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

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Peaceful Things ~ Josh
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