will be a different person. It probably won't be noticeable. Deep down, I will feel the kick. It's a low tremor. All tomorrow.

I know within the changing tides called Me there are more untapped resolute feelings to expose.

I told the NP that viewed me today that I won't know if any of this works for another 47 years. The brings a smile to her face per usual.

I may have to be a different person to keep going. The only way I know how to do that is to put my visor down.






Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Change


Change.

Everyone deals with it every moment of every day.

Some plod through everyday changes that don't affect the sun from coming up.

Others deal with change on a cataclysmic level.

Survivors do both but change represents a resonating ripple that never stops. It's a twang that pierces and reverberates throughout our lives.

So much so that any change, good, bad, ugly or indifferent, marks a stress that is hard to describe. I am sure there is a psychological term for it but that is irrelevant.

In the darkest of days, replete with pain, nausea or worse, survivors rely on routine and comfort points to pull them through. The simplest items such as a favorite TV show at the regular time or the cacophony of crickets on a spring evening can mean being above or below the line of sanity. A simple tune on the radio can mean salvation or a tumble into despair.

When those dark waters ebb, change still reverberates.  It still clangs within our minds. Fear's flame never truly snuffs out. A new school. A new home. A new job. A new life. Fear. There are no comfort points to hold onto.

Survivors struggle to free themselves into a brave new world. Those that take a step, are loathe to make mistakes or venture too far. Some even fail...

Change. Always a constant in the universe.

But there are many who swallow their fear and push outside of their realm. They will take cues from those before and "just do it". The are truly naked and afraid but in their tremble, they seek to put their steps in another arena.

Change can bring about a sense of normalcy. There is a small bravado that comes with conquering the fear of the unknown.

I grew up an introverted loner. The world was scary. It still is. To this day, I will not watch the news. New people, places....all long shadows that cast over me to this day. They lay hidden. Lying in wait. They will not influence me like before but they are still there.

Change can be a sugar. Sweet. And you once you experience any change, you will start to crave more.

Many survivors never learn this. I know many who have.

I salute them and I walk with them in spirit.

This is who we are. We can make a difference in this harsh world.

And we welcome the change...