Dime at a Time

Excuses, that’s what most of my obstacles usually are, and what keep me from doing things I would really like to do and probably need to do.

Deciding that Dr. Wayne Dryer’s book “Excuses Be Gone” should become my motto I am taking on challenges that will both be good for me, do good for others, empower me and others, and definitely get me out of my comfort zone.

I am registering to join the Susan B. Komen 3 Day Walk in Denver in Aug. of 2011.  I have looked into this for the past 5 years, something in my subconscious was always pushing me to help others and take this challenge.  Every time I get into my research about when, where, how, and how much I stop.  My excuses range from “the race is when we usually take a vacation” to “I am not sure I could actually walk 60 miles in 3 days” “I would have to start training in the winter and it’s so cold out” to the biggie “there is no way I could raise the required $2,300 donation.”

As I look deeper at myself, it hits me that this is not the kind of woman I want to be.

I believe in the cause, the Susan B. Komen foundation does such an admirable job raising money and awareness and creating a community for survivors of cancer.

There is no reason why our family vacation can’t be scheduled around this date, in fact, school will have started by the time of the race.

I am healthy, but certainly could be more fit.  I can walk.  There really is no reason physically I can’t be prepared to walk this distance.

The last excuse is really the one that is keeping be back.  I hate to raise money. I hate to ask people I love and respect for donations, especially when the economy is in a sinkhole and people are trying to cut back.

I mentioned this to my mother-in-law and her friend Nancy on our recent train ride in Colorado and they both encouraged me to commit to this and just find a way to make it happen.  Both women urged me to step out of my comfort zone, start early with my donation campaign and my training and “just do it.” As we brainstormed together we came up with this idea and I love it!

I am going to register and make it official.  Then I am going to collect used water bottles and create labels for them.  Nancy came up with the idea “A Dime at a Time,” if I ask everyone I know to use this water bottle to collect dimes over the next year to support me in this challenge I will hopefully have enough in donations to participate.  Supposedly each water bottle would hold $100 in dimes  and I will then have raised a significant amount of money for a very good cause,  a cause that empowered me and others and got me out of my comfort zone.

I think people will support me in this cause and saving dimes for a year does not sound difficult, everyone can contribute just a little and together we will have a lot.  I like it.  “Excuses Be Gone!”

Would you support me one dime at a time?

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Rock Climbing

Rock climbing, Garden of the Gods Park, Colorado Springs, another adventure.

My partner in crime, my cousin Sara and I met our guide Issac, from Front Range Climbing Co and headed to the large red rock formations rising from the ground.

Issac was a good teacher, patient and kind, willing to let you test your abilities before coming to your aid.

Double 8 Knot

 

We learned how to tie double figure 8 knots to secure our lines, how to belay the line for our fellow climber, how to secure our harness, and how to repel down the rock once we made it to the top. All good lessons in and of themselves, but the real lesson of the day occurred when I was halfway up my second climb.

Sara was belaying me, meaning she was on the ground serving as my anchor in case I fell. She intently watched me as I slowly made my way up the rock, taking in the slack so that if I did fall I would be caught by the brake line. I was starting up the almost vertical wall of red sandstone, trying to find secure footing and hand grabs when I realized I had nothing to hold onto.

Nothing to push off of

 

I must mention that I have never, in my entire life, ever done anything like this, in fact, I have not even ever climbed an indoor climbing wall!  I am just your average 46-year-old, suburban stay-at-home mom. When I started this adventure I naively thought you would be harnessed to the ropes and then you would climb from one crevice to another, grabbing the rough rock with your hands and pulling yourself up. This was not how it worked in reality.

The rock actually had very few crevices and even less rough edges to grab. I learned climbing was about problem solving and it was all about taking very small steps in the right direction.

The rock had more dips than ledges and I had to push my toes into the rock and squeeze them to try to grip the wall. Often I would find myself with no real place to push-off and therefore be stuck. The only way to deal with this was to survey the rock and try a new strategy, sometimes shifting right or left a few steps or even having to really stretch out my legs to reach a small indentation in the rock.

At one point, I felt completely stuck with nowhere to push-off so I could climb higher. When I asked Issac what to do he calmly said “Try to find something to push on, even if it is only 5 inches up it will open up new possibilities.”

I trusted in Issac, looked around and found a tiny indentation to my left just a couple of inches away from where my foot currently gripped the wall.  I carefully shifted my foot and pushed with my toes in this new position.  Amazingly, as I looked to my right I did see a new option.  It hit me then, the only option I did not have was to do nothing.  If I didn’t move I would definitely stay stuck.  Instead, I moved my foot to the right and was able to progress up the rock several more feet before my next challenge.
(click on the links Rock Climbing and Rock Climbing Problem Solving to see the video)
Rock Climbing
Rock Climbing Problem Solving

As I learned to trust in my instincts and let go of my fear, options did open up for me.

My first instinct was to look for the obvious and well placed foot holds, expecting almost a ladder like series of steps leading me to the top of the rock.  Reality did not match up to this ideal.  Sometimes my progress up was smooth and quick, but usually it was the opposite.  Slow, careful, inching up kind of progress.  Sometimes I would move almost laterally but then something new would be before me.

Sara getting ready to repel down

 

I realized that this adventure was a good lesson for me.  Too often I want to do something, but if the logical and obvious step is not in front of me I don’t know what to do, sometimes choosing to do nothing.  Rock climbing taught me to not be afraid to take tiny steps forward because sometimes you just have to “do something” and when you do, even the tiniest step can lead to the next and the next and the next.

The second lesson of the day came when I least expected it.  After carefully picking my way up the looming rock I celebrated when I reached the top!  What a view!

Looking down at Sara I was very pleased when I could see the magnitude of the climb I had just completed.  “Wow! This was cool!  I did it!” I yelled down to my cheering fans below.  Now Issac announced the next step. “Ok, now turn around so your back is to us and then lean way back.  You want to lean as far back into your harness as you can because you need to be parallel to the wall.  You are going to walk down the wall now.”  he explained.

My first thought was ok, I can do this.  I turned around so I was facing away from Sara and Issac.  I tried to lean back, but suddenly my fear got the best of me.  It was a very uncomfortable feeling to be on the top of a rock and then have to lean way back as if you were going to throw yourself off the rock.  I stopped and turned back around so I could face Issac.  “what do you want me to do?”  I yelled, asking for confirmation and hoping for a new set of directions.  He repeated his directions again.

Next, he admitted it was really scary the first time, but that I had to have faith in my equipment and my partner.  My partner would slowly and carefully let the rope out as I slowly descended the rock keeping my brake line tight, this would prevent me from falling.

I took a deep breath and tried again.  Facing away from my partner, I felt the smugness of the harness and the taunt rope.  I leaned as far back as I could and took one tentative step off the rock.  “have faith in your partner” I whispered to myself.  In reality it took more faith in  myself than it did in my partner, but as soon as I stepped off the rock top I could see what Issac was talking about.  It was like being Spiderman walking down a tall building.  One step at a time Sara released a little rope  and I walked down the rock face.   Actually, once I got going it was fun.

One the ground again I grinned at Issac.  “That was cool!”  I said!

Have faith, trust in your partner.  I thought about that  and realized that was good advice.  In my marriage, I had to have faith, I had to trust in my husband, my partner, to go through life’s ups and downs.  In life I had to have faith, I had to trust in God, my partner, to help me make sense of the “why” of life.  On the rock, I had to have faith, I had to trust in my partner to keep me safe while I scaled a tall unforgiving rock wall.

I learned I could solve a problem even when there was no obvious solution. I also learned why faith and trust were the foundation to being able to “do something” when I didn’t know what to do in life.  I think I will go rock climbing again soon and I will take my daughter with me.  This was a good lesson.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

The author, the guide and the authors cousin

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Surprising Strength

Oh Angel of God, my guardian dear

To whoms God’s love, commence me hear

Ever this day, be at my side

To light and guard, to rule and guide

Amen

(Catholic Prayer)


My sister-in-law is the coolest. Really. Everyone I know seems to talk about their in-laws like they are aliens from Mars or worse. But I totally lucked out and I am not sure how! My sister-in-law is totally cool, thoughtful, successful, kind, fun and well, just the best. I don’t think of her as a sister-in-law, I think of her as my sister.

One of my goals in life has been to try to be there for the people I love when they need it the most and to be stronger than I thought I could be just once.  One Nov. 20, 2009 on a day I least expected it my destiny called my name.

We were packing to go out-of-town for the weekend. I was in fact,on my way to pick up our youngest from school a bit early so we could get on the road. My husband called as I was pulling into the school parking lot. “You need to pick up Maggie and come home as fast as you can. We have had a change in plans. Maggie can stay here with Sam and you and I need to drive to the hospital. A social worker from PSL just called me and said we needed to come as soon as we can. The are taking Jason into surgery right now. They think he might have a perforated bowel. If he does they can try to repair the damage” The air went out of my lungs like a puff of smoke. “I will be right there ” I managed to reply.

Jason was our nephew. Our premature, extremely tiny 32 week gestation, 4 week old baby nephew. Jason and his twin brother Joshua were born very early. In fact, they arrived at 29 weeks, a full 3 months early. When they arrived they weighed 2 pounds 11 ounces each and were immediate residents of the ICU Neonatal Unit at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Hospital in Denver. The most specialized NIC Unit in the region.

The boys were born to my sister-in-law and her husband after a long and difficult pregnancy. Sonja and Bruce had already gone through so many challenges in trying to become parents that when the boys arrived we all felt like everything would be OK in spite of the fact the boys were extremely premature. They had been doing very well considering their tiny size and in many ways were doing better than the doctors had predicted. This is why this phone call took us by such surprise. “wait, we thought things were going well” was all my husband and I could say to each other during the long, frustrating drive into Denver on a Friday rush hour.

Trying to convince each other that all would be fine we stayed confident as we covered the distance between our home and the hospital.

When we arrived we hurried to the NIC Unit expecting to find Sonja and Bruce in the large waiting room. Instead it was quiet and empty. Not sure where to go we started to walk toward the nurses station but were stopped when a door opened right in front of us. A tall distinguished man in a doctor uniform stepped out. He looked at us and said. ” I am sorry.” I thought he meant he was sorry for stepping out in front of us. He then asked us if we were her for Sonja and Bruce. “Yes” we answered in unison.

The man gestured us into the room. I looked into his eyes and I saw pain and sadness, maybe even sympathy.

Still not aware of what was going on, we stepped into the small, dark room. Sonja and Bruce were sitting on a small couch, a table and lamp gave the room a soft glow.
Bruce looked like he was in shock. Sonja was crying into a Kleenex. I ran to Sonja and gave her a hug. “Oh honey” I murmured trying to calm her worries.

A strange man sat in a chair across from them. He looked at us kindly.

Sonja sobbed. She asked us if we knew. “Knew what?” we asked.

In a heartbeat, the unthinkable happened.

Sonja had tears running down her face as Bruce shared with us the news that had just shattered their world.

“The doctor just left. He just told us that Jason will not make it. They opened him up and their was nothing they could do. His intestines were basically dead. There is nothing they can do. He will not make it” Bruce managed to whisper.

I looked at my husband. Our eyes met and we looked at each other as if looking for answers. Neither of us had an answer for the other.

“Oh my God no.” I said as I stared in disbelief at my sister. Suddenly I had no air in my lungs.  I watched in horror as she explained further details.

To try to explain what this experience was like is pretty much impossible. To be a witness to such raw and consuming sorrow changes you. We all changed that afternoon.

The doctors explained that this is rare but it does happen to preemies. Apparently he had an infection, a fast-moving one that attacked his intestines and destroyed them before the doctors even knew to do surgery. The doctors had told them they would sew up Jason and put him on a ventilator. When they had him ready they would come get Sonja and Bruce and they could say good-by to him.

When we walked into this room we did not expect to be met with this horrible reality. We sat with Sonja and Bruce while we waited we cried and cried and cried. Then we held each other and cried some more. We were unable to do anything else. Bruce seemed so lost in his shock. Sonja just kind of disappeared into her grief.

After a long time the nurse came back and said they could go see him. We stayed in the room and made calls to family. Sonja and Bruce went to see baby Jason.

Later we were asked to go join them. My memories are fragmented. I recall a large room, bright lights and lots of medical equipment. The staff gave us space and time but each nurse and doctor had the same far away look in their eyes. Everyone was hurting.

Jason was breathing thanks to a loud machine he was wired to. He was so tiny, but so perfect looking. He looked like a baby doll, each feature so perfectly created it was impossible to think something could be so wrong with him on the inside. We gathered around him and each tried to find a way to say our own goodbye to this precious baby we had not even had the chance to meet yet. All I could think about was all the things that were not going to happen now. Things like birthday parties, games of chase, eating ice cream, playing with trucks, fighting with his brother…….

We left and Sonja and Bruce gave him a bath and prepared him. The nurses brought down baby Joshua so the brothers could be together, the family could be a complete unit.

We were kindly escorted back to the room. The tiny, dark, sad room. The room where our hearts were broken.

Eventually family started to arrive. Everyone was numb from shock, we were all too shook up to even speak. We all gathered in the room and waited. Sonja and Bruce resumed their positions on the couch. The nurses brought in two tiny bundles wrapped in little blue blankets. They handed each boy to a parent. We all gathered as one and sat in the presence of a baby going to heaven in his parents arms. To be in the presence of a child passing from this earth to heaven is the deepest, most spiritual thing you can imagine. Everyone in that room prayed, cried and felt the pieces of their heart shatter around them.

The next week was one full of raw sadness. All I could think of to do was try to hold my sister Sonja and her husband Bruce up for just a little bit so they didn’t have to try to hold themselves up. Just be there somehow holding them up just until they could do it themselves again.

I don’t know how any of us got through that tragedy. We did something none of us thought we could do. We took turns holding it together and falling apart but we all just tried to hold Sonja and Bruce up.

Sonja and Bruce themselves were nothing shy of amazing.  Even with shattered hearts, lost dreams, and a sadness that permeated their ability to breathe they still managed to hang on.  They hung onto their baby Joshua who desperately needed his mom and dad, they hung on to each other and to family and friends.  I knew they were married before all this happened, but now I know they have a marriage.  There is a difference.

It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I hope I never have to be that strong again.

The anniversary of this tragedy is upon us now.  This little baby is and forever will be in my heart.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list”.

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Hear Me Now

Sometimes a bucket list isn’t about you at all. Sometimes its all about the people who mean the most to you. My sister is in Louisville, Kentucky tonight trying to get some sleep because in the morning she will wake up at about 4:30 am, have some instant oatmeal or a bagel and put on her workout clothes. Then she will check her several plastic bags lying on the floor of her hotel room one more time, pin on her bib number, grab her slick road bike and hit the door. She will be soon competing in her very first full distance Ironman Triathlon, swimming 2.4 miles in a fast paced river, biking 112 miles through the rolling Kentucky hills and then running a marathon of 26 miles in the sweltering Indian summer heat. Why is she doing this? To prove to herself that she can. It’s that simple.

She needs to prove to herself that no matter what the challenge, no matter what the odds are against herself, she has the physical, mental and spiritual strength to go the distance. She needs to know that no matter what she faces in life she has the strength and internal fortitude to “just keep going” and face down the fear and the challenge.

I wish I was there to cheer her on in person, but she knows I am with her in spirit. I have been with her all along.

She has faced numerous challenges over the years but nothing like what she has faced the past year. This race is a race of empowerment, a chance to prove to all who care to watch, that she is a tough cookie and even though she looks like the wind could blow her over she is a mighty force to be reckoned with. She has faced down challenges in the past year that many would have run from or bowed down to, but with each passing day she has gotten stronger and more determined. As her heart healed, she regained the lost soul inside, the one who had spunk, the one who dared to dream.

As she faced her cloudy blue skies, fought battles and tears no one should have to face she dared to set a huge goal, she dared to dream, she dared to make her own decisions in life. Every day she got stronger, every day her body handled the physical hardships a little better and every day she reaffirmed to herself that she was strong enough.

15 months later she is the strongest person I know, she is an inspiration to me and she has shown me how to face down life’s biggest challenges with grace and dignity. She is ready to be an Ironman. I know she has it in her to do this. I have known it all along. Tomorrow she will know too.

One of my bucket list items was to really be there for someone. To be a source of support for someone when they faced their darkest hours. This past 15 months I have tried my very best to do this for my sister. I believed in her when she was too scared to believe in herself. I have watched her blossom like a butterfly and she is ready for her day, her moment. I wish I could be there with her in person for tomorrow, but she knows I am with her in spirit. I have been with her all along.

The Big Day:
Today is the big day and my sister is currently knocking it out of the ballpark! I can track her progress online by going to Ironman.com and I am so impressed! She swam 2.4 miles in a river with water temps of 85 degrees and she did it in 1:29 minutes. Then she got on her bike and hit the road and posted a split time on her bike of 70.5 miles in 4 hours and 10 minutes. She finished the bike in 6 hours and 53 minutes and managed to move up in the overall ranks by 100 people. That means she passed 100 people on her bike, men, women, younger and older! She passed 3 females in her age group on the bike and moved up to a rank of 53 in her age group. She even posted a second split on the bike that was faster than her first split. She is rocking it! The temps are hot in Louisville right now in fact, they are expected to hit 92 degrees with 90% humidity. I would not like to go for a walk in temperatures like that and she is doing an Ironman.

As I post this update she is off the bike and is now in her running shoes trying to “find her legs” as the veteran Ironman says (my husband). Now all she has to do is complete a full marathon, 26 miles, in 92 degree temps with 90% humidity on shot legs. My admiration for her is hard to put into words. I wish I could be there with her in person today, but she knows I am with her in spirit. I have been there all along. You Go Girl. What a way to show the world what you are made of, especially after the year of hell you have been through.

Last Update:
She did it! My baby sister, the one who lost her voice in her marriage found her voice on the trail. By the time she got to the run she was feeling the pain, but all in all doing well. Unfortunately, as these things can go, four miles into the run she started to experience pain in her calf. She had experienced this pain a couple years before and knew what it was, which was good and bad. She knew enough not to continue to run on it because of the possibility of tearing the muscle which could leave her unable to even walk on it. She was not going to train for a year and get this far into the race and have to quit so she started walking. In the end, she walked the rest of the marathon and eventually, triumphantly, and exhaustively crossed the finish line victorious just under 16 hours after starting her Ironman.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list”.

Vineman 1/2 Ironman

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