Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pink Ribbons

I have a friend.

A friend who is a daughter.

A friend who is a wife.

A friend who is a mom.

A friend who is a breast cancer survivor.

A friend who is a triathlete.

She is all these things and so much more. But she is not defined by breast cancer. She defines surviving breast cancer.

Ten years ago, when she was beginning her career, her marriage, at just 26 years old, Taryn felt a lump. It's probably nothing, she was told. You're too young.

I think everyone in her life remembers the day we got the news that it was cancer. But Taryn is strong. She is brave. And she faces most things in her life head on with realism, humor, and lots and lots of honesty.

One day I called her after a round of chemotherapy. "How are you feeling?" I asked delicately.

And in her most Taryn-like response she tells me, "I feel like I just got eaten by a bear and then shit off a cliff."

That is just one of the things I love about Taryn. You ask for the truth, you get the truth.

But she got through chemo and radiation and began the process of moving away from cancer and on with her life. And one of the challenges she decided to face was completing her first triathlon.

Why?  Many of us wondered.

Because I can, was her response.

And she did. Every summer, Taryn has completed a triathlon, sometimes two in one summer.  She has participated during pregnancies, while nursing and even when she had three little ones demanding her  attention. 

And still some ask, Why?

Because I can, she says.

At Tri for the Cure in 2010.

These days, breast cancer is not a taboo subject.  We talk about it.  We encourage each other to check ourselves.  We support the cause by walking, running, swimming, biking, giving.  We are affected by it personally through a friend or loved one or ourselves.  But sometimes a cause can become so well-known that its significance becomes lost. 

This summer we get to write 10 years, baby!!
And then you see a group of women in bright pink swim caps standing together on a boat ramp, the early morning sun glinting on the water, feet submerged, pulses racing, arms swinging, anxious to begin the race.  The importance of the event and the cause becomes clear again.  Some of these women, like Taryn, are years away from hearing the news, some have just learned, and others are at the end of rounds of treatment.  But all of them are standing there, getting ready to swim, then bike, then run...for a reason.

Because they can.  

This past Sunday, Taryn celebrated her 36th birthday.  And on July 12, just two weeks after her birthday, and 10 years after beating and surviving breast cancer, Taryn will participate in her first ever Olympic distance triathlon.

Taryn will laugh at me for saying this and think I'm ridiculous, but I think she's one of the bravest people I know.  Why?  Because she lives her life.  She isn't afraid to try something that probably scares the shit out of her.  Because, as she has said, how often do you get to do something for the first time?

I'm blessed to have you in my life, Taryn.  You make me laugh.  You make me try harder.  You make me lighten up when I get too serious.  And you remind me that the race is not about the finish line.  It's about getting to the finish line.  And all the experiences, challenges and fun we have along the way.



Friday, June 24, 2011

Cousin Eddie

Summer in the mountains arrives s...l...o...w...l...y.  It seems to take forever. Then one day you realize that you've been wearing shorts more than jeans, even at night and voila! You know that summer has arrived. And with the arrival of summer comes camping.

Before kids, Max and I used to backpack and tent camp. And when I say "used to backpack and tent camp" what I mean to say is we went backpacking up a really, really steep mountainous incline once. It was fun but the lack of an ice cold beer at the end was kind of a mood killer. And once we even tent camped when Ella was a baby. It was okay but something about sleeping on the ground with babies and toddlers just killed the "camping is so fun and relaxing" spark.

So when Keira was born we knew it was our moment to sell out. You guessed was time to enjoy the Rocky Mountains in a glorified tent-on-wheels. A pop-up.

With a new baby and a toddler, we didn't want to spend a huge amount on our new camping digs. We were budget conscious and just a little bit cheap. After a brief search of craigslist, we found our mobile dream mountain home.  A 1972 Starcraft camper for a whopping $500. It was older than us, had a floral pattern on the cushions that rivaled any Carol Brady dress, and was only slightly more expensive than the doll-size camper that comes with the "I love camping" American Doll. It was just our style.

This camper had been well cared for by its previous owners. Like a handsome older man, all of our camper's important parts were intact and functioning. And much like a young, energetic woman dating a handsome older man, we broke him. During our inaugural camping trip, the canvas which had survived through presidents, recessions, the Cold War, and the entire seasons of Seinfeld and Friends ripped in three separate places. Zippers which had zipped without fail for the previous 30 plus years suddenly became disabled and useless. Screens that had served past occupants well by denying mosquitoes, flies and bees access to the inner sanctum tore without warning.

After applying copious amounts of duct tape to all his tender places and affixing a large blue tarp upon the entire right side of the camper when threatened by a downpour, we stepped back, gazed lovingly at our camper and realized that the only right thing to do was to call him...

Cousin Eddie.  You know, Cousin Eddie?  That friendly, slightly embarrassing second cousin?  The one who dresses inappropriately, belches loudly, has little to no social skills, and shows up uninvited on your front door for a "visit?"

Clark: So, when did you get the tenement on wheels? 

Eddie: Oh, that uh, that there's an RV. Yeah, yeah, I borrowed it off a buddy of mine. 
He took my house, I took the RV. It's a good looking vehicle, ain't it?
Clark: Yeah, it looks so nice parked in the driveway. 

   Eddie: Yeah, it sure does. But, don't you go falling in love with it now, 
because, we're taking it with us when we leave here next month. 

And so our family camping adventures began.  We might not be the prettiest camper on the mountains (not pretty at all actually), but Cousin Eddie has served us well for over 5 years now.  He pops up on demand, the heater continues to keep us warm at night, the hail-damaged roof stays in the upright position at all times - even during an intense wind storm and most importantly the five of us sleep comfortably and warmly all night long.  

So now, every spring we hear the kids ask,

"Mommy and Daddy, we really miss Cousin it summer yet?"

Oh, yeah, it is.