Half Dome: Another Time I Thought I Might Die

Maybe I should start this story by spoiling the ending. I didn't climb the rock. I turned around and came down. I tried to be brave and have courage but I guess I just didn't.

Maybe I should make this a series about hikes that my family wants to go on that I'm not thrilled about but went anyway and it ended up being a really good time.

This would be part two of that series. Part one would be the Grand Canyon.

This hike came about because Tyler and I got sucked into one of those you-won-a-free-trip-and-all-we-need-is-your-email-and-your-firstborn things. We decided that would be a good excuse to make a big trip out of it. We went to Tahoe first for a few days and then met up with my family in Yosemite to hike Half Dome.

I'm sure you know Yosemite is breathtaking. It's a mountainous oasis with sky scraping granite surrounding lush green valleys weaved with cold rivers. If you don't know Yosemite but you own an apple product, at one point Half Dome was your background so just filter back through there and I'm sure you'll find it.


Leading up to this trip, and many other hikes I wasn't thrilled about but went anyway, my Dad talked IT UP! Sending us the stats including elevation gain, strenuousness, and number of deaths in recent history. You know, all the things to get everyone pumped.

We hit the trail bright and early and I was scowl-y and slow. The first part has several(don't quote me, it was early) stunning waterfalls and shrubbery, a lot of which I missed because of all the scowling I was busy doing. I defrosted quickly though and rather enjoyed bringing up the rear for the next several miles. Then came the going up part of the hike.

I'm just not an uphill kind of person. I don't think it agrees with my brand. Let's just skip to the part where I wimp out.

If you haven't hiked Half Dome here's a little summary: up, up, waterfalls, granite staircases, flat, flat, flat, up, up, straight up, straight up some rocks, flat area where you eat granola bars and drink the last drops of your water, STRAIGHT UP A SLIPPERY PIECE OF GRANITE HOLDING ON TO A SHANTY CABLE THEY PUT IN HUNDREDS OF YEARS AGO AND DON'T REALLY MAINTAIN BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT TECHNICALLY SUPPOSED TO BE CLIMBING THIS TINY PIECE OF COUNTERTOP.

That is a factually accurate description of the hike. Look it up. Here, I'll look it up for you.


So we get to the sub-dome, the place where you realize the stupidity of what you've decided to attempt, and it doesn't look quite as vertical as you thought it would.

Those little dots are people. And you CAN'T EVEN SEE THE "CABLES"
You eat your snackies and drink your water and watch people inch up and down the dome and you psych yourself up.

Hilarious aside:

We were all standing around kind of eating, kind of waiting to go jump in line to start up the cables. There were large gaps between groups of hikers going up the cables because it wasn't very busy that day. All of a sudden we noticed my dad at the bottom of the cables, and he just started left-righting it up the cables. He did not look back, and he did not stop till he got to the top. And he was passing people on the way up. We all looked at each other and did a little collective shoulder shrug in hesitant agreement that we guessed it was time to go. Oh, dad. Later we would learn that he knew if he had to wait for anyone he'd probably turn around and not make it up so he just pounded it out all the way up.

We all got in line at the bottom of the cables and like I said, straight up. It looked pretty vertical from far away but up close it was incredibly worse. We started up and things were going pretty okay.

The cables are strung through basically a fire poker that the blacksmith accidentally curled too much at the end and was like, "hey, National Parks Service, do you want this messed up fire poker?" And NPS said, "that will be perfect to hold the cables that people will cling to on the face of a cliff as they climb up a slippery piece of countertop one hundred thousand feet above ground."

And then someone in the quality control department at NPS was like, "mmm, I don't know if that's quite secure enough." To which the head of stuff at NPS said, "hmmm, we'll put some 1x1x1 pieces of pine next to it and that will make the people feel like they're on sturdy stairs instead of a wet Wal-Mart floor." "Perfect." (This is not a reflection of the NPS, they're a good group.)

I have no idea how far up we were when my panic attack was triggered. I assume it was about a quarter of the way when the vertical goes from about 60 degrees to 88 degrees. We had stopped to let some people coming down get past, which happened pretty frequently, and I was holding on to one side of the cables and my feet resting on one of the sturdy pine sticks. The people had passed and I turned to grab the other cable. I heard plastic hit granite and tumble down the rock on my left side. I looked down to see what it was and it was one of the small empty gatorade bottles I had in my pack.

I watched it bounce and hit two, maybe three, times before it disappeared over the edge of the cliff. In my head I became the bottle. In a matter of seconds I weighed the consequences of my untimely, bounce-like death over the edge of the rock, and it didn't seem worth it. Tyler tried to encourage me, telling me I was steady and we could make it. Jordan and Cristy did the same, telling me it wasn't that far and it would be awesome at the top. All good points but I quickly concluded that my loss of life, however unlikely, did not seem worth the view.

I told Tyler I was done and with little contest he turned around with me and we came back down. I felt pretty sad about not going to the top for a long time. I know I probably would not have fallen off and died. But I just couldn't bring myself to risk that. I thought of Tyler and our possible future children and all the life I would miss and I just couldn't. Or maybe I saw that stupid gatorade bottle and that was enough death for me for one day.

Why am I a parent?

You know how you follow people on social media and then you feel like you are friends even though they have no idea you exist. Or maybe they do, but you're the 'creepy one' that keeps commenting overly nice things on their photos or sliding into their DM's when something in their stories makes you laugh so hard you pee a little? No? Just me?

Well I have done that to quite a few people and now they're my friends in my head even though we've never met.

All this to preface the story I'm about to tell with, "I was talking to one of my friends..."
So now you know when I say friend I mean friend in my head but they actually think I'm a creeper.

My friend posted something about their kid that was proof he was an incredible little person. I don't want to share the story because it's not mine to tell, but it was incredible. I messaged her saying that that was unreal and incredible. She messaged me back(maybe we are friends?) and said that she didn't know how she was supposed to raise someone so magical and that instead maybe she's supposed to let him raise her. I agreed saying that sometimes I look at Alice and think that she must be here to show me what life is about instead of the other way around.


That got me thinking about parenting. I understand, obviously, that there are a few things I can teach Alice.

Stoves are hot.
Knives are sharp.

But after that, what good am I, really? I can try to show her what I think it means to be kind and generous and accepting. And yes I will keep her safe from whatever I can. But as far as teaching her about life and being a good human and all that--I don't even have all that together myself!

I just don't know that I am able to teach her anything or 'raise' her the way people say you 'raise' children.

       

And everyone says they've learned so much more from their children than they thought they would or could or more than they could have ever taught them and that's all fine and good. But maybe it doesn't really need to be who teaches who.



Maybe I just get to watch Alice grow and be herself and instead of worrying about who is doing the learning and the teaching maybe I just get to wonder at who she is. Maybe I just get to watch her be and that alone gives me perspective and strength and joy.

And maybe she gets to watch me. And sure she probably watches me and a lot of the time it gives her anxiety but I hope it gives her perspective and strength and joy as well. Maybe I should stop worrying so much about making sure she knows and does 'all the things.'

I don't know. Anyone else have any ideas?

       


What is The Bachelor franchise actually good for?

Tyler gets 90% of the credit for this post. He said something after we watched ATFR that really made me think and is actually a brilliant analysis of the show.

The Bachelor franchise claims to be committed to helping people find love. They've set up the perfect scenario so that people can find their perfect match and live happily ever after. Well we all know the statistics and have heard a thousand times the numbers on 'bachelor couples' that actually stay together. It's disheartening to say the least. There are very few couples that found someone they wanted to be with and even fewer who have stayed with that person since they stopped filming their season. I'm not talking about that.

The ones who made it to the end, picked someone, and have found happiness and stayed with that someone are great. I think they're the rare lucky ones. Good for them, for basically gypping a system that is built to make you fail. I'm sure they're very grateful for what they have and work hard to maintain it, but like I said they gypped the system.

The Bachelor is not good at helping people find love. It has had a few flukes where people end up happy and in love, yes. But what the Bachelor is actually extremely skilled in is breakups. Heartbreak, heartache, getting dumped, being abandoned, that is the franchise's real talent.

At the end of the show on the final day when the lead is supposed to break up with one person and propose to the other, they always say the same thing. Some form of:

"Well I know it's going to be really hard to break up with (other person I'm dating), but I also know I have to do it to get to my happy ending (being engaged to other person I'm dating)."

And then in the After show and the months that follow that's basically what the show and the media is focused on. One person's broken heart/breakup and the subsequent joy of the other two people's happy engagement. They treat it like there was really only one difficult or true breakup on the season.

But let's take a look at the course of a season. Supposedly 25+ relationships/courtships begin on day one of the show. The women/men who are dating the lead are produced and then believe that they are the one dating the lead.

So then the show goes on and people leave/get broken up with. And then we see people cry. People cry on night one of leaving. And we laugh because we think that's silly that someone would cry for being broken up with after what appears to be 6 hours of 'dating.' And it is silly. In real life that would be silly to cry over someone you met 6 hours ago. But in Bachelor world it is not silly, it is serious and sad and dare I say, dramatic?

The show constructs this environment where you're enchanted and enamored on night one. You're already convinced that [insert location] is the perfect place to fall in love. You're (a little) convinced that the lead is probably the person for you and that you could see the potential possibility of wanting to fall in love with them.

So then when you get sent home, all of that environmental hype is crushed. You feel sad and hurt and embarrassed. And then the producers ask you questions like, "do you even want to find love?," "do you consider yourself a lovable person?," "do you ever think you'll find anyone who will love you?" So you cry, and talk about how all you really want in life is happiness and you thought sharing a house with 25 other people all trying to date the person you're dating would make you happy.

That is what the show is best at. They are professionals at creating an environment that makes you anticipate and want and desire things and then they take it away from you. They dangle some dreams in front of you, even let you smell the roses and then offer them to other people.


Going back to numbers it's almost laughable that they claim to help people find love. They've helped hundreds more people get broken up with than they could ever help find love.

This is not a diss by any means. It's actually an atta boy for the show. Well done for breaking hearts for the last 16 years and fine tuning your craft. Of course they're not going to advertise that they're in the business of breaking hearts, that's just bad taste. Who wants to watch a show where people get broken up with all the time?

ALL OF AMERICA! ME! YOU! We literally relish in seeing people get broken up with on television for 12 weeks. We feed the beast year after year. We don't like the happy endings. I mean those are great, yay for two people falling in love. But what we really want to see are all the tears and the rage and the swearing off of love for good (until the next season starts casting).

So we can't be upset at them for creating the pinnacle of what they are good at. The first unedited, raw, uncooked breakup ever shown on tv, ever?! They're just doing what they do best: heartbreak! So you go, Bachelor franchise. You own your craft, take credit where credit is due. You are the master of the breakup. How you'll top what you did this season, I'm not quite sure, but I'm sure you'll find a way even if it takes several more years. We'll all be here, watching and waiting. Do your worst, or I guess best.

A book I read

Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I were given a limited amount of time to live. I think everyone probably wonders that sometimes. Unless you are prone to existential crises in which maybe you put a lot of effort into not wondering about that. I'd like to think I could begin to live every day as fully as possible and soak in every little moment. I'd never be angry, annoyed or frustrated. Only grateful, content and joyful.




I read When Breath Becomes Air and following Paul's path through his diagnosis, fight, and eventual passing away was a lesson in focus for me. He takes his readers, although it doesn't feel like he's speaking to an audience but rather to himself, into his mind as he works through his experience.

The book was thought-provoking as I was reading it but was even more transformative afterwards. It left me thinking for a long time after about not only my own life but the lives of those around me.

Some favorite quotes:
Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past. 
Science may provide the most useful way to organize empirical, reproducible data, but its power to do so is predicated on its inability to grasp the most central aspects of human life: hope, fear, love, hate, beauty, envy, honor, weakness, striving, suffering, virtue.
You that seek what life is in death, Now find it air that once was breath. -Baron Brooke Fulke Greville
The last quote on there, from which the title of the book comes, has been hitting me hard recently. I've believed in eternity and souls and God for quite a while. But it's now making me question the purpose of pursuits, trying, and effort in earth life. But those are much too heavy of thoughts for such a light, short post.

This is probably a book I'll read every once in a while to get me thinking. I would 9/10 recommend the writing and 10/10 recommend that you read it regardless of form, just for the content. Here is a link to buy the book on Amazon.

Did you brush your teeth? A Pregnancy Story

If you've had any contact with us in the last year and a half then we probably told you the story of how we found out I was pregnant with Alice. For the other three people on the planet, I'm writing it here so you can read it.

We had been trying to get pregnant for a couple years and were getting ready to move to Spokane, and therefore losing the doctor we had, so it seemed like a good time to give up for a while. We were pretty discouraged and welcomed the break--sort of.

Neither of us were doing a lot of work so we had plenty of time to spend packing and cleaning. The way I pack is pretty efficient. I usually just choose a space that I feel like packing and hit it hard with Netflix in the background till it's done. I probably packed our dishes first, our storage last and our pantry somewhere in the middle. I know, super efficient.

The plan was to drive with Tyler's parents who let us borrow their truck and trailer. We drove the 11 hours in one day, which probably ended up being about 13 hours since we had a big heavy trailer of life behind us. We 'decided' to stop for dinner at the only restaurant in a 100-mile stretch once we got hungry.

It was a place kind of like Denny's but more like Denny's plus an antique store plus a Montana collectibles store. They had a giant menu ranging from breakfast burritos to ribeye steaks. I ordered oatmeal with butter and brown sugar on the side. Tyler ordered a chicken alfredo dish that was large enough to feed all four of us.


As we were eating I could tell the drive had worn me down. My eyes were tired and my bum was sore. I remember looking over at Tyler's dinner and thinking if those little chunks in there are minced garlic, that is too much garlic.

We had a few hours left to drive after dinner and had been switching cars and riders all day. So the last stretch Tyler and I decided to ride together. About an hour outside of Spokane I felt so gross. That long in a car makes you stink no matter how much deodorant you put on or how many times you brush your teeth. I asked Tyler if he'd put the toiletry bag anywhere near us so I could do some freshening up, and he hadn't, it was buried in the trunk somewhere.

So I soldiered on through the stink and the sweat for another hour or so and we finally made it! We had put our mattress in an accessible place so we could just pull it out, sleep for the night and do all the unpacking the next day.

I woke up the next morning to more stink. Our room smelled so terrible, I assumed it was leftover sweat and told Tyler that we both needed to shower(thinking, there was no way that much smell was just me). Well that didn't work so I insisted we unpack with all the doors and windows open all day to let the place air out. That didn't really work either. Then I made Tyler let me smell his breath. And then I gagged. It was his garlicky alfredo breath that had stunk up the entire apartment and the car the night before. I proceeded to say a lot of things like, "we should call them and tell them they use way too much garlic, as a public service to the rest of humanity," and "neither of us should eat garlic, or alfredo, or chicken, or pasta for at least a year," and "did you brush your teeth?" I said that last one every five minutes for like a week. Eventually the smell subsided and I patted myself on the back for being so strong through it all.

Tyler's parents left a couple days later and we settled in.

The whole first week we were there I did not feel good. I was not hungry and only felt like eating things like oatmeal and rice. Even though I wasn't really eating I also felt like my pants were getting tighter. I complained to Tyler every day that week about not wanting to eat anything and how I needed new clothes or a gym membership.

We went to Target late one night out of frustration and bought me some new clothes. During this week of frustration Tyler didn't once suggest that I might be pregnant until Friday night. A doctor had told us that we wouldn't be able to get pregnant without some, or a lot of, interventions and so I ruled that out from the very beginning.

Friday of that week came and I had decided something must be really wrong. I was (more) lethargic, tired all day long and every food made me sick. I decided to go see a doctor the following week. However, I knew that if I showed up there and told them my symptoms the first thing they would do is ask me to take a pregnancy test. I decided I'd rule that out myself so we wouldn't have to bother with that.

We went to the Rite-Aid down the street and bought a test and came back home. I got up early the next morning to pee and just decided to do the test and get it over with. Tyler wandered in to the bathroom as he had hundreds of times before and sat on the tub while we waited.

And there it was, the little word 'pregnant' showed up on that test and we just stared in disbelief for what seemed like hours. And the rest is history! No, actually the rest is pregnancy and taking care of a baby forever, but that's not what people say at the end of a nice story.