Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Across the miles: friends in far away places

We live in an amazing time.

I've been down lately. It seems like life has presented 101 obstacles to my dog training: sudden flat tires on the training rig; weather; my health. And, after a not-so-great report card about my health today (more on that later), I was feeling pretty down.

I'm ashamed to admit, this week, I've been struggling to give thanks. Feeling pretty negative, I turned to a friend who lives 3632.88 miles away from me, almost quite literally halfway around the globe in Chatanika, Alaska.

Meet Jodi Bailey. I've written about her before.

Jodi and her dog, Jake, after winning the Gin-Gin 200 Sled Dog Race

I first met Jodi via the Internet, on Myspace. You can view her Myspace page here

At first, our conversations were mostly about dogs. Gradually, Jodi and I shared more and more. We began to realize we had many, many things in common.

I happen to love camels and once held the dubious title of "camel handler" at a local zoo. Imagine my surprise when Jodi posted this picture of herself on an Internet social networking site:

A small photo, I realize, but if you can't see it, it is a picture of Jodi receiving kisses from a camel

Not only does Jodi run dogs, she also runs, bikes, loves Bob Dylan, works in a University and claims the Grateful Dead is the "soundtrack to a large part of her life."

She says she runs by herself when the weather is too warm to run dogs. And run she does: she completed her first marathon in '08

It was during my hospital stay last summer that Jodi and I really started becoming close. She reached out to me during a time of darkness and isolation.

Tonight, when I was down, she reached out to me again. From almost 4,000 miles away.

Isn't it funny how the world works, bringing two people who would be very unlikely to find each other together from across the globe?

I was struggling with finding something to be thankful for on this night when I felt so frustrated and alone. But the universe intervened in an email, out of the blue, from Jodi.

It also intervened as I tucked my two kiddos in bed. I was scribbling negative vibes into a notebook, and stumbled on a happy little drawing done by my five year old.

It reminded me to be thankful for my two girls.

It's funny how the world works, isn't it? It keeps us in check, reminds us to not just survive, but live, to not just look, but see.

As Jodi said tonight, "yup sometimes things just, well, click."

Indeed. As the Buddha said, “When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky” Thank you, Jodi.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"When all is said and done, the weather and love are the two elements about which one can never be sure."

What's up with the weather?

It's really put a damper on my training.

Generally, most mushers don't recommend running dogs in temps above 50 degrees and above 50% humidity. Because Alaskan huskies, like other northern breeds, are double coated, they thrive in frigid temperatures, and warmer temperatures can hinder them physically.

A sled dog sleeping at a checkpoint during a frigid January afternoon at the Seney 300 Iditarod qualifier

The weather for the last 10 days here in NE Ohio has been great if you're into kayaking during Indian Summer, but not so much if you're a dog musher hell bent on fall miles.

An Indian summer kayaking trip

I am no where near where I wanted to be as far as training. I should have several hundred miles on my team at this point, and I'm barely over 100 miles.

So I've been running at night to run in the cooler temperatures. I have rigged up my training rig with lights and have a super bright headlamp. But I'm still freaked out when I head out with my team in the black night in the woods.

Not a lot else to report. Just fighting the weather...which is futile!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Roller Derby Girls

When the day should come that I venture from my first love of mushing, it will be to this:

Meet the faces of roller derby.

They are mothers, daughters, nurses, secretaries, teachers...

but when they gear up for a "bout" - a match - they transform into fiercely focused forces to be reckoned with.

I had the priveledge of getting "up close and personal" with some roller derby girls this past weekend. The follow video is a tribute to them. Click below to watch. Wow.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A recent photo of my father and his new baby: Zach, pictured here at six weeks

Last week, I was at my parents' house one late, raining evening. My dad walked down a dimly lit hallway, and, pausing at the corner, he looked up at me suddenly and said, "Thanks, Shanny pie."

I winced in the darkened living room at the embarrassing nick name.

"For what?" I replied. "I didn't do anything."

"Just think about it," he said, and walked down the hallway into the dark.

* * * * *

I received a message today from my mother around 3 p.m. that simply said to call, that she needed me.

The phone rang precisely half a ring before she picked up.

"Yea?" she said, knowing from the caller id it was me.

My recent birthday was the impetus that prompted my father to finally seek help. My mom asked him over cake how old I was, and he was shocked that he couldn't remember.

"Is Shanny pie one year older or younger than Colleen?" he asked sheepishly.

I am nine years younger than my older sister, Colleen.

It was then that my dad finally agreed to the CAT scan. That scan was yesterday, and the results revealed what we already knew: moderate Alzheimer's.

I was first to suspect it, about two years ago, mostly because of the odd almost Zen-like things my dad would say out of the blue. For a long time my family tried to ignore some of the wacky things he would say. At Easter last year, he brought dinner to a screeching halt when he announced that he would soon take out an ad in the newspaper - complete with his phone number - offering his knowledge to the public, because he knows everything. And he was quite serious.

Sometimes, if listened to with an openness, however, the things he says can seem so poignant. He'll stare off with his thoughtful gray-green eyes and say, "Life is precious. Today is the day the Lord hath made. Be glad and rejoice in it."

My dad has always been a God-fearing man; he will never forget many lines of the Bible and recites them with ease.

But he forgets what year it is, medication, what he ate for lunch.

Since my birthday, my dad reminds me every time I see him how much he loves me.

"I may not remember a lot of things, but I'll always remember my Shanny pie," he'll say. And it chokes me up every time.

What are we if not our minds? What are we when that which we are begins to shrivel and deteriorate?

In people with Alzheimer's, portions of the brain that deal with new memories, planning, and thinking - the cortex - literally shrivel and shrink. Memories fade. Daily activities, planning, simple math becomes impossible. A friend of mine whose dad has Alzheimer's and was a lifelong smoker one day forgot what a cigarette was.

For more information about Alzheimer's and how it effects the brain, click here

Today my mom told me that she was up all night with my father last night because he was hallucinating that he was falling into a black hole. So real were the images, he was terrified and refused to be left alone.

I had to wince, again, at the irony. I can't help but think he is not hallucinating at all. What isn't falling into a black hole, but Alzheimer's?

A friend also wrote of her mother's journey with Alzheimer's recently. You can read her story here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Congratulations Melanie and Mike!

It's a Halloween Wedding Celebration!

Meet Mel.

The quintessential Melanie expression

In April of 2001, shortly after I started working at Akron Children's Hospital, Melanie started working in the same department. I watched her filling out paperwork in the administrative office outside of my office. Her long, black skirt draped over the chair and her brown hair fell over her blue, button-down collared Oxford shirt. Somehow, I was drawn to her. Little did I know, she would become one of my better friends in my adult lifetime. Her sarcastic, dry sense of humor saved me during those first days working in an office with all women.

So, I was not surprised when Mel had a party for her September nuptials on Halloween. She and her new husband, Mike, eloped to Hilton Head (smart). But they wanted to celebrate their wedding with their families present too.

Two Wednesdays

Other members of the Adams Family

I was pleasantly surprised when Melanie asked me to photograph the celebration. These are some pictures from the Halloween Wedding Celebration!

Mike and Melanie were supposed to dress as grapes (hence the purple balloons), but this didn't last long!

Here's to many happy years ahead! Congratulations Melanie and Mike Vesner!