Monday, December 21, 2009

My Early Muppet Christmas Present & a Link to My Past


Shortly after my wife and I first started dating, she made a startling observation about me. At least it was startling to me. Everyone else I asked completely agreed with Carly. She said that I really latch on to past experiences that give me security. Actually, what she just said was "You really liked certain parts of being a child, didn't you?" Yes......Yes, I did. And anyone who knows me sees that things haven't changed in my thirty years on this planet. Whether we're talking about pro wrestling, cartoons, movies, or video games, I've always had this driving desire for closure and comfort.

One thing from my childhood that I've always coveted are The Muppets. Those simple, furry, foam-rubber puppets always brought a smile to my face through their humor, music and message. I can't tell you how many times our family watched The Muppet Show while we did manual CPT in the early eighties. The VHS tapes were worn to the brink of snapping and the audio sounded like a fast food drive-thru box, but we still watched, laughed and sang along while Mom and Dad pounded to the beat of "Mahna Mahna Song" (AKA - "Lullaby of Birdland" for all you Muppet aficionados).





You see, I love Jim Henson's vision for the world. Full of goodness and giving, laughter and positivity. It's how I try to live my life and I attribute part of that to what I learned from his imagination. I believe it was fate that Jim Henson's Fantastic World was appearing at the EMP Museum in Seattle, WA at the same time I was participating in The Breathe Music Event. I swear, Angie had a hand in this phenomenal coincidence! Part of the exhibit involved playing with Muppets and karaoking (is that a word? It is now!) to one of several classic Muppet songs. I was the only one over 12 years old playing in the exhibit. When Carly saw the pictures from the trip, she jokingly said I looked happier there than I did I on our wedding day! Not true, but it was in the top five for sure! Until this Christmas...

I was browsing on YouTube during my therapy and happened across some funny posts people made with their very own Muppet Whatnot puppets! I had seen these things last year, but there have clearly been some upgrades to them since then. So I told my sweet wife that this is what I wanted for Christmas. "Really? Do you really need a Muppet?" she sweetly replied. I explained that I wanted to use my Muppet to help people - particularly kids - learn about CF on my YouTube site. I also let her know that I was going to use any Christmas money received to buy one anyways. She just laughed at me and said I would have to wait and see. Sure enough, the next morning I had a gift card in my email for my very own Muppet Whatnot from my beautiful wife. I ran into the bedroom and asked her why she didn't wait until Christmas. Her reply:

"You were so excited, I couldn't wait. Plus, there was no option to hold the online gift card until Christmas. So you just got very lucky, Mister."

I've got news for you, sweetie. I was lucky the day I met you. Sorry to be so mushy, but it is the truth. Love you, Carly.

So here is my new Muppet Whatnot, Moganko! It is going to help me have some fun on this blog and on my new YouTube site : "Welcome To Joshland". Our first assignment was to come up with a theme song and make a video for it. Hope you all enjoy it and will return often to have fun and learn from me and my little mascot:



You can check out more posts as they are created on the YouTube widget below all my blog posts, or go to the link: http://www.youtube.com/user/welcometojoshland

Here's wishing all my readers Happy Holidays. I hope that even if you are a grown up, you'll never forget to be a kid. It's something we should all do every single day of the year.

Peaceful Holidays and Muppet Things,

Josh

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Letter To My Sister


Hello Angie,

I don't feel like writing much today. Perhaps, another time I will tell a story about you with more joy and vitality. Right now, I am hurting so much that the words I write are making me well up with tears. You have been gone for 16 years....the same amount of time that you were on this earth fighting CF. It's still blows my mind that you are gone. You and I need to remind our friends and family with sibilings to love each other as much as they drive each other crazy, tell each other how much they care, and forgive what they swore they wouldn't. It makes everything much more peaceful when one sibling is gone.

You fell in love with "River of Dreams" by Billy Joel right around the time you passed. It 's full of hope, love, and joy for tomorrow...just like you. I was lucky enough to hear this live in concert with our "brother" Chad. We got the tickets last minute from a friend. I think it was you taking a moment to say hi.



Lots of love sweet sister. I miss you so much. You are my guardian angel.


Peaceful and Lonely Brother Things,

Josh

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Hexagon Claus


I was a child when it first appeared at our house. Both my mother and my sister were extremely allergic to pine trees, so we never had a live Christmas tree growing up. Our tree came in a box. Its limbs were hooked one at a time onto a pole and each branch was individually bent upward for maximum hanging ability. It was like having an enormous green twisty tie to manipulate for a month out of the year. Somewhere along the way, we were gifted a scented ornament to counteract the unpleasant aroma of plastic and that "new car smell" that is a part of owning a fake tree. I named the ornament the Hexagon Claus because of its shape and pictures of Santa and Mrs. Claus donning their respective sides.

(I know, I know...My wife actually counted the sides and suggested I rename it the Octagon Claus. I'll admit right now I am bad at math, but give me a break. I was a little kid and never took the time in 30 years to notice my mistake. And I refuse to change the name now for nostalgia's sake!)

Hexagon Claus smelled of cinnamon and pine, but not the real kind...more of the air freshener variety. The scent was overwhelming and filled our entire house with what eventually would become the smell of Christmas for me and THE ornament to hang on the tree. My sister and I would rampage through boxes, casting aside far more expensive decorations in search of it. It's possible that this ornament may have caused my sister and I to engage in verbal and physical violence toward one another, but those allegations are unfounded at this time. I have no comment on the matter other than it was all part of the Christmas tradition.

Unfortunately as I got older, Christmas had lost it's appeal to me. So many bad things had happened in my life right around Christmas that I lost the spirit and joy of the holidays. My parents were no longer together on the couch opening presents with us or staying up until the wee hours of the morning making sure Santa hadn't forgotten anything on our list. I lost my sister and grandmother during the holidays in 1993. The winter always wore me down emotionally and physically. It's not like I didn't have a lot of love around me during the holidays. My family and friends were incredible. There was just a piece of my heart missing and the only thing that really gave me a morsel of that joy was a little smelly ornament. Every time I opened that box of decorations that smell would bring me back to my happy childhood. Back to simpler times where the weight of the world was not bearing down upon my shoulders. I'd pinch the soft cloth ornament between my thumb and finger like a baby with it's blanket as I wished for the day I would learn to like Christmas again.

It wasn't until a few years ago that my thoughts started to turn. My mother called asking me to swing by and pick up a few things from the house that she found for me. My wife and I had purchased our first home the past summer, so naturally, everyone had things to donate to us. I wasn't terribly excited by the idea of another box load of nic nacs, but I went over anyways. When I arrived, Mom sat me down and handed me a medium sized red box. “Take your favorite ornaments. You have your own home to decorate now.” I opened the box and sure enough there were all of my favorite ornaments from my childhood including the Hexagon Claus. Its aroma was still so strong that the smell managed to embed itself deep within the fibers of most of the old decorations. For the first time in years I was excited about Christmas! I could make new memories with my wife in our own house with a piece of my childhood. I kissed my mother on the cheek and dashed home to see my wife.

I burst through the door like...well...like a little boy at Christmas, calling for Carly to show her our new decorations. She smiled as I placed the Hexagon Claus on our new tree. Carly had been trying to bring me out of my Christmas funk for our entire relationship, so this newly found yuletide spirit thrilled her! Her family had their own tradition of tying roses to the tree, so we started doing that as well. We tied two white roses: One for my sister and the other for her mother, who we lost a few years ago. All of the red roses represent those we love who are here and who are no longer with us. We've even started using a live tree with the knowledge that if it ever starts to give me problems breathing we'll go back to the ol' "twisty tie" tree. Three seasons and no problems. Hooray!

To this day I still struggle to get pumped up for Christmas. I get lost in the hoopla that is the holiday season just like everyone else. "What do I get this person? I want this...I want that...." It's only after I find my little smelly ornament that the season's reason fills my house and I remember what this holiday is all about. It's about believing that good things can happen for myself and others. It's about taking moments to remember the past, having courage to live in the present, and to hope for the future. I know it sounds like a cheesy made-for-TV-movie ending, but it's what I believe. Thank goodness for smelly little ornaments, huh? I hope the aroma never fades away.

Peaceful Things,

Josh

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quick Thoughts And A Request


Here is a quick post about some of the hulabaloo happening in Joshland...

There's been such a positive response about The Breathe Event over the last few weeks. Thank you to everyone who took part in this amazing tribute to Matt Scales, especially CFvoice. I wrote about my experience on the project last month. You can check that post out by clicking here.

Because of the impact "Breathe" has had on the CF community, I was asked to introduce the song at the 2009 Breathe of Life Gala for the Minnesota/Dakotas Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. What a great honor and privilege! I got a little emotional while I was speaking, but everything came together nicely at the end. They raised nearly 1 million dollars towards a cure not including some VERY generous donations before the gala took place. Thanks CFF and all the compassionate donors. Whether it's a dollar or a million dollars, it all helps!

"Breathe" has introduced me to many unknown friends in the CF community who are reading this blog for the first time. My new friend Kat just added Welcome to Joshland to her wonderful non-profit website. The Blooming Rose Foundation was created to help new and "experienced" CF Warriors, as well as their friends and family, find positive support, resources, and information about CF in this vast wasteland we call the internet. Kat, I look forward to working together and giving hope to everyone who needs it. She rocks beyond all reason.

To my new readers...I hope you find my stories entertaining and honest. That is all I've ever hoped they'd be. These stories aren't always about CF topics. A lot of them are simply things that have happened to me...but CF seems to always sneak in there for a moment or two in every story. That is all I will ever give it...a moment or two. My life is far more than this disease and I refuse to give it top billing. I am Josh who happens to have CF. It has taken away more than it has given, but what I've received are lessons that will stay with me forever.

To my loyal readers....You'll be seeing a few different things when you walk through the gates of Joshland. I'm attempting to gather some special people to be occasional guest posters. I hope these guest posters will be willing to talk about their relationship with me or perhaps cover a topic that I have received questions about. That is...if they are willing to write. ;-)

I am also opening up the floor to questions or ideas for stories you'd like to hear about. I am always looking for inspiration and who better to help me out than my readers?

I will do my best to answer any questions you have honestly and will gladly take any story suggestions. I may not use all of the suggestions, but don't hesitate to send me your ideas because it may help me pull a different story out of my forgetful brain.

You have a few ways to send me questions:

1. You can comment anonymously on this post with a question or suggestion. Just write "Question or Suggestion" in the comment.

2. If you have no worries of anonymity, you may comment with your name on this post or write me at welcometojoshland@gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from anyone in the near future. ;-)
Peaceful Things,

Josh

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Life Lessons For A Mat Rat


"I can do this...I can do this...I can do this. I can pin him in the first period. He'll underestimate me because I'm scrawny and he sees me coughing."

That was what went through my head every time I got on the wrestling mat in high school. I knew if I could get my opponent on his back in the first period, I had a shot at a win. Anything past that and I ran out of gas. But winning wasn't always that hard for me...

In elementary school I was one hell of a wrestler. With all the physical and personal problems I had complicating my life, I needed an outlet for my anger. I had been watching the fake stuff on TV for a while and figured I could pick up the "other kind" of wrestling without any problems, so I asked my mom and dad to sign me up. Turns out I was right. I had built up a lot of upper body strength to compensate for my lack of leg strength and balance from cerebral palsey and spastic diaplagia. I beat people twice my size because I was deceptively strong, extremely quick, and very smart. I was always thinking two or three steps ahead of my opponent and would end my matches before they knew what was going on. In fact, I rarely lost a match and a lot parents would complain to the coach because their kids had to wrestle me. Looking back now, I can see why. All of my anger and frustration came out when I wrestled and that probably scared them a little. What a bunch of babies!

By junior high school, only the best kids continued on in wrestling and improved with practice. I improved as well, but not by the leaps and bounds that other guys did. A lot of it had to do with my Cystic Fibrosis-infected body not maturing as quickly as most of my peers. Then there was the ever present problem that wrestling season was always during the worst time of the year...flu and cold season. CF compromises your immune system which meant all through junior high (and high school for that matter) I got sick frequently and missed practices and meets. On top of all the CF garbage, I developed a mild asthmatic condition. It was kind of embarrassing...then again, so were the spandex singlets we had to wear. No one on the team could understand why I was gone all the time, but I never blamed them for that. Even if I explained CF to them, it's hard to know what it's like unless you live with it.

To be honest, there was a much simpler explanation for my decline. Even though I never stopped busting my ass to get better, I wasn't a superior athlete. When the cream of the crop rose to the top, I stayed at mid-level. Some people are born to be athletes and others find their talents elsewhere. I was an "other" and that was okay. I stuck with it because I loved wrestling and it kept me healthy.

By the time I got to high school, wrestling was a struggle. I did everything I was asked, but it wasn't very pretty. I went to almost every practice, worked out in the weight room three times a week, and attended every meet my body would allow. Winning matches had become a rarity, but I managed to win a few exhibition matches at different meets which made me happy. Plus, my teammates were always there cheering me on which was cool. They knew how hard I was trying and I appreciate that to this day.

There were several guys in my 112 lbs.weight class that were much more talented than I was, so it was going to be near impossible to ever reach my goal of wrestling on junior varsity team. Thank goodness for wrestle-offs which allowed every guy on the team to actively try to win their roster spot. I always went in thinking...just once...maybe I could pull off the upset. The coaches had initially let me compete for a spot, but one day after practice the coaches pulled me aside to talk:

"We think it might be better if you don't wrestle-off for a while because you have missed a lot of practices and we want to do what's best for the team. But we definitely want you there to cheer us on because you are one of the most supportive guys."

I was shocked. On one hand, I understood that the guys that had been there every week deserved their time to shine. It was a very "win, win, win" mentality in high school and, as with any sports team on any level, you want to put your best athletes out there for competition. I was not a superstar athlete, so from that perspective it made sense. On the other hand, I had no control over my health and didn't think that should have been held against me. Plus, it was junior varsity wrestling for goodness sake! The coaches had always been so supportive of me...where did this whole opinion come from? I've never liked being coddled or patronized. Rather than make a big deal out of it, I kept my mouth shut and begrudgingly agreed to not wrestle-off anymore.

For the next two years I was the unofficial rookie trainer of the team and the "wrestling dummy" for the guys that needed a partner. I was pretty good at my new role. I took pride in teaching them the basics. A lot of the new guys thought wrestling was easy. The first time the set their eyes on me they were convinced they could take me down. Always the gentleman, I invited them to "take a shot and see what happens." When the rookies tried to take me down, they always shot for my legs with their heads facing down toward the mat instead of looking at me like they should have been. Instinctively, I'd hop back and slam their face into the mat. One time, I accidentally made a guy's nose bleed for a good hour and he let me know with some very colorful language that he was not happy about it. Settle down rookie...you'll learn.

Another time, I had to wrestle a guy in the 150 lbs weight class because they were short a teammate. Of course, this guy got cocky and started to take it easy on me. That pissed me off, so I decided to embarrass him for taking pity on the "sick kid". Before he knew what I was doing, I scooped him up in a single leg and drove him to the ground. He was humiliated and beat the living crap out of me for the rest of practice, purposely stretching my limbs in a way the human body should not bend. It was worth the pain to teach him this lesson: There is only one way to learn about wrestling...the hard way. If you aren't ready for the mental and physical pain, then you aren't ready to wrestle. The rookies caught on and sooner than later were eventually pinning me and moving on to junior varsity and sometimes the varsity team.

By my senior year of high school, I felt I had earned the right to wrestle-off for a spot on the JV team. I walked into the coach's office and cut right to the chase. "Listen, I've busted my ass for this team and I deserve the opportunity to be something more. Please let me wrestle-off. Why won't you let me to wrestle-off?" The coaches gave me this run around answer that they needed me as a motivator. The last thing they ever said to me was.. "If you aren't happy, then you should go home." That was all I needed to hear. After 11 years of wrestling with all my heart and soul, I just walked away. I'd never quit anything in my entire life, but if all my effort didn't warrant the opportunity to earn a spot on junior varsity team, then it wasn't worth my time and energy. I thanked them for my time on the team, cleaned out my locker, and headed home with my head held high. I was proud of what I had done throughout my wrestling career and if this was the way I needed to end it, with my pride in tact, then so be it.

Life isn't always happy endings. It's about learning from experiences. I am disappointed that I never fulfilled my dream of wrestling on the junior varsity team, but I'm not mad anymore. It was worth every moment. I attribute my phenomenal health for many years to the workout regimen that you're put through. Living with CF is sometimes painful, but I've trudged through with the mental toughness I learned from wrestling. But more importantly, I learned a major lesson about of living a good life. A fulfilled person needs to stand by their principles and believe in themselves. Those are the things worth living for. In the end that made me one hell of a wrestler.

Peaceful and Prideful Things,

Josh

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Voyage To Lambeau Field


This past weekend I was lucky enough to be in attendance for Bert Frave...I mean Brett Favre's return to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers.

If you are not a sports nut I'll sum it up: Future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre ended up leaving the Packers after a sixteen year career there under...shall we say...extenuating circumstances. Through a series of events, he eventually became the Minnesota Vikings QB. As a result, November 1, 2009 was the date for possibly the most hyped game in recent football history . I had always wanted to go to Lambeau for a Packer/Viking game and had bought my ticket before Brett was even a factor. Now the pieces were in place, the intensity level was off the charts, and I was going to be there!

One of my best buds, Randy, was my co-pilot on this voyage. We have been friends since we were little kids and enjoy being stupid together whenever possible. Since I knew how difficult it was going to be put this trip into words, we took the opportunity to be stupid one more time and create a video blog that would capture how electric the atmosphere truly was.

We interviewed several fans from both sides and everyone we talked to loved the idea of a video blog. Randy and I were pleasantly surprised how willing people were to participate in our buffoonery. I intended to put a longer version with more footage on here, but it was too large of a file and I couldn't upload it. Oh well. The chopped down version is still pretty damn good. We also made it on Fox 9 News, but didn't want to deal with any copyright issues, so I didn't post it on here. ;-( I channeled my inner pro wrestler and said the game was going to be insaaaaaaane!

Before this trip I wasn't completely convinced that we needed a new stadium in Minnesota, but after this weekend I have changed my mind. Outdoor football is awesome and I hope the people of Minnesota can figure out a way to make it happen.

From the stadium tour (which was awesome and a must if you are going to make the trip), to tailgating, to the actual game itself, it was a once in a lifetime experience. Lots of love to Randy for all the help and being a great friend and also to Dan and Liza and their crew for feeding us and showing us a good time...and then feeding us some more. ;-)

Here is the video blog of our trip. Enjoy it and look forward to the normal format next post. SKOL VIKINGS!




Peaceful and Gridiron Things,

Josh

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Breathe Event: A Tribute To Matt Scales


In August of 2008, I was at the University of Minnesota for a regular clinic appointment when I noticed a printout sitting on the desk asking if any children or adults would like to tell their stories on a CF podcast. It seemed like a no-brainer for me, since speaking about my life was second nature. I hit all the major points - family, treatments, health, career, and hobbies. During the interview I mentioned that I enjoyed doing karaoke which prompted a singing request. I honestly was not prepared for it, so I sung something on the fly. I think it was "In The Still Of The Night". To make a long story short, Bonnie, the interactive producer for CFvoice, enjoyed my singing enough to mention a possible future project that involved people with CF singing. I said I was interested and would look forward to any future opportunities.

Months had passed before I received a call from Bonnie who greeted me warmly and gave me the information about this event. In April 2007, a young man named Matt Scales, a singer/songwriter in London, England, lost his battle with Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 27. He was in the middle of recording his first solo album, which included a song he wrote entitled "Breathe" about his life with CF. Bonnie and her staff at CFvoice happened to come across this website for Matt and his music. She was immediately impressed with his talent and sent an email to his producer to arrange a performance for CF Voice. It broke her heart to hear that Matt had passed away after fighting CF for 27 years. A few months later Bonnie, inspired by Matt's music, suggested a tribute to Matt by having a few different people with CF from across America sing his song. His family agreed and after months of jumping through a few hoops and climbing walls, the "Breathe" Event was a go. All she needed was a few singers.

I had no idea how important this was when she initially mentioned this "singing event", so I was a little taken back. I am not a professional singer. I can carry a tune and enjoy performing, but this is far beyond a dive bar karaoke night. This was paying tribute to a professional by flying out to Seattle and performing a piece of his soul in a real recording studio! What if I screwed this up? What if I couldn't live up to their expectations? I went to his website and listened to the song. IT WAS AWESOME! I thought I could hit a lot of the notes, but still wasn't sure until Carly heard it and had no reservations at all. She told me to go for it. So with the encouragement of my wife I signed on for the project. May 27, 2009 would be my first time in a real recording studio. Carly had to work during that time, so I invited my mom to tag along. It had been so long since we had been on a trip that didn't involve the doctor. It was nice to be able to give her a gift back for all the sacrifices she made for me. If there was anyone who would know what this event was supposed to be, it was was Mom.

I arrived in Seattle the day before the studio session. I was so nervous leading up to it...I kept listening to the song to get a feel for how I wanted to sing it. It was important to me that I not copy Matt's style. All my worries went away the moment I stepped into the Clatter&Din Studio and I finally met Bonnie in person, as well CF Voice crew, Ellen and Joel. They were so gracious and excited to be there. We headed upstairs to our studio where I met John "Oz" Osmund - Matt's producer and dear friend - and Trevor Scales, Matt's father. They flew all the way from London to oversee the project. It was so incredibly brave of them to open up to something so difficult, but they knew Matt would love it so the decision was, as Trevor put it, "hard in a good way."

Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous at all during the studio session. Maybe it was because I've sung and spoken in front of people for years or maybe the promotional work I've done for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Perhaps my sister was watching over me and telling me to enjoy the moment. Whatever it was, everything felt right because I had so much fun that day. We exchanged ideas for the song and I tried singing it in a few different styles. The takes went alright, but they weren't quite what we were looking for. Then I attempted a few straight up tracks with Matt's original arrangement. Apparently, I sounded so close to Matt on a few occasions that it became emotionally overwhelming for everyone in studio. It was that "elephant in the room" that no one mentioned until after I started singing. Oz and Trevor didn't want to put any pressure on me before I sang, but they knew how hard this day was going to be. I was happy that I met their expectations. The best complement I received was from Oz, who said I was outstanding and have all the things it takes to be successful in the music business and that Matt would be so happy with how I performed his song. At the end of recording, Trevor and I nearly crushed each other in a bear hug where I whispered to him that Matt was okay and I have Angela looking out for him.

I spent time with Oz and Trevor, who both had a million entertaining stories about life in general. Oz has been in the music business for over 20 years and has worked with Bad Company, Ted Nugent, Oasis, and many more. I would share some of the stories on here, but I cannot do those tales justice. An enigma and wild man to say the least.

Trevor was a cop for 30 years in London and continues collecting stories as a cab driver. Eventually we got to talking about Matt and Trevor was kind enough to share some stories. I found the parallels between us amazing. We both hated high school, loved music - especially Billy Joel, were married in 2006, adore our wives, and have bright green rooms in our homes. It made the moment that much better.

After an emotional day, I headed off to bed. I was so proud of myself. I did what I set out to do: I paid Matt the respect he deserved. It was an exceptional moment in my life and I am blessed and honored to be a part of this amazing event. It is one of the most important things I will ever do in my entire life.

In the end, three CF Warriors sang along with and paid tribute to songwriter/singer/musician/distant friend Matt Scales and every other person who battles with this disease. Someday, I hope the pain will disappear and a ray of hope will shine down upon the warriors. Here is some important links to CFvoice.com and your quartet of singers:

CF Voice.com - an online community for people of all ages living with Cystic Fibrosis and the producers/magic makers of The Breathe Event.

http://www.cfvoice.com/index.jsp

Rose Harting - She's a sassy, sexy, and saucy "singing mermaid" with a soulful voice and a heart to match. And she can rock out like nobody's business. Her album "Fly" (Which is awesome!) is available on iTunes. Check out Saltwater Rosie here:

http://www.myspace.com/iamreallyrosie

Tess Dunn - another talented singer/songwriter who is full of musicality. You can check her out on MySpace and buy her album "Darling Just Walk" on iTunes:

http://www.myspace.com/tessdunn

Matt Scales - I never met Matt, but I thank him for the impact he's had on my life. Peaceful thoughts for you, my friend. The world has lost someone so amazing and talented. Check out a few of his tunes on his MySpace page as well as the memorial pages loved ones have created for him:

http://www.myspace.com/mattscalesofficial

http://www.myspace.com/matthewscalesmemorial

http://matthew-scales.gonetoosoon.org/memorial/


Thank you to Bonnie, Ellen, and Joel at CFvoice for asking me to be a part of this. You are fantastic people and I am blessed to know you.

To Trevor and Oz - You are both awesome. I can't wait until we see each other again. Hopefully on your side of the pond. Love you both.

To Rose and Tess - I am not worthy to work with such fantastic singers. You are both so talented and I see nothing but success and fantabulous things in your future. I hope we continue to build a great friendship. Lots of love to both of you.

Now...without any further adieu...here is The Breathe Event. I hope you enjoy it:

"Breathe" - A Tribute To Matt Scales and all CF Warriors


Peaceful Things,

Josh

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Buddy Bruno And A Dome Goodbye


From the moment I met "Forever Twin" Tom "Bruno" Brunansky, I knew there was something special about him. Back in 1985, Angela and I were the poster kids for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and were lucky enough to meet a few celebrities and athletes during our tenure. While the other athletes did the normal "meet and greet" (which I am not sneezing at, believe me), Bruno took it to the next level. He would always give us big bear hugs, ask us how school was, send Angela the occasional letter from the road, and call on birthdays when he had a moment during the season. Not because he felt obligated to, but because he really cared about us.


As the years went by, our relationship with Bruno grew closer and closer. And in 1987, when the Twins made it to their first World Series since 1965, we attended Game 6 to cheer them on. We wrote Bruno good luck letters that we gave to his fiancee (now his beautiful wife) to ensure their delivery. We also made a sign that said "We Love Bruno Too" which was an homage to her sign "I Love Bruno" that she took to every game. It was an incredible night that Bruno had a huge part in. He scored some key runs that were cushioned by Kent Hrbek's Grand Slam! I recall watching TV the next morning and seeing a picture of Angela and I in his locker when he was being interviewed after the game. You don't do those things unless you love somebody. That was worth more than the World Series to us.

Even after he was traded to the Cardinals in 1988 (don't even get me started on that debacle), Bruno still made a point to check in with us from time to time. Always a solid ball player, he was a journey man throughout the rest of his career spending time in St. Louis, Boston, and Milwaukee. No matter who he was playing for he always chatted with us whenever he made it back to town. The last time I saw him play a game was was just prior to the baseball strike in 1993. He was on the Milwaukee Brewers squad and was in town to battle the Twins. I caught his attention from the stands before the game started and we had a brief conversation. Before he left he threw me his Brewers hat which made me the envy of every other kid in the stands.

I've been lucky enough to stay in contact with him over the years through catch up phone calls and emails. During one of our more recent catch up moments Bruno told me he was selected as a player on the All-Metrodome Team and would be in Minneapolis for the final home weekend. Luckily, our friends Chad and Kari came across some extra tickets to the second to last game which was a "meet and greet" with former Twins, so off to the Dome we went. Prior to seeing Bruno, my wife said I was very giddy. I flat out denied it at first, but I have to admit that every time I get to see him I turn into that six year old boy again. And guess what happened when I saw him? I still got that big bear hug! It's very fitting that Bruno and I were able to come full circle at the final weekend of Twins regular season baseball in the Metrodome. I know Angie was smiling down from heaven as her all-time favorite baseball player and her brother were remembering all the good times and her sweet spirit.

Tom Brunansky is living proof that there are athletes who realize the wonderful gift they've been given and work hard to make the most of it. He never let fame go to his head while he was in "the show" and continues to pay his gift forward to everyone he meets. Thank you Tom for being a hard working ball player and a Minnesota fan favorite, but more importantly...a great man. I love you Bruno and Angie does, too.



A thought occurred to me while I was watching my final game. I realized that another small piece of Angela was disappearing from this world. The Dome was a special place that housed a lot of significant memories with her. I would never be able to point down to the seats we sat in with my family all those years. I would never be able to say I sat right over there for Game 6 of the '87 or '91 World Series. I would never be able to walk the corridor of the Metrodome, with it's stale sauerkraut and onion aroma, in my Twins gear ever again. My emotion finally overwhelmed me on Sunday when we started looking though the old pictures of us with Bruno, Bert, and Kirby. I just started bawling out of nowhere. I must have needed to let that out. I'm sure I'm not the only one whose heart is aching right now.




The Metrodome may be gone after this year, but the memories will never die if we keep them in our hearts. Next year there will be new memories. Somewhere within the friendly confines of Target Field there will be a six year old boy just like me who'll get to meet Mauer, Cuddyer, and Span. And the world keeps spinning 'round 'n 'round....


Peaceful Things and Love to Big B,

Josh





(It ain't over yet! A one game playoff with the Motor City Kitties starts this afternoon. We're gonna squeeze out all the "Dome Magic" that we can. GO TWINS!)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Expensive Free Trip AKA "The Shark Story"


This is a long story, but worth the read...

In the fall of 2003 I had the good fortune of participating in a very bizarre vacation with my best bud and "brother from another mother", Chad. Life is never boring with Chad. Anyone who has ever met him can attest to that fact. You never know what may happen when you are with him. That's why I'm always ready for an adventure when we are together. We've been friends since we were in grade school and became best buddies in junior high. Our friendship has withstood some serious stuff: divorces, death, girlfriends, college, and adulthood. Other than my wife, I can't think of anyone who I have more fun with than Chad. We both understand that life happens and you have to roll with the punches. This story is a perfect example of that...

A year earlier, I entered him into a raffle and he ended up winning the grand prize of two tickets for a four day, all expenses paid trip to Fort Lauderdale, FL. Since I entered him in it, I was the lucky recipient of the extra ticket. Florida, here we come! On the evening before our trip we decided to celebrate our vacation with a bit o' karaoke at “Wild Times” bar. Neon signs colored the smoke that hovered at eye level, tall mugs were scattered across the table, and the sounds of loud and off key singers were mixed with white noise conversations and a smattering of "thank God that song is over" applause. Chad, whose joyfully inebriated expression was like a googly-eyed Muppet, introduced me for first time to this "new girl" Kari, who would eventually become his better half. Towards the end of the night Kari told me she would drive him home, so I said goodbye and headed home for a good nights sleep. Chad was in good hands (I had a feeling about this girl) and had a few hours to sleep it off before the flight, so I had no reason for concern. It all should have gone smoothly. It didn't. I wouldn't be telling this story if did, would I?

My girlfriend (and my eventual better half) Carly and I arrived at Chad's house at 9:40 AM the next morning to pick Chad up for our flight. I hopped out of the car, flew through the doorway of his townhome, and charged up the stairs, all the while yelling at Chad to get moving. But what I saw when I turned the corner caught me completely off guard. Chad had a toothbrush in one hand and a swimsuit in the other. His pants were around his ankles (underwear on thank God) and his t-shirt hanging around his neck!

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!? WHY AREN’T YOU PACKED, MAN?!” I yelled.

“I don’t have time for you to yell at me.” He whispered, still feeling effects from the night before. “I just looked at our flight info and the plane leaves at 10:20. We have thirty minutes to get to the airport or we'll miss our flight. I forgot to pack, so I was working on that until you scared the hell out of me.”

I looked at my watch and groaned. It was 9:50 and there was no way in hell we were ever going to make this flight even if it was only 10 minutes away. Chad was determined to try. He grabbed an arm full of clothes, dropped it in the suitcase, and zipped it shut. From there, we hopped into Carly's Honda Prelude and jetted off to the airport.

The tires squealed as Carly squeezed into a spot along the drop off zone. As Chad crawled out of the car to unload our luggage, I turned to kiss Carly and was surprised to see a smirk on her face. “You’re loving this, aren’t you?” she asked with a smile. Apparently, my expression was easy for her to read. Chad and I were on an adventure and I couldn’t wait to get started. It was like a scene from a movie. I could picture us running to the gate with bags in hand, colliding with people on the way while the song “Wipeout” by The Sufaris played its nonstop drumming. “You are never going to make this flight.” she continued, bringing me back from La La Land. With a kiss and a wink, Carly said good bye and jumped in her car. I was feeling all mushy inside when reality literally grabbed hold of me. Chad yanked me by my shirt into the airport. “Come on! We can still make it!” he bellowed.

We trampled up to the ticket counter and I glanced at the clock. It was 10:00 AM. We had a chance to make it! All we had to do was move quickly through the ticket counter and security. “Good morning Gentlemen. What can I do for you?” The woman from behind the ticket counter asked, dressed in the standard royal blue sweater vest and poofed-out scarf. She was incredibly chipper, which immediately annoyed Chad, who by this time was upright only because the ticket counter was there to support him.

“We are in a hurry and need to get on our flight. Here are our driver’s licenses. Please hurry!” Chad demanded.

The woman shook her head and sighed. “I’m sorry sir, your bag is too large to carry-on. It will have to be checked.”

Chad looked baffled. “Are you kidding me?! Fine! Just check it, but let’s go please!”

The woman’s expression turned grim. After typing for what seemed liked days, she informed us that we had missed the time frame that allow us to get through security. If we wanted to rebook a different flight today, it would cost us $100.00, plus tax, per ticket. With sweat flowing down his head, Chad's complexion went ghost white. He mumbled something about going to pass out and stumbled his way through the makeshift turnstiles, still having the presence of mind to hand me his credit card to charge the transfer fees. I handed her the card with a chuckle and said the only thing that could come to mind: “He’s not feeling well today.” “Oh, that’s a shame.” she said sarcastically. While Chad recouped outside the airport, she went through her computer and found us a one stop flight to Fort Lauderdale.

With full knowledge that it was 10:15 and our plane was still on the ground, we decided to get something to eat at the airport while we searched for a ride back to his place. At this point in our story I will begin a running tally of our “free” trip. So far, we had spent $220 on tickets and a meal in the airport that I am convinced was nuked in the microwave 30 seconds before I ordered it. All Chad could do was blankly stare into space and internally beat himself up for reading the flight time wrong as I dug into my dried out chicken sandwich and potato appetizers. We eventually got in touch with his roommate Meredith who, after laughing uncontrollably for five minutes, offered to shuttle us round trip from and back to the airport. It was a frustrating situation but I wasn’t mad at all. I was having a great time.

We eventually departed Minneapolis at around 3:30 p.m. From there, we landed in Detroit and waited for four hours for our connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale. During this entire time, Chad was racking his brain out loud for ways we could have made our flight:

1. Check the flight time the night before

2. Pack carry-on items and find a bag that would actually work as a carry-on.

3. For the $200 he had spent to rebook and transfer our flight, he could have thrown away the suitcase and the items within and bought $200 worth of brand new clothes.

On our connecting flight from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale (which we almost missed because we didn’t hear the boarding call), Chad fell asleep and started to mumble. Without warning his head started flailing around like a bobble-head doll on a dashboard. He started screaming “No! No! No!” Rather than wake him up I was beside myself with laughter. The passengers on the plane were all laughing with me, snickering and pointing at his flailing body. I eventually regained my composure and tried to wake him. I shook, pushed, pulled, but nothing would wake him up. I did the only thing I could think of...I socked him on the shoulder as hard as I could which made him scream, let out a sigh of relief, look at me, and immediately fall back to sleep. At that point, I just gave up and listened to him snore for the rest of the flight.

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 11:45 PM, almost ten hours after our original arrival time. As we rattled down the highway in rental car shuttle, we could hardly wait to get to our hotel room and end this preposterous day. It was 12:30 AM by the time we reach the rental car building in downtown Fort Lauderdale. According to the travel agent we had a midsized car on reserve waiting for us whenever we arrived, free of charge. That all changed when we got to the customer service counter.

“Hi, I have a midsized car reserved under the name Capra.” Chad says.

"After so many hours, we release your reserved car to someone else. We do have 7 Minivans in our lot. Would you like a minivan?" the rental agent asked.

Chad is fuming at this point. I can actually see the steam coming out of his head. “Since we don’t really have a choice, I guess we’ll take the minivan.”

I secretly I love mini vans for some odd reason, so I was excited to ride in this stupid thing. We signed an agreement and took the keys, but not without paying $145 for the "free" car because the "all expenses paid trip" did not include the fees and taxes, nor the under 24 fee of $25 a day with the car rental. We had to pay a three day “reservation” even though we didn't get the car until Friday morning. Let’s bring back the “free trip” calculator: $220 dollars in previous expenses + another $220 in “free rental car” fees, giving us a total of $440 dollars thus far.

As we boarded the “chick magnet” mini van, I prepared to lighten the mood with a little traveling music. I unzipped my back pack and scrounged for my CDs. Unable to find them, I emptied all of the contents of my bag onto the floor of the van. Twins cap, suntan lotion, a pair of pants, but no CDs. Oh my lord...I left $300 worth of music on the airplane! We headed back to the airport wondering when something would go right on this fiasco of a vacation. Chad dropped me off at the entrance and I bolted out the door to lost and found. Much to my dismay, there were no CDs returned and the likelihood of them arriving at all was as they put it “Slim to none, and ‘Slim’ just left town.” Trip calculator: $440 previously mentioned expenses + $300 worth of music = $740 total thus far. Are we having fun yet?

While I was on the hunt for my music, Chad enjoyed a little peace and quiet for the first time that day, but it was short lived. The calm and soothing silence of the ocean waves gave away to a screeching megaphone from behind the van.

“You are in a ‘No Parking/No Stopping’ zone. Please move your vehicle immediately!” a police officer screamed from three feet away.

Chad leaned his head out the window and calmly asked the officer if he could explain the situation. There was no response from the megaphone, so Chad assumed the officer didn’t hear him. He opened his door and innocently began to climb out of the car. Before his foot hits the pavement, the officer explodes onto the megaphone again. “Stay in your car, Sir!” Chad darted back into the driver’s seat and waited. As the officer to approached the mini van, he reached into his back pocket for his ticket pad. Chad pleaded his case by rehashing the entire days’ events, but the cop just smirked as he handed him a parking violation.

After taking the ticket, Chad regrettably asked “Since you’ve already given me my ticket, can I at least stay here five more minutes until my friend comes back? Otherwise, I don’t know how we will find each other." The officer stopped mid-stride and glared at Chad. “If you don’t move your vehicle right now, you will be arrested!” That was all Chad needed to hear. He jammed his keys in the ignition, started the van, and began to pull away. I arrived in the nick of time and jumped into the car before we sped off into the night. “I just got a ticket.” Chad calmly stated as he hands me the parking violation. I don’t recall the amount of the fine, but I do know Chad still has said ticket in his possession and has gone on record stating that he will never pay it. Once again, we take out the calculator: $740 worth of previous expenses + an guesstimated $100 parking violation = $840 total thus far.

At 1:30 AM we finally checked into our hotel without incident and headed up to our room. I kicked off my shoes and flopped on the bed, eager end this day. Chad was wide awake for the first time the whole day, so he decided to take a stroll on the beach before going to bed. Even though I was exhausted, I decided to accompany him on his late night stroll which turned out to be a wise move.

As I wandered slowly behind Chad on the beach, this guy started walking toward him and asked for a cigarette. He was a shorter man with a spiked hairdo and a ponytail. His eyes were wide and glossed over and he was extremely anxious and fidgeted uncontrollably. He had on a tank top and jeans that were so baggy it looked like he was levitating over the sand.

“I don't have one. Sorry buddy.” Chad replied. At the same time, I said "What" because I didn’t hear what Chad said and I thought he was talking to me. This pissed off the stranger who then turned his attention to me. "I said ‘Do you have cigarette, dude? What the f*&# did you say ‘What’ for?” Chad tried to chime in saying I was talking to him.

"He better be talking to you." the stranger threatened. "You’re not in Kansas anymore Toto. Gotta watch your back ‘round here, you never know who got a gun." he mumbled as he continued his search for his nicotine fix.

Chad and I sat down near the ocean for ten minutes and said nothing. Finally, Chad broke the silence with what I would call one of the greatest complements I have ever received in my entire life:

“I just had the worst "non-death" day of my life. I can honestly tell you that I am glad that you were with me today. Anybody else would have been so pissed off about everything, but you just laughed all day. That was the best part of my worst day.” I just smiled at him and didn’t say a word. It was 2:00 AM by the time we went to bed hoping things will be better the rest of the weekend.

The following is an excerpt from an email Chad sent out recapping our trip which sums up the next two days better than I could:

Saturday: Josh and I went deep sea fishing. Josh caught the bait and I caught the shark :) I caught a duskie shark that was 7'1" about 270 lbs. It took me 1 and 1/2 hours to reel in. It was awesome!! I am getting it mounted and sent home because I never plan on going deep sea fishing again :) Saturday may have been the coolest thing that has happened to me. I have been thinking about it and I can't think of anything I have done that is more exciting than catching a shark :)

Sunday: Things were fine.. nothing real dramatic. Josh and I were at the airport about 1.5 hours early. ;-)

Chad received his shark a few months later. The wooden crate it came in was heavy, so Chad had asked me and our buddy Randy to come over to help lift it out and into the house. Once we got it out of the box, it was light enough for Chad to carry with one hand – it was made of fiberglass. Chad had been misinformed and assumed he would get the actual shark. Duped again.

Final trip total: $840 + However much it costs to mount a shark and ship it to Minnesota = An expensive free trip. In over 20 years of best-friendship with Chad, nothing will top this story. Others may come close, but won't ever quite capture the "wacky comedy" vibe. As I've said before, I can't make this stuff up...

Peaceful and Funny Things,

Josh

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sleepless Thoughts

It's 11:00 and I want to go to bed. The problem is if I do I will keep my sweet wife up and that is not acceptable. She would prefer I come to bed because she worries. She doesn't care whether I keep her awake. But I know she going to worry about me regardless of what room I'm coughing in and she also needs her sleep, so I tell her to snuggle in and I will be there soon.

For the last few weeks, soon has been 3:00 AM. It's not like I want to be up, but every time I lay down, I choke on whatever is running down my throat making me hack and shake during the wee hours of the morning. I can feel it burning in my chest like someone is holding a match right below my lungs...the urge to cough. Even though I just did a therapy, it won't stop. A tickle in my throat and the constant breathlessness are so frustrating. So I sit here wasting time on the computer...checking Facebook, researching fantasy football, and incessantly checking my email even though most of the people I know are in dreamland right about now.

During nights like these I think about all sorts of things...money worries, being out and about with this H1N1 virus floating around, wishing I still had my hair, how my digestive enzymes never seem to work, hoping I don't get sick this fall (especially before the trip to Lambeau Field), how happy and envious I am of all the new dads that surround me, whether I am doing the right stuff in my life...I run the gamut. I wish my brain had a switch that I could just flip on and off. Why don't we add a permanent off switch to the whole CF thing because if I had one of those I would be asleep right now instead of writing on my blog.

Peaceful thoughts to anyone else wishing for some ZZZZZs,

Josh

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Goodbye Bobby

Another warrior has been silenced...but his words will live on.

Cystic Fibrosis patients Bobby Womack and Brian McTear were introduced to one another at their West Philly CF clinic and developed an instant camaraderie. They shared the triumphs, trials, and the tribulations that come from living with Cystic Fibrosis and eventually made their friendship public when they started the blog brianandbobbyspeak.com, writing letters back and forth to each other on it since 2005.

I found out this morning that Bobby unexpectedly passed away this past weekend. I only knew him through his writing, but the reality of the situation took my breath away. Bobby and Brian's letters provided a doorway for others to walk through and learn from. Talk of medications and daily routines wove seamlessly into music and family events. Their blog was and is real life at its core. We are lucky to have the opportunity to read it. The final entry from Brian resonates with anyone who has lost someone close to them. Check that out here:

http://www.brianandbobbyspeak.com/?p=454


There is also an article about Bobby's passing on the Philadelphia Weekly website:

http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/news-and-opinion/phillynow/Bobby-Wolter-RIP-54533562.html

For me, this is a moment for reflection and peace. I've met so many CF warriors over my lifetime. Some battle in front of the world, others walk the path in anonymity. Some are no longer with us and others fight valiantly everyday. Whatever path you choose know this: As long as you love and care for yourself you cannot go wrong. Do the best you can with every day. That is you can ask of yourself and what you should expect of others.

Peaceful thoughts and prayers to Bobby and the family and friends who loved him, especially you Brian. Thank you for sharing your life with the world.

Peaceful Things,

Josh

Sunday, August 16, 2009

She's The Best For Me


I could try to fluff up the story of how I met my wife, but I think it's pretty cut and dry. She came to a party of mine through friends of friends and we started talking. I feigned knowledge of a foreign country by using witty repartee and my knowledge of Disney cartoons, which gave me the opening to ask her out. We went on a date and liked each other. At the time she didn't want to like me, so she tried to avoid/ignore me...but she couldn't resist my charm. We fell in love, got some dogs, and lived happily ever after. Bada-bing, bada boom. Done.

I've found the little reasons we've stayed in love to be far more fun to write about. Sharing everything forever is a rollercoaster ride that has been hard at times, but remains the best thing I have ever done in my life. We bicker over silly stuff like anyone else, but at the end of the day I know we'll be okay because of the little things we do for one another. I can't tell you what I do for her, but here are a few things little things she does for me:
  • Every morning, without fail, she and the dogs climb into bed and wake me up...by staring directly at me. I can't help but laugh because they are all so intense. Cute but intense.
  • She makes a point to tell me the truth. Whether I ask her a leading question or I unwittingly speak out of turn, she is there to give me the feedback I need which always makes me a better person.
  • She reminds me to write "thank you" cards because sometimes snail mail says more than a hand shake or nice words ever could.
  • She dances with me in the living room.
  • She is not afraid of our future. She says bring it on.
  • She is helping me learn to be brave again.
  • When we first started dating we jokingly came up with terrible pet names that we'd never imagine calling someone in public. She decided to call me "Pooky". The name has stuck and transformed into hybrids: Pookalicious, Pook Masta J, etc...I smile every time she says my nickname.
  • We both still say "I missed you today." That's code for "I love you."
Perhaps the greatest thing she does is just being there. I still get that feeling when I look at my wife. You know...the one with the butterflies and the Wayne's World "Dream Weaver" sequence. When we are married for 50 years, I bet dollars to donuts I'll still feel the same way. Love you always Carly.

Peaceful Things,

Josh

P.S. - The writer's block ain't gone, but I'm working on it. :-)


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Writer's Block











You know when the word you want to say is on the tip of your tongue but you can't think of it, much less say it, if your life was dependent on it? That is how I feel after weeks of mind-numbing blankness.

When I write, it's as if I'm putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I dump all the pieces out onto the table and start flipping them over, separating the edge pieces on the side. Lately a few of those pieces must have tumbled way underneath the couch of my mind. Until I find them I cannot continue with my writing puzzle.

It's times like this I wish I could be as relaxed as my dogs are. Yes, they get excited or stressed at times, but they have the ability to change gears instantly. Perhaps it's because their little puppy brains do not know any other way to be. If I could control my thought process that way, it would be wonderful tool. Maybe if I slept on the couch or chased rabbits in the backyard with them for the day. Hmmm....

It will get better (God, I hope it gets better.) Think creative thoughts for me and if you have a suggestion, question, please fire away!

Peaceful Things,

Josh

Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Blogger Award For Joshland!


The Honest Scrap Award

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I am honored to receive another peer presented blogger award. This time from my recently reconnected elementary school friend. In her blog, Diary of the Overanxious Horse Owner, she gives you a first hand look at working from square one with her 16 hand (64 inch) Paint Gelding quarter horse, Junior. This is an animal that can range between 800 - 1100 lbs. I can't even control my two 20 lbs dogs, meanwhile she is learning the mood swings of and training this massive animal! It's an interesting read and I suggest you take a look. "SillyPony", thanks for the award and sweet comments on your blog. You rock! Oh yeah, and give Junior a carrot for me. ;-)

This award requires me to send out 5 awards to worthy candidates. Since I just did this a few weeks ago, I am going to bide my time and find some other candidates. I will update you as I select them.

The award also asks to list 5 things about me people might not know:

1. I love Italian food and want to learn how to cook more than the few staples I know.

2. I have a goal of doing 100 push-ups. I am at 60 right now and have been stuck there for a little while. Stupid muscles. Recover faster!!

3. I would love to run my Schnauzer Henry in the obstacle course. It looks like fun to me. I wish Henry didn't have the attention span of a 2 year old.

4. I want to be in a 50's and 60's cover band.

5. I am the easiest person to make laugh.

These awards are very special to me and they blow my mind. This whole thing started on Facebook for God's sake. I answered on of those silly "25 Random Things About Me" notes/forwards. It was a time killer. The funny thing about it was that people really enjoyed my answers. They suggested I write a book or start a blog. So I did. Not because I am an outstanding writer or that I have such profound and wise things to say. I am an average writer at best and just a guy trying to live my life. But if something I say or do makes people happy, then that is a cool thing and I am all for it. I also started writing because no one knows my life better than I do, so stories will be here in black and white. That way, if people want to get to know me, tell others about me, or remember me after I am gone, all they have to do is go to this blog (or perhaps someday open a book) and read about me. I only wish Angela would have had the resources to do this while she was here.

I've never expected much from my writing, but to my surprise it has been very cathartic. It's forced me to slow down on my postings quite a bit. It's opened up some emotional and intense feelings buried inside of me that I wasn't prepared to deal with. I've started a writing class to help me organize my thoughts, gather information and hone my writing skills. I want well written stories on this blog and not just words that fill up a page. Please be patient and know that I will post things when they are ready. I promise.

Thanks for reading about my life. It means a lot to me and I hope I keep you entertained.

Peaceful Things,

Josh

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Be The Best Of Whatever You Are


What I am taking away from the Michael Jackson Memorial today has little to do with the "King of Pop". I wish all who pass away peaceful things. But I was moved by another King: the inspirational words of a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoken so eloquently by his son, Martin Luther King III. I found a website with the speech and posted the portion that moved me below. Feel free to click here for the source page and his take on it. Otherwise, read on:

On August 11, 1956, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech in Buffalo called "The Birth of a New Age".

Part of that speech goes as follows:

"We need more people who are competent in all areas and always remember that the important thing is to do a good job. No matter what it is. Whatever you are doing consider it as something having cosmic significance, as it is a part of the uplifting of humanity. No matter what it is, no matter how small you think it is, do it right. As someone said, do it so well that the living, dead, or the unborn could do it no better. If your son grows up to be a street cleaner, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry, sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, 'here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well'. If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill be a shrub on the side, but be the best shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can't be a tree, if you can't be a highway be a trail, if you can't be the sun be a star. It isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are...”

The message is powerful. Those words make me feel like I am doing alright. I'll be a trail. I'll keep doing the best I can with what I am given and continue being good to others. I'll keep working towards something wonderful and appreciating all that I have. We all should do that in life. Thank you "Anonymous" and Dr. King. You've brought me peace of mind today. I hope it does the same for anyone else who reads it.

Peaceful Things,

Josh

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Belated Father's Day Tribute


When I see my dad playing with his grandchildren, it takes me back to when I was their age. I can't tell you how many hours we spent in the summer playing catch, throwing pop-ups, and working on batting. We would start right after dinner, getting in front of the grounders and using the brim of my hat to fight off the sun as it slowly set in the distant summer sky. He held the back of my bike for years as I struggled to stay balanced, played games with me, wrestled with me (which always included the "stomach claw"), and tried in vain to keep me interested in fishing. You wonder where I got my singing chops? Look no further than my old man. He is the reason I sing on my own, in the car, or in front of a crowd.

My father and I haven't always seen eye to eye. We've had ups and downs, but as we've reconnected there is an unspoken understanding that we should focus on the future and not dwell on our negative past. He can be a stubborn and ornery ass, but I love him and am lucky to have him. Thanks Pop. Let's play catch soon.

My mother's biological father died in a car crash when she was a teenager, so her step father has always been my grandpa. Always the intellectual, he's often heard quoting Sigmund Freud as if it were common street slang, analyzing current events, and engaging me in adult conversation even when I was eight years old. His greatest gifts to me have been respect and love. Treat someone as you would like to be treated was not just an adage for him, but a lifestyle. Be they janitor or scholar, Grandpa always treated his fellow man and woman as equals. His love for his wife Carmella was and still is amazing. He tells tales of his wife like a giddy newlywed. His "Sparky" was his everything and he is just as devoted to her some sixteen years after her passing as the day they wed. If I come close to being the husband he was to his wife, I will be amazed. Grandpa, you the tops!

I have so much respect for fathers. It's something I may never be and I envy your gift. Here is my advice to you:
  • Try to remember all the things your dad taught you or you wish he taught you and make a list. Teach them one thing off the list when they ask or when they say they are "bored and have nothing to do." Then go for a treat. They make the lessons stick.
  • Listen when they teach you something because the moment you think you know everything is the moment you don't know anything. Kids are smarter than many adults give them credit for.
  • Hug them when you can because you can't make up for missed hugs.
  • Let your kids be who they are and learn from their mistakes. It will make them stronger.
  • No matter what kind of dad you are, make sure to tell your kids you love them. It makes all the difference.
A belated Happy Father's Day to all the dad's out there: the soon-to-be, the newbies, the ones in the midst, and the ones we've lost. And yes the dads with dogs count too.

Peaceful Things,

Josh

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Why My Heart Still Aches


I rarely went to see my sister while she was in the hospital. The doctors felt it would better if I didn’t expose myself to the plethora of germs. When I did go to see her, it coincided with my quarterly clinic check up at the University of Minnesota Cystic Fibrosis Center. This was the case in the fall of 1993 when my mother and I headed up to floor 5A where Angela was being treated. The walls were brightly colored with finger paintings and coloring book pictures, which unsuccessfully disguised medical charts and oxygen monitors. Stickers from previous patients covered the cold metal frames of IV poles and the playroom was filled with children whose faces were covered with medical masks, creating a thin barrier between germs and joy. The thing I will never forget was the smell. A combination of cleaning solution, stale food, and alcohol pads filled my nose with a pungent aroma that automatically triggered my gag reflex.

Angela’s room was a few doors in, so the “fresh air” from outside the wing managed to trickle in the room and make the smell tolerable. We walked into the room and there was Angie with her shoulder length blonde hair pulled back in a headband, pink and purple Hypercolor T-shirt she received for a birthday gift the spring before, grey sweatpants, and light blue socks that were two sizes too big and engulfed her feet. Even when she was ill my sister was adorable and charming. Her personality overwhelmed any other feelings people had once they were in her presence. She had an aura around her.

“Hi Booger!” she giggled as I walked into the room. “How was your check up?” She insisted that I tell her everything so she could make sure I was doing what the doctors told me too. My check ups were always great back then so I know she must have constantly questioned why her brother with the same disease was not struggling like she was. I couldn’t blame her. Time passed quickly as we made small talk about the news, school, music, movies, whatever came up. It was nearing rush hour when we had to hit the road.

“Do you really have to go?” Angela said with a quiver in her voice

“We do sweetheart, I am sorry.” My mother sighed. “Josh has to get home for a therapy and we need to let the dog out. He has been in the house all day. But I will be back tomorrow. I promise.”

Angie’s eyes began to water, but she held firm and would not let the tears fall. She was holding them back with all the might her frail little body could muster. “Okay, but try to come early and bring some new movies for me.” I didn’t realize until that moment how much I missed her. I wanted to take away all the pain she had been through, but I knew that was impossible. So I came up with the next best thing.

“I could stay overnight, Mom. They have all the stuff I need here and I have my Vest (therapy jacket) here with me.”

“Yes, that would be great! Please, Mom!! Please let him stay!” Angie pleaded. I could tell my mom was leery of this whole thing because she didn’t want me to get sick, but she also realized that I must have missed my sister because I had never asked to do anything like this before. After a few more minutes of begging, Mom relented. She told me she would be back around lunchtime tomorrow. She blew her kids kisses and headed for the door.

Angela was so excited to have me there for the evening that I think she forgot I was her brother! All she cared about was she had company for the night and a reminder of what it was like to feel normal. I, on the other hand, was having second thoughts. The room was getting smaller and that horrid smell that seemed to dissipate earlier was free flowing back into the room. I ran into in her private bathroom and began to wretch into the sink. The thought of being there all night was way too much to handle. I started to cry.

“Are you okay, Josh?” Angie asked. I feigned some lame reply, unaware of how paper thin the bathroom door was. Angela had heard every sound in that room and knew exactly what was going on. I came out of the bathroom and my bloodshot eyes made contact with her sweet face.

“You are having second thoughts, aren’t you? You don’t want to stay.”

“No, it’s not that…I just…well…um.” I stuttered as I sat down in the chair next her bedside.

“You don’t have to stay. I would like you to, but you don’t have to. You need to make up your mind though, because mom is probably close to her car.” Angie was right. Mom didn't have a cell phone back then, so if I wanted to go home I needed to haul ass to the parking garage and hope that I could catch her. I stood up and looked at Angie…then the door….then back to Angie.

“Just go.” she muttered.

“But I don’t want you to be mad at me.” I slurred as tears ran down my face. “I thought I was okay, but I don’t think I can do this....”

“JUST GO! YOU NEED TO CATCH MOM, SO GO!” Angela yelled.

“I’m sorry. I love you.” I said as I raced out the door.

I could see Angela’s nurse heading towards her room as I bolted down the hall toward the elevators and hopped in just as the doors were closing. My mind was going crazy. What was I thinking?! I couldn’t stay there! Why in the hell did I think I was brave enough to stay in that terrible place for any longer than I had to? The elevator doors opened and I ran out loudly sobbing for my mother. I started heading for the parking ramp, when I saw her sitting in the car outside the hospital entrance. “MOM!” I wailed and jumped into the passenger’s seat of our car. I immediately wrapped my arms around her neck and told her what happened.

“I know what happened and I am sorry.” she explained. “As I was leaving the ramp, the parking attendant stopped me at the pay window. He had a call from the nurse saying that you wanted to come home. So I headed over here and was waiting for you to come out.”

I collected myself, wiping the snot from my nose and the tears from my eyes. Suddenly, I began to feel guilty. I asked my mother if Angie was mad at me. She said that Angie was upset, but was more disappointed than anything. I was so ashamed. Here was my sister who had been there for over a month with little complaint, and I couldn’t even make it through one night. What kind of a brother was I? What kind of a person was I? Later on that evening, I could hear my mother on the phone consoling my sister and defending my behavior. I sulked in my room and knew that I had made a terrible and selfish choice and had to live with the consequences of it. Mom did a wonderful job reminding me that it was okay and that Angela still loved me, but I was certain that she had disowned me. Lord knows she had the right to.

When Angela made it home a few weeks later she wasn’t mad at me, but I could tell I hurt her. I never really apologized for letting her down that day in the hospital, but she never spoke of it either. Unfortunately, her stay at home was short lived because she caught a severe infection and had to be readmitted into the hospital. As the infection worsened, they sedated her heavily to keep her comfortable which put her into a medicated coma. I never realized how sick she truly was until it was too late for us to talk. She passed away on December 15, 1993.

It's been 16 years and I still haven't got over her dying. It breaks my heart that I wasn't brave enough to be there for her. I wish I could have told her how much I loved her while she was here, but I know Angela loves me and watches over me always. I miss you my sweet sister. I’m so sorry.

Peaceful Things,

Josh

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Kindred Spirits


Since 2003, I have had the honor of speaking to the "Peer Insights" class at Eden Prairie High School about my battle with Cystic Fibrosis. This is a unique classroom environment because it is a mix of students with different physical and mental challenges - down syndrome, cerebral palsy, etc - and their "peer partners", who are your typical high school students. During our time together I give them information on CF, let them try on my therapy machine which makes them them giggle as their voices vibrate, and show them the medicine I take on daily basis. The best part of the presentation for me is when I open the floor to questions. This amazing group has always engaged in discussions and this year was no different. We talked about death, marriage, college, my high school experiences. You name it, they had a question. No subject is off the table because what these kids need honesty and vulnerability.

My goal has always been to motivate others who have struggled like I have. The only reason I feel semi-qualified to speak to them is because I've walked a similar path. I remember how hard it was to make others look beyond the label of "that kid who has..." and get to know the real me. But there are some differences as well. My disease has very minimal outward signs and symptoms, so I have the initial opportunity to cultivate friendships before letting them know everything about me. I can't imagine how hard it must be for them to find true friendship without dealing with immediate judgment and ignorance. They persevere valiantly, only wanting equal treatment from their peers. For the most part they are given it; It's just a small percentage of the population that are insecure and vile enough to leave a permanent scar on these wonderful people. A few years ago, a young lady in the class asked me how to cope with people teasing her about her disability. When I suggested a few options she replied "What if that doesn't work?" I had no answer for her and it broke my heart. Why are people deliberately mean? Why is it so much easier to fear and hate what we don't understand? Don't they realize that it hurts to be laughed at, ridiculed, or patronized for things you cannot control? Thank goodness for their "peer partners" in the classroom. They are a true friends because they interact with their classmates with respect and honor, the way we all deserve to be.

Before the bell rang, I left these students with a final thought: "We all have our crosses to bear. Some just aren't as visible to the naked eye. Whatever your cross is, you can get through it. No one can control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it. Every student in this classroom has the ability to be the best person they can be. All you have to do is try."

After the classroom cleared their teacher complemented me on my honesty and my ability to connect with her students. She told me they had never been that engaged in a discussion with any other guest speaker. The fact that I empowered her students really meant a lot to me. If listening to me and seeing what I have been able to do will give someone the confidence to achieve even greater things, then I am happy to do it. What those students and teachers don't realize is that they inspire me to be a better person. It's a blessing every time I get to walk into that classroom. My dream is to one day become a motivational speaker and go around the country promoting self-confidence and self-worth; becoming an advocate for anyone who battles bravely through their life challenges. With any luck, I will find a way to do that and continue giving back to students just like these ones...my kindred spirits.

Peaceful Things,

Josh

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Baseball Birthday in Boston


As we headed for the the ballpark adorned in Twins gear from head to toe, I was so giddy! A few days earlier, I found out that I was going to Boston for my 30th birthday with my wife and our closest friends! With a big grin permanently stuck on my face, we stepped on the Green Line of the "T" Train - Boston's transit system. I felt like the four of us were in a baseball-themed version of "Where's Waldo". Can you find the Twins fans in a sea of Red Sox rubes? I was a little intimidated after I asked Carly what stop was for Fenway Park. The entire car full of the "Red Sox Nation" answered "Kenmore!" in a thick New England accent. I probably could have figured it out by following the people with B's on their hats, but the funny thing about that...the percentage of people in Boston with some form of Red Sox attire is far greater than the portion without. I may have ended up on the other side of town if I chose the wrong person to follow. Don't mock me just because I am directionally inept.

The feeling of intimidation slowly disappeared as the days progressed. Everyone we talked to was "wicked" awesome. There was a couple who were excited that we made the trek to Boston even though they warned me that "the Sox are gonna light your ass up". Another Bostonian told me he hates every team the Red Sox play, but hates us less because we "bleed simila' colors". The best conversation by far was outside of the bathroom (or the "pissa" as I was told to call it). This guy was a stat machine and started naming off Twins who played for the Red Sox and whether they were any good. Eventually he got to Tom Brunansky, who was a member of the Twins 1987 Championship squad and, I am proud to say, a good friend of mine. I name-dropped Bruno and this guys eyes lit up. He said he loved Bruno and told me about how he got the Red Sox into the playoffs with a diving catch in 1990. I looked it up on good ol' Wikipedia and there it was! Even when I was holding a hand-crafted sign that read "Circle Us Bert, It's My Birthday" that Kari made for me (a special surprise), I received nothing but well-wishes and a little bit of ribbing which I gladly took in stride.

Boston fans are hardcore fans that live and die with their team. I would call them intense but friendly. You can feel their energy within its confines of Fenway Park. Murals cover the walls and retired numbers are shown throughout the entire stadium. It's a dying breed in a sports world filled with stadiums named after corporations. When the first game was delayed due to rain, the fans didn't leave. They simply headed for the concourse and drier ground...and Fenway Franks, Sam Adams Beer, and anything else they could consume while they waited anxiously for their heroes to return to the field. Fenway had turned into a giant pub. They stayed until the last minute when the game was officially called off and the two teams would meet in a double-header the next day. Even though the Twins were pummeled both games by the Bo-Sox, who decided to hit a few homers to feed the "Green Monster" - the affectionate nickname for the vertically extended wall in left field, we had a great time in a classic stadium. It made me excited for outdoor baseball next year in Minnesota. Not in April though...brrrrrrr.

During this trip I realized my body is a little weary. While Carly, Kari, and Chad all strolled along at a steady pace, I struggled to keep up. My lungs were aching because I didn't want to go back and do a therapy in the middle of the day. My leg was numb from all the walking we did which was excellent for me, but really pushed me to my physical limits. I was truly grateful that as we saw the sights of Boston - The North End "Italian District", USS Constitution, Boston Duck Tours - no one mentioned how slow I was. They would wait for a moment never making a big deal about "Ol' Slowpoke Josh". The trip was fantastic and I am not complaining one bit, but I wish I felt as good 30 as I did at 20...or even 25.

I cried a little as I stayed up to do a chest therapy the eve of my birthday. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagined watching a double-header in Boston with three people I loved. You see, I used to loathe my birthdays. They seemed like a countdown to me rather than a celebration. While everyone else seem to revel in accruing another year, I became depressed because I was running out of time. It's only recently that I've understood the purpose of them. It's one day out of the year that everyone should have the opportunity to feel important. I definitely felt that way all week. Thirty years of a life that I was not supposed to have were being celebrated and I took it all in.

Thanks to my family and friends who all kept a secret and were a part of the several birthday celebrations which made my 30th birthday wonderful. Each one was amazing. Thank you for loving me so much. I promise to make the next thirty years the best they possibly can be. In closing, here is a video I created of my visit to Fenway Park. Sing along if you'd like...



Peaceful Things,

Josh

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