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Looking life’s storms in the eye: A lesson learned from grandma that saved my life.

In a previous article I wrote how gratitude is often the one thing that gives me the strength to keep going even when times get tough. One of my favorite lines in Warrior Cowboy, my current single, is “I look the storm in the eye through the fury of the ragin’ clouds” — so I thought I would share with you why that line is one that I live by and encourage others to do the same — plus offer a little more context behind what drives me to feel the gratitude I do in hopes that it can also help you find the strength to keep going through the storms of life.

As I look at the world around us and in my own life I see a lot of fear and hopelessness. People are giving up on their hopes and dreams and turning to anger and sadness because they perceive obstacles in life as being too large for them to overcome. I have to say that I’m guilty of that too. Lately, not a day has gone by where I don’t think to myself “What the hell am I doing?” or “Is it really worth it?”.

My beautiful Baba

Then I look at a picture of my Baba, my maternal grandmother, and feel so foolish and downright embarrassed for feeling even a touch of despair. The adversity in my life and in the world today is absolutely nothing compared to the adversity that Baba and her generation and culture had experienced.

Baba was raised in a small village on the border of Poland and the Soviet Union. She was the oldest of seven siblings and lost her father at the age of five or six. There was no plumbing or electricity and she was in charge of raising her younger family while managing the day to day life of a household as a young adolescent. She met my grandfather and they were married by the age of 16. Shortly after, they were eating dinner one night when their home was raided by a bunch of Nazi soldiers at gunpoint — where they were given a choice either to leave their home and go with the soldiers or be killed along with the younger siblings and her mother. Of course, my grandma and grandpa went with the Nazis to spare the lives of their beloved family members and they were led a few miles away to join other hostages on a train where they stayed for a few days. Each morning, all of the “passengers” were forced to form a line in front of the train where every third person in the line was shot and executed to make room for more “passengers”.

This was only the beginning of a very long period of terror for my Baba and so many other people. They were taken to German prison camps where they were forced to do and witness unthinkable acts just so they could stay alive another minute, another hour, another day. My grandparents were forced to dig mass graves knowing that there was a good possibility that they were digging their own graves or for their friends, who they’d grown to love and care for. While they were in the prison camps, Baba had a beautiful baby girl named Mary who eventually developed a cough and was executed by the Nazis, then buried as my grandparents helplessly watched. These experiences were so common among many hostages.

The thought of the American flag — and what it stands for has given so many the hope and courage that helped them survive the horror of death and terror

Despite living in an ongoing nightmare, many people in the prison camps became close and formed their own families. I have been blessed to have grown up with these people, who I often refer to as “aunt” and “uncle”. Many of whom said the only way to keep going through the darkest moments of their lives, which I would argue were also some of the darkest moments in humanity, was their faith in God and the vision of the American flag — and the hope that it represented to them.

My grandparents and many of their war “family” were fortunate enough to be able to come to America after surviving Hitler and his Nazis, since their homes and villages were utterly destroyed. Baba and grandpa did not speak a word of English, they didn’t have a dollar to their name, nor were they ever exposed to the freedom and opportunities of what America offered. They quickly learned of the opportunity that awaited them in this country and immediately adapted, learned a skill, and went to work in brass factories. They were so grateful to have a job and put their heart and soul into their work. Within five years they managed to buy a house and a car as both of them worked their butts off working 16 hours a day with multiple jobs making around g cents per hour.

I was as close to my Baba as I was to my mom, dad, and brother growning up

They went on to raise a family in which they provided the most loving and nurturing upbringing for my Mom and Uncle and were able to send both of them to college. My grandfather died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 55, eight months before my Mom and Dad got married. One year later I was born and given a few months to live, but because of the nurturing of Baba and many other family members, I continued to live. Baba continued to be an integral part of my life, showing me how to be strong and never lose faith no matter what life brings. That is how I try to live my life everyday and that is the message I attempt to spread to the world. However, I know for a fact that this is easier said than done….

As I revealed in my audiobook, Living This Rodeo, a few years after my mom passed away, I went into a really dark place and tried to end my life. I was prevented from carrying out the act when I thought about Baba’s life, the adversity that she has been through and the endless amount of love, determination and humility that she invested in her family — especially me.

We all have been blessed with people who have paved the way to enable us to have it so good today. Whether they knew it or not. Whether we know them or not. Many of them have been through hardships that we cannot even fathom — hardships that make even our worst days look like a cakewalk. So we really owe it to them to carry on their strength and determination during our own hardships so that we can be a symbol of hope and strength for generations to come.

I am in complete awe as I think about my life as it is right now when I put it into the perspective of Baba’s life. She has looked terror, Hitler, and death square in the face so many times and managed to keep faith, hope, and love alive in her heart to overcome some of history’s and humanity’s darkest moments and greatest odds. As her grandson, it truly humbles me to have such an amazing woman and role model in my life. She has instilled her strength and determination in me and deserves so much credit for how I got to this point in my life — as we both get to witness and celebrate the triumph of me beating the physical and emotional odds of Cerebral Palsy that has resulted in the realization of my far fetched dream of having a career in country music go national as the music video for Warrior Cowboy is now airing in over 50 million households. Thank you, Baba.

The lesson that I have learned from my Baba is that despite the battles we face on a daily basis — no matter how daunting and haunting they may be — we must never give up on ourselves. We may lose many battles throughout life, but we must never lose sight on our drive, passion, and dreams. It is true that our spirit can never be destroyed, no matter how hard we get knocked down. We all have a legacy to build with every breath we take — and that legacy will live one long after we take our last and depart from this world.

I invite you to enjoy the Warrior Cowboy lyric video below — and then visit to download the official song as my gift to you because we all feel defeated and hopeless at times, but we must remember that like Baba, we all have an unbreakable spirit that is within all of us that will never be destroyed even through our worst storms and darkest moments.

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