Every Breath You Take: It’s Just About… Life

breathing

It’s one of our most basic human functions: breathe in, breathe out. For most of us it comes naturally, (though not for all unfortunately). We don’t think about it, it just happens.

But connect each breath you take to what it is you want to accomplish and then you might just want to focus on your breathing.  If you desire to do big things, if you are trying to reach your potential, then you should be aware of every breath you take, especially your next one.

Consider this from Grant Cardone, author of The 10X Rule:

An interesting thing about success is that it’s like a breath of fresh air; although our last breath of air is important, it’s not nearly as important as the next one. Become obsessed with the next breath of accomplishment.

You must keep breathing to survive, so holding on to that last breath you took, and trying not to breathe again will eventually end your life. But you have the desire to truly live, right?  You want to do accomplish feats the world marvels at, you want to leave a mark of significance, or do you?

If you do, you have to focus on your next breath. And the next one and the next one and the next one…. it’s always about moving forward, not standing still, or holding your breath waiting for something to happen to you. No, it’s about making things happen, getting ready for the next intake of fresh air. Every moment, every second is a new one to embrace.

This is life and you have no choice but to keep breathing, become obsessed with your next breath of accomplishment, even if your chest feels heavy, even if the air feels thick. Sometimes it will. Keep breathing. Remember that next breath is coming, embrace it, savor it. Start breathing deeply, start breathing hard and with purpose and then tell the world to get out of your way.  Make your mark on the world, shape it, mold it, prove that every breath you take matters. Because it does.

just breathe

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Emmy-Award Winner, Financial Services

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

For feedback or comments on It’s Just About… Life & The Sunday Series, leave a comment on the blog, or on social media. You can also e-mail markbrodinsky@gmail.com

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The Sunday Series (62), with Mark Brodinsky

In this thing we call life there are so many moments, happy, sad, joy, despair and everything in between. The challenge of truly living your life comes from the ability to face it head-on no matter what the circumstance. Make no mistake it’s not easy – finding a reason to move forward despite what is pushing you back.  And if you share your story, others can learn as well.

Courage. Hope. Inspiration.

I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.

The Sunday Series (62): There Is Always Hope

christian and jason picture

For Jason Semler it was this day, when as a young boy, he got a cut on his leg. His mom put a band-aid over “the boo-boo” on the side of his left calf, exactly halfway between his ankle and his knee.  For this young man who loved to play basketball, it was a turning point. With that band-aid on his leg, Jason went out and played the best game of his life. From that point on, every day of his life, Jason religiously wore a band-aid, his good luck charm, and one he never wanted to give up.

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In November, 1997 Jason Semler enlisted in the Air Force. It was an easy decision for him, growing up a “military brat”, Jason was used to the travel, his dad Bernie, had served as an Air Force Master Sergeant. Jason ended up serving as Staff Sergeant, stationed with the 728th Air Control Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He did a brief tour in Kuwait, and later led a communications unit during the War in Iraq. His squadron was also one of the first to be deployed in Baghdad International Airport during Operation Iraqi Freedom. During his time in service, Jason said that he had one vision: “To get all my guys home safely!” He did just that and earned the respect, numerous military awards and was held in high regard from all those who served with him. He completed nine years in the Air Force, before separating from the service in December of 2006.

While in Florida in 2000, Jason met the woman who would change his life, Christian Stone.

christian and jason wedding

The couple married in 2005 and Christian said it was Jason’s smile that captured her own heart and could light up a room. She says, “when he walked in everything seemed to be better when he was around.” For Jason and Christian that smile barely dimmed, but it started to flicker shortly after Jason’s return home from the war in 2003.

jason in air force

Christian says the changes were subtle at first, Jason started drinking more, but after a time the trouble with alcohol seemed to fade away. Then there was his temper. Christian says “Jason would get agitated really, really easily, though after a time that also balanced out. What was consistent however were the night terrors, or tremors. Jason would jerk a lot in his sleep. He didn’t even know he was doing it, but he was also having trouble sleeping. It was almost as if he was two different people. When he was home he was reserved, he never wanted to talk about his feelings, but he always quick to “take on” everyone else’s feelings. It was almost like if he helped someone else, he would be helping himself.”

christian and jason with dogs

And Christian says Jason loved to help other people.  “He was loved by all types of people”, she says. “There was no line for Jason. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from, he treated you like family and he helped everybody. He encouraged and helped all of his troops apply for and attend college. He helped our neighbor fill out all his college applications and grant forms and even took him to tour college campuses. The boys parents didn’t see the need for a college education, so Jason took it upon himself to make sure he got one. Everything Jason did was to help other people.”

But in the shadows, it was Jason who may have needed more help than anyone.

Christian says there was never any follow-up, guidance or counseling when Jason got back from his overseas stint with the Air Force and his time with Operation Iraqi Freedom. The transition back into normal, everyday life was a learn-as-you-go process. By 2006 Jason had separated from the military, but he took a job which required top-secret clearance with Sierra Nevada Corporation. Christian says Jason’s position as a field engineer with the company led to three more trips back overseas, “and every time he returned his personality changed even more”, says Christian.

In the meantime, Jason was focusing on helping other servicemen suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was doing it person-by-person, just talking and listening. Christian says sometimes that’s all it would take. But no one was listening to Jason… because he wasn’t speaking about his own experiences.

jason in blues

As time passed, things were getting more difficult for Jason. Christian says at home Jason needed everything to be a certain way. If one thing was out-of-place it would immediately put him in a bad mood, agitate him. It was not easy. Christian says she and Jason talked about counseling many times, but because he had top-secret clearance with his current job,  he was afraid he would lose his job. Christian says Jason felt he could handle it himself.

To work at Sierra Nevada Corporation Jason had to go through psychological evaluations, but Christian says Jason hid his struggles, never being honest with the doctors. His family didn’t notice much and if anyone did and tried to talk to Jason about it Christian says Jason would turn the conversation around and walk away.

All this time Jason was still trying to help other people with their problems. He still had that smile, the one that brought a bright light to others outside his own darkness. Christian says Jason made the family gatherings more fun, he would always attend his nieces and nephews ballgames, and he made sure to always support the family.

The past two years however things had changed.

Jason was losing weight, and he was drinking again, a lot. Christian says Jason would drink on the weekends, but he was going one step further now, lying about the alcohol abuse, by telling her he was at work, when he was really out at the bar. There were secret hiding places in the house where Jason had stashed his liquor.  Places Christian never knew existed. Lies and deceit.

And Jason had stopped doing something else he loved – going to the games – he would no longer show up at the ballgames for his nieces and nephews – claiming work was getting in the way.

Just a few weeks ago Christian needed to fly down to Florida to visit her father, who is battling stage 4 cancer. She left on a Thursday, planning to return the following Tuesday. On Sunday, March 1st she received a text from Jason. He said someone sideswiped his car. “I immediately called him”, says Christian. “He said he was at work and somebody sideswiped it. I said to Jason, ‘It’s Sunday, why would you be working? And even if you were, you are so careful to have everything in its spot, you park in a place where no one could have hit it’.  He got angry with me and hung up.”

Forty minutes later there was another text from Jason: “I hit a car tonight and the cops were just here.” Christian immediately responded, “I called him back and he said to me, ‘my life is over, there is no hope.’ “I told him, Jason it’s not, there is always hope, if you allow yourself to get help. He said, ‘it’s too late, it’s too late’. “I said it’s not too late. Then he said, “I love you babe, you are the best thing that ever happened to me.’  “He hung up the phone…. and he was gone.”

Gone.

With a single gunshot, Jason Semler chose to end his life that night. After a frantic call from Christian, Jason’s father and brother-in-law went to the couple’s home – only to find the TV on, candles lit, and in Jason and Christian’s bedroom – the shock of their lives.

“His parents, me, his friends, everybody is still in shock”, says Christian. “Everyone is taking it really hard, nobody saw this coming. He never talked to anyone about anything like this and I’ve asked everybody.”

jason memorial

Though there has been no official diagnosis, all signs point to Jason dealing with the consequences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although now nearly a decade since separating from the Air Force, sometimes these symptoms don’t surface for months or years after an event, or returning from deployment. They may also come and go. It appears the same struggles Jason had been helping other friends in the military to overcome, by talking with them, by guiding them through it, in his own life, Jason’s path became unbearable. His bright smile that “lit up the room”, was masking his own demons, hiding his tears of pain. In his mind, hope was lost.

But as Christian told her husband the last time they ever spoke, hope is never lost. “I think that Jason knows that no matter what would have happened, I would have loved and supported and been there for him”, she says. “And his family would have done the same thing. I don’t know what would have caused him to do this. We always had an honest relationship and the hardest part to get over are the lies about his pain and about the drinking. I’ve tried to research PTSD, I’ve tried to research suicide, but I read a few pages and then break down. It’s not obvious if you don’t know what you are looking for.”

ptsd poster

(Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include recurring memories or nightmares of the event(s),sleeplessness, loss of interest, or feeling numb, anger, and irritability, but there are many ways PTSD can impact everyday life. The secret may be awareness. There are numerous resources on the internet, the link to the official government site is here: (http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/how-common-is-ptsd.asp).

Christian’s ability to share this very private story only three weeks after Jason’s death is beyond courageous, and it is her hope in doing so she might save a life. In her own life, Christian is left trying to understand. She says there is no message, no lesson yet in all of this because she is still trying to “figure it out.”  But she does have a place to start.

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After everything that happened,  Christian went into the couple’s bedroom to retrieve some of Jason’s clothes, but what she saw on the floor was a band-aid, one of the band-aids Jason always wore on his left calf, for good luck.  “I saw it as a sign”, says Christian. I wanted to get the actual band-aid permanently secured onto my own leg, but they couldn’t do that, so I got a version tattooed on my calf. Two of Jason’s friends have gotten band-aid tattoos and his father and brother-in-law are getting a band-aid tattoo on Monday.”

christian bandaid tattoo

Though a band-aid will not heal the deep, cavernous wound in Christian’s heart, it’s a start. You have to start somewhere. Memories of the warmth of her husband’s smile, and time, lots of time, will eventually create the permanent bandage to secure Christian’s own heart, as well as listening to the stories from Jason’s friends and the many, many lives he touched and helped. Despite his own demons, Jason managed to live a life of significance by doing the things that will forever endear him to others – giving back, serving his country and serving others, so many others with whom he came in contact.

When that happens, when you touch and serve others, you’ve done the one thing that leaves your mark on the world, for which you will be forever remembered – you made others glad you lived.

jason and christian last pic

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Mark

(To read more about Jason’s life and how he affected others, visit the Facebook Page: Remembering Jason Semler: (https://www.facebook.com/groups/JasonSemler/)

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Emmy-Award Winner, 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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For ideas, comments, suggestions, feedback on The Sunday Series, leave  a remark on the blog, contact me on social media or send an e-mail to markbrodinsky@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Date: It’s Just About… Life

date with yourself

March 18th. That’s today’s date. It’s a great day, your day to have a great date, especially if you have never had one before. It might be the most important date you ever have. And not it’s not the date with your spouse (important), your boyfriend or girlfriend (important), your kids (important), your whole family (important), your work and responsibilities (important), your friends (important).

It’s none of the above. The date you need to go on and make it one of the best ever… focused, intense, and soulfully rewarding, is the date with you. It’s time to get to know yourself. And not only is that date important, it needs to happen every day.

But getting to know yourself is not easy. Consider the following:

“We live in an age disturbed, confused, bewildered, afraid of its own forces, in search of not merely its road but even of its direction. There are many voices of counsel, but few voices of vision; there is much excitement and feverish activity, but little concert of thoughtful purpose. We are distressed by our ungoverned, undirected energies and do many things, but nothing long. It is our duty to find ourselves.”

The quote above, taken from a commencement address at Princeton, could easily have been spoken today. But it wasn’t. It is from a speech by President Woodrow Wilson, in 1907!  The more things change, the more things stay the same. As a matter of fact, if you go back in time you will find much of the same challenges as today. Time may move forward, we may advance in technology and speed of life, but at the core, one thing never changes; we are humans and our basic needs, desires, and uphill battles are still the same. The same shortcomings from centuries ago still exist today, and one of those is taking action on the one thing which can give you a strong sense of purpose and direction in your life. And it is the one thing which can lead you to feeling fulfilled and creating significance.

It is growth, personal growth.

How do you get there? Make a date.

I am currently re-reading several books in preparation for some speeches I have the opportunity to write for a large recognition event next month for the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, an event focused on leadership.  You want to know how I earned the opportunity? I figured out what my strength and purpose is – and then practice, dedication, conviction and awareness of a chance when it presented itself. However, those are simply direct consequences of the one date I have had as consistently as I can over the past few years, nearly ever day. That date has allowed me to tap into what makes me tick and stay on the ever-challenging journey to reach my potential. That journey by the way, never ends.

So I ask you, can you ask yourself out on a date?

And don’t just take my word for it, I mean who is Mark Brodinsky? Funny thing is every day I’m getting the answer to that question. So allow me to lend support to my conviction. This is an excerpt taken directly from the book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, by John C. Maxwell. If you don’t know Maxwell, it’s OK, but his resume speaks for itself. He is an author, coach and speaker who has sold more than 24 million books and  trained more than 5 million leaders in 180 countries. He has been called America’s #1 Leadership Authority. The following excerpt is all about your next great date:

Take a look at your calendar for the next twelve months. How much time have you specifically scheduled for personal growth? If you’re like most people, your answer will be none. That’s not going to cut it. Rework your calendar so you have an appointment (date) with yourself for personal growth every day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year. You might be thinking, What? I don’t have time for that! That’s probably true. Do it anyway. If you want to succeed, you need to do whatever it takes. Get up an hour early. Stay up an hour later. Give up your lunch hour. Put in extra time on the weekends. If you don’t you’ll have to prepare to give up your dreams and any hope of reaching your potential.

Start now. No matter what time of day you’re reading these words, make a commitment to start growing today. Give that first hour before you go to sleep tonight. Put in the time today and for the next five days. You probably won’t feel like doing it. Do it anyway.

It’s time for a great date and you can begin immediately, buy or download a book to help you. There are nearly two dozen books to choose from right on The Higher Shelf! page on this very blog. Read, learn, reflect, meet great people, attend great events, ask great questions. Visualize what it is you want to accomplish, start to figure out who you really are and then tap into your strengths and talents, the ones which are unique to you. And then –  and this is key –  find a way  to use those talents in service to other people.

Your challenge and everyone’s challenge is this: you need to find out who you are to grow, but you have to grow in order to find out who you are.

Have a great date today.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Emmy-Award Winner, 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 (61), with Mark Brodinsky

It’s just Life. After all if it were easy, everyone would do it. The it is to live life no matter what…to know that whatever the challenge is, you are facing it head on, finding the courage to overcome, feeling the hope which is contagious and in doing so providing inspiration for others around you. Everyone has a story, but you can inspire others by sharing yours.

I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.

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The Sunday Series (61): Eat the Damn Cookie

For Joy Freedman it’s been all about the animals. For nearly two decades Joy has worked as a dog behaviorist. Much like a dog whisperer, Joy helps pets and their families to live in perfect harmony, maybe training the families as much as she has helped the canines to whom she has come in contact. Joy knows about love and caring, after all anyone who has worked with dogs this long has come to learn the magic of unconditional love that a canine can provide.

4 paws

But humans can step up and provide that same love, especially when the chips are down, especially when the hand you are dealt is sudden and swift and much like the puppies you helped to train you are left wide-eyed and bewildered about what might happen next.

beautiful dog

For Joy it all started with a stomach bug. “I am a health freak”, says Joy. “I was overweight at one time, but I dropped 60 pounds about eight years ago and never looked back. I played sports all my life. I play basketball a few times a month, I go to the gym and work with a personal trainer, my body fat is at 16.9%. But in the middle of January I got what I thought was a stomach bug. I didn’t think anything more. My doctor told me to go get tested.  At first those who read the test results said it looked like focalized colitis. The treatment…a liquid diet for a week, some strong medication and to sit it out until all calmed down.”

But it wasn’t working, the pain persisted, especially after Joy, starving after two rounds of similar treatment for the issue, decided to eat. The pain following that was intense.  Another CT scan, more x-rays, but the diagnosis didn’t change, until finally the recommendation did – get a colonoscopy.  Joy did and that’s when life changed.

“It’s that shock”, says Joy. “It’s like the whole world stops. It’s a shock when you hear that word cancer and your body just shakes. There is no way to prepare you for that. And then you need to get a plan, and you need to get strong.”

Within a few days of the colonoscopy and the diagnosis, Joy was in surgery. The mass found during the procedure needed to come out as soon as possible. It was only about two inches in diameter, and the surgeons got most of it, but not all of it. Some of the tumor cells had spread into the tissue around it. There are now titanium clips marking the places where radiation treatments will be focused, in the hopes of eradicating any traces of the cancer. It’s only about six weeks into this chapter of Joy’s journey, but the overriding theme is to be positive.  After all one of the best techniques used by a dog whisperer in correcting canine behavior issues is to use a positive attitude. The power of being positive can change the course of your day, help you face challenges and even beat back the beast – cancer.

Says Joy: “I will beat it no matter what. Actually what I mean to say is I AM beating it. I am beating it now. I’m in the positive. I’m in the now, right now.”

And make no mistake, it’s not easy. At the time of this interview, just yesterday, Joy was battling flu-like symptoms, a nasty virus which has kept her down for days, even forcing her to miss the fundraiser in her honor, held just the night before at the Green Turtle in Hunt Valley. Joy was just too sick to attend.  She has been feeling weak, tired, dizzy, feverish, yet she mustered the strength, courage and conviction to speak and share her story. Plus, there is that knowing feeling… Joy knows she has the support to get her through this next chapter in her book of life.

“The support has been unbelievable,” says Joy. “I am the most blessed person alive. The outpouring has been beyond phenomenal, I am beyond humbled, shocked, its been unbelievable. My core group, my warrior group, including my wife Lisa of course, also Leigh Forbes, Lisa Poland, Bari Fore, Sharon Schmidt, Karen Geppi and  my ex-wife Jocelyn Stone, who is my son’s other mother, that’s my core. My neighbors, Erin Wilson, Carrie King and Kim Brackeen, they have just been great.”

A Few of Joy's "Warriors"

A Few of Joy’s “Warriors”

Joy’s warriors have brought her food, helped to comfort her, come to walk with her as she has tried to get back up and active following surgery, and basically have been helping to run her life.

Joy & Lisa

Joy & Lisa

And it’s not an easy task for Joy. Her wife Lisa still lives in Philadelphia and will for some time, until both of Lisa’s sons are out of the house and in college (one is now). So Lisa can only come down to Maryland to be with Joy a few days a week. And Joy’s own son Cole only lives with her every other week, but it’s Cole who is Joy’s hero.

Not five seconds into Joy talking about her son, who will become a bar mitzvah just next week, the tears started to flow: “I don’t need a bar mitzvah to know he is a man,” says Joy. “He has taken care of me, he does the laundry, he makes dinner, he does the dishes, he makes breakfast, he gets himself up and out for school. Whatever  I need him to do he’ll do before I even ask him to do it. He is the most amazing, incredible young man. I’m so proud of Cole, he is my world. He has taken care of his mother without any question. He is amazing, he never asks for anything.” Joy’s tears now coming uncontrollably: “I think the hardest part is I haven’t been able to take care of him and do all the things I wanted to do before his bar mitzvah. I feel like I haven’t been there for him.”

Joy's Hero - Cole

Joy’s Hero – Cole

But when the tables are turned in life, it’s the unconditional love Joy has experienced so many times in the work that is her passion and fills her life, that she is now experiencing as she faces one of the greatest challenges within her journey. Her young son taking on the role as a responsible caretaker, her friends providing unwavering support and encouragement. A shoulder to lean on, someone to talk to and the positive energy to make it through the next stage in the battle plan.

In two weeks Joy will begin chemotherapy treatments, six rounds of folfox, two times a month, a take-home treatment program. At some point, either in the middle, or post-chemo, radiation treatments will begin, all with the goal of killing whatever cells might remain. Amazingly, all of this is beginning in what is recognized as Colon Cancer Awareness Month – a time for awareness and education about the disease and Joy is learning so much, especially about the timing of a colonoscopy.

march_donate_button

Currently most insurances only cover the “routine” colonoscopy starting at age 50. But Joy says this is much too late: “I’m part of a colon cancer awareness group on Facebook and the majority of women I have come in contact with are diagnosed in their 40’s. The same is happening with men. I don’t know for sure, but if I had a colonoscopy at age 40, they might have seen polyps, an early warning sign for cancer. I just joined the colon cancer awareness coalition, (http://www.ccalliance.org/). I haven’t done much yet but seek advice, but I plan to become an advocate for them when I am stronger and healthier.” Turn adversity into advantage for other people.

joy and lisa in white

When you visit the website for the CCalliance, at the top of the page there is a quote, part of the lyrics to a new song from singer/songwriter Wade Hayes. Less than four years ago Hayes waged his own fierce battle against colon cancer, one that nearly claimed his life.  The quote reads: “Go live your life. Go chase your dreams. We have no way of knowing what tomorrow brings.” (http://www.goliveyourlife.com/)

Joy feels exactly the same. When asked what lesson she has learned so far, even this early into the journey of her own battle against the beast, it’s this: “Really I’ll tell you, eat the damn cookie. I spent so much of my life being so concerned about everything I eat and everything I do. Eat the cookie, take the day off work, be spontaneous, that’s what I would tell, that is my lesson. Just eat the damn cookie.”

Until next time, thanks for taking the time

Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Emmy-Award Winner, Financial Services

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

For feedback, or story ideas for The Sunday Series feel free to leave a comment on the blog, contact me on social media,or  e-mail markbrodinsky@gmail.com.

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It’s free! :)