Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hope in Motion Update

I must admit, when I was stretching this morning at home I was a bit nervous. After all, I was about to partake in my first race since 1992 when I stopped running the Waveny Park concert series. I was filled with self-doubt, which is a runner’s worst enemy.

Once I got down to Columbus Park, my self-doubt was replaced by an overwhelming sense of emotion. In the sea of orange tee shirts I saw young people and old people. I saw people of many different nationalities and faith backgrounds. I saw two nuns wearing full habits and smiles as they spoke with participants before the race started. Then I saw Jack Stobbie whose wife Jean lost her battle with cancer a few months ago. I was running on Jean’s Team and, upon seeing Jack, I had to fight back tears.

I saw friends from High School and people I used to lifeguard with who are now doctors at Stamford Hospital (which is a very scary thought because I also remember our staff parties). I saw teachers from my children’s school and parishioners from St. Gabriel Parish in Stamford, the church I grew up in.

At the starting line, I was again filled with doubts. I had to wrestle with the question, “Will I be able to do this?” Then the DJ played Beautiful Day by U2 and all doubt was erased.

I started running and did not stop until 3.1 miles later. When I felt tired I thought of Maria, my grandmother, who lost her battle in 1992. I thought of Randy, my best friend’s mother, who lost her battle before she could meet her granddaughter. I thought of Kim who is battling now, of Susan who is in remission, and of Kevin who lost his battle last week and whose funeral I will miss tomorrow because of a business trip. I thought of Nyree who is a survivor and of Declan who is surviving.

When I crossed the finish line I did not focus on the pain in my knees or the sense of fatigue I started to experience at the two-mile mark. I felt proud to take a small step in battling a disease that does not afflict based on gender, age, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation.

Of course, I could not do it without my sponsors. The thirty-five members of Jean’s team raised $2,761. Of that, I was responsible for $356.00. In particular I want to thank the following:

Nick Cappiello for once again proving that the best friends someone can make are indeed made in grammar school.

Greg Dowd and Mike Morgan for reminding me that brotherhood is not for a day, a year, or a college term, but for life. AEKDB

Brent Bodick for reminding me that, no matter how long it has been since you see ach other, that a true friend will be there when asked.

Marc Becker for reminding me that not all people who work at Unilever are nutty (or are they?).

And Nick Braccia for just being the person you have always been since the squelch days.

I also want to thank all of you who kept me and my fellow runners/walkers in your thoughts and prayers including Carrie Hall, Robin Falkoff, Nyree Pinto, and Joe Andreana.

For those of you who would still want to make a donation, the Bennett Cancer Center is keeping this drive open until the fall. You can make a donation online using the link below.

Thank you all once again!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hope in Motion

Maria Fauci was my grandmother and one of the strongest women this world has ever known but she was not strong enough to beat cancer. She died just shy of Mother’s day in 1992 and just a few weeks before my high school graduation.

Randy Cappiello was probably the second strongest woman I have known in my life. She died after a brief battle with cancer – she was barely 56 years old.

Declan Ratner is the young son of a friend of mine from high school. He is currently fighting Leukemia.

Jean Stobbie and Jack Stobbie recently celebrated 50 years of marriage. The following day after celebrating this golden anniversary with their family, the family was informed that Jean had terminal cancer. She died a month later.

Kim Hart is my best friend's younger sister. She is battling brain cancer for the second time. "Chemo sucks," is her favorite phrase these days.

Kevin Sutton was the Assistant Vice Principal of Student affairs at Trinity Catholic High School. He lost his battle with cancer this morning. He was my age.

Every single one of you knows somebody who has been affected by cancer. It kills without discrimination. It’s time to turn the tables and sentence cancer to death.

Perhaps it’s too lofty a goal. Perhaps you are reading this and scratching your head wondering, “What can I do?”

More than you think.

This Sunday, June 6, I will be participating in the 15th Annual Hope in Motion – Walk, Run & Ride to benefit Stamford Hospital’s Bennett Cancer Center. Help me fight this killer by pledging what you can – no amount is too small.

If you cannot make a financial donation, please pray for all of those who are participating, that we may finish the event safely.

Pray for the families of those who have lost a loved one to cancer. For those who celebrate bittersweet holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Father’s day feeling as if something is missing.

Pray for all those battling cancer and for the repose of all souls who have died from cancer.

Pray that fewer people will have to sit across from a doctor who likely starts the conversation no one wants to have with the words, “Thank you for coming in, have a seat. The news is not good.”

Pray for the research scientists who will be using the money raised from this event to help find a cure for this killer.

Pray for your families and all those close to you that they may never have to feel a lump and wonder to themselves, “what if?”

May God continue to bless you all.


Friday, April 30, 2010

The Joy of Se_ _ _ _ _

Serving - Not Sex. Sorry to excite anyone.


I remember as a kid my mother would always volunteer my brother Jimmy and I for various activities. We did everything from painting a rectory’s basement to cleaning a convent. In retrospect, “volunteers” was the wrong word to describe our status; “indentured servants,” would have been a more accurate description.

As you might predict, the anticipation of these activities was met with resentment. “How could you do this to us mom?” we would ask. “No one else has to do these things!” we would protest. She would stand her ground and give us a look that suggested, “Someday you will understand.”

A strange thing would happen, though, once we were engaged in one of these activities. We would start to have fun; not in the “spoonful of sugar sense” of Mary Poppins as we were not creative enough to make a game out of it. No, we started to have fun because, deep down inside, it made us feel good to do these things.

Damn, I hate it when my mother is right!

We are told that we are only truly giving of ourselves when we expect nothing in return for our actions. What a freeing concept! Doing something for someone else out of the pure goodness of our heart. These can take the form of random acts of kindness (i.e. helping a stranger change a tire) to premeditated activities (i.e. completing project pro-bono for a non profit).

I will admit, I am in need of inspiration heading into this weekend. What have you done recently that may fit this criteria? Better yet, can you recall any times when you were the beneficiary of such activities? Thanks in advance for sharing!


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My God Complex

My mother is Italian and my father is Irish, which of course makes me Catholic. In many ways I am an exception to the rule; many in my generation do not practice the religion in which they were raised. While that may have been true for me during my college years, over the past 13 years or so, I feel as if I have truly embraced my faith.

I wish I could say that my devotion comes solely from 12 years of Catholic school or being an altar server but, while these factors certainly contribute to my faith life, there is another to consider. I grew up having a God complex.

Let me explain.

My father, Don, is many things; generous, honest, and frugal being just three virtues espoused by “the Don.” However, when God was giving out patience, my father must have chosen to “heavy up” on other virtues. As such, when the slightest bit of stress came into his life, the man could combine multiple swear words into legendary phrases.

My personal favorite actually does not contain any foul language at all; when someone is driving poorly on the road he simply refers to them as a “club member.” The club my father is referring to, of course, is the Asshole Club (my mother made him shorten the phrase to club member during one of our long drives from Connecticut to Florida when we came into contact with many “Club Members” along I95 South).

Back to my God complex.

When trying to teach me something that I could not grasp right away, where I had a tendency to cause a little “excitement” in the man’s life, he would often shout “Jesus Christ” before instructing me to make a correction. For example:

• While teaching me how to cut the lawn: “Jesus Christ, cut it in straight lines.”
• While teaching me how to drive: “Jesus Christ, don’t cross over the yellow line.”
• While teaching me how to play golf: “Jesus Christ stop picking your head up, God damnit!”

During this last instance, I turned to my father and said, “Don’t take the name of my father in vain.”

The God complex was now complete.

What you have just read is some “material” I am going to try during an amateur night of standup comedy while on vacation in ft Lauderdale at my parents country club. If you think it is funny, please let me know. I have some additional material as well, I just don’t think it is appropriate for a “Catholic” blog.

Friday, April 9, 2010

I am a total bonehead

I am writing this while on vacation with the family in Ft. Lauderdale. As always, our vacation started off with a little drama. Pre 9/11, we traveled to St. Lucia and forgot a birth certificate; luckily we were able to find a sympathetic ticket agent who let us through security so long as we promised to have it FedExed to us while we were away. Honeymoon saved!

A few years back, we did not realize that one of our licenses was expired. Again, we were able to sweet talk our way through security. This year, however, we forgot to check the bag containing my wife’s makeup. The TSA agent gave us two alternatives; go back past security and check the bag or leave over $200 worth of makeup with him to be thrown away. No sweet-talking our way out of this in a post shoe/underwear bomber world!

My wife looked to me, the experienced traveler, for advice. All that would come out of my mouth (in front of our kids and the TSA agent) was, “How could you forget to check that bag?” said in a condescending tone. This was, of course, not the correct response. It was completely disrespectful as it was a completely honest mistake on her part. I was frustrated because I did not want her to loose all of her makeup but I also did not feel as if we had enough time to go back through security to check the bag.

After I calmed down, I told my wife that I would pay for all the makeup she would have to replace, but this did not do much to make amends. It was not about the makeup, it was about how I reacted to the situation.

As I sat on the plane, I started to think about my friend Jack who came up to us after church one day with a big hug and said, “Enjoy this now. My wife and I were just with our kids celebrating our 55th wedding anniversary. The next day we found out that Jean (his wife) has terminal cancer. It was not a perfect 55 years, but we loved each other very much. Treasure this time.” With that, he went away in tears. (As an aside, If you have never heard the song Don't Blink by Kenny Chesney, listen to it right now. It could have been written based on Jack and Jean's life together).

I heard that Jean died two weeks ago. We have known Jack and Jean for 6 years, as Jack is the general manager of the swimming club we have belonged to over that time. He was always very social we had many conversations over that time on everything from Catholicism to politics to how fast my children are growing. He and Jean had a relationship to be envied; how many people can make it 55 years?

My reaction to my wife during the beginning of our trip (as well as other times in our lives) is something that I need to work on. My sense is that these reactions I have stem from a place of both selfishness and impatience. In these situations, what my reactions say is that I place more value on convenience than I do my wife’s feelings. Hopefully, now that I am more conscious of this tendency in my own life, I will be able to choose a better response.

Jack’s words to me after mass that day remind me that marriage is not meant to be the end to a race (i.e. dating), but the beginning of a long climb. There will be peaks and valleys along the way and it is how we deal with these peaks and valleys that will help determine whether or not a couple will make it or part ways halfway up the mountain. Now that I am more conscious of my own flaws, I hope that my reactions to stressful situations in the future will be more positive; helping us to keep climbing the mountain of marriage till death do us part.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Not for a day, a week, or a college term, but for life!

If you ever wonder whether or not you have true friends, I’ll offer a litmus test; don’t see or talk to some for 10 years. Then, randomly, pick a night to go out to dinner/drinks with them and, if after all that time, you can sit down and pick up as if you saw each other yesterday, it is safe to say that you have some true friends.

Last night I did just that with some guys I went to college with. The bonds of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity made us brothers (gasp) almost two decades ago and this bond is as strong as ever!

Given that my job as a marketing consultant is a lifestyle job (i.e. there is a very blurry line between my professional and private lives) and that I am an active father of eight-year-old triplets, I don’t make the time to see old friends as much as I would like. This is unfortunate given that most of these guys live within a 12-mile radius of my home and some are literally right around the corner. Even though family life and professional responsibilities take priority, it is still important to maintain these old friendships. Every now and then you need to relive the old days while, at the same time, create new memories.

Seated with me at the table were the following (referred to by nickname only) Conan, Sloth, Zach Daddy, Big D, Slaw, and Po. A cast of characters indeed! During our time together, we of course played the “remember when” game and had the opportunity to catch up on more current events; what our kids are into, what we do for work, etc.

After being kicked out of a restaurant in Norwalk at 10 pm, we found ourselves looking for a place where we could extend the evening. We wound up at the Ash Creek Solution; one of those places I have passed a thousand times but never entered. What appeared to our wandering eyes as we entered this fine establishment? Karaoke night in full swing! Couple that with the fact that everyone in that place seemed to know each other and we immediately felt like the odd men out. We immediately knew that this was a world that we could not break into so we went off in the corner and had our final beer.

One by one each of us left citing either having to get up early with the kids in the morning or having to get to work earlier than usual as our primary alibis for leaving (mind you, these thoughts never crossed our minds 20 years ago when leaving Yellow House, Huskies, Teds, or the Upper Deck). As such, I was struck with two sobering (literally and figuratively) thoughts: 1. It is possible for men with nicknames like Conan, Sloth, and Slaw to grow up and 2. Our alcohol consumption has dropped by 110% over the time we have known each other.

Neither of these points are negative, just surprising to anyone who knew us 20 years ago at the University of CT.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Grace Before Meals

I had an embarrassing thing happen today. During breakfast with my boss, Cathy, I noticed that before she ate, Cathy bowed her head and closed her eyes. Remembering that Cathy had been battling a cold for the better part of a month, I interrupted her moment of silence to ask if everything is all right.

“I’m fine,” she said. “I just pray before every meal.”

Bonehead alert! Here I am ‘Captain Catholic’ as my friends often call me. I teach a first Communion class to second graders at my church. For Heaven’s sake, I write a Catholic blog and never miss a mass on Sunday. Not only do I not recognize when someone is giving thanks before a meal, but I have the nerve to interrupt them while they do so.

After my interruption Cathy felt as if she had to apologize, “I am sorry. I should have told you.”

Imagine that, I interrupt her during a prayer and she feels the need to apologize to me. What kind of world are we living in?

Why did this happen? Obviously, saying Grace before a meal is something that has gone by the wayside in my own life. Like Saul on the road to Damascus, the event from this morning knocked me on my rear end. It is an opportunity, though, to get back “on the ball” and start the practice of saying Grace before meals again in my own life.

As a result, I have two things to say to Cathy; 1. I am sorry for interrupting your prayer and 2. thank you for shining a spotlight on my own spiritual deficiency. This was the best gift I received today.