The Sunday Series: (41), with Mark Brodinsky

It can be exhilarating or excruciating and many, many layers in between. In this crazy thing we call life we try our best to find our why, our way, a hero, inspiration, and meaning. We respect those who show great courage, and we learn much from the lessons they teach.

This is the Sunday Series.

“He’s still part of our daily lives, which is kind of cool. We’ve turned the tables from being unable to talk about it and overcome with grief, to being happy and even laugh when we talk about Larry.”
– Tami Bensky

The Sunday Series (41): Larry’s Ride

larry riding

It was quite the ride. A ride which would leave an impression on so many that when it ended so abruptly, the loss was devastating, the void so deep it created a virtual chasm in the lives of an entire community.

This is not the first time I’ve shared Larry Bensky’s story, but an event taking place today makes it a perfect topic for the Sunday Series. Larry was a friend I met later in life and to be honest I’m going to share some of the same sentiments I wrote about more than a year ago in this blog: http://markbrodinsky.com/how-do-you-keep-the-music-playing-its-all-about-life/, but this time it’s much more about how you make the comeback, how Tami and the girls are moving forward, how today, Sunday, September 14th… Larry’s Ride continues. A journey into infinity and beyond.

Larrys ride poster

Larry Bensky’s life ended on the back roads of Baltimore County on April 6th, 2010. Larry, an avid cyclist, loved to take afternoon and weekend rides and was always cautious and prepared. But when a driver coming up behind him on that fateful day in April was unprepared to give way, the lives of a close-knit family and the hearts of a community were dragged down into the same dark abyss.

That day a wife lost her husband, two little girls lost their Dad, parents lost a son, an entire community lost a man of integrity, faith and fortitude. Larry made his way through life with determination, drive and tremendous intelligence. He was a good soul, who always did what was right. He loved his family, provided for them and supported them emotionally, financially and unconditionally. He was smart, savvy, and completely unselfish. He loved to talk, to ask questions, to constantly search for answers and to smile. It’s what I remember best about him…that smile.

larry and gabs 2  Larry

For a long time after his death smiles were hard to come by. Larry’s family and friends were stunned. His wife Tami, his daughters Gabi and Katelyn were to put it mildly, in shock. Larry was the love of Tami’s life — it seemed as if life could not go on without him. The feelings of loss were immeasurable, the emptiness seemed too big to overcome, the journey back from the abyss would be a long one.

larry and family

Larry touched my life and in death touched me again. The day he died was a Tuesday. Just three days later the the Bensky family was supposed to come over to our house for dinner with some other friends. I can still remember sitting with my family at dinner that fateful Tuesday evening, I turned to Debbie to tell her I needed to call Larry and tell him to bring his wine decanter. The get-togethers with his family and others always meant some wine tasting and more. I don’t know why I thought of him at that moment, three days before our scheduled get-together, but I did. Now I know why. It was just a few minutes later when the house phone rang and our friend Adam Oberfeld broke the news, Larry was dead.

I’m here to tell you as sure as I feel it today, more than four years later, his spirit passed right through that screened-in porch where my family was having dinner that evening. It was the reason I suddenly thought about him, and minutes later, learned of his passing.

From that moment I felt Larry had reached out to me, passed right through, made me think about him and shortly thereafter I was on a mission. Over the next year+ I reached out to Tami as much as possible through texts and e-mails trying to help her cope with a loss which was unimaginable and was draining the strength from her very soul. Every time she shared her heart-wrenching experiences of loss, I tried to fight back to somehow lift her spirits with messages of hope, messages about life, messages about perseverance, messages about taking it one step and one day at a time. I kept telling Tami one day, one day, she would be able to breathe again. All along I felt Larry with me, guiding me, asking me to reach out and to make sure his girls would be OK. You never get over it, you just get on with it. The ultimate goal: to keep moving forward.

larry and girls

Fast forward to today. This is the 5th annual Larry’s Ride, a ride for cyclists to come and take to the roads over four challenging routes, to raise money to help advance the advocacy efforts of Bike Maryland, a non-profit dedicated to promoting bicycling, increasing safety, improving conditions and providing a voice for all bicyclists in Maryland, (https://www.bikemaryland.org/). It was Tami Bensky and friends who came up with the idea for the event and it was Tami, who just days after Larry’s death, helped to push through legislation to make a 3-foot rule for drivers when passing cyclists on the roads in Maryland.

riders for larry

And now it’s time…time which seemed to stand still after Larry was killed, but now moves along at a more normal pace for the Bensky family. “I guess we are doing great”, says Tami. “We still have all the family and friends supporting us as well as solid community support, our school and the Beth El congregation. What is cool is we are frequently talking about Larry. Just last night Kaitlin was acting goofy and my mom came up to her and said to her “you are such your father’s daughter.”  It was an innocent comment which just a few years earlier brought pain and an unbearable sense of loss, now it brings about laughter and warm memories.

tami and girls

When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure. Today Larry’s daughters, Gabi and Kate, as well as many of their friends will be cheering on other cyclists and the memory of their Dad as hundreds ride in his honor and cross the finish line at Larry’s Ride. In these five years the Ride has raised more than $100,000, a tribute to Tami’s dedication, along with a legion of friends and supporters to keep the event going and those who turn out to participate.

Larry Bensky did so many things for others, for family, for friends, for business associates. He shared his wisdom, his insight, his hard work, even dollars from his own pocket and the clothes off his back to help a friend in need. He was living proof of the words I recently heard – a day without doing something good is a day without truly living.

And I’m going to repeat something I read and shared when I first wrote about Larry more than a year ago on this blog, because it is not only powerful, but I believe helps to truly define the kind of man Larry was and the spirit he possessed. The passage is from a book titled Put Your Dream to the Test, by John Maxwell:
“A rare minority of people are able to hold closely to their dream to make a difference and are willing to give up everything to make that dream come true. Of people like that, it will never be said that when they died, it was as though they never lived.”

I underlined the passage in that book and wrote one word next to it: Larry.

larry up close

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/)

For ideas, comments, suggestions for The Sunday Series: markbrodinsky@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9/11 Relationships: It’s Just About… Life

firemen raise flag

It is impossible to ignore. It is all about the relationships. It is always about the relationships. They are the foundation of everything.

In the book, Season of Life, author Jeffrey Marx describes his own relationship with Baltimore Colts great Joe Ehrmann. Marx got to know Ehrmann when Marx was just a boy and then reconnected with him later in life. The rekindling of that relationship happened during 2001. How ironic it is it that just yesterday I was reading the pages in that book where Marx describes his own reaction to the terrorist attack on the United States, the events of September 11th, 2001.

“I spent the day inside, trapped in an emotional fog. Of everything I saw and heard on television, and I was glued to the nonstop news coverage late into the night, perhaps the most unforgettable image was described by New Yorkers who had watched in horror as people trapped high in the towers chose jumping to their death rather than burning. As one witness described the sight of men and women leaping out of windows: It was raining people. That alone pushed me to tears as I sat in solitude on my couch. Another witness added the detail that many of the jumpers had fallen in pairs:  People were holding hands and jumping. Unbelievable, I thought. Only seconds to live, one final act remaining, and it was still all about relationships. Those people needed each other. We all need each other.”

Then Marx has a conversation with Ehrmann and shares his insight about the people who were trapped in the hijacked planes on 9/11:

“I spoke with Joe about something I’d been unable to get off my mind – the people on the hijacked planes who had used cell phones to say their final goodbyes before crashing. In frantic calls to family and friends, all had shared three simple words they wanted to leave behind: I love you. I told Joe that I could not help make a connection to our conversation about false masculinity. There had not been a single news account of anyone on those planes spending his final moments rehashing what a great athlete he’d been as a youngster, how many girls he’d scored as a teen, how much money and power he’d amassed as an adult. Nodding in agreement, Joe said, “Nobody was calling their brokers.”

No, the only calls made that day were to say goodbye to the greatest relationships they had ever known. Relationships which would no longer exist in real time, but live on for all time.

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/)

Connect with Mark on the Contact page or markbrodinsky@gmail.com

 

 

My Little Girls: It’s Just About… Life

Pictures can speak louder than words, but both have tremendous power.

Sophie message

That was definitely the feeling I had when I first saw the Instagram photo and later the Facebook post from my daughter Sophie on my birthday – a snapshot of the collection of notes and cards I have given to her over the past two years. These are cards I take a few minutes to write, just a few sentences, telling her proud I am of her and the place she holds in my heart. I do the same for my other daughter Emily and for my wife Debbie.

The cards and notes are random, no real reason, most times there is no special event attached to them. And I really didn’t know what Sophie did with the cards, I thought she kept a few, I never knew she kept them all, until I saw the picture. Apparently little things mean a lot. And it touched my heart deeply to see her message and her display of affection. A few minutes of effort turned into a memory to last a lifetime.

Emily saves her cards, because I see some of them posted up on her board. And she put her own spin on my birthday gift. She wrote me the most beautiful card, created a collage of pictures of her and I and then attached a page of quotes about kids and their dads. The kid knows I love quotes, love reading, writing and speaking about personal growth and self-improvement, even though half the time I don’t think she is paying attention and the other half it just irritates her. Apparently she gets it more than I thought.  The pictures are below, but here is just a sample of those quotes.

“My dad gave me the greatest gift anyone could give a person, he believed in me.”

“A daughter outgrows a dad’s lap, but will never outgrow his heart.”

“Some day I’ll find my prince charming, but my daddy will always be my king.”

Emily's quotes emily card 2

Emily's Collage

The girls did it again. Touching my heart in ways that are difficult, nearly impossible to put into words.

Although I stray far from controversy on this blog, as I read these words again, and look at the pictures from my daughters, I can’t fathom how any man can do what Ray Rice did to somebody’s little girl.

I can’t understand and I never will.

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Mark

Mark Brodinsky, Author, Huffington Post Blogger, Financial Services

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

Connect: markbrodinsky@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

The Sunday Series (40), with Mark Brodinsky

stutter picture

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up

– Lyrics to Brave, by Sarah Bereilles

The Sunday Series (40): Speechless

Tomorrow is my 49th birthday. So in honor of the beginning of my 50th year, (after all our birthdays essentially mark the anniversary of the year we just lived, year 50 begins tomorrow), I wanted to share something which I hope will help others.  It’s the gift I want to give in honor of my own birthday.

4th grade. I still remember it like it was yesterday and I can still see the  vision playing out in my mind. Mrs. Cherry, my 4th grade teacher, asked a question of the class – and as luck would have it she called on me. I knew the answer, it was the Declaration of Independence. But as I gripped my desk with both hands, curled my toes inside my shoes and tilted back my chair in a vain effort to force the words out, I couldn’t say them. They were stuck somewhere. Somewhere in between my brain and my heart-breaking effort to turn them into speech. The letter “D” was what really had me stuck, because I knew if I uttered that one letter out loud, I would repeat it over and over and over and over before I could complete the answer.  I just knew it would come out D-D-D-D-D-Declaration. I didn’t know why, but I would stutter and at 10-years-old, that was too much for me to bear. So I pretended I didn’t know the answer. For me that memory was the beginning of the end of a lot of answers I knew but never said, a lot of information I wanted to share but was embarrassed and ashamed to do so, a lot of activities I didn’t participate in, a lot of people I never interacted with, girls I never asked out and some other choices I made in my life, some of which I might have done differently… and all of because of one reason.

I stutter.

back-of-book-picture

Before I go any further I want anyone to know, whether young or old, from the bottom of my heart I want you to know, there is nothing wrong with you.  It’s  OK, it really is and if it isn’t now then I want you to do everything in your power to make it OK for you. You are no different. No two people are alike and everyone has things about them which challenge them, which they fight to overcome.  Stuttering is simply something you do. Don’t let it define who you are.

It wasn’t until Rich Polt posted ten questions recently in an article in which he profiled me on his TalkingGood website, (http://www.talkinggood.com/profiles/MarkBrodinsky), that I even went public with any of this information. I had to because I wanted to be honest and to show others you can overcome. The question was: Tell us something you rarely share in public?  So I did. After the story hit Huffington Post I was immediately contacted by Noah Cornman from http://www.say.org/: the Stuttering Association for the Young. We spoke for awhile and he asked me to write a blog for them. I decided to take it one step further and share that blog with everyone.

Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins

For a long, long time I lived underneath that shadow. As many times as I wanted to, I failed to share with my parents that I had trouble with my speech and I became so adept at avoidance techniques, including NOT saying the things I really wanted to say, that I don’t think anyone really knew. But I did. My word power increased because I tried to think of any synonym I could to use in place of the words I couldn’t seem to utter without a stutter. Words that started with a “d” or an “s” or a “th” or an “m” or an “r”, and probably more than I can remember which gave me trouble. I was ashamed, I was scared, and I felt helpless. I’ve since learned there is nothing to be ashamed of.

stuttering is cool

12th grade.  My English teacher, whose name escapes me right now, would do a vocabulary quiz each week where he would say a definition and you would have to give him the word. He would call out names in the class at random to give definitions and at least two times he called on me and I actually pretended I didn’t know. Problem was I was a very good student, on my way to straight “A”‘s in multiple semesters my senior year, and this was killing me. I actually scheduled time with him after class, told him about my stuttering, one of the few people I had told up to that point, and asked him NOT to call on me, because of my situation. I told him what letters I had trouble with, we made some type of agreement and I thought it would all be OK. The next week, the first definition he gave he forgot and called on me first — it was one of those words with which I had trouble, but I paused, for what seemed like an eternity and somehow I got through it.

Then there was the high school senior play — I always wanted to act — loved to be “up front”, and the class was doing Grease, one of my favorite shows. I wanted to give it a shot, wanted my shot, and so I went to the audition. The room was full and I watched as each person who auditioned had to sing a little bit – then read from the script – sight unseen. “I’m going to do this, I can do this”, I told myself.  But as it got closer to my turn, I started to panic. “What if I can’t read what’s in front of me”, I thought. I couldn’t fake it and change the words because others had the same script in their hands and they would all know. With only two people to go before my turn, I quietly slipped out. I thought maybe I would just help with the sets or the lights, I never did any of those things.  I never participated in the show at all. I still remember.

Everybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue

In college I majored in Mass Communication, with a concentration in Journalism. I was a talented writer, and why wouldn’t I be, I possessed a tremendous vocabulary since I had a synonym for nearly every word in the English language. I needed to have the expansive vocabulary just so I could quickly think of a word to replace the one on which I feared I might stutter. There’s still a part of me which thinks I excelled at writing what it was I afraid to say out loud.

But I also got lucky – because in my senior year at Towson State University – I got an internship at a local TV station, WJZ. That one decision changed my life. From the moment I walked into the newsroom I knew it was where I wanted to be, I had visions of grandeur and thought someday I’m going to be on TV, stutter be damned. I became a writer first, in fact they hired me part-time while I was still an intern and in school — because I could write.  Then I became the Producer of the WJZ morning show, but I still had this dream of being in front of the camera, not just behind it and most people there knew it.  Eventually when the show expanded from an hour to 90 minutes, I got a shot at a segment where from the producer’s seat in the control room, I would do an on-camera “tease” for what was coming up later in the show and banter back and forth with the anchors…on the fly, mostly unscripted. I wanted it so bad, I found a way around my stutter, though it wasn’t easy. I sometimes spoke too fast, or paused a long time before it was safe to say what I wanted. But when you want it bad enough, when your WHY is that strong, you find a way.

But I wonder what would happen if you
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out

That on-air segment gave me confidence to move forward.  It wasn’t long after that I started dating this girl.  This girl’s name was Debbie. A name that began with a “D”, it was like a nightmare come true. Here I was with this girl I really wanted to be with and there were times I felt I couldn’t say her name, especially when others asked me about her and I had to use her name in a sentence. But I was falling in love – and when your WHY is big enough, you find a way. I wasn’t going to walk away from this relationship just because I got scared to say her name! I had made too many other detours in my life when it came to speech that I wasn’t happy about. I finally broke down, truly broke down and told Debbie my whole story. Then I went for help. Speech therapy, which didn’t last long, because my therapist rarely heard me stutter. I was good at this “game” I invented for myself to avoid stuttering, but I did gain exercises and techniques to confront it. While the sessions did not continue for long I did gain confidence and still use many of those techniques today.

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

When I decided to leave the TV business, I became self-employed, offering health insurance and supplemental policies to the self-employed. Guess what the number one word is you must repeat over and over when you talk about health insurance? Deductible. Another “d” word. Without being able to say that word, I figured no one would ever buy from me. It was critical. It was mandatory. I practiced it. I took my time I focused on elongating the vowels and before you knew it I had sold more than $6 million in policies in a 10-year-span. My family was depending on me to be successful, they needed me and failure was not an option. My WHY, my reason for doing it was bigger than my “challenge”.

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

There are plenty more examples of how I let stuttering affect my life in ways it never should, because I am bigger than that challenge and it took me a while to understand how to get there and to stand tall. I want to tell anyone, children or adults, don’t let this define who you are, or who you are trying to become. I have much to be proud of. I am an Emmy award winner for my ability to communicate my ideas, vision, and instructions as producer of a TV news broadcast.  I am an Author. I wrote a #1 Amazon Best-Seller and staged a month-long book tour talking to people all the time. I started this blog and I conduct live phone interviews for these stories am now booking speaking engagements to share my story and to help others to lead bigger lives, to find their WHY and to change the world. I am a successful financial services professional – I talk all day long to prospects, clients and co-workers. Ask anyone of them and they would be shocked to know that I stutter. But I do.

And I am not ashamed.

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

I am telling you the truth. I am telling you because I care. And to the children of SAY, or to any child that stutters – keep your head up, keep learning, keep fighting, keep trying and be proud.  I have been where you are and I love you. Don’t avoid. Confront. Face it head on and overcome. You can. Say what’s in your heart, say what’s on your mind. Every voice matters. Find yours and if you need me, reach out. I’m here. I want to see you be BRAVE.

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

stuttering pic of broken words

Until next time, thanks for taking the time.

Mark

markbrodinsky@gmail.com