Monday, February 27, 2017

8.2 Miles for Elijah

On Friday, Elijah's liver biopsy revealed the lesions were not cancer! PTL. That meant round two of chemo could begin. Eight days of chemo with two treatments every day started Friday. Pretty intense stuff. It's been a little rough for him as you can imagine so Sunday I chose my distance in honor of him. Slow miles when it was all said and done but miles all the same. 8.2 on the dreadmill is no comparison to what he is going through but if he is doing what he needs to do to make himself better, then I can too.

The red and blue "strings" make up a leukemia/lymphoma awareness bracelet supporting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society I bought this week and will serve as a reminder over the next three months as I prepare for my goal race that I am running in his honor that no matter how tough things may seem, never give up. Elijah won't and neither will I.

#racefortheplace# kickingcancersbutt #everymileamemory #justkeepswimming

Friday, February 10, 2017

Prayers for Elijah

Smiles and silliness because that's
how Elijah rolls 
As many of you know, I have been an adult volunteer for the Greater Lake County Young Marines for many years. As a matter of fact, this past fall marked my 11th year with the program. Over the years, many kids and their families have come and gone and most of the time, when they leave the program, they are never to be seen or heard from again. There are a few, however, with whom you develop personal relationships/friendships and those friendships remain long after their time with the program ends. Because I would feel horrible if I left anyone out, I won't mention names. There is one such young man I would like to mention, however, and that is a former Young Marine Elijah Smart. He was only in the Young Marines for a few years but he was one of the nicest, most polite, hard working, and helpful kids in our program. He loved being a Young Marine and was always so eager to learn. He was one of the first kids to always ask to help out if something needed done, always willing to help his fellow Young Marines, just an all around good kid with a heart of gold and one of those kids who made volunteering thousands of hours every year worth it.

I mention Elijah because not too long ago, I learned he was recently diagnosed with AML, Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a very aggressive form of the disease and is spending the next five or so months (as well as his 18th birthday in a couple weeks) hospitalized undergoing equally aggressive treatment until the cancer is gone. I had the pleasure of visiting with Elijah and his mom on Sunday, February 6, and with everything that is going on and everything he is facing, especially with a medical set backs he has encountered in the last couple weeks due to this aggressive treatment, his spirit and faith haven't wavered and he is still the kind, funny, and gentle soul always thinking about others instead of himself, just as he was when he was in Young Marines program. Truly an inspiration! The apple doesn't fall far from the tree because his mom is a pretty special lady as well. I have been so inspired by Elijah's strength and courage through all of this that I have decided to run The Gathering Place's Race for the Place 5K in June, my goal race and a race I hold very near and dear to my heart for many reasons, in his honor.

Elijah could really use all the prayers, positive vibes, and whatever else you can send his way right now and in the months ahead. His mom could, too. I can't imagine what it's like being an almost 18 year old young man facing a life-threatening disease, knowing you will have to spend your senior year within the sterile walls of a hospital, wondering why God chose this path for you, and wondering what the future holds for you or being a mother watching your only son fight a battle no son should ever have to. Really makes you put things into perspective. It's hard to comprehend why these things happen but I know from my own experience with cancer, the love, support, prayers, positive thoughts, etc. from friends, family, and even from complete strangers makes all the difference in the world. I know it will make all the difference with Elijah and his mom, too.

Just keep swimming, buddy! We're your floaties and with you every step (or stroke LOL) of the way!

Friday, January 20, 2017

When God Closes One Door, He Opens Another

Some of you know what has been going on the in Cimino household these last few months but many do not. They say when God closes one door, He opens another. While it’s kind of scary taking a leap of faith, as the saying from one of my favorite movies “Grumpy Old Men” goes, “the only things in this life that you really regret are the risks you didn’t take.” Here's to new beginnings!

From my husband's photography Facebook page:

Time to make this official announcement. Most of you know the history of my photographic journey, but for those of you that do not, here is a brief story.

My love for photography started the year I took Mr. Artino's photography class at West Geauga High School. I shot film for years with my Dad after taking that class and we even had a complete B&W and color darkroom in our basement. With access to a full darkroom, I shot a LOT of film over the next few years. I served my country in the United States Marine Corps in the 90's and got married in 1999, then I bought my first digital camera and took pictures any chance I could. However, because of my career in IT and the demands of working nearly 24/7, I was only able to do photography on the side; landscape pictures here, senior portraits and family pictures there. Fast forward to November 2012 when I started Paul Cimino Photography and started doing high school senior portraits. For the next four years, I used almost all of my vacation time taking photography trips and scheduling other photo shoots when I could fit them in.

In October of last year, I took a photography trip to West Virginia and did some serious soul searching around my current career, my overall happiness, and what I really wanted out of life. While in Dolly Sods watching the sun rise one morning and taking pictures with a group of people, I realized that was where I was happiest; in the field, taking pictures, helping others take pictures, and being outside capturing God's amazing creation. That feeling was reinforced when some of those people would ask me where some good places were for sunrises and sunsets (I guess I looked like the guy that knew that stuff) and then running into them later at those locations. They were so excited about the pictures they were getting and thanked me for sharing those locations with them. It was then I decided to follow my dream and become a professional photographer full time. This is what I had always wanted to do anyway. This is what makes me happy.

In November, I expanded my photography capabilities by receiving my FAA remote pilot's license so I can now offer commercial aerial photos and video as well. For me, this offers a new and unique perspective and really opens up the possibilities to capture things in a different way. Plus, how cool is it to get images and video with a drone?

I am still available for IT consulting as I grow this business, I just believe it is my calling in life to be a professional photographer and that is the path I have decided to pursue.

Thank you to all of my followers over the years, I hope you continue to enjoy and share the images I post. I really enjoy sharing my work with everyone.

www.paulcimino.photography is my portrait, image sales, and workshop website.

www.skylandmedia.net is the commercial website showcasing the business to business part of my company - aerial, commercial real estate, race photos, construction progress, etc.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A different kind of 21st milestone...

Rick and me in 1995
Angel anniversary #21. It's hard to believe it's been 21 years since I've seen your handsome face, felt one of your amazing hugs, or even just something as simple as hearing the sound of your voice, Rick. I am so thankful you were home the weekend before a senseless act of violence and rage from a woman who said if she couldn't have you, no one could, took your life. I didn't know that weekend would be the last for all the things I mentioned or that I would be living the rest of my life without my little brother in it but I am so thankful for that weekend and thankful I got to tell you I love you one last time.

They say time heals all wounds. It really doesn't. I believe the quote from Rose Kennedy sums it up perfectly: “It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” There is not a moment that goes by that I don't miss you terribly and even as I type this, the tears flow just about as much now as they did that dreadful morning at 2 am when I learned what she had done and that you finally got to see the stars for the first time. What makes me smile though, is seeing how your friends still love and cherish you to this very day. Every time I hear the song from Shinedown "How Did You Love", I can't help but think of you. The way you loved you them (and of course, your family) still shows 21 years later because they still love you right back and haven't forgotten about you. And you loved life too and it showed. Anyone who knew you would agree. No matter what was going on, you had an amazing outlook and spirit and when someone you cared about was down, you did everything you could to make them smile. I can't help but smile when I see you in my sons and our nephews; perhaps in a gesture or mannerism, a smile, a look, a laugh, or just one of their hugs. Or when I look up at the stars and think about what an awesome thrill it must have been for you to finally see them. You may be gone from this Earth but you live in the hearts and lives of those who were blessed to have known you and for that, you are never truly gone. Your presence is felt in so many ways.

On Earth, someone's 21st year is a milestone and a celebration of coming of age. I don't feel much like celebrating today (although don’t be surprised if I do a shot of Jager or two in your memory). I suppose every day in heaven is a celebration though and while it's sad for some of us here on Earth that a few others have joined in the celebration over the past year, how wonderful is it to know that this life is not the end and we will all be reunited again one day. It's that hope that makes living each day without you a little easier to bear.

I love and miss you always, Slick, and look forward to the day I will see you again. PS Give Papa D and my two grand babies a hug and kiss for me.

"The ultimate healing we will be home free."
Rick and my parents Christmas 1995. Who knew that a few short weeks
later, Rick would see the stars for the first time. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

A sister remembered...

kris stefanac, sister in pink, cancer, breast cancer



"When you die, that doesn’t mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live. 

So live. 

Fight like hell, and when you get too tired to fight, lay down and rest and let someone else fight for you." 

~ ESPN’s Stuart Scott

Any time I see this quote, I can’t help but think of my dear friend and sister-in-pink, Kris Stefanac. It was three years ago today she earned her angel wings and to this day, to say she lost her battle with breast cancer has never sat well with me. Kris was not a loser, she was anything but. She fought her battle with grace and beauty every step of the way and when God decided her time on Earth was done, she won… because of her faith, she is now in heaven with her loved ones and is waiting for those of us who believe to join her.

In life, she was my inspiration and in death, she still continues to inspire me. In life, she was a teacher (thanks to her, I learned how to defend myself the BJJ way), a friend, a sister-in-pink and in Christ, a role model, and through her own battle, she taught me that despite whatever negatives life throws your way, look at the positives and be happy for them, thank God for them, and live your life to the fullest. I’ll never forget the conversation we had when she came to visit me after my surgery. She knew God put cancer in her life for a reason and allowed our paths to cross because He knew I would need her and that one day, He would use me and what I went through to help someone else. I'm sure there were times she was bitter about her situation but wow, what a thing to say. It's just a testimony of the kind of person Kris was and how she was able to find something good in a not-so-good situation and the kind of person I strive to be.

In death, she has continued to be an inspiration. It was in her honor and memory that I ran my first 5K in June 2014, The Gathering Place's Race for the Place 5K, and it's because of that race, I found a love for running. And now, whether it be a race or a casual run around the neighborhood, there's not a moment that goes by that I don't think about her, miss her, and thank God He brought her into my life. Part of her is with me always and I am a better person for knowing her.

Happy Angel Anniversary, my dear friend and sister, Kris. I love you and miss you and look forward to the day I will see your beautiful face once again. 

PS. Give Papa D and my brother a hug for me.
race for the place 5k, just keep swimming, runcle, kris stefanac
Race shirt I designed for my first 5K which I ran in honor and memory of Kris.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Every mile a memory: Run Santa Run 5K 12.11.16

The Run Santa Run 5K was race #20 this year and my final one for 2016. I was my second slowest 5K chip time ever but given the road conditions of the course after the Lake Erie snow machine dumped close to two feet of snow on us, I am still pleased with my performance and I still met my goal. It was probably also one of the hardest races I've run as well because not only did we have snow and unplowed roads to run on, there was also the wind making it difficult to even see at times. Plus there were a ton of participants, many of them walkers and it was just a cluster all around.

This was the third time running this race. It's very festive and fun and there is beer at the finish. What's not to love about that?! The race is staged at a local restaurant and the event benefits Toys for Tots. It's a very heavily attended event and all the super speedy ladies in my AG run it. Not really sure why. Perhaps because it's the last race of the year for this particular running series locally or that it's local or that it's a flat course or it's a fun and festive event? I'm not sure but what I do know is that going into it, I never expect to get an AG award so I stick with my goal for every race of at least placing in the top 10 of my AG. I usually have the goal of PR-ing the course of a repeat race but given the fact it was 68 degrees last year (my time was 25:49) and we were covered in snow this year, I knew a PR of the course would not happen again like it did last year (in 2014 my time was 26:34) and I would just run and see where I ended up, hopefully not flat on my back from falling or worse…on crutches!

On my running club's Facebook page, the RD who is also is part owner of the timing and race management company who was putting on this race, posted on Saturday that the race was still going on and they would make the call by 7 am Sunday if they were going to cancel. Now I'll mention my son's XC coach also owns the company and everyone knows he is a die hard and so I knew canceling the event probably wasn't going to happen. Sure enough, no email at 7 am so I decided it was time to get moving. I posted on in the Facebook group when I realized the race was still happening to see if anyone knew what the roads were like so I could decide if I should wear my shoes with the screws or not. Someone did chime in and say while the main road where the start and finish was fine, the rest of the course was snow covered so shoes with screws it was. I would later thank my lucky stars I chose to wear them because they saved me more than once during the race. This was also my most disorganized race to date. I usually have my outfit ready to go the night before and am usually at the race at least a half hour before it starts. Not this time. I couldn't decide how many layers I should wear, what socks to wear, etc. I was all dressed and ready to go and decided I was going to be too hot so I scurried around trying to find a lighter shirt to wear as a base layer. Couldn't find it so I grabbed one of Rick's shirts, changed, and headed out the door.

The race started at 9:30 and I dilly dallied around so much at home that I got there with only about 10 minutes to spare. I knew this was not going to be a fast race so I only did about a 0.1 mile warm up. Paul was there video taping so I found him real quick and then headed to the starting line. It was a major cluster. Most of the crowd had no idea which direction the race was going to go and you couldn't hear Santa on the loud speaker instructing and because there was so much snow, there was only one way to go to line up. Two problems: for whatever reason, there was no timing mat at the start which is odd because they always have one for this race so you have all the fast runners trying to get as close to the start as possible lined up facing the direction they think the course is going to go. Also, you've got 600 people trying get to the starting line and all of us who want to try and be as close as possible to the start not wanting to move because that would push us back father and there was literally no where to go so we were completely packed in. I think next year they should start the walkers after the runners, even if only by 10 minutes to eliminate the major cluster it was. The gun went off and it took me 12 seconds to cross the starting line which doesn't seem like much but there were so many walkers and people there for the "festivity" of the event and not necessarily "serious" that even after we got moving, it was so slow going there were just so many people you pretty much just had to stay where you were at. Surely didn’t have to worry about starting to fast for this race!!! I finally got some "elbow room" right before the first mile marker but unfortunately, that's when the roads when from clear to completely snow covered and they looked like they hadn't been plowed since the day before. I knew this was not going to be good… and it wasn't. The snow that had fallen was so heavy so it wasn't like you were running pristinely fallen light fluffy stuff. Not to mention it had warmed up somewhat so things were starting to melt making it downright treacherous in spots and there were several times I almost bit it. I swear having those screws in my shoes saved me many times. Another thing I was dealing was with the wind. Sometimes the wind would blow so hard my eyes would start to water and then I couldn’t see to check my footing or it would blow so hard it would take my breath away. So now do you not only have several inches of snow to deal with, but you have these wind gusts hitting you and making you even more unstable on your feet. Yet another problem is everyone was trying to find the "best" spot to run in (there weren't any) so even if you only had a couple people around you, you had to very conscientious about how you moved because sudden move on your part could be disastrous for them.

Pretty much from mile 1 to mile 2.75, you were running in this crap. There were several times I swore out loud because it was just insane and there were several times I thought about just stopping and walking the rest of the way because was it really worth getting hurt? I couldn't stop though. As crazy as this was, what a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction it would be to say I did it so I just kept running the best I could.

To help me get through this race, I used my "target" strategy again. Around mile .75, one of the women from the running club passed me so I decided I was going to try and just attempt to keep up with her. This also helped because I could see how she maneuvered in the snow and I could kind of copy her. She's an experienced runner with many races under her belt so I figured who better to "shadow" than her.

At mile 2.8, we ended up back on the main road that was clear and it was a straight shot to the finish. There was this HUGE puddle from the melting snow that I had two choices: run through it and get my feet soaking wet or try to jump it… I chose the later. I cleared most of it and the good thing about wearing smart wool running socks is if your feet get wet, they don’t really get cold so that was a good move on my part. If you've ever run in the snow, you know how exhausting it is so I didn't think had anything left in the tank for a fast finish. Perhaps it was my hurdling over the slush puddle or the fact I wanted to pass a couple people that were ahead of me because I had apparently more left than I thought. Looking back at my Garmin stats, I ran the last .20 of a mile in the mid 7's (depending how accurate the Garmin is). Not sure how that happened! Anyway, what really made me mad is when people crossed the finish line, they just stopped right there rather than move to the side so here I come barreling down passing one more person just before I reach the finish arch and I literally have to do some serious footwork not to run over the guy taking finish line photos (he was off to the side so it wasn't his fault) to avoid the morons standing smack dab in the middle of the finish.

After I crossed the finish and caught my breath, I found Paul who was standing by the finish watching for me. Since this series offers live results, I went over to check my time. Official time of 28:01 placing 6/44 in my AG, 65/353 females, and 146/598 overall. Splits: 8:55, 9:09, 8:49 I may not have met my one goal of PR-ing the course but I sure as heck made the top 10 and that was a HUGE victory! According to my Garmin, my time was 27:49 and I started it as soon as I crossed the starting line rather than when the horn went off so technically this wasn't my second to worst 5K time but since I count race times by the chip time regardless of how the start is or what my watch says, it's being chalked up as such. It's ok though, I was one tough mother trucker of a race and I did it without giving up even though there were times I wanted to so that makes it a great race to me regardless of what my time was.

Since I wasn't winning an AG award, we went inside and I claimed my free beer. The two dads who ran the NXC course with me last month were there so we chatted about how accomplished we felt running a crazy XC course last month and then this crazy race. Several of the XC kids ran this race too. I have to say it's pretty neat how the react when they see me. When I was trying to find a place to stand at the beginning of the race, a couple of the boys saw me and one started jumping up and down waiving his hands and down my name to say hi and after the race, several of them came up to me and high fived me and/or asked me how I did and congratulated me. I can't really explain why that puts a smile on my face but it does.

For what it's worth, the super speedy ladies in my AG who usually run in the low 20s had times for this race in the 26s and 27s so I really don't think I did too bad at all.

So thus ends my 2016 racing year and what a great to end it. What a great way to end what was a pretty emotional week, too. I may not have been victorious by wining an AG placing or PR-ing the course but I was victorious in so many other ways and that's what matters. What a great year it has been and I can't wait to see what 2017 brings!


Friday, December 9, 2016

The first angel anniversary of a another sister in pink...

In memory of Sharon A. (Yeckley) Kaucic
March 30, 1964 - December 9, 2015


Thinking about my friend, Denise, and her family and friends as they remember Sharon Kaucic, another "sister in pink" whose life was cut way too short by breast cancer a year ago today. I only had the opportunity to meet Sharon once when her friends and family held a fundraiser to help support Sharon, her husband, and their triplets as Sharon was fighting yet another round of the dreaded disease. I got to know her better through her sister, Denise, as we became "sistas from anotha mista" in addition to being co-workers, and sadly when I attended her funeral and heard her family and friends speak of what a truly genuine, caring, and selfless person she was, even as the disease progressed. In my post on Monday, I mentioned how it was a little hard to be joyous about my four-year life-aversary when I thought about the people who are no longer here but at the same time blessed that those people have made me a better person and Sharon is one of those people. Even though I didn't get the chance to know her personally, I did get to know her through her family and friends so it is also her legacy of faith, love, hope and kindness I also carry on in her memory. I have also carried those things on in a physical sense: imagine what an honor it was when Denise asked if I would like to design art for her sister's headstone.

God bless the family and friends of Sharon today as they remember her on this one year angel anniversary. Hugs and prayers to each and every one of you... and just keep swimming.