It was a cloudy Sunday afternoon in Reno, Nevada when I received a call from a number I had never seen before. Deciding to answer, thankfully, to my surprise was a member of the Obama for America campaign. Thinking it was another political strategy call, she informed me that First Lady Michelle Obama was coming to the University of Nevada, Reno campus and I was chosen to represent the undergraduate students and meet her before she began her speech! After a few seconds of speechlessness, I humbly accepted the opportunity.
Soon, it was Wednesday, October 3, 2012 and I was waiting back stage for First Lady Michelle Obama. Anxious with butterflies, I watched as her elegancy walked up the stairs towards me. As she came closer to me, it was if I were in a cinematic movie and time had slowed down around me. Before I knew it, I was staring the First Lady of the United States in the eye, admiring her presence.
Hoping not to muddle my words, I began to explain my position within the University of Nevada, Reno and how I will be graduating next May. The warmth and sincere interest she portrayed was an image I will never forget. Before I could finish my admiration of her and how we, the undergraduate students of Nevada, were so thankful for her coming, she stopped me mid-sentence. She took my hand and placed it in hers and said, “RJ, I am so proud of you. Barack is so proud of you. We are fighting for you and you are the future of this nation.” As if meeting Michelle Obama was not enough, to hear those words from her was an indescribable feeling.
Before she left for her speech, her final words to me were, “RJ, don’t let me down.” I will herald those words and will forever remember the message she imprinted in my heart.
Two summers ago, when The Center staff decided to become health conscious, I had no idea it would turn out this way. We began the summer eating healthy and working out. After a month or two of the competition, the true competitiveness of The Center began to surface. We had all shed some pounds and began trading secrets about different diets and workouts. My food favorite was eating a grapefruit a day together. We all tried brutal workouts like P90X, Insanity, and Jillian Michaels. Then one day someone said, “You should try running”.
I have horrible knees, but having lost about 25 lbs. I decided to give it a try. I became addicted. I ran the Turkey Trot 10K, Golden Gate ½ Marathon, and Color Me Rad 5K. For this past year, I have run anywhere from 25-36 miles a week and it is not uncommon to see me making the 11 mile run to work.
One day, I decided to sign up for the St. George Marathon. The St. George Marathon takes place in St. George, Utah, accepts entries from all over the world, but only 7,400 runners are selected by lottery. I was luckily accepted. Runners have to finish the over 26 mile race within six hours. On Saturday, October 6th, I finished the marathon.
It was such a peaceful and painful accomplishment. One of the best parts of this whole journey has been the early morning runs in the desert filled with ponderous moments and reflection. Thanks Center colleagues and everyone who has put up with endless conversations about supplements and running woes! The biggest thanks go to my wife and family who sacrificed all the time it took for me to be out on the road training. My family was there at the finish line and that has got to be the greatest moment during this adventure hands down.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” T.S. Eliot
I wasn’t born a runner. My parents never pushed me into sports. I wasn’t a “natural” at anything. Heck, I didn’t even have the body for it. I wasn’t handed anything. I made myself a runner. If you told the 21-year-old me that one day I would run marathons, I would have laughed. I couldn’t run even for a minute when I first started, but just this weekend I did something pretty amazing. I ran three marathons (26.2 miles) in three days. I have to say this is a MAJOR highlight of my running career.
When I first started I had one goal: to run around the block. I finally did it after a few weeks. I remember the first time I ran three miles and no one thinking that was a big deal. It was! It was a really big deal to me. To all those people who didn’t think it was…well look at me now! Five years later and 40 lbs. lighter, I have joined an elite group of runners. Only 1000 people in the world have ever completed this challenge.
The races started on Friday at Inspiration Point, Lake Tahoe. I wasn’t very nervous because I knew this distance. I had been this far before. It was the next day that scared me. We woke up at 6am to catch our ride to the next starting point on day two. I was sore, my feet hurt and I was tired. I was lucky because my pacers for the day were none other than the man who holds the record for the race, Juan De Oliva and my running group coach Mike Conners.
Day three was the hardest. The hills seemed to be getting bigger and longer. I have to admit I almost lost it at the end of our first hill. My running partner was my ultimate pacer and biggest moral support, Tim. We helped each other get to the end. What an end it was! I soaked in the lake while I looked at all I had accomplished during the weekend. Never did I think I would take on such a great adventure.
So this is my challenge for everyone one who reads this, do something amazing! Challenge yourself to do something no one ever thought you would, then TELL THE WORLD!
This summer, my family and I were able to take a vacation to San Antonio, Texas to visit my older brother and his family. The cool thing about it was that we were able to plan the vacation for everyone to meet in San Antonio. So, I had my parents, my siblings, my nephews, my kids, and (here is the coolest part) my GRANDPARENTS all under one roof! Lucky for us, everything in Texas is bigger, including the house we stayed in.
I have three daughters, two of whom were able to meet their great-grandparents from Mexico for the very first time. While we were there, we had great laughs, awesome food, and the best company ever!
We were able to spend my birthday at the beach, but the weather was just crazy.
On our drive to the beach, it started pouring so hard people had to pull over on the freeway. By the time we arrived at the beach it was sunny as can be, which was nice. After, we were able to stop by the city where Selena grew up and took pictures by the statue of her.
My favorite part of the trip was going to Six Flags. Six Flags in San Antonio is awesome! Once again, everything in Texas is bigger: you get both the theme park with all the rollercoasters, PLUS a water park that is connected to it. The kids absolutely loved the water park, but the downside of the vacation was that we were crazy enough to DRIVE to San Antonio. Let me tell you, I would not advise anyone to drive 28 hours with three toddlers! Not my smartest decision…but it was well worth it.
My summer began with the realization of a lifelong goal. With my family and friends in town, I faced the heat of the coming summer by celebrating the culmination of my five years of undergraduate education at graduation in May. Following graduation, I faced the question all grads must ponder; what should I do now? Instead of taking the clichéd year off for travel, or the rushed plunge into the work force, I decided to go the graduate school route. Staying in school left the summer wide open for me to enjoy friends, visit family and prepare for my new studies.
For the majority of the break I stayed in Reno. I took time to explore downtown, worked at the Knowledge Center at UNR, and cavorted with friends. I did, however, take a trip to the Midwest to visit with family and volunteered at a premier conference hosted by President Bill Clinton in Chicago. At the conference, I was charged with registering attendees from Fareed Zakaria to Donna Karan. I also had the opportunity to meet fellow volunteers from around the world who were also there to ensure the success of the Clinton Global Initiative America conference.
Upon my return from Chicago, I took a summer school class in Econometrics to get ahead in my Master’s program and took time to enjoy the annual Artown festival in July. From there, the Fall semester quickly approached and the summer came to a winding close with a last minute trip to visit my family in Huntington Beach, CA. Overall my summer was a lazy one, yet somehow still seemingly productive and definitely fulfilling. With the sound of alarms at 6am and free time absent from any schedule, it is clear that the semester has begun, but the memories of summer still remain somewhere in the heat that surrounds us still.
After a month and a half of being a hermit crab, studying for the MCAT, I had the amazing opportunity to go the Kingdom of Cambodia with eleven others from all ages, backgrounds, and levels of goofiness. As you can tell, I might have brought a little extra goofiness to the table.
It was a BUSY 12 days there and it absolutely changed my life forever. Rahab’s House (a former brothel) is in the village of Svay Pak, and functions as a Boy’s and Girl’s Club type of community center. My favorite thing there was Kid’s Club, which was a time for about 100 (some days 200) little Khmer children between the ages of 4 and 12 to dance, sing, get a snack, and hangout. That place gets very hot, humid, noisy, and smelly- and words don’t do any justice to how fun it was.
The kids just melted my heart and brought me to tears so many times. Yet, the smiles, laughter, and pure fun don’t do any justice of how amazing this was until we saw many of the kids go home for lunch and come back in the afternoon with new beat marks on them from their parents. We were told that many of these children were still being sold for sex by night. That just tugged on my heart. These kids taught me so much and I am forever grateful.
This trip was the toughest time of my life with all kinds of emotional roller coasters each day. I am sure many of those who have been to a third world country can add something to this, but the food, transportation, cities, toilets, water, language, writing, poverty, values, and beliefs are just so drastically different compared to America. It took a little time to get used to. I know that I made some life-long friends, and I hope to go back next year. This experience taught me more in twelve days than all my years in college combined.
About 2½ hours northwest of Reno, you’ll find my family’s favorite place on earth…Lake Almanor! We try to spend as many weekends as possible there, but there is one special week each year where we get to enjoy our favorite place with a wonderful group of friends and extended family. Our kids have so much fun together, as you can see.
This year, my friends and family had a blast doing all kinds of activities. We enjoyed wake surfing, paddle boarding, and swimming. Even the little ones tried waterskiing! They did such a great job, even if it was with a little help.
While most of us were enjoying the water, my oldest daughter did something that no one in our entire family has ever tried – she took a tennis lesson! I was very proud.
After all that fun, somehow we found time to watch the London Olympics. Some of us even pretended to be Olympic divers, but maybe we should have left it to the professionals.
Our week at Lake Almanor was so fun and relaxing, but it went by too fast. It was definitely a great break and none of us can wait for next year!