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It all started with a piano...

PianoTrying to pinpoint the exact time and circumstances when I started taking my education seriously isn’t easy, but I think I’ve narrowed it down to several memorable incidents.

My parents decided to homeschool my two brothers and me when I entered the fifth grade. Leaving the school where I had made friends meant going through a period of adjustment. I no longer had a group of peers surrounding me; I now had my two brothers. Instead of getting involved in sports, I took music lessons. And rather than having a teacher to walk me through my studies, I had to learn the art of self-direction.

I am a runner and I loved reading the article titled "Second Wind"—it resonated with me.  Learning endurance through running has impacted every part of my life for good. I still find it amazing that I can be so tired, discouraged, and ready to give up at one point, and then if I just push on a little bit farther, I suddenly feel new energy, and I feel like I can go on forever (or at least finish the run)! Now I know what to expect and how to get a second wind.

The door slammed.

As the noise of that slam died away, the room was filled will a great, empty silence. After a moment, perhaps it seemed to be in slow motion, Grandpa turned to his startled children—my aunt remembers that he looked as if he were going to cry—and he quietly said, "Your mom has gone, and she's not coming back."

Last year I finally did it. I decided to lose some weight and get in better shape, and I meant it! I’m now 40 pounds lighter, with more strength and energy and fewer aches and pains than I’ve had for years.

After I lost my first 20 pounds, people started to notice. Many asked me what I was doing. Some people seemed a bit disappointed when I simply said, “Eating a bit less and exercising a bit more.” No magic pill, no fancy diet, and no expensive trainer. My response, though not intended to suggest anything about what others should do, may have left some of these askers feeling like I had left them no excuses, like “I can’t afford it,” or “I have no time for it.”

My grandfather’s grave sinks like an old man’s chest. The sexton who has shown it to me stands to my right. He assures me that this must be the place.

“Was there no gravestone?” I ask.

He shakes his head, “There’s no way of knowing.” His Irish accent graces his pleasant English. His language sounds like a song. It reaches deep into my soul. The sound turns my heart to my grandfather and to his fathers. It draws me back to a homeland of dreams, a homeland of sorrows.

“It was a hard time. Many were too poor for a stone back then.”