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Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Most Memorable Christmas Gift

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal, It is the courage to continue that counts."- Winston Churchill

As I was getting ready for Christmas this year I was thinking about gifts I've gotten through the years. My most memorable gift was a pair of ice skates I got when I was 10 years old.

My parents never had a lot of money and with 7 kids buying gifts every Christmas had to have been a challenge. Most years we had piles of presents under the tree. I think most of the year my dad worked 2 jobs to pay for not only Christmas but for all the other expenses of raising a big family.

The Christmas when I was 10, my mom told me I could only ask for one present.  This year was different because my parents just could not afford more. My older brother is learning disabled. The school system was not offering much help so my parents were getting him help on their own. Paying for that help strained the family budget.  Money was so tight there was not even money for a Christmas tree.  We had two trees that year....we just did not pay for them. My dad sort of waited for the lot to close on Christmas eve and obtained two for us.

On Christmas morning under the tree was the most beautiful pair of ladies figure skates.  Even though it was the only gift I got that year I learned a few things from the experience.

When you have to whittle your list to one gift, you focus on the one thing you really want and you better make it count.  It takes that same kind of single mindedness to be successful as an athlete.  Whether its a cure for CMT, entry into the Boston Marathon or just working on my swim stroke focus is the key to success. I figure out what is most important to me and set my goal.  My goal was to run the Boston Marathon and I focused on that goal until it happened. I feel the same way about our fight to raise awareness of CMT and a cure. I won't stop until I get what I want. I also learned to ask for what you want and to go after it with laser like focus. I don't take no for an answer, when I think yes is possible.

I learned to swim by watching others swim. I remember watching Peggy Flemming skate and I wanted to do that. So I asked for skates for my one present.  The day after Christmas we were going to be going to my grandma's house on Okauchee Lake. I knew I would get to try out my new skates. As I lay in bed that night I visualized every part of how it would feel to skate.  Well the realty was a little harsher than my picture. With my CMT ankles I could not stand on skates much less glide across the ice.  But that skill of picturing success has stayed with me. Before I ran the Boston Marathon last year I set a goal to finish in the top 3 in my division. I pictured my self standing on the podium and getting my medal.  I finished 2nd in my division and while there was no medal or podium appearance, visualizing my hoped for achievement spurred me to work out hard.  Right now I am visualizing another podium finish this time at Nationals in Austin.

Although my first skating outing was a disaster, I kept at it. Any type of sports for someone with CMT requires lots of hard work. It takes my muscles longer to learn and retain a skill than a normal athlete. I have to work much harder.  It was like that with skiing. I got up and fell down a lot,, but I mastered skiing and have been a member of the National Ski patrol for over 25 years.

In college I took up running to be a better skier. The running made my ankles strong enough so that I can after years of trying ice skate. It is just as good as I imagined all those years ago. While I won't be doing an spins like Peggy Flemming I can make it a whole hour with out falling.  I have given up skating for the last 2 years, even though I love it. I am so afraid of falling and breaking a wrist would interfere with training for Boston and Nationals. A small price I am willing to pay.

Funny I should remember that single gift over 40 years ago and what it taught me with such clarity. I was not sad I was only getting one gift, just grateful and appreciative for the gift I did get and I made the most of it. I learned it is challenge that changes you and you learn more from mistakes than success.

Having CMT has been like that, I've never asked "why me". I've seen the CMT and the ability I do have as an athlete and I will take the lessons I learned when I was 10 and apply them to my fight to raise awareness of CMT and to find a cure.
Have a Merry and memorable Christmas

Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT

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