My Dear Friend,
It's been a while, and I just wanted to share something good with you: I've resumed writing.
After seven years of continuous writing, in 2019, I lost my sense of direction; I lost focus and could not find my voice, and was no longer able to put my thoughts on paper. For over seven years, writing had become a way to find comfort, a healthy habit for my mind. But after hitting a dead end, I decided to take a break and step away from writing; I simply halted from it.
Recently, upon revisiting my writings, I recognized their impact not just on me but on others; people were listening. I realized we had built a community, a support group. Many individuals offered encouragement and support, urging me to resume writing and embark on this journey once again.
Expressing myself through writing has always been challenging, requiring genuine motivation to take a seat and start. After being idling for almost five years, I feel ready to embrace this journey once again.
Like for all of us, these past few years have been humbling: the pandemic, family matters, business, health, and more have taught us, plenty. It's an acknowledgment that even when we believe we've learned and prepared enough, there's always more to discover. Each day presents challenges, temptations, and opportunities for excuses—explanations that require constant attention and effort. It is essential, day by day, to remain responsible for our actions and decisions, accepting our faults without assigning blame.
So, my friend, as I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, I'm ready to discover a wealth of thoughts and emotions—sentiments I have yet to explore. Grateful for the opportunity to learn, share, and grow.
Best to you!
Thirty years ago, I met a stunning woman, Nesrin, who became my wife and the mother of our kids. Since the beginning, I have called her gorgeous (among other, less flattering names LOL). A few years later, Daniela, our oldest, and lsabela, our youngest inherited their mother’s pet name, and all three, became gorgeous 1, 2, and 3.
Today as grown-ups, the girls have learned from a great teacher. All three have similar mannerisms, the same lively and bold personality, and -funny- they look exactly alike. They have become so similar that plenty of times, I have to do a double-take to see which one I’m talking to as I walk into a room.
When I use the word gorgeous, all three know that I’m calling them or talking about them. Now it has even become a game in my head: when I see them all sitting around the kitchen table, I call out gorgeous, and all three in unison turn around. At that moment, I smile with joy in my head, say “nothing, nothing” and walk away.
Well, little do they know, I use the word gorgeous because in my eyes all three are beautiful, but most importantly, all three are kind and strong women that I admire; I use it as an acronym for:
To all my gorgeous girls, never change, you all three are amazing women. Never forget that your smile is what makes life beautiful :)
I love you all!
A young man that has been working with us for the past few years approached me and said, "Mauchy (my nickname), during Thanksgiving dinner my father asked me, 'What are you grateful for?' I'm thankful for having two families, my blood one and my work one." Then, looking at me, he said, "I am grateful to Nesrin and you! Thank you."
Twenty five years ago I started a restaurant company which became a management company. During those years of growth we built a prosperous company with 13 different operations. However, 10 years ago, for health reasons, we decided to step back and passed control of the company to a young gentleman. In our absence we saw the soul of the company disappear, the core value of nurturing was gone and they were just focused on the bottom line. Since we took back our company 2 years ago, Nesrin and I have brought back our original values to it. Which is to encourage growth.
_This kid began at the bottom of the food chain as a dishwasher with no experience in this industry; he was young and lost, without an aim. Yet, through pure tenacity and honesty, he was able to focus and quickly climb to a managerial position. Today, at the age of 24, he has managed to buy a home, provide for his family, and unite them under one roof.
His words at Thanksgiving made me think about his beginnings and our company's original values: "to encourage and promote." We understand treating others kindly and fairly along our path to success is of utmost importance. Everyone that has climbed to the top has benefited from an opportunity; as we climb we must give others an opportunity as well. And once we reach the summit, plenty of times we will find that rocks might crumble. The people we foster are the ones that will stop the landslide.
So, my friend, Nesrin and I are the ones thankful to you for being in our lives; you keep a good eye on our business, and you have become a good friend and a great mentor for our kids. Thank you!
On January 1st we all have a chance to begin writing a new book. I have been planning mine, the 2020 saga: full of ventures, plenty of drama but with a happy ending :)
Errors will be made, and chapters might have to be rewritten, but I'm inspired, motivated to pen down a bestseller.
January 1st is blank page, free from all writing or marking; it is a fresh opportunity to do it right.
Cheers to a gratifying year, cheers to a great decade!
Nesrin, my wife, said to me “You really haven’t trained for the marathon”, “I know” I replied, “but I need to do it, so I can write about the accident.” She smiled and said “I don't have any doubt that you would finish it.”
_We were flying down the slopes —we had been skiing for the past 7 days and it was our last afternoon on the mountains. Gabriel had already zoomed ahead of us while Isabela and I were descending in synchronized parallel zigzags. We were on a steep slope, a black diamond, it was windy so that the snow had iced hard as rock.
I awoke to the annoyance of the emergency room lights. On the slopes, I had lost control and hit my neck on the ice, lost consciousness for a few minutes, and awakened not knowing where I was. My eyes were open, yet I was completely lost. Later, Gabriel, our son, told me that I was speaking incoherences and did not know that we were in Spain for a family holiday.
At the clinic, there was nothing they could do. After resting for about an hour, I was let go, but before I left, the doctor advised me to be alert for any new symptoms.
Our family was all packed and ready to go. We got in the car and drove for 3 hours to Zaragoza. I had had a concussion before, and I thought to myself “not a big deal, I’ll be ok.”
Little did I know…
After the impact had begun to settle on my body, the effects began to show. I couldn’t keep my head raised because of the neck impact. The movement of my left pupil was lost, so my balance was in shambles. I always had speech issues, but this time not even my kids were able to understand me. Until that time, I never knew what a migraine felt like; the headaches became a constant thing and at night were so strong that I had to hide in the darkness.
I couldn’t focus, recall events or express myself; a sharp-constant pain in my neck and forehead would constantly hang on me. Running, which was my go-to training, was impossible, and at night I began hiding from people. In the darkness I drank plenty of wine to put myself to sleep. Depressed and with an extra 20 pounds, I became a disaster.
Progressively, with the help of my wife and many specialists -speech, physical, and others- I began to improve. But not enough until Dr Fotuhi, a neurologist, took over my case. When he began to treat me, my brain capacity was at 40%, and I left with over 90%. Dr Fotuhi said, “Your capacity might be better than when you were in your 20s.”
Without hurrying, Nesrin and I began walking every day, then slowly that walk became a leisurely jog. At the same time, I stopped drinking completely which gave me the strength to get involved with yoga through our daughter Daniela. Gradually, my jogging became stronger, until the point that 2 weeks ago I was able to finish, but barely, a 17 mile run.
I thought to myself, “I’m ready for the marathon.” I had been aiming at the Marine Corps Marathon, a yearly event that occurs during the fall in the DC area. “How difficult could it be to finish a 26.2 mile run?” Piece of cake.
I knew that registration was way overdue —it opens at the beginning of March and it only takes a few hours to close. I posted a message on their official FB page anyway, looking for a bib transfer, yearning ironically that someone might have gotten “injured” and wouldn’t be able to run. It took a couple of days for someone to respond. Tom was not happy, but had to give up his space because of an injury :(
After my first long run, I was exhausted, and it took me a week to recuperate; that was a week before the race. On Monday, I decided to do a fast 8 mile run and that was it. My marathon training was finished, and for the remaining days I focused on doing yoga, working on my core, and stretching my little legs.
_At 6:30 am on Sunday, me and another 10,000 people were walking towards the starting line. We were all covered with make-shift garbage bags ponchos; it was pouring rain. By 7:55 we were out; I had been running all my life, and two weeks before I was able to finish a 17 mile run, so I had set in my mind that I could finish this race in under 4 hours.
I stayed next to a pace setter that was aiming for four hours. At the 12th mile, I was feeling strong, partnered with a gentleman from Costa Rica who was committed to finishing the marathon under 4. By the 16th mile I began to feel the effects of the lack of training and by the 18th mile I was truly feeling it, but I was determined to finish under 4. By the time I reached the 22nd mile, my legs said to me, “What are you doing, you haven't prepared for this?” My Vastus Lateralis and Medialis began to cramp —I was having painful contractions of my thighs. I had to slow down, and at that moment I saw my partner leaving me behind.
This point of the race is when your mind begins to play games; this is the moment that you say to yourself, “What am I doing here,” the moment that you think about quitting. But this is when you need to switch your mind set: “I only have 4 miles to the end, this is what I run every morning with Nesrin, this is what I do before breakfast,” and you manage to get a burst of energy. By the 24th mile my legs said “that’s it;” now my calfs began to cramp, and truly for a moment I was paralized, but pushed myself to keep going at a fast walking pace that became a slow-motion jog. I was not planning to quit. By the time I managed to arrive at the finish line, the only thing that kept my legs moving was the momentum of my arms, swinging like a pendulum. .
Crossing the finish line, I was wiped-out, feeling like a wet, wounded animal. To my surprise I found Nesrin, Daniela and Isabela waiting for me, proud of what I had accomplished. At that moment, I felt like a wet, wounded Superman :)
On January 5th, while skiing with our kids at the Pirineos, I had an accident. Ten months later, I managed to finish a 26.2 mile run in 4 hours and 28 minutes. During the race I was ready to quit plenty of times, but if I did not finish this marathon, I would not be able to tell the story of the accident and the recovery.
Since I was a little kid, I often had angels visiting me in my dreams. During these visits I always received advice or comfort, which for the most part have been engraved in my mind.
Last night I had one of these visits…
I was taken by a group of people to meet an elderly woman in what seemed to be a church.
“We will be going to see a saint that wants to talk to you,'' they said to me. I asked, “Who is this saint?” “She is a 110 years old, a lady who wants to see you,” someone responded.
When I approached her, I saw a fragile woman, that stood up with the aid of two women.
When she saw me she smiled at me with warm kindness, like she had known me for a long time. She was pleased to see me and I felt her benevolence even from a distance.
She turned around to talk to my kids —at that moment I realized that all of my kids were next to me.
Then, she began: she turned towards Daniela, “Daniela, pon tus miedos a un lado, tienes tantos planes, tantas ideas, emprendelos sin miedo.” (Put your fears away. You have so many projects and ideas; undertake them without fear.)
Then, she turned to Gabriel, “Tienes un camino, no te distraigas” (You have a path to follow, don’t get distracted.)
Finally, she went to Isa, “Tu padre te da machete todos los días porque te quiere. Tu eres una aventurera sin miedo y eso es lo que a él le asusta, que te aventures muy lejos” (Your father is tough on you everyday because he loves you. You are not afraid and always looking for an adventure; what scares him is that you will go too far.)
When I woke up, I kept my eyes shut and recalled my dream; enjoying the moment and absorbing it so I won’t forget. After my period of reflection I proceeded to write it down —something I always do so I wont forget my dream.
Still laying on my bed, I asked myself who was this beautiful angel that visited me and why was it important to know her age, 110 years old?
Suddenly, it became clear, Abuelita, my grandmother, a very religious and spiritual person, the most beautiful soul that I have ever met was born 110 years ago today —October 3rd,1909. On her birthday, she came to celebrate it with our children and while having a ball, she passed on some of her wisdom; a truly memorable celebration.
Gracias Abuelita, we all miss you.
Isabela, belleza, I’ve been thinking about what to write you now that you're finally a young adult, 18 years old. What came to mind was a promise that I made you when you were 6 or 7...
_“IsaDaPizza” I asked you yesterday, “tell me about your attributes?”
After a pause you responded, “I am creative and motivated… sometimes, lol.”
Yes, señorita you are motivated, you have the resolve and when you set your mind on something, you won’t settle until you achieve it.
Creative, no doubt about it. Your visual perspective of the world is unique and you have managed to bank on it. ;)
But you are a lot more:
You are resilient with a great sense of humor, you know how to fall, dust it off and laugh at yourself.
You are kind and proud. Empathy is your strongest attribute, you have the gift of understanding and feeling with others, the gift of picking up dogs from the street and caring for them. You know your self-worth which is key to success in anything. However, your pride could come across as ungracious; always be mindful of others and stay true to yourself, like you always have been.
When asked about your attributes, you also replied that you are an intuitive young lady...
_10 years ago, in the middle of the afternoon, I was walking out of the house, your mother and I had just finished having an argument --at that time, your parent’s relationship was going through tough times. While walking to the car, I encountered you as you were walking into the house, at that moment, you asked me “Mauchy, are you and mama getting divorced?” I saw in your big beautiful eyes sadness and sorrow --I felt like I had been punched in my guts so hard that I couldn’t breath, and it took me a few seconds to respond, “gorgeous, I promise you, that your mother and I will be together until you turn 18 or graduate from high school.” That instant your eyes lightened and felt at ease. Instantly, I turned around and marched into our home, with the command to make our marriage work, to keep our family together.
So, Isabela Fraga-Abaza now that you turned 18, like I promised you, your mother and I are still together; your intuition was the catalyst of a great family relationship. Thank you, thank you… thank you.
Gorgeous, never lose the curiosity, follow your instincts and know when to take a break, to slow down, this is just the beginning of a great life; enjoy your adulthood.
We love you.
I hope that you teared up. Peace out. :)
On Sunday, while laying down before going to sleep, I could feel that Nesrin was restless. She had a very busy week ahead, quietly, she was organizing her plan of attack, not knowing if she would be able to accomplish it all.
Anyway, while typing on the computer and without raising my head I said, “talk to your mother, she will guide you.”
She turned to me with a puzzled face.
_ As a kid I was raised by my Catholic grandparents and attended a conservative Catholic school, but I never followed the “church customs.” I was never a ‘religious’ person but I was always a ‘spiritual’ one.
Meaning: a religious person follows traditions and participates in the rituals advocated by their respective faiths. Being spiritual but not religious means you do not need a church or an organized religion to live a life of faith. It has nothing to do with being a good or a bad person.
_ When any of us is getting ready to embark on an adventure, I always remind them to not forget to pray. I’m not reminding them to repeat a memorized prayer, one that has been already programmed in their subconscious, not fully aware of the words being recited or its meaning; I’m reminding them to talk to the saints.
What do I mean by saints?
I’m not talking about church saints, Saint Peter or Saint Paul, I’m talking about our saints, our angels; the people that have been part of our lives, people that we cared about and were kind and protective of us; people that we love but sadly have passed away.
So when I told Nesrin to talk to her mother or remind our kids to pray, I am asking them to speak from their hearts to the people that they cared about, like her mother, their grandparents or my dear Abuelita; to call on them for guidance, for wisdom and for strength.
Keep in mind, our loved ones are always listening and watching over us. They are the Saints above!
By Friday, Nesrin had a very successful week and was feeling at ease.
Peace out :)
The past 2 years at home, have been very stormy. The majority of storms caught us by surprise --one after another.
As a family we quickly understood we were not capable of controlling the weather, instead we had the endurance to make it through the storms.
So what did we learn from it:
When as a family you stay united and true to your principles, you create a strength that is stronger than any storm!
As my daughter always says: "Peace out :)"
Who I am today as a person is largely due to my failures!