A Trip Down 2017

Rang in the new year at Casa Cranzini with my closest friends

Went on a luxury cruise with Austin and two of my best friends

Took Austin out for the best sushi dinner on his 21st birthday

Went to Las Vegas during March Madness

Threw an awesome Seder with even more awesome people (and great brisket!)

Saw 21 pilots with one of my best friends at the Gorge in Washington state (Epic)

Celebrated my 50th birthday in my favorite city, Seattle

Spent a respectable amount of time writing and painting with some of my best friends, who continue to inspire my creativity every day

Said “so long” the greatest neighbors (and friends), knowing for certain I would see them again and always remain as close as we were regardless of distance

Weathered a rough storm thanks to all the wonderful people in my life

Shared a delicious thanksgiving meal with family and friends…and beer

Played in the snow with 3 year olds

…and those are just the highlights.

I am blessed to have had many more memorable times this year.

Thank you Universe…mean it.

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Like Krazy

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I wrote this last year for the A to Z blogging challenge, and many people may not know that it is about my son Austin. Well, today is Austin’s 21st birthday, so I thought maybe it was a good time to re-post this poem.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Bubba.

I love you with all my heart and soul…I love you like Krazy.

His eyes weren’t always green.
They started out that same unfinished shade common to all infants.
Until the moment when that sparkle appears
The sparkle of awareness – of their surroundings
The sparkle of recognition – of the people who love them
The sparkle of determination – to become who they are meant to be
Now when I look into his bright, almost translucent eyes,
I see the child who inspired me to be the best I could – for him.
I see the man he has grown to be, still inspiring me with his enthusiasm and zest for life.
And I know why green is my favorite color.

Krazy Enough to do it Again

This is a post I wrote last year at this time on the day of my charity bike ride. In preparation for this year, I read this old post and it gave me a whole new sense of motivation and determination.

From the post entitled “Krazy About Today” – Feb. 20th, 2016

Today I participated in DCCVI, the Dolphins Cancer Challenge. This was my third year riding my bicycle to raise funds for Sylvester Cancer Center in Miami, and it was a huge success.

I alone raised over $500, and that’s nothing compared to the millions raised by everyone who volunteered. Not to mention all of the famous football stars in attendance, as well as musical performers Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow, both cancer survivors themselves.

I’ll admit the ride was a bit rough at the start, with the wind doing its best to beat us down. But the camaraderie and sheer determination of all involved helped me push on. Every mile that we put behind us was a victory in itself, and we all supported each other like one big family.

My route was approximately thirteen miles from Dolphin Training Camp in Davie to Dolphin Sun-Life Stadium in north dade, but others rode as much as twenty-five, forty-five and even one hundred miles for the cause.

I can’t even describe the feeling of crossing the finish line not only for the thrill of the challenge but for the science and the medicine and the research that we help fund.

And mostly for the people who benefit.

Because all of us love someone who has been affected by cancer and all of us would do so much more than ride a bicycle for the ones we love. It was an honor and a pleasure to take part in this year’s event and I thank all of you who donated to help me reach my goal.

Until next year, when I’ll be Krazy enough to do it all over again (and write about it!)

To donate to my fund for this year’s ride, use the following link (thanks in advance): https://fundraisers.hakuapp.com/tracey-cranz-1

What a Krazy ride it has been…

2017

A lot of people are ending the year by telling 2016 to “go suck it”, and frankly I thought about doing just that. But if I’m really honest with myself, that wouldn’t be fair. To use a very trite metaphor, this year was a roller coaster, filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, good and not-so-good. In the grand scheme of things, I can hardly complain, even though there were some moments I’d rather erase from history.

For me, this was a year of discovery. Not change or rebirth exactly. Maybe more like rebuilding. I inadvertently tried a lot of new things, and I say it like that because most of it happened without planning or even meaning to do it, which is very unlike me.

I started off 2016 with all of the fear and uncertainty that normally hits me right after the holidays when I realize I spent several weeks screwing around and not accomplishing anything and now I have an obligation to be responsible and productive again. Work goals usually take a front seat in the early months, and they definitely did this year, but I was able to squeeze in a new tradition: Trivia Night. The routine of it was comforting and it was a great way to break up the week with something fun to look forward to.

We had the standard run of birthdays, starting right in January, my dad celebrated his 75th in April, and then I had an epic bash at the end of May.

I spent a respectable amount of time writing this year, burning up April and May with blogging challenges. And somewhere in that timeframe, I decided I was ready to date! It went well, and even though I experienced some of the crazier parts of the online dating scene, I view it overall as a positive step forward.

With the beginning of the summer, though, I was already in the mood for a break from dating (or so I told myself). Besides, I had the cruise of a lifetime to prepare for, and I must say, it was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. Coming back to reality at the end of June was rough and unfortunately the month rounded out with tragedy. My dad passed away on the 28th of June, and that set the stage for a rather somber remainder to the summer.

Then September hit, and with it the birth of “Hate Paint”. Lots of wine drinking, a near-miss hurricane, a trip to EPCOT, and a good try at Halloween followed. And hidden in the midst of all of that, I dipped my foot back into the dating pool. By mid-November, I realized I was falling in love. “So quickly?” you may ask. But to me it feels like it took a really long time!

On October 23rd I posted a blog entry stating, “I’m happy, and things are good…” That was my last posting, until now, and what a great reason to slack off in the writing department. I was busy going to dinner and the movies, Mizner Park, Atlantic Avenue, and even Key Largo, all with someone whose company I was beginning to crave more and more.

It was a fantastic feeling, knowing there was someone looking forward to seeing me on weekends and days off. Someone who could choose to be anywhere else but instead chose to spend time with me. And while I worried along the way, I stayed true to the promise from my last blog post and did my best to just go with it and enjoy.

Falling in love was unexpected and wonderful and worrisome all at once, and to me, this is the definition of life. The events of this year, whether positive or negative, have brought me to where I am right at this moment, and I have to believe this is exactly where I am meant to be.

Thanksgiving came and went as did Chanukah and Christmas, and now, it is the last day of the year, which is directly connected to the first day of the year, with no breaks, no pauses, no interruptions and no time to waste. I embrace it because for me there is no other option.

Will I make new memories? Absolutely.

Will I screw up a bunch of times? I always do.

Will I continue to grow?  For sure.

Will there be pain? Inevitably.

Will there be joy? I hope so.

Will I try and do my best every day? I will.

Will I write about it along the way? Yup!

Not so Krazy about Last Week

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Last Tuesday my dad passed away. He was on vacation in Niagara Falls, so needless to say, it was pretty unexpected. Here’s what I read at his funeral…

Our dad wasn’t what you would call a thrill-seeker. He didn’t climb mountains or ski or go on safaris. He played golf and tennis…a lot. He liked card games and shows and live music and the Miami dolphins. And he loved his family.

No, he wasn’t much of an adventurer or even a trendsetter. He was, however, a fighter. He fought to stick around for as long as he possibly could. Over the past several years he had battles, some bigger than others, and there were times we weren’t sure he would win. But over and over again he did.

Our dad was the kind of man who served as an example for others. An example of honesty and loyalty and devotion. Simply stated, he was good.

When we were children, he was the dad who took his son to every football game and carried his youngest daughter around on his back. And he was the dad who encouraged me to be a dreamer, even though he had his feet planted more firmly on the ground than anyone I have ever known, and had absolutely no patience for nonsense or frivolity.

As adults we all continued to look to him for approval and advice, although his famous words still echo in my head. Whenever I had a particularly challenging issue, I would go to him. Not because I expected him to solve it but simply because I wanted to hear the words. He would say, “Trace, I’m not worried. You’ll figure it out. You always do”.  Doesn’t seem too helpful, but it worked! And he was right. I always did “figure it out”, because for as long as I can remember, he urged me to by standing back, giving me space and making sure I knew I could do anything I set my mind to, but on the off-chance that I couldn’t, he would be right there to save me.

That was his way. And he knew his three children well enough to be what each of us needed, even though we all needed something vastly different.

And there was his role as grandpa. Five boys, enough for a basketball team he would say. Whether it was grandparent’s day, graduations, school plays, soccer games or just an afternoon at the driving range, he was always ready and willing. And the proof of his success was in the love and admiration that each of them had for him.

Who wouldn’t want to fight to stick around for that?

As I stand here today, I can’t help but ponder what my dad would be thinking. In my heart, I know he would be touched and proud. And hopefully he wouldn’t be surprised that I was able to write these words. I wonder also, did he know how we felt about him? Was he sure we knew how he felt about us? I don’t know for sure, but I come back to my original thought.

Our dad fought and fought hard to be here as long as he could. To live every last moment that was given to him. For himself but also for us, and from him I learned to never give up, never give in, and never ever accept defeat.

The poet Dylan Thomas wrote these words which today seem fitting:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Xylophones, Spirals and Other Krazy Words

You know those times when you have an idea and you think it’s either the dumbest thing on earth or a stroke of pure genius? Well, I have those moments pretty frequently. Usually the whole notion turns out to be trash, but on rare occasions, I find that I may be on to something.

For example, the other day I told my best friend that I wanted to institute a keyword. It would be a word that only she and I know, and it would serve as a signal to her that I was in trouble. Not just ordinary, car-broke-down-on-the-side-of-the-road trouble. Real danger. The kind where my mood sinks to a level from which I am not sure I can return.

I call this “the downward spiral”.

I’ve gone through it only a handful of times in my life, and it has been a long while since I’ve even worried about its return. But lately, the fear has been there, in the back of my mind, not even a part of my true conscious thoughts, but more a nagging whisper of, “Hey remember me? I’m out here. Just sayin’”. It is easy to ignore, though. After all, I fight the battle against negative thoughts every day, almost constantly. During the good times, I walk away with overwhelming victory, but sometimes, I merely squeak by, thinking, a win is a win.

Mostly, I believe in the premise that having given a name to “the downward spiral”, I have claimed power over it. Similar to the quote by Sun Tzu from The Art of War:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

In this case, I know the enemy all too well. I have battled it and won, but the fact that I had to engage at all means I had briefly succumbed and had to fight my way back. That is an important distinction. We can know our enemy by studying it and cleverly gathering information from afar. Or the enemy captures us, subjects us to its tactics of torture and manipulation, and we learn the hard way how to combat it.

Either way, we seem to have an instinctual desire to overcome, or at least gather the knowledge to mount a decent offense.

So, that’s how I came up with the idea of the keyword. I have a tendency to refuse help. And more than that, I usually don’t even get as far as letting anyone know I need it. I think it’s a coping mechanism, like if I don’t admit I need help, then things aren’t really that bad. But what if they really are that bad? And coupled with the fact that I’m awful at expressing myself to people, that is a recipe for disaster.

Then it came to me. What if I were to come up with a word, just one single word, and by saying or writing or texting that word, someone would know?

Brilliant right? Not really.

It’s actually kind of dumb, especially since I just got through explaining how inept I am at seeking aid. The keyword amounts to the same thing, and if I am reluctant to come out and tell even my closest friend that I am in crisis, there’s very little chance masking it in the form of a fancy cry for help would work.

Then what is the point? Where is the brilliance?

Hang on, it’s coming…

You see, by agreeing with my friend that the word ‘xylophone’ is a signal “the downward spiral” is winning, I will never have to use it.

Huh?

OK, let me explain.

I’m afraid of falling into a severe depression and of being unable to pull out of it. I know myself well enough to be sure I won’t ask for help. Instead, I’ll sink deeper and deeper, slipping further and further into a withdrawn state. But I’ll be sneaky about it. Not only will I avoid telling anyone, I’ll go one step more and hide it, pretending to be fine and dandy in the public eye. Pretty scary. But there’s a bright side. I know my enemy – “the downward spiral”, and I can recognize the signs that it is about to attack. That’s where the ‘xylphone’ comes in.

The mere existence of the word will cause me to be on alert. I will constantly be evaluating my situation.

“Should I say xylophone? Or should I wait?”

“Are things bad enough for xylophone? Or can I handle it?”

“Oh, hello, ‘downward spiral’. Be careful or I’ll use xylophone.”

“Don’t make me go all xylophone on you!”

You get the picture.

Is it brilliant? Probably not.

Will it work? I haven’t tried.

But the fact still remains, the more I think about it, the more I understand myself.

Maybe it’s krazy, but I think Sun Tzu would approve.

Krazy About Today

Today I participated in DCCVI, the Dolphins Cancer Challenge. This was my third year riding my bicycle to raise funds for Sylvester Cancer Center in Miami, and it was a huge success.

I alone raised over $500, and that’s nothing compared to the millions raised by everyone who volunteered. Not to mention all of the famous football stars in attendance, as well as musical performers Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow, both cancer survivors themselves.

I’ll admit the ride was a bit rough at the start, with the wind doing its best to beat us down. But the camaraderie and sheer determination of all involved helped me push on. Every mile that we put behind us was a victory in itself, and we all supported each other like one big family.

My route was approximately thirteen miles from Dolphin Training Camp in Davie to Dolphin Sun-Life Stadium in north dade, but others rode as much as twenty-five, forty-five and even one hundred miles for the cause.

I can’t even describe the feeling of crossing the finish line not only for the thrill of the challenge but for the science and the medicine and the research that we help fund.

And mostly for the people who benefit.

Because all of us love someone who has been affected by cancer and all of us would do so much more than ride a bicycle for the ones we love. It was an honor and a pleasure to take part in this year’s event and I thank all of you who donated to help me reach my goal.

Until next year, when I’ll be Krazy enough to do it all over again.

If you didn’t get a chance to donate, there’s still time.

Just follow this link to… my page

How Do You Forget Krazy?

For some reason, people always forget me.

I’m not saying that in a whiny, pitiful way, it’s just a fact that I can even prove with empirical data.

For example, I’ve asked a waiter for a side of ranch dressing, waited more than a generous amount of time before asking again, only to hear the words “oh, I’m sorry I totally forgot”.

It’s not new. I went back to my high school a couple of years after graduation. My friends all boasted about reconnecting with favorite teachers or administrators and reminiscing about the antics of their school days. In my case, one teacher vaguely remembered me when I finally mentioned, “I sat next to Sally Winters, in your third period AP English class”.

Once at a restaurant, a friend ordered a Stella Artois beer, while I asked for a minute to make my beverage decision. A few minutes later, I ordered a Stella at the same time that my sister ordered a different beer. Hers arrived shortly after. Mine just didn’t come. My friend came to my rescue and mentioned it to the server, and guess what? She had forgotten.

Recently, during a business meeting, I was introduced to several new people. When we met subsequently, only a few weeks later, I told them all it was nice to see them again. Once of them said “Nice to meet you”, as he shook my hand. Umm, you met me two weeks ago.

It’s always the same. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, I don’t know what, though. But after it happened enough times, I actually started to recognize and expect it.

Like today at Starbucks. I stood there right in front of the cashier and ordered a coffee and a pastry. He asked my name, wrote it on the cup, and then even asked me if I wanted my cake heated. Of course I said yes. Then I walked over to the delivery counter to wait for my order. Within minutes, my coffee arrived.

Then it was the moment of truth. You’d think it would take no more than thirty seconds to heat up a piece of coffee cake, which is, by the way, shorter than the amount of time it takes to prepare a tall caramel macchiato. So after a couple of minutes, when two other people had been handed their pastries, I started to get that familiar old feeling: “He forgot about me”.

It wasn’t even a question. I knew it, but still I waited just a little while longer, maybe as if hoping I was wrong.

I wasn’t.

And worse than that, he didn’t even apologize, which I translated to “Oh, yeah, you, I forgot, but it’s your fault because you’re so forgettable”.

Am I though? It is so easy to fall into the trap set by low self-esteem, but I can’t help but recall evidence to the contrary. After all, I have many good friends, and tons of cordial acquaintances. And there have been times when I myself have been face to face with someone telling me we met previously, while I have no recollection.

In general, it’s not something which strongly affects my mood or outlook, but there are times when I am in the midst of true anguish or despair, that I draw upon these moments of forgettable-ness. I use them as kindle to keep the fires of my sadness burning. It turns into a melee of “I’m unlovable”, “I’m irrelevant”, “Nobody will ever want me”, and my favorite, “My life is meaningless”. All built on the foundation of absent-minded food servers, and oblivious colleagues.

It’s kind of a stretch, don’t you think?

But why am I asking you?

Ten minutes after reading this, you’ll probably forget all about it.

Or maybe that’s just my krazy, overactive imagination getting the best of me.

Step Away From the Krazy

In my twenties I got into the habit of riding my bicycle down on South Beach with a friend. We rode the bike paths for a while and then started to get a bit more adventurous. Before I knew it we were riding around fifteen miles on average, and I loved it. So, a couple years ago when I was trying to decide what to buy myself as a birthday gift, I came up with a great idea: a new bicycle. My plan was to use it to get in shape and start a hobby which got me outdoors more often.

As I do with every major purchase, I conducted a lot of research and settled on the perfect style and brand for myself: A Trek 7.1 Hybrid road bike. I wasn’t all that sure I would keep up with the lofty goals I had in mind, but when one of my best friends bought a similar bike a week later, the odds improved greatly.

For the first rides the only equipment we had invested in was helmets and locks, figuring we didn’t want to spend too much until we saw if the passion was really there. Within two weeks, I had gloves, a headband, flat-soled shoes, dry-weave everything and of course, padded shorts. I guess you could say we had felt the passion!

Anyway, we started riding around the neighborhood and on local paths, concentrating on getting faster and building endurance. It was hard. What we realized quickly was we needed something to train for. Thanks to a sign at my local bike shop, Pembroke Cycle, I discovered the DCC (known at that time as the Dolphins Cycling Challenge), which offered a thirty-mile ride in support of cancer research at Sylvester Cancer Center. I knew it was fate, because my mom had been treated there over 15 years prior.

So the training began, and needless to say we were hooked. That first ride, DCC IV, three years ago was an adrenaline rush the likes of which it is hard to put into words. Fast-forward three years, and although our training has waned, our love of the challenge and the cause has not.

On February 20th I will be participating in DCC VI (Dolphins Cancer Challenge). It is now a bicycle ride and a 5K run, and the proceeds still go to fund research at Sylvester Cancer Center in Miami. Each year the organizers ask for stories of what makes us want to participate.

The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, which describes my mom’s battle with cancer. It is from a chapter titled “Ancient History” and is the point in the story where I touch on my relationship with my parents and my mom in particular. It illustrates how much I valued her opinion and also how much she inspired me and still does. A lot of who I am today is a reflection of the time that I had with her and that is why the story of why I ride is as much her story as it is mine.

In October of 2002 we buried my mom in a cemetery in Palm Beach. All of the older members of the family were buried at a different location in Miami. They were old. They lived long lives. But not my mom. She had lived only 59 years. Hard years if you ask me, but she probably wouldn’t have said that. When she knew she didn’t have much time left she took my brother aside and asked him to make sure she was buried in that particular WPB cemetery. When we asked her why she didn’t choose to be buried where her parents and aunts and uncles were, she simply said “Because I don’t want to run into them on the other side”. It was comical in a creepy sort of way. Especially since coming from my mom, a woman with very little sense of humor, we knew it was true.

Somewhere towards the end of my sophomore year of college, my mom finally caught on to the fact that I was never going to be traditional or ordinary. Even though she and I would continue to butt heads for most of my adult life, it was a definite turning point in our relationship. I think it was the first time that I felt my parents respected me and in some ways the first time they noticed that I was smart, special even.

It was about a week before spring semester and I had been thinking of applying to the school of Computer Science at my University. This was a big deal because for the previous year and a half my major had supposedly been English Education. I was sitting at a round table near the registration office of my college. My mom was with me. I was having trouble deciding which classes to enroll in.

“I don’t know if I will be able to do it,” I had said.

“What’s the worst thing that could happen,” my mom replied.

“Well, I guess I could flunk all of my classes, be forced to drop out of school and end up working at McDonald’s for the rest of my life”.

“Stop being so melodramatic.” My mom loved that word.

“I’m not being melodramatic, I’m scared. For as long as I can remember, I’ve thought I would become a teacher. You remember how we always played school.”

“Ok, so why are you having second thoughts now?” my mom asked.

“I don’t know. I guess I’m worried that I might not make enough money to support myself.” Even then I didn’t see myself as being taken care of by a man.

“Is that it?” she pressed.

“No, I also think that there is more. I think I can do more. I’m not saying teaching is easy or an insignificant job, it definitely is not. But working with computers just feels natural to me. Let’s face it, before I started college, I didn’t even know it was possible to have any other career.”

“And now?”

“And now, I think maybe I can.”

“I think you can too,” she said, “and you know what else I think?”

“What, mom?”

“I think you should ‘go for it’.”

Those three words never left me. There I was talking to my mom about switching majors and pursuing a career doing something that she didn’t even understand, but she was behind me all the way. With those three words I knew I could do it. I knew because she knew. And every single day of my life after that, I somehow mustered up the courage to do things I never dreamed I could all because of her voice in my head telling me to ‘go for it’, and because I knew that she would always be here right by my side win or lose, whether in person or in spirit.

Originally, my mom had been diagnosed with stage IV inflammatory breast cancer. When it happened it was surreal, like I believed it, but I didn’t. My mom’s own mother was still alive but in a nursing home. Nevertheless, no one died before his or her parents, so I didn’t worry. Since it was stage IV, the only option in those days was radiation treatment, followed by radical mastectomy and numerous rounds of chemotherapy. On the day of the surgery, my brother asked the doctor what the prognosis was. He said one word to us, ‘poor’.

So there it was, laid out in front of me. Again I saw, but I didn’t. It was like that at each step. Diagnosis, surgery, treatment, remission. Yes, remission, that magical word that every cancer patient prays for. The word that everyone thinks means ‘cancer free’. When someone has cancer, it is usually in the form of bad cells or a tumor. Something tangible that can be removed or destroyed. So once you follow all of the steps and the doctors tell you that you are in remission, it is cause for celebration. What nobody ever mentions is that remission can also mean a period in time when your cancer isn’t growing or getting any worse. And it can end just as quickly as it started.

It’s one of those ‘AHA!’ moments that hit you, only this one didn’t hit me until the phone call from my mom explaining that now after 5 years in remission, she had leukemia.

Nine weeks later, she was gone.

I was devastated, but in looking back I realize how lucky we were to get those 5 years, which essentially were “borrowed time”. And that time was granted thanks to the treatment (sometimes experimental) she received at Sylvester Cancer Center. That is why I ride in The Dolphins Cancer Challenge and have helped raise money for going on three years now. I do it for the thousands of people who go to Sylvester, some with almost no other options left, looking for “borrowed time”. And I do it for my mom, because she believed in her doctors and never gave up hope.

To sponsor me in DCC VI, please use the following link. I thank you in advance for believing in me and in this cause.

http://haku.ly/a4aed7