WELCOME GUEST BLOGGER NANCY WURDEN — TODAY WE WEAR GREEN FOR ST. PADDY, BUT WEDNESDAY WE WEAR RED FOR ST. JOE

Today, as we celebrate the life of a Roman named Patrick who brought the Christian faith to the Emerald Isles, I’m really looking forward to Wednesday, March 19, and the Feast of St. Joseph. If you are from the Southwest or California, you probably know him as San José.

I am not belittling Patrick. I have admiration for him, and Patrick has an amazing story. I am also wearing green in his honor, although I don’t have a drop of Irish blood.

There is simply something about St. Joseph that catches my imagination. My Italian heritage probably also plays a part in my admiration.

The folks from Mediterranean lands have been celebrating St. Joseph for centuries. Sicilians prayed to Joseph to relieve them from famine centuries ago, and his day is celebrated with feasting. Italians wear red to honor Joseph. More importantly, March 19 is close enough to the Spring Equinox to be considered the beginning of Spring. My dad would plant his tomato seeds in little pots and grow them under the lights, always on St. Joseph Day. In California, it’s the day that the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano.

But there’s more to the story of Joseph that inspires me. Much of it is based on tradition, as the Gospel stories are inconsistent and don’t give us much information. Joseph is the husband of the Virgin Mary, and thus, based on Christian tradition, is the earthly father of Jesus. Joseph is believed to have been a carpenter, or a worker in wood or metal. He probably taught his skills to Jesus.

But that’s still not the point. Based on tradition, Joseph married a pregnant Mary, and it wasn’t Joseph’s child. Why would he do that? He had a legal right to send her quietly away, but, after a dream or vision, he stepped forward and undertook the responsibility for her and the child. He moved beyond his comfort, what he knew and respected, and past his fear, to something surpassing comprehension.

Then we see him traveling with her to Bethlehem for a census. I have traveled in the luxury of a modern automobile on well-paved roads while pregnant. Most of the time, I was queasy and uncomfortable. Now imagine a trip, probably on foot (some art depicts Mary on a donkey) over dirt roads for miles. Joseph was responsible for getting them there safely.  

Mary gave birth to the baby in Bethlehem (we all know the story). They probably stayed there a couple of years. It was enough time to get settled, get some work, support the family, and give the baby time to grow before enduring another long, dirty, exhausting trip back home.

And then Joseph is warned in a dream (by God or an angel) that a jealous King Herod, alerted by three learned visitors from the East, is searching for the baby Jesus to kill him. So Joseph takes Mary and Jesus and they go to Egypt. That’s a very long trip to a foreign country where they don’t know the language, don’t know anybody, and don’t know what to expect. No doubt, no hesitation. Strictly on faith, Joseph goes.

At this point you are thinking, “Joseph’s a carpenter; he’s in construction. He can always get a job.” Probably so. We don’t know. The point is — he was faithful. Faithful to his God, faithful to his family. He didn’t give in to his doubts. He did what he was asked.

A few years later Joseph is told in another dream that Herod is dead and it is time to return. So back they go, but they don’t settle in Bethlehem — it’s too close to Jerusalem and another nasty king. Joseph takes them north to Galilee and they settle in Nazareth. Another new town, this time a very small town, but close to a large city that was rebuilding — good work for a carpenter.

And the next time we hear from Joseph, it’s when Jesus is 12. Mary and Joseph and Jesus went to Jerusalem, and they thought Jesus was in the group returning home. He wasn’t. If you have ever “lost” your child at the mall or the supermarket for a few seconds, you know what fear is. (One of my kids liked to play hide and seek in the middle of the round clothes carousels at the mall. Talk about panic! ) So Jesus is who knows where, lost in the Big City. Mary and Joseph must have been a mess. Anyway, Joseph takes charge, goes back to Jerusalem with Mary, and they find Jesus in the Temple teaching. At that point I would probably have hit the roof, but tradition tells us that Joseph remained patient, even when the pre-teen Jesus makes comments about being about “his father’s business.” Staying calm when your kids are being kids: something else to admire.

The Gospels don’t mention Joseph at the death and burial of Jesus. Legend tells us that Mary and Jesus surrounded Joseph at Joseph’s death. A quiet, peaceful death after a long, faithful life.

And here I would like to propose that Joseph was “obedient.” He listened to that “clear, small voice” that we often do not let ourselves hear, and knew that he was being called to do great, but difficult things. Without the faith to be obedient, Joseph’s life, and by extension Mary and Jesus’ lives, would have been disastrous. Obedience in our modern age is a negative concept. Civil disobedience is played out daily on the international news. Parents worry about obedient children falling prey to predators. And yet without obedience, we would all run red lights and refuse to pay our taxes. We would have anarchy.

Back to Joseph. Joseph is considered the patron of workers including craftsmen, engineers, and working people in general. He is the patron of families, fathers, and mothers, including expectant mothers. He is the patron of a happy death. He is the patron of San José, California, and any other town or church named in his honor.

A real estate superstition considers him the patron of house buyers and sellers. I’ve never heard my mother laugh so loud and long as when we were told by a relative to bury a statue of St. Joseph upside down in the yard so she would sell the old family house quickly. She didn’t bury the statue, and the house sold.

I am an American Girl doll collector. If your daughter has read the American Girl books about Josefina, you should know that Josefina was born on March 19 and is named for her saint’s day — San José.  (Josefina is a Spanish-speaking American Girl, and comes from the Santa Fe area when New Mexico was still part of Old Mexico.) It’s also my friend Josie’s birthday; her real name is Josefina. She was born on March 19, and named for her saint’s day.

Here in New Mexico, the traditional painted santos (or carved figure of a saint) of San Jose Patriarco (Saint Joseph the Patriarch) depicts him dressed in green and gold, holding the baby Jesus, and carrying a flowering staff. Local tradition has it that when Joseph was asked what the name of Mary’s child should be, he said “His name shall be Jesus” and his walking stick burst into flower. It’s a beautiful story.

Regardless of your faith or beliefs, or whether you hold the stories about Joseph as history or legend, I believe that there is much you can admire about Joseph. He was a man of principal and faith. He didn’t let his doubts keep him from acting and moving forward. He was a devoted family man. He was an industrious worker. He understood what was called of him, and was obedient. And he left this world without regret and in peace.

So on Wednesday, March 19, remember Joseph. Think of spring and the swallows returning to Capistrano. Think about wearing red in his honor, and celebrating.

Nancy Wurden

March 17, 2014

WELCOME BACK, GUEST BLOGGER RICHARD GALGANO – A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE TRACK MEET, PART II

I arrived at the Reggie Lewis Indoor Track for day 2 of the United States Track and Field (USATF) master’s national championship just after the events began. I checked in, informed the official that I wouldn’t be running the mile as I had planned months ago, and then learned there were enough volunteers for the day. Looking around, I saw some members of Mass Velocity Track Club, my team, and joined them in the bleachers. I met several teammates for the first time and watched the events. The 60 meter sprints, long jump and pole vault were in progress.

I’m not sure what is more impressive: watching graceful, athletic and powerful middle-age sprinters fly down the track or seeing the very elderly athletes do their sprints. There were world and American records set and frequent applause and lots of oohs and aahs. Occasionally an athlete would do something really spectacular and the air would be filled with cheers. Everyone seemed to know everyone and athletes mingled and renewed acquaintances. I met people who were world-class athletes in their twenties and thirties and heard some great stories. Although the competition is fierce, the friendships are deeper.

I was sitting next to a woman who hails from Australia. Her husband was entered in the long jump and the 200 meter relay. They now live near Washington, DC and we chatted about DC, Boston and Australia. We joked about the trials and tribulations of masters athletes and she laughed when I told her about my ill-fated attempts at long-jumping and breaking my rib high-jumping. She recommended that it may be best for me to stay away from pole vaulting just as the first vaulter made his approach.

If you have never seen the pole vault in person, it’s awesome. As the athletes takes flight, the pole bends backwards under their weight. It then recoils and you can see the force applied to the vaulters as they are thrust upward and forward. Feet above head, they somehow turn their bodies around and then fall backwards onto the mat. Occasionally a vault will not go as far as planned and the vaulter will have to adjust on the fly to make sure he or she lands on the mat. Michael Jordan was noted for his “hang time” when soaring in the air for a dunk. His maximum time aloft was calculated to be 0.92 seconds. One of the male pole vaulters cleared 14 and 1/2 feet and he was in the air for a long time. I found myself holding my breath every time an athlete made an attempt.

One of my favorite events to watch is the shot put. One doesn’t throw the shot put like a ball. Doing so would probably rip your shoulder out of the socket. I’ve tried doing the event a little, mostly to help coach children. Depending on the sex and age, the shot can weigh 16 lbs. It’s a very technical event and the putters aren’t just strong but also explosive. As a distance runner, I resemble Charles Atlas before he started working out. The “weight people” are BIG. Their arms are larger than my thighs. However, they are also graceful and have great balance. I’ve seen them train on balance beams. Most of them are also very fast. I raced some high school weight athletes last year over 40 meters and it wasn’t even close.

While the sprints were underway, I started thinking of entering the mile. Although I wasn’t prepared, I was well-rested (an old runners joke). There was a chance that I would be on a relay team later in the afternoon. Our team had a couple runners interested and being a warm body in the right age group could mean a ticket to race. A couple teammates encouraged me to enter the mile and I went back to the official table to let them know. I changed into my red singlet and running shorts, put on my warm up clothes and started to jog. I had also gotten the word that yes, indeed, I would be racing on a relay team later in the day. One of the problems of being 55 is the length of time it requires to warm up. It’s kind of like starting an old car in the middle of winter. Sometimes I wonder if there will be any energy left to race after warming up. After about 15 minute of jogging I went into the gym and started to do my dynamic warm ups (leg swings, skips, drills designed to prepare one for action). I ran a series of short strides to get used to moving faster than snail pace and went over to the starting area. Unlike road races where one can warm up until a couple minutes before the start, track races require some standing and waiting for your race. The trick is to stay warm while waiting. My age group was pretty large and we had two sections. The slower one usually goes first and I was in the first group. I shook hands with a few of the runners and lined up. The gun went off and I tried to run with effort but sensibly. I was near the back quickly and went through the first 200 meters in 50 seconds or 6:40 pace. This was much slower than I planned a year ago but was hoping it wasn’t too fast for my lack of training. I stayed on this pace for a few laps and while working, I wasn’t gasping either. Some of the faster runners started to pass me but my teammates were scattered around the track and I heard their encouragement. I finished in 6:40 and walked off the track and got a drink.

Running two events is a rarity for me. The last time I tried it, the second race was torture. I decided to jog for a bit then stretch. I hydrated and had a small snack and then went to watch more runners. Inactivity can increase the muscle tightness and an hour before our race I headed back to the gym for a warm up. My muscles were already a bit tight and I thought about Bill Cosby and the can of 3 in 1 oil in his go-cart skit.* (Bill Cosby was a fine athlete who competed for Temple University.) I got as loose as I could and went back to the track.

Teams of relay runners waited on the infield for their races to begin. The wait was longer than expected for my team’s relay race and we all started to tighten up a bit, so we tried to jog in place a little. Some teammates, aware of my injuries, gave me valuable training advice during the wait. The race officials had combined two age groups for this race because seven teams total had entered. In this race, 4 teams were in the 40-49 age group, and 3 in the 50-59 age group, my group. All we had to do was get the baton around the track and we would score points for our team. I was going to run the 2nd leg. My teenaged children had arrived to watch. They both run in high school and we were doing a bit of role-reversal. As a parent and volunteer assistant track coach, it’s good to feel their “pain” once in a while. I’ve learned not to yell “Go faster!” at their races. (I’m waiting for the day when a runner stops and yells back, “If I could go any faster, I would!”)

The runners in the first leg lined up at the start. On the outside of the track near the start, the runners in the second leg formed a group. The third and fourth leg runners also formed groups. My teammate took off and stayed with the main pack through his leg. Relays can be a bit of organized chaos at the exchanges, especially for the sprints, but ours went smoothly. I took the baton (French for “stick”) and accelerated. “Don’t sprint. Don’t sprint,” I told myself, and resisted the urge to go at full speed. I didn’t see the clock as I took off and had no idea of my pace. Going down the back stretch of the first of my four laps, I smiled and thought, “This is a blast.” The first 200 meter lap went okay but a little fatigue started to develop at 400 meters. I was running harder than in the mile but didn’t know if my pace was faster or slower. My rib felt okay. A couple runners lapped me on the back turn during lap 3 and I hoped they were in their 40s. Heading down the home stretch with one more lap to go I was breathing really hard and straining and went through the checklist: “Stay relaxed, lower your shoulders, stay on your toes, don’t drop the baton.” Was my son going to yell, “Use it now!”? (His coach will do this.) I tried to accelerate in the last lap but was probably avoiding slowing down. The final 100 meters seemed to last a long time but the hand-off went okay and my race was finished.

Back on the infield, still breathing hard, we cheered our teammates. We finished 3rd in our group (10 minutes 27 seconds) but were in the same lap as the other two teams. My split was 2 minutes 50 seconds, only 2 seconds slower than my best! We took some team photos, shook hands with each other and the other teams and enjoyed the moment. I picked up a bronze medal and headed home.

Woody Allen was right. “90% of life is showing up.” I don’t care that we were assured of finishing third in my age group (assuming we finished) and that I got to run, in part, by virtue of being a warm body. I got a chance to compete at Nationals and came away with hardware.

Richard Galgano, D.O.

March 16, 2014

* “Reached into my pocket and pulled out my trusty can of 3 in 1 oil.” From the sketch, “Go Carts” on Bill Cosby’s 1966 album Wonderfulness. Go buy it. Trust me; you’ll be happy you did.

NOTE FROM KATHY GALGANO  My brother, running with a busted rib and recovering from just about everything, ran the mile, not in record time for running athletes, but really fast in my book, at a beautiful 6 minutes, 40 seconds and fraction change. Then, he ran the 4 men 800 meters relay, and the team racers picked up team points, and carried away the bronze medal. How cool is that! Image

For a picture of Richard running the relay, go to http://johnkeklak.smugmug.com/Trackandfield/2014-USA-Masters-Indoor-Track/Day-2-2pm-End-of-Day-4×200/37776473_xNMddJ#!i=3129126944&k=3FDm8D3&lb=1&s=M

The New “Booth Babe”

A most pejorative term, “booth babe” is the moniker assigned to a female spokesmodel hired by a company to draw people to their exhibit at a convention or trade show. For years, in the male-dominated high tech industries, professionally dressed spokesmodels recited the companies’ spiel from memory with a microphone in hand. How did you know these articulate and comely women were not members of each company’s professional team? They didn’t stammer and the script was tricky, very technical. Listening for a few minutes, there would be a misplaced phonetic emphasis on an industry term or two. The jargon was the giveaway. Most recently, companies have been hiring spokesmodels to offer giveaways from tchotchkes, to tickets for expensive computers or phones to lure prospective customers into the booth, and so passersby are less likely to hear mispronounced technical phrases.

Enter the new booth babe. At five feet, three inches tall (I used to be five feet three and a half inches, but time has taken care of that) and looking more the part of the proverbial middle-aged “mom” than the svelte, gorgeous, and yes, intelligent spokesmodel, I have donned the company shirt to work conventions. That’s the first difference; as I have a vested interest in the success of the start-up for which my loved one works, I volunteer. My job is to scan badges. I press the smart phone scanner to the badge to copy the data stored in the badge. Business cards are still important, but with a single swipe “we” now have the name, email address and other pertinent data of the individual, and the marketing or sales team can send follow-up emails. The start-up company for which my husband works needs each of their engineers and sales team members available to speak to interested colleagues and prospective customers, so I provide the extra set of hands to walk the booth, scan badges, offer a token giveaway, and ensure that interested convention goers talk to team representatives if they linger to read the booth material for more than a passing moment.

Unlike most temps hired as badge scanners, on my first afternoon I brought bottles of water for the team, Altoids mints (large and small), disinfecting hand wipes, and a box of tissues. Unabashedly, I am a mom, and it’s useless to hide it. At the end of the session I passed out the hand wipes imploring the engineers to wash-up after shaking so many hands; it’s still flu season. This show is smaller in scope than the one I worked last year, and the booths mostly all fit into a hotel ballroom, overflowing only a bit into the hallway. Last year I worked a large-scale tradeshow that encompassed an entire convention center floor; sensible, flat shoes prevailed there.

I have donned “kitten” heels for this show as the thick pile of the ballroom floor carpeting provides a more forgiving cushion than the thin decorative carpet layer that hid the concrete at the convention center. My company shirt is not a proportioned women’s blouse. When I decided to participate last year, I had to choose from among the remaining sizes: mens’ large or extra large. I bought some hem tape in a fabric store and ironed it on the reverse side of the fabric to shorten the shirt and take in the side seams to remove a bit of the bulk. It’s now an oversized jacket that I wear unbuttoned over a nice matching sleeveless sweater or jersey. It’s not perfect, but it’s professional and I’ve made it work. I wear my badge on a lanyard, and spruce up the look with necklace and earrings. As with all the other badge scanners and tchotchke meisters, I wear my smile. While I have not worked in the high tech industry myself, it turns out that each day on the floor I shake hands with old friends who are most surprised to see me there. They pop by the booth to say hello to my husband, and do a double take when they see me first. One friend even snapped a picture of me and my husband together in the booth to share with his wife, who is in the high tech business. “You’re never going to believe this…!” he texted. Naturally, I scan their badges. I also know that I do not mispronounce technical words, however, I leave the talking to the experts. I’m there to scan, thank you very much, and am happy and honored to lend a hand. And most importantly, I have turned the pejorative title of “booth babe” upside down, and love it.

Kathy Galgano

March 5, 2014

Welcome, Guest Blogger Richard Galgano — A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Track Meet

Three years ago, I ran my first track meet since high school. It was a blast, and I caught the Masters track bug. Technically I’m a “senior,” being in my 50s. I did a few meets (mostly indoor, my favorite) and joined a track club called Mass Velocity.* It’s a club of Masters sprinters and everyone else; I’m one of the everyone else. Unlike road racing, which attracts a wide range of athletes who run for fun, fitness, t-shirts and charity, track is serious business. I can beat most of the runners in my age category in a local road race but only the really fast people seem to compete in track meets. Whereas I was a mediocre high school athlete, the Masters track folks competed in college and many were elite athletes. The times they run are mind-blowing: low to mid 50 seconds for 400 meters, and 4 minutes 30 seconds to 4 minutes 40 seconds miles. However, everyone is encouraged to participate and made to feel welcome.

I learned there is a yearly national Masters championship for indoor and outdoor track and this month, the meet is in Boston. Unlike the open championships, which have qualifying standards, any Masters athlete who belongs to USATF (USA Track & Field) can compete. OH YEAH! I’M GOING TO NATIONALS.

I planned my training: longer road races in the spring and summer of 2013 to build a mileage base; cross country in the fall for strength; and a season of indoor track to sharpen speed. Visions of breaking six minutes in the mile kept me motivated. (I ran 6:02 two years ago). Sure, I would likely be lapped during my race, but that’s okay. Plus, in most of my adult running career, I have trained by doing my normal running with just a few faster runs. Imagine what I could do with some speed work. In addition, I would be 55 years old at the meet. Most of the age groups are split into 5 years (55-59) making me a relative youngster. With all this training behind me, I figured my times would make me competitive, well, maybe for the 70-79 age group range, but again, that’s okay. I’m going to Nationals!

I should have paid more attention to the omens last spring. I was part of a team, running a five-and-a-half mile leg of a marathon relay last May. It was really cold and raining, and I had to wait a couple of hours before starting my leg. Luckily, I didn’t freeze to death. Anyhow, I’m three-quarters into my leg, trying to stay with a group of runners who were in their 20s and 30s, and I’m running flat out, just killing myself. The people around me are chatting and looked relaxed. We ran by a woman and her young son who were waiting for Dad to pass by. The dad was running the full marathon. I heard the child say, “Hey Mom. Look at that old guy.” I started looking around to see who he was talking about and there wasn’t anyone old in our group. The guy next to me looked at me, and sheepishly said, “He means you.” UGH! GROAN! DAGGER TO THE HEART! Deflated, my pace slowed a bit and I finished my leg. I ran by Bill Rodgers** who was anchoring his team and waiting for his teammate at the exchange zone. Well, at least I wasn’t the oldest person out there.

Two days after the race I went for a slow jog. A couple miles into the jog my calf seized up and I could barely walk home. Undaunted, I cross-trained by swimming, spinning and starting to aqua jog. I stretched, iced it, heated it, saw a PT and finally had acupuncture. The acupuncture allowed me to jog, but not to run fast. It slowly improved over the fall, and by early winter I could run reasonably well. Although my training schedule had been destroyed, I thought a few weeks of intense work could increase my fitness enough to compete.

You guessed it; I got injured again with a strained tendon near my ankle. Heavy sigh. “W-e-l-l” (sounding like Ronald Reagan), there goes Nationals.

All of a sudden, it occurred to me. “Track” is really track AND field. I could do a field event. In high school I triple jumped. Unfortunately, I can’t jump as far now and may not be able to reach the sand pit. The notion of landing on the runway, in spikes, and breaking both legs didn’t sound too good.

I can’t hurdle or shot put. Scratch those from the list.

Sprinting. Definitely not. That’s how I got into trouble in the first place.

Pole vault. I could learn to pole vault. How hard can it be? I’m not talking 18 feet, just 7 or 8 feet. I contacted a local pole vault club and they invited me to try. Unfortunately it was too late to train for the meet. We’ll put pole vaulting on the back burner for now.

Long jump. I never really could do this well. My “hop and skip” in the triple jump was much better than my jump. However, as bad as I am, it would at least get me in the meet. I started practicing. I even made 12 feet and I wasn’t expecting to go 10 feet. With a longer approach run, a bit more speed, I could make 13 feet.

You guessed it; I tweaked a hamstring (just a little).

High jump. Ugh. I learned how to do the old “forward roll” over the bar in high school, but three years ago, when I tried it again, I only managed to clear 3 feet 10 inches. Some of the competitors soar well above 5 feet and some are close to 6 feet. Not clearing the opening height would be pretty bad. Just as gloom struck, I checked the meet information. The opening height is 2 feet, 9 inches. TWO FEET, NINE FREAKING INCHES. SIGN ME UP BABY!

My son’s school track coach agreed to give me a lesson. No forward roll for this athlete, I’m going to learn how to do the “Fosbury flop,”*** where you go over backwards. On my third week of practice, I cleared 4 feet 4 inches. It would have put me in 6th place last year (admittedly, a lean year at the meet) and scored a point for my team. A quick sip of water, a chat with the coach for a couple minutes and I was ready to try for 4 feet 6 inches.

You guessed it. My approach wasn’t very good and I hit the bar. The bar landed on the mat and I landed on the bar. Oh crap. I felt a sharp pain in my rib cage after landing on the bar. I haven’t had it X-rayed but am pretty sure I broke a rib (the crack in the rib is palpable). The first week was pretty tough but Ibuprofen, Tylenol and menthol pain patches helped a lot. I didn’t get shortness of breath and it has improved enough for me to spin on the bike and jog slowly on the treadmill. Sneezing still hurts, but the one advantage of a really cold winter is no pollen. At least I can laugh about it now without wincing too much.

W-e-l-l” (more Ronald Reagan), there goes Nationals.

I’ve decided to volunteer at the meet and cheer on my healthier team-mates. It’ll be fun. And safer. Besides, I did set personal bests for the two jumps. Once the rib heals up, it’s back to my old training style. Running in the back of the back in a track meet is better than not running at all.

Though I wonder…How hard can pole vaulting be?

Richard Galgano, D.O.

March 1, 2014

* Mass Velocity, https://sites.google.com/site/massvelocitytrackclub/

** William Henry Rodgers, Famed marathoner and Olympian http://www.runningpast.com/rodgers.htm

*** Fosbury Flop, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id4W6VA0uLc