Thursday, February 11, 2016

My Dad As I Knew Him


My earliest memories of my father consist of Tighty Whities, white t-shirts, laying on the couch and watching reruns of Star Trek.  That was what I woke up to most weekend mornings growing up. In those early years, I wore to bed what my Dad wore to bed, underwear and a t-shirt.  I would walk down the hall rubbing the sleep from my eyes and head to the Rec-room where I would find Dad laying on the couch, still in the Tighty Whitey/T-shirt sleep uniform, with a blanket over him that was handmade for the family by one of the residence at the nursing home in which my mom worked.  He would see me and lift the blanket as a way to say come snuggle with me and watch TV.  I remember feeling loved as he wrapped the blanket around both of us and clung to me with his big Popeye arms. He was watching reruns of Star Trek, which I dreaded watching because I did not understand what was happening, but I loved laying there with my Dad.

Also during those early years, my family took a road trip that would make the most patient person beg for mercy.  We drove our large Chevy van from Seattle to Pennsylvania to Washington DC to Florida and then back to Seattle. There are only so many times that three boys under the age of nine can play Highway Bingo, I-See-See, License Plate Game and whatever else we came up with while putting a year’s worth of miles on the van in a three week span.  On this trip I vividly remember my Dad carrying me on his shoulders as we walked around Disneyworld in Florida.  He picked me up with those same Popeye arms, placed me on his shoulders and made sure I used my hands as a chinstrap to hold myself in place and not fall off.  I remember the scruff of his pudgy cheeks and chin on my hands and wrists. I remember thinking my Dad is the strongest Dad here because no other father had their child on his shoulders.

My Dad coached our little league baseball team, the Eagles. He still has the ball the team signed for him as a thank you displayed in his office.  He coached our pee-wee football team, the Kenmore Lions. He loved watching his boys compete in whatever the sport, or activity.

When parents divorce there is enough pain and heartache to stop a train. Weekend visits were awkward, too short and a horrible way to spend time with Dad because I felt forced to make the most of our time together instead of just being present with him.  And as much as I disliked weekend visits for the awkwardness, I know that many years of those visits were stolen from me. 

From ages 12-17, I did not see or hear from my Dad, and when we finally reconnected the relationship had been badly damaged. Every conversation, every meal together, every holiday and birthday felt forced, clumsy and foreign. Dad and I stumbled through the next 15 years of our relationship trying to reestablish what was, or could have been.  When Dad watched me play football in college, it was the first time he’d seen me play since pee-wee football when I was 8 years old. Dad worked the graveyard shift at the post-office and would drive four hours to Linfield, watch me play, take me to dinner and then head back north. By the time he arrived home he had not slept for 24 hours.

In the Fall of 2010, Dad and I had a breakthrough in our long journey of trying to repair our relationship. I had been in counseling for depression for a little over a year, a fact that I believed my Dad was aware of, but when I dropped him an email that mentioned counseling and the goals I had for healthier relationships, I realized I had forgotten to tell him. Dad wasted no time, as his loving, caring, nurturing and always helpful personality sprung into action. He took me to lunch and asked questions, offered assistance and most importantly allowed me to ask questions and he answered honestly. Up to this point in my life, it was the most real, truthful and healing conversation I had ever had.

For the next five years Dad and I grew closer and closer.  It was still difficult at times as it felt like we were pretending the missing years never happened, but slowly we managed to call each other more often. I’d try to stop in Port Orchard anytime I was driving through the south sound region. Dad came to the Veteran’s Day assembly at my school a few times, and was always one of my biggest supporters in my efforts to fight cancer through Relay For Life.

Perhaps the happiest my Dad had been for me was when my wife Kirsten entered my life. From the moment he met Kirsten, he always called her an Angel.  He took joy in asking her, “Has anyone told you how beautiful you are today?” And when she replied, “Not today,” he’d look at me with humorous disappointment and ask me, “What’s wrong with you? She’s an Angel.” Dad always had flowers from his garden to give Kirsten and was quick to get in his father-in-law flirtations. I would joke with him about how Kirsten was mean to me when he was gone and he would jokingly look at me in anger and say, “How dare you? She’s an Angel.” Dad finished every single phone conversation by saying, “Kiss the girl for me.”

Leading up to Kirsten and I’s wedding I asked Dad if he would like to give a speech or a toast at the rehearsal dinner. He stared at me silent for a moment and asked if I was sure that’s what I wanted. Of course it is. And he replied that it’d be an honor, but as the day rolled up Dad came to me, his eyes saddened and filled with tears. He asked if it was ok that he did not give a speech or toast. He was having trouble memorizing everyone’s names and did not want to mispronounce anything or embarrass me. As tears began to stream down his face he said, “I’m sorry. I feel like I’m disappointing you.”  No Dad, I love you.

I will cherish my memories of my Dad from this past year. From the moment my wife Kirsten and I bought our house my Dad was more than eager to help with yard work and home improvements.  Just two weeks after the sale closed, he was there early one Saturday morning cutting sticker bushes and organizing the contents of an old storage shed.  We worked hard for five hours and called it a day. We ate lunch and Dad drove home.  When he called to schedule his next Saturday work session, I was stubborn in my desire that the next time Dad come out, he should meet us school Friday afternoon. Then come out with some coworkers for drinks (which we call Spanish Club so the students don’t know what we are talking about), stay the night with us and then we can work in the morning.  He tried to say no, but once Kirsten asked him, he had no choice.

Dad came to school on Friday and I walked him around during my prep period and introduced him to everyone. People were amazed at our size difference but could see the family resemblance. After school the bell rang and students rushed to the buses, all except one. One of my 9th grade female Algebra students came back to my room. I asked her if she forgot something and she said no as she walked right by me. She walked up to my Dad and said, “Sir, I heard Mr. Adams’ Dad was here and I just wanted to meet you. Because if Mr. Adams is this great, his father must be amazing. It’s my pleasure to meet you sir.”  The look on my Dad’s face was priceless.

Later, as teachers gathered at a local bar for drinks, Dad talked with everyone and was the life of the party. He was excited to exchange stories of Montana with a teacher that recently moved here from there, and Dad had fun embarrassing me while telling stories from my childhood. He tried to say no as a new round of Bud Lights came out, but he couldn’t resist; he was having too much fun! His eyes sparkled as he thanked me over and over. “Fathers dream of being asked to do this with their kids.”

Dad and I woke up early in the morning and while I was getting ready he made his daily call to his mom.  Then he’d make his first call to his wife Peggy. Dad and I worked in the yard for hours, and at every break, he’d call Peggy. When we finished and he packed up his truck, I thanked him for all his help in the yard.  I asked him when our next work party would be, and he gave me a big grin and asked, “When is the next Spanish Club?”

This past summer Dad stayed at our house several times and some days we didn’t get much work done, but we did talk, share, learn and grow our relationship. I am going to miss his smile, miss his generosity, miss his gentle presence, miss his waddle, miss his voice calling Kirsten an Angel, miss his advice and miss knowing he’s a phone call away. I can’t bear to think that my kids will never meet my Dad. But they will know of him. We will make sure of it.


Dad, I love you and I’ll kiss the girl for ya.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Compelled

I don’t know how to explain the relentless need.  It is more than want. More than desire. More than craving. More than yearning.  Throughout my whole being it feels like an essential.  It feels like a requirement.  A necessity.  A prerequisite.  A demand.  (Over)Eating to me feels like an indispensible need that defines who I am as a person.

I am crippled under the compulsion to eat.  I feel like a prisoner to the unwavering need to eat.  If I am not currently eating, I am thinking about what I might eat next. What snacks are nearby? What can I make, pick-up, or go buy for my next meal?  Where are the left-overs?  Can I eat the left-overs before anyone else has a chance?  And then what will I eat after that?

While in a car with my brother and one of our friends from high school about 10-12 years ago I was trying to explain the constant need to eat.  Our friend accused me of making excuses and told me if I wanted to make my life better, just eat less.  My brother jumped in before I could respond and simple said, “It’s not that easy.”  “Sure it is! If you don’t like the feeling, you don’t like being this big, you are worried about your health, then stop fucking eating so much,” rang out from the backseat.  I wanted to fall through the floor of the car and get run over by the back tires.  Our friend is originally from Brazil and has always spoken with an accent. In my head I was thinking, “Why don’t you stop speaking with an accent?”  I know that would be an unreasonable request because as he would have said, “I have always spoken like this and you can’t just stop one day.”  Exactly.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel this way.  It has been life-long.  As a child I remember wanting to be the first to wake up so I would be able to get a bowl of the “good” cereal before it was gone, and after that first bowl I would go get a bowl of my second favorite cereal.  And if no one else was up yet, a bowl of the cereal I didn’t even really like just so I could eat more.  I had to mix up the types of cereal, or else someone might catch on that I was eating three bowls.  Even at a young age, I knew eating this much was not right and this is where I started to learn how to hide my addiction.

In the late elementary grades my oldest brother had sports practice after school and my other older brother would be playing with friends in the neighborhood.  This would be my binge-eating window.  A bag of microwave popcorn, a bologna sandwich with mayo and cheese, mini-bagel pizzas and chips. This was a typical after school “snack.”  Even after eating all of that, as an 11 year old kid, I could only think about what Mom was going to make for dinner. 

For anyone that was a fan of the show West Wing, there is a scene where Leo McGarry is trying to explain to his lawyer what it is like to be an alcoholic.  If you don’t know the scene, or even if you do, watch it here before continuing this read.  https://youtu.be/Ma3d-YdLjCs

The way Leo describes how his brain works with alcohol is much the same way my brain works with food. 

I like the sound a steak makes when you flip it on the grill.  Wait too long and it is burned, turn too early and you don’t get the nice grilled flavor.

I don’t eat one slice of pizza.  I don’t understand people that only have one slice. People that say I’ve had enough. How do you not want more of this delicious goodness? How do you not want the whole pizza to yourself?

I don’t binge eat with people. I binge eat by myself. 

As I sit here and type this in my classroom at work, food is near the forefront of my mind.  Did someone bring treats into the office? Maybe I should go check.  Do I have any crackers left in my desk drawer?  Of course not!  I bet there is a teacher in the building who has snacks in their drawer…

Three years ago I started to change my life for the better. I asked friends and family to motivate me by sponsoring my weight loss with pledges of $1per pound, $2 per pound, etc. with the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.  Over 100 people joined to motivate me and together $147 was donated for every pound I lost.  When it was all said and done $23,000 was donated. One year later, a better man than I, donated $23,000 because I was able to keep the weight off for a year.

Two weeks later, my appendix burst and I had emergency surgery. I was required to remain inactive for 3-4 weeks.  These two things, pain and inactivity are triggers for my food addiction.  I stumbled in my life change.  Two months later, I had my fifth herniation in my lower back.  After 5 weeks of pain and inactivity, I had surgery and required another 3-4 months of low activity.  More triggers.  One month after the spinal surgery, I needed oral surgery. Quite painful and required rest.  More triggers.

These may sound like a list of excuses, and all I can say is you may be right.  But I doubt you have ever struggled with an addiction.  For me, changing my eating habits is like trying to handwrite an essay with my left hand. Everyday. All day.  My muscle memory wants to pick up the pen with the right hand.  My left hand feels awkward and clumsy. Eventually it’s just easier to switch to the right hand.

Now I am in this horrible, never ending circle of depression, guilt and embarrassment.  I feel like my friends and family that supported me through my previous efforts feel like I swindled them out of their money.  Like I knew I would lose 85 pounds and just put it right back on. Like I didn’t even try to maintain my life change.  I’m embarrassed. I want to crawl in a hole.  The shame is immense.  I want the addiction to go away. I want the triggers to be reduced to ash.  I want my loved ones to know that I tried. I really did.  But in the end, tried is not good enough.


In that same episode of West Wing Leo McGarry said the following, "I went to rehab, my friends embraced me when I got out. You relapse it's not like that. 'Get away from me.' That's what it's like." No one has said this to me of course, but I can’t help feeling like it fits with my addiction and history.  I must do better. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

No, Really. For A Reason! Pt 2

On December 29, 2012 I wrote a blog post trying to describe my belief that things happen for a reason. Now whether you believe in a higher power, or you consider yourself "spiritual but not religious," life brings us circumstances that leave us considering that there is more than coincidence working when an incredible series of events take place that lead to awesome outcomes.  Here is one such story.

This was a summer to remember!  It started with an emergency surgery with two days left in the school year.  I woke up on Monday morning with a little bit of a stomach ache and a bloated feeling.  Over the course of the day, the pain started to move down the abdomen and to the right.  By the end of the day, the pain was located around my belt-line on the right-side, almost to my hip bone.  It was the end of the school year and as Department Head I had to inventory all of our math books, so I associated the pain, that was much more intense now, with a pulled muscle from moving hundreds of books around the school.

That night our staff softball team was playing their third game of the season, and I am the manager and pitcher.  While warming up, the pain was intense and a teammate asked me why I was grabbing my belly.  I said I thought I maybe had a hernia, to which he asked if I should be playing softball with a hernia.  I smirked and said, "We'll see."  I played through the pain, and would have hit for the cycle, but I made the mistake of taking it easy on the other team by stopping at third when we were up 14-2.  They later came back and we tied 17-17.

That night as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed the pain had not "worked itself out" as men sometimes claim muscle pulls will when playing a sport.  I hoped that I would wake up in the morning and things would be better.  Nope. That's not all what happened. Instead I woke up at 3:30am with increased pain that was more steadfast than most pains I have experienced.  It was bad enough that I called the hotline at my Doctor's office, and asked for advice.  Upon hearing my story of the day and current pain levels, the nurse urged me to go to the ER.  Yay!

I had to research, or really my Mom did the research on what the appendix is used for in the body.  Most of us have heard that they are not used for anything, so why do we have them?  Turns out that there are some enzymes in the appendix during the gestational period that cannot be found anywhere else in the body.  So it is useful during the time we go from a peanut, to a slimy-delivered baby.  After that, no use what-so-ever.  Oh, except to cause extreme pain and a surgery that makes me miss the last two days of school!

You might be wondering, "This does not seem like coincidence or like it happened for a reason. It just sucks."  And you are right!  But this did start a chain of events that led to awesomeness!

Come back for Part 3 soon....

Friday, May 31, 2013

Relay, Relay, Relay For Life

I do not remember if I wrote about how I got involved in Relay For Life, so I will do it now because I do not feel like searching through all of my old posts.

It would be an easy answer to say that I got involved in Relay because my Mom is a cancer Survivor.  She was diagnosed with skin cancer on her leg a long time ago.  The doctors cut a chunk of flesh from her calf and she was cancer free.  Mom does not like to call herself a Survivor because she did not have to go through chemo or radiation, but I remind her that people today do not get large chunks removed from their legs anymore.  The surgeries are far less intensive and people with her type of skin cancer are happy to have simpler procedures, and it is because of the gains made from research funded by the American Cancer Society that have led to these breakthroughs.  Mom, you were told, "You have cancer."  And you are still here; you're a Survivor!

It would be an easy answer to say that I got involved in Relay because I have lost a few aunts and uncles to cancer, including my Aunt Grace.  She is my Dad's sister, and my cousin Adam and I are the same age.  I remember once growing up Adam and I were playing board games on the floor if his bedroom. Aunt Grace came in and asked us if we wanted something to eat, and I asked for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Aunt Graces took the plural, sandwiches, quite seriously.  She came back with a platter of PB&Js all cut in half withe crust removed.  So good!  We lost Grace to cancer 7 years ago.

Although these are two reasons I remain involved in Relay, they are not the reason I got started.  When I was 23 years old, in grad school and working three jobs, my best friend Brenda was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer.  At the time, her form of cancer had a 5% chance of living 5 years.  As scary as that was to hear about my best friend, I can't imagine how she felt being told that by her doctor.  I witnessed how hard chemo is on a person's body.  I saw how much pain radiation could cause to a person's skin.  I felt helpless watching Brenda not be able to keep food down.  Helpless as she felt like getting out of bed was an overwhelming chore.  Helpless that everything she ate tasted like metal.

I tried to make her days brighter.  I brought her Coke Slurpees, her favorite.  I would bring over the latest comedy albums to lay in bed with her, listen and hope to laugh.  I would drive her to appointments, and read Motherhood magazines in the waiting room.  Not a lot of choice at some of the doctor's offices she needed to visit.  When she felt up to it, we went for walks.  When she felt up to it, we went out to dinner.  Through all of it, I still felt helpless.  I could not take her cancer away.

Her battle lasted a few years, and I moved on from grad school and started working at Skyview Jr High, where Relay For Life of Northshore is held each year.  I walked to the office to ask questions and was directed to Frank Dellino's office. He is a counselor there and was on the planning committee for Relay.  He told me about the event and spoke passionately about the cause.  I was sold.  I asked Brenda if I could form a team in her honor.  She replied, "Only if I can be your Co-Captain!"

9 years later, Brenda is cancer free.  She works for the American Cancer Society, and I have been Event Chair for the Northshore event for three years.  I believe the work that we do at Relay is making a difference. I truly believe that we will have a cure for cancer in my lifetime!  Remember Brenda's odds?  5% chance at 5 years.  That type of cancer now has a 60% chance.  That is progress!

Relay For Life of Northshore is tomorrow!  We have some new attractions and some ceremonies that are amazing.  I would like to see all of you there if even for only a moment.  As Event Chair, I am usually running around like a mad man, but I will give you a hug and say thanks!  If you have kids, bring them to our Kid's Fair from 2-4:30pm.

In my last post, I suggested that of you felt inclined to, you could donate because I kept my weight off for a year.  A few people have felt so inclined.  Thank you!!
I am gonna be more direct now, I am asking you to donate.  Our event has a Goal of $200,000, which would make us Mega-Event Status.  Looking at our numbers compared to last year, we are projected to come in a little short...that is until you all come through with some more cancer fighting, life saving funds!  Use the link below and help us save more lives!

http://main.acsevents.org/goto/radams

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Year Down, A Life Time To Go

May 25th 2013

One year ago I finished a six month challenge with myself and 127 friends and family to motivate myself to live a healthier life.  I changed the ways I shopped for food, cooked food, ordered food, and the ways I thought about activities, participated in activities and engaged myself in an active lifestyle. In those six months, I lost 85 pounds and felt blessed to have the support of so many people.  The 127 people that "sponsored" my weight-loss were not the only ones that made this possible.

Friends and family that were not in a position to give money offered emotional support, encouragement and offers of walks, hikes, recipes and the so appreciated compliments on how good I was looking.  Then one of the most generous people I know stepped up and said, I think we need to make sure this lifestyle change sticks.  Adam Eaton, a friend since we met when I was at Linfield and rooming with his cousin and his high school buddy, said this to me:

"What you are doing is great. The cause for cancer is great. The thing that is more important to me, is you. Your longevity is more important than the money you raise by losing weight. Being healthy, and living longer is worth more than anything I could donate to your weight loss.

"So I propose this, to make sure that this life-change is not done after the 6 months, after your final weigh-in, and all the money is raised, if you can keep the weight off, or lose more for a full year, I will match everything you raised next year."

Yesterday, I weighed in to see if I met his challenge.  I was nervous, and here is why.  This has been one of the most challenging years of my life.  Teaching has been challenging with my group of kids this year.  I was part of starting two new programs at school this year.  I am again, the Event Chair for Relay For Life of Northshore.  And for those of you that are not aware, I found love!  I am absolutely head-over-heels in love with Kirsten Kenyon!  We have been dating since December and I want to spend every minute of everyday with her...

Kirsten is noticing that most of my weekday time is at school. I have averaged 11.5 hours at school every work day this year.  She is also notices that every weekend morning I have Relay meetings with people from my committee or in the community.  Then week day evenings are often used for speaking engagements.  I have been speaking at many Relay events across Western Washington this year, and also for schools. Last week I was the Keynote Speaker at the high school's Honors Society Induction.  What little time we have together is cherished.  But the stress and busyness has made living healthy even more challenging.

During football season, I tailgate at Husky Games.  I watched my weight grow a couple pounds a month during the fall, and then a couple more in the winter holiday season.  I asked Kirsten to help me stay focussed on being healthy through the Spring.  I did not want to do anything drastic to make sure I was at the 85 pounds mark by May 25th.  That's not fair to Adam and his generosity.  So we started going for more walks, ordering more salads, and tracking my food more diligently.  All of the small things that make a big difference.

I weighed in yesterday and was down 86 pounds since I started this journey.  I feel like this was a lifestyle change and not a lose it quick scheme.  I have good days and bad days. I have good weeks and bad weeks. But as long as I maintain an active lifestyle with healthy shopping and eating, I can maintain my weight-loss and hopefully start losing more at a healthy pace.

I know this challenge was set by Adam Eaton, but I wanted to offer it up to all of you.  If you feel so inclined, Adam is matching the $15,000 that I raised last year, and if you want to match what you donated last year because I kept the weight off. Or if you want to donate half of, or a portion of what you donated last year.  My fundraising goal is $25,000 and I am sitting at $5500.  Use the link below and let's create a world with More Birthdays and Less Cancer!

Thank you all for all the love and support!

Click here to donate.

Monday, April 8, 2013

I Am Afraid To Fail


This is my 3rd year as Relay For Life Event Chair and 4th year on the planning committee.  Last summer, after Relay, I was contemplating stepping down from Relay all together.  The organizing, recruiting and fundraising became too much time, effort and stress.  I needed a year “off.”

Then two close friends of my age, mid-30’s, were diagnosed with breast cancer.  Both required surgery for removal of one or both breasts.  The time, effort and stress involved with Relay seemed less important to me.

This school year, I have two students that are cancer survivors.  I have 6 students who have at least one parent fighting cancer right now!  Each one has required surgery.  And each student has been impacted by their parent’s fight with cancer.  I continually wish I could do more to support my friends who are batting cancer.  I continually wish I could do more to support my students who are watching their parent battle cancer.

Relay is my way to show them I care!  Yet, this year, I feel like I am failing. 

Did you know that the State of Washington uses 3rd grade reading scores to predict how many jail cells they will need 20 years down the road?   We use similar data to predict how much our Relay will raise each year.  We look at how many teams are signed up by, and how many people are near the $100 minimum by the T-Shirt deadline, which is this Friday April 12th.

Right now I am scared…I am scared to fail for my friends.  I am scared to fail for my students.  I am scared to fail for everyone in the Northshore community that has been touched by cancer.  We are down 15 teams, and down nearly 100 people approaching the $100 minimum compared to last year.

This year, we set a Goal to become a Mega-Event.  That’s fundraising $200,000.  Less than 5% of Relays Nationwide reach this status, and we have an opportunity to be elite in the fight against cancer!  Northshore Relay For Life has a reputation for finishing the Relay season strong!  We are known for setting records and bringing the funds when it really counts!  Well, it’s time!

Each person reading this post knows at least one person that has never signed up for Relay.  Each person reading this post knows at least one person that has never done any fundraising for a cancer cure.  I am asking for your help!

If you have not signed up yourself yet, please sign up!
If you have not started fundraising yet, please start with an email.
If you have not attended a Team Rally, come to Tuesday’s Rally. At Skyview JH, 7pm.
If you know someone who participated last year, and they have not signed up yet, talk to them.  Don’t nag them.  Speak passionately about why we Relay! 

I Relay to Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back!  I need your help.  Our Survivors need your help.  The people in our community battling cancer need your help.


Our front page has more info on upcoming Rally’s, Fundraisers and ways to get involved.  Let’s make Hope Happen!

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Approaching 10,000 Views

I had a bad day yesterday.  Not necessarily with my health and nutrition, but with my motivation and attitude.  I have been working a lot of hours on both Relay For Life and teaching my students.  I am spending 11-12 hour days at school pretty consistently, and sometimes I question whether it is all worth it.  Does it matter if every student understands why you multiply the exponents when a power is raised to a power?  Will all of this extra time on Relay get us to Mega-Event status?

My past history tells me to be careful when I have a bad day because I know this can spiral into a "funk", which can lead to another depression state.  I need to isolate the reasons why I had a bad day, and justify my time, work and interactions.  I need to keep a positive perspective on each experience and know that the outcomes from my time and work, even if they are minute, have benefits.

I was reminded today, that people are still checking my blog to see how I am doing.  People want to know if I need help with my exercising, or accountability for my eating. People still care about my progress.  Last month 189 people checked my blog, and I have not written a thing.  I feel the warmth of their love and support.  Those 189 views just made today a good day!

9,800 total views.  That is a lot of love and caring!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Thank you for the Thank you!

A long-time friend recently made a sizable donation to my Relay For Life efforts this year.  I sent him a sincere thank you for his very generous donation, and his reply spoke me.  We all do our part to better this world.  My efforts are more in your face, but they would mean nothing if people like you did not follow-up with conversations, donations or actions.  I raise money, volunteer as event chair and organize youth to take action.  Others donate, tell stories about Relay and/or attend fundraisers.  Together we make a difference!

"Ryan,
 
The donation is the easy part.  You set the tone and inspiration with your leadership towards finding a cure.  I am happy to support this cause as Cancer has taken too many of our close family and friends.  I hope that our generation can find that cure to provide a brighter future for our children's generation.
 
Motivating and Dominating as always my friend!"

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Storytelling, Speaking Or Inspiring?

Storytelling is a skill, an art form and revered in every culture since the beginning of time.  To paint a picture with words, gestures, expressions and emphasis at just the right time.  To captivate an audience, or least hold their attention for more than two minutes.  People who possess these skills are known by their friends and family as the storytellers.

I have been told I have these skills, and I think it is one of the qualities that makes me a great teacher.  I can make Algebra sound interesting and fun to group of students who do not want anything to do with it but are legally obligated to master it.  It's part of the teaching art form.

Back to storytelling.  A person that is a great storyteller is not always a great public speaker.  One person may feel comfortable telling a story to friends and family, but may freeze up in front of a large crowd.  This is another area that I learned to handle with little stress or fear.  I started speaking in front of groups of people as ASB President of Finn Hill Jr High, and then continued as Youth of the Year for the Kirkland Boys and Girls Club.  Since I was 15 years old, I have had no problem taking the microphone and being the MC, giving a toast or performing a ceremony.

A great public speaker does not always take their skills to the next level, inspiring those listening.  When a great public speaker inspires the listeners, they leave thinking more deeply about a topic, or leave with a sense of action.  They will want to make a positive change in their own lives, or the lives of others.  They will want to do more, say more or create more.  An inspiring speaker leaves an impression.

Recently I have been told that I am having this impact on others, but it is not because of me.  It is because of you!  My readers, supporters and cancer fighters.

I spoke at the Great West Relay Summit in October about the inspiration you all gave me to lead a healthier life, and change my life for the better.  I spoke about the 127 people that sponsored my weight loss and then the encouragement along the way that you all gave me.  I spoke of the donations you all made, and how many lives will be saved by your generosity.  The response has been incredible!

I have been asked to tell your story at numerous Relay events.  And every time, Relayers tell me that they are inspired to do more, to think outside the box and make a bigger difference in their own lives and the lives around them.

I am a storyteller that is not afraid to speak in front of large groups.  I am telling your story of support, and it is inspiring others.  Thank you for making a larger impact in this world than you thought you were with your donation!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

For A Reason

Everything happens for a reason.

Have you heard that before?  Did you believe it?  Do you tell yourself that when things don't happen the way you want? Or do you tell yourself that when things do go the way you want?  Did you agree with the people from whom you heard it?  Or did you mock it as a trite phrase to make people feel better about the crap in their life?

In my life, I have gone back and forth on this one.  At certain times in my life, I have whole heartedly believed that everything happens for a reason.  While at other times, I have ridiculed the idea.  Looking back at a few events in my life now, I must say that I believe that everything happens for a reason.  I am here, with my life experiences under my belt, and each one happened for a reason.  They have formed me, and those around me.

I threw away my first recruiting letter from Linfield College.  I thought I was too good for them, and I should be at a bigger school, but then their coach came to my school and convinced me to make a trip.  I cancelled all of my other scheduled trips after visiting Linfield, and I believe that I was supposed to be a Wildcat.  I met some of the best people I know while going to school there and received an individualized education.  I could not imagine attending any other college.

Six years ago I chose to sell my condo in Bothell and move to Oregon.  And although I lost my shirt(and pants for that matter) on the condo I bought in Beaverton, I feel like I was supposed to be at Stoller Middle School that year.  I feel that there were a few kids in that class that I was meant to teach. I made connections with those kids and changed their views on math and education in general.  Additionally, I was meant to spend a great deal of time with my friends as they entered their initial parental years.  I was meant to be there to help and support them, but I was also supposed to see them grow as people and parents.  This changed my perspectives on many things and has formed me as a person.

There is a reason I am back at Leota Junior High.  There is a reason I sought treatment for my depression.  There is a reason I made life changes to be more healthy.  There is a reason I am writing this, and there is a reason you are reading it.  Accept it, believe it and react to it positively.






Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reason to Relay

You have all heard me speak about my reason to Relay, or you read about it on my blog last Spring.  A student at my school participated in her first Relay For Life last year, and this year she will be speaking at our school's first Relay meeting. She asked me to read her draft and provide her feedback.  I am sharing her words, with her permission.

____________________________________________________


Hi.
I am not much for public speaking so just avoid eye contact and it will all be just fine. ;)

My name is Allison. I am in 8th grade. I am 13 years old, and have two brothers, 2 chickens, a dog, 1 fish, and I had cancer. Ugg... I hate that word, cancer.  I participated in Relay For Life last year and it was an experience I would never forget.  Walking my first Survivor Lap was a moment that is irreplaceable.  I walked with my whole family, my team was cheering me on, and I couldn’t help but smile! This smile was an honest smile, the smile that you try so hard to hold in but it sneaks out. This wasn't a posed smile in a photo, but 100% REAL! That is what Relay For Life is all about; it is REAL people coming to support REAL Survivors, to remember REAL loved ones, and to raise a REAL lot of money for a REAL bad disease. That is why I Relay!

I am participating in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life because I want to make a HUGE difference in the fight against cancer!
Almost everyone has been touched by cancer, either through their own personal battle or through someone they love.

When I was 9 months old, I was diagnosed with liver cancer. I am now 13 years old and 12 years cancer free! How great is that?!

I am so glad that the doctors found my cancer when I was young. Early detection was key to saving my life. Also because of that, I don't remember any of the treatment itself, but I do remember the aftercare. What aftercare is for those who don’t know, it is the process after cancer is in remission to make sure it never EVER comes back, and it also meant a lot of hospital visits. Yes, it was hard going in every week for quite some time getting tests done, and I don’t want ANYONE to have to go through that. THAT IS WHY I AM RELAYING!

On December 10th 2012, about a week ago, my mom told the family that she was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. It is scary, I don’t know how to handle it. A few days later she went to the doctor and they said that she won't have to go through chemo, and surgery, but that simple radiation will cure it. Thank Goodness. 

If you are thinking, Cancer is everywhere right now. Lots of people have it, so lots of money is already being raised, so why should I even raise $100? I will tell you why, because $100 can save a life! 

I used to think, "Why me?"  But NOW I know that I had cancer and survived for a reason. I am not ashamed to say, "YES, I am a survivor!"
Please join a Relay team or make a donation to help the American Cancer Society to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Together, we can help make sure that cancer never steals or ruins another year of anyone’s life.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I posted this last year as well...

It's Not Easy Being Santa
By Rick Reilly

It's that time of year again, when our thoughts turn to that lovable plus-sized elf with the ruddy red cheeks, the white hair and the belly of jelly, the one who never needs an airplane.

John Madden.

No, actually, Santa Claus.

This holiday season the morals of a lot of athletes are lower than flounder droppings. The other day I heard a worried announcer say, "What must kids think of the way we adults are behaving?" But you really can't ask kids because when a kid is asked a question by an adult, the only thing the kid thinks is, How huge are this man's nostrils?

Kids trust Santa, though. They'll tell Santa anything. So I set out to conduct the Santa Sports Survey. Disguised as Saint Nick, I would spend 90 minutes at each of three Boys & Girls Clubs in metro Denver. I loaded the trunk with toys and trinkets, borrowed a Santa suit from the Cherry Creek Mall and called Susen Mesco of Amerevents.com, which runs one of the best Santa Schools in the country.

"Don't play Santa," she advised. "Be Santa."

She also said something odd. "Never ask what the children want for Christmas." Huh? "Ask, What would you like to tell Santa? Because a lot of times, what they want has nothing to do with toys. For instance, what will you do if a child says, 'Santa, I want you to bring my mommy back to life'?"

(Silence)

"You say, 'Sorry, Santa can't do that. But you know what? Sometimes our sleigh flies so high, we pass right by heaven. What do you want to tell your mom, and I'll give her a message.'"

I wasn't sure I was ready for this.

The clubs were all in poor sections of the city. At each club I was given a room and about 70 squirmy kids, ages six to 10. And right away I learned something -- I make a lousy Santa.

"Who are you?" one girl asked.

"Since when does Santa drive a sedan?" a boy said, suspiciously.

"Uh, that hurts," another girl said as I tried to tickle her.

One kid wanted to know how old I was. "Just turned 1,310," I said. He went Frisbee-eyed. I said, "I know, I don't look that old."

"No, you do," he said.

One little girl wanted to know where Rudolph was. "Rudolph pulled a hammy," I said. "This year the sleigh is going to be guided by Sylvester, from the temp agency."

(Blank stare)

I kept trying to ask my state-of-sports questions, but I might as well have been asking about pork-belly futures. Not one of them knew about Barry Bonds's BALCO connection. In fact, if I were running baseball, I'd be worried. Not one kid had a favorite ballplayer. Not one of them wanted a bat or glove. Few of them even had favorite pros in any sport: Local hero Carmelo Anthony of the Nuggets was mentioned the most, followed by two Philadelphia stars, Terrell Owens of the Eagles and Allen Iverson of the Sixers. The athletes the kids most wanted to spend time with were their dads.

"Could you bring me a fishing pole so my daddy will take me fishing with him?" one little girl asked. Another wanted a soccer ball, "'cause I think my dad would play soccer with me then."

I kept trying to hit them with survey questions like, "Do you view athletes as role models in this age of ...," and they kept hitting me with real life.

"Santa, for Christmas could you make the bill collectors stop coming?" one boy said. "It makes my mom cry."

A little girl said, "Santa, could you bring us a new house? The one we have now leaks all the time."

Lots of kids wanted hats and shoes and coats. "I want clothes," said one boy. What kind? "The warm kind," he said.

Another kid wanted to be an NBA star and make "a million dollars."

"What would you spend it on?" I asked.

"Doctors," she said, "for my cousin. She's four. She has cancer."

I told one seven-year-old boy, "Last year I came by and you were still awake, so I had to go do Dallas first until you fell asleep. So this year I want you to go right to sleep."

And he said, "That's not true, Santa. Last year you forgot my house."

I learned nothing new about sports, but plenty about how spoiled my life was, how Scroogish my spirit, how narrow my vision.

One somber eight-year-old girl was making her first visit to the club. She'd been sent from another state to live with her uncles because there were "issues" at home. She looked as if somebody had just sat on her birthday cake.

"What can Santa make you this Christmas?" I asked her.

She turned and looked at me with huge, hopeful eyes.
"Happy?" she asked.

Be Santa.