Category Archives: Mulligan Moments

The past is gone. The future is not yet available.

Submit Your Nomination for Mulligan Moments of 2016

Within the next few weeks, Taking Mulligans will be accepting nominations for  Mulligan Moments of the Year.  When you make a nomination, you become eligible for one of the grand prizes of priceless value:  a lousy poem from me written personally for you.

Running’s Mulligan Moments of the Year recognize the achievements (large and small), observations (grand and flippant) and contributions (tangible and ephemeral) of runners, (famous, infamous, and unknown), that demonstrated the resolve, awareness, good intention and blind luck that occurs when you run like there’s no tomorrow and live like there’s no yesterday.

In short, someone who took a second chance and made it count.  Let us know if you have someone in mind.

Maybe you know a runner who’s overcome some serious obstacle in her life this.   Let us know.  It could be someone who barely runs. Or someone who is obsessed with running.

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Who helped you appreciate the power of running this year?

 

Maybe you were inspired by an athlete who achieved a goal, rose to a challenge, put distractions aside or simply showed up and did his job when called upon.  Let us know. Maybe it was an Olympian, a weekend runner, or someone on your kid’s cross country team.

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What stood out as a moment of redemption?

Maybe you saw a movie, a race, a show, an election, where someone ran with dignity, grace and the power that comes from putting the past aside and making the best of situation, or making life better or simply more vivid.  Let us know.

McFARLAND, USA..Ph: Film Frame..?Disney 2015
What movie, song, show, lousy poem, or other creative piece made you stop and pay attention to what’s good about life?

Just let us know a little bit about who you are nominating and why– via a direct message, email, tweet, retweet, blog comment, FB comment or Instagram post.  Skywriting and tracings in the sand will be considered for featuring, but not eligible for prizes.

 

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Who deserves our attention?

I’ll be posting some of my own ideas and would love to hear some of yours.  All featured entries will be awarded with a personal epic poem dedicated to you, badly written by yours truly, based on your Twitter, Facebook or Instagram feed.   Deadline for entries is December 19, unless you are a member of the electoral college.  Then, by all means, take another day.

I’m hiding in plain sight on:

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook Group

 

 

 

The Feel of Father’s Day

I had the rare honor of being able to offer a living eulogy earlier this week.  My dad, Louis N. Cinquino, was chosen by the Paulo Busti Cultural Foundation of Genesee County in Batavia, NY as one of their Outstanding Italian-Americans, and I was asked to receive the award on his behalf.  At 94, he’s lost a bit off his fastball, but he was able to rally and make it to the dinner. He even stayed awake through some long speeches, right until the very last pasta joke.

My daughters were able to join me for the dinner to hear a tiny slice of what their grandfather meant to so many people over the years, as his service to the Army, American Legion, Knights of Columbus, our local church, and the Boy Scouts was recounted.  The last group, the scouts, stung a little for me personally, since I didn’t even make the rank of Tenderfoot, while my overachieving brothers both attained Eagle Scout status.  So I had to look for other ways to distinguish myself in my father’s eyes– such as writing and public speaking, which finally paid off.

I’m not sure how much of my tribute that he heard, but I did give him a copy of my remarks to read, and I hope he is re-reading them today.  I share them here on Father’s Day.

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Fathers’ Day came early this year, as my daughters joined me to honor my Dad at the Paulo Busti Cultural Foundation Scholarship Dinner.

 

The Original Louie Cinquino is a man of so few words that even a few are one too many. He’d only need two words tonite—Thank you.

My father would want to thank the Paulo Busti Cultural Foundation for honoring him tonight, and more importantly for the work they do to promote Italian culture here in Genesee County. Because nothing means more to him than his Italian heritage.

Well maybe one thing—his wife Rita.

He would want to thank her most of all.

He would be the first admit what we all know—that she shares equally in any award or recognition he’s ever received. She is the love of his life—and the person who brings out the best in him.

He would also want to thank his brothers Joe and John, and all the members of the Cinquino family that are here this evening.

He would want to thank his kids for all the sporting events we made him sit through, all the messes that his grandchildren made of his house, and all the tuition money he was able to spend on our Catholic school and college educations.

He would want to thank his teachers, his bosses, his coworkers, the men he served with in the war, and those he served with back home, at St. Joseph’s Church, with the Scouts, the Legion, the KC and more. He’d want to thank every single one of you, plus the cooks, waitresses and the people who picked the lettuce we just ate, by name.

Last year, I invested a couple thousand dollars to gain a certificate in what’s called Positive Psychology. It’s basically the study of happiness and human performance.

Halfway into the first lecture, we learn the number one secret to prolonged and authentic happiness. The one thing, above all, that happy people cultivate and practice.

Gratitude.

Wouldn’t you know it— I felt like I just paid $24 for a plate of greens and beans at fancy Italian restaurant—I could have saved a lot of money by just staying home with my Dad.

Even in this room filled with his family and closest admirers, we’d be hard pressed to come up with a detailed list of what, specifically, he built or invented or achieved.

Yet, as poet laureate Maya Angelou said,

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

My dad didn’t need a certificate or a college degree to learn that. He just did it.

On behalf of everyone in this room, and all those who could not be here, but know this to be true.

Thank you, Dad, for the way we feel when we are with you.

One Page At a Time

One morning ritual I’ve been working on establishing is a first-thing-top-of-mind-write session. It’s just a minimum of one page, handwritten stream of consciousness dump into a book I keep bedside, preferably before I check my phone for any messages or news of the day. Just what’s running through my head when I awake.

I know that rituals are one of the key tools we have in transformational change, so it’s something I try to make time for, directly after brushing and flossing.

Hopefully these journal entries won’t come back to haunt me like they have done for a dear friend of mine. My friend ruminates and keeps going back to re-read the journals from years ago, something I simply find it unbearable to do, unless necessary for a writing project.

I have to admit, when I can stomach the look back, it’s compelling. I mean what’s more fascinating to us than ourselves? In my case, it’s like driving by a wreck on the highway. Not pretty, but also hard to look away.

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Write it down and walk away. Make journals a release of the past, not a monument to it.

But here’s the problem — our journals lock in thoughts from another time—and keep alive old grudges, pains, distresses. At least for me, it’s the things (and people!) that bother me that I tend to write down.  “Life is quiet and peaceful and I’m enjoying just sitting here and writing,” doesn’t make it into the journal.

With my friend, this habit actually fed and further burned in feelings of unhappiness to the point where it affected a long marriage.  My friend couldn’t move on from the past and wanted everyone to know what had been endured, so we could all share again in the suffering.  This rekindled the suffering and locked in that version of the truth, even if though the journals described a world that largely was no longer present.

I talk about suffering in my journal too. But I do it to let go of those thoughts- it’s like I am putting them on little slips of paper and casting them away from my soul. It’s an exhale for me. Which is what I need to do before I can inhale again with fresh air of today.

Yet for some people like my friend, memories of these pains and transgressions– even if they are not written down in a journal– are often revisited with little reminders, grudges and perceived offenses that we just can’t put aside.

It’s as if the pain is kept under lock and key in a bank vault, where it builds interest and dominates our emotional portfolio.  The distress is perpetually revisited and kept alive, so we remain shackled in the chains of the past, rather than in the wholeness and freedom of the present.

Re-reading a journal does provide a fuller knowledge of how we got here, I understand that. But when we approach it as if it is the only version of history, we stand the risk of just picking your scabs and preventing healing.

Journals are permanent, life is not.

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Sweet aromas can grow from the painful rocks of our memories, if we can let the sun shine and embrace our personal growth.

A poet’s tortured journals of woe make good copy, but do not fuel a happy life. Perhaps we’ve been taught that it’s more romantic to be miserable, forlorn and misunderstood, waiting for the world to reconfigure and recognize your gift.

I have a common bit of advice I give to people who come to me with worries and concerns about the future– “let’s not read ahead. One page at a time.”

Let’s also not keep reading too far back either. Some of those characters in our back story are better off left there, as we build a better version of our self.

McFarland USA: Championship Run. TM’s 3 Word Movie Review: Rent– and Run!

My friends at Runners World came up with this list of 12 Great Running Movies earlier this year, but it didn’t include McFarland USA, which was released days after the list was posted.  It’s a shame, because the movie, being released on DVD this week, belongs on the list.

The movie takes us through the back story of a cross country team forged from the immigrant families of San Joaquin Valley, CA.  As far as I know, it’s the one and only theatrical release that delves into the dynamics of a high school cross country squad, where individual achievement is harnessed like sled dogs to pull the team to ultimate victory.

When I walked out of the theater in February on opening weekend, I was with my two daughters– one a teenage athlete and the other a third-grader with her entire sporting life in front of her.   I was thrilled that they could both share the theater experience with me– it’s the only movie we’ve seen together all year.

McFARLAND, USA..L to R: Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts), Victor Puentes (Sergio Avelar), Jose Cardenas (Johnny Ortiz), Johnny Sameniego (Hector Duran), Danny Diaz (Ramiro Rodriguez), Damacio Diaz (Jamie Michael Aguero), and David Diaz (Rafael Martinez)...Ph: Ron Phillips..?Disney 2015
The best beach running scene since Rocky and Apollo Creed

I was especially proud to share with them a running story, because I had recently completed my first cross country race in more than 30 years, and was writing about my experience for an article that is scheduled to appear in Runners World September 2015 issue.

What my daughters and I saw on screen was a good old fashioned Disney fairy tale, with the redeeming quality of being based on a real story, the rebirth and rise of the McFarland High School cross country team.

My teenager got to see the film’s version of a high school that was much different than her own.  Her high school sits on a lush, shady, sprawling gem of a campus full of well-appointed brick structures and a massive new athletic center.  McFarland High sits across the street from a prison.   She regularly gets new team gear from the school, the McFarland moms have to throw a tamale sale to get them uniforms and running shoes.

My little one got a glimpse of all that too, at a time when she is still forming her understanding of how to succeed in life.  A few months later, when I was playfully running in front of her after picking her up from school, she pulled up next to me.   “I’m Danny Diaz!,” she shouted.  We hadn’t spoken about the movie at all after the night we saw it, but that lasting image of an underdog coming from way back had stuck with her.  I also hope she remembered that Danny, his brothers, and friends became better runners through hard work and with the love and loyalty of their family.

My kids face, and I for that matter, will have to keep facing unique challenges of our own in our lives.  Be they the ordinary disappointments of tests gone poorly, or jobs not secured or more imposing obstacles like injustice and intolerance for the choices we make or the people we become.

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I was grateful that McFarland USA was able to show us how this group of boys, fueled by the passion of their coach, were able to overcome so many difficult obstacles to reach their own goals.

Cynically, I could see why the movie was released on Oscars weekend– it is not the kind of movie that gets nominated for awards.  But it did get generally good reviews, and hit a respectable $44 million at the box office, on a production budget of $17 million, according to The Numbers.    It’s sure to be a welcome Friday night family movie this weekend– and an inspiring Redbox rental this fall when high school and college cross country season commences.

But when I walked out of that theater I had no desire to be cynical.  The running scenes were beautiful, the drama suitably constructed, the characters portrayed deeply enough for us to care, the story real enough to matter and the ending satisfying enough for my little one and I to remember and relive months later.

Yet the best part of the movie for me, they may not remember at all.  It was the epilogue, just before the credit role, where we get a look at the men those boys became, as they ran down a sun-scorched California road.  They each had their own ending– and presumably some more happy than others.  But seeing them still running, and realizing they looked a little like me running along the pavement to whatever lay ahead, gave me chills.

If you are a runner, you will appreciate the portrayal of the way the distance running can test a person’s soul and drive. If you are not, you will still be moved by the film’s simple, inspiring and accessible story for all ages.

I’ll resist the temptation of calling McFarland USA the Hoosiers of cross country, because that basketball movie is at another level of artistic and emotional vitality.  But it holds the same power to open eyes to the beauty of a sport I love, the payoff of hard work, and the indomitable human spirit possessed by even the young and marginalized among us.

Rent it the night before your next big run.

The Compost Bucket Challenge

So it’s my turn to take the ALS Bucket Challenge, thanks to Nelson Peña.

Such a great cause and a fun way to face a terrible disease. It got me thinking of another great cause to fight for. It’s a one that can reverse disease and secure health and wealth for future generations. And it’s a delicious way to live. Best of all, it’s a battle that can be won one bucket at a time. One compost bucket that is.

To my friends at Rodale Institute, The Seed Farm, Organic Gardening, Joshua Scott Onysko, Organic Valley Farms, Mike McGrath, George DeVault, Seventh Generation, Cascadian Farms, John Grogan and Jenny Vogt , Food & Water Watch, Stonyfield Farms, Pat Corpora, Maya Rodale, Tony Haile, Bob’s Red Mill, Amy’s Kitchen, Mark Kintzel, Buy Fresh Buy Local, Nature’s Best, Earth’s Best, Whole Foods and the countless others I’m forgetting, to ANYONE WHO SUPPORTS ORGANIC growing, it’s your turn to spread the word about organic– One Bucket at a Time.

My Facebook Page

Through The Kitchen Window

I cooked dinner for my parents on a recent trip home.  They are older now and don’t get out much– and have stopped cooking for themselves after many years of preparing the most delicious Italian food imaginable.

Cooking for them is both rewarding and daunting.  When I visit, it’s an occasion.  It’s listed on their calendar weeks in advance and confirmed daily when I call.  They are glad to see me and like when I can take care of them. But let’s face it, of the three Cinquino’s in the room, I’m the least accomplished cook, by about 50 ovenlight years.

I serve them dinner, a Pork Tenderloin with baked carrots and baked potatoes and salad. Nothing elaborate, but as I put the prepared roast before them I convince myself it came out pretty well.  I wait for their restaurant review– and as they speak, I learn a little about them and lot about myself.

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What you see through the window…

My dad is gushing– he is complimenting me again and again- four, five, six times.  His voice assures me how good the meal is. How grateful he is that I am there to cook it. How surprised he is that I am such a good chef.  I eat up his approval even faster than I gulp down my portion of the meal.

My mom eats more slowly and takes her time commenting on the food.  I wait anxiously as she cuts her food into small pieces.  She seems to have come to a conclusion after several methodical bites.  Then I hear what I take as her verdict. “I miss my own cooking,” is all she says.

I am crushed like a can of Contadina.  Crushed as only a mom’s critique can crush one.  I feel myself getting a little mad at her for being so impolite. I then turn ever more judgmental, sure that her negative attitude is keeping her from being happier and content with her life.  I think the thoughts that I think she should be thinking instead.   This progression is rapid. In less than 10 seconds, I go from happy to serve them to upset to totally dismissive of what she has to say and blaming her for how I feel.  Of course I don’t say a word, just steam a little.

Then, I take a deep breathe.  What did she really say? And what didn’t she say? And what did I hear?

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…depends on which direction you are looking.

What she said was that she missed her own cooking– and yet what I heard was that my cooking wasn’t good enough.  She didn’t say that I wasn’t good enough, but that’s what I heard.

I grab the knife and cut me up another slab of pig, and something dawns on me.  Why am I reacting like this? Why am I demonizing her response? She was just remembering a time gone by– and all those magnificent recipes and meals she had created over the years.  She realizes there will never be anything like her own home cooking– and that is gone forever.

I sit and look at her across the table.  It’s now clear to me that it’s not her, but me. I’m the one being ungrateful, not her.

She is being honest,  vulnerable and straight with me. I was fuming over a perceived slight.    I had made it all about me.     I had wanted to snap at her and tell her that I’m done trying to please her.  I felt I had to “share my truth” with her and tell her how badly I feel when she says that– how she made me feel so inadequate.  But the truth is, “my truth” is just a myth.  A reaction based on my own programming.  Nothing true about it, really.  Other than it’s true that I made myself feel unloved and put that on her.

As I chew, I start to feel a different truth.  A truth that I am loved and do love.  And when I look at my mom, I see her– and everything between us, quite differently.  I see that she is pleased with me for trying.  I also see, on an unrelated note, that ultimately there was no substitute for the kind of meal only she could create. No substitute for that time in her life.  In our family’s life.

A time when cooking meant the family was gathered. When dishes were links to the grand past of our immigrant heroes who came to America and founded this branch of our family vine.  A time when cooking was both a responsibility (for my mom) and a joy (for my dad).  A time when vegetables were grown in the backyard, peeled on the back step and cooked before they knew what hit them.  A time when her kids needed her to cook dinner, not the other way around.

She misses that.

As this awareness hits me,  my steam evaporates.  I’m once again glad to be there, part of their lives in any way I can.  It is not about me or my cooking, it is about us as a family.

“I do, too, mom. I do, too.”