Saturday, December 31, 2011

Taking Stock and Stocking up

This is a fun time for many - full of renewed hopes and elevated expectations. Of course, the reality is that this day is no different than any other. It is just a series of moments, each one of which is the only moment that exists and within which you have all the power of creation. But we deem it to be a special day and, therefore alone, it is. (Still, I believe the secret lies in treating every single day like New Year's Day ... because it is. And can you imagine if you renewed your resolutions every single day, instead of just the once each time the Earth completes a 585,000,000 mile trip around the sun? How would your life unfold then?)

But back to today, New Year's Eve. This is my 43rd New Year's Eve. Looking back, I celebrated the first dozen, at least, at home with my parents. Then a half dozen out with friends, tobogganing or skiing or the like. The next ten or so are pretty fuzzy to be honest (honouring that age-old tradition of inebriation). Then I spent the next several with my kids, shouting "Happy Jun-years!!" at 10pm to convince them it was time! Tonight I am home, on call for my kids, as they straddle the teenage line between "tobogganing" and "fuzzy". I love that we have a relationship in which they can be honest about their plans and know that my intention is to protect them and not restrict them. So, my cell phone is charged up and at my side. As is my mug, but just with coffee :)

It was with those very same teenage kids that I had a fantastic lunch today. This was our third straight New Year's Eve Summit, where Katy and Jack and I go to a favourite restaurant, with a fresh notepad, and make two lists.

The first list is a Highlight Reel of the calendar year that is ending. This is such a fun exercise. You would be surprised by how much you forget, or take for granted, until you start writing it down. Achievements, milestones, trips, events, insights. Once you get the pump primed they will just keep coming. And it is such a great feeling to bask in 12 months worth of celebration all at once.

Then, as soon as we have fleshed out our lists of what WAS, we turn our attention to what WILL BE in the year ahead. This is not just a wishlist, though there is that component. This is an act of creation. We are actually intending our next 365 days. Everything that goes on the list must be something that is exciting, inspiring and real to us. And by sharing and recording each commitment, we have taken the first step to bringing that result into our respective realities.

As evidence of the effectiveness of this ritual, each year we also look back and compare what we have done with what we set out to do. It is truly remarkable to see how much of that list gets "checked off". Jack did every single thing he set out to do in 2011, and much more! Katy only missed getting a summer job and attending summer camp, but that is because she far exceeded her expectations in wrestling and qualified to compete for Canada at the Pan American Championships in Mexico and then spent the rest of the summer in Poland and Germany wrestling at their national training centers. My year was everything it was designed to be, with the resulting momentum carrying me even farther.

Here are our "GREATEST HITS OF 2011" (Not in chronological, alphabetical, monumental, or any other kind of order. This was pure stream of consciousness, baby!)

Silver at wrestling nationals, Bronze at Canada Cup, 43kg for Team Canada at Pan American Championships in Mexico, Ontario Development Program camps, Summer wrestling in Poland and Germany, undefeated in regional wrestling, Gold at GBSSA, two wins at OFSAA, learned to backflip on trampoline, excelled at flag football for school team, bought Canon EOS Rebel DSLR camera plus zoom lens, honour roll, pierced belly button, played baseball, season pass at Canada's Wonderland, skied at Horseshoe Valley with season pass, learned to play squash, worked out at YMCA, went to Great Wolf Lodge with extended family, ran a 22 minute 5km in fitness testing, learned to waterski, coached youth basketball, retired from wrestling happy and proud.

Attended Camp Bisco music festival in NY State, epic canoe trip on Missinaibie River, week long paintball camp, snowboarding at Horseshoe Valley with season pass, got MW3 for PS3, crewed for Dad at Death Race in Vermont, volunteered at Spartan Race, trampolining on Thursdays mastering all sorts of flips and twist combos, played flag football, played baseball, played soccer, learned to play squash, Canada's Wonderland season pass, brand new snowboard and gear, Great Wolf Lodge with extended family, fixed both paintball guns, learned to wakeboard, mastered kneeboard 360, waterskied, Long Point camping trip and skimboarding, caught "record" stringer of pickerel that fed eight, got certified for weight room at YMCA, saved up and bought Mac Book Pro laptop, got Countour HD camera, made first snowboard movie with awesome dubstep soundtrack.

Completed 45hr Spartan Death Race (against considerable odds), raised over $6,000 for Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario, did two Death Race training camps, Easter Weekend hike, third straight Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, attempted first 100 mile ultramarathon, travelled to Pittsfield VT in fall to help repair damage from Hurricane Irene, epic canoe trip on Missinaibie River, Camp Bisco music festival, Skrillex in Toronto night before marathon (including afterparty), Girl Talk in London, Explosions in The Sky in Ohio, Ben Harper at Sound Academy, Ray LaMontagne at Massey Hall, Blitzen Trapper at Opera House, completed Scuba Diving certification, hosted 13 episode season of Rogers TV "Arts Scene Orillia", started snowshoeing, coached Mariposa Wrestling Club including at national championships, ran in Snowflake Series of 5k and 10k races, First place team in Dragon Boat Festival, helped several friends with key real estate sales, played squash with kids, organized "4000 Ways to Fuck Up a Ten Mile Run" (over 100 people doing epic all day workout at same time across 5 countries), hired to speak to Ontario Provincial Police GHQ re "Leadership Lessons from The Death Race", spoke re Death Race to several service clubs and schools, hired to present to Ontario baseball umpires clinic on "Stepping up to A Bigger Game", furthered hypnosis practice and assisted many people, developed coaching business, coached 4 month Self-Expression and Leadership Program, made many phenomenal friends in racing community, committed to absolutely awesome racing schedule for 2012, spent lots of great time with parents and siblings and nieces and nephews and cousins, published FIFTY blog posts with over 17,000 views.

I am sure that we all left out things that we will remember later, but you get the idea. When we write it all down it is a pretty neat list to on which to reflect.

So, with that energy to draw on, we each began to map out 2012 ...

Katy: summer job, summer soccer or lacrosse, baseball, play Lakers basketball, attend World Electronic Music Festival, honour roll, skiing at Horseshoe Valley, Spartan Race, photography course, beach camping at Long Point, badminton team, flag football team, run cross-country, squash, soccer team, working out at Y, trampolining, Canada's Wonderland pass, play in school band, One Direction in concert, Summer Rush Music Festival, SWEET SIXTEEN!!

Jack: snowboarding at Horseshoe Valley, making great videos with Contour and Mac Book Pro, summer soccer, attend World Electronic Music Festival, baseball team, paintball camp, lots of wakeboarding, canoe trip, Spartan Race, Long Point beach camping, working out at Y, play squash, trampolining, Canada's Wonderland pass, graduation, Grad Trip, start Grade Nine at ODCVI!!

John: Death Race, Winter Death Race, 100 mile ultramarathon, 3 adventure races, 4 marathons, triathlon, Tough Mudder, World's Toughest Mudder, Spartan Race, Spartan Beast, Warrior Dash, run in Snowflake and canirunning series, extend barefoot running, "Burpee Mile", start Hash House Harriers club in Orillia, launch consciousness raising film series, squash with kids, run every day (totalling at least 2012 kms), meditate every day, build speaking business, build coaching business, attend World Electronic Music Festival, canoe trip, snowboarding, wakeboarding, coaching wrestling, Canada's Wonderland pass, GoRuck Challenge in Iowa, new tattoo (galactic butterfly - "hunab ku"), Grand Canyon Run - Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim.

So, while tonight may be just another night and next year may be just another year, I am spending tonight pretty damned excited about next year! 

I highly recommend that you adopt this practice of "reflecting and projecting". Focus on the good stuff and you will see it expand exponentially.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A great big grab bag of goodness :)

Few words (saving those for tomorrow, after the kids and I do our annual year end review and year ahead planning lunch).

Instead, for tonight, here are some wonderful tidbits I have found and been sent recently ... OK, a whole big bunch of them! Feel free to pick and choose - but I loved them all ... enjoy :)

This exquisite short film (6 minutes), about a cross-country team honouring their coach, was sent to me today by Tash Baycroft.

ESPN: The Finish Line 2 - Short Feature from Evolve Digital Cinema / IMG on Vimeo.

These gorgeous moon shots were shared by Vanessa Runs...

Beautiful lesson in meditating anytime anywhere instantly 
... shared by Linda Ryersee (2 min)

Dilbert is AWESOME!

Shared by Joseph Beckett ... (5min)

Shared by Sherry Matson ...

"Fishing with John" ... the most bizarre fishing show ever ... 
shared by Alex Richardson (5min)

From Laura Paulo...

Sorry about the invective, but I actually love the energy and philosophy... (3min)

Posted by Sharon Lem ...

Shared by Amanda Woodman ... (2min)

Posted by Jeremy Burningham ... (5min)

From ... posted by Karen Johnston Waite

Today I turn 38.

Marc Davis' concept painting for Disney
37 was a hard year, but a good year.  It was a year of hospital beds and wheelchairs, of worry and mental illness, of fear and more fear.  It was also a year of being ridiculous and silly, of finding drugs that helped more than hurt, of laughter and finding my tribe, and of being furiously happy and stepping out onto shaky  limbs I never dreamed I’d reach.
I got this print last week.  It’s the concept art from The Haunted Mansion.  The girl in the final version they used looks very different – wan and bereft and abandoned.  But this one was peculiarly contrary.  It was perfect.  When I saw it in the shop I knew I had to have it because it was the first time I saw a painting that seemed so perfectly “me.”
Victor stared at me, baffled, and pointed out how wrong that seemed.  ”It’s a girl on a frayed tightrope about to fall into the mouth of an alligator.  That’s pretty fucking bleak even for you.”
But that’s not what I see.
I see a girl intent on enjoying the sun while it still shines, smiling vehemently,  indignantly, and entirely celebrating a shining perfect moment even as alligators swim underneath.  Victor said she seemed oblivious, but she’s not.  She knows the alligator is there.
The alligators are always there.
They remind her to smile and enjoy those perfect moments whenever they arise, because life without fear is not a life fully appreciated.  She smiles – not because she’s unaware of the alligators – but because she’s aware of them and because she knows how wonderful it feels when they release their jaws from your ankles.
If you look online you’ll find a lot of critics who claim that the original tight-rope walker’s too-open eyes suggest that she’s just bat-shit crazy…too numb with fear to even understand the danger.  Her mind has snapped, and now teeters slowly, detached from reality.  I can’t argue with that, because that fits with my personality a bit too comfortably as well, but I still prefer to see what I see…a girl who has won a battle.  A girl who appreciates those moments between maulings.  A girl who knows all too well the dangers and pain around her but who has made a conscious and complete decision to be furiously happy in spite of it all.
A girl who knows how to wield a parasol like a fucking ninja.
I see me.  Proudly.
Happy birthday, me.
Look out, below.

I forget where I found this but the mom's laughter is the best thing ever!

Forget who shared this but it is great ...

The words to this song are truly magnificent ... (6min)

Clips from various Spartan Races (Sprint, Super, Beast, Death Race) ... (4min)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How to be a hero...

he-ro [heer-oh] noun, plural -roes;
a [person] of distinguished courage or ability, admired
for his [or her] brave deeds and noble qualities.

Who are your heroes? Why? What is it that you most admire about these people?

I have a lot of heroes. My parents. My kids. My high school coaches/mentors. My young neighbour, Melanie McPherson, who was born with cerebral palsy but at 20 finished a triathlon, plays hockey and learned to fly a glider in Air Cadets. My heroes also include friends, new and old, who go after their dreams and really live their lives on their own terms. Each one is someone like whom I strive to be in some way.

Many of my heroes are up to indisputably incredible things!

  • Ray Zahab is running across South America in February, averaging almost 100km per day as he goes from ocean to ocean. (Ray told me today that he will only run 80km/day the first few days, as they will be ascending in the Andes Mountains!)
  • Jason Jaksetic is wrapping up 2011 by competing in EpicMan - a TRIPLE Ironman triathlon in Hawaii (there are only ten athletes even willing to start this race). I spoke with Jason yesterday from Honolulu and he said he is looking forward to being wholly absorbed in the experience of the race. A consummate poet/athlete he describes it in his blog this way ... "The triple ironman will be the unfolding of myriad nows."
  • Joe Decker repeated as Spartan Death Race Champion in June, showcasing the attributes that had Guinness Records recognize him as World's Fittest Man. Joe also runs the top boot-camp fitness programs in San Diego and is enormously generous with his time and expertise.

It is easy to put people like this on a pedestal. "THEY live UP THERE, and I will admire them from DOWN HERE." There is a trap in deifying your heroes - allowing yourself to believe that you are not also capable of such extraordinary adventures and accomplishments.

Here is the thing... Ray, Jason and Joe were not always "heroes". While all three are now the nicest, coolest, most inspiring people, they were once, by their own account, anything but. 
Not long ago, Ray was an overweight, hard drinking, pack-a-day smoker. On New Year's Day 2000, he looked at what his future held and decided to turn things around.
2000 was also the year that Joe Decker claimed his Guinness title, but only a few years before that he was floundering in his late twenties, strung out on cocaine and contemplating suicide.
Seven years ago, not only was Jason not an elite athlete - he describes himself as having been a complete couch potato, depressed and wondering where to even begin. Jason very generously shares his own ups and downs in the wonderful blog "Heavy Into Overwhelming".

What these three have in common, not just with one another but with every single person who has achieved big things, is that they chose to become heroes in their own story, and got down to the business of doing so. As can you!

So, have you? Or are you still outsourcing that position to others?

You don't have to be born with a silver spoon to succeed. And you don't have to drag yourself from the gutters to become an inspiration to others. Start wherever you are with whatever you've got. Pick something that you "wish" you could do - that you've admired others for doing - and just start doing it.

The amazing thing is how much more you will end up doing than you had even imagined! When Ray went for his first jog, he likely didn't see himself running across the Sahara Desert in a documentary produced and narrated by Matt Damon. Joe's first trips to the gym to clean himself up were certainly not with world records in mind. And Jason would probably never have left the couch if he thought it meant ultimately having to swim more than 7 miles, then bike 336 miles and finally run 78.6 miles, for almost 60 straight hours.

In my case, I arbitrarily decided to run a marathon in the fall of 2009 just so I could say I had done it (mostly as catharsis for a draining, challenging, humbling last three years). With no training... in shoes that were 15 years old... having not raced since Grade 9 X-Country, nor even jogged since university in the late 80's... I finished. Not fast. Not pretty. But I finished.

The next summer I ran a Spartan Race - a 5km obstacle race at Mont Tremblant, Quebec - with some friends for a laugh. This time I had six months of Crossfit training under my belt and finished in the Top 10%. Not bad for an old guy. Then a few months later ran a second marathon, shaving 45 minutes off my time. In the afterglow of this I made a huge leap of faith, signing up for The Spartan Death Race, knowing full well that many athletes vastly superior to me failed to finish every year. In order to finish The Death Race, I would need to become my own hero.

This blog was actually born of that decision, and pretty thoroughly chronicles the training in the six months leading up to this June's race. As you know, I ended up finishing. One of only 35 out of the 155 who started this 45 hour epic trial (and 255 who registered). Then, before that could swell my head too big, I registered for a 100 mile ultramarathon less than 3 months later and DNF'd (dropping out about 40 miles in). Then bounced back to finish my third straight Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October.

And a funny thing happened along the way. Suddenly I was other people's "hero" too! From my niece to complete strangers. I received messages almost daily from folks telling me that I inspired them to set bigger goals for themselves. I made a new friend from Texas who had been following this blog and decided to compete in Death Race 2012. Even just today I opened an email from another aspiring Death Racer thanking me for my inspiration and asking for tips and advice. From me :) Who would have guessed that two years ago?

Along the way, a friend introduced me to an extraordinary writer/trainer named Nate Green. Nate's philosophy, and the name of his blog, is "Become Your Own Hero". He even offers a free Hero Handbook! And he walks the walk. A smart, funny, straight-shooting, humble but totally confident dude, he went from complete unknown to, at 26, being able to say "Penguin gave me a book deal (crazy, I know), and I've been featured in the LA Times, Men's Health, and Men's Fitness. Plus my mom thinks I’m cool. That's gotta count for something." Nate's example and his work have made a big impression on me.

Recently I have been hired several times to speak about my Death Race experience. I am always asked the question "Will you ever do it again?". And the answer is "Of course! I am already signed up for 2012."

That is the huge bonus in becoming a "hero" - you start to think and act like one!! Not only am I reprising my Death Race participation in June 2012, I already have a rather heroic racing schedule laid out for the whole year ...
Death Race, Winter Death Race, 100 Mile Ultramarathon50 Mile Ultramarathon, 4 marathons, 3 overnight Adventure Races, GoRuckChallenge in Iowa, my first Triathlon, Spartan Race, Spartan Beast, Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, World's Toughest Mudder, several 5&10km races, and a Rim2Rim2Rim Double Crossing of the Grand Canyon... so far.

In addition to keeping me busy, this will also keep me consistently in the presence of people who inspire me and push me to do more. I know that 2012 will include soaring successes and dismal DNF's. And I will keep this wonderful quote in mind all the way along ...
"A hero has faced it all: he need not be undefeated, but he must be undaunted."

This picture was recently shared on Facebook by another hero of mine. 
She is a long-time friend who, this summer, was ambushed and brutally
assaulted late one night as she left work. Despite almost being killed,
she recovered through the autumn and was recently able to identify her 
assailant who was arrested and charged with the senseless crime.
Her courage, grace and dignity inspire me and remind me that we truly
can rise above anything and be our own heroes.

Here is one more amazing example of starting where you are with what you have and becoming a hero ... I will continue striving to be an athlete, father, human like this ...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Die Trying

****** I stumbled upon this half-written post from a year ago almost exactly. I had just been accepted to compete in The Death Race when I decided to start recording some thoughts and observations. Obviously 2011 The Death Race has come and gone and that component of my life has expanded exponentially. Still, I thought it would be fun to throw this post up here unedited, as it truly was the first thing ever written for "Living Myself To Death". ******

I have been listening to this song a lot the past few days ... It is Dave Matthews, "You Might Die Trying". I have heard it hundreds of times, but rediscovered it posted as the unofficial theme for a race I just committed to running in June. The Death Race in Pittsfield, Vermont.

I am not entirely sure as to why I applied to compete in The Death Race. Truthfully, I was somewhat hoping to not be selected - so I would get the credit for "wanting" to do such a grueling race without ever having to do it. I could show people the videos - 1, 2, 3, 4 - and say, "I would do that!". But I received my acceptance email this week. And was added to the list of participants ... that's me at #141.

AFTER I was officially registered I read this Outside Magazine recounting of last year's race by one of the competitors. And then lay awake all night wondering "What in the fuck have I done?"

I don't get that feeling very often - though that is probably because others have it for me so often (pronounced "What in the fuck has he done?"). I tend to make quick decisions, with my reasons usually indecipherable to others, and leave too much wake. My attitude is generally positive to be point of denial, so I am usually spared feelings of fear, dread or regret. Not this time ... I am already experiencing all three with respect to Death Race 2011.

****** A new, current post coming soon! Thanks for being here a full year in :) And 2012 is shaping up to be ridiculously great, providing me no lack of inspiration about which to think and share. ******

P.S. Back then I didn't know how to embed videos! So, here is the song that is merely linked above :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lou Gehrig's Disease? ... but you don't even like baseball!

I just watched a most beautiful sunrise. It was as special and miraculous as it was commonplace and routine. I live in Orillia, Ontario and get to watch the sun rise and set over Lakes Couchiching and Simcoe, and these daily events truly are as beautiful here as anywhere in the world. Each time I stop to soak in such solar splendour I remind myself that I never know when it may be my last.

This morning's sunrise was the first without my "Uncle" David Grant in the world. Actually my Mom's first cousin, David was one of those favourite relatives that everyone adored and enjoyed. Hysterically funny, smart and caring, he lived fully for his three score years and ten (plus one).

I won't go too much into history, relationship, eulogy, as there is one very specific point to this post. But, for background, I met The Grants in about 1985, when they moved to Barrie. Our families became very close over the next quarter century, and I developed strong friendships with all 4 of David's kids. Around two years ago, David was diagnosed with ALS - Lou Gehrig's disease. His was a very advanced, rapidly progressing case and none of us expected to get as much extra time with him as we eventually got. His last couple of years truly were a celebration. Parties and events and dinners and friends and family - no one has ever had a better time at their own living wake than David.

All that said, ALS is a scary disease. It robs you bit by bit of all of your physical function and leaves you fully aware, trapped inside a once vital - but now frustratingly useless - body. For all that he was a proud man, David handled this with grace and dignity. Still, he was honest about his fears of an extended death - he was terrified of suffocating, "causing" suffering not just for himself but for his family as well.

This marvelous book was written by David's great friend Marcel Lamoureux.
It was presented to David a year and a half ago, allowing him to enjoy it while he
was alive. Such an amazing tribute! Click on the picture to see the actual book online.

Ultimately, David's departure was storybook perfect. Yesterday morning, having laughed over breakfast with his wife and three daughters, David said he felt he needed to lay down for a nap. He was helped into his bed and closed his eyes. Sensing that this nap was different, they all gathered around David and were with him as he very peacefully passed.

I delivered a huge pot of soup last night and got to visit with my cousins and their gathering families (some are still en route). Everyone looked tired but good. While there was obvious grieving going on, there were more laughs than tears as David's spirit - already such a powerful, positive force in the family - permanently established itself as his magnificent legacy.

David and his prodigious progeny.

Now to the lesson I learned yesterday. As we were discussing how "perfect" David's passing was, one of his daughters said this.
"Mom said that she wished Dad had just been able to know that this was how it was going to go, because it would have saved him so much worry."
I have thought a lot about that since I got home from my visit. How many things do we worry about, that never turn out to be as bad as we had feared. Even when they do turn out worst case, how much time/energy/joy did we squander worrying about something over which we had no control?

David knew his time was short and he squeezed out everything that he could. Well, I have news for you. Your time left is very short. So is mine. Whether it is another year, twenty years or sixty years, it is (as one of my favourite, albeit less than genteel sayings goes) just a fart in a fan factory. It will be gone before you know it. You may be blessed with a "two minute warning" like David's, or you may be hit by a bus. Either way, you too shall pass, and the world will continue on without you.

So, watch the sun rise. Watch it set. Enjoy the harvest moon. Spend time with friends and family. Do the things you enjoy, and try new ones all the time. When your time comes to go, you will go. I am grateful that David, through his amazing family, taught me one last valuable lesson even after he was gone. "Don't worry. Be happy."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An important question from your ten year old self ...

I have long been a big fan of Nik Askew, short-filmmaker, blogger, inspirer. I first discovered his website in 2007 and have, over the ensuing years, shared many of his beautiful black-and-white featurettes of fascinating people with interesting things to say. Somewhere along the way, Nik changed the website address to, a perfectly apt moniker, and I continue to visit regularly.

Soul Biographies | Human Portraits in Film

Recently, Nik posted a very short poem that really grabbed my attention. Here it is ...


In a dream more real than his daytime,
a grown man meets himself.

Himself at just ten. With the light
in his eyes. And the world in his heart.
He sets out to explain to his young
self why he's taken the road
to someone else's somewhere.

But he can't.

And in the deafening silence he shakes
uncontrollably. As the years
of an unconsidered life spill over.

And in that silence everything changes.


Perhaps the ten year old
had been his
very soul in disguise. 

Come to shake him
from the prison of his daytime.


So, I am here on behalf of your ten year old self. Asking you to reread that poem a few times and give the idea some real, honest contemplation.

What would your ten year old self think of the life you are living today? Are you comfortable explaining the compromises you have made? What exciting dreams and plans do you have to share with your young self?

How about your 90 year old self? Jumping forward however far that may be, what do you think that version of you would say to you right now! Which of today's actions - or, even more likely, inactions - will impact that dear old soul?

Synchronously, my great friend Amanda sent me her favourite Monday blog, The post was this list of 95 Questions to Help You Find Meaning and HappinessI cannot imagine a better place than this to start generating "a considered life".

Heading into the end of another year, why not set aside a half day or a full evening, and really answer these 95 questions for yourself? 

Spending a minimum of 2 minutes on each. 

Actually writing your answers down.

It may be the first time in many years (ever?) that you have truly visited, intimately and intentionally, with any version of your self at any age!

Or, you know, don't. I am sure there is something more important that someone else needs you to do. In that life that they are having you live instead.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Going Out On Top ...

Earlier this year I wrote a post about by amazing daughter Katy's wrestling success. She had a banner year ... claiming Bronze in her first International tournament, finishing second at Nationals and representing Team Canada at the Pan American Championships in Campeche, Mexico. She then spent the rest of her summer training in Europe at the Polish and German national training centers. I (like all of her family and friends) was enormously proud of her. She bounced back from a mid-season injury, made a tough weight cut, and did it all with her beautiful smile.

Then she quit.

Yep. Just as the new season was beginning, she informed me that she no longer wished to wrestle. It was a Monday evening, about an hour before I was to pick her up for practice. "Dad, I don't think I want to wrestle anymore." I immediately called her phone and she didn't pick up. So I texted back, "Take tonight off and we will talk tomorrow."

My kneejerk reaction, I am a bit embarrassed to admit, was to begin composing my speech about discipline vs laziness, courage vs fear and gratitude vs entitlement. All valid topics for our tete-a-tete, most would agree. I have been her coach for her whole 6 year career and have poured thousands of hours and dollars into her development. I have traveled all over the country and sent her all over the world. Other coaches have given her even more training, without the paternal pride as incentive. The club had organized this extraordinary summer training tour for her and her peers. Certainly she must understand that she owes us all for that, right?

When Katy and I sat down the following afternoon, with all of those arguments well rehearsed, I opened my mouth to begin. And something happened. Instead of unloading as intended, I found myself simply asking,


Katy's eyes welled with tears as she answered.

"Dad, I was 8 when I started wrestling and it turned out I was pretty good at it. Then, over the next several years I had a lot of fun and loved being coached by you and Bob and Butch and everyone, and especially loved traveling with the team to tournaments. And as I had more success, it was great knowing everyone was so proud of me and I didn't mind focusing more and more on wrestling as it really was "my sport". But I was also starting to enjoy, and find myself to be pretty good at, other sports. Baseball, soccer, flag football. And even though I couldn't try out for the high school basketball team, I really want to coach the little kids basketball league and stay involved in that sport. I missed most of my baseball season this summer, and really want to try out for volleyball this year, which I can't do if I wrestle. I know there are awesome opportunities, especially to travel to international tournaments, but I am already worried I would have to miss out on other adventures like the band trip to Australia next year. This summer I heard a lot about "focus" and "getting to that next level", and it just seemed to me that I would be giving up more than I would be gaining, and realized that wrestling really isn't as important to me as I thought. I hope you understand."

For just a minute I was speechless. Then I was so grateful that I had not gone first, which would have caused her reply to be framed by my admonishments. Finally, I found myself in a familiar spot ... so intensely proud of my beautiful, intelligent, awesome daughter.

"Good for you, Katy. I love you and I am proud of you and I look forward to cheering you on in all of those other pursuits."

And that was it. She was done.

And I did cheer for her at every flag football game - where she was one of the league's leading scorers, eventually playing both offense and defense and kick returns. I love watching her coach 7-9 year olds in basketball. I was delighted to hear that she completed her first ever 5km run in 22:47 (about 30 seconds faster than my PR). And I was not surprised when she brought home her report card with a 97% in Phys Ed.

She did try out for volleyball, despite having not ever played before, and did not make the team. I was concerned she would be devastated, but she laughed it off as a "good try" and promptly signed up for the alpine ski team instead.

I am still coaching wrestling, and it IS a bit weird not having a kid of my own there. But I will know where to find them this winter ... on either side of me on the chairlift <3

Some pictures from Katy's wrestling career ... :)

Katy w/Jack and Lauryn with a Golden Sweep at Canada East

A familiar perch, atop the podium.

With Dad at Provincials in Thunder Bay

Sprained Thumb (Team Tough Girl Award 2 yrs straight!)

Banged up nose ... we got used to it ;)

The Pin! Timely win for Provincial Gold!!

Katy atop the Provincial Podium (after her first,
and only, win over the wonderful Hannah Remillard)

Big hugs even though Hannah has the Gold this time!

Beast Mode at Provincials

In Charge at High School Provincials

Second at Nationals (to another awesome Remillard, Sarah)

Very Proud Mum :)

National Team Singlet

Waiting for opponent at Pan Ams in Mexico

The Pan Am Team!

Adventures in Europe

Training Camp in Europe!




My beautiful daughter away from the mat ...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thank Google It's Friday!

Ages ago, I posted a Friday "Best Of" ... a collection of inspiring and amusing things I had dug up, stumbled across and received over the past several days. At the time I think I envisioned it as a weekly thing. Turned out it wasn't. Oh well. But here are some gems (in my eyes) anyway. Not a bad collection for one week!!

People often ask me why I am always happy. Those who know me well know that my circumstances are not always the source of my happiness, as I have certainly had my share of challenging times. THIS is how. Truly. By keeping myself always - ALWAYS - surrounded by ideas and images like these. It works. Honestly :) 

Watch whatever ones grab your interest and skip the rest (or try them on anyway - you never know!!)

1. Benjamin Zander's TED Talk "On Music and Passion"... (Thank You Charlie Regan!) 20 minutes
"Benjamin Zander has two infectious passions: classical music, and helping us all realize our untapped love for it -- and by extension, our untapped love for all new possibilities, new experiences, new connections."

(My Note: Even if you do not enjoy classical music - especially if you do not enjoy classical music - please do this. This guy is so much fun and wonderfully inspiring. You will be left with an awesome sense of beauty and wonder and possibility and gratitude (not bad for just twenty minutes!!)

2. Pretty Lights (electronic music phenom) DJ'ing a spectacular mix of 7 Led Zeppelin songs. 6 minutes.
Pretty Lights live in his home state, Colorado// 
PL played sets at The Fillmore in Denver, CO on 8-12-11 and at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO on 8-13-11. 
RadioEditAV filmed the shows and edited this video to the track, produced by Pretty Lights. The song is a PL version of a Led Zeppelin remix. The track samples pieces of 7 Led Zeppelin tracks collaged together and then reflected thru a prism of Hip-Hop, Classic Rock, Downtempo, and Dubstep.
For more info on Pretty Lights shows and to download the track for free go to
and all PL albums are available for free at

3. Damien Walters - Parkour/Gymnast extraordinaire!! (Thank You Elise Maguire!) 3 minutes

4. Seth Godin on "Curiosity" at Nick Askew's Soul Biographies ... 3 minutes

5. A magnificent Dilbert ...

6. Thank You Karen Lorah Johnston Waite :)

7. "Validation" - an amazing 20 minute movie about the power of being kind to people and sharing good energy! (Thank You Heather Ann Bolestridge!)

8. "The Butterfly Circus" - a 20 minute movie about seeing the strength, beauty and value in everyone - even when they do not see it in themselves. (It has disappeared from my Facebook and I have gone blank on who sent it to me ... will correct this asap!) 

9. A simplified guide to being happy ...

10. A beautiful essay that resonates so clearly with my worldview ... (from
Click here to die young and happy

You do not have to run a marathon while you're 39 weeks pregnant and then make national headlines when you give birth a few hours later. Aren't you relieved?You do not have to swim to Alcatraz or run the stadium stairs 100 times at 5:00 am every morning like some sort of fitness maniac, bitching and groaning and oh my God my calves. You do not have to join some sort of exercise boot camp, sweat your ass off in yoga five times a week, hit the gym and pound the weights and crunch those abs into submission.

Hell, you don't even have to eat better, get more sleep, smile more or quit whining about the state of the world all the damn time, though that would probably help.

You do not have to do much of anything at all, oh flaccid and notoriously sedentary American, but maybe perhaps think about once in awhile getting off the couch and walking around maybe 15 minutes a day -- 15 minutes! -- to add actual years to your life, lower your risk of cancer and heart disease, improve all sorts of deleterious health situations that plague the typical American citizen like ditzball insanity plagues a Republican presidential candidate.

Did you know? Have you heard? It is, after all, the latest advice, the most recent health study that says if you'd just please get off your ass and amble about for just a few minutes and hey gosh maybe take a single flight of stairs once in awhile, well, you'd be adding years to your life. Years! You! Imagine!

Is it not good news? Many Americans love infantile, vaguely insulting medical information like this. Minimal work, maximum benefit? I barely have to do anything at all and I can say to hell with real exercise and caring much for my body in any real and thoughtful way, and my doctor will still praise me like a parent praises a child who drank a big glass of grape juice without spilling any on the rug? Awesome. Someone put this in pill form, and we've reached nirvana.

Oh how far we have fallen, no? To arrive at this surreal point where health experts are actually reduced to begging all of western humanity to just, well, be vertical, to merely be mildly ambulatory for a handful of seconds every day, with the promise of some extra pudding and all the crossword puzzles you can handle when you finally hit the retirement home. USA!

But let us not be overly unenthusiastic. We are, after all, always desperate for an iota of good health news, something to allay the fact that we're getting fatter, more narcotized and less healthy far faster than anyone can fully measure. No wonder doctors are trying everything short of offering cash and some free porn if we'd just make the slightest effort not to die enormous and violently ill by 50.

And hey, at least we're not as bad as the Brits, right? Didn't they just win the award for fattest and least healthy first-worlders on the planet? You bet they did. What, you thought America had a chokehold on that prize? You took one ugly swim through, say, and said enough "Oh my Gods" to satisfy a year of feeling depressed about the state of the nation? How cute you are.

Me, I've never understood the idea of longevity, the strange utopian need to figure out all sorts of little 15-minute tricks to help you stave off illness and live to 100, to extend life and push the boundaries of human physiological endurance to the ultimate degree except to say wow, 100, that's a lot of years, look how amazing, look how brutally we can mess with nature, just before keeling over in a heap of dusty bones and sepia-toned sighs.

Nevertheless, every day comes a new study, a fresh hunk of painfully obvious data that says if you inhale ten pounds of potato chips or smoke a pack a day or seethe in rage at stoplights to the point of excess flab and rotten perspectives and madhouse stress, you are shaving valuable years off your life. Years! You!

I am nonplussed. I do not understand this angle of approach, the half-hearted promise of being slightly less miserable if you'd just cut out a things that are obviously horrible for you and add a few things that are so easy a stoned puppy could do them. I am stupefied and saddened to the core that the information is not more delightfully literal, more electrically enlightened, more of a divine roundhouse kick to the head of the collective consciousness.

"Look, forget reducing your chance of heart disease," the doctors should be screaming aloud, slapping us awake, whispering to your wary and overburdened soul. "Never mind the thing about how walking will help prevent cancer, improve your basic blood flow, maybe shave off a few pounds. What are you, a child? Isn't this obvious? Get over it.

"And while you're at it, and to hell with the hateful Puritanism that underlies it all, the vile voice that says the body is ugly and the flesh is sinful and it's all a pathetic, shameful thing to be ignored, or heavily medicated, or glutted beyond recognition and finally rejected like so much animal meat. This way misery and conservatism lies.

"Instead, let us hereby amplify the idea that we get a terrifically short ride on this pale blue dot, and hitch it to the deeply mystical notion that your body is actually a wildly sacred container to be cherished and celebrated like a goddamn roller coaster bumper car funhouse temple of wow.

"Can you do that? Recreate yourself anew every single day and feed your core with all manner of joy and bliss, wine and movement, sex and moan, sweat and heartbeat and taking the stairs two at a time because the stairs actually prefer it that way?"

Or perhaps we should put it the other way around: Despite what you hear, despite endless tips and tricks, there is simply no way life is merely about the avoidance of disease and pain, about minimizing your odds of heart failure and not destroying your liver by 40. It is not about doing the absolute minimum to stay afloat in the human fleshboat just long enough to decay into a puddle of anger and resentment and WTF happened to my spine.

Look. Of course you don't have to run a marathon, burn a million calories, leap up the stairs. Of course it's not about just getting off your butt for a few minutes a day to add years to your life. This much is a given. This much is only the top layer. This much is for amateurs.

The larger advice is simple enough: Relish so tremendously, so irresistibly the fact you exist, the fact that you can feel your heart beat through your clothes, the fact you get to actually be in a body for a short, hot run... be so goddamn electrified by this astonishing fact, that you can't help but really, really want to do all those things, often all at once. Simple, no?