Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Cindy" for Sandy: A CrossFit Adventure

I love a good challenge as much as the next person - so, yes, when one of my karate students invited us to CrossFit New Windsor to participate in a fund-raiser to help the American Red Cross help victims of Hurricane Sandy, I jumped at the chance.

Before today, I was only a little familiar with CrossFit - and that familiarity came from hearing a few folks discuss it in the grocery store once, seeing a bit of a CrossFit Championship Challenge on ESPN a few months ago and checking out a friend's pics and posts about it on Face Book. What I found out from CrossFit New Windsor owner Frank Volpe was that it's all about improving fitness. "It's where you come to learn how to move your body correctly," he said.

CrossFit workouts are designed to condition the entire body with a combination of plyometrics, weights and other exercises, taking what you can do - like the "Cindy" fund-raiser workout that involved a circuit of pull-ups, push-ups and air squats - for a specific amount of time. Individuals race against the clock to "get 'er done" and try improve with each workout. Improvement means an increase in work capacity which means fitness improvement as well. Sounds like fun, right? Believe me, it is.

Volpe says anyone can start CrossFit regardless of the kind of shape they are in or even if they've never really worked out before. Unlike p90X or "Insanity" workouts, trainers guide you through each exercise, focusing first on safe movement, then consistency of movement and finally intensity. But it still forces you to dig deep to beat the clock. And did I mention there is a different, female-monikered workout each day? "You'll never do the same workout twice," adds Volpe. "Our motto is 'get comfortable with being uncomfortable.'"

Whether crack-of-dawn (morning), after lunch, early evening or pre-prime-time workouts are your thing, CrossFit New Windsor has anywhere from three to six class times to chose from on weekdays and one each on Saturdays and Sundays. And, being so easy to get to from almost anywhere in the Orange County area (located at the Stewart Gym, 343 Sue Kelly Avenue in New Windsor at Stewart Airport - directly across the street from the Orange County Police Academy), there really aren't any excuses NOT to try a class (especially since the first one is free).

Head on over to Cross Fit New Windsor. You really will be glad you did.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Invisible Man

Yesterday on my way to the gym, I saw a young man - maybe a year or two older than my own son - sitting near the traffic light with a "Homeless - please help if you can" sign. He had no gloves and was literally shaking from the cold. And trust me, it was pretty cold here last night.

I only had a dollar on me, which I gave him, but I had already made up my mind I was coming back before he even thanked me. I went home, found a pair of gloves and a scarf stuffed in the closet from last winter and found a blanket we'd gotten years ago as a commemorative prize and brought them back to the traffic light. The young man was so appreciative. While we were talking, a woman drove up, handed him a bag and a $5 bill. He thanked her and told her to drive safely. As she drove away, he looked in the bag and almost cried when he saw what was in it. "I can't believe she brought me SOCKS!" he said as he slipped off his boots and put them on over the little ankle ones he had on. I can't tell you how humbling it was to watch this young man who had just told me he had no idea where he was going to be sleeping tonight get so excited over a new pair of long socks.

We talked for a few more minutes and he told me now he happened to be without roof overhead and out in the cold. His story was a simple one and could easily happen to anyone. One day he had a place to live and the next day he didn't - it really was just that simple.

I asked him what he needed and he said the most pressing things were the simple things: toothpaste, a folding toothbrush and clean boxer shorts (he wears a size 32). He used to have a tent where he would sleep when he couldn't find a shelter or other indoor place, but it had been stolen. It hurt my heart to think about how cold it might get tonight and how he might have to endure it with nothing but the little blanket he'd just been given.

Getting protein on a regular was difficult, he said, but what he misses most about not having a place to call his own was being able to take a hot shower and having a cold fridge in which to store food. "You have no idea how much I miss having a fridge," he told me.

In my head, I saw that young man's face - especially how cold it looked when I first saw him and how incredibly happy a small display of kindness from a passing stranger made it when the woman passing by handed him the socks - all night. The reality is that no matter his circumstances, he is someone's son and used to be someone's neighbor, classmate and friend. There's something incredibly tragic about that, I think.

If my own son or any of my neighbors, classmates or friends ever needs a helping hand from a stranger, I hope they get it, I really do.

You don't have to have a lot to be nice to someone. Kindness costs nothing but time. Spend some today.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Greetings from Snootyville!

Just got word from a co-worker that one of the parents of a client I work with considers me SNOOTY. I work with juveniles in crisis and this parent and I went to high school together 30 years ago. Not only was he a year older, but he was in none of the accelerated classes I was in nor was he one of the standout performers on the track team that I spent the other half of my waking hours on/around. If his definition of SNOOTY is 17-year-old me with my head burried in a book or training six days a week for hours at a time, then I guess I'm guilty as charged.

Here's the scenario: his kid is in a lot of trouble. Facing criminal charges for a pretty violent act he allegedly perpetrated, he also stands the risk of being removed from his home because the arrest for that crime violated his existing probation. Dad seems to think I'm not being supportive enough in court because I don't sit with the family while we're waiting to be called by the judge. I'm not an attorney, mind you, just a case planner trying to make sure he is doing all the stuff the court has asked him to do. But my day doesn't stop just because I'm in court waiting for the judge to finally make it to the bench for this one child. I've got other clients whose needs are just as important, which means I need to text and make calls to coordinate those schedules that I sometimes do in the down time we spend waiting around. It ain't all just about his kid, that's for certain.

Plus, his son has been extremely disrespectful to me in the past, even going so far as to curse me out in the family court waiting room in front of his mother and grandmother because I was telling him stuff about the consequences of non-compliance with the judge's orders that I guess he didn't want to hear. His mom didn't say one word about his behavior, either, other than a half-baked excuse tossed over her shoulder as she jumped up to chase after him.

As his son's Day of Reconning nears, I imagine my former school-mate's family is a little panicked over what might happen to their child. Perhaps I am the convenient scapegoat on whom to blame all that is wrong, who knows? I do hope the family gets what they need, which might involve he and mom stopping for two minutes and realizing that I'm not the one on trial, their child is. The professional that I am will always, always, always do whatever is necessary to assist the families I work with, but there comes a point that they must also be working with me. And their effort should at least match mine, as I don't think it is fair to ask me to go farther or work harder than you are willing to. Neither of us can do it alone. Man up and make your child do what he is supposed to: go to school, report to probation, drug treatment and work. Sitting back and letting him do what he wants will get you nowhere fast. Someone has to be the parent, here - and, as I don't live with him, it can't be me.

Rant over. Ms. SNOOTY signing out...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pride and Prejudice

My son left this morning at 7:30AM to meet his friends at the train station. They were heading to the Pride Parade in NYC. He was very excited - as it is the first time he's attending ever. I, on the other hand, am a nervous wreck.

He's gone to NYC before with friends. He's even taken the train without me, too. But even though he is heading to one of the most tolerant cities in the world and it is 2012, I'm kind of afraid for his safety.

The reality is that the world is often not a nice place to those who are deemed "different" by societal standards. Besides ridicule and nasty rhetoric, physical violence can also be a reality. It doesn't take a heck of a whole lot to push a crazy, bigoted person over the edge, it really doesn't.

I know I hugged him goodbye, smiled and waved as he pulled out of the driveway to connect with his buddies, but I'll literally be on pins and needles until he pulls back in. Seriously.

He's almost 19. Is there an age or a point where the mommy worry switch gets flipped off? Sigh...

Thursday, February 16, 2012


This has been a heck of a year so far. I've lost several friends and acquaintances to breast cancer and several more to heart attacks and accidents. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, a call, email, text or Tweet would come about someone else's passing. The memorials and funerals have truly exhausted me, but they have gotten me thinking about legacy a lot more than ever.

My reality is this: I am a breast cancer survivor. Since there is absolutely no cure for this disease, the chance that it could come back with a vengence and take me away from my family is very real. Other than some meories and a few blog posts, what will be left of me after I'm gone? And what will those life left-overs say about me and what I did with my time here on earth?

The frineds whom I lost recently ranged in age from 21 to 65 years of age. Their legacies include their children, their writing, their advocacy and the promise of what life had in store for them had they been here still to live it. They leave behind husbands and wives, children and Internet sisters, girlfriends and parents, relatives and friends who all remembered them "when" - when they were alive and kicking, doing their thing and living life like they had all the time in the world. Sadly, they didn't. How will the memories of who they were live on?

A few days ago, I was asked to write a bio for a presentation this spring. I was warned that writing about myself can be difficult - which I already knew, but I really had no idea why until I sat down to write this particular bio. Most of the people reading it will know me from the world of martial arts, although the award is for teaching outside the dojo. The truth is that I'm more than just a teacher and a karateka, but if you only see me in a gi or behind the podium in a lecture hall, you'd be none the wiser. The difficulty in writing about all you do and all you are, I found, is all about what NOT to include. Who wants their bio to read like they are a superhero?

But isn't that what we all are? Nobody just does one thing all their life - be that world politics, a more mundane day job or heading a fabulous yearly fund-raiser/event. We're all much more of a multi-faceted entity than how we can describe ourselves to someone we're meeting for the first time.

So this is who I am: mom, ex-wife, wife-to-be, advocate for at-risk youth, college professor, karate student and instructor, track coach, former soccer coach, dancer, wanna-be drummer, rabid Prince fan, editor, writer, publisher, photographer, track star, best friend, payer of tuition, chief cook and dishwasher, dog walker, cat litter-scooper, blogger, dreamer - still, none of them completely capture my essence.

What I want people to know about me when I am no longer here for them to get to know for themselves is not the sound of my voice or my love of R&B. I want folks to know about my passion for doing what is right - be it in the dojo or with people who expect to learn something from me in the classroom or for folks who stumble across my breast cancer blog. I want people to know that I felt things while I was here - and that I tried my best to do something to help right as many wrongs as I could.

I've learned a little something from every person I've ever come in contact with, too. All of it - the good and the bad - have helped mold me into the person writing this today. As I learn more lessons, I have come to understand that I am still a work in progress - and I hope to be until the day I draw my last breath.

Thanks for being a part of my progress, dear reader. Thanks for letting me be a part of yours, too. But thanks mostly to the wonderful souls who have gone on. The facets you let shine were appreciated more than you could ever know.

Time's Been Up

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