Day 3: A Taste of India

 “You can take the horse out of the race, but you can’t take the race out of the horse.”


I arrived at my appointment with a bit of excitement and a little trepidation.  What will Dr. Fisher in Fort Wayne say about Michele and her complicated knee?   The waiting room was full and I was greeted by friendly and helpful office staff.  I was at ease with my decision to have this consultation.  Dr. Fisher entered the room and took one look at me and asked if I was referred to him by Diana, his star triathlete with a partial knee replacement.  I said, “No, but I did review her case online, and if she can return to tri’s, why can’t I?”  He reviewed my case, did an assessment and took some x-rays and came to the very conclusion that the other Doctors I have consulted with have made… “You are a perfect candidate for a partial knee replacement.”  He went on to ask if I intended to run after the replacement.  I said, “Of course.”  He made his obligatory statement about risk. But I wanted him to save his breath–I have heard it all before.  In an effort to be polite, I let him continue.  He candidly said he knew he could not order me not to run. He knew that running to me was like breathing, you could not ask me to stop breathing…  I appreciated his honesty and sincerity.  I acknowledged the risks of running after a replacement, but those are risks I choose to make… I know that if I run on a replacement it may lead to this knee lasting only 10 years instead of 30… but would those ten years of miles of smiles be worth the challenges faced with a failed implant.  For me, the decision is clear.  “You can take the horse out of the race, but you can’t take the race out of the horse.”

I told Dr. Fisher I would be scheduling the surgery for some time this summer and looked forward to this new chapter beginning.  With that, I left the office having found a competent physician that not only understood, but has given me hope.  It only required me to travel over 2000 miles to find it… glad I did!!!

It was now time to head back to Chicago and take on my Quest…. Indian food… I have never eaten Indian food before.  And so I met my sister in the city and we made our way to an Indian restaurant called, “Gaylord’s Fine Indian Cuisine”.  We walked in and were greeted politely by staff and noticed the dining area to be only half full with patrons.  I wasn’t concerned as it was midweek and somewhat late in the evening.  My sister not knowing about my Quest, was curious to find out how it is that her very private and shy sister has insisted on stepping outside her comfort zone and taking on something new and different.   I smiled and we took a look at the menu and placed our order, not really knowing what to expect.


We took a leap of faith and with the help of our waiter we ordered:


Samosa-Crisp, deep-fried turnovers with seasoned potatoes and peas….  Absolutely delish on every level and there was nothing healthy about these perfect little pockets of ultimate pleasure!


Main Course:

Nan-An unleavened type of bread



Murg Badam Pasanda-Delicately seasoned chicken with almonds in a cream sauce… This fits the rule: “A moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips”… The chicken was so tender it melted in my mouth and the cream sauce was perfectly rich with flavor.  The dish was not that spicy but fully flavored with spices.


Chicken Gaylord-Marinated chicken tenderly cooked over a low heat with bell pepper, onions and spices.  It was the perfect sweet and spicy dish… incredibly flavorful!


Rice Dish:

Mutter Pulao- A richly aromatic rice cooked with fresh peas, saffron, cloves and cardamom.  The rice was not overtly spicy, but rather the flavors were infused into the rice in a delicate manner.


Pista Kulfi-Unchurned ice cream with fresh pistachio and almonds.  The ice cream pieces were in 2”sq cubes and the rich and decadent flavor was worth every bite… there was nothing low-fat about this indulgence and no reason for it either!


My sister and I not only indulged in some fantastically delicious Indian cuisine, but we chatted about my Quest and the exciting adventures that await.  She appreciated me sharing the journey that lay ahead and we laughed, shared stories and I have no regrets, simply fantastic fond memories of a new adventure and a relationship that I have missed for so long… every reason to smile…

Completely surprised….  Wondering what tomorrow will bring…



Day 2: All You Need Is A Little Hope…

 The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


The day started off cold, cloudy and very rainy (maybe it was symbolic).  I made my way to Rush Medical Center where I met with the leading Sports Medicine physician in Chicago.  The physician was impressed by my training and admired my tenacity to get back to competing in triathlons, but wanted me to hold off from having a partial knee replacement for as long as I could.   He contended that even though my knee was in need of a replacement, he felt I was too young.  He also stated that I should not run on a replacement as it decreases the life of the implant.  As much as I agree with this obvious statement, I feel not having the surgery decreases the quality of my life.  I can’t forget my Dad waiting too long to have a knee replacement and in the end, he was in constant pain and for no good reason.  The physician went on to say, “If you get the replacement be prepared to not compete in triathlons again!”  Those words cut through me like a jagged piece of glass.  The very sport I have come to love and hunger for would be a distant memory… or would it?  I left the office knowing that my next appointment in Fort Wayne, IN might be a bit more promising.  So I began the 3.5 hour drive hoping for help from the Hoosiers.

As I drove through the cornfields, with farms all around, I had a good 3 hours to think about life, goals, hopes and dreams.  I was remembering the very feeling of completing in my first triathlon and placing first in my age group.  I had not intended to place, I simply wanted to survive.  And yet I crossed the finish line with a large sense of accomplishment and no expectation except to find some water and food.  When I heard what place I took, I was shocked… My first triathlon, not even going my fastest and there I was on the winner’s stand.  I remember thinking, if only my Dad could see me now.  My Dad at the time was in a retirement center being cared for after suffering a massive stroke.   I do believe he would have been so proud.  So as I drove, I clung to hope that Dr. Fisher in Indiana could give me back the opportunity to compete again or at the very least be able to lace my runner’s up and enjoy an early morning sunrise while on a run… I didn’t think I was asking for much.

After arriving in Fort Wayne, the concierge at the hotel was surprised to see me come from so far away, but was not surprised when I explained why.  It appears there are many people who travel to Fort Wayne for the same thing.   My appointment was the next morning, but I still had a Quest to go on.

As I researched Fort Wayne, I was introduced to “Little Turtle”, military leader of the Miami tribe during the late 18th century. He is not as well-known as some of the other more prominent Native American chiefs, but his story is one I feel compelled to share.

Little Turtle was born in 1747 near Devil’s Lake, IN.  He was the son of the Chief of the Miami tribe.  He was described as a lover of good companionship, fine food and good humor…. my kind of guy! 😉   Little Turtle was a warrior in the truest sense of the word, in that he led his tribe into battle against the U.S. Army at Fort Recovery in 1791.  He defended his land with 1,000 warriors against an army of 1300 soldiers and in the process killed 602 soldiers and wounded 309.  His men only suffered 66 fatalities.  This was considered one of the greatest defeats of US troops by the Indians–even more notable than Custer’s Last Stand or Little Big Horn.  He continued to defeat U.S. troops that were on a path to punishing his and other tribes.  Eventually, Little Turtle and his tribe were defeated.  It was after this defeat that Little Turtle began to advocate for peace with the Americans.  In addition, it is documented that Little Turtle did not like to see black men enslaved, as he felt all men should be free.  He was known to gather some black men into his tribe and provide a better life for them.  He was not shy about sharing his viewpoints regarding the fact that every human being should be respected, regardless of background or culture.   Since his belief was highly controversial at the time, not much has been documented as to what happened to the men after Little Turtle died.  It is presumed that they continued to live with the remaining living family members of Little Turtle.   During his life, he met George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, among others.   In the end, Little Turtle died in Fort Wayne in 1812 of natural causes.

Why is Little Turtle’s story so important to tell?  Little Turtle was certainly brave in war, leading his tribe to fight to protect their land, their culture, their way of life, their freedom!  One man, one tribe, one mission and in the end, after many lives were surrendered, peace replaced his appetite to fight…   I can only imagine the thoughts he struggled with to change his ways.  And it was adversity that revealed his true peace-making character.  This act of change, however challenging, started from his spirit from within and ultimately grew into an attribute to be recognized and admired.

I set out to find his burial marker but it sits on a private residence.  So, a little distance away was a rose garden that was started in 1908.  In the rain, I walked to think about what courage it took for Little Turtle to be defeated and find ways to make peace.  And as I walked through the rain and was captivated by raindrops resting on newly blossomed tulips, it became apparent that sometimes the road we want to take leads us in a more promising direction if we let it….

Absolutely inspired by this Quest…. What will tomorrow bring?




Day 1: Saying “Goodbye” to old ghosts.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. –Lao Tzu

I woke up this morning thinking this is it… the journey is really beginning!  One question plagued my mind, “Am I really ready?”  I couldn’t help but take a deep breath and sigh because I knew this journey was destined to change me in ways I can’t predict.

The Quest today is to say, “Goodbye” to the past in order to move forward into the future.  As I arrived in Chicago, it was apparent that in order to move forward with the Quest, I needed to soul search and conduct some spirit modification.  I had to strengthen myself to take on the goals that lay ahead of me.

My journey has taken me back to where it all began, Chicago, IL.  As I face some of these haunting memories that plague my mind, I was able to acknowledge that these are the same memories that drove me to move 2000 miles away in an effort to be free.  What I didn’t realize is that geography can’t erase the difficult memories or thoughts.  So I must return to forgive the past. I must go back, before I can go forward, to let go of those experiences and prepare myself to find out who I am.

As I made my way to my hometown, I felt compelled to take a different route than the one Siri was demanding I go… I listened to whatever message I was being given and headed a different way.  When I took the appropriate off ramp to get to the hotel, once again, I was beckoned to go right, when Siri said left.  As I made the turn, there in front of me was the cemetery where my Grandmother had been buried.  I realized at that moment, that the compelling feeling to take this route did not occur by happenstance.  I drove in and could not remember where it was she was placed to rest.  I called the cemetery office, received the location, and made my way to her gravesite.  I stood there at her grave, feeling humbled because I hadn’t visited in so long.  I felt lost, not knowing why it was that I was there.  I then felt as if she was with me, standing in front of me, and needing to communicate something, but not knowing what that was.  With grave diggers working actively behind me and the cold wind blowing, I simply said that I loved her and I hoped that she would be with me on this journey.” Something told me I would certainly need her guidance.  It was after that very brief, powerful and unexpected visit that I returned to my car and headed to see my sister.

She had a box of personal things I needed to go through and a couple things my Dad left for me.  As I met with my sister and began to open the box, there on the top was a card my Grandmother had given me so long ago. There were 3 pictures of her inside.  With my hands trembling with fear and confusion, I nearly dropped the card.  I was startled by the eerie surprise following the unexpected compulsion I felt to visit her at her grave.  My mind immediately was searching for reasoning on this issue.  Why would my Grandmother, who I rarely think of these days, come to me this way?  Was it simply an acknowledgement of what I was about to embark upon? Was it a reminder to use the moral compass she helped me form and calibrate as I begin this journey?  Perhaps it is both… Whatever the intention or message, I firmly believe that she is with me on this journey and today, there is no greater gift.

Following my visit, I chose to drive around the city of Lombard, Il, my hometown and stop at several places to simply remember the good times and reconcile the questionable ones.  The memories of playing “Kick the Can” and “Ghost in the Graveyard” brought a big smile to my face and I could almost hear the voices of my friends calling out in the darkness… these were times when I was allowed to be a child and enjoy the simple things in life.  I walked the roads that I would ride my bike on, and strolled through the park that my Dad and I would take early morning walks in… it was there that the tears began to fall as I recollected the conversations my Dad and I would have.  We would talk about politics, life’s challenges, and listened to his hopes and dreams for me…. I couldn’t help but think, “Does he see me?  Does he know how his immense strength and courage have brought me here?  What would he say if I told him that my life is brighter because he was in it?”

You see my Dad had many physical pains that were remnants from World War II. He faced brutal challenges during the war and the pain was always there. His back would hurt, and his knees caused him incredible pain most days, but as many might belabor the issue, my Dad remained silent.  He wanted to have a knee replacement but the physicians felt he wasn’t in good enough health to handle the surgery.   And so, he would walk every morning and I would notice that at times he clenched his teeth but was quick to change the subject or simply deny the pain. He taught me that sometimes you just need to fight through the pain and just keep living.  So often we would walk along the trail in the park and I could never truly understand the level of pain he was in. And here I am, facing the same dilemma with my knee. I can say firsthand that his strength and courage to fight through the knee pain was absolutely remarkable.  Like my father before me, I will not let my swollen, angry knee trip me up on my journey. After all, it is just a knee…perhaps this is why were given two legs to stand on!

At the end of my day, I had walked and driven many miles, but went even further down Memory Lane.  I had the courage to face the gut wrenching and painful memories that brought back tears. But amid those dreadful thoughts were remembrances of the good times, the ones I wrongfully chose to forget.  These were the very experiences that shaped who I am today and why it is that I am beginning this mission.  I sat at the park bench where my brothers and I would go to fish… and I let go of the past and all of its dreadful tentacles that kept me from being truly happy.  I have replaced them with “hope”… the hope to be able to remind the world that we have a choice to hold onto or let go of things not beneficial to us in this lifetime.  Moving forward I carry with me my suitcase of memories.  That suitcase can only hold so many… and so, I choose to only hold on to the good ones… no distance can diminish them, no time can erase them, and in the end, they are irreplaceable and hold the deepest value in my life!

Absolutely smiling from this Quest and wondering, “What will tomorrow bring?”

The Quest Begins…


My bags were packed and I was ready to take-off on my long-awaited Quest. After weeks of planning, this was the moment of truth. I double checked everything, took one look around with the feeling that change was about to occur, whether I welcomed it or not. I threw my bag in the back of my SUV and I was off with not so much as a look back…

I arrived at the airport with my MRI’s and x-rays in hand… all part of the journey… I found a seat next to a tall and very fit man with the softest smile.   As I sat checking my emails I couldn’t help but overhear him mention on his phone conversation that he is heading to football camp and “Just got the call today”.     He then continued to explain to his friend that he was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens as an outside linebacker… I looked up and very carefully, yet deliberately, mouthed the words, “Congrats” and with that he flashed me his contagious smile…. As he lingered on the phone, I was thinking about the challenges that this young, strong, seemingly sweet gentleman will face…. Will his past challenges and obstacles even compare to what he is about to face as a warrior on the football field?   The speed, the intensity, the pain, the injuries, the fear of the unknown, the opportunity to grow…. the pain he will endure for the passion of the sport… I realized that this mission takes ultimate courage, bravery and fearlessness…

He was a football player from Montana Tech and just received a call from his agent today that the Baltimore Ravens wanted him! In a matter of a phone call, his life has changed completely… he packed his bags, said his “Goodbyes” and off he went. He still continued to make phone calls at a rapid fire pace to announce his fortune and hard fought opportunity to the world.   We chatted for only a few minutes as the plane arrived and we were ready to board. I mentioned that his parents must be so proud of him and he flashed that brilliant smile and said, “Yes, they sure are!”


It was after that, that I received my daily dose of inspiration from my Qi Advisor#1 (QIA1) and it read:

“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway” –John Wayne,  American Actor

That quote was like a play called in a huddle. It supplied direction for both me and Mr. Ryan Jones, the newest addition to the Baltimore Ravens.   We were both summoning all of our courage, as we prepared to tackle life’s latest adventure.

And with that, he and I boarded the plane…ready to touch down on our personal quests for courage.

A Moment of Doubt…

As I was preparing my last minute details to begin this journey, I found myself coming to a realization that my Quest is quickly approaching…  In that moment I could feel a heaviness in my chest and the blood leaving my head. I started to feel as though I was struggling to catch my breath.  Could I really do this?   Will I be successful in finding what I am looking for?  Will I have the courage to explore the unknown?  As I felt my body draining of energy and enthusiasm, I could feel the doubt seep into my veins like a powerful intravenous medication…

I gathered myself and my fearful thoughts and headed out to meet with my friends at Starbuck’s.  Apprehension began to overtake me and I worried that it would be obvious that my motivation was lost…  I walked into the Starbuck’s, ordered my drink, saw my friends and went to sit with them…. They could tell that something was amiss as I was not my usual high-energy self…. I inhaled and prepared myself to reveal my weakness… all my fears, my apprehensions, my anxieties and perhaps even the realization that this Quest may not happen….  I sat down, looked at my cup and there, clear as day, was the answer I so needed to see….


In the seconds that it took to read this timely message, I could feel the stress melt from my body.   Fear, doubt and apprehension faded… I could feel the energy return and my smile emerge from my face.  A powerfully worded cup of coffee, helped me swallow my fears. I told my support team, “I’ve got this!”

 With that renewed energy and centered focus, I am prepared for the journey ahead…. Just a matter of hours and the plane will taxi and the fear of the unknown will stand square in front of me…. And I have made the choice that there is no turning back…like the pilot of my plane, I have a flight plan and I will be flying toward priceless opportunities that lay ahead….