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Posts tagged ‘Stories’

The Reluctant Athlete…well, I’m not really an athlete (as determined by much discussion with my friends), but I can’t think of a title.

Actually, it wasn’t too much discussion. I posed a question to them. “Am I an athlete?” They all immediately said, “No.” I accepted that, because I didn’t really think I fit that definition either, but what am I? One even said I wasn’t really a runner, but a jogger. “What?!” I took exception to that and luckily the rest of my friends did too. I am most definitely not just a jogger. 😉

I started running in February, 2009 and I have not stopped. This is an amazing statement from me because this is the first time in my entire life that I ever stuck with any sort of physical activity. I just never liked it. Period. Exercise for fitness was never really something anyone in my family did. Not that there weren’t athletics. Both my brother, who is four years older than me, and my father were terrific athletes. I was the little sister who spent my entire youth at the ballpark, but while the men in my family were playing sports, and my mother was a spectator, I was off in la-la land playing on the swings and visiting the snack shack, or as I got a little older, hanging with friends and talking to boys. Countless times my mother would ask, “Did you see your brother’s base hit?” or “Did you see your brother make that touchdown?” As I got a little older, I actually started to lie and say, yes, because I could see she thought it terrible of me not to watch him play. Now I wish I had. He still has a reputation in our hometown as one of the greatest high school athletes ever to play, and since this was long before the video camera, I have only my mother’s big scrap book to peruse. My favorite headline from the sports page of our local paper was, “Anello Makes Good on Boast!” Yes, he could be quite cocky at times.

Over the years, I have made more attempts to stick with an exercise plan than hairs on my head. The best I did was walk the dog every day. I have joined gyms in the following cities: Antioch, Monterey, Concord, Walnut Creek and two in Palm Springs. One would think I would have concluded long before I spent so much wasted money that I am not a gym person. I can shamefully say that I never got my money’s worth at any of these gyms, not to mention how difficult it always was to cancel my membership.

A few months after I moved to where I live now, a switch went off. I was frustrated with myself for not ever sticking to a program and I was feeling out of shape and a bit overweight. I was blessed with good genes and always naturally thin without having to watch too much of what I ate, but at the age of 48, I was feeling sluggish and my clothes were getting a bit too tight. No, I did not join the gym. I had finally learned that lesson. I decided to start running. All that were needed were shoes and an iPod. I had the iPod so I ordered a pair of Adidas running shoes online. I started off at the high school track. That first day, I did two miles. I ran a lap and then walked a lap. My plan was to increase the distance and the running weekly with an every other day schedule. When I could run three miles without any walking, I left the track and hit the streets. Steadily, I increased my distance. I became addicted. I no longer viewed exercise as a chore or something that I hated. I craved it. I joined Team in Training for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society that summer and ran the Nike half-marathon in October, 2009. Through that summer of training is when I became a runner.

And then the runner started cycling. This was not a calculated decision at all. This was having drinks with friends, one being a cyclist, and two of us saying we wanted to go on a bike ride the next day. Well, put a girl on a bike on a gorgeous morning on the roads of paradise in wine country and that was it for me. A new addiction. This wasn’t quite as easy, though. I only needed shoes for running. For cycling, I needed a bike, helmet, gloves, shoes and cycling clothes. To this day, I only own the gloves, shoes and the clothes, though most of those are hand-me-downs from a professional cyclist that I am lucky enough to know. Everything else is borrowed. I cannot thank my friends and family enough for helping me get to where I want to go, and where I want to go is all over Sonoma County…on a bike.

The great thing about running and cycling is that these are sports you can do on your own, but having said that, there is nothing like having friends to train with. I am fortunate that I have very good friends who enjoy the same sports and though our schedules don’t always mesh, connecting with them for a run or ride is added enjoyment during exercise. We may not talk to each other. We may all have music in our ears, but the camaraderie that comes from the mutual satisfaction of a great run or a great ride is priceless. Especially if you race together, which we do. Inevitably, we talk it to death after it is over, boring everyone else around us, but it can’t be helped. It is the best part.

The other vital role that these two sports play in my life is my sanity. I don’t say that lightly. Not that I would be insane if I couldn’t run or bike, but there is very little that can’t be sorted out in your head during the solitude of a workout. There is a very dark quote from Karl Marx, “The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain.” I know, so very uplifting, but I totally get that. Having gone through a difficult period in my life, at the same time that I became athletic, I can completely relate to this. Exercise can be physically painful at times, but somehow it makes you feel better. There is a beginning and an end. For me, every run and every ride is an accomplishment.

Sunday Morning…

I spend too much time wondering if life is just a series of random events or if things happen for a reason. I suppose when your life gets completely turned upside down within a span of a year or so, you begin to ponder. I haven’t always been lost in these kind of thoughts. For many years I think I moved through life on autopilot, but I have always questioned things. Faith has never been an easy thing for me to grasp, but I want to believe that there is a purpose. There are times when things are revealed to have meaning and when that happens, it restores my belief in something beyond what we do ourselves to create the life we live, but there are other times when nothing seems to make sense. It may just be that I am too impatient, and that the answers are revealed somewhere down the road. Or perhaps I am not paying close enough attention to what may be right in front of me. I hope so, because I have never been a cynical person and have no intention of becoming one.

This poem, which I have already published here, speaks to these thoughts, so now you know where it came from.

Seeking

Until the blue of the sky washes over me,

And my blood no longer flows,

Will my mind become still,

And the disquiet cease.

As I question what is to be written,

With an inconvenient heart,

And the longing to know,

Is not within my grasp.

To believe in a destination without patience,

Is a dark and endless odyssey,

As discovery is fleeting,

The mystery, elusive.

Who is the emissary that delivered the disturbance,

That changed the direction of the wind,

What is to be revealed,

And for what purpose?

I search for faith,

To see with unclouded clarity,

To know that what has always been beyond my reach,

May one day open up to me.

Just Me Now…

Bailey passed away at home, peacefully in my arms, on Valentine’s Day. She will forever be celebrated on the day of love. Here is my little tribute to her.

In Loving Memory of Bailey.

Pack of Two

I want to write about Bailey while she is still with me. My sweet little girl is rapidly declining and it’s breaking my heart. I know she has had a long, healthy life, full of nothing but love, but letting her go is going to be one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I don’t know if it will be a week or a month, but time is not on her side. Her body is failing her. Her mind, her spirit and her tenacity are all there, but her legs can’t hold her up any longer and it’s painful to watch.

Bailey came into my life on a whim. I always had dogs growing up and it had been some time since a dog had been in my life. I thought I would just go to the Animal Shelter and take a look. Who was I kidding, but that is what I had told myself. My son, Jarrod, had just turned 13 the month before. He came home from school and I said, “C’mon, let’s go maybe save a dog.” I told him that we were just going to look, but if the right dog was there for us, we would know. We spent a lot of time going up and down the aisles, my heart hurting for every one of them, but none of them seemed to fit. We had two cats at the time so we needed a cat-friendly dog and their bios weren’t very promising. We were left on our own to peruse. We passed by the “Sick Bay” area several times without going in, but just as we were ready to leave and passed by the doorway again, I turned and went in. There she was, all alone. The card on her crate said Chocolate Lab (they didn’t mention there was pit bull mixed in). She was so tiny, only eight weeks old. She and a litter mate had been dumped on the street of the shelter. Her litter mate had been adopted. We took one look and that was it. No question. They gave her to us right then and there, wrapped in an old towel because she was dirty and stinky. I will never forget the ride home, Jarrod cradling her like a baby, she a little feisty at first, then calm. We had nothing at home for a puppy. We carried her into Safeway for puppy supplies and then home for the beginning of our adventure together.

Bailey was not an easy puppy. We had no problem housebreaking her, she was smart as a whip. The standard commands came very easy, but she had more energy than we could ever possibly contain. She was extremely destructive and only calm when she was asleep. The first few months were not pleasant. I fell in love with her instantly, but everyone else hated her, and I am not kidding. My mother told me I had to get rid of her. I had friends who didn’t say very nice things about her. I had many moments when I thought to myself, “What have I done?” I thought a puppy would learn to get along with the cats. I thought they would put her in her place and she would realize they were in charge. I could not have been more wrong. Here was this tiny baby of a dog relentlessly pursuing them. She only wanted to play, but they wanted nothing to do with her. They would bloody her snout and she would go back for more. Shortly after getting Bailey, our beloved cat, Louis, was struck by a car and killed. I blamed myself. He was away from home more often. I was devastated, but it made me more determined to save this crazy, mongrel, devil dog. Here was my thought. She and I were stuck together. I knew that she was not adoptable with her out of control behavior and that if I returned her (I could never!), chances were slim to none that she would be placed permanently. So I set out to make her a good dog, and eventually she was a good dog, who became the best.

Bailey is the most independent dog I have ever encountered. She is neither needy nor jealous. She eventually had to share her home with two more dogs, both male and she was in charge. She was truly the alpha. She was the first to arrive and we always gave her that respect. Her food bowl was placed down first and she was the first to be handed a treat when the three were waiting. Neither boy ever challenged her. She couldn’t care less if either of them were getting attention. She would watch with indifference. Almost like, “Big deal, I was here first, they love me best.” Perhaps she could read me, because that was the truth. I truly loved my other dogs, but she and I had a bond beyond what I had with them. Maybe it was those early, challenging years when I refused to give up on her. Whatever it was, she was mine and I was hers.

I love her personality. I love the independence. Even so, at times she needs reassurance and it is always to me that she comes to. She has moments of vulnerability, when for some reason there is fear or doubt about something and that is when I see how much I mean to her. She is never one for affection, though she loves to be scratched behind the ears. She will never roll over and let you scratch her belly. She doesn’t like cuddling. She will growl and get up if I try to have a little love fest with her, but if she were to tolerate it from anyone, it would be me and occasionally she does. I socialized her early on with other dogs and in her younger years she liked to go to the dog park, but she was very protective of me. I couldn’t visit with other people because eventually their dogs would come around and if they got too close to me, she would attack. We had to stop going. It was more of a warning on her part, but still, bad dog park etiquette.

She is an outdoor kind of girl. She has always been a house dog, but much prefers being outside. The challenge this winter is making her stay inside because the cold weather isn’t good for her joints, but she won’t stand for it. She hates the rain because it forces her to be inside and she will vocalize her discomfort. She has always been a talker. If she is unhappy about something, you know it. If she is ready to eat, she will tell you. She snores, but never passes gas (thankfully), and she has had more nicknames than I can remember. A few that have stuck are Missy, Bailey Bob, and Puppet, at least from me. Many throughout her life have given her nicknames. I think Satan might have been a very early one.

So that is a glimpse into the life of 15-year old Bailey. There is so much more to this little brown mutt. She is my best friend and there will never be another like her. She did turn out to be the greatest dog and everyone that knows her, loves her, including my Mom who is making her way up here in a few days to say goodbye. I remember when Louis, our cat, died. Jarrod was beside himself with grief. He had been with us for eight years. Jarrod told me that when he got older, he would never have a pet because it hurt too much to lose them. I told him that he couldn’t think that way because the number of dogs and cats that need homes far outweigh the people that will take them in and love them and this is the price we have to pay for them.

My dear, sweet Bailey, the pain of letting you go will be worth all the years of comfort, love and joy that you have given me and forever you will be in my heart.

A Gray Area

Transitioning Hair

This morning I went into a local grocery store on my way to work to get a salad for lunch. When I went through the checkout, the clerk asked me if I qualified for the senior discount. This store offers 10% percent off on Tuesdays to anyone 60 and over. That’s right, I said 60. Are you kidding me? I bit my tongue. Hard.  I looked her right in the eye and said, “No.” Then I said, “You asked me that last week.” Her response was the same as last week, “I never assume.” I don’t go into this store every day, but I just so happened to have been there last Tuesday, too. Lucky me. Last week, I was in a little better mood. I laughed it off and asked her if I really looked 60? She gave me the “never assume” response. I remember saying to her. “I know I have gray hair, but come on.” This probably would not bother me so much if she was one of the typical girls that work there, which are young, late teens, early 20s, but this woman is my age, give or take, and apparently works Tuesday mornings. The reason I had to bite my tongue so hard was because I was not in such a good frame of mind due to a couple realizations that came to me last night. I was in a mood. I am not a confrontational person at all, but oh my god, did I want to give it to this woman. I wanted to say, “Don’t you think you should assume in the other direction? You are not making any friends here, especially with someone who is clearly not 60! And shouldn’t you try to remember your customers since you asked me that last week? Are you a moron? Don’t you think that if I were old enough to get the discount, you would not have to ask? Wouldn’t I tell you to give it to me? After all, there is a bright yellow sign right here in front of my face next to the ATM machine that clearly states it is the 10% off day for anyone 60 and over! Give me my fucking salad. I don’t like you!”

I know the gray hair is a telltale sign of a certain age, but I love it and I know I don’t look 60. I will never go back to dying my hair. Not that it wasn’t a difficult decision that I wrestled with for a couple of years before I actually did it. We women are vain. We don’t want to grow old gracefully. At least I don’t. I am descending the ladder of aging kicking and screaming. Somewhat. I know that letting my hair go gray shows a certain degree of acceptance, but because of that, I try to remain youthful in other ways. I stay fit and try not to dress like my Mom. No offense to my Mom. She always looks very nice.

The decision to go gray was somewhat calculated for me. Prior to moving back up north, my hair stylist, Stacy, had been encouraging me to let my hair go gray for some time. We talked about it a lot when I went for my roots (every four weeks). She said that I would look great because I was youthful looking and that it would be striking. “No.” I kept saying. I love this girl. She knew she would be losing income if I stopped dying my hair, but she was honest with her opinion, regardless. And, oh the money I have not spent on not getting my hair dyed these past couple of years. What Stacy said was always in the back of my mind, especially when just one week after getting my hair colored, the shock of white would begin peeking through. I was so tired of it. So my calculated decision was when I decided to give modeling another shot. I thought gray hair would make me more marketable. I figured I could do medication commercials. You know, Cialis, maybe? And that was it for me. Off I went, in my mind, to reinvent myself. I know that sounds lame, but that’s what I did. I spent almost a year going gray and getting into better shape. The first few months were awful. I almost dyed my hair on many occasions. I didn’t want to look like a raccoon so I put this non-permanent rinse on, which turned the gray roots purple. It was hilarious. I remember one friend who I hadn’t seen for a while and hadn’t had a chance to tell her what I was doing said, “I like the purple.” It was a nightmare, but I persevered. Once I felt ready, I had a friend of my son’s take some photos of me (it had been years) just to see for myself if I had the gumption. I guess I did. Not because I love the business. I never really liked that world very much, but it is a good living and a means to an end. In my case that remains to be seen, though things are starting to move a bit for me. The jobs for someone my age aren’t as easy to come by as they were back in my youth. Still, getting signed to Ford came as a complete shock to me. I remember walking in and expecting it to be a courtesy visit. I certainly didn’t expect, “here is your contract, and by the way, we love your hair.”

So for me, this is what is fun about being gray. I think I am a mystery to some people. I have a good friend whose brother is in his 30s and I met him for the first time a year ago or so. He asked his sister, “So is Jodee young and prematurely gray, or is she older and still hot?” I loved that! I loved that he could not figure it out and I love her for sharing that with me. The other thing I like are the compliments from strangers. Not from men, because that almost never happens. The compliments come from women. I’m not sure of the reason. Perhaps that I had the guts to do it. Perhaps long, gray hair is just different from what you see out there. Whatever the reason, it always feels great to hear that from other women because there is always going to be that part of me that is not ready to be old and not ready to show it. I am not here to preach going gray. It was a personal decision and it isn’t for everyone. I suppose being questioned whether I was a 60-year old woman today made me feel like I wanted to write this. 🙂

Postponing Christmas

I spent today, Christmas, in San Francisco volunteering with City Impact. They are a non-denominational Christian organization that ministers to people in the heart of the Tenderloin. It was their goal this morning to provide 2000 hot meals to the city’s most destitute souls and I decided a week ago or so that I wanted to be part of it. I didn’t know anything about City Impact. I just googled to find someplace that I could volunteer, but it looks like I stumbled upon a very well-run charity with their hearts in the right place. Before you think I deserve a pat on the back for this, I did this as much for myself as for any of those in need. I don’t mean that this was merely self-serving, because my heart is also in the right place. I just mean that I needed to get outside of my own head and do something to remind myself that things really aren’t that bad. We sometimes feel sorry for ourselves, or at least I can admit that I do, and I felt it was time for an attitude adjustment. Just the walk from where I parked my car, through the streets of this neighborhood was a very good reminder of all I have to be thankful for.

I got up at the crack of dawn, put on my jeans and three layers of t-shirts, two long sleeved and one short sleeved, my sneakers and a warm coat and off I went. I had a feeling that I was going to get dirty. I didn’t know if that would mean I would be outside in the rain delivering meals or working in the kitchen, but I figured either way, I would get dirty. So I skipped the shower, put on a hat and didn’t bother with makeup. It was amazing how many volunteers did the opposite. There were many in their finery, with jewels to boot! I didn’t really get that, but who am I to judge? They were there to help, just like me. I admit to laughing a bit to myself when one woman asked for an apron.  So my duty was meal prep and I was assigned to be a runner. I guess it is good that I am a runner because that is pretty much what I did. I ran food from the kitchen to the assembly line tables, ran empty pans back to the kitchen, ran banana boxes full of the meals to the hallway where it would be collected by the volunteers delivering and then ran empty boxes back to the assembly workers. I ran for five hours and I did get dirty, indeed. I ate four cookies and a bag of cheetos during that time, on the fly. The mission was accomplished. There were over 2200 meals delivered. About 500 of those were served at the park down the street, where families could also pick up toys for their kids, and the remainder were delivered to homes and homeless shelters. Also in the midst of all of this, bags of groceries were also delivered.

I had not really been looking forward to the holidays. Circumstances are what they are in my life, much different than they have been in the past. I just wanted to skip Christmas. If I had expendable cash lying around, I would have taken a trip to someplace very warm and toasted Christmas with a bartender on the beach, but that was a fantasy. I saw a blurb on the news about volunteers being needed on Christmas and at the time didn’t give it much thought. But when I woke up the next morning and started pondering the holidays further, I thought of that news blurb and decided I wanted to take myself to San Francisco on Christmas morning to do my own little small part. The hurdle was  the woman that gave birth to me. She is already worried about me. The changes in my life have caused her concern and she doesn’t always agree with my choices. I think my choices make sense, at least today they do, but I do understand her concern. I’m a mother too, so I try to be very sensitive to her worries. Christmas day was supposed to be spent with Mom and Dad. My son would be with his new in-laws, so I wasn’t going to be able to see him and my daughter-in-law, but in thinking about that, I came up with a brilliant plan. Let’s just postpone Christmas one day! First I had to be sure my kids would be around because they were part of the plan. If they were available the next day, then we could ALL be together! They were and so my plan worked, though not without a little trepidation from my mother, which is understandable. “You’re going to do what?” she asked, “Volunteer, Mom. That is a good thing,” I said.

No, I did not skip Christmas, nor did I really postpone it. Christmas was all around me today. I had wanted to be assigned to deliver the meals because I wanted to see the faces of those who’s lives were being touched by the spirit of giving, but even that is a little selfish. Somebody had to run, so I ran. It was a good day. Now I am going to take a much needed shower and have dinner with one of my very best girlfriends because her kids have gone to their Dad’s house and she’s alone too, and tomorrow I will have another Christmas with my family.

Wishing you and yours the very, very best today and always.

Friendship, Cancer and Hope

Toni, Bridget's Beautiful Mother

Mario, Bridget's Dad

UPDATE – August 8, 2011

“If you’re going to doubt something, doubt your limits.” ~Don Ward

I wish I could write that Mario is in remission, but I can’t. Since I first wrote about my friend Bridget and her father Mario back in December, he has been battling the enemy with quiet dignity and every ounce of physical strength he can muster. He has not given up. Nor has his family and friends. In spite of the setbacks, hope sustains us all.

Mario is on my mind a lot lately. He is someone that I have personal connection to who is currently battling cancer. Since joining Team in Training (TNT), with the intent of raising money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS), and while also attaining a personal goal of completing an endurance event, Mario is one of several people who give me the motivation to keep going. It’s not easy to ask for money and it’s not easy to push myself physically to the level that I have been for the past few months. But it is so worth it.

Most of the people on my team have a personal connection to someone with cancer. We never begin a ride without first acknowledging someone that is currently fighting or who has fought this disease. Anyone is free to speak. We dedicate our rides to these people. We keep them in our thoughts, especially when you become physically spent. Our coach tells the story of going out on long rides when his daughter was battling Leukemia. He often did difficult climbs to ease the pain and anxiety of feeling so helpless to change her circumstances. He said with every climb he thought of her cancer cells between his cycling shoes and clips and would stand up and “stomp” his way up steep hills. The lesson for us was to find what works. I think of Mario. I think of Addison, our youngest little honoree, who at just three years old, lost her battle with Leukemia a few weeks ago. And I think of my son, Jarrod, who is never far from my mind. How can I possibly compare the difficulty of asking for donations or climbing that steep hill on my bike to what our honorees have been through?

Here is a link to a page from LLS. While Mario isn’t battling a blood cancer, I think it is important to know that people with other types of cancer are also benefiting from the treatments that are being developed.

http://www.lls.org/aboutlls/researchsuccesses/

And here is the link to my TNT page:

http://pages.teamintraining.org/rw/gsfba11/jsmithl4jg

December 12, 2010

It was a rough weekend. I ended it by spending the day with one of my closest and dearest friends, Bridget. We have known each other for over 15 years. She is actually much closer in age to my son, Jarrod. We met when I managed a coffeehouse. She was one of my employees. She was 18, I was 35. We connected immediately. Bridget had lost her mother to cancer when she was just 14 years old. That may have been part of the reason we became so close, so fast, but there was more to it than that. Sometimes we meet people in life that you immediately bond with. That was Bridget and I. Yes, she was much younger, and we both had girlfriends our own age, but Bridget was an old soul. She was wise beyond her years. Perhaps it was what she had been through at such young age, but I am more inclined to believe that regardless of her circumstances in life, she is who she is. Early on in our friendship, I know that I filled a void. She didn’t have a mother. She realized immediately that she could talk to me about anything, but I also realized early on that this was not just an 18 year old girl. I wasn’t looking for a daughter. I had a son and was perfectly happy with just having a boy. Our friendship was ageless. We have weathered many storms together. We have always been there for each other and now that she is a young woman with a wonderful husband, Phil, and two beautiful children, I feel so fortunate to still have her in my life. She tells it like it is. She pulls no punches. She never stops making me laugh.

Today I met Bridget at her dad’s house. Mario is on a mini vacation and Bridget wanted to surprise him upon his return with a bathroom renovation. I painted. She sought out a new shower curtain, towels and rugs. We have another storm brewing. She has been by my side during a very difficult year. It is my turn to be there for her. Bridget’s dad, Mario, is now battling cancer. To say that this is unfair would be an understatement, but life is never fair. Mario is a wonderful man, a loving father and grandfather. When Bridget and I met, it wasn’t long before Mario came in to the coffeehouse to see who his daughter had been talking about. We also became fast friends and I have always felt like part of the family. There were many times in Bridget’s early 20’s when Mario would call because he was worried about her. There was that summer when she followed Phish around the country. Always the free spirit, I told him not to worry too much. She would find her way. Easy for me to say. He was the father of a daughter living in a tent from campground to campground. But she did find her way, and I know that he could not be more proud of the woman she has become today.

Whose life hasn’t been touched by cancer? I hate cancer. Bridget was there for me when my son, Jarrod, battled cancer. I was a wreck. He was going through treatment in Walnut Creek. We were staying at my parent’s house in Antioch during that time and Bridget was living in the Oakland hills. She was my respite. I would go to her house and we would cook dinner together, get drunk, and then have a good cry. This was long before she was married with babies, but Phil was there. They were just beginning a life together and he was a rock to lean on, too. I remember those times in that sort of tree house of a house that they lived in with loving and lasting memories, even though I was going through the worst time of my entire life.

Jarrod during Chemotherapy. Not a photo that a mother ever wants to take of her child, but I felt the need to document this. A stark reality.

We are hopeful. We will never lose hope. We need to believe that Mario is going to beat this cancer just like we needed to believe that Jarrod would. And Jarrod did. I lived a mother’s worst nightmare. No, not worse than actually losing a child, but what I lived was next in line, as a mother. I emphasize that because Jarrod is the one that actually lived it. He was the one that had to face that nightmare at the age of 20. I would have traded places with him in a heartbeat. But that wasn’t possible. All I could do was be there for him. I can only imagine the terror that must have been his companion at times. I can only imagine it because he never let me see it. I know he protected me. I think there were times that he was more worried about me than himself and that is not the way it should be. But that is Jarrod. He went through his ordeal with courage, grace and dignity beyond his years. I could not be more proud. Jarrod has been cancer-free for over seven years now. He is living proof that survival is possible.

Jarrod and Amanda, October 16, 2010

Happy and Healthy 🙂

Life is so unpredictable. Take nothing for granted.

If you pray, I ask that you please say a prayer for Mario, Bridget and the rest of their family.

We are Alone

Epiphany – A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization.

Fifteen years ago I had a moment that can only be described as an epiphany. I don’t know how else to explain it. It was a moment where a thought entered my mind with such clarity and without any other thought leading to it. It was simply just there and when it arrived, I knew it would be something that would stay with me the rest of my life. I had never experienced anything like it before, or since. And this was the thought:

I am truly alone in this world.

I know, how uplifting, huh? But hear me out…

My then husband David and I were with friends in Yosemite. We were going to hike to the top of Half Dome. This is a 16-mile hike, round trip. David had done this before, so I knew what to expect. I knew that the very last part of getting to the top was 400 feet of an extremely steep climb on smooth granite. There are poles with cables that you hold on to and pull yourself up with. I am terrified of heights and I was very nervous. I had already told myself that if I got all the way up there and couldn’t do the last part to the top, then so be it. I didn’t have to. After hours of hiking, we finally reached the rocky switchbacks, the last leg of the journey before the cables. This is the area where the back side of Half Dome comes into view and if you look close, you can see this tiny vertical line going straight up and you can see people moving along this line. When I realized what I was looking at, I thought, “There is no way,” but I kept quiet. Inside, I was having a full on conversation with myself. Those that know me well know that I can be very competitive, so even though I had told myself I didn’t have to do it, not doing it was not in my nature, hence the battle brewing inside my head.

We still had another hour or so before we reached the cables. I was very quiet the rest of the way. There was no idle chit chat for me. I was completely focused on the task at hand. I was doing everything in my power to muster the courage I would need when I got to the cables. When we arrived, I stood at the bottom and looked straight up. David knew I was nervous and was offering words of encouragement. I wanted to tell him to shut up. Please don’t take this wrong! I was just in that state of mind (terror) where there was nothing anybody could say. There was a pile of discarded gloves from previous hikers there at the bottom. I’m not sure why we didn’t have our own gloves, but we didn’t. I think I must have tried on ten pair. Well, not really a pair because there were no matches. I wanted to test them on the cables. I must have looked like an idiot, but I didn’t care. This was my life at stake. Also, I couldn’t decide if it would be better with or without the gloves so I kept going up a few feet with them on and then coming back down, taking them off and trying again. I did this over and over. Our friends took off. David kept assuring me that he would be right behind me. He finally lost his patience with me and said, “Jodee, take off the gloves!” None of them fit. They were all too big, and I actually needed him to knock me back into reality. I would have continued with my glove obsession for another hour, at least.

So off we went. We climbed up about 50 feet and it hit me. Panic. I turned to David and told him that I couldn’t go any further and that I was going back down. He said, “That’s okay, Jodee.” I crossed over to the “down” cables, held on for dear life and went back down. Well, this really pissed me off. As soon as I got back down my thoughts went to everyone taking pictures, and then later there would be nothing but talk about what it was like up there, and I would be the one that didn’t make it. No fucking way.

I remember pacing. Then I remember just saying to myself, “I’m going.” It was at the moment that I touched the cables again that my epiphany hit me like a freight train. It consumed me. I am alone. Not because everyone had gone before me, but an overwhelming feeling of being alone in the universe. I realized that when facing an extremely difficult situation, we are alone. Reflecting afterward, I thought back to my state of mind leading up to it. I didn’t want to chat with anyone. I didn’t want words of encouragement. I needed to get inside my own head and find my courage. It didn’t matter that David was there to break my fall. He would have. But there was no one but myself that was going to get me to the top of that mountain. I am not diminishing the people we have in our lives. I would be lost without the people that love and support me, but when we are facing a monumental event in our lives, whether it is walking into a situation that you feel completely unprepared for, or trying to achieve a life changing goal, or embarking on a new life that was completely unexpected, or fighting a deadly disease… The list goes on. I am talking about huge mountains. I am talking about challenges in your life that no one can accomplish for you. I did make it to the top that day, and I did it alone.

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