Browsing Category

family

Top of the mountain with my son Rocco and friend Danielle Russo-Slugh
Emotional Wellbeing, family, Happiness, Relationships

One Good Run

As I trudged through the hotel lobby with layers of long johns, two turtlenecks, a wool sweater, ski pants, gloves, helmet and a jacket, feeling like a sweaty Abominable Snowman with cement blocks for boots, I briefly questioned why I go through all this effort just to ski down a snow-capped mountain ten thousand feet above sea level. For those of you who don’t appreciate winter sports, it might seem as though the hours of preparation for snow skiing simply aren’t worth the payoff. The sub-freezing temperatures alone are enough to scare any cowboy.

Having been born and raised in Michigan, however, ice-skating, snowmobiling and skiing are in my blood. Growing up, my brother and I and all the neighborhood kids made igloos, snowmen and had serious snowball fights for hours in single digit temperatures. During the long, cold, depressing winter months in the Winter Water Wonderland, the big thrill was to climb up the side of a nearby bridge and ski down the side of the overpass which lasted a total of fifteen seconds, if you were slow. That’s how I learned to ski.

Your first time on skiis (or a snowboard) probably feels a lot like getting on a bucking bronco. Beyond the physical challenge, it’s just plain scary. Someone can tell you all day long to lean forward and point your skiis or snowboard down the hill and not to sit back in your boots, but when you’re standing on two slippery boards headed for the bottom, your body will think that’s an insane suggestion. Even if you’ve skied for decades, as I have, and you’re feeling pretty confident about your ability, you can get distracted for a second, cross your ski tips and bam! You’re suddenly tumbling down the hill somehow still attached to your skiis and poles, flying down the slope like a drunk Tazmanian Devil.

Now, I’m not intimidated by advanced runs (a black diamond) that are so steep you cannot see the bottom until you look over the edge, but there I was on a groomed Intermediate run (a blue square) taking a nasty spill that would have been hilarious on You Tube. As I laid there with snow down my pants, up my sleeves and all over my face, I actually laughed. A young snowboarder came by and asked if I was okay. I did a quick physical scan: arms and legs worked. I could tell because I felt the pain. “Yes,” I told him. “I’m okay, thanks.” He handed me my goggles that had flown off in the fall. I got up, brushed myself off, grabbed my ego that had suddenly been misplaced and headed down the mountain for more physical and mental anguish. Like any good adrenaline junky, I cannot get enough!

We ski for that one moment when everything comes together and turns the extraordinary effort into complete bliss. The sunshine warms your back as you dance down the slopes, knees close, hips making figure-eights, breathing the cleanest air imaginable. You glide effortlessly on top of the snow, feeling exhilarated, and that is the magic moment when you realize all the trouble is worthwhile. There is an unexplainable chemistry amidst the mountain air and your spirit, like a first kiss with someone special. A physiological reaction hijacks your heart and soul. You cannot imagine doing anything else or being anywhere else.

That’s what happens in one good run.

Hours after my laughable fall, I was lost in the glistening, snow-covered mountains. I ended up at the top of a double black diamond run (extraordinarily difficult) that I doubt Tom Cruise could ski down without stopping at least once. It was the only way down the mountain, so I pointed my skis toward the bottom and prayed to make it down alive. Taking my time, I traversed from one side of the slope to the other as that same young snowboarder who stopped to help me earlier flew by. Seconds later he was tumbling down the steep mountainside. I counted six times but I’m sure it was more. After the snow dust cleared, he laid face down in the snow, not moving. Sliding down toward him, I grabbed his hat that had flown off in his tumble and handed it to him. “You okay,” I asked. He looked up and smiled. “Yeah. Did you see that? It was awesome!”

Apparently there is more than one way to have a good run.

family, Happiness, Inspiration, Wisdom

Gram

img_1066
Today my grandmother, Ruth Cowan would have turned 100 years old. Gram, as so many of us lovingly caller her, was truly one of a kind: an electric and buoyant woman who looked into your eyes, into your soul, upon meeting.  Some of my most cherished memories are from our late night conversations. We played cards and talked, ate large bowls of Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and she would listen – really listen.

 

She was the first person I wanted to talk to when I endured seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I couldn’t wait to hear her advice for my most devastating tribulation – when my husband had an affair and a child with another woman. Her answer, however, was unexpected.

“What would you do, Gram?” I asked.

We were at a restaurant and she took her time, chewing her food slowly.

Sixty seconds is a long time to wait when you are eager for an answer, advice.

I waited.  And waited.

And then she finally blurted out, “I’d get a boyfriend!”  And as a second thought she added, “…and a yacht!”

It was hard to be in a sour mood around Gram even in the darkest moments.  She had a way of livening up the room, and the world.  She made it a better place while she was here.  Indeed.

Like most people from the Greatest Generation who endured real hardships like the Great Depression and World War II, she had a moral compass that was always pointed in the right direction.  As a young mother who lost her husband to cancer, she worked two jobs and struggled to make ends meet for her three children.  There were hard times in her life, yet I never saw her without a smile.

One of the things that inspired me most about my grandmother was her ability to live life to the fullest. She entertained at night clubs until she was more than 90 years old, belting out cover songs of the forties, fifties and sixties and playing the piano – although she never learned to read music.

The highlight of every family gathering was watching her play Mama Goes Where Papa Goes, with all of her children and grandchildren singing along. She had a powerful, soulful and authoritative voice that didn’t need a microphone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=v4Q8w_nHDYg&app=desktop

My grandmother taught me to live life to the fullest and dance if no one was watching. At 92 years old, she joined Ted on stage at one of his rock ‘n’ roll concerts. In front of twenty thousand hard-core rock ’n roll fans,  Gram strutted across the stage as if she owned it. She did.

On my desk is a photograph of her laughing.  Whenever I have one of those moments when I’m sad or frustrated, I look at that picture and ask myself, “What would Gram do?”  I hope I make the best of every second in my life and make as many people smile as she did.