Finish Lines and Impermanence

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Ruckmann-by Kubota!Dear Readers,

I hope by the time I write my post next weekend (in year two of my blog I now just post on Wednesdays and a weekend day), I will still be flushed with endorphins from finishing my 19th marathon.

Let’s hope I crawl my way to the finish line!

Although I’m a Quaker, I work in a Buddhist environment, and usually a few times a week I hear a reminder or two about the undeniable and inescapable impermanence of human existence.

As truthful and profound as this teaching is, I usually wait to reflect on it after my young daughter has gone to bed and I pour myself a nice glass of Bordeaux!

I hope I haven’t rocked the boat too much with that last shocking sentence about a Quaker and marathoner having a glass of red wine now and then! As a vegetarian, I mostly have a Mediterranean approach to my diet that I try to bring to my general outlook on life: delicious, whole and wholesome, but not deprivational!

It’s still morning in Honolulu, and the two sports headlines that have stood out for me so far are Roger Federer winning his 19th Grand Slam championship a month shy of turning 36, and Julia Hawkins setting a record yesterday for the 100-meter dash at age 101.

I’m between Roger and Julia in decades (and at this point a lot closer to Roger), but they sure both have given me a lot of inspiration and reminders for my 19th marathon next Saturday: go for your goals even though there are no guarantees except impermanence — and for me the love of trying!

The Glass is Half Ful…bright

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Ruckmann-by Kubota!Now that I’m posting only two days a week rather than five — after meeting my goal of writing every day but weekends and holidays for a solid year — the topics about which I could write seem to be overabundant!

Here we are, for example, in the thick of Wimbledon. Do I offer thoughts about the surprises of the tournament that lasts two weeks and is the one time of year when I try to rearrange my life around tennis?

Should I share insights about how my husband and I are preparing our daughter for second grade — for most parents probably not a huge deal, but somewhat uncharted territory for a precocious child who is holding her own with other kids her age but who nonetheless was born with an extra chromosome. Is there more my husband and I should be doing? Is there less?

Perhaps some advice for my followers about wisdom I’ve gained training for my 19th marathon that is less than two weeks away?

Or do I reflect on the astonishing turn of events with the new occupants of the White House?

I’ll pick the latter but for this post only as it relates to a subject near and dear to my heart.

As it desperately tries to make itself credible in any possible way, the Trump administration has again made a proposal that defies logic: a 47% cut to the Fulbright program as one of many painful reductions to a State Department that is every day rapidly losing talent, purpose and meaning.

The program was launched by Sen. William J. Fulbright right after World War II to encourage global study, understanding, and constructive engagement with the world’s community of nations.

I think many of us are trying to figure out if Donald Trump is a nationalist, isolationist, or just breathtakingly shortsighted. I wish he knew some basic facts about Fulbright.

Over seven decades, some 370,000 people from 165 countries — Americans studying overseas, and men and women from other countries attending universities in the United States — have received Fulbrights. They include Nobel and Pulitzer prizewinners and former heads of state.

In the current budget year, 8,000 scholars from the United States have been funded by $235 million from the State Department to study abroad. The Trump administration hopes that amount will shrink to $125 million, much less than universities, governments of other nations, businesses and donors offer to maintain the Fulbright program.

I was once a young man who dreamed of studying and living in a German-speaking country to embrace my heritage and language of my forefathers and foremothers. To my great shock, I received a Fulbright to study in Austria for two years. I stayed for a few after that to work in an embassy. I still have poems from that time that I wrote in English, German, and French. Receiving the Fulbright changed my life. It made me strive to be a citizen of the world and inspired me to make a career of helping young people achieve their dreams through education.

There are thousands of former Fulbrights who have a more important voice than I, but I want to add my words to their efforts to lobby for full funding of the program, perhaps for even an increase, so the world has a better chance to advance.

The Ballad of Amelia Earhart

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All I wanted was to fly higher,
to find endless skies.

Men determined too much of my life:
a father, giddy from flights of wine
who came crashing down
from his career and then we had to leave
one town after another until I found
more promising horizons and offers
to soar into the unknown.

But why did fame always greet me
with men who wanted marriage
to keep me safe and home?

I had to prove them wrong,
to fly higher and solo,
to hold my own and not drown
if I came too close to the sun.

All along, though, I knew
someday I would come down
so far that I would never
again leave the ground,
and men who ground me forever
except when they decide to tease me
about my one last flight
as if perhaps I’m still around
like a myth who never leaves
with wings intact or broken,
whose final act is interrupted,
tragic and unspoken.

Written by Rüdiger Rückmann
on 8 July 2017

I’m Back!

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Ellen und PapaHappy Wednesday everyone!

Today is a restart: the beginning of year two of this blog that thanks to all of you I knew I needed to continue; the first week of Wimbledon; reentry into the world after four days away with my family from our normal routines; a reconditioning of my body for a surprise marathon in a few weeks; more urgency for my husband and me to prepare our daughter for second grade as summer weeks leave us with greater rapidity (school begins in Hawaii in early August); and a stark reminder with recent world headlines that every day, actually every hour can bring us gratitude rather than being taken for granted.

I personally love routines, but it’s easy to get stuck in them and realize too late that those nearest and dearest to you are maybe not so enamored of them. Even a little break from familiar but at times too entrenched habits is an opportunity to hit the restart button.

But before I wax a little too philosophical, especially for the first entry of year two of Tennis, Trisomy 21 and Taking in Life Together, I want to thank all of you for your support of my unconventional family, of my writing, for cheering me on as I get ready for my 19th marathon in a few weeks, for savoring life together!

 

Friday Picture Post: When Your Heart Melts

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Ellen und ihre LehrerinI know I have a (large) sentimental streak, but to see my daughter embrace teachers who have helped her become a Mrs-Heckmanbetter writer, reader, thinker, learner, person who will use her best heart and mind, well, I can only express gratitude.

Have a safe, wonderful holiday weekend, Dear Readers! I’ll see you back on Wednesday.

Gratitude

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Ruckmann-by Kubota!Dear Readers,

Guess what? It was my goal to write this blog for an entire year, every day except weekends and major holidays, and tomorrow, 30 June, is one year!

That’s 254 posts viewed 3071 times (which does not include me!) by 1442 visitors in 35 countries.

And here my original goal was to have a kind of journal I would share with family and a few close friends!

I also thought I would focus primarily on tennis and Trisomy 21.

This blog started out that way, but I soon found those themes opened pathways to others I wanted to explore, including Civil Rights, advocacy, angels, gratitude, my heritage, family, marriage, parenting, friendship, community, marathon training, faith, teaching, early education, poetry, Mary Tyler Moore, and growing up gay. I’ve striven to find the balance between raising awareness, being an advocate for change, and quietly trying to move the needle. I’ve shared a lot more than I ever expected to in one year. I’ve always hoped to be authentic, Dear Readers, but this blog is more about building connections and bridges with you than about me.

To my surprise, your response has been phenomenal. Your kindness is greatly appreciated. Your invitation to read your beautiful writing or learn about your interests has broadened my way of looking at the world. It’s been fun and inspirational getting to know you. Because of you, I’ve become a better writer! You even helped me change the original title of this blog!

I’ve been a little sad this week with the year coming to an end with tomorrow’s Friday Picture Post. So I’ve decided to keep the blog going: not every day, but two days a week. Over the holiday weekend I will consult with my best advisor, my husband, about those days and let you know in Tennis, Trisomy 21 and Taking in Life Together – Year 2!

A thousand thanks to all of you!

 

Body Issues

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Ruckmann-by Kubota!Serena Williams is proud and pregnant on the cover of the new issue of Vanity Fair.

In this age where everyone can have his or her views instantly known, quite a few people are already taking issue with Serena’s cover, but the greatest woman tennis player of all time embraces her body with confidence.

Serena’s good friend, Danish tennis champion Caroline Wozniacki, also graces the cover in her birthday suit of a new publication, ESPN’s 2017 Body Issue as does NFL running back Zeke Elliott in an alternative cover.

An athlete first and foremost, Caroline has stated that she does not feel the need to look like a supermodel. She has a healthy attitude about her body, her weight, about being judged by people she has never invited to judge her. She is also candid about the toll sports can take on a body.

Gaining self-esteem and self-confidence can be quite a marathon. Growing up gay, I was bullied. I had a face my mother kindly said I would “grow into some day,” a pretty indented sternum (pectus excavatum), a deformity that made me embarrassed to be in front of others for swimming classes, and a good dose of teenage acne. I loved sports, and even with the sunken chest and diminished lung capacity, I became a good tennis player and runner. Most people describe me as thin. Occasionally, in the thick of my training for a marathon, the adjective is “gaunt.”

Yet two of the guys I first dated (and who broke up with me) when I came out of the closet in my early 30s told me I was fat! Yikes!

Fortunately, I met the love of my life who for 15 years has accepted me for who I am and how I look at all times of day, who embraces me when I’m a sweaty mess after a marathon, or tells me how nice I look when I get ready for work.

Our gorgeous daughter was born with an extra chromosome. She is stunning and I want her to know that at an early age. One family member suggested I tell her no more than once every few months how beautiful she is, that I was perhaps going overboard.

I let her know every day! I can tell she is on a great path to embracing who she is. That will go a long way in helping her get through a few tough miles most of us face in life.

 

 

Hanging in There

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Ruckmann-by Kubota!My husband was a bit stunned yesterday when yesterday’s post was about significant happenings on 26 June: Supreme Court decisions that gave us the right to be married legally, the signing of the Charter of the United Nations, a birthday shared with Pearl Buck.

I smiled and said to him, “Yes, well the theme of gratitude overrode the birthday part. Besides, I didn’t go into specifics. I just built the post around the main theme.”

A much more private person than I, my husband just shook his head.

Writers are a lot like athletes, and I’ve always considered myself both. I’ve been pretty devoted to playing and following tennis, to running, to reading and writing poetry, and to faith most of my life.

I savor training, especially the camaraderie that comes with it, and sharing my writing. I enjoy gearing up for a race, in earlier days small tennis competitions, for a deadline to publish a poem, for finishing an article (for tennis or work publications or drafting speeches at an embassy).

I like running the actual race, mostly marathons, and now the challenge of waking up every morning during the week, looking at a computer screen, and starting and finishing a poem or other blog post, usually in an hour or so.

I love sharing the experience with friends, including my husband. In December, we will do a marathon together, his first and my 20th. I like calling my best friend far away in New York and hearing her honest, valuable feedback about my blog posts.

It’s not all euphoria and Tchaikovsky symphonies!

Sometimes I have it in my mind that I’ll enjoy a refreshing 5-mile run that will be over in no time. After two miles, I’m greeted with minor aches and pains and the realization that I need to find my breathing and settle into the run for an hour or more if I extend it.

I’ve looked at plenty of blank pieces of paper or computer screens with a lot of white space before words come out — and not always in a lovely cascade but rather a slow and steady trickle.

I also know when it’s time to listen to my body and mind, to take a little break. I’m looking forward to a few vacation days in July.

But I have a lot of endurance, I’m pretty fit, and I’m lucky to have lifelong passions which now include parenting. I like putting myself out there for running (or some version thereof), writing, and for my work in philanthropy and as a parent. Receiving a finisher’s medal, or having an hour to read as a reward after my daughter has gone to bed at night keeps me going and excited for the new day.

 

 

 

 

 

Reasons to Celebrate

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Ruckmann-by Kubota!There are many reasons to celebrate today. The Charter of the United Nations was signed this day in 1945. Exactly two years ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment requires all states to grant same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry. Pearl Buck was born on this day as well as yours truly.

I love how the French language makes everything sound beautiful and wondrous! Well, I have reached d’un certain age! A friend once said to me a few years ago, “Once we hit middle age, we hold onto it as long as we can!” He was right!

HulaI try to celebrate every day and today, without thinking too hard, I can find many reasons. Our daughter performed hula for the first time yesterday! On a long afternoon, she lost steam at the end, but she hung in there. I had a great talk this morning with my husband about our life together, and we’re coming up on 15 years of being committed to each other. I have a fulfilling job where I have a new professional goal I’ve wanted to pursue for a while. This year, I’m going to do it! In a few days, I’ll have written this blog for an entire year. I’m running my 19th marathon in July and my 20th in December. A few days ago, my dentist told me my teeth were in great shape, that I was not getting too long in the tooth — ha, ha!

I live in Hawaii. And although I pretend not to care, I received really nice cards from my mother, my sister, and my father-in-law.

I would like to dedicate this post to him. He is a remarkable man who supported my husband and me to become parents and in so doing, gave me the greatest gift of my life: our daughter. He is a gentleman who has worked hard his entire life and had his share of devastating turn of events, but he has always looked after people he cares about. And he’s a much better runner than I’ll ever be!

A thousand thanks to everyone who has helped me run this marathon called life. You inspire me every day, and hope I can pay forward all your kindness and generosity.