Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Proposal

We were quickly packing for our trip to Tennessee. It was the kind of trip where you take mainly cycling gear, a couple of cozy pants and sweatshirts and not much else. Our mission: to romp around the back roads of Eastern Tennessee and do some secret training. Benjamin had spent winter there years ago in preparation for the 1996 Olympic trials. He discovered smooth roads, little to no traffic and lots of amazing terrain.

We were in our pajamas, filling our suitcases and he asked if I had room for something. I looked up and in his hand was a little box. A little box with a big ring inside. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

I'd been dreaming of this moment for a while. Not sure when it was going to happen, and in some ways okay with if it never happened. I knew my love for him was beyond measure, beyond conditions, beyond limitations. I feel so lucky and blessed to feel this way about someone, about Benjamin.

So when that little box had a beautiful ring inside, accompanied by a proposal by the man of my dreams, I flew over the moon. And turned beet red.

"I had all these ideas in mind. But I couldn't wait any longer."

Floating on cloud nine, I couldn't stop smiling. If there were ever a moment I could stop time, this would be it. A moment full of much love, appreciation, and adoration.

In fact, I don't think I've stopped beaming.

Monday, March 11, 2013


I feel an energy swirling about, bubbling up inside of me like a volcano getting ready to erupt. It's fueled by many thoughts: on grief, on cycling, on bucking the status quo. Thoughts on why things are the way we think they are. Thoughts on how to make things different.

And then BOOM! Off goes my mountain top. I'm ready to take action! I'm ready to step into who I want to be and who I want to become. I'm getting the ball rolling, one step at a time to make things happen. With each step, I'm taking on the world and making a difference.

The action may seem small. I'm only one human. But my impact on the world may have a rippling butterfly effect. And knowing that fuels my passion. It wakes me up, eager to start each morning. Thankful I have another opportunity to do so. Grateful to express myself and am surrounded by people who believe in me.

Tomorrow night I arranged a Meetup called Loving Friends, aimed at bringing widows and widowers together to start a conversation. To build up my arsenal of people who view grief as a gift and opportunity. To start spreading the message and do good in the world. I'm ready to change consciousness, one being at a time.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Ode to Gammy

Grandmothers are very special people. Not only are they important by the virtue of the bloodline, but they are tasked with teaching grandchildren important life lessons. Today I’m going to share with you the lessons my grandmother, Gam, shared with me in hopes that they can serve you in life as well.

Following your heart and pursuing your passions
Gam grew up on a farm in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada with 10 brothers and sisters. She was in the middle. At age 16, she and her sister flew the coop to warmer climates and opportunity in Los Angeles. She left with $5 in her pocket.

Imagine: 16 years old, red hair, full of life and adventure and seeing the world. Not the concrete world we’re used to; a world full of possibilities, orange groves and merchants. That’s where she met my grandfather. He whisked her quickly away to Hawaii and they began their lives together.

Even though I wasn’t there to witness it - her sense of adventure and willingness to try something new, her actions of boldly following her heart and pursuing a life of passion is one of the greatest gifts she shared with me. She dared following her heart.

Anything is possible.
Imagine again: a red head, full of life and a thirst for adventure. What she expressed to the Universe came back to her. She had married to George Magoon (my grandfather) whose family purchased a white sand beach called Maihaiula just north of the Kona Airport on the Big Island for $1,000. Together, Gam and my grandfather would take their children there and give them a unique experience.

Do you think that at 16, raised on a farm in Winnipeg she ever could have imagined raising her children in paradise? Yet it happened. Because anything is possible. She taught me to keep an open and positive perspective toward everything.

Life is an adventure
I grew up on the mainland in Eugene, OR. Yet every summer, my mom would take us back to Hawaii to visit with my grandmother. We would travel to Maihaiula for a month at a time. Without electricity or television, we had to entertain ourselves as best we could. Luckily Gam taught me how to fish.

Maihaiula is a half moon bay. On the south side, are some lava rocks that overhang the ocean. I remember holding my grandmother’s hand as she showed me how to navigate through the deep sand, through the coconut groves with falling fronds, avoiding the kiawe thorns, how to walk on aa and puu lava as well as avoid menehunes.

Armed with a bamboo pole, straw hat, butter knife to pick off creatures for bait and a bucket, my grandmother showed me the best fishing hole. I’d plop my line into the water and within seconds bring up tropical fish. She taught me which fish were good to eat and which ones were too boney and how to unhook them and release them back.

Eventually I got bold enough to fish on my own. My grandmother had taught me how to navigate and deal with obstacles and how to fish. And in her gentle way, I understood what she taught me would serve as metaphor with how to deal with life. It should always be treated as an adventure.

Tackling whatever life may throw at you.
Eventually I graduated from my bamboo pole to a fishing rod. I started casting right in front of the house and quickly learned there are good and not so good places to fish. My line snagged, but I could feel a wiggle.

After 20 minutes, Gam came to check on me. She tried untangling the line as well but whatever I had caught was stubborn. Eventually, slowly, I brought in an electric eel and shrieked in horror. Gam didn’t bat an eye. Instead she grabbed the nearest rock and started bashing the head of the eel. “Your Auntie Denny (bash) LOVES (bash) eel. (BASH BASH BASH) She’ll eat it!”

That is one of my fondest memories of Gam. She taught me that no matter what life throws at you or you snag on your fishing rod, you can bash it with a rock and feed it to your auntie.

I am so thankful for my grandmother, Gam. She taught me to following my heart and pursuing my passions, anything is possible, life is an adventure and that I can tackle whatever life may throw at me.

Last week, Gam passed away at 97 years old. She lived an amazing life and was loved by all who knew her. And though her physical presence passed, her legacy continues on in me, in my siblings, cousins, mom, aunt and uncle and everyone else who had the good fortune of meeting her.

So when you find you have an opportunity to share a life lesson with someone, consider the impact you may have on that young persons life. Pass your legacy on. And remember, grandmothers are very special people. And Gam was no exception.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Chapter Two - The First Month.

What you see before you is a book in the makings. I'm going back, reviewing my posts in small chunks. Right now I'm focusing on the first month after Ryan's death.

You would think poking around in the past would stir up all sorts of grief demons. And it does. But underneath it all and only a few days into his passing was a current of acceptance. I knew right away that was the choice I wanted to make. I didn't want to play the victim. 

"Being angry isn't going to change anything."

"I was sad thinking about not bring able to share this with him - no one to come home to and get a big enormous kiss and hug and celebratory beer with. But as night wore on, I'm learning to be okay with that. Or more like get used to it."

So many things change over time. Getting used to Ryan not being here, and learning to love again. I get a big enormous kiss and hugs from Benjamin now. He fills me up in his own, authentic and beautiful way. I am so lucky. I also appreciate all of the lessons I've learned despite the hardship: wisdom, acceptance, limitless possibilities, true love, to name a few. 

And now... a little sample of what I'm working on today....

I want to wake up from this nightmare.
That’s all I could say or think at first. That everything I experienced was surreal and hopefully a figment of my imagination. My heart, my head and my soul would never be the same. Sure my heart would continue beating and my lungs still gathering air. But when you loose someone, someone who is as close as Ryan was, it feels like you get lost in an undertow. Swirling around, practically drowning and you become uncertain which direction is up.
I started mooning people. (Who moons people!? Seriously!) My inhibitions were down and my reasoning thrown out the door. I would laugh hysterically and cry, all at once. My sleep irregular, I often woke up at 3 am, unable to fall back asleep. The easiest thing to do was to think about Ryan. I let memories we share fill the blank void. I didn’t want to be alone in my house at first, and instead opted to stay at my mom’s house. 
Being home alone meant contending with the ghosts. And facing the reality sooner than later that I had to untangle the life I knew in order to make room for a new one. Friends started asking, why don’t you throw yourself back into training? Why don’t you race at Nationals in a month? Why aren’t you over it?
I don’t know if anyone is capable of loosing their mate and then acting as if everything is normal. It’s not. And pretending that it is would only set me back.
It didn't prevent me from trying to act normal. I surrounded myself with friends and things to do. During the day, I had no trouble hanging out with friends and keeping my mind occupied. But whenever I would go home, emotionally drained from having to pretend I was ok, tears would stream down the minute I closed my front door. My pillow and sheets would be covered in snot come morning. I missed Ryan and felt hollow without him there.
Falling for my strong front, people started relying on me emotionally. It had only been 10 days since Ryan passed. I felt incapable of shouldering anyone else’s emotions and ended up secluding myself. My smile, although easy to come despite the tragedy, was a mask for how bad I hurt inside. I wished Ryan were around so I could vent to him. He always had a way of listening to me and by doing so would help solve the problem. But he wasn’t around anymore and I needed to find the careful balance between being social and taking care of myself. Sometimes I needed to just feel the ache.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Checking in from the Couch

My skin has a nice red lobster glow to it. Or at least, it does where my skin was exposed this past week. Hello biking tan lines! It's been a few months.

Mackenzie, Lisa and I with a Tijuana in the background.
My legs sting from both the extra UV and from the 5,000 feet of climbing from today. It's the last day of a mini-training camp for just the para-pilots held at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. We were tested in four different ways - a RAMP test, Lactate Blood test, Otay Lakes Time Trial and the queen of all stages - Honey Springs Hill Climb. Not to mention a bunch of endurance miles thrown into the mix through the surrounding hills.

It's been confirmed - I did not become a better climber over the off season. Darn it! However, the cumulative climbing from moving to Colorado and being in Mallorca this last summer is improving my climbing ability. And that's all this girl could ask for. I'm building muscle memory of how to suffer on longer climbs and what my pace is.

I love this sport.

Seriously, where else do you get a chance to work on your weaknesses day after day, climb after climb? My fellow pilots pummeled and encouraged me. We even went to dinner blind folded one night to experience what it's like to eat blind. Piercing tomatoes with a fork is challenging! And eating fruit salad with Craig switching out my bowl without me knowing it, even harder. That rascal.

What's next? Time will tell. I am excited at the prospect and will continue training my bootie off. I've got some more tan lines to earn. And more town sprint signs to win.