Thursday, December 21, 2017

Necessary Detachment

“Wow, I found a recipe book!  It has a woman’s name on it.  Her name is K….”
“NO NO NO NO!!!” I yell from across the field.  “DO. NOT. SAY. HER. NAME.”  I yell to my teammate.
As I look at the chaos around me, some recognizable, but most, not, I say to myself, I cannot know her name.  I will never be able to finish this assignment if I know her name.

“We had a small aircraft go down in the foothills.  There were no survivors.  NTSB and the Sheriff’s Office have been on scene, and some remains were recovered, but they’d like it if your dog teams could assist with recovering as much as possible from the site.”

Wow.  I was excited.  My first plane crash!  I never in a million years thought I’d ever get to work a plane crash!  I gathered my gear, my dog Thumper, and headed out the door to the scene, an hour’s drive away.  I felt my excitement grow as I got closer.  I imagined the scene, much like many movies I had seen, in my head. I thought; “This will be awesome!”

The pilot of the small aircraft had become disoriented in the fog and ended up upside down.  Thinking he was right side up, he powered up, trying to gain altitude.  Instead, he powered right into the ground.  He, his wife of several decades, and his dog were all killed on impact.

This day, this event, this view, was not awesome.

The scene was atrocious.  Parts of the small plane were everywhere.  The engine had traveled the furthest distance out, and other parts of the plane were all over the hillside, including in the trees.  The damage the fuel had done to the ground and trees was evident as well, covering the grass and the oak trees with a light red hue. 

We surveyed the gruesome scene. None of us, all a part of a volunteer search and rescue team, had ever seen anything like this before.  I wasn’t sure what I expected, but what I saw, and, subsequently, what I experienced, deeply affected me.

I got Thumper and set him out to searching.  A large, jovial mixed breed dog, Thumper was unique on our team. His only search discipline was cadaver work.  I assumed he would be right at home in this environment and we’d make swift work of what was hastily turning into a very nasty job.   Normally a very enthusiastic searcher, his quick, happy movements changed rapidly.  Within a few short minutes, he gave me a tentative alert.  When I asked him to show me, to pinpoint the source, he just turned around, facing the scene and looked at it and then at me.  I got the message loud and clear.

The scent of death was everywhere.

This was going to take longer than I thought.

I had to work this scene unlike any other.  There was so much for him to find, all I could do was watch Thumper work and when he’d dip his head, turn and look at me, I’d check the spot he sniffed.  Sometimes, I could retrieve what he found, other times, another searcher had to because Thumper was moving too far away.

For a long while, there were no recognizable parts. Thumper’s head would dip, and I’d pick up a fragment of bone, or a piece of flesh, its origin unknowable to my eye.  There were pieces of flesh hanging from trees, as well as scattered all over the ground. We found definite skull fragments and surrounding brain matter.    Sometimes, I would intently stare at the slightly larger bone fragments, trying to see if I could decide what they were. 

All the while, in the back of my mind, I knew I was picking up minuscule parts of two humans, but there was no human form so I could keep on going.

“Wow, I found a recipe book!  It has a woman’s name on it.  Her name is K---“

I am hearing this from behind me as I look at the latest thing my dog, along with a teammate's dog, has found.

I am screaming NO! NO! NO! NO! because we are looking at the first piece of flesh that has form.  That is instantly recognizable.  That makes the dozens upon dozens of the little pieces I have been picking up into a human being.

It is an older woman’s hand, up to just beyond the wrist.  It is her left hand.  On her ring finger is a beautiful gold ring with a gorgeous ruby in it, surrounded by diamonds.  A wedding ring.

In the back of my mind, I have known, from the start of the day that we were there to recover as much of this man and woman in this plane crash.  I have known all along that this was a married couple.  I have known that this couple had a family and that this family is grieving and this family deserves answers and to have their loved ones back for proper burial.

In order for me to pick up this hand, the woman’s hand with a wedding ring on the ring finger, I cannot know her name.  I cannot have a human attached to this hand.

For if I know her name, as I pick up her hand and place in the bag I am carrying, the bag that I have been slowly filling with other parts that used to be she and her husband… that hand suddenly has a face.  That face becomes a person.  That person becomes someone’s now deceased family member.  And I am here seeing her in a way no one should ever have to see her.

I cannot know her name or I will not be able to complete my assignment.  The ear, the foot, the eye, will no longer be able to be discovered by me, or picked up by me.

I cannot know her name, because I will not be able to be out here the next time …

Sunday, July 17, 2016

One of Us

In my life, because of Search and Rescue, I have proudly worked closely with Law Enforcement.  I was sworn  to serve and protect.  To defend the constitution of the United States.   I have worn a badge on my chest and carried a gun on my hip for more than a decade.  I have been a part of a department that has lost deputies to senseless violence. I have screamed at the news of their deaths, and mourned at their funerals. 

I only have a tiny taste of what it's like to be a police officer or a deputy, but I have a mighty respect for the job that every officer does.

And here's the thing.  They are your mother or father.  They are you brother or sister.  They are your son or daughter. They are your neighbor.  I am them.  They are me.  You are them.  They are you. 

These men and women that don the uniform do it because they care.  They care about their mother and father.  They care about their sister and brother.  Their son and daughter.  Their neighbor. 



They are a member of the community in which they serve.  They CHOSE to serve.  They do the job that you can't do.  That you won't do. 

Because of you.

For you.

So when one of them is shot at… When one of them is attacked…. When one of them is killed….

Don't you get it?  It's one of US!  It's one of your own community.  It's your mother or father.  Sister or brother.  Son or daughter.  Neighbor.



Friday, July 15, 2016


More.  Faster. More. Faster.

That's the everyday background mantra.  Get more done.  Go faster.  If you go faster you will get more done.  Don't stop.  Can you do one more?  

I get it.  I get the pace.  It makes sense for what we do.  

It bleeds over into my every day life.  I woke up this morning and so many things rushed through my mind.

So much that needs to get done.  Feed the herd.  Laundry.  Vacuuming. Poop scooping.  Dishes.  The list goes on.  

And there was my ride to do.

So much to do that I froze.  The animals almost didn't get fed because I had so much that needed to be done I couldn't do any of it.  (Don't worry, between Velcro the cat and Kaeden, no meal gets missed around here.)

If I didn't ride, I'd have more time to do....

If I didn't ride.

It would have been easy to not ride.  So much I wouldn't have to do - putting on the super rider suit is its own involved chore.  

I wanted to ride.


I needed to slow down.  Slow something down.  

So today I chose to ride slower.  Not that I ride fast to begin with. Today I was conscious of my speed.  I wanted to control it.  It was MY pace.  I could choose to go faster.  I could choose to go slower.  

To be honest, I didn't realize what I needed from my ride until I got underway.
I even changed the Pandora Station I listen to to Sia.   There's really no riding fast with that station.  (For the record, changing your Pandora station while riding is difficult at best.)  

Not being obsessed with going faster or beating a time made today's ride more mindful. I paid more attention to me.  Everything from my hand position, to my legs, to my feet, to my breathing.  To my thoughts.  To the words in the songs I was listening to.

                        "The fire used to burn, all the words used to hurt
                          But you're not like us, you are different
                          I couldn't see that that was a compliment."

I took the time to contemplate the meaning in this song I had never heard before.  It's about realizing your own strength despite what others think or say about you.  

I haven't had time to think about a song in a while.

As I rode, I felt almost like I had slowed time down.  I was looking for that anyway.  I didn't want the ride to end because that signaled that the next thing could get done. 

But did it mean that the next thing HAD to get done?

Today maybe the laundry will get done.  Maybe the vacuuming will get done.  


747 miles this year.
1302 miles since I started a year ago.  This is my 1 year bike-iversary. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Look at ME

This will likely be one of the most raw entries I will ever do.  Forgive me as I travel down this rabbit hole.

I went to the doctor today.  I went for a very specific purpose.  It was not an annual physical, although it has been a year since my last physical exam.  I had a mole that I wanted looked at. 

A mole.   

The doctor did indeed look at the mole.  He stared at it intently.  He asked a couple of questions and agreed that it did look odd.  Of course, if I felt that it had changed, we absolutely had to investigate it further.  He talked to me about what that looked like.  I agreed that having it removed and biopsied was a fine idea with me.

As he typed away at his computer, I said I had another question for him.

He said, ok, but first...

He asked about the hysterectomy I had about 10 years ago. (Yes, I had a hysterectomy. No they didn't take my cervix.  Yes, it had been 5 years since my last pap smear.  Yes, I should get one.  Next year, he said.)

He asked about my gallstones. Any issues?  (No)

He asked about my last mammogram.  (Yes, I am overdue.  I would like to schedule it.)

He confirmed my age (48).  He advised that at 50 I would have to have a colonoscopy.  (Great. He also shared a tip he had received from a patient about taking the prep for the colonoscopy - Adding Sprite to it and drinking quickly.  Thanks.  I'll remember that in 2 years.)

He asked if I was taking the cholesterol medication he had prescribed last year.  (No.)

He reminded me that my blood work, from 13 months ago, revealed high cholesterol (that he never talked to me about.  I got an email that said there was medication  prescribed for me.  And then an email asking when I was going to pick it up.  And then an email saying it was going to be shelved).   He then said he wanted to check my ASS score.  (Yes, I am sure that's NOT what he said, but he said it several times and I don't know what it stands for, but that's what I heard)  It is a risk assessment to determine my risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years.  It involves several things (like??) and he would put the information in and it would tell me what my risk was. As he typed away at his computer he talked about how the paradigm has shifted where cholesterol meds are concerned and this score is more important than just the blood levels. 

He finished typing and said 

Your risk is... Oh.

Very low.  1%  

He gave me permission (thank you) to take fish oil - Omega 3s to be exact - instead of starting on medication.  

He talked about my BMI.  (40.08) 

Which makes me obese.  (Thank you.  I missed that.)

So we need to talk about weight loss. (I heard you at last year's visit.  I really did.  I bought a road bike and I ride....)

Okay.  Good.  (But I wasn't finished)

There are several programs available that you can take advantage of.  (But I am riding several days a week and hiking at least one...)

Okay. Good.  (Again, I still wasn't finished)

I would recommend taking advantage of one of the programs we offer.  There are even some that are free online. (Since I've been riding, I feel better and ....)

Great.  Check out what we have. (I have been trying, I really ha...)

I know you have.

And he stood up.  I guess we were done.  At no point in time, aside from looking at the mole, did he put his hands on me.  Listen to my heart and lungs.  Check my lymph nodes.  Look at my throat.  Look in my ears.

Why would he?  I was only there to have him look at a mole.

He saw a number.  Well, a few numbers.  Made a judgment.   And told me I needed to fix it.

If it were only that easy

(For a humor break.... On the way out the door, he asked how my sister was doing.

I was totally confused.  I have 2 sisters.  I have never shared anything about them with him. But he was concerned about one of them.  I looked at him a bit longer and said, um, fine. It wasn't until later that I realized he was asking about my wife - until recently, he was her doctor.  In fact, he was her doctor first.  

Okay, maybe that wasn't funny.)

So I made an appointment for my mole.

I didn't make an appointment for a pap smear (I can do that next year... he said so).

I didn't make an appointment for a mammogram.  (I WILL - stop yelling!  But it was never mentioned again)

As I walked out, he handed me a pamphlet that outlined their weight loss programs.  

I walked out of the office, feeling like I had just been punished for trying to take care of myself.

He never saw me.  To be sure, he was in the room with me.  He smiled at me and he saw my mole.

He never saw me.

I drove to work, trying to decide if I was angry or hurt.

After work, I drove home, still deciding if I was angry or hurt.

At home, I shared the experience with my sister wife (relax... it's a joke.  She's just my wife). She was indignant for me.  She defended me, something she is very good at.  She asked if he actually paid attention to the patient in front of him (me) instead of the numbers on his screen.  

I tried not to cry as I said it's not like I haven't been trying.  I have done so much in the last year - I am riding as many days a week as I can, though the last 3 months, I've been off my game a bit, but ...  

Was all I have been doing for naught?  My own doctor didn't seem to lend any credence to whatever actions I had been trying to take.

Have I been wasting my time? 

I was angry.  And I was hurt.

Did I need to do one of the programs in the pamphlet?  One is a meal replacement plan (that costs money) that is 800 calories per day.  800 calories.  Yes.  I will lose weight on that. I might lose my mind too.  

I went online to look at their (free) online weight loss help program.  It involved a lengthy series of intimate questions that I answered honestly (and I already know I am an emotional eater).  With each revealing answer, I was given cute little statements like "ask people for help"  and "when emotions drive you to want to eat, take a deep breath and get busy doing something else".  Oh.  Okay.  Why didn't I think of that? 

Here are some numbers
My BMI is over 40.  (Which is actually less than it was a year ago)
My blood glucose is 80 (nope, not diabetic)
My weight is 237  (yep it's up from last entry here, but down from the last Dr's visit)
My BP is 105/78 (yep, that's good)
I have ridden almost 1200 miles since I started riding 10 months ago in August.  1197 to be exact. 

I feel better.  I can do more than I used to.  That has to count for something.  Right?

I don't know what my answer is.  The thing is it has to be my answer.  It can't be your answer.  It can't be my doctor's answer.  It has to be my answer.

I am trying.

And I think I am finding a new doctor.

Friday, April 1, 2016


I have a list of people in my phone that's growing.  I wasn't expecting it to grow, and quite frankly, I never thought about it until now.

A friend of mine died.  Well, let's be honest.  He killed himself. That information in and of itself rocked me. I began searching for answers.   I was trying to, morbidly perhaps, Google him to see what had happened.  My phone's browser showed me different web entries.  At the same time, it also showed me his contact information that is on my phone.  Almost like it was trying to tell me, why Google him when you can call him? Here's his info, just click and connect with him.

It stopped me for a while.

There are others on my phone too.  I have contact information for a growing list of dead people.  It would be easy to delete them.  A couple of clicks and they're gone.

Having them in my phone is like some kind of weird insurance.  Or, really, reassurance. It sounds ridiculous, but for a minute, when their name pops up for some reason, it's like they're not really gone.  For one short moment, I can think of them in the present instead of the past.

Another day has come and gone.  And another name has been added to that list.


Thursday, February 25, 2016

It's Not Your Fault

The more I thought about writing this, the more anxious I became.   At one point I convinced myself not to write about it.  Then I thought about how scared it made me, and I realized that's exactly why I have to write.

Rape isn't about sex.  Rape is about power and control.  It's about displaying power and taking control.   It's about pain and humiliation. 

The affects of sexual assault are long lasting and far reaching.  

I know.

I was raped.

I was high school age.  It was someone I trusted.  

I walked away bruised and in shock.  

I was humiliated.

I questioned myself so many times, trying to figure out how I had gotten myself into that position.  What did I do wrong?

The man who assaulted me was someone who was in my life.  Someone I knew I would  come into contact with again and again.  He made it clear he wasn't afraid of me or what I might say.  He was invincible.  

It was a while before I thought I could share it with anyone.  Finally, I did the only thing I knew how to do when dealing with such a monumental experience.  I wrote it down in a letter, intending to send it to a friend I could trust.  Before I could send it, someone else found it and read it.

She sat me down and told me that she had read the letter.

She asked me what happened.  She wanted to know.

A wave of relief washed over me.  I was finally able to let this secret out and this was a person I could depend on. She wanted to listen and I knew she would protect me.

So I cried and let it out.  I shared what happened, how afraid I was because I would see my attacker again - it was unavoidable.  I was terrified and didn't know how to handle it.

"Don't you dare say a word to anyone else."

I was stunned.

"We can't let anyone know."

In an appalled silence, I listened to her talk about the humiliation it would bring to me if I told anyone else.  She went on to say that no one would believe me anyway.  She went so far as to say

"You know, you could have said no."

It didn't matter that I did say no.  That I did say stop.  That I did try to defend myself.

There it was.  Definitive proof. I could have stopped it.  

It was, without a doubt, my fault.

My own mother had just confirmed it for me.

So I tore up the letter.

I lived in panic and worry.  For years.

Periodically, I would have to face this man.  It was a long time before I was comfortable with any man in any situation.

I spent time in therapy trying to build up my inner strength and move on. In time, I realized it wasn't my fault.    I know the psychology behind the attack.  I even know the reasoning behind my mother's response was likely because of her own past that I knew nothing about. 

We never spoke of it again.  

Why share this now?

As I read about the singer Kesha, whose songs push me to ride harder and faster, I felt like I relived my rape and everything that followed all over again.  I wanted to reach out to her and say "I understand, I get it, and I am sorry you are going through this."

There should be no shame in a victim sharing their horrifying experience.  I know that what I went through is nothing compared to what others have gone through.   Anyone should be able to come forward and say "this happened to me" and get a resolution of some kind.

Not be shamed or ridiculed or worse.

Blamed or dismissed.

Kesha is a brave woman.  It might have taken her a long time to realize her strength and come forward to try to get away.  

And she was dismissed by those with the power to help her get away and move on.

Shame on them.  And shame on the system that perpetuates it.  That chooses to say "you could have said no" and blames the woman for being attacked.

It's not your fault.  It never was.

Friday, February 19, 2016


I succeeded.  My hike, the one that I felt defined me, is over and I accomplished what I set out to do.  Way to go ME!

I am beginning to see differences with 6 months of bike riding.  It started subtly. Activities that made me feel out of breath quickly, now aren't as difficult as before.

Clothes are fitting differently.  I am not at all near 'buy a new wardrobe' but I am at 'those pants that were uncomfortable are now easy to wear'.  

My face has changed a bit - it's interesting.  It's something I see every day so it's hard to notice.  One day I looked in the mirror and I noticed the difference. Almost like it had happened overnight.  

My legs.  That's a big difference.  I began feeling what they could do differently about 3 months in.  At the same time I began feeling the difference in how they felt when I walked or flexed for some reason.  I couldn't see it.  But the muscle was definitely noticeable to the touch.

This week I actually saw the changes in my legs.  There's a visible definition that wasn't there before.  That shocked me.  And made me smile.  

Perhaps more importantly, I am noticing changes inside me.  Inside my head.  I look back at all the things I was afraid of doing.  The challenges before me that I never believed I would accomplish, so I pretty well convinced myself to not even try.

I rode 3 miles, but was positive I wouldn't be able to ride 5 miles.

Now I ride 8+ miles for all of my rides.

I rode at 9 mph.   I was convinced that I would never reach 10 mph.

Now I am at 13+ and I even saw a 14 once!

That's what conditioning has given me.  I have built myself up and improved on myself.  

Here's where my mind, my head, has begun to change.

I started out by walking my bike up hills.

Now I have added sections to my ride that have hills.   I cringed when I added the first one. Truth be told I flat out whined when I added it.  But I did it.  My most recent hill addition kicks my ass EVERY SINGLE TIME.   I have to talk myself into doing it when I decide on my route in the morning.  And sometimes I talk myself out of it.  I have to say, though, that when I do make it up that hill, I feel elated.

I avoided going fast down hills.  I rode the brakes as hard as I rode the pedals for the up hill portion.   I was so scared of losing control.

Now, there are three hills that I look forward to flying down and I am scouring Strava after the ride to see my top speed (I have hit 30 mph!!)

We spend so much of our lives defining ourselves.  Making a box around who we are and saying "this is me".  

I am not a box.    

I don't have a limit.   

This is my most recent self revelation.

I know myself well enough to know  that I will still struggle with that.  It will be easy to slip back and say there are limits to who I am and what I can do. 

My only limits are in my head. 

I hope I can keep coming back to that.

This year 238 miles
Overall 792 miles