Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happily Ever After

As 2015 wraps up, I can easily say that it was the happiest year of my life. Now I am and hope to always be an optimist, a hoper of far flung hopes and a dreamer of improbable dreams. With that said, I am not someone given to superlatives, everything is not "awesome" in my book or "wow." Perhaps it may be more revealing that one of my close friends recently "I know you don't hand out compliments easily so when you give me one, I know it's sincere"(psychoanalyze the complex that leads me to heckle the people I like the most).

End of year always lends itself to reflection for me, a natural transition into measuring time and evaluating it. One of the traditions that we have in the Leon household is putting up an ornament representing the most important event of the year or more specifically one before December. It's incredibly obvious some years (Kiana's birth, college graduation,house purchase, getting a pet, the Gusher marathon etc) and incredibly hard other years where there were so many cool things, it's hard to pick one (last year I cheated and conglomerated a few). This year was the most traveled year of both mine and Kiana's life by far. That kid has seen more of the country and the world in 9 years of life than I saw till I was a real adult. I collect a shot glass from everywhere I go and I put them together and was blown away... I am a minimalist so that's usually all I bring back with on occasion something making it in that's an additional nod but a shot glass and something that fits in it is not a bad collection of travel.

With that, I thought about making it just like a plane or something but that was a little too generic because some trips were very different. I got to do races in many states (many with trophies and PR's and almost all of them to do with someone I care about), I got to help out with a couple of cancer causes (the one to DC was a lobbying one and this year DC gave the biggest fundraising to cancer since before Kiana was born, the one to Denver was a push the clinic one where our project is working on being prototyped).  But in the end I just chose one, the trip to Disneyworld with Kiana. It was 3 magical days where the running was more like running around to the next ride or magic. It was meals and ferris wheels and a little girl who would remember it and laugh and ask a thousand questions about what was real and what was magic. It was a dad smiling back at her and hoping that she never forgets what it took me to long to learn, that life itself is magic, the joy in it, a mystical thing that you hold onto with both hands, that love itself is the greatest special effect. That's certainly true when you are thankful to have a second chance. Disney captured that and represented it the best; thus, the ornament.

Still you look back and realize that this year, 2015, your daughter did her first 10k, 3 of them in fact and won one out right. You look back and realize that your dad did his first 5 right next to your mom, 3 of them in fact and both pr'ed at all three! And we're just getting started my dad at age 70 is about to do his first 10k with my mom right next to him (she's 29) and Kiana and I little ahead of them.

You look back realize that 5 years ago you had to cancel a trip to Brazil due to brain cancer surgery. Travel was always a passion of mine but it got cut out for a few years because there were medical debts to pay and no money to spare. I accepted this and fought it simultaounesouly. I knew it was gone and yet I put up a wall in my house of a giant map of the world everywhere I'd been committed to that someday, someday there would be additions! Not all who wonder are lost was the caption and I've loved the wondering this year because sometimes wondering in the wilderness is the best way to be found.

Here, almost exactly 5 years later, I got to go see my 5th World Wonder, the Statue of the Christ in Rio de Janeiro on Christmas eve. Most everyone took the bus, we climbed it. You saw snakes and spiders and bugs and beauty. I'm not a preachy guy but when you're there on Christmas eve in a Catholic country how can you not life your hands to the sky at a world wonder, oh my and not take a second and say thanks to the King? There are 8 wonders of the world and life was kind to me in life Part I, the part before brain cancer when life seemed a little more predictable and I had seen 4. It stung to have to cancel a trip to the 5th one back in 2010 but a few thousand miles south of my home, after a few thousand miles having been run on my feet, you start to wonder and dare dream that in Life Part II you'll get to catch the other 4. One down, three to go. (Just in case anyone is worried if I was too righteous in a very Catholic country, I still would have needed to go to confession for some of the sins and vices that I took part in. Though my doctors would be proud to not have a confession needed and it was tough to do but I did not play a soccer game nor go scuba diving following my medical restrictions.) Go big or go home some day but I'd like to play by go see the big things then go back home.

I got home literally about an hour and half before Kiana came home from spending the Christmas holiday with her mom. She turned 9 the very next day. My parenting philosophy, at least outloud, and most days at heart, is first you gotta give them roots than you gotta give them wings. I've encouraged independence in her both because of the fear/expectation that I wouldn't be around and in hope that even if I was, all she'll ever have to do is let me know once in a while what she's up to. Still my hopes and definition for is that she lives an honest helpful life. These days when she decides to read now on her own and tell me about the book if I haven't read it, it's tough even for a guy with a damaged memory, to not remember when she wanted me to read to her or her to me, something long ago by the wayside at least as a regular activity. So in a move I wasn't quite expecting when I reminded her she was supposed to be a baby forever and couldn't possibly be turning 9 the next day she asked to sleep in my bed for the first time in who knows how long not on a trip. I told her just as long as I didn't have to change her diaper. She rolled her eyes and smiled. Her 9th birthday started with dessert for breakfast when the girl decided to order cheesecake with ice-cream and strawberries, an early sophistication and dress already in place (none of which I had any say in). She was going to be 8 forever in my book but I got her to promise me to stay nine at least for an extra day next year.

I don't know whether 2016 will be the best year of my life. I've never had the best year of my life happen two years in a row like it did in 2014/2015 so a 3 peat seems unlikely. That doesn't mean I don't intend for it to be a great year but just like not every race is a PR or a win for anyone, sometimes you know that great is awesome but that it can't always be the best. It's on focusing, accepting this that I'm well aware that like those Disney movies, after brain cancer, I get to live happily ever after. It took a little slapping around or perhaps brain surgery that keen reminder of my mortality to understand that phrase. I thought it was an over simplification that you got to be happy forever but happily ever after doesn't mean forever, it just means a bit more time. It's the heart condition since my mind is damaged, when you recognize and absorb happiness ever-y day. So goodbye and thank you to 2015 and I promise I'll be living happily ever after in 2016 and beyond.


  1. I'm pretty sure you captured your best year yet with your best blog post yet. Here's to more magic and wonder in the year to come!

  2. It was a great pleasure to share some time with you in 2015. Here's to the new year ahead!