Simple gifts.

Simple gifts.  Every day I am reminded of how lucky a life I have lived thanks to the most endearing individuals and experiences I have been lucky to have had in my life.  These are the aspects of life that need to be pushed to the forefront to outweigh the countless times we all can find something to complain about.  I remind myself all of the beautiful moments I have had thanks to the individuals, and experience, I have been lucky to have happen.  I thought of this, this 2018 Thanksgiving and post Thanksgiving.

I used to be pretty good at the posts and keeping up with it all, and then, ironically I moved back to the states and time seemed to be warp speed and leaving so much behind while I try to grasp at all before it slips away, and such is life, eh?  Yet, I battle every day and will continue to regain the very moments that are magical and we all share together across the miles.  As this post title indicates, Thanksgiving 2018 was upon on in a flash, at first this school year creeped into being, August and then WHOOM! – the Thanksgiving break we are were waiting for was on us!

Without warning, this Thanksgiving break has been one of my most memorable as well, and that is saying so much when we had past sit downs with family, visits to Puerto Escondido and I have to say, the day after – thanks to today has become one of the best in memory.  “We love your dogs!  Cape Charles loves your dogs!”  I was so surprised and taken by surprise, I was quite speechless with an older couple approached Dane, Wriggley and Amaya and embrace them so suddenly.   I am way ahead of myself, so let me work my to where we jumped in – knowing I needed to make the 2 and a half hour trek to Cape Charles to pick up some replacement herons for the next year’s HEROn 5k Walk/Run, I knew I needed to do it on break or I wouldn’t do it at all. I remembered how scenic this drive was before and thought at best I would get some great images.  Little did I know. 

I had decided early on with such a long trek that I would /should take the dogs with me, since they deserved and were overdue for some quality freedom time based on a very demanding and long Fall Cross Country Season that cut into their “out time.”

A couple of false starts occurred, going back to the house after realizing my gas card was in the house somewhere, and after a bunch of bungling, finally on the road.  I couldn’t help but notice the leaves and trees that seemed to hug the road even more as Delaware turned into Maryland, Maryland turned into Virginia, and maybe the best Black Friday I ever knew was taking in a cold but crisp fall = now turning winter day.  The whole time the dogs begged, and sometimes figured out, how to turn down the back windows when their paws were just in the right place.

Coming into R & T Nautical, and calling ahead and letting them know estimated time of arrival, I was told cheerily that R & T was dog friendly as well, and yes they were.  I was a little more over protective of how the canines wanted to be into every single sea craft in their building, and rightly so as, DESPITE being let roam outside before going in, Dane, decided to relinquish a bathroom spot right there in the main room, YES devastating and YES, horrifying to me, but the owner brushed off this event as I quickly cleaned up after Dane and shook my head.  

A box of carved herons later and a few gifts, and I was headed back.  I remember AGES ago, thanks to Nancy McGee, we had attended a birding Festival called Kiptopeke Birding Festivalit was amazing. ( I think it might have been 2013!)  The sheer ability to experience so much with dragonflies first hand, birding, migrations, as well as the shops I remember that were right on the beach, I though, if I EVER have the chance to revisit, I will.  Here I was, and I VAGUELY remembered this entrance, so I thought, yes, I have the dogs, but why not?  I turned the truck around, went to the entrance of what I thought sure enough was the shops I remembered in a historic part of Cape Charles, and VOILA!  it all came back, it was all here.  And what a night to pick to visit...Festive Friday.

Very few places unfolded like a Christmas story you always see on television, the movies, such as you see in It’s a Wonderful Life.  But I tell you the absolute truth, here it was all happening around me.  Individuals were in small golf carts, everywhere, setting up make shift stand up places young children could stand behind and take pictures in (from the Grinch, cape2to Santa Claus to so many more, and almost on every block).  Shops were lit up everywhere with Christmas lights, you could hear music follow you everywhere you went.  The beautiful version of the Wexford Carol ran in my mind as we were greeted by people constantly on every single block.  The dogs were hugged, petted, and greeted as if we lived here all our lives, they ate it up 100%.

The stores along the boardwalk – amazing.  Watson’s Hardware Store had a wood table where local residents were gathered around talking about the latest news important to all that lived here, The Cape Charles Candy Company simply brings you in and you feel as if you have walked into a mock holiday scene, Like a Sailor catches you off guard and makes you blush and laugh at the same time,  The Boardwalk brings some very unique gifts front and center, cape3Peach Street Books is a bookstore created out of a classic former garage and what seems to be out of a movie and picture book at the same time,  the cape4breathtaking galleries, the inviting store lit fronts – but not too many and not too long, unique, kept making me blink to make sure I was, in fact, not in a dream after all.   I went in were AMAZING, warm, lit up and you felt the excitement of what seemed almost as a mirage with the welcome you received at every store- from this I received this especially warm greeting on a street I had last been maybe over 8 – 10 years before = “We love your dogs!  Cape Charles loves your dogs!”  – it was one of the nicest, genuine greetings that Dane, Wriggley, and Amaya seemed to realize as in this one night so much was realized – in one single beautiful chance we took to check out Cape Charles and fell into a holiday movie seemingly.  

A slideshow of the last week, Thanksgiving with Mom and being able to enjoy an amazing meal without hurry, being able to have so many amazing experiences with a Cross Country team that taught me there would be days I did not want to run and pushing me out the door and after the run that day celebrating the feel of running that only hours before I did not want to do at all, how much it changed me, how much they motivated me, Coaches of the past putting aside their afternoon and coming back together to create an event that motivated and pushed others to dig in and realize their potential  – all of these great feelings emerged to the surface amid such an AMAZING, beautiful town of Cape Charles coming together to celebrate each other and the beautiful town they had bringing in the holidays.  If you do one thing on your holiday list, I urge you to pull back from all the bustle that is so easy to get pulled into, and escape to one of the Festive Fridays in Cape Charles then find others in the pockets of our East coast, it will change the way you see the holidays.

There is so so much hardship, so many sad and depressing events that are occurring in the history of the world, and yet, when you witness the beauty in people and the strength that individuals exhibit towards each other at some very special moments, you realize there is hope for individuals to make the positive changes that each of us needs to make the world even better.  It is hard and difficult to imagine you could have these thoughts just from one exceptional visit,  but yes, the night in Cape Charles was magical.  Being treated like royalty from the moment you stepped into the town, it is difficult to not love all there is about such a town by the water, on a holiday season coming into the eastern shore.  

I am so thankful for the decision that made me turn back and enter a Cape Charles I had visited over 8 years before and realizing how rich I was in friends, experiences, moments, dog and cat pilgrimages across North America, and in the face of so much devastation in the world, hope.  Hope and a belief that such warm and heartfelt greetings of welcome as felt in Cape Charles can exist in each of us and warm the coldest of nights and bring about the best holidays knowing we have each other as a part of our past, present and future.  This certainly is a magical place, and even moreso on such a holiday festive Friday.  I hope you to get a chance to experience since a needed moment of thanks and discovery of simply gifts that are often taken for granted.


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Research Your Heart…and find the passion that pushes you Forward to the Finish.

Suggestion – play this music at the word START below . 🙂 .  It will be a virtual experience but thanks to a very dear friend, it helps to reconnect with individuals that delve into the meaningful 🙂   

So first play this, 

then this :

as you read this blog today 🙂 .  Remember, no cheating – Start at the word START below!  Thanks Esther for being part inspirer of this blog!

 I am about three months behind on posts that normally would be posted – so (fingers crossed) the next few days I will be doing my best to retrace amazing events from August of this year to present – so much and so little time, but every day that passes reminds me, you need to make time for the very things that revive you – especially in a day and age when so much seems to try to go wrong – individuals that hold onto that stubborn quality of bring what is dear to the surface – help others live through the tough and trying times, and we have had those as of late as everyone knows.

START!  🙂   When I started the decision to take one graduate class a semester at Florida State – I kind of groaned heavily inside but knew it was the right decision in being something I wanted to pursue to be knowledgable and learning more than I knew already.  I lucked out with picking the right degree, the right school, the right path – but as I finished a grueling research paper today on how graphic novels can represent and motivate more authors and illustrators to represent better people of color – in a world that currently puts up barriers and stereotypes in doing so, I realized how inspiring it is to find a topic, write a paper, that can also have implications and practical use in real life to make the world better.  My head raced at the same time I was pulling pertinent bits of info from this article :

and then my review of this article which took MUCH longer than expected:

At first thought not much motivating about a research paper but wait, think about this.  The whole premise of taking something most people see in one light, say graphic novels, from my experience has been Comics and nothing more than that.  When I started delving into graphic novels thanks to my dear friends Mocte and Javi, I realized how deep they can be. I began to examine the graphic novels about Civil Rights Marches, The Katrina disaster, issues on immigration, relocating to a new country and I realized how POWERFUL graphic novels can be in reaching individuals that normally might think they hate literacy.  My whole thought process during this essay and assignment was how such a medium does in fact work and can benefit the way society sees race, diversity, and the ability to see other differing viewpoints that individuals might have taken the time, or care to consider – things would change.

Add in this past weekend, perhaps one of the most beautiful days I can remember, walking along the IMG_9662.JPGKillens Pond Trail, with am amazing group of Cross Country athletes that had enough bravery, energy, commitment, and determination to be part of a new cross-country team where every member, die to those same qualities mentioned, dropped their times by record amounts from the beginning of the season.  I could not thin of any group I would rather be surrounded by – the leaves turning, the perfect fall day surrounded by individuals that all beat goals they probably thought could never be achieved.  Such a good day and so proud of these young ladies and men.

Sometimes you are lucky enough to surround yourself with some of the most motivating individuals that you often take for granted and realize it again when you most need it. Talking with my friend Esther, I remembered some of the best days I never knew existed thanks to friends like Esther when I was in Mexico.  The days of summer camp and amazing students grabbing y hand and wanting to play hopscotch, jump rope and a hundred other things that just made me feel good inside, the laughter and ease of being able to come home and just relax at the corner Bodega or Mercado with friends night after night, and hearing Esther’s new adventure of delving into some exiting chapter of her life – and I realized, the motivation I felt when I was realizing possibilities from a RESEARCH paper, as well as the motivation I felt when I was surrounded by this very young Woodbridge High Cross Country team and seeing them achieve what they wanted simply by pushing themselves forward – if we surround ourselves with people who believe we can add an extra push in our lives everyday, we will surmount any doubts of tacking anything we wondered about doing.  I have seen it play out already hundreds of times and that is the truth in theory and reality.

This year a scorching hot summer has quickly turned into Fall and rapidly becoming colder.  Yet, despite the rapid pace of events, the tragedy after disappointment and heartache in the world that occurs, there is hope individuals we have as friends such as Esther an awesome dreamer that can change the world with her dreams, my friend Andrea who constantly challenges the world through Science and is relentless in finding ways to improve the world from her lab in Johns Hopkins, my amazing cross-country athletes and their parents who encourage and instill them with faith, courage, and a path to beat the odds, as well as the brave faculty members that surround me and impress me every day with creativity that surrounds me and their students in looking forward to tomorrow despite muc ugliness floating around in the world. We need more of the Esther’s, the Andreas, the WHS cross country team who know nothing else but risking it all and throwing themselves into a situation to emerge a victor, and that in itself will let us turn to find a better tomorrow – as well as a better person ourselves. Sometimes the best research starts with ourselves and if we are lucky, allows us to discover so much more of what we are capable of in the world.

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What Are You Willing to Sacrifice?

I can barely move my fingers IMG_9390.JPG

as the skin protests around my fingers with every single movement. Frostbitten, but not from the frost or mid winter barrage of wind, but from the plunging down repeatedly into bone-chilling water bring up to the surface item after item that brings redemption.

No kidding, 2018 – and IMG_9391.JPGApple Scrapple re visits an ultimate question – what are you willing to sacrifice for the moment you are set free?  In running, it is the runner’s high – you reach the wall and then just as you are about to feel as you’ll die – your body release the realization you are DOING it and all is possible.  Bliss. (Thank you for that analogy Coach Havrilla) – it is so true, unless you reach the moment where you are sure you are going to die, you will not find the moment where you realize this amazing threshold you have passed to truly live.   In life, it is simply – what are you willing to sacrifice to reach that moment of being able to look back, and realize the pain and hurdles made life even more sweeter – as is a favorite phrase of one on my favorite movies,  “

“Because without the bitter, baby, the sweet ain’t as sweet.”- 

Let’s put this into perspective – the first day hours earning a small amount – approximately 97.2 dollars an hour – the second day of 13 hours, earning $274.00 an hour – yes, this is what success looks like – but wait – only on the surface.  IMG_9393.JPGMany see mountains of possibility with these amounts pictured – and the best, possible redemption and feeling I see is the crazy amount of speed and alertness on behalf fo the class of 2020 and helpers, the absolute exhaustion in your muscles, skin, feet that are numb that enabled us to achieve such a lofty goal, and think that was selling 1780 drinks (bottled sodas and water) over a TWO day period. Think about that for a sec, and then pinch yourself to see who helped achieve this goal – and you will see parents and willing to sacrifice much students to get to that point it two days, pretty much a Cannonball Run craziness period occurring in one weekend. 

I see the same exact “willing” (or unwillingness)  to sacrifice that impacts and shapes the memories we continue to find in Cross Country.  We are SO incredibly lucky to have a tight-knit-beginning-to-what-will -be-definitely larger- next year in the form of the athletes.  The willingness to sacrifice breath, sore muscles, as well as exhaustion – stress – and more – and yet, you have to be willing to pull /sacrifice one, two, three or more  important aspects of your life to receive what it feels like at first was impossible. 

Why?  Why is it important to sacrifice anything?  Shouldn’t I be able to get anything I want without having to sacrifice anything?  GREAT question.  I feel that way too – I have to admit.  However, a few examples will show that point – and I think you’ll see it as clearly as I have.

Most people see that pile of money and see success measured in the amounts and piles. 

What you can’t see is the following:

The conversations are the conversations with the young children, the alumni, the connections that make Greenwood, Bridgeville, and WoodbrIdge who they are and how they became what they are today

The laughter we had in simply going through the challenge of a set amount and exceeding it, not, blowing that set amount up and knowing together, we had everything to do with it (Comments like “She spit on my lip!” – one for the quote books for sure).

Gathering the abilities of WHS’s ROTC organization, SGA Treasurer collecting, SGA President Leadership, “the Governor” (yes we have a Governor in SGA) representation, and seeing our SGA utilize the various roles and putting them to use in a public setting.

Setting down How-to’s in being successful that NO ONE, can learn unless you actually are involved.  Go ahead try to learn how to have a natural conversation and learn how Ms _____ is doing after her experiences as a teacher, mother, and now director of ______.    Find out how to look someone in the eye and show them you are here for the community, yes your organization but also to add to the grit of hard work that makes Apple Scrapple unique, personalized and a sense of community.    Try to learn how to personalize every single purchase with paying attention to their children’s face painting, their children’s choice of Dr. Pepper and poll them about why they chose a DR. Pepper, hear the hysterical comments about “This is for my wife, her choice dominates!” and “Giving the money to the ladies – they trained you right!” and more laughter but actually being interested in the very patrons who make up this community –  there IS a difference between simply making money and trying to get to know the individuals that help support organizations – student and community-led, to allow them to represent a portion of your very own community.  

These real aspect that no one can “teach” you by simply passing them on into the classroom.  They are respected, learned, and known by looking past the material aspects of money, events, plans and realizing how connected we are to each other through money, events, and plan, and personalizing them with each other. 

This is all lost if you are not willing to sacrifice a little of self for each other.

We laughed, we admired, we learned, and the money was truly a secondary aspect after a few hours.  When SGA officers began saying, after working 4 straight hours of not stopping sales, “This is FUN!” and hearing the interactions they were learning about individuals in their community?  It brought back the memories I relished, RELISHED, in




selling back to back hours of selling Choripan at ASF’s Art Fair in Mexico City,  among some of the best, most patient and people skilled students in the world, and they we did so in Mexico City as part of the Repentino, not becoming the Riff, Woodbridge High’s emerging, community-based literary art magazine.  

Do you see how this is all connected?  Without an event like Apple Scrapple, and thanks to the back-breaking, hour splitting, chaos ridden duties by the likes of Ms. Bonnie Workman, Karen Johnson, Miranda Collins, Tammy Williamson, and a HUGE load of others, this event, and other events that are proposed, from the outside in look like JUST events.  Even events that are well, that is for the locals.  

Stop right there.  That is the biggest misconception and stereotype you can have.  To remedy this, just try this once.  Jump right into the middle of an event that you know nothing about, just once, especially with Fall on us, and listen.  Listen to the conversations, watch the children around you, see how happy the dogs are among the people, watch the vendors’ conversations.  You will see what makes American truly great – each other.  No divisions except bragging rights on jokes, family, and what is to come with involving each other.  This is what our students learned this past weekend though using money as an anchor, and getting them to the point of learning the best lesson of all.  When you work hard and sacrifice either time you could be somewhere else, a priority for a friend and put it on hold just for one day, and afternoon weathering the weather to see a brighter day emerge and celebrate the success as a result, these lessons are a handful you might be lucky enough to receive if you are willing to sacrifice something of your own.

We each have a festival we can connect to for these reasons, and if you are lucky, you have new events coming that can connect to this event and all year-long bring pride, community, and excitement among so many people benefitting each other all year long.  Battle of the Bands in January 2019,

in a few weeks Poetry out Loud,

the new literary magazine titled The Riff that desperately needs more staff to keep up with the demand of literary submissions pouring in the last few weeks,

The Halloween Walk/Run happening in a few weeks,

The Heron Run celebrating Thanksgiving and individuals that make nature trails, exercise, nature possible in our areas, and MUCH MUCH more.  These are all meant to bring new definitions and experiences to why our community melds together and is not just a rural, farming, neighborhood community.  Those aspects are assets that lead to the very thing we think at first is important, prestige, money, success – but underlying those goals are the true feelings that keep us wanting to come back.  Those are priceless, and worth hundreds of dollars that can be collected.

Sacrifice paves the road to memories and events that have the potential to never happen, Thank goodness the comments overhead by so many of the planners of Apple Scrapple, “This is why I do it!” ring true.  All you have to do is see the success that can’t be measured by any monetary means, and you see this is true.  There is so much connected IMG_9374.JPGto the amazing spirit shown this year in an exciting team-filled experience found in the Woodbridge Cross Country Team, the WHS Field Hockey Team, the recent Homecoming Parade and event, the emergence of the ROTC team dividing and conquering the obstacles to bring awareness to an outstanding nature trail and combining fitness, the all out absolute campaign of discovering inner strengths that other locations simply do not offer – and it is exciting. So Exciting so see so many individuals learning, the patience, the commitment, reveal some of the most exciting opportunities.  You will see over the next few days some amazing interviews, speakers, and events that have occurred involving individuals from grades 9 -12, and these very individuals realizing these true and exciting revelations – there is nothing more exciting. 

There are more dire consequences that result from individuals that move onto another school for prestige, for individuals that choose to not show up for events and not participate.  They lose the very sense of community of building, and creating, and becoming something that they help build, and that – is worth any sacrifice if you are willing to sacrifice your own time, to create even better times ahead.  Thanks to you Apple Scrapple for providing an opportunity to internalize something worth any monetary amount again for 2018!



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It’s the season, and the C word arises.

It’s here again.  A season that seems to occasionally fill in for the lost summers, summers often too hot to go outside, too hot to be able to breathe, and simply passed by and arriving at your door stop in another form.  Fall and the C word, cornucopia. 

a symbol of plenty consisting of a goat’s horn overflowing with flowers, fruit, and corn.

I picture the cutouts that are sold among many decorations people could buy and often wondered, where exactly do I see a cornucopia outside of the stacks of decorations I would see as a child in stores when the Fall season hit?   The last few weeks have certainly been a blur, and often, I find myself just – momentarily blinded from the onslaught of event after event, and yet, this blog has always served as a reason to go back, process, and process again.

The cornucopia of events on September 19th were pretty astounding and worth appreciating when it involved what happened at WHS.  Knowing as a media specialist librarian I want to represent more than shelved books, the Dewey Decimal System, and improvements in literacy that simply remain in a certain area, I am blessed to be surrounded by individuals that believe in that vision as well,  There are always naysayers, there are always those that ride the wave of summer and simply ride the days in and out, yet never get deep enough to see the creativity and possibility of depth.  

September 19th brought, as a different presentation than the Twin Poets who came last year,  who were amazing last year, The Mayhem Poets, who I had never heard of. Yet, The Freeman Foundation did promise to bring an act that would be inspiring and a GREAT introduction to what can be achieved with the mix – a cornucopia if you will, of literacy, creativity, production, as well as expression. 


Denise Allen and the Mayehm Poets from The Freeman Foundation

In the course of preparing for this event, I realized, AGAIN, what separates the teacher from the educator is the willingness to turn so much over to students and let education become a cornucopia of experience for all. Throughout my whole teaching career, I have always seen those content enough to put time in at the bell, end at the bell, and da dum. Done.  Those are some good teachers as well, but the educators are those that can make that time between those bells seem like endless possibilities, instill dreams in those that encounter these educators, and the educators that work behind the scenes to create something that seems like a production day in and day out.  

I am lucky enough to see educators at WHS that pull countless hours behind the scenes to pull of what at first seems like a one day assembly, and what really is the start fo something that can inspire, instill, and insist in more positive change in literacy, creativity, and possibility.  From theatre production, technical arrangement, logistics of performances, time spent arranging performers to motivate students to participate in such an underestimated program like Poetry Out Loud,

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 1.18.53 AM.pngthat show off amazing students that will go the extra mile to capture insight into experiences, both on audio and video, there is so much that can be packed into one event, SO MUCH, as long as you have an individual that can sense this before an event.

September 19th might have looked like simply an assembly to show what could be with a program like Poetry Out Loud with some very talented performers like The Mayhem Poets.  Look a little closer – you will see a cornucopia of talent that you will hear, see, and process once you see the student led video, and student led interviews from this one single event.  Not that is one season I am ready to dive into.  Stay tuned for the interview and video that leads you from one event such as The Mayhem Poets, to the possibility of Poetry Out Loud – through the delivery and promotion of an emerging literary arts magazine, The Riff,  at Woodbridge High School – who said literacy had to be a boring component of education?

With the announcement that Repentino. 2017-2018, (and wow, looking back to 2014 




and the huge steps that were made to get to a level where art is expected)

(check out 8:57 time marker on the above video)

has won the Gold Crown from CSPA as well as more accolades to come, it is a lesson taught that pushing what is possible, as far as you can, is the responsibility of everyone to achieve the very best – in the future of students and the present of educators and education itself.  Without this cornucopia of tools used and pulled out on a daily basis, the day and educational year can be pretty bland, imagine what it can be like for students!  Students carry the dreams of what can be and what is not yet, and education truly needs to be continued to be recognized for rising above anything that is considered a standard, and it is up to the cornucopia of talents melded together to make that happen – educators, parents, students, legislators, and so many more, to make that happen.

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Dakota’s Way – and No Other Way.

Rudy’s.  Having become a stop in Delaware that did not exist when I left for Mexico – the appearance of Rudy’s when I returned, it just matches the glimpses of humanity I was lucky enough to experience while in Mexico. What does Rudy’s Family Diner have to do with glimpses of humanity?  I am so glad you asked.

Years ago when I visited Rudy’s while still living in Mexico, and visiting the states, somewhere around 2015 or so, when visiting in Rudy’s, a then newly found restaurant, presented itself when I interviewed Angel,  Screen Shot 2018-09-22 at 9.10.44 PMan amazing hostess that went into the beginning steps of how Rudy’s came to be.

Here we are in 2018 – and our host, Dakota, with my cousins – came across Dakota’s story.  His tale of being over 405 pounds two years ago, and standing in front of us at no more than 250 pounds, his story was profound.

“Always being the biggest person in the room, I decided to turn the bullying I received into a more positive spin, I became the happy bi guy in the room who was everyone’s friends.”  As I heard Dakota mention several times how he used the term bullying several times without being aware of it in the next few sentences, I thought of the hardship he faced and worked through when that occurred, striving to push that hurt down to the surface and be positive and friendly towards others in the midst of this emotional encounter over and over.

Dakota then went on to express how after two years, his doctor, who he avoided during this two year period where he lost over 200 pounds ON HOW OWN, no plans, no programs, no medicines, allowed him to present himself to his doctor who did not RECOGNIZE HIM. Either did his friends who remembered him as the biggest guy in the room, and then I pondered how he felt at that point.

His story (which is history)  just hit me in the middle of my consciousness. He told me of his uncle’s death at just under 39 years of age and he realized he was looking into his own death being 400+ pounds.  He relayed his story of how he just decided the painful 3 months of pain in eliminating soda, the 7 main meals he’s consume a day, AND HE WORKED in Dunkin’ Donuts across of what is now Rudy’s Diner AND a restaurant while doing this. Line cooks he worked with began cooking foods that would help him travel this journey, and EVERYONE he worked with began to pull him into a circle of support that 200 pounds later, with so many days and nights that HAD to be more than painful, turned into this grand slam payday we were talking about this very day.

His explanation about a bag of marbles in one hand, a bag in the other with glue all through the marbles.  He told me when you turn the bag of marbles with glue upside down, how everything just STICKS, he relayed the analogy to starches and carbs that he had been consuming, and then his journey to change his life so he could find those items that would not “stick” inside as the carbs and starches.  As simple an analogy that sounds nothing matches the passion that accompanied his eyes as he told this so very amazing story of Dakota’s.  He went on to talk about how the muscle mass he lost in record waves was the downside to the positive side of the amazing amount of weight he lost.  He then went on to tell us how he changed his diet so he only gained one pound while eating the foods that would restore his muscle in the high percentages with stripping out the fat and replacing the former lost muscle.

To hear Dakota’s story, you begin to think WHO HAS THE STRENGTH TO GO THROUGH SUCH A JOURNEY, day after day after day and survive this?  I then realized the hurt that Dakota must have felt while being designated the biggest funny guy in the room; the complete heart he has always had that has fueled his determination, passion, and soul that pushed Dakota not retain a revengeful heart years later, to be absolutely 100% positive to the very people that could have (and I am sure in some cases hurt him) inside, a person they did not see except as being the biggest man in the room.  His amazing journey of kindness in the midst of hatred, his amazing journey of hope when surrounded by despair, his amazing courage in the face of defeat – it just hit us sitting there in the middle of what we thought would be a pretty average lunch – which turned into being one of the most inspiring moments I can recall – yet connected to inspiring athletes I wish I had the words to pass on to from a Cross Country meet I referred to in the previous post.  All at Rudy’s Family Restaurant.  Make sure you let Dakota know when you are at Rudy’s  how resonating his journey, with the support of so many kind souls around him, is to so many others.   The right comments about others can be just as viral as the negative and that facts changes everything for those around us.

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Happy Trails to You…

Very – VERY proud of the young ladies and men on the Woodbridge High XC team – amid a invitational that hosts some of the best in the Delaware state, our runners ALL finished, even with alot of unplanned delays in the starts sometimes, enthusiasm. commitment, endurance – hilarity in the mix, and a beautiful backdrop for it all? – great to have one but you don’t see many that get a chance to experience it all.

We have many many areas for improvement and many many memories already to look back in a very young team – and we have MUCH to be thankful for. Thank you to the amazingly supportive parents (a beautiful tent, the constant support, the necessary bug spray, the contributions to the food bank) the committed and hard-working athletes (so much goes on behind the scenes that often is hard to connect to what happens until it happens on the course, but when the connection is made, everything changes), the supportive WHS community (excitement, comments, and enthusiasm for the start of a new team), as well as the community at large that keep cheering for the integrity and character of a newly forming team.

Many think XC is all abut the win and running and leave all else at the finish line. Years later looking back at the results of my first experiences along side greats like Coach Rob Perciful, Coach Vince and Jacqueline Rulon Morris, and now alongside Coach Havrilla, I realized, if you don’t have more than one aspect, the memories don’t mean as much.

I my years I STILL finding myself so serious at times and wanting more more more and better better better – and STILL need to pull myself back at times and go into a mode of letting it happen but slowly reinforcing the solidarity that comes with gratefulness – gratefulness for the athletes we have that bring enthusiasm, excitement, talent, energy, and a willingness to belong to something that enlarges and becomes larger than themselves.

We do have sit-down spaghetti dinners, we do laugh at silly car signs we use along the way to and from meets and gaining reactions of others, we do pack lunches and all contribute to those meals, and we do look back and wish at times we did more, and celebrate when some of us do more, but in the grander scheme of things, we are lucky to have the chance to do all of the above.  In a time when individuals switch schools for the competition of the win over the stakes of belonging and being patient to form a group that grows together, I am proud to be among athletes and a group that also believes in the latter.  The times I need to put that competitive push away to allow the other growing pains to work themselves out – they are bittersweet as I have learned over the years from perhaps some of the best instructors in the game.

We did see our top ladies grow and retain their competitive age, our middle and beginning ladies learn how competitive and see how the top athletes handle a course, and our middle boys learn what they need to continue to do to improve, and add all of those factors up, and you have a XC team that learns, grows, and succeeds together with the impressive support of parents, a school community, and state running community that no win could replace. Life is good.

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The Past and Present Today

It might have been over seven years ago, but it is still fresh in our memory – Dewey the library cat made it to ASF in Mexico City, travelled to the United States and each day shows how her tolerance to then one dog, Kinah, then as the brood grew to two dogs, then 2 cats, the finally a total of three dogs, Dewey exhibited patience, not all the time, and tolerance most times amid some days of total chaos and some days of complete bliss. I do believe Sarah Rude, was responsible at the time, an Econ instructor that happened to somehow come across Dewey.  Would like to rehear her process of discovery.  I will try to followup on that – so stay tuned.

The day that Dewey was brought to the library certainly was a kitten with no eyes open, wet from being rescued, and thanks to the extreme kindness of individuals around her, survived.  Elaine figured out how to bottle feed and set up students to come in and bottle feed Dewey, Dewey became quite comfortable in the library and thrived.

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Bottle fed from the scanner cradle, that helped juggle alot of things at the same time, and looking at this blog, it seems unreal Dewey was this small – ever.  Time and crazy events have surrounded her, and it reminds me of how many cats and dogs needed and still need homes, in Mexico as well as in the United States. 

I am excited to be a part of the Strut Your Mutt walk with our three canines, and realizing that what Best Friends does for animals is priceless.   I also realized it is a good lesson to help each of us advocate for organizations, legislation, events, and possibilities that will help care for all animals across the world increases, no matter dog, cat, bird, marine and so many more!


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Running the Bull…

It was 2010 – we were in a caravan of XC athletes from Seaford, DE, Cody, Steve, Jacques, Radmes (RANDY< LOL), Alex, Tynetta, Christian, Deanna, there were more I was sure but I do remember – Chinese Fire Drill, collision, braces stuck in my upper lip and still running the craziest Bull Run Race ever, (stories stories stories) – The Smith’s caravan of goodness making this trip memorable, and an amazing day of pain and awe as well, I was sure Hannah was with us as well.   it was Bull Run to the max:

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Then it was 2009 Mackenzie, Deanna, Macey, Alex, Jordan, Jacques, Cory, Tim, Jon, Cody, Randy, Jennifer, Chris

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This was just an amazing event and memory.  Yet, September 8th approaches and for the first time in maybe has it been 8 years?  We return to Killen’s Pond for the Lake Forest Invite. 

Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 1.26.30 AM.png I can’t begin to tell you how much this brings back – ridiculous amount of memories and feelings that are difficult to put into words.  Yet, today, one of the first times since I left for Mexico over 7 years ago, I ran and sweated more than I can remember, and seeing the amazing young runners that are re establishing a team after at least 7 years at Woodbridge – and finding myself here?  It just came out like this today:

“It starts with reaching down deep and putting all you have on the course – and if others are your teammates, they will pick up anything you drop on the course along the way! “

There are so many gifts given from Coach Smith, Doakes, Perciful, Hood, and of course Morris, I feel that some things become full circle – at the most unexpected times.  I thought I would never return to the XC circuit again – and I can’t describe what it is like gaining running leges again on some quite familiar surroundings.  It is simply life.

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Motivational Musings

If I learned nothing but this, it has been the most valuable lesson. When I was at Seaford High, I had some of the best colleagues that surrounded me to remind me, every single day, that to keep an open mind and respect everyone around me is something more valuable than anything in life. The students I met in my courses reminded me that part of being a role model is to stand up for your nationality, your beliefs, but also respecting others in the process.
When I moved to Mexico, it was unexpected. Even more so was the reception. My colleagues, students, and what would become my family reminded me, that the individuals I have grown up with, in high school, in Pennsylvania, in Maryland, in Delaware, and especially in Mexico, how much I need to remember- I need at many many times to get out my own persona and ego and walk in other’s shoes and do something to look through other’s eyes. What was unexpected was the motivation to encourage others to be the very best they can be, and alongside doing that you can be motivated to promote your own country, along with other countries, and respect each other’s possibilities in the process.  I am lucky to have the same at Woodbridge High with exciting adventures in recreating the library, a sense of community with so many that do that already, recreating the love of XC, Repentino. and so much more.
I never realized how amazing the students and colleagues that surrounded me in Mexico were, teachers and students from Canada, the U.S., Mexico, South America, the Middle East, Europe, the Far East, and so many other places – and this letter this morning – solidified how lucky I have been to have had you influence me in so many ways I never knew existed – your embrace and encouragement are priceless and always help me Pay it Forward.

“Hey Harry Brake, my bro, my favorite teacher of all time, the Cristiano Ronaldo of teachers (lol jk):

I wanted to say a few things before I start college tomorrow. First of all, I can’t begin to express how thankful I am for meeting you! You’re one of the best individuals on this planet, I am serious haha. You have always filled me with positive energy and I am really thankful for that. Most importantly, you have showed me to work collectively (shoutout to Repentino) and to evaluate myself whenever I need to. This is skill that will help me throughout life, I have no doubt.
I apologize if we haven’t spoken much since you left Mexico. The truth is that I am not much of a Facebook, or email guy for that matter HAHA. But trust me, I think about you and the experiences we shared every now and then. My favorite memories with you are the trip to New York (March 2016) and the trip to Las Estacas (September 2016). Those have been some of the best moments in my life, honestly. 
I am starting a new journey at ITAM very soon. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I am sure that the things you taught me will come in handy. I am glad to say that you have been a role model for me.
I truly wish you the best for the future. You can count on me whenever you need to. After all Batman needs Robin, occasionally at least. We have to go for tacos when you come back to Mexico!”
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Powerful Memories

New York.  From the very first trip we made going to New York, I think it might have been with Mrs. Austin-Richardson’s class when I was teaching at Seaford actually, I was inspired.  I remember thinking, we are going to New York. We should create a project, and remember on that trip, we did recordings of individuals in New York about various topics. I never knew what that would lead to.

For years, while an educator at Seaford, we began attending workshops in New York at the CSPA Conference as an Aloha Yearbook staff, to gather ideas on the latest trends, practices and approaches to designing a yearbook, ad it was just amazing.  Amazing to be among such an atmosphere of learning, be amid the city, simply BE.  We began to tack on side missions while there, finding cool places to check out, individuals to interview and whoa. did things occur after that.

Taking a whole city for granted is unfortunate, and when the events of 911 occurred, of course everyone was in shock.  I remember finding myself as a Middle School, Language Arts Teacher in Lusby, Maryland, and students I was not quite familiar with, burst into the room and rambled something about a plane, a building, and we began to see the events that truly seemed as a movie, unreal, not happening.  Every one of us has a memory of where we were when this occurred and the feeling we could probably attach a hundred emotions to at one time.

I think this could be part of the attraction to New York that I was not aware of when it came to becoming a pilgrimage from those years on 2011 forward.  Whether I realized it or not, I felt I could give something back, even if it was in the form of projects we listened to and archived.

I recall the year after 911 when we visited the site, and the smell of concrete and dust permeated every step we made. The interviews we listened to when people broke down about the event because no one had ever truly straight out asked them about this event.

The fire station right beside the 911 site that firefighters took us into, showed the memorial to firefighters that never returned from the rubble, the damaged door from one of the first trucks excavated from the site and returned to the station, the flag that was flown in Afghanistan in memory of those fighting from that very station.

The interviews from so many years past are hidden away in my storage among cd’s that contain those recordings and still will remain a project to recapture these and preserve them, from the many amazing experiences we found ourselves in each year we traveled to New York.  We started a project that we just have not returned to.

Still one of the most amazing moments to me, was being able to visit New York from Mexico City, and still attend the CSPA Conferences on behalf of Repentino. magazine, and still include interviews and extended stops in New York that made a week long adventure within New York.  The first year we did, we were amazed to meet with Mr. Michael Arad, architect of the memorial at 911, as he has attended ASF in Mexico City, and at the time, counselor Chris Hill – then counselor, enabled that meeting to happen.  The small Repentino. staff,303386_10150610857256003_1517789571_n the first Repentino Staff, to attend CSPA found out so much about the 911 memorial thanks to Mr. Arad (page 31 of the FOCUS issue)

That original interview we did remains somewhere as well, and will be amazing to find after located. I remember still this day the panic I went through as I thought we would not make the appointment to meet, and then seeing him stand with an ipad held high as we made our way to his ipad standing in the middle of the memorial.  Yet the impact of he events, despite that cold day, we just realized what we were seeing for the first time.408529_10150610858781003_808494576_n

All of these memories come back to me as I work my way through the book, Battle for Ground Zero, and inform me of the battles that occurred during the planning phases of what is now Ground Zero.  it is shocking to not know the amazing feuds that existed for what is now the site that holds so much for so many.  Being able to go to this area tomorrow, with Math/Science Upward Bound, it is just so solemn and I feel as I hold in my hand so many years of experiences that I was lucky enough to have experienced with students that are now all over the world. We each hold a part of an experience that not only was New York as an adventure, but the lesson of what happens when tragedy hits a city that becomes a nation, that becomes a world event.  

Looking back I relish whatever motivated me to want to do something more than be a tourist when we went and travelled to New York, otherwise, I would not have these memories felt, shaded, and expressed with so many talented young  (then students) now members of society.  Despite the worst that occurs in the world even today, that fact that hope exists and should and can be passed on? That is the reason everyone should be excited about a tomorrow. I am wondering how I will feel tomorrow as I return tomorrow with so much that has changed since these journeys we have made through so many years to New York.

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