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Friday, June 24, 2016

Happy Summer! From Orion the Dog Blogger

HAPPY SUMMER DUDES AND DUDETTES!  It’s me, Orion, the only four-legged LoBiondo.  As you know, my mom only let’s me blog at the beginning of every season (BTW, I am looking for paw-ssible legal representation to negotiate a better deal for me.  Funny, no one wants to negotiate for you when both your parents are lawyers.  But I digress).  SUMMER is my very favorite season!!!  Along with Fall, Winter and Spring.  And Mud, that’s my favorite too but Mom says it’s not a season. I don’t know why not, it’s so much fun.  Anywhos, SUMMER means Family Time!!!  My brothers will have time to throw me the frisbee and my tennis ball.  There will be swimming in the creek in my backyard, and there will be lots of barbecues on the back deck -- and I know exactly which relatives will sneak me treats under the table (Ha!  Even my Mom doesn’t know and she never will!)

    This summer my younger brother will be going to Rowing Camp at the Newburgh Rowing Club, as usual. He is 12 now but he was their very first camper at age 7!!!  My parents were so worried about him they drove down to the River on their lunch hour and stood at Gully’s to watch him kayaking by.  They tried to pretend they weren’t there but Big Coach always spotted them and called them out on his megaphone, hahaha!! Good times!!  And I’ve been around so long that I will be a camp counselor at the rowing club summer camp, along with my older brother.  Yes!! Can’t wait to get my hat and whistle.  Wait, what’s that?  Oh come on, Mom, not againnnnn!!! Okay.  Correction.  Apparently, once again I will not be a camp counselor at the rowing club.  However, Mom said I can have a hat and whistle!!!  Which will come in handy because I am the Captain of the Neigh-Boar-Hood Watch group.  Which consists of yours truly and my beloved, Abby the Beagle up the street.  We are so busy paw-trolling in the summer it’s CRAZY TOWN! Just the other day I had to chase down and forcibly remove a brazen surly dangerous woodchuck.  And the deer -- who do they think they are -- eating Mom’s petunias??  Yes, I am that good, I can chase down and nip a deer in the ankles.  But the real paw-trol work comes from chasing those evil rats with furry tails.  Those no good squirrels!   don’t even get me started.  Go right ahead buddy, run up that tree after STEALING from the bird feeder.  I can wait here all day!  Until I get hungry, then you know, Mom puts chicken drippings on my dog chow so … Pry-Or-It-Eez!
    I can’t wait for all our vacations this Summer.  We are going to Maine, the Dominican Republic, and the Adirondacks!!!  I’m already packed and I don’t even need a Passport!  Wait, what?  Mommmm!  Aaargh, once again Mom says I’m not going on the first two trips.  Well, that’s unfortunate because I love the beach and I may have to do a little tinkle on the Oriental rug right now to express my dissatisfaction.  No, no, my inner Jiminy Cricket say that would be wrong.  To tinkle or not to tinkle?  See, this is why I need representation!!!
    That’s Ok because I will get to stay with my grandparents and their dog, Magoo, this Summer during vacations!  I call him Goo for short.  And he calls me Orion (he’s not that good with coming up with nicknames).  Me and the Goo have so much fun.  I can relax over there because really, Grandma doesn’t care about the fat woodies and evil squirrels eating her shrubs and stuff.  She actually likes woodchucks.  So you know I don’t have to paw-trol as much.   The Goo has that covered anyway.  I gotta give it to the big lug he has the bark of a Lion!!  But sometimes, I’m just like DUDE, Turn up for What Already, it’s just the paperboy!  See, I am a lot more chill at Goo’s house.  I take a lot of naps, eat a lot of treats and when we’re not napping in the yard, Goo and I like to watch the Animal Channel.  Those monkeys are something else!!!
    My mom always gets excited about the Summer because she doesn’t have to make my brothers’ ginormous lunches the night before.  Then she realizes she still has to make them bag lunches for rowing camp and the thrill is kind of gone on that one.  Mom likes to row as much as she can in the summer and boy does she!! She even goes down to the rowing camp during the day and rows with the kids!  And Dad loves to sail his sailboat in the Summer.  Guess what??  I am an Ace # 1 First Mate!  I love going on the sailboat and letting the breeze run through my ears while we cut across the Hudson River.  Life is good!  The only thing that would make it better … if I could bring my friends Abigail and Goo on board the Sailboat.  See what I’m saying, this is why I need representation!!!
    Well, gotta wrap it up here.  You have no idea how exhausting it is type when you don’t have opposable thumbs.  That’s why those monkeys are so lucky.  They should really start their own blog oh HEY GOTTA GO -- SQUIRRELLLLLLLLL …….
    Signed - Orion LoBiondo, Special Guest Blogger

Friday, June 17, 2016

No Regrets: A Fathers Day Poem

NO REGRETS, A Poem for my Dad
Oh so many people
Their words tinge with regret
when they talk about their father
I want to hug and tell them
I wish they could have met
a Dad sent down from Heaven
that's what you were to me 

Though God has called you back
I have not one regret
you always knew how 
to make me smile
You would tell me stories 
That made me laugh so hard I cried 
They say you were a hero
To me You were
My first love 
My hero Dad
The one I thought of first
When I was sad
Or needed help
With tires flat
When life just wore me down
My Dad will fix this
I would say
And that's what I will miss 
You always had the time for me 
Your heart was always open 
Not just for me, you loved mankind
Even those who least deserved it

I always knew 
How proud you were 
of Little Juliana
And though
It seemed so silly then
You joined me on my first date
With blue ribbons in your hands
My daughter won these
You would say
And my husband didn’t run
He knew that we would be
A great big happy family
And that indeed we were
Our circle of Love 
went so far
We flew so high 
We touched a star
I see your Star every night
Can you see me Dad?
I hear you in each word I write
I see you in the wild flowers 
The bees, the breeze, the leaves
I see your imprint everywhere
in me, my sons, 
the way my heart is shaped

So many people speak of
Regrets about their Dad
The fights
Or worse the I love you's never spoken
But not for us, Dad
You always said I love you
I always said it back
Sunday, that was our day
I’d make your favorite dish
We never missed a holiday
Your birthday, no need to wish 
I made December 26 
The party of the year
No combining that with 
Christmas Day for my father dear

The last words that we spoke
Your voice was stolen by the Stroke
I said to you:
I love you Dad
You said I love you too

I gave you the best sendoff
That a child could
Goodbye My Sailor Dad
And in the strains of Taps
I first let you go
And began 
To fill the ocean
With my tears of rage and love
Why can't he live? Damn it I raged!
Then in my Dream
you said 
My child, you must forgive
My Legacy in you will live
Be happy, child, 
That’s what I want for you

And now
I regal your grave 
I kneel, my head I bow
I feel your arms around me
I see you clearly now
Cry not, you say 
For Daddy’s always with you
I gave you wings to fly
Go soar! 
Be with your loving husband
And your boys, I love them so
Take care of mom
Your brother too 
regrets are not for you

What more could I have asked for, Dad
Maybe just one more day
Another game of chess
Another chance to play
But we will have that one day 
when I see you up in Heaven
So set the board, Dad
Wait for me
And when it is my time
Take my hand and lead me to 
The Chessboard in the Sky 
Then endlessly we will play
and laugh and spread our wings
and o’er the Heavens we will fly 
My little hand in yours

By Juliana LoBiondo

In memory of my Beloved Dad, Mariano Muyot (December 26, 1935 - May 3, 2016)

Photo from Hawaii 1975, Diamondhead in the background

Saturday, June 11, 2016

My Girls: Rowing and Swimming to the Top

MY GIRLS: OUR STORY - Last night I had the honor and the privilege of watching "my girls” graduate from Nora Cronin Presentation Academy.  I call them my girls, because they row at the Newburgh Rowing club and we have been together for years, with Karla joining us at the age of 10.  You can only imagine my pride and joy when each of the girls received multiple academic awards and Karla graduated as valedictorian.  Also in their boat is our wonderful Bowseat, Diana, who was there for support; and Caridad our Coxswain who is in sixth grade and was also there for support.

Karla has been with us the longest. I will never forget when she came to the pool for swim lessons. Her little brother Richie was just a baby and he was so adorable I could not stop picking him up and hugging and kissing him.  He quickly got tired of that and started running away from me every time he saw me, laughing every time and daring me to chase him.  Last night, Richie came to the graduation in his little boy suit, so handsome, and shook my hand and congratulated me. Everyone is becoming so grown up!

“Little Karla” was always coming into the office, where I would be going over one thing or another with the rowing club coaches. She was polite but relentless. Here she was, this little cherub who had just learned to swim, and was just learning to use the indoor rowing machines; and pretty much every week she would stop at the office and ask me the same thing: Mrs.Lo, can I move up to competitive rowing yet?  Not this week, Karla I would say, but soon.

Coach Kennedy had known Karla since she was in kindergarten and had always wanted her to come down to the rowing club.  “She is born to row, that one,” said Coach Kennedy.  He's uncanny like that. 

Citlaly was the next want to join us.  I have never seen an athlete with such heart.  She is so kind and yet so incredibly physically strong.  I try not to ask too much of her unless it is really needed. Because if I ask her to, she will literally row so hard for me but she will pass out. And that's not what we want. But that's the kind of heart she has.  

Isabella and Diana joined us towards the end of sixth grade.  All of the girls are incredibly gifted and incredibly brilliant. Isabella is an all-around athlete. She can run incredibly fast and has won running 5K's, and she is an incredible swimmer, as well as a natural musician. Diana is tremendous at bow seat.  That means that she's responsible for being the captain of the boat so to speak and yet she has to row at the same time.  She is also loyal and diligent. If I ask her to follow up on something, it's as good as done. I can definitely see her practicing law someday.

Fast forward to spring season 2016. The girls are not little pollywogs anymore, they have become serious scholar athletes. They are leaders.  They are kind in their heart, their words, and their deeds.  As are their families.  When my dad passed away at the beginning of May, the girls’ families took turns delivering giant casseroles and tins of delicious food to my house. Every night for nine nights, I would come home and there would be food on my porch.  They were there for the wake, the funeral and the burial.  Somewhere along the way, along with the parents and grandparents we became way more than athletes, we became a family.  And they are all very close friends with my younger son, Michael.  

In the boat, Karla is stroke, meaning she leads the boat sitting in Front of the other rowers and setting the pace.  Citlaly sits behind her at three seat, And Isabella sits behind her at two-seat, forming the "engine" of the boat. Diana steers the boat sitting at bow seat.  They are incredibly versatile in that they can change from sculling (holding two oars in their hands) to sweeping (each row or holds one or in their hands).  They have been rowing against high school girls and on many occasions have beat them. They became the first all middle school boat in history to medal at the Orange Ulster County championship this spring and went into the league championship undefeated, and proceeded to win the first place in the Hudson Valley Rowing League Girls 4+ Division C championship.  What a way to end their career as 8th grade middle school rowers! 

But Rowing for us is about much more than the medals.  It is about friendship, bravery, leadership, and setting an example for the younger generation.  Each of the girls has overcome tremendous adversity in order to get to where they are academically and as rowers. In September, the girls will go off to high school.  Two are going to Lourdes and one to Kennedy Catholic with full scholarships.  Another is entering into One of the best programs at NFA. 

Our younger generation of sixth grade Nora Cronin Rowers will start taking the helm this summer and training to race.  

Our girls who just graduated will start transitioning to a freshman boat, as they all plan to stick together for as long as possible Rowing. And they will spend part of their summer training the younger girls to row competitively.  The entire program is free to the girls as they receive scholarships from the foundation that I cofounded with Coach Kennedy and which I direct, America Rows and swims Newburgh, an official affiliate of USRowing's America Rows  program.  I spend a good deal of my time writing grants and obtaining corporate donations.  This allows us to provide a free learn to swim program and swim club at the Union Avenue community fitness center in new Windsor; and grants to provide free learn to row and competitive rowing programs for kids living below the federal poverty level and kids of differing abilities including down syndrome and autism.  

Back to the graduation ceremony.  When I heard the graduation song and saw the girls in their caps and gowns last night I knew it would be a weepy (In a happy way) kind of ceremony. An hour and a half later, when Karla was announced as the valedictorian I began to choke up again. And when she took the podium and said "I am a competitive Rower" and then went on to compare her four-year term at Nora Cronin to a 2000 meter rowing sprint, I was pretty much bawling. All I could remember was that little pint size girl with the watchful eyes and perpetual grin who kept coming into the office asking if she could move up to competitive Rowing.  Even then, everyone in the office knew it.  We have something really special with these girls.

Congratulations girls, I love you a lot and can't wait to see all the wonderful things you are going to accomplish in high school and beyond. And I'm looking forward to spending the summer training up our new crop of Nora Cronin Rowers.  And continuing with our free swim club as well.  

God has been good to me and I try to share my talents and resources with less fortunate members of the community. If you are a successful person and you have resources, I urge you to share them with others, that is one of the great rewards of being successful.  I do my part to make my little corner of the world a little bit better every day.

Have a great day everyone and, as always, remember to count your blessings, I hope they are many!