Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Diary of a Mad Jogger

Thoughts and ramblings over the course of a 3.5 mile race.

There should be a challenge set up for actually GETTING to the Corporate Challenge that includes getting through traffic, finding the best route, finding a ride/parking/shuttle and then finding your team tent. Oh, and let's not forget changing and putting your number bib on correctly without stabbing yourself.
    Starting line: Yea! Made it to the race and found my company's tent!

.10 miles. La la la! Nice co-workers, right by my side.
.15 miles. Where's the water?
.25 miles. Tell me again why I'm here?
.3 miles. I try to push on by reading and combining random T-shirt slogans. "Onondaga County Corrections"..."Bone to be Wild".
.4 miles. This race didn't seem this long last time I did it.
.5 miles. Only 1/2 mile?
.6 miles. Where are my co-workers?
.75 miles. THERE'S some water!
.85 miles. What do these white painted numbers on the ground refer to? I know I didn't do 6 km yet.
1 mile. Only 1 mile??? It's a plot!
1.10 miles. Dead animal.
1.15 miles. I wonder if it would be ok for me to drink that sludge on the shoulder?
1.25 miles. Yea! Water!
1.3 miles. Glad I'm not the one who has to sweep up all these cups tossed to the ground.
1.4 miles. My brother Fred would have won this race. Rest his soul. Tears. No, someone spilled water on me.
1.5 miles. Hallucinating. Keep thinking I see and hear my co-workers.
1.6 miles. Listening to other company team blaming each other for "cheating" (jogging when they said they'd walk. Fear police will chase me down for the same "crime".)
1.65 miles. Think about the food afterward, Paulie.
1.75 miles. Another dead animal. And the bridge. My tall co-worker should watch for clearance.
1.8 miles. Texting while running. Probably also a crime.
1.9 miles. T-shirt reads, "Eat your veggies." NOW you tell me.
2 miles. Yea! Two miles! I'm alive!
2.1 miles. Co-workers! There they go! Bye!
2.2 miles. Dedicating this to my brother. Real tears.
2.3 miles. Stupid sun in my eyes. Sun? In Central New York?
2.5 miles. Another dead animal. Will try to figure out how long the next dead animal I see has been there.
2.75 miles. Did not see any former co-workers today.
3 miles. There are more Tops employees here than dead animals.
3.1 miles. YMCA employees/volunteers hold up signs saying, "Keep running. Your boss is behind you."
3.2 miles. Hot tub when I get home, pronto!
3.3 miles. Dead animal I recall from the last Corporate Challenge.
3.4 miles. Was my co-worker chiding me about eating that dead squirrel for dinner?
3.5 miles. Finish line! 58:38. Not too bad for not having jogged regularly for a long time.

9:00 pm. Home. Hot tub. Ah. That was fun. (Bad short-term memory).
9:30 pm. Will be fun to try to beat my time next year.
10:00 pm. I came in 5,030. That does it. Next year I'm 5,000th!
10:30 pm. ZZZZZZZZZ

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

We Should Have

On the morning of Friday, December 14, 2012, I dropped my son off to school early. He missed the bus and I had an early meeting at work…not the norm. When I dropped him off I realized it was before the school opened its doors and he had to wait outside. Trying not to be the overprotective one I typically am, I said to myself, he will be fine, he’s resourceful. I drove away but could not stop thinking about him and potential dangers.

Upon arrival at work I called and left a message with the school nurse, who I knew would be the first to see him. I asked her to leave me a message. In my meeting, supervisors discussed the no cell phone policy and thus I did not check my phone at all or excuse myself to do so. I sat and worried. And in a town just three miles from where I was born, many people worried. Many panicked. People in an elementary school much like my son’s. While the nurse called me to tell me my boy was fine, the news broke out that a gunman had shot and killed 20 innocent youngsters much like mine.

The town no one had heard of before, where my uncle and aunt owned Newtown Inn in the '60s, where I spent the summer of 1965, now was recognized by everyone around the world, and not for the same pleasant memories I used to hold. It saddened us, shocked and frightened us. As President Obama stated, our hearts are broken. Why would this happen? I know people of all religions who believe in a higher power. Why would this higher power allow this?

We search for meaning, for why these children who will never have the chance to join the school band, continue on their swim teams, join a wrestling team, or make new friends like my son can? Would this horrible occurrence be the thing to finally cause lawmakers to seriously think about gun control? But why something this tragic? Was it meant to happen? Was it a fluke? Why children? The educators who also lost their lives already were giving their lives, working with children for I’m sure not a huge salary. Why did they have to give their lives completely? Many of them also had families, and they will never see their children’s graduations, relationships, successes, or be there to help heal the failures.

When will this stop? If we cannot feel safe in a place we considered one of the safest, how can we feel safe in the mall, the movie theater, a McDonald’s, a church, temple or mosque, or on our inner city streets?

My son finally understands, I think, why schools are so serious even about gun play at recess. When I was little, I liked toy guns. I did not grow up with guns and do not own or use them now. I feel they are tools for law enforcement and the military, as these professionals are trained in proper gun safety and use. Would I perform surgery if I were not trained as a surgeon? Would I own a tractor trailer if I were not properly licensed? Would I attempt to build a home if I did not know how to use a saw or install insulation? Would I work on my car’s engine without training? Then why would I have a gun if I were not in law enforcement or in the military, even if I received a few lessons, knowing someone else's life could be in danger even if safely used my weapon?

We are all aware that this issue is something we must now seriously reconsider. And we can hide the sorrow by blaming violent movies and video games all we want. But the other piece of this tragedy is that we often do not recognize when a child or adult is suffering. Everyone is unique and not everyone will express distress verbally or in a commonly known fashion such as acting out. The young perpetrator obviously had major mental health issues, and we as a society should have been better equipped to help him so he did not get to this point. The following is a song I wrote just after Columbine, April 1999. Unfortunately it is still appropriate.

Happy holidays.

You Should Have (Caught Me When I Was Crying)

(Chorus) Killing babies, others want them
What are we doin’ now
Being abusive, killing creatures
What are we teaching now?
Want some attention, she didn’t like me
I sent a warning but you could not see
I was abused, you didn’t stop it
Wasn’t TV, you could have saved me
Do you seek more, some seek the least
We haven’t gone far, like in that dream
Always running but in our own tracks
Find the road in, some seek it back


(Bridge) Some say we’ve come far
Others say we have not
Some say they want more
They are the have-nots
Is it the sun that’s out?
Or is it the moon?
I may end my life
But it’s too soon
Look like your kids, seem like mine
Hope they tell me when they’re cryin’
We must tell them when we cry, too
Need to help them see us through


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Getting Back to Eight

March 19 I made a vow to myself to get back into shape. I was lucky enough to have good weather on my side, so I began jogging outdoors, something I had not done in nearly two years on a regular basis. I have been only walking a short distance (compared to what I used to do) on weekends, holidays and vacations. And I have been feeling very listless, tired, and guilty about not doing my regular 2.5 mile jog.

One of my favorite times in my life was when I was laid off from a company that moved to Mexico, back in 1994. It was then that I jogged daily and later, worked at night (freelance) and attended classes toward a Master’s degree. What I got from that time frame was not only a Master’s that is useless to me, but a renewed love and appreciation for how jogging makes me feel.

I was inspired in the 70s by my brother Fred, who at that time, way prior to his death, ran 10 miles per day. And I mean “run” when I say it. I feel he inspires me again today, and I’m only sad that I did not listen to his inspiring and encouraging comments sooner.

The other inspiration came from the nurse at a recent doctor’s appointment, who weighed me. Since experiencing an eating disorder at 15, I learned quickly not to weigh myself often, so I don’t weigh myself at all. However, believing her scale, and always coming back to the notion that I am “fat”, I quickly noticed my belly. And then there were the summer pants from last year that were tight.

My friend Karen says to use a pair of pants to gauge ones weight. And I will use those.

In the little over a week that I’ve returned to my former love, jogging, I truly already feel more alive, refreshed, mentally more aware, and creatively more inspired, hence this blog. I kid you not. I even feel I dropped some weight. It will not show up on the scales, and I don’t care; it will show when I put on those capris when the weather warms up again.

I bundled myself up today, since it is now 27 degrees compared to last week’s 82. I walked out of my office at my lunch hour, noticing two co-workers. They were taking a smoking break. One of them had shared with me how upset she was at gaining some winter weight. She sat on a bench and took a puff of her cigarette.

It amazes me how few people were out walking compared to last week. And even then, how many more people were sitting around or smoking instead! I used to walk around the corner to buy a sub at lunch; now I’m committed to running at lunch.

I do feel less hungry and more alert and healthy when I jog.

I passed just one other jogger on the way back from my 2.25 mile stint. I smiled at him. Somehow, I knew he was probably also happy that the trail was not packed, but sad that no one else knew what we knew…that jogging is awesome!

I passed another woman who wore a track suit. Disheartened again, I noticed she sat down with a cigarette.

I think I will write a daily blog in hopes that I can inspire others to start or resume an exercise routine.

Meantime, I have to stretch and do some sit-ups.

Catch you later on my road back to my size 8s…aw yeah!

Monday, September 26, 2011

This Bird Has Flown

Another of Fred’s friends told me a story about the last time he saw my brother. “We had lunch, three of us. We’d been back in touch. We lost touch for about twenty years and then recently started getting together once in a while. Well, Fred wouldn’t let us pay our way. He said because me and our other friend were the only ones who befriended him when he first came here to school from Italy, when no one else did.”

It continues to rain today. I hear him tell me that it’s a good day to get back to work. Ergo, get back to living.

I see a bright red cardinal outside my window. He has made that tree his home since early spring. Now, properly disguised by extra full branches, he can sing, be alone, as he wants to be, unencumbered by peering eyes like mine, jarring atrocities like loud boat sounds, and eerie long lenses attempting photos.

“I’m taking a mental picture,” he would say, his disdain of being photographed only rivaled that of some reclusive stars.

I hold back my nervous and fidgety attempt to fish out my camera.

He stays alone, singing, looking around then flies away.

(He ain’t heavy; he’s my brother.)


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Run for Your Life

One of my early memories of my brother involves sports. I rooted for the Mets just to annoy him; he liked the Yankees. I told him I knew they were in different “leagoos” (leagues). He would steal all my Spauldings to play baseball.

I interviewed some of the New York Yankees in college for a report, one of my most proud moments. Fred read my paper and told me he did not realize I knew so much about baseball. I learned so much from him.

I mentioned in the eulogy that I dislike football because Fred used to tackle me. To this day I wonder why he could not find anything better to do. Every time I heard him shout, “Tackle!” I would cringe. And down I would go.

And the irony is that he is the one who fell. Tackled by MS.

He ran 10 miles a day prior to his burden. He inspired me to love jogging. The day he told me about the M.S., I went out to run, not jog.

Had M.S. affected a less active man, the misery would not have been as profound. One of the final visits to his apartment, we witnessed wall paintings he had created, perhaps in an effort to express creativity, perhaps pain. Losing something of great value like one's independence certainly can take its toll.

But now my sister and I dream of him walking, even running. And the sisters and nurses by his side upon his moment of death say he passed away with a smile.

He ran into my parents’ arms. He runs again.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


So I stood in the Papavero Funeral calling hours hall, watching people I did not recognize file in, then realizing I recalled them from photos in the slide show my brother-in-law Rocco prepared. Friends. Rocco’s friends, my sister’s friends, and Fred’s friends.

Waves of memories from the early seventies invaded my mind. Yes, I did recall some of these men. It’s funny how the placement of a hand, the tilt of one’s head, are habits that never change. I recognized some of the past. “I remember you,” one of them said to me. “And you,” he pointed to my little sister, who has been 5' 8" for 30years, “You were this big.” He gestured to indicate that she was just larger than a doll. I suddenly remembered the way one of them looked at me when I was a kid. I think my brother told him to lay off. I remember my mother telling me I’d probably grow up and get together with one of his friends. She was right: I got together with him, as well as his other friends..I shook their hands as we said goodbye to Fred.

“His nicknames were ‘Bird’ and ‘The Boss’,” Rocco told me. “I guess ‘cause he was bossy,” he added. Process of elimination, since Fred was not a Bruce Springsteen fan, and Springsteen was the same age as Fred and not yet famous in 1968.

You know, he was a good leader, I am sure.

I knew about the ‘Bird’, having once seen it in magic marker on a cap Fred had. I thought it said ‘Beard’. Maybe I didn’t see it correctly, or perhaps someone could not spell.

My sister and Rocco went through Fred’s belongings shortly after his passing. They did not find much. They did not find the metal container with what was supposedly his book. They did find a small notebook with notes.

He kept a lot hidden. Perhaps he did not want us to know what exactly was in his book, though I would have loved to edit it and get it published posthumously. The last time I saw him, he said he had “something” to tell me and Fran. But he stopped short. Was it about his life insurance policy wherein he named his nephews? Or was it something more important, more person?

I may … nay, I WILL never know.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


It poured on and off the days of the calling hours and services. My sister said Fred loved rain and considered moving to Seattle. He considered Albany, San Diego, and wanted to visit Alaska. He never ventured out of the City.

“Okay, that’s enough, Fred,” Fran joked in the limo on the way back from the funeral. “Did you notice it didn’t rain when we were outside though?” she added.

I remember once, we had a driving rain, and he hadn’t come home from playing ball with friends. The only time I remember my father angry enough to strike, he did so when Fred finally came home. Fred cried. I couldn’t bear to watch.

Fred and I were talking once, after my father’s death. Probably about how he wanted to "borrow" more of my balls to go out and play. Then he suddenly was in his room. “Where did you go?” I wondered.

He was crying in front of his statue of St. Anthony. In pain, probably due to the realization that the pain of death knows no resolution.

I prayed in front of that statue once, too, after pissing off my father when he asked me to stop petting my cat, Katy, because she was getting upset. And I didn’t like that, and I ran and shoved my hands through a window. His glare caused me to seek out that statue of St. Anthony.

I prayed again, every night, probably for two years straight, when I was afraid Fred would die because of the sixties and seventies drug epidemic. In school, they scared us to death about the dangers of drugs. I recall a pamphlet featuring the Grim Reaper and a boy, in a drug-induced stated, attempting to jump off a roof.

He did live. Did my prayers help? He lived many more years, poured his efforts into education, pursuing a Master's degree in Education, and had a successful, drug-free, drink-free and smoke-free life in which he positively influenced many.

It rained heavily a few nights ago. The thunder seemed never to end. Hurricane Irene is socking us. I wonder if Fred would have evacuated his apartment if it were necessary? Probably not. He seemed not to want to ever leave NYC.

It's funny how rain, something Fred loved so, can conjure up so many feelings and memories for me, both good ... and bad. Even thinking of Fred, a good thing, can turn sour when I remember I can't call him to tell him about the thunderstorm and the hurricane, and to share another long conversation with him about the reasons we get emotional during rain.