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Passing the Torch

January 30, 2023

For years, when going out in the woods with my boys, and doing other sports such as wrestling, they have always strived, to beat me, be faster, climb a more difficult route, etc. For boys, the challenge to beat your father in any type of sport is huge. I know I always had that with my Dad. That competition ended when I was in high school, as I quickly was bigger than him which ended some of the competitions. He did later reveal to me that in every game, sport, event in which we competed against each other in he never let me win at anything. Yes this includes cards and Yathzee. I have taken that same approach with my boys.  When they strive to beat me my comment has always been “Someday you will pass me by, but that day is not today”.  This past summer “someday” started to arrive.  On activities that require fast downhill travel they have been faster than me for a while. It requires being a little bit more fearless than I am.  Examples are skiing and mountain biking.  Granted skiing they have both been better than me since they were 4.  Although the uphill has never been a question of strength and speed. I would hammer up, they would hammer down.  This past summer, that reality shifted. Them catching me on the way up had been impossible until then.

The knife-edge ridge.

Eldorado – Back in June, the three of us climbed Eldorado, which is a beautiful mountain in the North Cascades and the 25th highest mountain in the state.  It features an amazing knife-edge ridge to reach the summit.  Starting within the first 100 yards of the trailhead features a stream crossing.  Without too many details, of course, I was the one who ended up getting wet.  From there it is a steep climb through the forest up to a snowfield where the pitch flattens out.  This is where we camped for the night.  The plan was a two-day trip.  From our camp, you head up a few hundred feet, then drop over a notch, and end up on another snowfield that takes you up to the Inspiration Glacier. This section is not super steep. The snow was sloppy that day and some minor post-holing occurred.  Being heavier than my boys, I was having a much more difficult time with punching through.  They completely crushed me up to the glacier, having to wait for a while for me to catch up.  Once we got to the glacier we roped up.  I was on lead as we made our way over the Inspiration Glacier to the Eldorado Glacier.  From there you make your way up to the summit.  The Inspiration glacier is flat, but the Eldorado glacier has some steeper sections that leads up to the knife-edge ridge and the summit.  I got into my “rest-step” rhythm as we went up.  This is sort of a standard climbing pace that includes a rest every third step.  We made our way up to the ridge.  The most exposed portion, where the sides drop-off steeply on both sides, was about a 30–40-foot section.  We made the summit, took a few pictures, and then headed back down.  We descended the Eldorado glacier and took a food break at some rocks prior to making our way back on the Inspiration glacier.  First my boys were “the knife-edge ridge was way too short we wanted a longer section of super exposed ridgeline.”  Then they commented “Hey Dad you didn’t need to move that slow on the glacier for us.”  I commented back: “that was for me, not you”.  I realized this was the first moment of my grip hold on being faster on the up was under attack. 

Later in the year I took a couple of trips with Cade.  Colby was immersed in football so he had limited time. Although we did manage a trip up Mt. Baring.  My buddy, Andy, went with Cade and myself on one of these trips, The main objective of trip was two peaks in the top 20 of highest peaks in Washington.  We hoped to try for two others, however some rain ended that as scrambling and rain do not mix.  We summited the two main objective peaks. The whole time Cade was out in front just hammering, and we worked hard to catch up.  At one point he looked as us and said, “Maybe I should climb with people who are not 45.”  We both laughed.  My response was “Good luck finding people who want to suffer through these types of adventures with you”.  “Good point” was the response.  It fit right in with some of my mountain rules:  1.  You must be fine taking some crap and not take anything personally.  Smack talking is 100% allowed.  2.  Swearing it OK in the mountains. 3. Always stay together 4. Make sure your harness is double-backed. 5. Assess every trip based upon that place, and the current conditions at that time.  This was a cool moment as I realized we were not out there as father/son, but as climbing partners. He is very capable – both my kids are very capable in the mountains.  On the way out Cade took us out via a high traverse, which a large portion did not have a trail so he had to navigate us over some ridges, and up some nasty scree fields to get us to our planned camping destination.  Again, a fun moment to put him in charge of the navigation.  All in all, on the trip we summited two peaks over 9.000 ft and then one over 7,000.  A fantastic trip.  Again, a reminder that someday is happening now. Not only did I get crushed the entire trip, but I also handed over the navigation reigns, probably a bigger sign that someday is now.

Cade near the summit of Seven Fingered Jack

After that trip just Cade and myself, took a trip up to Cascade Pass – again in the North Cascades.  The goal was another 9,000-foot peak- Mt. Buckner.  Cade was hammering some tough cross-country terrain.  Due to some issues I was having I pulled the plug on the trip and we did not reach the objective.  We had to pivot our trip so we shifted our focus to Sahale Peak.  To get to the top there is a short glacier crossing. Since it was late in the year the navigation was straight forward as most of the crevasses were wide open and easy to navigate on.  The final part of the climb is a scramble to the top.  He just blew right through the scramble section. It is not super technical, but features one exposed move towards the top.  I waited at a notch where people rappel to the other side of the mountain, which is a different approach.  Since I already have summited the Peak and I am still working through some trauma issues related to my accident in 2020, I was totally fine just chilling while he hit the summit.  Another trip, another crushing. I used his summit picture in my last post, so below is a different trip.

Cade at Red Pass

Officially the torch has been passed and “Someday” is now.  For me, this has been a moment to celebrate as they have a huge passion for the outdoors and are passing up their “old-man”.  The torch has been passed. They are carrying on the tradition of love for the mountains from not only their parents, but also from their grandfather.  Some pretty remarkable stuff.





October 20, 2022

Recently, I listened to a podcast called “Hidden Brain”.  This episode focused on overcoming trauma.  The basis on the podcast was about how America culture has the superhero mentality when it comes to trauma.  We are forged by trauma and pain.  Going through these obstacles will make us stronger, like Kelly Clarkson’s “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”  Every superhero has an origin story in which they have to overcome a traumatic event, which leads them to become the superhero.  Peter Parker’s uncle dies, and he becomes Spiderman.  Steve Rogers is bullied, small and can’t get into the Army, which is the foundation for Captain America.  Tony Stark is captured by terrorists, has a heart issue, and becomes Iron Man.  The list goes on and on.  They all have a story of overcoming a major event.  It doesn’t crush them but leads them on to greater glory.  It has created a narrative that the expectation is that trauma/adversity equates to personal growth and transformation.  However, does this narrative put unrealistic expectations on people going through difficult times? Is it good or bad?  The results from the podcast showed that the results were mixed, for some it was good and helped them push through, but on the flip side the podcast found that, for many, it was a greater burden to carry and only added to the stress.  What the podcast did find is that most people who go through a time of intense trauma come out with more empathy and more understanding.  I know for the past 11 years I have been in full-on superhero mode. Has it made me have more empathy – definitely – in my time working on various boards and non-profits related to brain cancer.  In other parts of my life, I am not quite sure, as at times I find myself, thinking, “that person just needs to step up- they are not the first to have a crappy hand dealt to them.”


Cade on top of Sahalee Peak. Needed something fun to share on this post.

Now for the good news or not!  Back in August, I found out my brain tumor was active and growing.  I still sit here, not knowing the game plan moving forward, waiting on a second opinion to help guide my decision on how to proceed forward.  What is the best option for me?  Limbo land is extremely challenging and frustrating.  I think during this period, I have learned that you don’t always have to instantly resort to superhero mode.  I think this period has made me realize that it is OK to have feelings, to be frustrated, angry, sad and broken.   You don’t have to instantly grab your shield and push forward.  I know I will not be in the position forever. I will look for the shield once I have a plan and will press on like Steve Rogers- “I can do this all day.” However, I do believe this period has allowed me to be OK with just “being” and not putting the pressure on myself to ignore feelings and just move forward, not to feel and just grab the shield and move forward.  I am a goal setter, so being in limbo is a little bit of torture for me.  To actually be forced to “deal” with my emotions is not something I enjoy. 

The big difference for me this time is that I have been experiencing side effects of the tumor growth.  Back when I was first diagnosed, I had a grand mal seizure, which means that I was unconscious and had no recollection of the seizure.  The tumor growth is squarely on my left side motor skills, specifically the part of the brain that control my left hand.  I don’t want to go into complete details on some of the issues that I am having, some are obviously related to the tumor, however others there is some question.  This has left me in a state of paranoia, wondering if something is the tumor, is it just random, or is my mind making things up?  Six years ago, when I went through proton radiation, I had no symptoms, only the MRI revealed the growth.  This time it is both the MRI and symptoms – a totally new experience.  It has caused me to have to adjust some of the activities that I love. Now some of that is probably that I still have some PSTD from my climbing fall.  The paranoia is unlike anything I have ever been through. 

I have waited on posting this as I really don’t know what is next.  People have asked me how they can help, and the real answer is that I really don’t know.  I really just don’t know. 




December 9, 2021

TEN – Also the name of Pearl Jam’s first album. Note – the best “under the radar” track on that album is Garden. We all know Alive, Even Flow, Jeremy, Black, Once, and Why go, and Release has gained lots of traction as well. It’s sort of hard to find something “under the radar” on that album, but the answer is Garden. Yes, that is totally off topic. But hey, it’s Pearl Jam.

It’s been ten years now since I suffered a Grand Mal seizure at the U District Starbucks and ended up at the UW Hospital.  The 21st of November marked ten years since I went through brain surgery.  I actually just re-read the analysis in my medical chart about the finding of the tumor. 

Poorly-defined right posterior frontal lobe mass measuring 5 x 3.5 cm as described concerning for a primary brain neoplasm such as astrocytoma versus oligodendroglioma.

Back then, the life expectancy for my type of tumor was 5 to 12 years.  I like to joke that I have 2 years left.  Although, most people (aka my family) don’t find this as funny as I do. 

In October, I was on a panel forum for people with low grade tumors like me.  There was a couple on the forum who are in the early stages of diagnosis and have been going through it all during COVID.  If brain cancer isn’t bad enough, going through it during COVID sounds just awful.  With really no visitors allowed in with you and with a not fully functioning brain, I am not sure how to take in all of the information that is thrown at you. I feel extremely blessed to have my story instead of one impacted by COVID rules. 

Here is Goliath Pre Surgery in November 2011
Post Surgery Staples and Scar

After the forum, I started to think about things I would tell someone who was just diagnosed with cancer. Here they are:

  1.  Be your own Advocate:  This is the biggest thing- you need to advocate for yourself, do what is best for you, ask lots of questions if you are unsure, then press forward to understand and learn more.  Don’t just follow the doctor’s orders or the “standard protocol”.  The reality is that medical treatment is in constant motion, breakthroughs are happening, and more things are learned everyday in how to treat disease.  Even when dealing with your insurance company, sometimes you just need to ask questions and dig into things. I truly believe that I would currently be living with many brain function deficiencies if I had done what I was told back in 2011. Standard protocol was chemotherapy (Temodar) along with radiation. The radiation that was offered was photon radiation. Previously I wrote a blog about the difference between photon (standard) and proton radiation. In a nutshell, photon radiation causes much more collateral damage. In your brain, collateral damage is a big deal. My unofficial polling of people ten years out from standard radiation all noted that they have mental deficiencies that they all felt like they could trace back to radiation. I completely believe that had I followed the “protocol” my story would not be quite as positive. If something doesn’t feel right, then you need to speak up and do what you think is best. Then see number 3 on this list.
  2. Believe that you are an outlier:  You need to believe that you are the exception – not the rule, you are the outlier, you are not bound by the statistics, the numbers, you are outside of all of that, you are a survivor, period. I think of two books by Malcom Gladwell: Outliers and David and Goliath. The stats are not good, however the world always has outliers and you are one of them.
  3. There is no hindsight basis:  Every decision you make is the correct one based upon the information and knowledge you have.  There is no second guessing, no hindsight basis.  Every choice is 100% correct – there is no argument, no looking back. I think we often get caught up in the idea that if we just change one thing, then the overall outcome will be different. However we fail to realize that that one change actually changes the basis for every future decision. The best example is a football game. If your team loses by a field goal and your kicker missed a field goal wide right in the first quarter, you think if that ball goes through, the game would have gone to overtime. However that doesn’t take in account that every decision made thereafter would be made under different circumstances, thus that one change does not necessarily mean that the game would have ended up in a tie. We can’t isolate one decision and assume that all other outcomes are the same, as that decision actually changes every future decision.
  4. Don’t Google your cancer, but do Google a support group for your cancer:  Searching your cancer can be super depressing, however don’t let that stop you from finding support groups and great blogs, resources, etc.  It is so helpful to be able to relate to people that have gone through a similar experience. Yes, I know that we will all do it anyways. Yes, I realize that everyone is thinking, this is a ”do what I say, not what I do” moment. Of course I Googled my cancer and looked at life expectancy statistics.
  5. Learn how to read insurance statements:  Cancer is pretty overwhelming to begin with, but so is the mountain of paperwork – invoices that you receive from your insurance companies and care providers.  Learn how to match up and tie out your Explanation of Benefits Statements back to your care providers invoices. I know I discovered discrepancies several times. Often times, the providers send an invoice directly to me versus to the insurance company.  There were several times where I had to send additional information or invoices to make sure that things were properly covered. Maybe that is the accountant in me, but I strongly recommend this. Also, if you are someone who is good with numbers and can understand how to read the insurance forms, and you want to help someone going through cancer, this could be an amazing way to show your support and take some of the load away. I have had proton therapy rejected by insurance, Occupational therapy turned down, I have had numerous invoices sent to me directly and not through insurance and I had to push through approval for my helicopter ride – post rock climbing accident. Needless to say, I have had experience in dealing with insurance companies.
  6. Seek and find an Advanced Brain Tumor Center for your care:  Many years ago, through my Kirkland Rotary Club, we put on an event. It was an A Capella night, in which groups from UW and The University of Oregon came and performed. It was a fabulous event, lots of fun and we raised some money for Brain Cancer advocacy. As part of that event, I was interviewed by the local paper. They put up a little article about the event and it had some details about me.  After the event, I received a call from a gentleman who wanted to meet with me about a project; he saw the write up in the local paper and picked me because I have brain cancer. I found out that he had been diagnosed with a GBM – which is a worst-case brain tumor. He owned a business and realized that he was no longer able to work anymore due to the cancer. He asked me to perform a business valuation so that he could sell his ownership to his partners. That was probably the most difficult service I have ever performed. During the project, we met several times and we talked about his experience and his treatment. He was being treated at a local hospital, nothing wrong with the hospital, it was just that he was being cared for by a general oncologist. Probably a really good one, but it was hard for me not to want to beat the drum go to a brain cancer center, to be seen by people who only work with brain cancer.  As far as I knew, his treatment plan was the plan that came from the standard playbook and was used once all other treatment options have failed to work. I bit my tongue as I didn’t feel at the time it was my place to saying anything, but I wanted so badly to yell:  Get a second opinion, go to a specialized center! I saw him at the next Seattle Brain Cancer Walk and we said hi and talked for a while, however the following year, I did not see him or his team. Some research later and I found out that he had passed away about a year after I valued his business. It was gut wrenching to find out that news. 

I move forward, still learning more about how to deal and how to cope, however all in all I think I have done quite well these past 10 years – feeling extremely blessed to have a low grade glioma as opposed to something much worse. I also realize that I am most likely repeating some of the stuff I have said in prior postings, however I think at this point, I don’t always recall everything I have written, however I do have a great excuse as to why: yes I have some brain damage – permanent scaring from the surgery.



Coming Full Circle

November 24, 2021

This past fall, both Colby and I have been helping coach one of the Wildcat Jr. football teams, the Cubs Red Team – most of the players are 5th graders. 

Myself twice a week plus games, then Colby as much as his schedule will allow during the High School football season.  The year culminated with an undefeated season (11-0) and league championship.  Actually during the year, regular season and postseason, only 6 points were scored against the team over those 11 games.  That is pretty impressive, I must say. 

Summer practice on the field, watching the kids run.

I am starting with the end, however really this journey began about 10 years ago.  November 8th 2011, I suffered a grand mal seizure.  I was at a Starbucks, meeting a potential new client with a Co-Worker, when it occurred.  I was out cold and came to in the ambulance on the short trip over to the UW medical center – I was at the U Village Starbucks.  Anyhow that started my journey with brain cancer.  An MRI revealed a massive growth (tennis ball sized) in my head. Which lead to surgery, then basically starting in 2012 a year of chemotherapy.  In August of that year, Jason Wilmot had agreed to coach the 8th grade Junior Wildcat Football team.  He obviously did not have a child on the team, as his son was a baby at the time.  He asked if I wanted to help out.  I will be 100% honest that I was pretty hesitant, due to my treatment and knowing that I would not be able to make everything.  He was like, just come out as much as you can, anything you give would be great. I said yes.  Honestly it was an amazing distraction from treatment and just fun to work with kids.  It also gave me a group of kids to watch move through the high school program and ended up with lots of “Hey coach do you remember me?” during that group’s high school years.  I think being a part of something bigger than myself was also important at that time in my life. During chemo, walking up Kite hill at the Community Park, without having to stop was a major accomplishment for me at that time.  The team finished around .500 that year, however several of those players went on to play in college.  I still run into some of the parents around Snoqualmie or at games, which is fun.  Probably the best part of the season came, not on the field, but at the 2012 Seattle Brain Cancer Walk.  Back then the Walk was in the fall, it was my first time at the event, we had Team Defeat Goliath registered.  Unbeknownst to me, just about the entire team choose to participate, thus at the walk most of the football team and their families supported me that day.  We had one of the largest teams at that walk and were called out during the ceremony as one of the top teams.  It was super cool to feel that support.  This was the first time that the community rallied around me.  Here is my recap of the Walk from 2012:

There would be two more times when the community really got behind me, once when my insurance turned me down for treatment, when my tumor was active again in 2016. Here is my recap of the fundraiser to help me deal with my insurance company who refused to cover some of my needed treatment:

Then in 2020, after I was in a serious rock climbing accident, people helped once again. 

Anyhow back to the football season.  It was the summer of 2020, Colby and I were out on a walk and ran into Jason, we started to talk about football as we knew that he was coaching, we also knew that the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID.  That conversation stuck with Colby as, then later on, Jess and I were talking to him about how he would get his volunteer hours for 2021.  His response, “I want to help coach football.”  I was excited by this and told him that if he was in, that I would volunteer as well.  Working with Jason was the obvious next step, however I will be honest, I sort of dropped the ball.  I reached out to him, late in the game and asked if he would want Colby and I to join his staff.  He actually had already submitted his staff at that point in time, however, went through the Board process to get us added on as late additions.  Colby was obviously limited with his time, since he had high school football, but was able early on to be at most of the pre-season practices, then he came as much as his schedule would allow.  I committed to two days a week, then games, barring a schedule conflict.

I will admit, a proud parent moment was being able to watch Colby work with the kids and witness how they looked up to him. Colby committed his time and energy to this group of kids and they loved him for it.  I think the past ten years has made me realize that having impact is more important than having accomplishments. That time is the most precious resource that we have. It is one thing that we can’t get more of and something we always wish we had more of. I think kids especially understand the importance of investing time with them. Watching the facial reactions of the players, when they were around Colby, was a real treat for me. Having a high school kid show up and care about a group of 5th graders is awesome. He is the better addition to the coaching staff than me for sure. 

I will be honest, I have found coaching without a kid on the team to almost be more rewarding, as I am completely removed from the politics and bad stuff that comes along with youth athletics, I just get to focus on the kids.  I have had many people ask, when I am going to “retire”, honestly the answer is once it is not fun anymore and as long as someone wants to have me on their staff. My running joke has been that no Jr. football coach will turndown a volunteer that only wants to work with the offensive line, because there are just not that many people out there, who only want to work with linemen. I also know this is my way to give back and say thank you to a community that has given me quite a bit.

A big thank you to Jason Wilmot, the coaching staff, the players, and the parents for allowing Colby and myself to be part of the Jr. Wildcat Cubs Red Team this past season. It was the first year that I have coached were I did not have a player refuse to be on the offensive line. The part I am most proud of those players is that, there was only one game in which our line was not completely outsized compared to our opponents, yet they all battled hard and overcame the size difference. Honestly our line was small, but had big hearts. I am sure in the future some kid will hear me saying things like “I need violent hands”, “wide base, don’t stop your feet”, “I need at least six seconds”, “where does your head go?”, “always protect inside first”. 

Link to see championship game highlights can be found here:

I am sure that next fall you will be able to find me out amongst the elk in Snoqualmie, teaching proper stance and first step. As that is one small way that I can give back a little bit that has been given to me.



Pulling the Rip Cord

October 20, 2021

I recently just finished watching the second season of Ted Lasso.  It’s a great show and I highly recommend it.  Especially if you are like me and find yourself watching a lot of dark shows, it is an uplifting comedy and a nice change of pace from lots of other shows out there.  The second season deals with mental health issues.  I hate disclaimers, but I am going to give one here.  I don’t think my blog here can come close to trying to capture what the show was doing or the current post pandemic needs of everyone for mental health.  The show just made me think, so here are the results of my thinking. 

Sometimes as the stress and anxiety grow, it seems like it would be nice to be able to hit the eject button and bail out.  Pull the rip cord and stop the fall.  Or be like Crocodile Dundee and go on a walkabout in the Australian Outback.  Be Dick Proenneke and go live in a cabin in the Wilderness of Alaska. Granted those options come with their own stress and problems, but of a different nature. I will be honest I do sometimes think what life would be like, if I just headed out into the woods, change the stress of life from due dates, relationships, people, to just basic survival. I do realize that is more like running away from issues than anything else, but I tend to think that everyone at times has had that thought before. How can I remove myself from the weight of the world.

Clouds rolling in and making navigation difficult. Taken on Mt. Cashmere, WA. The route is there, just hard to see. Life can be like that sometimes, where the worries, fear and stress of the world, slow down our travel.

I will be completely honest, as I have always strived to do when I write, I am still struggling a little bit, post accident. I feel as if I have lost a little bit of swagger of confidence. My fitness level has dropped, still probably pretty good to most, but prior to falling, I was starting to have ambitious thoughts of jumping into another ultra marathon. A little bit ago, I did go out rock climbing with Colby. It was time for both of us to get back out there. We went to Exit 38 and a wall called “Sun Vista Slabs”. It is a bunch of easy low 5th class slab climbs. My first lead I was super timid, always wanting to have a bomber hand hold the entire time. I was fidgety and nervous. “Dad you’re climbing super timid” “I know – I am totally freaked out!” I was constantly searching for the super bomber hand hold. The problem with that approach is that in climbing, much like life, you don’t often get that bomber hand hold to support yourself. Climbing is all about trusting your feet and looking for those hidden slopers, side pulls, and crimper holds. It’s not always obvious. Once I was back down from lead number 1 post fall, Colby gave me a bit of a pep talk. He reminded me that we are on a slab route, meaning there are not many bomber holds, I need to look for good feet, side pulls, and all of the other stuff that is there. I jumped back on the same route, thinking about what he said. The second time, I felt like the rock wall came alive as I was looking for the holds that the climb did offer up. It was like I was looking at the rock in a totally different lens. I was much more comfortable for sure the second time up. I added another lead, before it was time to go. It was a great first step, but leading some 5.4-5.5 routes does not remove all of my nervousness and hesitation. But this is going to be a process.

By nature, I am a grinder, so when things get hard, I just keep on pushing, pressing, moving forward.  I think that is partially why I enjoy mountaineering and adventure racing so much, it’s the grind of Type 2 fun.  (Type 2 fun is the kind of fun that is miserable while it is happening, but when you look back, you think, Wow that was awesome! – fun in retrospect.)  Typically I like to finish what I start, so usually as great as it sounds to pull the rip cord, I don’t often do that. 

This thinking took me back to my freshman year of high school.  It was wrestling season.  I have blogged about wrestling quite a bit in my past posts and its impact on me.  It was my favorite sport, really because it transformed me.  However grades 8-10th I really struggled.  A sane person would have quit the sport.  First off it is super hard, the workouts are intense and if you are not very good, you basically just get physically abused throughout an entire practice.  I spent my freshman year getting beat up each and every practice, not just by the workout, but also my teammates.  I think I won like 1 JV match that entire year, my Sophomore year I did not win a varsity match. I was 0-16 to start my varsity wrestling career. I did finish my high school career, which is pretty impressive after such a horrible start.  Anyhow back to my Freshman year, I was having a bad day and just could not deal with getting my butt kicked at wrestling practice, so I just skipped practice and took the bus home. 

Not long after I got home, my Dad came home, he had a shorter than normal day, so he was home earlier than usual. I really was not expecting anyone to be home, so I was a little bit surprised and really just wanted to be left alone. Anyhow he asked why I was at home. I said that I wasn’t feeling very good.  Honestly I was a little panicked as I was not expecting him to be home and I didn’t want to tell him the truth of why I was home.  I always had this incredible fear about letting him down somehow, this carried over into college, when I was dreading calling him to let him know that I was done playing baseball.  In my mind I was ready for the perseverance talk, the you gotta give 110% talk, that push through talk, whatever you want to call it – the you just need to push through, grind on.  Don’t quit, keep going. The talk that pretty much defines who I am.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a natural grinder and maybe that is a direct result of having this complete fear of letting my Dad down.  When I “retired” from baseball, it was easy to talk to the coach.  “Hate to see you go, but we did bring in a really good freshman catcher.  The Pitching coach really liked working with you because you listened and worked your ass off.” Basically telling me, you are not really that naturally gifted, but you work really hard.  For some reason I was nervous to call my Dad.  When I did, he was totally cool with it.  “Is this the best decision for you?”  “Yes” “Then great, that is what you need to do.”  No big deal. Honestly, I really think the one thing that I could have done to let him down, was to want to take over his business. Not that there was anything wrong with his career, I worked with him the summer after my Freshman year and he was adamant that he did not want me to follow in his footsteps – he wanted me to do something else. He job was not only physically demanding, but also required him to be exposed to toxins, from dust to the stain, and the finishing varnish, it was all pretty toxic stuff.

Back to me as a freshman in High School, waiting for the talk, I did not want nor needed to hear.  “ I am sorry to hear that. What can I do to help?  Do you need anything?”  That was not at all what I expected to hear, but it was what I needed to hear. 

I didn’t quit wrestling after that, I took my day off, rested, mentally regrouped, and then went back at it the next day and really never looked back.  The story goes that eventually I got pretty good at it, not like best ever, but I won lots of matches my Junior and Senior years.  Did my Dad know that is what I needed to hear at that point in time?  Looking back, when you are a teenager, you don’t think your parents are that “in tune” to things, however looking back now, I think they actually were more aware of tings then I thought they were back then. 

After writing that, I am probably a clueless parent of my kids. But that is not really the point of this…

Thinking through all of this, I am a little bit horrified of myself and how many times, someone might have come to me with a problem or issue and instead of saying.  “How can I help, what can I do for you.”  I just gave a lecture on pushing through and grinding it out.  “Hey get tough and work through this.”  However that is totally ignoring and not acknowledging the personal heartache and struggle.  Meaning it actually can make things worse as you are totally ignoring the angst of the entire issue. 

“Just grind through” is not the answer that I need when I am going through a rough patch, as that is typically what I do. Sometimes what we need is just for someone to acknowledge our struggle and ask what they can do to help. Empathy. Easy to say, hard to act on. I am 100% guilty of not offering it when it as been needed for others. I can only hope that I have not completely scarred my kids with talks of “bucking up”, “pushing through”, “working harder”, etc. and etc. It’s that old-school mentality. But that is just it, it’s old.

The next time we find ourselves in a similar situation, let’s offer empathy and ask, what can I do? How can I help?” vs. “You just need to work harder”



Raising them to be hardcore

November 24, 2020

I am guessing that I don’t do this enough – write about how awesome my kids are, but they are – yes I am biased – so here is a post about that.

Photo from Bend Racing: Picture of Cade and Colby on the course.

The weekend of October 25th, my boys competed in their first adventure race.  Adventure racing is a multi-sport race (typically hiking, biking, kayaking and ropes) were the competitors must navigate a course using only map and compass.  So they have to figure out how to get to each point on the map, without being told where to go. 

Recently Amazon Video aired a series about an adventure race – Eco-Challenge Fiji.  It is dubbed “the world’s toughest race” and had Bear Grylls as the host.  The series is a fun, enjoyable watch for sure, and gives an idea of what the sport is all about.  Years ago I was competing in tons of these types of events and my “racing career” culminated with a weeklong race.  My team had managed to find sponsorship to support our racing habit and we spent a week on the course, racing with minimal sleep, through snow and crazy water conditions, over several mountain ranges in Montana.  At the time of the race Colby was 3 ½ and Cade was only 1 ½.  So neither of them really remember when I was doing all of these crazy races, and I did a lot of training overnight in the dark.  They did not really understand the sport until watching Eco-Challenge Fiji as a family.  They knew that I had done some adventure races, but didn’t really understand what they really were or the difficulties with doing an expedition length race. They had heard me tell stories about racing while hiking, but with the show they were able to sort of put the stories together with an idea of what a race is really like.

Back to my boys and how truly hardcore they are becoming. I don’t think I need to really go into more details about Colby’s ability to be calm and cool under pressure, if you have read the blog about my accident. Wise and strong – well beyond 15 years old for sure.

Let’s now talk about Cade. Prior to my accident, we had planned on climbing Glacier Peak, with some friends of mine.  The trip was slated for the end of August.  However, I was still in a neck brace, so the trip was out for me.  Colby and I decided to take a trip to Montana to visit Universities – Montana and Montana State. It was a trip that I could totally do. Yes we did summit a 13,000 foot mountain on our trip – yes I had a neck brace on!  Cade really wanted to still go on the trip.  So I contacted the group and they were excited to have him along.  They knew about his climbing exploits on Mt. Baker when he was 9 – yes he climbedMt. Baker when he was 9 and was one of the strongest climbers in the group- and we were glad to have him along. Glacier Peak is a hard climb. It is a 12 mile hike just to get to the mountain. Due to the distance, it is a much harder climb then many of the other Cascade volcanos. He did a hard climb with a bunch of adults and kept up with them just fine. Also his summer COVID goal was to run a half-marathon. Which he trained for and ran, just family support on the SVT trail from Snoqualmie to Carnation. I’m not sure how many other 13 year-olds want to run a half-marathon just for “fun”.

Jared Hanley was one of his climbing partners during their successful summit of Glacier Peak.  He also was the person I have done the most adventure races with over the years.  Part of their conversations centered around adventure racing.  I think Cade wanted to get the straight story from Jared on some of our races. Were my Dad’s stories true?? Those conversations sparked the desire to actually compete in a race to see what it is all about. Jared knew of a race that was happening in October 2020 and thought it might be fun to get the boys involved. This included his 15 year old son, Boden. Boden is also a bad ass 15 year-old to agree to do something like this. I was out because at the time of this conversation I was still in a neck brace and not really sure what my future would hold. Jared said that he would race with the 3 boys as a 4 person team. My job was to be the sideline cheerleader!  Over the years, I have done many adventures with Jared and there are not many people I would rather go on an adventure with, and I also have no problem entrusting him with my boys on an adventure.

Photo from Bend Racing: Team Young Guns: crossing the Deschutes River

We headed down to Bend this October 25th for the race.  The big debate was what floatation vessels to use?  The race required racers to use some type of inflatable floatation device, as the racers would be required to kayak the river and then hike a few miles with all of their boating gear.  Option 1 was an inflatable 4-person boat from Walmart.  Super slow, but large enough for everyone to fit in.  Option 2 was using 2 1 -person pack rafts.  The theory here would be that one person would sit normal and the second person would lay stomach down – sort of on top of their legs, then use some neoprene hand paddles to paddle the boat from the front.  With the race temperatures to be in the teens, we did not see how this option wouldn’t end up with one of the boys getting hypothermia.  So the Walmart boat was the winner.  We figured it would be super slow and hard to manage, but hopefully no one would get hypothermia. 

We first dropped off the bikes at the bike staging area, then went to the area of the start/finish. The car temperature gauge read 16 degrees. Yes it was cold! The boys put their packs down for a few minutes outside the car. My first task of the day was to unfreeze the bit valves of their bladders as they instantly froze.

The race started on foot, then transitioned to the boat, then finished with a bike section. The boat section was the most challenging for them as their boat was a big beast and super hard to navigate, but it kept them dryer then two single packrafts would have.

Cade and Boden: Jared and Colby had to hop out to get in position for the rappelling section of the race.

During the race, I just traveled around from TA to TA to catch a glimpse of them, yell out some encouragement, and then take a few photos. My favorite viewpoint was on the river of the paddle section. There was a trail that went along the river so I was able to follow them as they made their way down the river. The water levels were low, so they constantly had to jump out of the boat to dislodge it from rocks and the bottom. The boat was large and not very maneuverable. I watched as smaller, more nimble pack rafts flew past them. The boat was quickly full of water, so they were sitting in freezing water, paddling a difficult to steer boat, down a shallow river.

In the middle of the paddle, was a required rappel – two members of the team: Jared and Colby, were required to rappel from a bridge down into the river. Where there teammates needs to have the boat waiting for them. I got a good view of this part of the race. They both made smooth descents into the boat below. I got a close-up view of the boat – it was full of water and their backpacks were covered with ice. Really just about everything was freezing. There was one checkpoint of note on the paddle, they placed one checkpoint in a bog, as the racers would come up to the punch, they would sink down in the mud up to their chests. I won’t lie, it was cold just watching. My next stop was over to the bike TA. I found that I actually had to keep moving around to keep warm. After the paddle, teams had to carry all of their paddle gear to the bike TA. When they arrived, they looked cold, but were in good spirits. Jared was coated in mud, that was actually frozen. Colby was wearing tights, with shorts over them, one of his pockets was inside out, but it was frozen, so it was stuck like that. The water bottles that were left on their bikes were now an icy mix – half frozen.

From here they headed out on the final section of the course – the bike leg. I headed back to the start and had to change out my gloves at the car. From here I was planning on waiting at the finish for their arrival. The biggest obstacle of the bike section was the frozen waterfall plunge. There was a checkpoint at a waterfall, that was now partly frozen, due to the cold. The requirements were that two members of each 4 person team needed to go into the water. It was already decided that Jared would be one of the 2 at the start of the race. Which of the kids was going to join him was going to be a race time decision. The following is my para-phrasing a conversation with Colby and Cade. “None of the three of us wanted to go in, so Jared ended up just having to choose someone. We figured it would not be one of us because he is not our Dad. We know that if you had to choose you would have picked one of us, because we are your kids – Jared was in that same dilemma. So Boden was the winner. Post race they all described that moment as Boden starting out as a functioning person prior to going into the water and then after it, him being in a fog and not really functioning quite right because he was so cold. They described trying to get warm clothes back on him as he was not able to do it himself and yet it was still hard for them as their hands were super cold.

As they made it to the finish, Jared looked at me and said “Dave, is the car running? We need it going as soon as possible, these guys are super cold.” I ran to the car, started it up and grabbed all of the blankets we had. After finishing, all of them hopped in the car to warm up. Colby pulled off his gloves and his hands were red and swollen. It took him a few days to have his fingers back to normal, with no tingles. Boden looked like a zombie, like he was moving in slow motion. Yes they were cold, but they finished.

Once the results were tabulated, they finished in sixth place overall. They collected every mandatory checkpoint and also some of the pro – checkpoints. Which is fantastic! It really shows how tough the three boys are to battle and endure conditions like that and still manage to thrive. The cold made for a tough first ever adventure race. I also think it is a testament to Jared’s ability to navigate and keep them going. I never did manage to get a good finish photo as I was too busy trying to get the boys warmed up. Jared and Cade did manage to join myself to watch the post race awards, etc. Colby and Boden where both too frozen and decided the warmth of the car was best.

My best finish phot as after I took this picture, I was off to the car. From the left: Coby, some random racer, Boden and Cade.

That night they all said they would do another race. I have been telling them the next step is for them to learn to navigate, as how cool would that be for the Young Guns to take things to the next level. I am sure they would soon make it a goal to pass up their “old dads”. It was a fun weekend, and I am a proud father to know that my boys can endure, suffer and still have fun and success!



When Thanks is not enough

August 10, 2020

First off my recovery is going well.  Not as fast as I would like, but everything is in order.  Hoping by mid September I should be close to being back to doing many of the things I love.  I was hoping for mid-August, but I don’t really have anything to complain about considering what could have happened.

Honestly,  I feel like I have written something like this before.  I told myself not to go through my blog to see, as its on my heart, so if it gets said again, then it must be important.

After being injured,  I have been completely overwhelmed by the support; from prayers, monetary donations, meal train, etc.  It has completely blown me away.   I know that myself and my family are so thankful for what everyone has done. I don’t really know what to say as “thank you” just doesn’t seem like enough.  However it is all I can say.  Thank you.  We ate like kings, all of the medical bills are covered, we are truly blessed in spite of the accident.  I still have people asking what they can do to help.  I am not worthy of all of this. That is where grace comes in.

Grace is a challenging thing.  My personal definition is when we receive something we don’t deserve or we are spared from punishment that our actions deserve.  Grace is freely given, and it expects nothing in return.  That is why it is so magical. We receive something we don’t deserve and didn’t earn, yet it is ours, no strings attached.  No price to pay.  This is something that is totally foreign in today’s world.  We reap what we sow, we keep what we earn, and karma will always even the slate.

I have to remind  myself that this is grace.  People are providing grace.  I tell myself that I just need to accept it as. I have not earned it, nor is there a way for me to “pay-off” this outpouring of support.  I feel like, I am living in a constant state of grace.  I have been asked if I ever have asked God why I ended up with brain cancer.  The truth is, I do, but my question is not why did I end up with brain cancer, it is why was I spared with an Oligodendroglioma?  Why was grace given to me?  If you google my cancer, yes you will find that there is no known cure, but you will also find that the average life expectancy is 12 years.  When you take brain cancers as a whole 40% of the people diagnosed with brain cancer don’t make it 5 years.  I am just about 9 years into this thing and doing good.   Grace.  Falling head first 30 feet into a granite rock wall and not needing any surgeries or having any permanent injuries.  Grace.  The outpouring of community love and support after my injury.  Grace.  Really this is the second time people have rallied around me.  Double grace. It is hard as I don’t feel worthy of all of this love and support.  I have to again learn to accept grace.

When I was first diagnosed, I was extremely active in the brain cancer world. I was on the board at  My Rotary Club organized a fund raiser. It was an accapella singing night, that featured groups from UW and the University of Oregon.  The event was awesome and raised funds for .  As part of the promotion for the event, the local paper ran a story about the event and interviewed me.  After the article ran I received a call from a potential client asking to meet about valuing his business.  When we met, I learned his entire story, he was battling a GBM.  He had recently started a business and it was doing well, but he was reaching a point where he needed to sell his interest because he couldn’t work anymore.  The business was just now starting to take off.  I valued his business and he sold his interest to his partners.  I saw him at the Seattle Brain Cancer walk that following year.  However, not the year after that.  I did some digging and found that he had passed away.  He had a young growing business, was married with a young child.  Yet he was taken too early.  For some reason, when I think about “fairness” with respect, I think of him.  Why did he end up with a GBM and not me.  I struggle to reconcile why I was proved grace and not him.  I realize, that life is not fair and there is not a good answer to my question.  I need to accept the grace that I have been provided and know it is not earned, there is no debt, there isn’t a ledger.  It is just so hard to accept sometimes.

I am going to learn to accept what has been given and do my best to try and pay that kindness forward, and not focus on my own thoughts of unworthiness.

Thank you for all of your kindness, it is appreciated from the bottom of my soul.



The Accident

July 6, 2020


So in order to get the full story of my fall on Castle Rock, the story goes back over ten years ago, prior to my brain cancer diagnosis.  I went to Castle Rock with Roger Violette, who in his own words is not a climber.  Back when I was adventuring racing, he was on my team and the person whom I trained with the most.  One weekend we went out to Castle Rock, and first we climbed Saber, I lead all routes.  The route was fun, especially the second pitch.  The route is two pitches, both are about 100 feet.  The second pitch is the easier of the two and ends with a walk-off.  The rating is disputed as older books have it rated pretty low and newer books have it rated higher.  Many feel that the original rating is completely sand-bagged (lower then it should be).  Granted it is still a moderate climb.  After successfully climbing Saber, we turned our focus to another route there called Midway.  This is a three pitch route to the top with the same walk-off.  On the first pitch you climb to the top of what is called the Jello Tower then  you step across from the tower back on to the main face to start the second pitch.  I felt good on Saber and was excited to do the double. About 75% up pitch 1 I realized that I needed to place some gear as I was a bit run-out and far enough above my last placement that with rope stretch, the possibility of a decking on a fall was real.  Knowing that I needed to place something now, I found myself in a panic, as the best piece to use was a #3 cam. The problem was I had left it in the car as I didn’t think I would need something that big.  The panic was real and intense, sweaty palms and fear encompassed me.  Roger asked if I was OK as he could tell I was struggling all of the sudden.  I yelled down that I need the cam I left in the car.  I tried to place something else, but to no avail.  I remember yelling at myself to get my “shit” together.  I knew I was totally capable of finishing the pitch, but wasn’t sure about placing something.  I decided, screw it, I am going to fall if I waste any more energy trying to place something.  So I just started to climb upwards. I thought that was my best option .  I quickly made it to the top of the tower.  That was the most panicked I had ever been on lead in my life.  I let out a big sigh of relief and an F-bomb or two.  I then belayed Roger up to me.  After he made it up to me I looked at the step across to pitch two and realized I was mentally fried.  I looked at Roger and said, I think it’s time for me to go home.  We rappelled off and called it a day.

Last year, after a day of climbing, Colby said to me, “You never seem that excited to go rock climbing. I am really having fun, but you don’t seem thrilled to take me.”  My response was simple, “Well it’s a lot of work for me. I have to always set up everything. Then I am the belay slave, so it’s fun to watch you climb, but the climbing is not that awesome for me.” Colby asked, “What can I do to make it more fun for you?”  I responded with, “Well first learn to belay and then learn to sport lead.”  Colby’s response, “I’m in! Let’s do it!”  Since then, when we have gone climbing, he has lead more routes than I have and now we both can climb as he can belay me as well.  For me the fun of climbing with him exploded exponentially as he is now an equal on the rock and no longer along for the ride.  “So when can I do some multi-pitch climbing?” Colby asked me one day “Once you can rappel and do everything with me not looking over your shoulder, as you have to be self-sufficient with safety items.”  Last summer, we started with the Tooth, which is a moderate climb of a peak near Snoqualmie Pass.  I climbed it and had a fantastic day.  I realized that was my first multi-pitch lead since Brain cancer diagnosis.  I did climb the Sharkfin Tower a few years ago, but I followed and cleaned.  I didn’t lead.  The day was fabulous.  After that, the question was what is next?   My first choice was Ingalls Peak, however to do that trip right you need to camp at the lake, thus our open time window did not allow for that.  I thought back to Saber and thought we can cruise over to Leavenworth then be home by early afternoon.  Thus the decision was made.

tooth 1

Colby on the Tooth.

tooth 2

Enjoying the summit of the Tooth.

We left at about 6am on June 13th and made the drive over to Castle Rock.  We got to the parking lot around 8am.  We loaded up and started the short hike in.  As we passed the Jello Tower, there was a group on Midway. We hiked around over to Saber. There was a group on that as well.  The second person up was just about to the top of pitch 1.  We started our climb once they started up pitch 2.  The event would foreshadow the day ahead.  The first move of the climb has a slightly overhanging section, so no feet to start.  I actually peeled off and ended up falling down on my butt.  The signs were there about this day.  I worked right to get on the route. Then began working up the crack, placing a cam as I moved my way up.  The crack has some natural breaks early on that create almost ledges.  As I moved up the crack it seemed to get a bit greasy and slightly awkward as it leads up to a bulge, that then leads to the anchors and the top of pitch 1.  Looking back, this is where I made a mistake. Instead of trying to work the crack I moved to the face thinking I could just cruise past the bulge on the face.  The issue is the face doesn’t offer any protection.  On the face I realized this and decided that I needed to get back on route. I fell trying to get back to the crack, but my detour had caused about 20 additional feet of rope to feed out above my last cam.  I remember the moment just before I fell thinking I need to get back to the crack.  After that I don’t recall anything until I was in the helicopter throwing up.

Basically, I managed to hit the rock headfirst, cracking my helmet and causing a skull fracture, 5 broken vertebrae, and a broken hand.    Colby did amazing under pressure. He was able to stop my fall.  The scary part for him was looking up at his Dad hanging from the rope completely unresponsive.  ” I could see your chest moving so I knew you were alive.”  A pretty chilling assessment for a 15 year old.  By this time the pair that climbed the route before us had finished and were walking back to grab their gear and immediately came to Colby’s aid.  These guys, Tyler and David, are true heroes and helped Colby get me to the ground safely.  Once down, 911 was called and in came the mountain rescue people.  They got me down the trail in a litter then off in a helicopter to the hospital.  I had a major head injury, and was bleeding everywhere from a large gash in my head.

helmet 2

Impact spot

helmet 1

As I mentioned, my next memory was in a helicopter where I was feeling awful for throwing up during the ride.  That is a symptom of a concussion.  From that point my memories are of being moved around for CAT scans, X-rays, and tests.  Thinking damn my back hurts each time they would shift me from machine to machine.  A few days later I was released from the hospital.  I have been completely overwhelmed by all of the support from everyone, the well wishes, donations, meal train, etc.  I am truly grateful for all the love and support. I feel very fortunate that everything should heal with no surgeries or any long term damage.

The hero of this story is Colby and his ability to handle an intense scary moment with calm and cool.  I really think he grew up a lot on June 13th.

mug shot

Selfie in the hospital


This is me in the litter: Note photo is from the local Wenatchee Newspaper that ran a story about the accident

From Colby Heyting:

Over my many years of climbing, once or twice a year, I never enjoyed rock climbing like I did other sports. It was always something we did every once in a while, mostly in Vantage, WA. However, in the past 2 years I began to enjoy rock climbing. As a result of getting older, it developed into a real love and I was so exited to start climbing again. After I began to get comfortable on the rock leading I kept asking my dad “when do we get to do a multi-pitch”, and after some convincing we decided to do the tooth. It was an amazing day and everything went smooth. Now fast forward to this summer when I kept asking to do another multi-pitch and once again I finally got the okay, after doing some climbing to remember my skills. You heard the story of what happened before the fall so lets skip to just before the fall. I saw my dad moving a bit off the crack, but at the time I did not know the correct route so I did not think anything of it. Once he got off route I saw him looking for holds and not finding anything and looking a little worried. The next thing I saw was his foot slip and him drop behind an outcrop in the rock. The second I saw him fall I dropped in a squat position and waited for the pull, which felt like forever.

When the pull hit it was almost nothing, which surprised me since I was ready to be pulled off the ground. After I caught him I looked up to see my dad about 60 feet off the ground upside down unconscious and I began yelling “dad” and “help” with no response. I felt my leg twitch like crazy. It was hard to stand, and my first thought was “I need to climb up to him”. I quickly realized this was impossible and went back to calling for help. I heard Tyler and David coming down the trail saying “we hear you”, and about this time I could see my dad’s chest moving and he made this weird coughing sound. Once Tyler and David got there, David called 911, while I lowered my dad, and Tyler went to catch him. As we lowered him he began to come back to life and helped a little bit, as he got stuck on a small ledge. We got him to the ground. His nose was bleeding, his eye was swollen shut, and his head had a massive gash in it. I also was in so much shock I thought he had busted through his helmet but it was just one of the air holes. Our next task was to see how bad he hit his head, and all he could remember was his first name, not me, not the month/date, or where he was. This got me very scared, but I was happy knowing he was down. As the EMT’s rushed up with a few people to scout what we would need, we wrapped his head up with a cloth T-Shirt, which he bled through right away. After the EMT’s got their they wrapped him up and started to bring him down. At this point I am letting the EMT’s do their jobs, but I still have many other tasks I needed to do. I had to get our stuff, call my mom, and be near the first responders to give them information on what happened. I manged to do all these tasks except get through to my mom since I had no service, but one of the sheriffs did, and let me use his phone. Now we were on our way down and the EMT’s did not know weather they would air lift my dad or drive him by ambulance. Also, since Covid-19 is present, they did not even know if I could ride in the vehicle, but thankfully Tyler and David offered to give me a ride no matter what happened. They ended up taking him in the helicopter, and thankfully I was able to go with him. My first time in a helicopter was never how I imagined it would be.

Once we got to the hospital it went like any other injury. They took lots of scans, inserted an IV, and had many nurses working on him at once. The main thing I remember was him having to leave the room all the time for scans. After being in the hospital for a little while I got a call from my mom saying she was on her way. Overall the hospital was like any other experience, but I knew he would be safe. I stayed the next 4 nights at my aunts while my mom stayed in Wenatchee with my dad and I waited for the news of his injuries.

I have grown a lot from this experience, and looking back I realize just how lucky this accident was. 1. When I lowered my dad the end of the rope was still in my belay device. Also on the lowering there was an overhang meaning he did not rub the wall for most of the decent. 2. He had a helmet on which saved his life. 3. No major injuries that will result in long term issues or surgeries. 4. Tyler and David were there to help me mostly call 911 since I had no service, give me rides to the hospital, and even clean the gear that got left on the wall. 5. Finally, I am overwhelmed by the support of my loved ones, friends, and even people I barely know who have reached out to me, donated and/or brought meals.

After the accident, Colby’s Grandfather conducted a mini podcast that is quite interesting to listen to.

Colby’s Podcast

It’s about 50 minutes.



Teaching Legend

June 26, 2020

Early on in my professional career, I prepared several tax returns for friends and family.  However, over the years as my career has developed, I have done less and less.  The time required is just too great, so now it’s become where you are an actual client or I can’t help.  That does not apply to immediate family and occasionally “select” people.  Basically, you must be special to get on the list.  One of those “special people” is Bob Scharer.

Mr. Scharer was my sixth-grade teacher and makes my list of top influential teachers that I had in my lifetime.  Probably the greatest thing that he did for us as a group was treat us more like adults than children.  A large part of the year was spent having real-life conversations.  It was one of the first times I recall having real, authentic conversations about real life in school.  I am sure that my memory might have changed this next comment, however I remember a conversation about choosing a career path and the start of it was the thought of just following our parents.  I am most likely paraphrasing here- he looked at me and asked something like “Do you really want to spend 40 years installing hardwood floors?  Think about the wear and tear on your body, your back.”  For some reason that has stuck with me all of these years.  Probably because of the mix of wisdom and because later on in my life, my Dad would never have allowed me to take over his business.  That was not the path he wanted for me.

One of the coolest things he would do was at the end of the year, he would draw caricatures of each student and provide a word or words that would describe them.  These were done as posters, so they were large.  The drawings were super awesome, and the words were typically spot on.  My word was “dependable”.  I can only imagine the time and effort he spent on those.  The distribution of those was a fun day.  I recall the hanging Twinkie in his room – to basically show that they will last forever, so you might want to think twice about eating them.  Or how about the impact that Coke has on a nail and other items.  Again, you might want to think about putting that in your body – no matter how good it is!  I remember the Phantom Tollboth, square dancing and the circuit of events.  He also ran the intramural sports– football and floor hockey.  They were a blast, open to 5th and 6th graders.  I recall when I was in 5th grade being on the team that could beat everyone, except that one 6th grade team, then becoming that team in the 6th grade.  For our class picture, he put it to a vote, but got us all to commit to making the picture special and for us all to dress up, ties even for the boys – not to just wear some old ratty t-shirt.  It turned out pretty good.

6th Grade

I was sort of sandwiched in age between his children, so he was around during my high school years as well, through school events and sports.  When I was a senior, I remember having the opportunity to go to Stillwater Elementary and speak to his classroom through the DARE program.  I believe it was myself, Wes Pierce, Billy Ojeda and think Blake Holtom with me.  We got to answer questions and sort of parade around like we were big shots.  It was fun for me to go full circle, to be back in his sixth grade classroom as a senior – granted it was at Stillwater and not Cherry Valley.  Stillwater opened after I left elementary school.  Mr. Scharer had spent most of his career at Cherry Valley but transferred to Stillwater and then also became a PE specialist.  He spent 40 years working in the Riverview School District, impacting lives.  I know from others that I am not in the minority by saying that he was one of the best teachers in the district.

When he retired from teaching, there was a celebration at Stillwater Elementary in his honor.  Since my mom was the Secretary at Stillwater, she filled me in on the details and I was able to attend.  Towards the end, they basically had an open mic for anyone to come up and talk.  At the time, I was going through chemotherapy.  I remember thinking that I should talk about his impact on me, however I felt like such an emotional wreck at that time, I didn’t want to stand up and turn into an emotional wreck.  So I didn’t talk, as I just didn’t have the desire to go there…  Since then, I think a part of me has always felt that I have owed him this blog.  It may be a little late, but here it is.  Typically when we have met to go over his tax return, he asks if I am still enjoying writing, the answer is yes and now you get to read one of my blogs about you!

Yes, he was a fantastic teacher, who touched the lives of hundreds of kids in the lower Snoqualmie Valley, however that is not all that makes him who he is.  When my Dad died, I was in college in Oregon, then after graduation, I was then in the process of starting my career and sort of own life on my own.  My sister was in the same boat as well – working at her first job, we were both in the process of “leaving the nest”.  I would check in with my mom and see how she was doing.  His name would always come up as someone at work who would be checking in with her to make sure she was doing OK.  That was always a big deal to me.  After he retired, he has gone on to be a caregiver for his wife Debra.  I think his impacts as a teacher only tell part of the story of the quality of his heart. As a role model and example of a person to be like, it doesn’t get much better than Bob Scharer.  I know I feel lucky to have been influenced by such a wonderful person.

Hindsight 20/20 on Life Insurance

November 8, 2019


Today is actually the eight -year mark of my seizure at Starbucks were Goliath first made his presence known.  The good part is that I am physically as healthy as I have been since prior to this day eight years ago.  The blog below was actually written quite a while ago, but I just have never posted it.  Mainly because its not a super exciting topic.  It like me is very practical.  I also just listened to a seminar about how to take advantage of the tax benefits that life insurance provides, so this just seemed like a good time to finally post this.  I hope this might push at least one person to take a deeper look at life insurance.

Life insurance is one of those things that most people never want to talk about. The entire process is sort of silly, you are basically making a bet with a major company on when you will die. You are banking on the fact that you will die before making enough payments to cover the payout your family will receive. On the flip side the company is actually betting that you live longer. So to “win” you have to die. Which to most everyone, dying is not “winning”. That in a nutshell is why people do not like to talk about life insurance. It requires taking about your own demise. Granted we all know that someday we will die, but that still doesn’t make life insurance a more palatable conversation.  Life Insurance is also one of those things that you need to get, long before you need it, because if you wait until you need it – you can’t get it.  It is also something where your need for it will change over the years, so you need to be constantly looking at it to make sure that it still fits with your needs.

Before Colby was born, I decided that Jessica and I needed to get responsible and get life insurance since we were going to soon be parents. We wanted to make sure that if something happened to one of us, the other and our soon to be child would be taken care of financially. Both of us were healthy and fit, and the concept of something happening to one of us was totally foreign. Not possible! On a side note: life insurance actually has some really cool tax benefits – the biggest one being that the proceeds are tax free. Thus if you are the beneficiary of a life insurance policy and receive the proceeds –  it is 100% tax free! Not a bad deal at all. The other really cool tax piece is that if you have a whole life policy (or some others that build cash value) you may have a way to borrow against the policy and again – no taxes are attached.  I don’t want to get into tax code in a blog, but I am happy to provide details on how to make this work if anyone wants to reach out to me.  I am totally capable of turning into a tax code nerd if asked.

My purpose of this blog is not to get into a conversation about the different types of life insurance policies and the pros and cons of each one. And as a disclaimer: I do not sell life insurance. I do recognize that there are some cool things about life insurance. Although my overall take is life insurance should be set up and should be part of a financial plan as a necessary component. However I am not too keen on people who try to sell life insurance as an “investment tool”.  In my opinion, it’s great if you get some other investment benefits by having life insurance, but that is not why you should buy it!  It should be bought to cover your loved ones when you die, or used as a way to protect assets and provide cash liquidity later in life.

The picture is from the summit of Dragonback Mountain in the Mt. Waddington Range, BC.  It’s doing things like this that increases life insurance rates, for someone like me.


Back to my point. We decided to be “grown-ups” and get life insurance. First off I was shocked at the cost point for me, since I was classified as risky because I climb mountains. We did a mixture of whole and term for Jess and then just term for me.  Women are cheaper than men too as they live longer. The idea was that we would increase the amount or convert my term into whole in the future, once we became rich and famous! Ha! Easy to say, but really hard to do.

We both got life insurance though prior to Colby’s birth. I really didn’t think much about it until November 2011. The difficult news – you have brain cancer. Which by the way means that you will now no longer ever be able to get life insurance and you will also be at-risk with health care for “pre-existing conditions”. There was a point when I totally went into panic mode about the life insurance as I knew that I just had term, which means that it will expire at some point and thus, when I die, my family would get nothing. Funerals are super expensive. I can remember after my Dad died, we were at the funeral home going over the burial costs and options and I just about lost it. The costs were crazy high and I was super angry. I was ready for a throw down with the funeral director. It felt like highway robbery. What are you supposed to do? You really can’t do anything  but pay them, as they have you, you are stuck. His plot was already paid for as well. Thus the costs did not even include the burial plot – which should be the most expensive part of the deal. They have all of these weird rules and things about what you must purchase, liners, vaults, etc. Needless to say, it’s expensive. Dying is a huge financial burden to those left behind. Which is why life insurance is so important to have. Months later after the shock of brain cancer, I knew that I had to deal with the life insurance issue. Thankfully the policy I had included an automatic waiver that allowed me to convert the term policy to a universal policy, within ten years, regardless of health or any other issues. Thus I was able to get some form of “permanent” life insurance, just no cash value option. They had also changed some of their policies on climbing – thus I was also able to be placed in a lesser risk class – which was all great news. They decided that I am not as risky anymore!

My reality is that now I can’t get more life insurance, which means the policy I bought many years ago, is all I’ve got.  For some types of cancer, if you go into remission for a certain period of time, you can become eligible again.  However I will never go into remission, thus I will never meet those parameters.   I can’t leverage things for my family financially with more life insurance after I die. The amount I have is not “enough”, much better than nothing but obviously not what I would have done if I had a crystal ball and knew that I would get terminal cancer. Probably the biggest “downside” is that we will be in our house for the duration of my lifetime – no new bigger house! The amount of life insurance I have totally works with my current mortgage. However looking to get more house and thus more mortgage, doesn’t fit in with fiscal responsibility that is needed now should something happen to me, especially given the current home prices in the area. Granted I do like our house, but I will say that it seems to get smaller every year as the boys get bigger.

The morale of the story is this, you never know when a life changing event will occur or your health status might change, thus be smart and make sure that you have more than enough life insurance. If you wait until you actually need it, then it’s too late. You can end up like me, with cancer at 34 and can’t get any more. I know that hindsight is always 20/20, but be smart, be responsible, and get some life insurance! The price of it only goes up the longer you wait. The rates are based upon your current health, lifestyle risks, age, and family history. Each year you wait, the costs only go up.  Thus be smart, and think ahead.  Don’t wait, as if you do it might be too late.