Why?: It’s Just About… Life.


why

The blog takes a short hiatus for Spring Break, time to rest, relax and reflect, so here now is part of a blog post from last year, it deserves another shot as a reminder to inspire and improve your life and maybe the life of someone else. See you in a few days….

“The two most important days in your life are the day your are born…and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

Of the countless things I have listened to and read in the past year on the topics of self-improvement, personal growth, goals, finding your purpose, pursuing your dream… this one still sits at the top of the list. You can’t read or listen to that line and not pause for at least for a moment and think. Thinking is a good thing, especially when it focuses on the inside — who you are, what you want and who you are supposed to be. Figure that out and life takes on a whole new meaning. It’s an answer unique to YOU, since you are unique, you have talents and treasures which might still be hidden, but realize you have a purpose and can make incredible things happen, if you can keep it simple and figure out WHY.

It’s up to you, and it’s a matter of some serious thought. Think about it, then write it down. Goals and dreams which exist only in your mind are like marbles rolling around in your head, you need to put it down on paper. Write it, read it, live it. Show all of us what you are made of, everyone deserves to shine.

Read it again, out loud this time: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born…and the day you find out why.”

Fifty-percent of the battle is won, you’re here, now go find out why.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Financial Services
It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
#1 Amazon Best-Seller
http://www.spouses-story.com
http://www.amazon.com/author/markbrodinsky
markbrodinsky@gmail.com

To get e-mails about new posts, click on the follow button on the top or bottom of the screen.

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The Sunday Series (24), with Mark Brodinsky


It’s nothing more than a muscle, a small part of your makeup which beats in rhythm to sustain life. Yet it holds so much significance, not just in its ability to be at the core of your body, but at the core of your being. Its physical importance can’t be denied, but it’s the light which emanates from that core that gives life meaning.

The Sunday Series (24): Heartlight

You could literally see his heart beating. Hayden lay there, his chest wide open, covered only with some light bandages, in critical condition. His parents sitting by his bedside throughout the night, with one single purpose, one single desire, one single prayer…please let Hayden live.

A little more than four years before that moment, Hayden Lazorchak was born, prematurely, but at 4-lbs, 12-ounces, he was a seemingly healthy preemie, at least for a day. That’s when doctors in the NICU discovered something was missing, half his heart. Hayden’s issue was never caught in-utero. An ultrasound about halfway through the pregnancy showed all four chambers. But somewhere between that midpoint and his birth about a month earlier than normal, something failed to develop, and within 24 hours of his entry into this world, the doctors knew Hayden would embark on a rare journey, one shrouded in doubt that it could even succeed.

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It’s called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. HLHS is a rare congenital heart defect in which the left ventricle of the heart is severely underdeveloped, basically the person has only half a functioning heart. In babies with HLHS, the aorta and left ventricle are underdeveloped before birth, and the aortic and mitral valves are too small to allow sufficient blood flow. For Hayden doctors said his best chance at survival would be three corrective surgeries, the first to begin immediately, the second at six months, the third a few years down the road. That’s the medical game plan, the reality is no one could be sure it would work, but there was little choice. Having entered the world only hours before, Hayden would undergo open heart surgery. His parents, Ali and Rob were given time with their newborn son, to hold him, to take photos, to be in the moment, because at that moment, the doctors were unsure Hayden would even make it.

The first emergency surgery was deemed a success. Though Hayden spent a month in the hospital, he was then allowed to come home.

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Ali says the challenge of taking care of a new life, even a “normal” baby, can be overwhelming, but add to that the task of caring for a baby having undergone open heart surgery and the real challenge becomes creating as normal an existence as possible, especially when you know what is looming around the corner, surgery number two.

Ali says the first surgery was a “whirlwind”, an immediate and necessary emergency procedure just to keep Hayden alive. But the second time around, Hayden was already six-months old, “we knew him”, says Ali, “this one was so much harder.” And it was. Hayden was supposed to be in the hospital for a week, his stay lasted four months. During that time, and through a myriad of complications, Hayden suffered…including becoming addicted to pain killers. This tiny life, a little more than half-a-year old, was now an addict, forced to be put on methadone to help ween him off the pain drugs which the doctors were forced to give Hayden just to help him exist. He had also been intubated for so long now, Hayden didn’t even know how to eat on his own anymore. Physical and drug rehabilitation now became a part of this tiny baby’s existence.

They say G-d does not give you more than you can handle. Sometimes that line is hard to believe. During the same period, Ali was forced to undergo an emergency open appendectomy, after her appendix ruptured when she and Rob were out one evening. Ali says for her family, especially for Rob, with his son suffering, his wife recovering from her own major surgery, it seemed like the world was teetering on the brink. But Ali recovered and Hayden, still less than one year old, having survived his second surgery and his “rehabilitation”, eventually came home.

Except for the medications Hayden needed to take daily, Ali says life was, “really normal. We did everything normal families do.” They did, but the Lazorchak’s were doing even more. During Hayden’s second surgery stay, Ali and Rob decided they needed to give back and created a non-profit organization called Hayden’s Heart Heroes, with funds raised going directly to the pediatric cardiology division and the PICU at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where Hayden was being treated. Ali says when you are going through something like this there are “two roads to take. Get through it and then try to forget it, or so something about it. For us it was about doing and emotionally that’s where we were able to put our energy, it gave us direction.” (http://www.haydensheartheroes.com/)

For the next few years, the direction for the Lazorchak family was a positive one. Outside of the visits with Dr. Joel Brenner, the cardiologist and the daily medications, Hayden was living and growing just like a normal child. Ali says from the outside, it was impossible to tell he had been through so much. That’s what made surgery number three, the final one the doctors told them about shortly after Hayden was born, so tough to take. “It was horrible for us”, says Ali, “unbelievably difficult because he was totally this little person, you have all these connections. He loved to sing, loved to golf, it was so much different than when he was a baby, at four years old, it was so much more real and it was very hard to hand him over that day.”

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Hard quickly became an understatement. The prior surgeries had not been easy, this one ended up requiring a heart-lung bypass and the discovery of a tricuspid valve leakage. On the surgery table for ten hours, the doctors would come out to give updates to Ali and Rob, and none of them were positive. The doctors believed by that evening Hayden might need to go on full life support. Coming out of surgery that day, Hayden’s chest remained opened because of a build-up of fluid, the doctors pumped him with diuretics for three full days. The rabbi who came to see Hayden nearly fainted when he saw the young boy lying there with his chest open, his heart visibly beating. But the doctors were able to stabilize the young boy, close him up, and after overcoming a few more complications, discussion of a heart transplant, which Ali and Rob somehow convinced the doctors would not be needed, and more than a month in the hospital, Hayden finally came home.

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Hayden is now 9-years old and slowly over these past five years his heart function has steadily improved, his valve leakage is no longer an issue and doctors say his heart is the best its ever been. Hayden takes a daily dose of the blood thinner Cumadin, which he will do for the rest of his life, but Ali says to him this is all normal. She and Rob have fought hard to make life normal for Hayden and for them and to continue to give back. Hayden’s Heart Heroes will hold its 9th golf tournament this June and the book fair this fall, and the foundation is about to hit the $100,000 mark in donations. Next month, Hayden will be featured as the face of heart for the American Heart Association’s Howard County Heart Ball. (http://howardmdheartball.ahaevents.org/)

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In the end it’s all about heart. Whether it’s a half, a whole, or something in between. It’s not the heart muscle, but the light which emanates from its core, and touches all those who come in contact. For Ali and Rob it’s the glow of that light, Hayden’s light, now stronger than ever, which makes their own hearts shine ever brighter.

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Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Financial Services
It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
#1 Amazon Best-Seller
http://www.spouses-story.com
http://www.amazon.com/author/markbrodinsky

For feedback or ideas for The Sunday Series, send an e-mail to markbrodinsky@gmail.com

Deb and me at race

When Cancer Calls: It’s Just About… Life.


Deb and me at race

Tomorrow marks two years. April 13th, 2012, a phone call.

Communication is always a good thing, but sometimes a conversation can turn your world on a dime. That cancer call that first creates fear, then if you handle it as adeptly as my wife did, you take action, enact a radical change, kick its ass and move on, or at least as much as you can after surviving the transformation of your physical being, and the never-ending emotional journey of living with the consequences and the new you. Stronger, sometimes stranger, always…survivor.

The following excerpt is the journal entry I wrote that day on the pages of Caringbridge.com, and which is now part of Chapter One in the book, It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story. It does take two, and it’s hard to believe that tomorrow marks two years since that day.

2013 08 15 It Takes Two (v2)

Cancer-free day is May 10th, the day of the double mastectomy, and from now until that day, the Kindle and Paperback versions of It Takes 2 have been reduced significantly, with all royalties for the next month being donated to Caringbridge.org, where my journal first began and which relies completely on donations to allow others to share their own stories online. Here now the excerpt from, It Takes 2.

Forever Changed
April 13, 2012

I don’t even remember what she said; I just remember where I was.
Friday the 13th, April 2012. This is a day we will never forget. I’m at my car, parked just outside the bank on this beautiful Friday morning. I had just popped the trunk for some reason and was standing outside looking in when the cell phone rang. It was Debbie. And she was sad.

Sad is an understatement. I could hear it through her tears, a garbled, quick explanation that the radiologist had called, and it wasn’t benign, it was malignant, or maybe she used the word cancer. I honestly don’t remember. All I knew was Debbie was at work, and I was miles away. I couldn’t get to her at that moment. I couldn’t hold her, all I could do was listen to her fear and pain through the phone and through those tears. I felt like I was standing in quicksand. I hopped back in the car, because it was windy and I couldn’t hear all of what Debbie was saying. She said the radiologist called her at work and said he wanted to talk to her … then he asked if she was sitting down! She knew then it was not going to be a great moment. He said the pathology report showed a malignancy inside her nipple duct, cancer in-situ, but the concern was the invasive tumor outside the duct, that was a bigger issue. Then I heard the phone cut out.

It was Debbie’s call-waiting. Someone was calling in, either her mom, or her sister, or a good friend. I don’t know, I don’t remember, but Debbie wanted to take the call. She said she would call me right back. Sure, just like any other day. Except today wasn’t like any other day, neither will be the days to come, I’m sure. Life has done what life does—throws down the gauntlet and then look you straight in the eye and ask, “Okay, what are you going to do now?”
I’ll tell you what I was going to do—I was going to get to Debbie. So I started driving. Where was I going? I wasn’t sure. Deb was a good 30 miles away at work, and was she staying, or going? Was I going home? What about my two daughters? What about my mother-in-law, a breast cancer survivor herself, what was she thinking? What about my sister-in-law? What was going on? What was the next move? I wasn’t sure at that moment; I was just sure I was driving.
Then the phone rang. Debbie was calling back.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step. The wheels were in motion. Debbie said her sister, Alisa, was already making calls to doctors. Alisa, G-d bless her, when a crisis strikes, is all over it. She takes charge, and her baby sister had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, so she wasn’t messing around. Neither was their mom, Sharon. My mother-in-law’s boyfriend, Lloyd, has a connection, and, through that connection, we have a shot at getting in to see one of the best breast cancer surgeons in Baltimore.

I now had an answer as to my destination. I had not dared make a single call, for fear of missing Debbie’s next one. She was leaving work, and we would meet up at a restaurant near our home. A couple of close friends were headed there, as well. I needed to see Debbie, and they wanted to see her, too. In just those few minutes after the call that started it all, the outpouring of support and love was already in full swing.

Debbie and I pulled up in the parking lot at almost the same time. I got out and went around to her car, and we embraced. Deb had calmed down since the phone call, maybe reassured that steps were already being taken to get in to see a doctor and discuss what was going to happen next. It felt good to hold her for even a moment, and, in that moment, I knew it was somehow going to be okay, although not sure exactly how, or why, but we will be victorious in the end.
Love is the most powerful healing force in the world. It’s like a drug, like medicine for the soul, and this love is going to make a difference in whatever is going to come next. We will not be defeated. Life will go on. My wife, my daughters, will be okay. This story will have a very different ending than the one that had been written just three years earlier when we lost Debbie’s dad to cancer. I know it with every part of my being. We are going to win.

Thanks for caring,
Mark

To purchase: It Takes 2, visit http://www.spouses-story.com (and click on Where to Buy The Book) or http://www.amazon.com/author/markbrodinsky

human beagles

Human Beagles: It’s Just About… Life.


human beagles

If your nose is cold and wet, we’ve got a problem.

If you are distracted by every smell, sight, and sound, we’ve got a problem.

If you are overwhelmed, running in circles, or running after things you will never, ever catch up to, we’ve got a problem.

Or if you are spending your time, howling at the moon, we’ve got a problem.

You might just be a human beagle. Distracted by everything going on around you, feeling like there is too much stimuli coming in all at once, unable to focus on one thing at a time, multi-tasking until you don’t know which end is up. Is that you?

Then it’s time to get centered. Bring it all into focus, you’ll never get where you want to go, if you don’t know where that is. You can’t move forward if you are always going sideways, or worse ’round and ’round, chasing your tail. It’s easy to do. There is so much information, so much you feel you must accomplish, only so many hours in the day (too few), you feel like you can’t get it all done.

The trick, the secret, is focus. It’s all about slowing down, and writing it down. Focusing on just a few vital activities each day which make you productive, happy and able to express yourself and to feel love. Write it down. Choose three things that if you focused and put your full energy into would still make you feel like you lived a full day, accomplished what needs to get done and still have the time for you. Because you matter, if you’re not focused and happy, no one else around you is either.

Get a journal, choose your activities wisely and keep track. Slow it all down and tune out most of the stuff that doesn’t matter, because most of it truly doesn’t. It’s amazing how much more you can accomplish, how much happier and productive you feel when you do less…and then can in turn, be more.

Do your best to not act like, or be like, a human beagle. Yeah they have dark, welcoming eyes and are happy and loving. They are also constantly in tune to what is going on around them, eager to jump at the first distraction, easily overwhelmed by the stimuli all around them.

Plus they love a good fire hydrant now and then. That’s not you. You don’t need to fire off a stream, you just need to stream yourself into focus and be the best you can be every day. A few vital actions, void of distractions. Slow down and speed up your path to success.

Do that and then enjoy the fruits of your labor and maybe even a treat or two.
Good boy, (or girl).

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Financial Services
It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
http://www.spouses-story.com
http://www.amazon.com/author/markbrodinsky
markbrodinsky @ gmail.com
To follow this blog, and get e-mails when new posts appear, please click the follow button on top or bottom of your screen

girl in blanket

Love in Motion: It’s Just About… Life.


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A perfectly sunny day, not a cloud in the blue sky above. There’s a reason they call her “Mother Nature”. She’s a mom after all, and any mother would jump at the chance to improve the life of even one child. So for the third year in a row she created perfect conditions for the event to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Baltimore and what is quickly becoming a signature event in Charm City, The Red Shoe Shuffle.

Blue skies above

This year it was Shuffle for Smiles and there were plenty on display from the 2,500 people in attendance, many of them families with young children, all there for one reason, to raise money for the House that Love Built. If there were a few thousand walking or running, it seemed as if there were just as many volunteers, all ready to cheer you on as you made your way around a few big city landmarks.

the 5k that love builtthanks for helping

The walk goes through the heart of one birds nest, the place the Orioles call home, Oriole Park @ Camden Yards and right around another, M&T Bank Stadium where the Ravens roost every fall and winter. Those structures are at the heart of a revitalized downtown Baltimore these past twenty years and a perfect place for hearts filled with giving to show their true colors.

race at camden yards

Just in case you didn’t know, The Ronald McDonald House provides a home away from home for seriously ill children and their families, and helps to fund programs in the local area that directly improve the well-being of children. It’s all about the children and making their journey as comfortable as possible by giving them the opportunity to have their families by their side while they undergo challenging treatments and extended care. It’s a dedicated staff at the House and literally thousands of volunteers each year who donate their time, attention and dollars to help the families who need to stay at the House to be closer to their children in need.

kid runs in shuffle

All along the walk yesterday there were children and their parents enjoying the time together, all knowing they were doing this for a good reason, to help others just like them, but for whom life might have handed some more serious challenges. There is little that hurts the heart more than knowing there are children in need of your help. Yesterday, you couldn’t help but feel the energy and love all along the walk that directly makes a difference in the lives of those children and their families.

girl in blanketdad and kids in race

The Red Shoe Shuffle is the brainchild of the Red Shoe Crew, a group of young professionals formed a few years ago who wanted to find a way to give back to the Ronald McDonald charity and came up with an idea to create a 5-K walk to raise money for the House. This year the event brought in nearly $300,000 – those dollars going directly to the Ronald McDonald Charities of Baltimore. There is always a need, the community of Maryland, including generous individual and corporate donors, provides 100% of the nearly $2 millon annual operating budget for the House. So dollars are always welcome, volunteers are as well.

maribeth and Sophie

The volunteers. Every where you looked yesterday there was someone holding a sign to cheer you, thank you, motivate you to keep walking and complete your “shuffle”. They say there is no such thing as a “free lunch”, but every so often along the way yesterday, if you were so inclined you could grab a free hug…good food for the soul.

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With full disclosure I serve on the Board of Directors for the House and am proud to do so. My entire family and many members of the family from my New York Life Baltimore Office were proud to shuffle through town on this beautiful Sunday.

us and simons
me and new york life

This is a non-profit with some serious momentum, a higher purpose, and plans now in the works to build a new bigger, better Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore. Unfortunately too many families are turned away from the House every year, simply based on the capacity the House can hold. A capital campaign to build a bigger, better Ronald McDonald House of Baltimore is just now beginning to ramp-up and its completion will literally change the lives of thousands of children and their families, because the need for this home-away-from-home to help healing in body and heart will never end. As long as there are children who are sick, or in need, the Ronald McDonald Charities of Baltimore plans to be there.

almost home pic

We can’t affect the outcome for any child dealing with a serious illness or physical challenge, but what we can do is bring joy to the journey. The Red Shoe Shuffle brings people, hearts and healing together all in one place to create an energy and synergy this photo describes so well:

love in motion 2

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Financial Services
It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
#1 Amazon Best-Seller
http://www.spouses-story.com
http://www.amazon.com/author/markbrodinsky
markbrodinsky@gmail.com

To follow this blog and receive an e-mail when new posts appear, please click the follow button on your screen.

football picture

The Sunday Series (23), with Mark Brodinsky


football picture

Sometimes it’s not only hope, courage or inspiration…how about innovation? How about innovation with a purpose, to save another human being?

The Sunday Series (23): How to Save A Life

It might just be the number one risk to your child who loves to play sports. A traumatic brain injury. It happens every day on sports fields across this nation, especially in games like football, lacrosse and hockey. One bad hit, one blow to the head can literally change a life, or possibly end one.

Have you ever stopped to think most football players in the world are under the age of 14? Not everyone makes the high school or college team and even fewer make it to the big-time, the NFL. But one big hit can mean there’s one less player to go after a dream…or even the chance to live a full life, robbed of that opportunity by an invisible threat inside their head, a concussion, or worse a traumatic or fatal brain injury.

Enter Greg Merrill and Brain Sentry.
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Greg Merrill is in business, and in the business of doing well, but his motivation is doing good. Greg calls himself a problem solver and he’s been doing it for years now. Back in the early 90′s, Greg created a company to help doctors simulate minimally invasive surgeries, so they could have a track to run on, instead of diving into what had then had become a revolution, but one for which doctors had received little or no training in medical school. Greg’s company and his simulators helped bring them up to speed and became a leader in medical training.

Then there was the problem of child obesity. As soon as his own boys were born Greg was in-tune with the epidemic of unfit kids and video games. Greg realized you can’t force kids to stop playing, so why not get them physically active at the same time. Before Wii ever hit the market, Greg had started a company to simulate exercise during video games. But in the midst of raising capital to launch with some major companies, the great recession hit and his idea, with lack of funding, was shut down.

No matter, if you talk to Greg Merrill you realize he’s a man who will not be deterred and not give up, he’s a thinker, he takes action and he wants to give back. He started helping a company which assisted the military with brain injury assessments, figuring out which soldiers in battle needed to be evacuated and which could fight. The experience led him to start thinking about sports and children and maybe the number one threat today out on the field – head injuries.

Don’t kid yourself, your kid is at risk. And no, stopping them from playing is not the answer, never is. But it is all about which child to assess and which to allow to keep playing. Greg’s vision is to eliminate brain injuries in sports. With Brain Sentry, he’s looking at stopping the acute brain injury of second-impact syndrome, where a child has a concussion, but continues to play, with the symptoms ignored or undiagnosed, leading to brain swelling and death. The other issue is a chronic or dramatic brain injury over a long period of time, leading to issues down the road with brain function or even chronic health issues.

One little sensor, invented by Greg Merrill and his team, is looking to change all that.
brain sentry

If you read the paragraphs above, you will know this is not a commercial, it’s all about education. In most cases, the young sports teams are coached by parent volunteers, not medical experts. It’s a great joy to coach your son or daughter’s team, or even other children, and it does wonders for self-esteem, and for lessons in teamwork for still-developing minds. But those minds are threatened when someone receives, or even gives a hit to the head. It’s tough for children to diagnose themselves and even tougher for coaches and parents to know when it’s OK to let the child play and when to take them out to be assessed. As Greg says, “there is nothing more important than your child’s brain and it’s difficult to know if he or she has had a concussion and whether they should be pulled from the game.”

Brain Sentry changes all that. It’s pretty simple, a helmet-mounted sensor helps identify players who should be assessed for a concussion. When a child takes a hard blow to the head, a red light starts blinking, as a warning sign to assess the child for a head injury. The goal is to help prevent further injury, or even death. The sensor is simple to use with nothing to maintain and no batteries to charge.

Brain-Sentry-Impact-Sensor-Features-MEMS-Accelerometer-1379996439_445_293

http://brainsentry.com/

It’s important and worthy of space here. Among 38 million boys and girls that participate in organized youth sports and 135 million participants (ages 6+) in team sports in the U.S., concussions are one of the most commonly reported injuries. The majority of fatal sports-related brain injuries occur to those less than 18 years old. Less than 50% of high school football players report their concussions and nearly all of the cases of SIS (second-impact syndrome, which can be fatal), have occurred in athletes younger than 18 years old.

Now, from Pop Warner teams to Division One football programs like LSU, the sensors are being used, concussions are being caught early and strategies about tackling are being changed. The bottom line is lives can be saved. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=F_CJywYA9E8

Sometimes the human spirit, heart and mind work in perfect synergy. Greg Merrill has found a way to focus on our most precious gifts and protect them and his effort is worthy of space here on this blog. No one pitched this idea or product to me, I heard about it and decided to take action.

It’s action, not reaction that makes a difference and in this case could literally save a life.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark

(for more information on Brain Sentry, click on the links in this blog post, or simply go to http://www.brainsentry.com)
(to learn how Brain Sentry is affecting college sports: https://owa-cj.ft.newyorklife.com/owa/redir.aspx?C=J36hhrCWMkWqkGz4M0M-aOqDD7z_IdEIiAzV44W-WseSplBGLqB1j3j7_SwRcJBo_HUb6763zeY.&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.theneworleansadvocate.com%2fsports%2f8727529-171%2faccelerometers-give-lsu-football-a)

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Financial Services
It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
#1 Amazon Best-Seller
http://www.spouses-story.com
markbrodinsky@gmail.com

To follow this blog, and get e-mails about new posts, please click the follow button on your screen.
For ideas for The Sunday Series, send an e-mail to markbrodinsky@gmail.com

ron and hunky

100 Years: It’s Just About… Life.


ron and hunky

How inspiring it is to be part of an experience, hearing about and honoring someone who attained the goal you aspire to reach one day.
Living to 100.

A full century. Not just a full circle, but a full moon, a supermoon, the biggest and brightest you have ever seen. If there are five-hundred twenty-five thousand six-hundred minutes in a year, well I don’t even want to do the math on what that is when you live past the century mark. I don’t love math anyway, so let’s talk about a life in words, instead of numbers. After all, that’s the ultimate goal, to live a life worth talking about!

Did you hear the one about…? That was the classic opening line for Herbert “Hunky” Matz. I heard a great story yesterday, listening to his son Ron talk about his dad’s impact on other people. I met Hunky a few times and listened to some of his stories, laughed at his jokes and basked in the glow of his larger-than-life personality. I can’t do justice in writing about all he accomplished, nor tell his life story here. In fact I would be doing an injustice to try, because the Ronster did such a terrific job of eulogizing his Dad, I’m simply going to share the link below and let Ron tell his dad’s story. NEVER in my life have I seen a round of applause after a eulogy, but I witnessed one yesterday. That was inspiring. A true celebration of a man who lived a life worthy of that applause.

100 years, 2 months, and 23 days. Every day lived to the fullest. A life worthy of not just applause, but a standing “O”.

“May you live as long as you want to, and want to as long as you live.”
- Herbert “Hunky” Matz.

(http://www.sollevinson.com/notice.php?lr=loc&id=25373) Click the link, then click the video button. Ron’s eulogy to Hunky starts at about 18 minutes in, you won’t be sorry you gave up the next 12 minutes to watch or listen, but maybe sorry if you don’t.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Financial Services
It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
#1 Amazon Best-Seller
http://www.spouses-story.com
http://www.amazon.com/author/markbrodinsky
markbrodinsky@gmail.com

To follow this blog, and get an e-mail on future posts, please click the follow button on your screen.

Have Them @ Hello: It’s Just About… Life.


picture of hello

It’s pretty simple to get personal, to make a connection that will matter. It’s easy, it’s all in a name.

Hello _____. Thank you ________. How are you _______? How can I help you _______?

It’s like music to their ears and to yours. Their name. Your name.

Everyone consciously, or subconsciously loves to hear it. You have heard it more than any other word in your life and so has the person you are talking to. Everyone has one, so if you want to make that personal connection, without even trying to come up with something witty to say, why not say their name? It’s meaningful and sometimes will even catch someone off guard, but it’s guaranteed to work.

If you have just been introduced to someone find a way to get their name into the next sentence, or at least the next part of the conversation, it might not even register on the face of the person you are speaking to when you say it, but believe me their brain and its emotional epicenter will appreciate it. It literally breaks down barriers without you even breaking a sweat. It might feel uncomfortable for you to say it a few times in a conversation, but as my friend Rob Commodari likes to say, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”, it might just make someone’s day.

Ever try it in the checkout line, or at the restaurant, or anywhere some other human is providing you a service? My daughters look at me all the time in wonder when I thank the person who is at the register in the check-out line, or who takes my order, or who helps me in some other way, especially if their name is prominently displayed on a badge clipped to their shirt, suit, blouse, or dress. I mean it’s right there. There’s a reason their name is front and center, they might be forced to wear it, but why not use it? The momentary recognition of someone as more than just another face in the crowd does wonders for their confidence, ego and might even change the trajectory of their entire day, especially if it’s proceeded, or followed by a “thank you”. Heck, if I could I would print the name of every person who has ever read or reads this blog, and say thank you by name, to personally identify your importance in my life. I try to do it each time I respond to a comment listed here; I want to make a personal connection.

So get out there (fill your name in here) and make someone’s day. Drop me a line and let me know how it works.

And don’t forget to include your name. :)

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author/Blogger/Financial Services
It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
#1 Amazon Best-Seller
http://www.amazon.com/author/markbrodinsky
http://www.spouses-story.com

markbrodinsky@gmail.com

me and deb at opener

Grand Opening: It’s Just About… Life.


blue skies

For starters it was a great open, now we’ve got 161 games and seven months to work on the close – a world championship.

Opening Day in Baltimore @ Oriole Park at Camden Yards really couldn’t have gone much better. From touching tributes to those members of the Orioles family lost during the off-season, to the first-pitch strike under a gorgeous blue sky, on a perfectly manicured diamond illuminated in sunlight, you couldn’t ask for more.

the game

Except maybe a victory. For O’s fans, a 2-1 win over the Boston Red Sox is always worth it, on Opening Day it’s even more meaningful, unless of course it’s a head-to-head battle in the postseason. Let’s hope.

That’s a quick summary of how it all began, but what about the game, the game of life and baseball?

The similarities are impossible to ignore, the synergy is on most days, off-the-charts. For starters, baseball is quite literally the greatest soap opera in sports. No other professional game is played almost every day for six months. The drama inside those nine innings, one without a clock, is on most days a rollercoaster ride of moments from base hits, to home runs, to stolen bases, to acrobatic catches, to a difference in inches defining a pitch as either a ball or a strike. How many days of our lives (a soap opera right?), are much the same, with little moments, or even bigger ones making up a significant part of the ebb and flow of our time spent working, or spending time with family and friends. No two days are alike, no two games are the same.

And it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The baseball season is a long one, which can become tedious at times, and at others provide such incredible excitement and elation it’s hard to describe. Ever have your own six-month period of time, or a year like that? But it’s also the big moments, the ones which take your breath away which are rarer still – the grand slam, a player hitting for the cycle, a no-hitter, or the perfect game. A lot of time and attention is paid to those moments, just like the special ones in your own life: birth, weddings, funerals, anniversaries, milestone birthdays, graduations, big awards, your own sporting achievements or championships, or those of your children. Each one a moment to be remembered and for which attention should be paid, before the next day comes and life keeps moving forward.

the crowd

And what about success? Baseball is a lesson in overcoming failure, it’s practice, perseverance and battling through the obstacles which helps you to be the best, to stand out. The smallest margins can make you a hero, get you into the hall of fame. Hitting .300 means only 3 hits out of every 10 times up to the plate. A pitcher who is a 20-game winner means that player might have lost half as many as he won. The game of baseball does not allow you to have constant, uninterrupted success for truly long periods of time, it’s just the way the game is built. Life does the same. Rarely is there a long run of “luck”, before some type of adversity, an obstacle, a bad day, or a slump, levels the playing field. But fight through it, be consistent, focus on your true talents, work in service to others, as a team with the most important people in your life and you too will rise to the top.

The beginning of a new baseball season is underway. Use it to take stock of your own life, to focus on your successes, to battle through your failures, to learn from your mistakes, to strive for consistency and productivity to become an all-star in the eyes of those who matter most to you. Make your own life a diamond, a shining example to be remembered for all time.

Now get out there and play ball!

me and deb at opener

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author
It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
#1 Amazon Best-Seller
http://www.spouses-story.com
markbrodinsky@gmail.com

To follow It’s Just About… Life and get an e-mail when a new post appears, please click the follow button on the screen.

Nanda Oliverira

The Sunday Series (22), with Mark Brodinsky


I had no idea all this was going to happen. You always have to have a goal, but don’t overthink it. Take opportunities, don’t let them go. If it’s there, it’s because it was meant to be. If it doesn’t work, than at least you tried. If I didn’t take a chance I would still be in Brazil, and I am so happy now.” - Nanda Oliveira

Nanda Oliverira

Everyone has a story. On Sunday, I tell yours. Courage, hope, inspiration. One woman needed to harness all of it, just to make it in America.

The Sunday Series (22): The Language of Love

October 17th, 2005 Nanda Oliveira left Brazil and found her new world. Arriving in New York City at the age of 24, and as part of an au pair program, Nanda was thrust into a melting pot with other women from all over the world, all speaking different languages, all with one goal in mind, to make it in America. Everyone’s story and reason for coming to the U.S. is different. For Nanda, the reason was family. She wanted to make her parents proud, and to give them a reason to believe, a reason for their hearts to smile again…because not so long ago, hearts were broken.

Renata
Renata Oliveira

At the tender age of 15, Nanda’s sister, Renata was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Over the next ten years Renata fought a courageous battle, but by the time she passed away at the age of 25, she was paralyzed and blind. But Renata left a legacy. Just four years earlier, despite being told she would die during delivery and her child would be born with serious health problems, Renata gave birth to a baby boy named Lucas. Nanda says the entire pregnancy and birth of her nephew was a miracle. It would be the first of many to come. For Nanda and her parents losing Renata was devastating, Nanda says her sister was her “best friend.” So a little more than a year later, still stinging from the loss of her best friend, but a desire for more, for a better life, Nanda announced to her family and her fiance’ she would enter the au pair program and head to America.

nanda and family

Saying it is one thing, living it is another, “making it” can seem impossible.

Upon her arrival in New York, language became and would remain the number one barrier in Nanda’s new world. She was paired with a French girl as part of the large group of girls who would be spending a week together in the Big Apple taking classes and learning the American system. Well, sort of learning. Nanda said the instructors were talking and teaching but she could barely understand. She was not alone. Nanda knew a few words of English, but that was it. She and her roommate also had no way to communicate, Nanda did not speak French, her roommate did not know Portuguese. The silence was deafening. The experience was frustrating. This failure to communicate was a sign of things to come.

The week in New York ended with Nanda heading to a family in Finksburg, Maryland to work as an au pair for the family’s only son. With only one child to care for, Nanda thought it would be an easy way to begin. But the experience did not go well. Nanda said when the boy would misbehave he would then lie to his parents and blame his actions on Nanda… who with no grasp of the English language, Nanda had no way to defend herself. Nanda was afraid to go out in public, for fear she might be asked questions she couldn’t understand. She lost a lot of weight because she barely ate. When home alone she couldn’t read the labels, she didn’t know how to operate the kitchen appliances and she was afraid she might eat something poisonous, or that would make her sick. Everything was so new and different than her life in Brazil, she felt scared, alone and spent too much time in her room crying because of her frustration and inability to communicate.

It was time for a change. A new family. Nanda got in touch with the American contact for the au pair agency to let her know the family was not a good match. Nanda was presented with two choices: a move to a family living in the bitter, cold, windy city of Chicago, or to Hampstead, Maryland, to a family with four children. Or… go back to Brazil, because her visa stated if she didn’t work, she couldn’t stay. The choices were daunting, Nanda hated the cold, yet she was barely surviving her experience dealing with just one child. How would she handle four of them? But in life sometimes you need to take the risk and a leap of faith. Nanda took a deep breath and took on the responsibility of helping raise four children in Hampstead.

hampstead

This time the risk was worth it. The four children, ages 5, 7, 9 & 11 were a perfect fit, especially the youngest. Nanda had been learning a bit of English simply from what she saw on TV, heard on the radio, and from her own personal dictionary, but helping the youngest child with her homework was a huge bonus. At five years of age she was just learning to read and write. Nanda got the chance to learn the basics right along with her. “I am a very curious person, I ask a lot of questions”, says Nanda. “I like when people correct me because I want to learn.” Nanda was learning and growing, her new world was starting to turn just a bit faster. She even took up martial arts, eventually earning her black belt. But time was running out.

BLACK BELT

nanda and flag of brazil

“My goal was to go back to Brazil in one year”, says Nanda. “My goal was never to stay here. I was going to learn English and go back. I was still engaged when I left Brazil and my plan was to return.” But plans change. After several months here, the engagement was off, the challenge of a long-distance love couldn’t survive the many, many miles in between. And Nanda had been offered a rare opportunity, one she couldn’t turn down because it was the chance of a lifetime. Nanda never wanted to just be an au pair. “I wanted to learn and be something more”, she says. The family, eager to keep Nanda as part of their world encouraged her to stay and offered to pay her way through college. The chance would change Nanda’s life. The family helped her switch from a work visa to a student visa and Nanda enrolled in the Community College of Baltimore County, taking the most basic of remedial classes and looked to earn a degree in business management. Things were going well, but soon her family told her they could no longer pay for her to go to school. Nanda could not afford college on her au pair salary and although the family offered her the chance to live with them as long as she liked, Nanda, now age 27, needed to find a way to stay in school… or the requirements of her student visa would force her back to Brazil.

Fortunately for Nanda, she had met a new man, Matt Grelli. The two had been dating for only six months, but when Nanda told Matt what was happening he asked her to come live with him, giving her his extra car and told her until she could find a new job, he would pay for school. The problem was Nanda, having grown up in Brazil, was “old school”. She worried what her family would think, moving in with a man she hadn’t known for that long. But her family, recognizing Nanda’s situation and the opportunity she was offered, gave her their blessing. Nanda says moving in with Matt was the “best decision ever.” He did everything he said he would. I took the chance and I won.”

Nanda and Matt 3

Over the next year Nanda went to school and managed to secure a job as a nanny to earn extra money, but she wanted to help out not just with school, but also help her family back in Brazil, so she went looking for more and found it. With job experiences now under her belt she put her resume up online and got an e-mail from Aimee Fulchino. The two met and the opportunity to work as a nanny with the Fulchino family not only improved her bank account, but changed her life. For Nanda, the Fulchino’s were the moon and the stars, introducing her to a life and lifestyle she had never seen before. She could now afford to help her family in Brazil, and she was meeting smart business people, true professionals. Nanda says the Fulchino family also taught her maybe the most important lesson of all. She says they “have a lot and they give a lot, they are so generous.” It’s a life lesson in gratitude Nanda still lives today.

Nanda graduates

Aimee also offered Nanda the chance to work at the brand new studio she was opening called Barre. Nanda first worked at the counter, but Aimee soon offered her the chance to train to be an instructor and start teaching classes. Nanda said it was intimidating, as had many experiences since she arrived in America, because of the challenge with language. How could she instruct others without a comfortable command of English? But like everything else she has attempted and with the encouragement and help of so many, Nanda faced her fears, and it worked.

Nanda at Barrebarre

In life the dream of what you want and the reality of what you must do to get it can be daunting. For Nanda her life has become so much more, not just because of her ability to overcome the challenges in front of her, but also because of the support of so many who have come to her aid. It truly is a story of the courage of a young lady and the kindness of strangers, who become friends and then family. And Nanda has turned her greatest adversity into her advantage. Learning a second language has become one of her greatest assets. Want proof? Not 24 hours after I interviewed Nanda, I came across this excerpt from the book I am currently reading, The 4 Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss: “The benefits of becoming fluent in a foreign tongue are as underestimated as the difficulty is overestimated. Gain a language and you gain a second lens through which to question and understand the world. Don’t miss the chance to double your life experience.”

nanda working out

Nanda has doubled down. For so many who take a shot and come to America, it can be easy to get caught between the moon and New York City. Having a dream and making that dream a reality takes hard work and the attitude to never give up. Nanda Oliverira has done just that. In less than a decade she has handled challenge after challenge, learning her way through a new life in America and starting a new family with Matt. Just last May the couple welcomed their son, Aiden, into the world.

nanda matt and aiden picture

And Nanda never forgets. She says it was her sister who taught her how to fight. “She fought for her life for ten years”, says Nanda. “She and we did everything we could to keep her alive. But if she was here today she would say I did all I could to fight, and I’m glad I tried. One day you are here, the next you are not. But you must take advantage of the opportunities you are given.”

baby aiden

To hear her tell her story you quickly realize that through her journey Nanda has learned not just two languages, but three: Portuguese, English…and the language of love.

Congratulations Nanda. Parabéns.

Nanda in black

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author
It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
nanda as book model
#1 Amazon Best-Seller
http://www.spouses-story.com
markbrodinsky@gmail.com

To follow the blog, click on the follow button on the screen. For feedback or story ideas for The Sunday Series, send an e-mail to markbrodinsky@gmail.com