Granting Hope

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Shimmering lights on rooftops, the musky scent of pine trees decorated with sentimental ornaments, warm eggnog, the crinkling of wrapping paper being torn apart by smiling children, sharing special moments with family and friends; these are the hallmarks of Christmas. This season as we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the message of Hope and Love He bestowed on us, I hope Christmas inspires a recommitted desire for compassion and sacrifice.

It feels quite easy to bask in the glow of the lights and festivities when my health is strong and my family is content.

But I haven’t always been so fortunate.

The location was Arizona. The year, 1982. A birth that should have been a celebrated was one of concern. Right away the doctors noticed how blue I was and realized it was due to heart complications; I had to be operated on right away! My mother recalls the fear and worry she had as a young woman when her first born was taken from her arms. “I never even had a moment to hold you before the doctors took you to operate.”

Unfortunately, because I was so small, the doctors couldn’t completely correct my heart issues but did what they could to keep it functioning until I was old enough for major surgery. Seven years and four operations later, I had my fifth and final open heart improvement: The Modified Fontan Procedure. Learning about the procedure years later, I was quite amazed how they successfully restructured the heart/lung/blood flow dynamics. I was dubbed, “The Miracle Child.”

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I finally felt confident with my new lease on life! Overcoming the life and death situations brought the attention of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. One morning there was a surprising knock at the door: 3 women- “Make-A-Wish Ferries”- come to ask, if I had one wish, what would it be? They gave my little brother and I some gifts and said goodbye, leaving me to ponder my wish. My memory is a little fuzzy on the gifts but I do recall two stuffed animals: red and green M&Ms.

Fast forward>> The day of the wish….

Early morning, with our bags packed, our family waited excitedly for our ride to the airport. Suddenly a sleek, white limousine pulled up to the edge of our driveway. “Welcome to your ride.” We were all nervous with excitement as we made our way to the airport, my brother and I playing with the electric divider window, tv, mini fridge as we were bouncing off the seats. A few twists and turns….we arrived at the airport terminal: Destination Florida.

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My wish was to visit Disney World….Wish Granted!

Upon arrival, we were driven to a beautiful hotel which catered to Make-A-Wish children and their families. Our room was stocked with ice-cream bars, fruit and other goodies. The smile on my face was bright enough to light a room and any worries I had about my health faded away.

The first morning of the trip started wonderfully! Make-A-Wish organized a delicious outdoor breakfast with Disney characters for all the kids and their families. I remember my three-year-old little brother being so shy around the beautiful Cinderella. He and I were given Disney notebooks to get all the Characters’ autographs. I still have mine somewhere packed away….a meaningful keepsake.

That week spent at the Disney Theme Park was filled with amazing memories. Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s A Small World, the Teacups, Swiss Family Robinson Tree-house, Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain; just thinking about those rides bring a feeling of magic to my heart. T.M.R.R was a roller coaster on top of a mountain. As you race and jerk each way, you feel as though death is imminent. Space Mountain meanwhile, was a crazy fast roller coaster in a pitch black room with little lights all around. It feels as if you are actually flying through space. It was so scary, yet thrilling, I road on it twice!

But my favorite of all the rides was Captain E.O. It was a ride staring Michael Jackson- my favorite singer at the time- about a captain and his crew traveling through space. The ride utilized a new technology at the time: 3D. I remember wearing those funky glasses and reaching out to grab those space rocks flying at my face!

That trip was one of the best experiences of my life! It gave our whole family wonderful memories and a renewed hope for the the future.

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Unbeknownst to me, I owed it all to Linda Powling, the innovator of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which she started as a response to lift her dying son’s depression. Linda and her group of mothers decided that every child deserves to feel special, despite their unfortunate circumstances. The ladies started raising money and filling a wish: one sick child at a time.

For over 30 years they continued spreading joy to deathly ill children through their foundation and changed the lives of over a quarter million special youngsters.

Doing some research, I was amazed at the commonalities between Chris Powling, his mother and my mother and me. Both Chris and I had/have strong mothers who would do anything to protect us. As my mom often tells me, “You’re my world.”

Also coincidentally, Make-A-Wish started in Phoenix, Arizona where I was born and raised. But most interesting to me to me is the fact that young Chris died in 1980 at 7 years old; I was born two years later in 1982 and had my “Wish” granted when I was 7 years old.

I feel blessed to have outlasted the doctor’s expectations on how long I would live and reading about the boy who started it all, my eyes tear up. Linda Powling may not have been able to save her son from dying but what she did do was turn her sadness and despair into hope for children in similar situations. I am thankful for her selflessness and determination to turn her own tragedy into joy for other families.

I feel that having been a Make-A-Wish child, and survived, I have a responsibility to pay it forward by living each moment full of passion!

Looking back at my own Make-A-Wish trip and all the memorable experiences, I now realize the beauty of the “Wish” was that it allowed me to forget my health concerns and feel like a happy, “normal” kid.

**When a wish is granted, hope is restored.**

Top 10 Christmas Films (for people under 40)

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Christmas is tomorrow and everything is just right. The house lights are up. The tree is decorated. Family has flown in just in time to celebrate together. You’ve slaved away to prepare a delicious Christmas dinner. All that’s missing is that perfect movie for everyone to kick back and enjoy……but what to watch?

Don’t worry….I’ve collected the best mix of holiday flicks for a contemporary audience. Movies that were made post-1980 (except for those honorable mentions)and sure to delight the whole family, both young and old!

Do you agree? What films did i miss? Please let me know what you think in the comments….

So, without further ado and in chronological order….

     1. The Christmas Story (1983)

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     2. Scrooged (1988)

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     3. Home Alone (1990)

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     4.The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

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     5. Miracle on 34th Street *the remake* ( 1994)

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     6.The Santa Clause (1994)

 

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      7. Trapped in Paradise….my personal favorite 🙂 (1994)

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     8. Love Actually (2003)

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     9. Joyeux Noel (2005)

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     10. The Holiday (2006)

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Honorable Mentions……

~~ How the Grinch Stole Christmas *the cartoon version*

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~~ A Charlie Brown Christmas

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Christmas is here so I advise you run to your nearest Redbox, Netflix or media store to pick up any of these flicks. Regardless if it’s an old favorite or one that’s new, I promise you’ll enjoy it. The important thing is to bring the family together for some laughs, good feelings and to make special memories.

Have a happy, healthy Christmas holiday!

God Bless and Breathe This Life!

A Love/Hate Relationship With Salt.

Back in the day, when I was in the hospital recovering from a fifth and final heart surgery, the doctor put me on a “Low Salt Diet.” This was common practice for heart patients to prevent swelling and meant a diet of natural foods (fruits and veggies) : Definitely NO Top Ramon!!!

Before my admittance to the hospital, I had been enjoying a package a day habit- I should have joined RA (Ramon Anonymous) – but when a heart doctor says do something, you do it right?? After all, I DID want to maximize my chances of living (beats the alternative, eh?)

Long Story Short: I chose not to heed his advice and arranged for my parents to sneak packages of the delicious, noodle goodness in for lunch. After all, who knows better, a Cardiologist who had 10 yrs of schooling or a 7 yr/old boy?!?!

Since then I’ve tried to lighten my Ramon intake by eating it occasionally and only then with half the flavor package. I also found this great recipe for a healthier “Homemade Ramon!” I use low-salt chicken broth and top it with a smorgasbord of veggies. Check out the video to try it yourself. I use this recipe for a “Go-To, Feel Good Party In My Mouth!”

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Over the years I’ve developed a liking to “healthier” food and feel the urge to stuff my face with surgery/salty food less and less. Still, there are things that bring back great memories and feelings of comfort. A rockin’ song, a bright red balloon, the smell of a certain perfume or in my case, a bubbling hot, flavored noodle soup!

…..So despite my desire to fight my Ramon addiction, I saw this post on Facebook, jumped up and proclaimed: WHERE AND WHEN CAN I PICK THIS UP??

 

What Are You Thankful For?

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This Thursday when you sit around your table with family and friends, what will you be thankful for?

If your family is anything like mine, Thanksgiving prayers will generally consist of being grateful for food, health and shelter.

While there are many blessings in life to be thankful for this holiday season, I feel the most gratitude for the ability to breathe, to move and think. This allows me to experience life’s beautiful opportunities. Some may see my life and ask, “What’s to be cheerful about, everything you do is dependent on being tethered to an oxygen chord. To that I retort, “There are no problems in life, only challenges.”

On the days I feel my difficulties are insurmountable, I remind myself that things could be worse. If I compare myself with Hulk Hogan, I’m a wimp. If I compare myself with Popeye’s girlfriend Olive Oyl, I’m the strongest man alive! It all comes down to perspective and controlling your mindset in order to achieve personal goals.

Mind over matter.

When I was in the hospital with a collapsed lung and hooked to a ventilator, it was uncertain if I would ever breathe on my own again. After weeks of fluctuating recovery, I was weened off the breathing tube as my lungs became stronger! My mentality was summed up by my favorite Sir Ben Kingsley quote: “Where there’s a WILL, there’s a WAY…..and there’s ALWAYS a will.”

It’s been over 20 years and while I am not fully independent of breathing assistance, I AM breathing independently!
I guess the moral of the story is that if you have the ability to think, move and breath, ANYTHING is possible! That is something we can all be thankful for.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

 

 

 

What is YOUR motivation??

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If you’re anything like me, you begin with the best of intentions in accomplishing a goal…but somehow end up frustrated, quitting from lack of progress. What Happened?!?! It’s not like I don’t put forth a solid effort. Take writing a blog, for example: I allot time for focused writing, organize blog notes by topic and entry and set up a work space with a wide open, inspiring view of nature.

Still, even on the most organized days, random thoughts sometimes break my concentration, causing me to loose attention and train of thought. I think some people have the misconception that being distracted is the same as not being motivated.

Speaking from experience, I have been excited at achieving goals (such as becoming physically fit, writing a book or building a business) but when it comes down to putting in the time and effort, I get “distracted.” Having overcome life-and-death struggles, I know beating the odds isn’t just a matter of mental toughness but also mental fortitude.

Bill Russell, 13-time NBA champion and thought to be the best player in history, is quoted as saying,

“Concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.”

Motivation is necessary to keep getting up but discipline is needed to put in the effort once standing. That combination builds resiliency, an attribute important to accomplishing any goal. To put it into simple mathematical terms:

Motivation + Action = Mental Toughness

As Rocky Balboa said,

“It’s not how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can GET hit and keep getting up.”

After all, attaining goals is not just about how well you overcome obstacles but also how much you can keep going in the face of those challenges. Motivation, Discipline, Resilience, Mental Fortitude: It all comes down to Action.

Below is an easy to follow instructional video that will guide you though steps to become more productive.

Before you watch it, take the initiative of sharing the love: Click the “Like” button, post a comment and re-post. 

~ Breathe Easy ~