Category Archives: family

the luckiest man on the planet …

That’d be me.

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Ten years ago, I almost lost my life.  I had a run-in with a Ford F150, while riding my bike to work.  I woke up a week later in the Neuro ICU at Harborview, learning just how fortunate I was.  The next few months were really difficult, especially for my family.  Never once did I lack for love and support.  And the most powerful gift someone can give you is  the gift of hope.

I deal with some minor reminders of the accident.  I lost vision in my left eye, have nerve damage, which hinder movement on the upper left side of my face.  I’ve got some minor pain in my ribs and my scalp’s a bit tender where the scars from my surgeries are.  None of these things limits me from doing the things I love.

I carry this gift of hope with me every day.  In the past ten years, I’ve gotten to see my daughters grow and shine.

Got to see the elder one open a couple of plays singing a-cappela.  Saw her graduate from high school, and head off to university.  We’ve traveled to Israel and China together.  Last year,she taught me how to lay brick while we built a house together in Sichaun.  Last week, we celebrated her 21st together.

My younger daughter’s poem was chosen as the theme for a class dance performance a couple of years ago.  She’d not told me ahead of time … just imagine my surprise and wonder at seeing the class perform to her words.  We’ve traveled abroad to Israel and Europe, creating memories and stories we’ll share for the rest of our lives.

I’ve gotten to celebrate several milestone birthdays with my parents, as well as their 50th anniversary.  My brother and I have spent many weekends together with his husband Patrick at their place near the beach in California.

I’ve run about 84 marathon and ultras since then, getting to visit new places, often with friends.  I’d never imagined this were possible for me, but this is what the gift of hope brings you.

Life’s definitely brought its challenges too.  Our family has dealt with some hard stuff and some transitions.  On balance though, I’m possibly the luckiest man on the planet.

Today, I might fit in a short run in a nearby state park.  I’ll enjoy a nice lunch with my parents.  Then, it’s off to a concert in a park – where it hopefully won’t rain.  But – rain or not, I’ll enjoy each of these moment as best I can, for what they are – gifts.

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a day in the woods with friends

Once in a while, we have the good fortune to be reminded about why we love doing what we do.  That was what doing the Redmond Watershed Twelve Hour event was for me.

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a married couple running the watershed trails – photo by Takao Suzuki

I’d done this run the previous two years.  The shift to time verses a set course length makes it much more about running your own race.  People settle into it, and have fun.

My original goal this year was to cover 50 miles.  That shouldn’t be  a problem, right.  You can almost walk that far in twelve hours, right?  The problem with this was that I’d not really built the proper mileage base.  I could confidently do 50k, but 50 miles?  Also, I’d just gotten back from a business trip to Chile the day before, and was feeling a bit like I’d run back from Santiago.

So the plan changed to a 50k training run with friends.  And that’s what we did.  What made it even better was that my wife Kris and I were celebrating our 20th anniversary with this jaunt in the woods.  In preparation for the Light at the End of the Tunnel, coming up in July, her day would be a 20 miler.  We almost never get to run together.  And what made this venue great was that there was no time pressure at all – we just needed to keep moving.

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running down the aisle, celebrating twenty years – photo by Takao Suzuki

We ran with friends too.  A bunch of the Eastside Runners crowd was out there, as were several folks I’d met doing local trail ultras.  We spent the time sharing stories, debating fine points of runner’s etiquette, and sometimes just enjoying some quiet time in the woods. 

This is what the race was about for me – enjoying time with friends (including my best friend), while getting some time on my legs.


hug your cyclists

A busy weekend. 

Kris completed the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.  This is a 200 mile ride (not a race, not timed) that’s happened for over thirty years (other than in 1980 when it was cancelled due to the ash from Mount St. Helens).

Kris did about 140 miles the first day, leaving just 60 for the second day.  I’d tried to goad her into doing it all in a single day, but she pointed out that we’re both registered to run a marathon in a couple of weeks, so technically she’s in her taper for that.

Kayla was down at a theater camp in Portland this past week, so with Kris riding I needed to get down there on Saturday morning to catch her show and pick her up.  Side note – great camp – the Columbia River Gorge School of Theater does a great job at keeping things fun, safe, and challenging the kids to improve there performance skills.  Definitely recommended for interested kids!

Logistically, this posed a bi of a challenge.  The younger child would spend Friday evening and Saturday with my parents while Kris was riding, and I was between here and Portland.  I got a chance to visit with some family in Portland on Friday evening.  Saturday, it’d be showtime and then back up to Seattle.

Aside from a hellish ride south on Friday, things went well.  Great visit, and the performance was great.  Kayla had a great time at the camp – and was already lobbying for more time there.

We hit the road shortly before noon.  I figured we’d stop[ to get something to eat early afternoon, hopefully getting home around 4 or so.  As luck would have it, we ended up stopping for lunch in Castle Rock, which is where Kris would stop for the night.  She’d texted me about her progress, and I figured we were about 60-90 minutes ahead of her.  It seemed silly not to try to say hello.

So Kayla and I finished lunch and headed over to the high school where Kris would arrive.  When we got there, I looked around for a place to leave her a message if we didn’t catch her.  Kayla hung out outside, waiting for Kris to roll in.  Suddenly, I heard a horrible crashing sound, and then some people saying “cyclist down – call an ambulance!”.

I turned and looked – there was a small crowd of people gathered over by the entrance to the parking lot.  Incoming cyclists need to make a left turn across traffic here.  We’re still not sure what happened, but the driver of a Honda Civic had run into a cyclist on his way into the lot.  The rider had been been knocked about 12 feet or so, but appeared to be conscious.

I checked on Kayla.  She’d apparently seen the accident – not well enough to see precisely who was where, and when.  I asked her if she was okay – and then we walked over.  The cyclist was indeed awake and moving around.  He was banged up, and definitely shaken up – but was responsive to questions like “what year is it”, “what’s your name”, etc.

I’ve tried to find out how the cyclist is doing – but have not yet heard.  I can only hope he’s okay.  I honestly didn’t know whether it would have been better for us to move away from the scene, because of the feelings a cyclist getting hit stirs in both of us. Both Kayla and I are definitely still processing what happened to us.

Today I heard that another friend riding with his son, had a very close call. Around mile 167 or so, he was hit by a pink tricycle that had been unsecured in the back of a pickup truck coming the other way. It hit Greg’s tire, wiping out his front fork, and causing him to fly over his handlebars. Very fortunately, he’s just bruised and scraped. Wow.

Well – after that, there was really no question that we’d stay and see Kris ride in.  And she did, still smiling after riding farther than she had in a single day.  She had a decent ride the next day, and was in Portland in time to catch the first bus back up to Seattle.  We’re very proud of her, and are really happy that she had a safe ride.

If you’ve got a cyclist friend or family – give ‘em a hug.

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greeting Kris in Castle Rock after she’d completed her first day’s ride for the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.


visiting san francisco

This past weekend, my two daughters and I flew to San Francisco, to visit my brother and his partner Patrick.  This was the kids’ first time there since my parents moved up to the Northwest back in 2004.  The younger one didn’t remember even being in California. 

Traveling with them is interesting.  The three of us have some different interests, so I’d been forewarned by them that they weren’t interested in going to a bunch of museums.  And, there’s the dilemma of how much to plan verses how much relaxing time to allow for.  Also – we’ve got a bunch of food allergies, which makes finding restaurants a challenge. 

I got lots of grief about the trip in the days leading up to it.  There was lots going on with school, homework to attend to, and an event missed at the younger one’s school the day we were leaving.  They didn’t have friends there, and were skeptical they’d enjoy themselves.

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The skepticism persisted right up until departure.  Things did get better when the plane had entertainment systems built into each seat though.  And things got better immediately after meeting my brother and his dachshund Coco at the airport.  We went to his place, before heading out for Mexican food. 

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One of the highlights of the Mexican food was getting to try out the salsa bar.  It included selections along the full range of spiciness.  Naturally we all had to sample the super-hot Habenero sauce.  It began mildly enough, with kind of a fruity taste – and then exploded – sending your eyeballs shooting out from your head, and causing sweat to pour down your face.  I’m exaggerating, but only a little.  The pictures above are of the girls each trying to quell the fire taste in their mouths.  We capped the afternoon with a drive up to Twin Peaks.

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We played games for a while, then headed out for some great Indian food.  The highlight there was someone getting to enjoy a Dosa that was longer than their leg.

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I visited with a good friend from Cal Poly the next morning.  This was very special to me.  We hadn’t seen each other in about seventeen or eighteen years.  She’s married, and has two wonderful kids.  I enjoyed hearing her stories of her adventures since we’d last seen each other – she told me about spending several months on a road trip in the Southwest, about she and her husband living in El Salvador, and we swapped stories about our kids. 

Last summer, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which (as she stated it) has turned things upside down for her.  I learned things about courage and about the ups and downs of living in the present from my friend.  I’m still thinking about our conversation a lot. 

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The next day, we did brunch with some long-time family friends.  My eldest took charge of cooking the pancakes, and did a great job.  I’d lived with these people for a few months when I was a teenager, and found it amazing to share stories about my own children with them.

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That afternoon, we met another friend from Cal Poly at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.  He was there with his daughter, who was close in age to my eldest.  They hit it off marvelously.  My younger daughter and I visited the Planetarium, the Aquarium, and the rain forest – and really enjoyed ourselves.  We extended the visit into another great Mexican meal (with more Habanero sauce), and some time spent playing games at my brother’s place.  By the time things wrapped up, the two older kids were plotting a visit at our house near Seattle.

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We visited Alcatraz the next morning.  Parts of this weren’t as much of a hit, but I’m still glad we went.  In addition to getting out to the island (I’d not been before), we got a chance to ride a vintage trolley along the waterfront, and to enjoy the best commercially-available root beer and burgers at the Ferry Building

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By then, it was just about time to head home.  We got a little down time at my brother’s, and then it was off to the airport.

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I found the time with each child amazing in different ways.  They have pretty different personalities and some different interests too.  Getting out of the house, and away from your routines forces you to listen to each other differently, and you get to appreciate different qualities in each other too.

My brother and his partner were excellent hosts.  They’d done some great footwork to find restaurants that would provide options for us (very challenging), and allowed us to spend nice time at their place – playing with their Wii and with Coco.  And they’d found us a nice place to stay close to their place.  As we left the place we’d stayed, Lynn (the woman who rented us a great one bedroom apartment) told me that one of the girls had said “I’m so lucky to have two uncles here”.  Warmed my heart so much to hear that.

The younger one’s already planning our next trip down.  I’ll take that as a good sign. 


this season of giving

Several years back, Kris and I both tired of the focus on gifts during the Christmas season.  We have the good fortune not to lack for ‘stuff’.  We didn’t like the way the emphasis seemed to be more on shopping, stuff, and consumption – and not on the spirit of giving (rather than the spirit of shopping).

We discussed some alternatives with other family members.  One idea considered was establishing a low price cap on gifts.  This idea was roundly disliked, because it meant that were you to find the ‘perfect’ gift that exceeded this limit, you couldn’t get it.  While this would limit the consumer-focus to our holiday (and require some imagination when shopping), it sort of skirted the issue – limiting but not eliminating the buying.

Another idea was to give only things that we’d made.  While very consistent with the spirit of the holiday, not everyone is confident in their gift-making abilities.  In my own case, I don’t know how many years I would have been able to get away with giving framed photographs to family members.  And since I don’t draw or knit, my options from there are currently a bit limited.  It also presented some logistical issues for family members travelling – not everything handmade will travel well.

What the adults began doing last year was for each of us to identify a cause significant to us, and give them a gift on behalf of the family.  On Christmas morning, each of us shares what the cause is, and why it speaks to us.  This feels very consistent with the spirit of the holiday, it has the benefit of helping people less fortunate, and it lets each of us share these thoughts with the family.

From my standpoint, this makes the holiday more about hope.  That’s one of the greatest gifts you can give, isn’t it?

From year to year the causes vary – which affords us the opportunity to gain understanding of a broader set of issues that we care about as a family.  I thought about sharing some of the causes to illustrate this point, but part of me wants to keep this part private, so as not to encourage comparison or judgment of these things.  Different things speak to each of us, and that means we all get to learn from each other.

The kids still get traditional gifts, but more and more, they’re shifting to making things for us or for each other – pieces of art, or photo albums.

These changes have felt very nice.  The acting of giving like this requires us to think about what we value, and how to put these feelings into words and actions.


happy birthday rachel

Today our youngest daughter turns nine.  Hard to believe.  I’m sure other parents experience this – there’s a part of me that still sees her as our “little one”, even though she’s nearly as tall as her mom, and growing more every day.

Rachel as she spent most of her first two days on earth, swaddled and sleeping.Kayla is one proud big sister.

The pictures above was taken just after she joined us here.  I’ve always loved both of these. 

A big birthday smile, from behind the plate.

Here she enjoys some cake and ice cream on her first birthday.  She enjoyed the cake, but seemed pretty puzzled by the cold stuff.  She’s over that now.

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We celebrated her second at home, with a quiet little party.

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When she turned three (shown on her fingers), we had the opportunity to celebrate with both sets of grandparents.  My parents had just moved up from California, and Kris’ parents joined us the week before Thanksgiving.

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She sat in just about the same spot for her fourth birthday.

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Contrary to the way it looks, she did not celebrate her fifth birthday with a nice cabernet.  We promise that it was just juice.

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The picture above, taken just a week after Rachel turned six, shows the contemplative person we know.  By now, she’d begun to read up a storm.

 

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These two pictures, taken just about the time she turned seven, show her active and playful side.  First, she climbs up a wall at a local climbing gym.  Then she gives me a big smile to show me where her teeth had just come out.

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Above, Rachel celebrates her eighth, and a couple of weeks later she appears as the mechanical toy solider in a wonderful local production of the classic “The Velveteen Rabbit” – a great story for both kids and adults. 

 

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And above is our Rachel now.  First she gives us her great smile while we were out at Pike Place Market showing some family from back east around this past July.  The next two were taken just a couple of days ago, when we again celebrated with a climbing party.

Look at her focus as she ascends the wall.  This strength and determination is the kid we know.  One thing about looking at pictures like these is that we get to reflect on their subject, and appreciate who they are, and how they’ve grown.

Happy Birthday Rach’ – we love you so very much!


just one more picture

We had a nice visit with family in the midwest the last week of June.  The trip was the usual mix of chaos and fun.  When Kris and I were growing up, our families took long car rides, and got to spend hours trapped in a car with our parents and siblings.  Now we pop for four airline tickets, brave security and occasional delays, and rent a car.  There’s nothing quite like being trapped in an airline seat with one or more kids who don’t want to sit still, but at least it’s over in three hours, instead of eighteen or more.

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As we have for the past three years, we celebrated KK’s birthday while there.  This time around, she celebrated her thirteenth.  Amazing to think that I’m now the parent of a teenager.  My parents are polite about it, but I know they’re laughing at the prospect of me getting back some of what I gave them when I was growing up. 

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We enjoyed visiting with friends and family.  One of the quieter things that I carry with me from the trip is the reminder I got from each of my daughters to enjoy each moment, and take in the things around us.  R joined her cousin at Girl Scout camp in Wisconsin, including an overnight campout.  When we went to pick her up the next day, it was clear that she was very much in her element – enjoying friends and the outdoors.  It was clear too, when each girl went out in the canoe with me.  Our focus was on paddling over to a nearby island in the lake. 

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With R, the sun was out, but the lake was uncharacteristically quiet.  We paddled through some tall reeds, and spotted some loons along the way.  We talked about maybe camping out on the island sometime, bugs and weather permitting.  With KK, we went out just at sunset, with a small breeze blowing.  As we paddled out, she spotted an eagle overhead.  On the way back, we paddled straight into a beautiful sunset.

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On the trip, we got to visit Kris’ aunt, who celebrated her 100th birthday earlier this year.  As always over the years, she was delightful.  Inevitably, we wondered how many more of these visits we’d have with her.  And then just a few days after we returned to Seattle, we got word that she’d passed away.  We were sad, but felt fortunate to have gotten one more visit in with her.  I took some pictures while we were there, and wondered whether I might have taken the last picture of her. 

Five years ago on June 30th, I lost a friend and colleague in a bike accident.  At his memorial service, his family shared a final picture of Peter on his bike, taken shortly before it happened.  He was focused on the road ahead, no doubt intent on finishing strong.  That was how Peter was.  We miss him, but still carry this image of him in our hearts.

Two years ago today, I awoke in the ICU and learned that I was a very fortunate survivor of a bike accident.  I will always treasure the moments I shared with my family and good friends that day – even though they’re a bit hazy.  I remember simple things – seeing people smile, asking Kris for a kiss, hearing a joke from the kids.  I began to understand what had happened to me, and some of the incredible gestures of love and support that inspired my recovery. 

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I’ve always treasured a picture taken of our family just a few days before my accident, while we were visiting my in-laws at their lake home in Wisconsin.  I’ve looked at my face and wondered how how I might have felt, had I known what was ahead for us.  That’s an impossible question to answer, but it does remind us to enjoy each picture – and each moment – as much as we can.