Thankful, A Real Win: It’s Just About… Life

I heard that yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, the word thankful was tweeted out more than 3.8 million times. Not at our house, at least for a few hours last night, it was only spoken.

How about at your home?

On Wednesday I wrote the blog post about how I planned for a phone-free Thanksgiving, (http://markbrodinsky.com/350ghost-of-thanksgiving-past-its-just-about-life/), at least from the time the family hit the door, until after dessert. I challenged others to do the same. Later that day and even yesterday, I was sent some screen shots of that blog post being shared and others commenting they were going to do the same. I hope it worked for you.

I can tell you under our roof, it worked like a charm.

The pictures below speak the words which no one had to go to their smartphone, (nor were they allowed), to send out on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or Twitter. Instead there was real-time conversation, connection, laughter and emotion. For three hours plus, we disconnected from the rest of the world and focused in on our foundation, our family. It was amazing to witness, especially my girls and my nieces sitting around – actually talking – without the every-two-second-peek at the portable drug they seem to hold in their hands nearly every free second of the day.

them cousins family with alisa and michael

debbie and big girls a family pic redone

And as usual once dinner was ready to be served there was the time for reflection on what matters most to us. The tradition of going around the table to speak in gratitude about who and what is important to you, whether it was from this past year, or anytime, or anything on your mind for that matter, has been going on since the girls were born. Gratitude is the attitude that changes everything.

For a few hours it was like a trip back in time – but the way the holiday should be, especially this one, where family is the focus, as well as the food – and for a little while the rest of the world, while hopefully just as grateful – was a little bit further away.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Financial Services

The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
(http://www.spouses-story.com/)

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#350/Ghost Of Thanksgiving Past: It’s Just About… Life

phone free

Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind. – Rudyard Kipling

If you believe the above quote to be true, then I would love nothing more than to be a drug dealer. Maybe I already am.

Today marks post #350 on this blog and just one day before Thanksgiving I feel proud and grateful to have come this far and thank you for your time, attention and reaction to my “addiction”. Like a drug, I’m hooked, but unlike a drug, I am using it to try and change the lives of other people, including my own. Become more by helping other people to do the same.

Speaking of other people, there will be more than a few at my home tomorrow for Thanksgiving. Family will join together for the annual tradition — but this year I’ve decided to bring back a ghost. Call it four hours of freedom, an exodus if you will, if even temporary, from the tempestuous devices you might even be holding in your hand right now.

We’re going phone-free for Thanksgiving. Check it at the door and pick it up after dessert.

That’s right, we’re bringing back an oldie but a goodie, the ghost of Thanksgiving past. We might actually talk to each other, we might share a story or two, or some recent good news, or even a challenge. We might actually watch some Turkey Day football, we might just realize we have all gotten one year older, we might just feel like the time spent together is special and moments like these are fleeting. We might remember that it’s only been five years since we suffered the life-shattering realization that from one Thanksgiving to the next, life can change in dramatic fashion and leave you nearly emotionally bankrupt.

Five years ago we experienced the first holiday without my father-in-law, Jerry Gross, who died following surgery for esophageal cancer, just weeks before Thanksgiving. Just one year before, on the same holiday, he was alive, full of life, and vitality. Maybe this Thanksgiving we’ll share a few thoughts about him…memories which warm our hearts and can simultaneously pain them with the now suppressed, but easily brought-to-the-surface pangs of loss. Easier to feel it all when you’re not tied to your device, head down in silence, distracted from the emotional yearnings of those closest to you.

I get it, it will be different. There’s no doubt there is benefit to being connected. The world is a different place because of it. Our devices, especially our smartphones, bring us together in ways no one could have possibly imagined. Yet it also waters down our relationships in ways that can render them nearly irrelevant in scope and sincerity. Thanksgiving Day is not the day to bury your gaze in the palm of your hand, but instead to use those same eyes to view the importance and meaning of those you hold dear, your family, and to stay true to the theme of the day, to offer thanks and gratitude for what you’ve got and for those you love.

For a few hours tomorrow we’ll focus on sharing the most powerful drug used by mankind – words – in this case the words spoken to each other. We might even realize the word love can be spelled another way – T-I-M-E. And the chance to spend some of it in awareness, together.

This time, this holiday, we’re bringing back the ghost.

I challenge you to do the same.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Financial Services

Author: The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
(http://www.spouses-story.com/)

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The Sunday Series, (49), with Mark Brodinsky

You and I.

We are all in this together. Let’s face it, the shared human experience is why we exist. It is why we live. The relationships we build are the foundation of everything. So when another life is hurting, one we have touched, or one which has touched our own, we reach out, we give, we help, we love.

The Sunday Series (49): Hearts Wide Open

josh kelsey wedding picture

Bringing a new life into the world is one of the greatest of all human experiences, the chance to witness a miracle, the opportunity to extend the love in your own heart, and give it unconditionally to another. An invitation to immortality.

This new life, one Josh Begley could see on the horizon, was the very first thought that ran through his mind when he got the news.

Its been a little more than a year since Josh and his wife Kelsey moved to Maryland from upstate New York. The couple came south for Josh to build his practice as a chiropractor in Cockeysville and help with another in South Baltimore, while Kelsey worked in her profession, as a senior accountant for Stanley Black & Decker.  Just five months ago the young couple, Josh, 28 and Kelsey, 27, bought their first home and are just two months away from the birth of their first baby – a boy. “The very first thing that crossed my mind was our son coming in February”, says Josh. “Will I be healthy when our son is born? Everything branched off of that one thought.”

“I was just having run-of-the-mill GI (gastrointestinal) issues.” Apparently there had been some discoloration when Josh went to the bathroom, a problem he couldn’t even see, one which might have been there longer than he cares to imagine, because Josh is colorblind. But whenever or however it started, the decision was made to refer Josh to a GI doctor and order a CT scan and a colonoscopy. “Being a healthcare practitioner I had in the back of my mind it could be some sort of tumor”, says Josh, “but it didn’t fit, age, family history, risk factors, it just didn’t fit.” It didn’t take long after the CAT scan for Josh to get the call – less than one month ago – on Halloween. “The doctor was pretty blunt, he said the results are back and there is a large tumor in your sigmoid colon and lesions on your liver. That’s when it started to sink in.”

The colonoscopy just days later confirmed the diagnosis: adenocarcinoma. Cancer – Stage IV. Tumors so large and close to Josh’s liver that the cancer is deemed to be inoperable, as too much of the liver would have to be removed. Radiation would also be too toxic for the organ. The only hope, chemotherapy.

A new home, a fresh start to his medical practice, a baby on the way. Josh felt fear, shock and sadness. Josh says Kelsey shared these same thoughts, but she was the one who almost immediately jumped into action. “It’s a team effort and it all starts with Kelsey. Right away she started reading online and getting books and going to Wegmans and Whole Foods and changing our diet to make us as healthy as possible to deal with the chemotherapy. Josh’s family, though miles away in Syracuse, were also jumping into help. “My brother is also a chiropractor”, says Josh. “He started sending me articles night and day about alternative treatments which can help people through this and have found to be effective. He was calling other chiropractors and doctors who have treated cancer. He has been working non-stop to help me. My extended family, aunts and uncles making connections at the best hospitals and making sure I would have the best care in the world. It’s pretty fantastic.”

josh kelsey and family

And that was only one week into Josh and Kelsey’s new life, the life battling the beast.  The couple kept the news close to the vest for the first week or so, calling only family and either calling or e-mailing close friends. But as word spread, the couple reached out on social media . Josh says once the “cat was out of the bag on social media”, the love poured in. Letters, e-mails, Facebook posts, phone calls – from grade school teachers, former classmates, other chiropractors, all offering support – emotional and financial.

“In Syracuse I played youth and high school hockey and we were close and have stayed close since then”, says Josh. “Essentially my whole team has reached out to me, saying ‘anything you need, we’ll take you to doctor appointments, cook for you, do whatever it takes to be there for you.’ There was a Broomball League I played in as well, they guys are holding a tailgate/fundraiser soon in Syracuse to raise money.”

Josh played college lacrosse and says there has been huge support from the lacrosse community. He says a former teammate who moved out of the country reached out to him and sent a touching e-mail titled, “Lets Get Better”.  Josh didn’t know it, but two years this teammate was diagnosed with his own challenging illness, and shared the story of how he has battled back, even as the illness has resurfaced. Josh says this was particularly touching to hear the story from someone his own age who also had to deal with the shocking news and how he has responded.  It’s all about the shared experience – hearing from someone else who has walked a mile in your shoes and as Josh told this part of the story you could tell how the commonality of it all has touched him deeply.

For Kelsey, who is carrying another life inside of her own, this has been an incredibly emotional time already and the couple is just getting started. Through tears Kelsey relayed her own thoughts, admitting that when Josh told her the news, the first thing that popped into her own mind was the worst case scenario. But taking action quickly to change the couples’ diet and the assistance from all around them has helped to serve as a distraction. Kelsey says the pregnancy feels OK, but it’s hard to focus on that.  “He, (the baby), reminds me he is in there a lot”, she says. “But my life hasn’t really been altered in terms of what I need to do”, she says. Kelsey’s own brother and his wife, who live in Maryland, had a baby one day after Josh’s diagnosis, a blessing right on the heels of the shocking news of the cancer diagnosis. And Kelsey says even with all her brother and sister-in-law have going on, they have been reaching out, offering to help, especially with Kelsey and Josh’s “other kids” – their dogs, Maddie and Ella.

josh kelsey and dogs

“Josh’s mom came down (from Syracuse), as soon as she heard, says Kelsey, “I think she has been down twice already and she has really helped out, cooking meals, doing the laundry, making our life a little bit easier and not as stressful, taking our minds off things a bit.” Josh’s sister-in-law set up a funding page on YouCaring.org, (http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-josh-beat-colon-cancer/259509#.VGObdrKn-oc.mailto), and donations have poured in. In less than a month more than $40,000 of the $50,000 goal has already been raised. Although the couple has insurance, there are still out-of-pocket costs – the first round of chemotherapy is complete, there are alternative treatments Josh is taking part in and his medical practice in Cockeysville has been shut down most of the time since he is the one who treats patients and runs the facility. Josh also helps out at another practice in Fells Point with Dr. Gulitz.  Josh says Dr. Gulitz, has been “fantastic about the whole situation. He told me to get well and even told me to send some of my patients down to him and he would treat them.”

The love and support are never-ending. Josh and Kesley say a group of their friends from Syracuse are holding a benefit at the end of December, to raise more money to help them with their out-of-pocket and future expenses. During this time of the year for giving thanks and appreciation, the love is everywhere.

josh fundraiser

Even with Baby Begley not here yet, the plan is for Josh and Kelsey to have more children, but they know one of the side-effects of the chemotherapy could be sterility, which means they would have to go the route of sperm banks and IVF, which is not covered by insurance. The bottom line is Josh and Kelsey are thinking about the future, not accepting some imminent fate. The prognosis depends on who you ask. Josh says it’s not definitive, but the initial prognosis is anywhere from 6 months – to years, though the oncologist says Josh is unlikely to be cancer-free inside the next 18 months. The next round of chemotherapy is scheduled for this week and if the doctors can shrink the tumors then by early next year surgery could be possible. The journey is just beginning.

1st day of chemo

1st day of chemo

What will see the couple through all of this is the same support which has been there since day one. Josh says his biggest takeaway from all of this so far is that people are just good and kind. He says “what it comes down to is when someone is in need, people stepping up and helping one another is amazing and it has been overwhelming for us. It is hard to put into words. The outpouring of love we have received is spectacular. We are asked probably ten times a day, ‘how can we help, what do you need?’ I don’t know what to tell people anymore. I think we are OK for now, until the baby comes.”

Kelsey feels the same, but the emotion of all of this gets to her. Through tears she expressed, “This is not something I would wish upon anyone, but it’s been kind of a blessing with people reaching out, from our community, to strangers. It’s really amazing to see how much support you have around you.” She added, “one of the most thoughtful, selfless, loving things I’ve heard since Josh was diagnosed, or maybe ever, came from Josh’s brother. He said, ‘I wish, like you wouldn’t believe, that I could trade places with you, but God has other plans.”

Right now the plan for Josh and Kelsey is to forge ahead. Work through the present, have hope and faith in the future, in doctors, in treatments, in love and support from all of those around them and prepare to accept a new baby into their world. That one thought – the promise of a new beginning – the miracle of a new life on the horizon – might just the be the greatest motivation of all.

josh kelsey sunrise

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Financial Services

Author of the #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
(http://www.spouses-story.com/)

For ideas, comments, or suggestions for The Sunday Series, e-mail: markbrodinsky@gmail.com
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The Gift Like No Other: It’s Just About… Life

I’m not in the business of commercialism on this blog, but you can’t help but notice when a company steps up to the plate and reminds us all about one of the true great joys in life.

To read.

Plenty of people do, plenty of people don’t. But it’s the simplest exercise to change your life. Feel free to enter the word “read” or “book” into the search engine on this blog site and see how many times among the more than 340 posts, the subject of books or reading has come up, or at least the words have been mentioned.

It’s that simple, a book, reading, will take you to places you never thought you could go. Open your mind to thoughts you never dreamed possible. If you haven’t seen the commercial in the YouTube link I am posting below, then good for you, it means you don’t watch TV at all and are probably reading instead, so you are one step ahead of the game.  I do a little of both and that’s the point. It only takes a little.

If you watch this commercial below, which will take you 30 seconds, and then devote 300 minutes over the next 30 days, that’s only 10 minutes a day, to reading a book, you will be hooked and never want to stop.  I know personally on the days I don’t read, and yes those do happen from time to time, I definitely feel like I have missed out on something special. Because a book is special.

And even better, hold that book in your hand. The commercial shows more people actually holding books, then using a Nook. I’m not here to tell you to support Barnes and Noble, but let’s face it, they can’t survive on Nook alone and if the brick and mortar book stores should have to shut down because of lack of business, it will be a sad day indeed for this nation and our culture. Never say never.

So take 30 seconds of your life to be reminded WHY – and then give the gift like no other. The one that might just last a lifetime, or perhaps even change your life forever. Heck, you might even be inspired to write a book… or two. :)

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Mark

Mark Brodinsky, (Reader), Author, Blogger, Financial Services

Author: The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story

(http://www.spouses-story.com/)

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