Raising an Olympian

The Women’s Team USA prepares for the final to begin. During introductions before the Artistic Gymnastics Women’s Team final on Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games, Alexandra Raisman of the United States stands with her teammates. London2012.com

Most parents, particularly moms, know the hours it takes to shuttle children back and forth to practice a sport. On ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, Sawyer cited a report that calculated the hours parents of future champions spent. To raise a champion, it seems, parents spend 20,000 hours going back and forth to practice.

I wonder, how many hours do parents also spend waiting and watching their children practice and play? What about the hours spent wondering (and not showing anxiety) if those children will make the team?

Learning the stories of many of the athletes representing their countries in the London 2012 Games of the XXX Olympiad made me realize that parents and athletes work hard together. They share a dream. To them, all the sacrifices are worth it.

Listen to Natalie Hawkins, mother of Olympic gymnast Gabrielle Douglas, share her story.

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Ready for weekend gold

London 2012 Olympic Torch

Ready for the weekend? I remember more than a few Monday afternoons, following a morning of the unexpected, more than expected and more of the same, when I would say, “I can’t wait for the weekend.” At my desk, walking to a meeting — wherever — there was an inevitable chorus of responses: “Me, too” or “Amen.”

Well, I am really ready for this weekend. I can’t wait for the opening ceremonies of the Games of the XXX Olympiad in London. Of course I feel great pride when I see the U.S. flag and our Olympic delegation. But there is more. Watching the opening ceremonies, I am proud of my global family. The parade of flags and athletes of all the nations is humanity’s stellar moment.

From just a few athletes to a large delegation — it doesn’t matter — they represent the best in all of us. At that moment, in those athletes, we glimpse the culmination of our hopes, our possibilities and our dreams.

When I watch these athletes in the days ahead, I will remember the sacrifices they, and their families, have made. Early morning hours, long days of practice, performing through aches and pains, all with a singular focus.  They just wanted to be the best.

Hearing their stories and watching them perform inspires me to reach higher. I must greet every day like an Olympian. I must maintain my faith, my focus to achieve my goal. I must do that one extra thing that will make me a champion.

 

 

 

Miracles: How do you live?

Live as though everything is a miracle. — Albert Einstein

I expect and embrace miracles every day. That’s the way I live. How about you? How do you want to live?

Photo: Supernova Companion Star, NASA

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela on the day after his release at the age of 72. Mandela served 27 years in prison.

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”
― Nelson Mandela

Photo: Biography.com

Liberté

Statue of Liberty

The United States of America and France are old friends. France proved itself a friend in deed, aligning itself with American rebels during the Revolutionary War, providing troops, naval power, arms, supplies and even uniforms to a Continental Army outfitted mainly in determination. With France’s support the rebels prevailed and the “colonies” became a United States of America.

In 1876, to mark the centennial of America’s Declaration of Independence, France commissioned Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi to sculpt a magnificent statue to symbolize its friendship with the people of the United States. The gift, Liberty Enlightening the World, was dedicated 10 years later in 1886. The Statue of Liberty is now one of the most famous monuments in the world. It is one of my favorites.

Each July 14, in the spirit of friendship, I join the people of France in celebration. July 14, La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration) or as Americans know it, Bastille Day, is the day the people of France celebrate the beginning of their Revolutionary War which led to France’s First Republic. I salute the friendship between our countries and the love we share for liberty. May our friendship endure and may the light of liberty continue to shine, bringing light to every corner of the world.

Maybe So, Maybe Not

Yesterday, I left the house in time to stop for gas and drive across town for a lunch meeting. The expressway entrance is on the same street as this particular gas station. I usually pay for gasoline inside the store but to save time, I decided to use a bank card and pay at the pump.

Well, the first card doesn’t work. Next, I try a debit card. I rarely use it and can’t remember the pin number.  Frustration creeps in.

Obviously my “swiping” skills are deficient. All I get are error messages. No longer on schedule, I go inside the store where the clerk can help me. I just know she probably has a better machine and better swiping skills. She takes the bank card. Midway her transaction she realizes the other card in my hand is a “fuel perks” card. To get the discount, the “fuel perks” card has to be swiped first. Cancel transaction.

I wonder, “Why is this happening to me?”

I swipe the “fuel perks” card first and then the bank card. All is well.

I fuel my gas guzzler. As I reposition myself behind the steering wheel I check the time. If I continue on my journey, I estimate I will be at least 10 minutes late. That is, I will be 10 minutes late if nothing else goes wrong.

As I pull out, heading in the direction of the expressway entrance, an emergency traffic report interrupts my thought process. There is an accident at the entrance to the expressway. Yes, that entrance. As I drive down the hill, I see the police lights and a maze of cars five blocks ahead. I turn off the road, avoiding the inevitable traffic jam. Resigned to my fate, I return home.

Yesterday, it seemed obvious to me that God didn’t want me to attend the meeting. Today, I realize, it wasn’t about the meeting. If getting gas for my car had gone as easily as anticipated, I would have left the gas station after a few minutes and very possibly I could have been part of that accident.

I started remembering stories of people who fell ill or had car trouble and missed their airplane flights —  flights that crashed. Most prominent in my memory are the stories of those who, for some reason, arrived late to work (or not at all) at the World Trade Center, Sept. 11, 2001.

My cousin worked at the World Trade Center. That morning, I knew it was next to impossible to get a long distance call through to New York City. I called my dad. He had recently given up city life for retirement in Virginia. Maybe someone had reached him with her status.

He answered the phone and replied to my concern rather nonchalantly. He said she didn’t work there anymore. She had been laid off the month before.

I am sure, when the lay off happened, it was devastating. A month later, it became a blessing.

Things are not always as they seem. The Chinese proverb, “Maybe So, Maybe Not,” illustrates this best.

One day, a farmer’s horse ran away. His neighbors expressed sympathy, “What terrible luck that you lost your horse!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”

A few days later, the horse returned, leading several wild horses. The neighbors shouted, “Your horse has returned, and brought more with him. What great fortune!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the wild horses and got thrown to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what a calamity!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, conscripting all the able-bodied young men for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son because of his broken leg. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”

Photo: The Thinker, Musée Rodin

Flawless

Eating breakfast out is one of my favorite things. I regularly join my friend Hyun at TooJay’s Gourmet Deli in Ocoee, Florida, for political discourse and good old-fashioned girl talk. Hyun brings me edible treats, perfectly wrapped in cellophane, from the Korean market for my late night snacks and an occasional tome from her late husband’s extensive library. Late night snacks go best with a good book.

Craving coffee, we give Don that look and soon he arrives with cups of coffee and menus. We have a routine. No, it is not the food. Our orders differ with our desires. The routine is my greeting exchange with Don. It is not on the menu but it is one of my favorite things at this deli.

“Good morning, Don. How are you?” I ask.

Don responds, “I’m flawless.”

I like that response. I like it a lot.

Don’s response of “I’m flawless” is amazing, almost magical. He is a veteran of Iraq and Dubai. I’ve never known battle. My days are not spent worrying about being wounded or killed by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) or whether or not I will return home in one piece or at all.

Certainly, regardless of the day or the people in it, it is possible for me to say and believe, “I’m flawless.” It’s a great response — an instant “up lift.” Give it a try.

Photo: Millenium Star Diamond