Mo Goes To The Dentist

Mo really needed to go to a dentist. He’d been having some major pain from two of his teeth so I did some research on where he could get some help and came up with some options. After making a few phone calls and asking around I realized there are some decent places who could take care of him but the problem is that they all have long wait lists and don’t see anyone on an emergency basis.

As another option I called the office of one of my old dentists, Dr. Marquis, and talked to their superstar receptionist Katie (who I’ve always really liked) and told her the situation. After hearing about Mo, telling the rest of her team and having them reading some of the other posts I had written on this blog they said they would see Mo, free of charge. This made me feel good because I knew they’d take good care of him and I know all of the staff there were friendly and awesome.

As I’ve said before and I’m sure you’ve noticed from the photos of Mo, his teeth aren’t great to begin with and he’s lost a good amount of them already. Even though he didn’t want to lose any more of his teeth he was pretty much to to the point of wanting to pull out every, single one he has left if it meant he didn’t have to deal with the pain that he was having. Mo was getting desperate. I remember walking around with him by the train station on a windy night and he had to cover his mouth with something or pull his hoodie over his head because his teeth were so sensitive to the cold air he was breathing in. I don’t even want to imagine what that feels like.

After getting an appointment for Mo the only other thing I had to do was figure out how to find him so I could tell him about it. I hadn’t heard from him for a few days and I didn’t have any way to get in touch with him so there’s no way to know when I’ll see or hear from him next. The first appointment I had for him was on a Friday and even though I usually hear from him at least every other day I didn’t get a call from him before then, so that one had to be canceled. I told Katie how they needed to be flexible and they were totally cool with keeping a spot open for him. I remembered Katie telling me “You let Mo know that he can come in first thing Monday morning and we’ll take care of him.” Her awesome attitude made this whole situation a lot easier.

I finally ran into Mo a couple days later and let him know the good news about his appointment. When I saw him his teeth were hurting him so bad that he had wrapped a rag around his head to keep pressure on his head. It’s like something I’d seen in a cartoon and seeing him wear it made me laugh but he said it actually helped with the pain. Whatever works I guess.

I told him about his appointment at the dentist for the following day and his spirits were lifted immediately. I also told him to meet me in the morning on the corner by my apartment and I’d give him the directions. The next morning he showed up, I told him where to go and Dr. Marquis gave him a full dental exam and X-rays. The good news was that he doesn’t need to have any of his teeth extracted, he only has a couple of bad cavities that can be drilled out. The bad news was that he was going to have to wait another week to get it done.

Oh, and I guess I should mention that Dr. Marquis is also going to fill his cavities for free. How amazing is that? What an incredible blessing for Mo.

So this Thursday I’m going to head to the dentist with him and we’re going to get his teeth taken care of. Thanks for all of your help, prayers and gifts you’ve all sent my way for Mo and keep it up — there’s still a lot he needs help with.

I’m going to set up a donation page for Mo here soon, but if you feel like you want to give something to help him out you can PayPal the money to I’ll email you back with details on what your money will be going to so you can keep in the loop. One thing I’ve been trying to help him out with is staying off the streets at night, which costs $10/night. He rents out a bathroom in a hotel and stays in there, which isn’t the greatest option in the world but it’s warm, it’s safe and he can stay cleaned up.


The Miracle Of A Phone Call From Mo

[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]UPDATE (6/1): I’ve found a dentist in San Francisco who is willing to see Mo for free! They read his story and want to help, which is an amazing blessing.Thanks to all of you who are helping Mo and I’ll have more details soon![/box]

Sometimes you can miss miracles in your life if you’re not careful. You can also easily dismiss them as luck or coincidence. This past Sunday I experienced a miracle and since these don’t happen too often I wanted to make sure to share it with all of you.

A couple of weeks ago I had talked to Mo about going to church with me and he seemed interested. Normally making plans like this with someone is pretty easy. You can talk about it to gauge interest and then figure out the details over texts or a phone calls. Although this is a normal way to plan things for the majority of us who have cell phones at our disposal, Mo relies on borrowing other people’s phones to call me. This means he could call me at any point during the day and I might not hear from him for sometimes days at a time. You can see how this would make it tough to plan a trip to church on a Sunday morning.

This past Sunday I had a fifteen mile long run I needed to get in before I headed to church around 10am. I woke up around 7am so I could run, get cleaned up and head to church without being too late. As I was brushing my teeth in front of the mirror in my bathroom I could barely keep my eyes open. Getting up early on Sunday is still something I’m getting used to and I was doing all I could to keep moving towards getting out the door and starting the two hours of running that was waiting for me on the other side.

As I stared at myself in the mirror I started thinking about Mo and how I wish there was a way for us to go to church together later that morning. This, of course, was basically impossible since it was 7am and I had no way to contact him. At that moment I thought about Mo and said a quick, simple prayer to myself.

“God, I really wish there was a way I could get in touch with Mo so he could go to church with me today.” I thought as I shut off the faucet after brushing my teeth. At that moment I felt a sense of helplessness that Mo was out on the streets somewhere and I had no way of contacting him. I really wanted him to be able to go to church and spend the day with me, but it was out of my control.

About five seconds later my phone rings and the caller ID is a number I don’t recognize, which usually means it’s Mo calling me from someone else’s phone he’s asked to use. I picked up my phone and answered it as chills moved through my body.

“This is Ryan.” I answered.

“Hey, it’s Mo!” he screamed into the phone. I think because Mo doesn’t hear very well, he’s talking somewhere on the side of the road and that he doesn’t use phones much he tends to do a lot of screaming when he calls. “Where you at?” he asked quickly.

“Hey Mo, what’s going on? I’m up at my place and I’m getting ready to go for a run. Where are you?”

“I’m down at 5th and Brannan, come on down I’ll see you here in 10 minutes.” Mo was about a block away from where I live. I was excited to see him and I hoped he’d be up for hanging out after my run.

“Cool, see you then, Mo.”

I couldn’t believe he actually called me. Say what you want, but that type of thing just doesn’t happen on it’s own. Literally five seconds after asking God for help to get in touch with Mo he calls he from a phone I’m sure he had to talk someone into letting him use. I’m not sure what you call that, but I call it a miracle and those types of things don’t happen like that very often, if ever. I recognized it and I won’t ever forget that it happened. I was blown away and always will be.

After I finished getting ready I headed down a block to where Mo was standing across the street. We chatted for a little bit and I told him how I wanted him to go to church with me. He said he wanted to go with me and I told him to meet me right there at the same exact spot in two hours and we’ll drive over there together. He agreed and I went off on my run.

Almost exactly two hours later I was back and I didn’t see him on the same corner and for a minute I thought he wasn’t going to be there. Then I turn the corner onto my street and there he was, sleeping on the sidewalk next to a brick building that’s about half a block away from where I live. He knew I’d be running right by there and apparently wanted to make sure I saw him so I could wake him up.

I nudge him until he’s up and once he’s up and moving he tells me he wants to put on his nice white shirt and black pants since he needs to clean up a bit if we’re going to church. We both get ready, hop in the car and head down to church together and it ended up being an awesome day we got to spend together. Everyone at my church loved meeting Mo and he even got a shout-out from our pastor Gary, which he thought was really funny.

After church we went to Chipotle to hang out for a few and then made our way back up to San Francisco. It was great getting to spend some time with Mo and he’s a really good guy who has an amazing (and crazy) story. Every time we get to spend time together I learn more about him and it makes me even happier to know that we’ve become friends. He still has a long way to go and being in a relationship like this can be messy, but I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. Mo is here to stay and I’ll be sure to keep you updated with him as time goes on.

Thanks again for all of you who have contacted me about helping out Mo. I’m coming up with a few ideas of how we can give him the support he needs in a way that makes sense. He needs a lot, but we’ll take it one step at a time and together we can really make a huge impact in his life.

I just saw him this morning and one thing that’s been really bothering him are his teeth. He’s lost several of his teeth already and he’s in some serious pain right now due to cavities and who knows what else. If you’re reading this and would like to give some money for him to go to the dentist or if you know of a dentist in the Bay Area who would be willing to see Mo for free, please email me at ryan.hupfer at gmail dot com or let me know in the comments. You’re all awesome and we’ll catch up soon!


This Is How Mo Sleeps

For those of you who were introduced to my homeless friend Mo yesterday I mentioned that he sleeps next to a trashcan on the sidewalk. Yesterday I woke him up at his spot and we grabbed some coffee at the train station before I headed into work. Well, today I saw him sleeping there again (sometimes he gets kicked out by cops so I don’t see him) and I wanted to show you how he looks when we meet up in the morning. I’m not doing this to make you feel sorry for him or to shock you, this is just the reality he lives in.

It breaks my heart every time I see him laying there but I know it’s much more complicated than simply getting him cleaned up and getting him off the streets. When I woke him up he was in his usual good spirits and seemed happy to see me. I told him how I wrote about him on my website yesterday and he didn’t seem to care much. But, when I told him that one of you offered to donate him some new shoes he perked up quickly and seemed really excited.

“Who’s going to give me shoes?” he asked.

“A guy named Greg who heard your story and wants to help you out.” I said.

I didn’t know what size he wore and I still need to tell Greg so he can send me the right ones. Greg also wanted to know what colors Mo liked so he could pick out the best ones possible. When I told Mo about that he thought it was pretty funny.

“What size do you want?” I asked while he was still waking up on the sidewalk.

“Any size!” he screamed at me playfully as he looked up while laughing at me with a smile on his face. He’s still got a great smile, but he’s missing several teeth.

“No, what size do you actually wear?” I asked again. “He wants to get you shoes that actually fit you.”

“Twelves!” he yelled back up at me. I don’t think he’s been able to make a choice on the sizes of things he gets for a long time. He paused for a second, moved his foot from beneath the blankets that were piled on top of him and pointed to his heel that was sticking out of his socks.

“You got some socks, too?” he said as he smiled and pointed at the hole.

“We’ll work on getting you some of those too, Mo.” I said back.

At that point he stood up and told me that the motel that I sometimes pay for him to stay at is going to let him stay for an entire week for the price of one night. I’m not sure how he pulled it off, but people really like Mo and he has a good amount of people who are pulling for him. I didn’t have any cash on me so I went to the ATM and he trailed slowly behind me as I pulled out the money and handed it to him. When Mo’s in the train station he needs to be careful because the police don’t like seeing him in there hustling, but he still goes because it’s the best place for him to charge the probation GPS monitor that’s always around his ankle.

What I gave him wasn’t much, but for the amount I spend on Starbucks in a week it’ll keep him from sleeping outside on a sidewalk next to that damn trashcan and that makes me happy.

“You won’t see me for a week.” Mo told me after I gave him the money for the motel.

“Good, I’m getting sick of seeing you anyway.” I said as I laughed and smacked him on his back. He has my number so he’ll call me and I’m more than happy to not see him for a week if it means he’s chilling in a motel.

There’s something different about this guy and for some reason out of all the homeless people I’ve talked to he’s stuck around long enough for us to become friends. Where we’ll end up I don’t know, but I’m going to continue to be there for him as long as he lets me. If Mo’s story moves you to the where you would like to help out, let me know and we’ll figure something out. Personally, I’d like to keep him in the motel as long as I possibly can but there are plenty of other things he needs help with, too (he needs to go to the dentist, new clothes, etc.). I’m also thinking about starting a website/blog just for him so that I can get his story out to more people in a better way, but I’ll need some help to pull it off. If you have some ways that you want to help, think about it and let me know.

Thanks to all of you who have shown some love for Mo through your messages, likes, emails and giving. I know what Mo really appreciates it and I do, too.

I would especially like to thank Greg Oppman and Runners Forum in Indiana for reaching out to me about getting Mo some shoes (and now socks). Thanks to these guys Mo is going to have shoes that actually fit him for the first time in years.


Meet My (Homeless) Friend, Mo

What do you do when a homeless man or woman asks you for something? Do you help them out or do you just keep walking faster while looking the other way? Homeless and needy people are everywhere and most of us aren’t quite sure what to do about them. In the days of iPods, iPhones and Androids it’s never been easier to ignore these them although I’m not sure that’s the best thing to do.

About a month ago I was walking through the train station on my way back home from work. It was around 8pm and I was feeling tired from a long day of using my brain. Stephanie was doing something that night and I was starving so I started heading toward the Subway sandwich shop that’s in the station.

On my way over to grab my sandwich I get approached by an older looking black guy who was obviously homeless. He had a wide 6’2″ frame and was wearing old, worn out clothes that consisted of dirty jeans that were splitting up the sides from the bottom, a grungy black hooded sweatshirt and a light beige jacket that looked darker than it should have been. After giving him a look up and down I could tell that these just weren’t his clothes, they were also his blankets while he slept on the streets at night. Surprisingly as he got closer to me he didn’t smell at all, which from what I’ve experienced in San Francisco is pretty rare.

His beard was full, graying and had grown long enough at the bottom of his chin it could be braided if it wasn’t all clumped together. His hair was balding in the front and had longer dreads in the back. This wasn’t the first time that I had been asked questions by a random homeless guy and I actually like talking to them most of the time. For some reason this guy seemed different from from the beginning and as he started asking me questions he was actually pretty funny.

“Hey man, you have any cigarettes?” he asked me.

“Nope, I don’t smoke but I can grab you some food if you want. I’m about to hit up some Subway and I’m more than happy to grab you a sandwich if you want one.”

I’m always happy to offer someone food if they’re hungry, especially if I just met them. I feel like it’s a great way to get to know them and it gives you some time to talk with them while they order.

While we ordered our food I learned that his name is Mo, he’s on probation from selling some pills to someone on the street and that he likes to put all of the veggies on his Subway sandwiches (I call that “running it through the garden”). He also really likes the Subway cookies (oatmeal and chocolate chip) and sometimes the women who work there will give them to him for free if he asks nicely enough.

We talked for another few minutes or so and I ended up giving him some money to go get cleaned up at a cheap motel that’s nearby. I had no idea if I would ever see him again, but we’ve actually met up several times since then and I’m doing my best to be there for him when he needs something. This morning I ran into him on my way to the train station. He was sleeping under a couple of blankets on the sidewalk next to a trashcan that was right up against a fence. I woke him up, he gave me a hug and I bought him some coffee at the train station before I headed off to work.

I’m not sure what Mo has planned for the day, but I’m sure I’ll see him again tonight or tomorrow. I’m not sure what’s going to come of our relationship, but it’s grown to the point to where I feel like it’s good to share it with all of you so you can follow along our journey together. I really want to help him out and he’s got a good heart, but he’s got a hard life and there are a million reasons why he won’t make it another month on the streets. I’m hoping that I can eventually help Mo get back on his feet but for now I’m ok with just being his friend.

I feel blessed to have met him and I’ll be sure to keep you updated on how he’s doing. If you feel like there’s a way that you could help him out, let me know and I’ll be sure to let him know. He’s an awesome guy, he just needs some help.


8 Year-Old Juliet and My First Hardcore Song Rocks Australia (and YouTube)

I just saw this video of an 8 year-old Juliet rocking out to her first hardcore song and had to post it. I’m sure it’ll have 10 gazillion views by this time tomorrow. [view on YouTube]

The video was produced by her mom Kristina Childs (“Mum” in Australia), who has a Tumblr blog for her photography business (and who seems to be really good) and who seems to be really into hardcore metal.

They also seem to have a really good sense of humor — here are their family portraits.

Awesome vide, even sweeter pics and a lot of fun — now OPEN UP THE PIIIIIT!


Consistency And Persistence

The guy you see in the photo is Robert. He’s retired and from noon-1pm every Thursday for the past 8 years he has stood in front of the Federal Building in San Francisco at the corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Larkin Street in what he calls a Peace Vigil against the wars that United States are currently involved in. The Peace Vigil actually started right after the attacks on 9/11, so there were others who had been standing there every week even longer than he has. When I saw Robert standing on the corner holding his sign I felt like I had to go talk to him about what he was up to. He was a super nice guy and we ended up chatting for about ten minutes or so while he waved his sign around in the air at both locals and tourists who would roll by on double-decker sightseeing buses.

When I asked him whether or not he felt like his weekly protest was working or not, he said something that I thought was interesting. “You know, there is still a lot of war going on so I’m not sure how much of an effect we’ve had on all that, but personally it helps me feel better knowing that I’m actually out here doing something about it. No matter what, I know that I’m going to be out here every Thursday (he even puts it on his calendar) and making the effort to do something about an issue I care about is important to me. It’s important to me and all of these other people who are out here together.” At the time, there were probably another twenty-five to thirty other people who were also holding signs and letting San Francisco know how they feel about the wars that the United States in currently in.

Here’s how one of the protesters describes why all of the different types of people stand out there in front of the Federal Building on every Thursday:

As some of us have done every week since 2001, we stand here in witness to another way forward: a way of listening, mutual respect and understanding, of reflection, repentance and reconciliation. As people of many organized faiths and none, and as people of the United States, we take this time to focus on our own responsibility and on what we can do to address our complicity in the violent and soul-denying policies our government pursues at home and throughout the world. For some of us it is an opportunity to pray, to examine our lives for the seeds of war and to begin the work of removing them…

Just like Robert said, who knows how much of an impact they’ve had directly on the people who are making decisions in the Federal Building they stand in front of every week. What they’re doing is more of a statement to the people of San Francisco who have seen them every Thursday for the past 10 years over and over again. It shows people that they care about what they’re protesting enough to stick around and to continue to show up. They’re not doing a one-time flash mob and never doing anything about it again. These people care strongly about what they’re protesting and the persistence and consistency that they’ve displayed over the years proves it. I can definitely respect that.

Just being there, showing up, being consistent and persistent — it sounds simple, but it’s really hard to follow-through with. Robert had made it a priority and that’s the only reason it’s worked. I know I need to make a few things more of a priority in my life if I want them to be consistent, what about you?


Jason Smith Cowboys Up And Thinks You Should, Too

[box type=”info”]This is a guest post by one of my friends Jason Smith, who also happens to be one of the most interesting people I know. He’s a triathlon maniac and has some of the best stories when it comes to never giving up and taking a challenge to a ridiculous level. In this story he talks about how he “cowboyed up” and finished a triathlon after breaking his collar bone just two weeks before. Like I said, he’s a manic.[/box]


Being tough in my family has always been a rule of thumb. “Suck it up, boy!”, “Don’t quit, boy!”, “Keep your head up, boy!” my dad would always say. I don’t know where dad got the toughness from but I think it was his job (Head Trainer of the Indiana University Football team) and/or grandpa who molded him into this driven/“no pain”/“Rocky” mentality as he is today. My dad had has had four hip replacements and still is riding his bike like Lance Armstrong — for real. I’ve seen the man slip on the ice and crack his head on the pavement so hard that I felt the vibration through the soles of my shoes but he got right back up, brushed the snow off his pants and acted like nothing happened. NEVER have I EVER seen my dad cry. Well, I take that back, his eyes filled up with enormous amounts of salty liquid when grandpa died (does that count??). But even then, he still stood tall and made sure the rest of the family was okay.

So I guess experiencing all these character building traits of my dad I feel I have to be the tough guy as well. Well, maybe “stupid” is a better choice of words. For example, after getting my wisdom teeth pulled I “had” to do a track workout. I thought if I didn’t get my workout in I was going to lose fitness. Or maybe receiving eighteen stitches in my leg from a mountain bike wreck and then after I was compelled to finish my ride because I didn’t get that last hour in. And most recently, I competed in a triathlon 2 weeks after breaking my clavicle. Swam, biked, and ran with one arm. Hey, if paraplegic can do it, I can do it, right?


So speaking of a broken collar bone, on November 1st, 2010 I moved to Santa Barbara, CA for many reasons. 1) is to start my new life with my girlfriend, 2) start a new job and 3) to compete in triathlons professionally. Unfortunately, within a month of living in California I broke my clavicle (collar bone) in three places from a bike accident. It was a rude awakening to start my new life in California but surprisingly this was my first bone I’ve ever broken so I guess that was pretty cool. Well, kind of.

Smitty’s first broken bone was a doozy and it couldn’t have come at a worse time

It was cool because I could show all my friends the x-ray of the shattered bone on facebook. It was not cool because apparently, as a triathlete, we need our shoulders to swim, bike and run (well running is doable but I’d advise not to if you break any bone in your shoulder). After showing off my broken collar bone the reality started to set in. This actuality of not being able to go 110% is hard to take. The break made me super upset because now it’s going to take me two weeks to get back on my bike, three to four weeks to run again and two months to even think about getting back into the pool. The next day (after sleeping a whole 2 hours in a chair due to the pain) I thought about getting on my bike. Immediately a little voice in my head said, “ya know, riding my bike probably isn’t the best thing to do right now”. So, I decided to skip it – for that day.


The next day, after getting another 2 hours of sleep in a chair, my OCD kicked in and I HAD TO GET ON MY BIKE! I asked myself, “Is it really that bad?” Again I thought of all the stories to where people have sucked it up, kept their head up, and cowboyed up. For example, Tyler Hamilton riding the Tour de France with a broken collar bone. “See it can be done”, I thought to myself. Steve Prefontaine broke and won the American 10k record which lead Oregon to a Track and Field National Championship on a foot that needed twelve stitches. Or (my favorite) when Professional Bull Rider Lane Frost got his balls riverdanced on by a 1,200lb bull and wanted to quit the competition until his best friend David “Tuff” Hedeman told him to COWBOY UP! While all these stories are circling around my head I decided to put my bike on the trainer and began to cowboy up myself, so off I went. As I was riding I thought, “Why in the hell do we do this to ourselves?” I guess it’s the love of the sport that makes us do crazy things. It’s a test within. As a competitor, I guess I was testing the guy inside. I was also hearing my dad say, “A day wasted is a day you can’t make up.” How many times have we heard that?


Four months later my clavicle was healed and back to normal. Swimming was finally back up to speed and running and biking were the same. Two weeks till my first competition and I was feeling good and felt like I was ready to rock! This race was important for the fact that it was a professional sanctioned race. You see, in a professional sanctioned race if an amateur athlete places high enough he can advance his status to a professional athlete (receiving his “pro card” as one might call it). To prepare for this triathlon my coach had me signed up for a 10 mile race. I was excited about it, but life had other plans…again.


The night before the race I was riding my bike home and a car pulled out right in front of me. After quickly swerving and barely missing the car I started pedaling as hard as I could to keep up with traffic and my chain snapped. Not good. When this happened thought that the car behind was going to literally run me over, so I closed my eyes and embraced the hit. After hearing the rubber of the car tires drift right inches from my body I felt a wave of relief come over me. I was alive and I was pretty happy about that.

But, when I got up and grabbed my bike I immediately felt this crazy pressure in my shoulder. Oh yeah, the same shoulder I broken before. I’m not really sure what exactly went through my head at that point, but I think it was something like “F&$%! I DID IT AGAIN!” Sure enough, I had broken the same exact bone in the same exact place that I had broken only 4 months ago. Talk about life giving you a nice kick in the balls – well, actually, more like a kick in the head, pelvis, ribs, knee, elbow, and shoulder from drilling the pavement.

After I pulled myself together I was so mad that I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, but I was in so much pain I couldn’t even do that. I was hopeless helpless and walking home like a dog with his tail tucked between his legs. It definitely wasn’t one of my finer moments. Of course the thing that really sucked was that my girlfriend was out of town so when I got home I couldn’t even get undressed and take a shower. So I ended up sleeping on top of my covers with an ice bag that leaked all over me in the bed all night long. Not comfortable.


The next morning (day of the race that prepared me for my big triathlon) I sat in bed not wanting to move, all of a sudden I hear that damn voice in my head again, “Suck it up, boy!”, “Don’t quit, boy!”, “Keep your head up, boy!” and of course, the phrase that I love the most “COWBOY UP, BOY!” was flashing in my head brighter than a neon sign in Vegas! So, I dragged myself out of bed, went straight to the medicine cabinet, popped some Advil and ran the 10 mile race. It wasn’t pretty but I ran it. It was hard but didn’t stop. The entire time I was running I was thinking, “If I quit now, I’m not going to be ready for my triathlon competition in two weeks. KEEP GOING!!” I cowboyed up and that was that.


Two weeks later was the Triathlon. My shoulder still broke as can be and there was no way that I was getting my pro card at this point. Still pissed off, I went to the race anyway to support my girlfriend and the rest my team. The morning of the race I actually packed my racing kit, picked up my number and headed down to transition just to see what it was all about. Since I had already registered for the race I might as well get my free T-shirt, right? Well, subconsciously I knew exactly what was going to happen. My mind was telling me to compete but I told myself I was just going to be more of a cheerleader from the sidelines. Personally, I didn’t really like what my body had to say…so I started to ignore it.

All of a sudden, partly out of habit and partly out of sheer ridiculous determination I noticed myself starting to set up all of my gear. After that I started warming up. After I finished my warm up I started to pin on my race number. Something was happening and it felt like it was almost out of my control at this point. My mind was set on running this race and it was getting my body ready for it.


At this point my good buddy, Craig Spreadbury (an amazing triathlete), saw me and said, “Dude, you already warmed up and your stuff is set up in transition. Don’t be a pussy now, you might as well race.” Feeling the love/pressure from Craig was all I needed to officially push myself over the tipping point to grabbing my chips and going all in. So, I strapped on my brace and sling, pulled on my wet suit and off to the start line I went. Considering the situation I was in and how I was feeling mentally my only real goal now that I was going for it was not to finish last. I thought that seemed like a legitimate goal at the time.

And they’re off! A one-armed Smitty is in there somewhere

As Craig and I were standing in the endless swarm of swimmers (talk about feeling like David taking on Goliath) the gun went off and we were heading for the water to start the swim. For some reason I found myself caught in the middle of a bunch of crazy guys who were serious about getting after the swim and I had to keep up with the pack. I really didn’t have a choice at the time, but in hind sight I can confidently say that starting in the very front was a bad choice on my part. Quickly I figured out that I’d rather run with the bulls in Spain on any given day than try and swim with humans only using one arm. Seriously, it was really that bad.


Be that as it may, I swam as hard as I could with one arm at my side and the one other doing all the work. After getting kicked in the face about fifty times I thought about quitting but then thought to myself, “COWBOY UP and Keep Going!” Rounding the last buoy in the lake I thought this had to be the longest 26 minutes of my life. Wait, I swam that in 26 minutes?? As I quickly did the math in my head I thought to myself, “I actually might have a shot at not getting last!” Granted, clocking in at 26 minutes for a 1500 meter swim is VERY slow but if I knocked out a fast bike and run then I would be able to catch up to the rest of the pack and then some.


After the swim I stripped off my wetsuit and hopped on my bike. Starting thirty minutes behind the first wave of swimmers I was thinking to myself “Just do what I can and have fun.” And by the time I was finishing up the 25 miles on the bike I noticed that I was passing some of the athletes in the first wave! “WHAT?? REALLY? You mean I’m not going to get last?” I had caught up with most of the guys and I couldn’t believe it.

Biking with one arm and still killing it

Caught up and ready for the run


Knowing that I had caught up at that point I ran as hard as I could for the last leg of the triathlon, which was a 6 mile run. I crossed the finish line exactly at 38 minutes (a 6:09 minutes/mile average) and received 11th place. Again, not an unbelievable accomplishment but it was okay – especially for a guy with only one arm. Getting 11th place was great and all, but I was more proud of the fact that I put myself through a ridiculously tough test and pushed my way through it to the end. I think dad would have been proud, that’s for sure.

Smitty finishes the triathlon in an incredible 11th place


In any situation, when the chips are down, we have to ask ourselves if can we can cowboy up, get back on the saddle and have the drive to follow through? In this situation, I think I did and I feel pretty good about it. Call me crazy, but I hate excuses. If someone asked me about my race, there are two ways I could answer the question. “Yes, I challenged myself and finished!” or I could say “no” and whine about how my shoulder held me back, blah, blah, blah. No one wants to hear a person give excuses. I believe in life there are no second chances. Every moment is a test you can take and you can only take it one time (ie. a job, a relationship, a race etc..). If you have a shot at victory make damn sure you take it and don’t be afraid to fail.

Even with one arm I knew that I wasn’t going to win, but I was going to get after it and give it my all. In other words, I cowboyed up and I’m sure I’ll do it again. Will you cowboy up when the time comes? I sure hope so.

Amber Demure Draws the Awkward Moments in Life and That’s Why She’s So Awesome

I guess you could say that I meet a lot of awesome people. At least I like to think that’s the case. I meet them online, I meet them on a bus I meet them because they’re sleeping on the stairs outside of the building that’s across the street. Why do I do it? That’s a great question. I just seem to genuinely have an interest in all different types of people. I love their quirks, their interests and the stories that they have to tell. I love to listen to everything they have to say and just soak it all in. Sometimes I’m meeting them one minute and leaving their lives the next, but other times they stick around in my life a little bit longer. You never know and that’s all part of the fun.

Like I said, the stories that these people have are awesome and I’m going to start sharing them here on my blog so that more people can hear their stories, too. These stories will be completely different from one person to the next, but I think you’ll realize just like I did that they’re all worth hearing about.

Meet Amber Demure

The first of many awesome people I’m going to introduce you to is Amber Demure who I met through my job at isocket. She has an awesome blog that she uses to display some of the more interesting and inappropriate stories of her life and she does it all through drawings that she scribbles on everything from Post-It notes to napkins (more on that later). When I first visited her blog I was instantly sucked into her storytelling and the amount of transparency that she lets us all see through her daily drawings. From the bad drunk decisions she makes to her lack of junk in her trunk – it’s all out there and there’s no holding back.

I was so intrigued with Amber’s life I wanted to do an interview with her so see what’s really going on in that head of hers. Here’s what I found out.

When I sent Amber an email asking her what she was doing, this is how she responded.

[box]1. So I just realized I’m interviewing you and I don’t really know anything about you besides the fact that you a blog with awesome cartoons on it. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?[/box]I got nervous about the interview and decided to get drunk at Whole Foods (I do that a lot). My co-worker Josh is sitting next to me and he says I’m a cross between Lucille Ball and Holly Golightly. I think I’m a pudgy drunk with a fear of commitment.

In all seriousness…

I’m a closet-Cajun that grew up in Southeast Texas and never looked back. I don’t have much of a family but my whole host of misfit friends gets me by. I practically live at Whole Foods and bike everywhere. I regret choosing so colorful a bike because when I fake-sick at work they know it’s me parked outside of whatever bar I’m at. I really enjoy characters like Lucille Bluth from Arrested Development, Patsy Stone from Absolutely Fabulous, and Bernard Black from Black Books. I relate to pompous, alcoholic villains. I like to see myself as one, but friends always correct me that my intentions are all good. They’re playing into my plan.

[box]2. OK, enough of that — back to the important stuff. Holy crap your cartoons are awesome. I mean, like really awesome. What made you first start drawing these things and how long have you been posting them to your blog?[/box]It’s been about a year…

I was always the kid getting in trouble for drawing all the time (and also distributing my own version of the school newspaper) and wow. It’s weird to think that I’ve been doing this all along, my entire life – I just didn’t have the internet.

A lot of what I make is born out of frustration. I’m really hard on myself which is a terrible thing when you consider just how much I get drunk and make absolutely painful mistakes, but in drawing down the hilarious parts of the situation I put myself as a sort of 3rd party and laugh at my own antics. I didn’t realize so many other people would jump on board and relate to my life, but that’s best part. The lighter side of that frustration I mention has to do with my desk job. It get’s really boring at times and it’s nice to have a place to make a really good joke about a co-worker and share the link with everyone, “Look what Taylor said! She used the term ‘tenurecy.’ WTF does that even mean? I’m going to draw the scene in the meeting when she busts out with that stuff trying to sound impressive to our manager.”

[box]3. Do you have some history with artsy stuff? Meaning, did you go for school for art or have any other type of training or experience?[/box]In all seriousness, people growing up called me, “the girl that draws.” My Granny made me swear to her I’d study art in college before she died. I swore it. She died. I didn’t. I thought that maybe I wasn’t good enough and the corporate world was the only way to survive.

The fun thing is: I find the more I accept myself, the more other people do. It’s like I’m publicly learning how to be comfortable in my own skin.

[box]4. You live in Austin and I’ve been there for a few SXSW adventures. I eat a lot of meat when I’m there and then usually end up drinking way too much. Is this pretty much what everyone does in Austin or is there more to the city than what my light-weight self has experienced?[/box]You’re way off man, we have vegans. But yeah… We got #1 drinking city in America by Forbes a few years back, and just recently we were named 1 of the top 10 cities to go bar-hopping in. I know that everything pretty much involves drinking and you can’t expect people to show up to anything unless there’s a bar. As my friend from Toronto put it, “People there think mimosas are breakfast smoothies!” And they are.

We have the music scene which is world famous and a lot of fun, but people miss out on the natural beauty of my town. We have a spring just minutes from downtown that’s cold year-round. Some of the best days of my life have been spent laying on blankets with friends playing acoustic guitars and harmonizing. There’s the always something to do, and there’s always someone to do it with; there is never a dull moment in Austin.

On a lighter note, everything revolves around breakfast tacos, food trucks, bicycle rides, shopping locally, and everyone has dated everyone else. It is the most incestuous of places, and for such a large city, we all know each other’s dirty secrets. I like how one friend put it, “Austin is the world’s slowest moving orgy.” It’s not uncommon to find your best friend is now dating your ex from 2 years ago, and people here are okay with that.

[box]5. You seem to draw on random stuff with different pencils, pens, crayons and who knows what else. I’m curious to hear about how you go from figuring out what you’re going to draw, to drawing something and then to posting the drawings up on your blog. Can you give me a quick run down of how you do all of that?[/box]I get a bit miserable at day job and whatever is sitting next to me gets used. I’m a messy, sloppy person and it shows. Recently I spilled marinara sauce in my purse (hence coating my sketchbook) and those comics still went up. As my friend Jillian puts it, “First draft = final draft.”

I mostly use legal pads and “discreet stuff” so my corporate overlords don’t catch on to the fact that what I’m writing is not even remotely work-related, but now and then I bust out my Japanese stationary. Writing letters has been a hobby of mine for years and I go all out. I actually spent Thanksgiving this past year with a girl from Nashville that got to know me as a pen pal. We met for the first time the day before Thanksgiving! She stayed here and I don’t even have a couch. I was like, “Hey Maggie. You’ll be sharing my bed with me, nice to meet you. This is not awkward at all.”

[box]6. If you had the chance to hang out with one person who’s alive at this very moment, who would it be and what would you do if you had a weekend together?[/box]Is Hunter S. Thompson still kicking, because I think we’d fuck some shit up. I can only imagine…

Who has the most impressive Champagne cellar? That’s what I’m asking, because 90% of my answer is based on that alone.

Yeah, she likes champagne (just a little bit).

[box]7. Name an awesome person who you would you recommend me to interview and why (preferably someone who you know personally and would actually answer my random questions).[/box]I think Tolly Mosely would be fantastic. She’s so engaging, and I mean that in the real way; not in the twitter/CRM/social media/whatever-they-call-it-now way.

Or The Glitoris. He has no filter; he is hilarious.

[box]8. Anything else you want to add? Now’s your chance — do it.[/box]

I think I went on a date with a high schooler the other day. That’s weirding me out. My frieds sussed it out, “That guy does NOT seem 24.” Also? A homeless transvestite that regularly wears a cheerleader skirt and thong was almost the mayor of Austin. This city is cool in ways you can’t even imagine despite my constant attempts to escape it and live in Stockholm.

Yep, that’s me and the homeless transvestite that Amber is talking about. Awesome.