It seems like there is a cultural push to curtail bullying. At first glance it seems like the right thing to do however, the more I’ve thought about it the more I’m not so sure.
When I was very young a neighbor girl named Tina pulled a fist full of hair from my scalp. I told my parents and they said it was OK for me to do it back if there was a next time. I thought, ‘why wait?’ As soon as I saw her, I walked right up and pulled a fist full of her hair out. She ran home crying and told her mom, who consequently came over to talk to my parents. To the best of my recollection, this is the first time I was bullied and I’m happy to report, the last time either girl had their hair pulled out. Although I can still remember the strange and painful feeling and the sound that it created.
When I was a few years older, I was at the local skating ring where Girl Scouts troops were having a special day. There was a girl from another troop who I didn’t like. I don’t remember why. I badgered her for most of the event until towards the end, she started crying. I was happily satisfied at first, but then felt terrible a bit later. I didn’t get in trouble at all for some reason.
In Junior High a girl by the name of Grace, of all names, decided she wanted to scare me. For weeks she kept threatening me. A casual friend noticed this and said that all I had to do was threaten her back. She also gave me pointers on fighting, just in case the plan didn’t work. The next time Grace threatened me, I threatened her back and offered to fight her after school. Before the end of the school day, I was called into the principal’s office. Grace had turned ME in! To this day I smile at how insightful my friend had been. And no, I didn’t get in trouble that time either. The principal had been aware of the entire situation.
I have many other examples where I was bullied. I am glad that I only bullied someone once and then felt bad. I’m also proud that after Grace, I haven’t backed down when someone’s trying to make me the victim.
The point of this rendition of my childhood is to show that a person can be the bully or the victim at various stages of their lives. I think experiencing both is part of maturing. When we try to buffer our children from bad experiences then they are ill prepared for adulthood where the stakes are much higher. I also suspect that safe rooms and ‘everyone gets a trophy’ are results of our cultural attempt to protect our children. I would argue that it’s better they learn these lessons as children than as adults.
Last year, I heard a sermon by Pastor Wally Mees that has resonated with me. He's been kind enough to allow me to post it here for your reading pleasure. If it's too long for you, skip to the last five paragraphs. I love his insight!
Good morning, friends. Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Heavenly Father and from our Lord and blessed Savior, Jesus the Christ.
I'm Pastor Wally Mees, again joining you on this Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost. Our Gospel lesson is the story of one of Jesus' miracles: the restoration of sight to a man named Bartimaeus. Being blind, Bartimaeus had no way to support himself but to sit on the side of the Jericho Road and beg for alms.
As we dig into this story of the restoration of his sight, we'll look at three characteristics of Bartimaeus that can teach us a thing or two. They are faith, gratitude and loyalty, and cultivating them all will serve every Christian well in our relationship with our Lord Jesus. Let's review the story from Mark 10:46-52:
46 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
The first thing we must notice about Bartimaeus is his Faith, which can be seen in his persistence, in his recognition of Jesus as "Son of David," and in his trust that Jesus would heal him. As soon as Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was the reason for the crowd he could hear coming toward him, he began making a fuss and calling out in order to get Jesus' attention. When people tried to shush him, perhaps because he was keeping them from hearing what Jesus was teaching, he shouted all the louder, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"
He was not going to be shushed; instead, he continued to seek Jesus' attention. Whatever he had heard about Jesus, it had led him to two convictions: he believed Jesus was the Son of David, and he believed Jesus could give him back his sight.
And you know what? He was healed! What's that saying? The squeaky wheel gets the grease? Well in Bartimaeus' case, it certainly did. Soon, Jesus stopped his forward progress and said to someone near him in the crowd, "Call him." Someone did just that, relaying the message, saying, "Take heart, get up; he is calling you." Bartimaeus was so excited that he threw off his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Before we go on, let's look again at that cloak. What is the significance of a blind man's cloak? Some commentators write that the cloak was the all-purpose garment of the poor in Jesus' time. It was shelter from sun or rain in a climate much like here in Central California. It was also both bed and covering each night for one who may have had, as Jesus described himself, nowhere to lay his head. It would be something to hang onto, especially for someone who was blind. How would he ever find it again if he tossed it away? Yet Bartimaeus is described as throwing off this necessary and all-purpose garment in his rush to respond to Jesus' invitation to come to him.
Another writer suggests that the fact that Bartimaeus threw off his cloak rather than keeping it with him shows just how confident he was that Jesus would heal him. He could let go of the cloak, because once his sight was restored, he'd be able to look for and find it again. This shows his optimistic trust in Jesus; another sign of his faith in Jesus. But there's more.
Jesus, of course, does heal Bartimaeus, quite easily with just a word, and apparently quite instantly. Then Jesus says, "Go your way. Your faith has made you well." But look what happens next: Bartimaeus does not go away. The Gospels are quite clear that Jesus healed hundreds of people during his ministry, and about 40 of those healings are described in detail. According to another author, of the 40 miracles so described, only Bartimaeus "...followed him on the way."
Well, not to take anything away from Bartimaeus, but let's not forget Mary Magdalene, who certainly followed Jesus and supported his ministry after he delivered her from demon possession. It is true that her deliverance is not described in detail but only mentioned, but in any case, Bartimaeus is so grateful that he becomes a follower of Jesus.
Moved by gratitude, Bartimaeus does not go his way, but follows Jesus and, for all we know, becomes one of the additional followers who make up the five hundred who saw Jesus after his Resurrection, as Paul recounts in I Corinthians 15:6. Another reason for thinking that Bartimaeus became a loyal follower of Jesus is that he is named. Among the few others who are named are Jairus' daughter and Mary and Martha's brother Lazarus. Can you think of anyone else?
What can we learn from this story? Well, we've identified a number of characteristics of Bartimaeus that we might want to cultivate in our own lives. He began with an amazing faith. Whatever he had heard about Jesus had led him to faith that this man, this rabbi, this Jesus could restore his sight. He knew he needed Jesus to help him, and he believed Jesus could do so if only they could meet.
Jesus said to him, "your faith has made you well," and many people miss an unstated truth in what Jesus says. Faith, or faith in faith, as so many people seem to believe, is not what made Bartimaeus well. What made him well was his faith in Jesus. Who made him well was Jesus himself. We must remember to place our faith in the only One who has the power to help us: Jesus our Lord.
In addition to faith, many people claim to believe in prayer. I do not believe in prayer. I believe in the One - Jesus - to whom I pray. Faith in Jesus, prayer to Jesus; trust in Jesus - those are the marks of Christians, among whom we may count Bartimaeus. But he responded to Jesus' healing him with a wonderful response: Gratitude. Much as he believed Jesus could heal him, he clearly did not believe he was entitled to a miracle. We know that because of his gratitude.
Bartimaeus' gratitude is a wonderful example for us to follow. Most people want to be happy, and I bet you are no different, nor am I. And the surest key to happiness is gratitude. For some reason, people ask me if I am proud to be an American. Have you ever been asked that? When I have been asked, I quietly answer no. I did nothing to become an American. I was simply born here.
When asked if I am proud, I reply that rather than proud, I am grateful. I am grateful to be an American. I am grateful for my parents. I am grateful for my wife of 47 plus years, our wonderful son and daughter-in-law and the many great friends and family members with whom I am blessed. I am grateful for so very many blessings, particularly for the blessing of having Jesus as my Savior and Lord, but I don't think I'm entitled to them nor am I proud of them.
Gratitude seems to be in short supply these days, and along with the drop in gratitude is the growth of entitlement. People seem to believe they are entitled to an ever-growing list of rights. "I have a right to this; I have a right to that." And when entitlement replaces gratitude, joy and happiness are the casualties.
This ever-increasing list of rights - you can even find a long United Nations-sponsored list of "human rights" - is in sharp contrast to the three rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. Those three - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - are conspicuous in not including equality or this strange new use of the word equity. What did our founders know that we do not and why have so many of our contemporaries forgotten what the founders knew?
At any rate, may we in the days and weeks to come make Bartimaeus our example, renewing our own resolve to follow Jesus just like he did. Bartimaeus had faith in Jesus. He was truly grateful, and rather than go about his life as if nothing had happened, he celebrated his blessing of restored sight by loyally following Jesus on the way. May we do the same. Amen
In January, our 12-year-old pug started to become confused. He would walk into furniture, stare at walls and lose his balance. One day it was so bad that we took him to the vet. Anticipating the worst, everyone said their last goodbyes to him.
The veterinarian said that Pogo had the equivalent of Alzheimer’s and his days were probably numbered. He explained that some days would be better and some worse. We could choose to put him down, or just wait until Pogo was more afflicted. We wanted more time with our beloved pug, so we opted to bring him back home and make him as comfortable as possible.
A few days later, I remembered that I had purchased Ruff Greens and never opened the package. It’s a canine supplement that you mix into their regular food. I thought that maybe the commercials claiming, among other things, a ‘vibrant youthful energy’ were true. I let Pogo smell it first. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it. I mixed it in his food and he took a small bite. Then another and another until the bowl was empty. He started licking the bowl to get every piece. Funny that the advertisement says ‘You’ll have him licking the bowl’ turned out to be true.
He's been fed 1 tablespoon of Ruff Greens once a day with his regular food for about two weeks. Each day he is improving and yesterday he actually asked to go for a walk. He hasn’t wanted to walk the neighborhood for months. It used to be his favorite thing to do. During the outing he pranced like a pup, as happy as can be. I’m just amazed at his recovery and thankful that I found something to prolong his sweet life.
For a few years now, I have had a rash. It’s very aloof. It will appear and last for days or even weeks and then disappear only to return later. It travels around my body as if it’s on an exploration mission. It is itchy to the point that I’m scratching it in my sleep and making it bleed. Sometimes it’s so bad that I have to wear baggy clothes that touch my skin minimally.
When it first began, I went to my family physician. He prescribed medicine that didn’t work. After exhausting his non-successful remedies, he referred me to a dermatologist. This dermatologist diagnosed the rash and prescribed medicine. No luck.
I requested a different referral. Same thing.
I requested a different referral. Same thing.
As of now, I’ve been to five doctors regarding the rash. This is over years because I stop remedy pursuit when the rash disappears and begin pursuit when it reappears.
Finally, it was suggested that I go to my original dermatologist, the one I had before we had children and health insurance became so expensive that we had to switch to an HMO. I paid cash because she doesn’t accept my insurance. She asked what previous biopsies had shone. I told her that no one had biopsied the rash. She was visibly shocked. And for a few hundred additional dollars, I could have her do one. I agreed. When the results came in, they showed that it was an allergic reaction. She suggested seeing an allergist. I had to go back to my family physician to get a referral to an allergist.
The allergist tested my skin and the panel showed I was allergic to just about everything. I found that odd as I’ve never had typical allergy problems. I never did see an actual allergist, only nurses who said I could either come in periodically for shots, or take Claritin. I opted for the Claritin.
Over the course of this odyssey, I had been prescribed medicine such as Imiquimod Cream, Triamcinolone Acetonide, Hydroxyzine HCL, Fluocinonide, and Fluorouracil Cream to name a few. Unbelievably, the Claritin worked. Now, every time the rash appears, I simply pop the tiny pill for a few days and voila, it’s gone.
First, I’m grateful that I’m no longer experiencing discomfort. Second, I’m incredulous with our health care system that made me go through all of this nonsense when there was a simple solution all along. And finally, third, I’m less trusting of our healthcare system’s ability to correctly practice medicine. I will be much more diligent on who treats me and for what.
Portillo's Holiday Tails
Rusty was feeling sad. All of his friends were gone. As he rested his head between his paws on the cement slab his eyes darted left and right, wondering who would be his next roommate. As each dog approached he made a quick assessment. The one with spots looked angry. The coffee colored one looked too excited, which would be annoying. After hours of this analysis, Rusty began to think that he wouldn’t have a new roommate. Maybe he would get a cage all to himself. Maybe, just maybe, he would get adopted himself. As soon as the thought entered his head, he pushed it out again. He didn’t want to allow himself the vulnerability of having his feelings hurt again. He ate his bland dinner and had a little drink of water. He didn’t want to drink too much because he didn’t like to do business in the cage; his previous owner would be appalled if she knew he had already done this for weeks. He curled up in the corner and fell asleep. He dreamt that he was running in the grass of his old back yard. The children were with him laughing and jumping, just like he was. He was so happy he thought his heart would burst. He could smell the clean air, and hear his owner’s voice as she called the children and himself back into the house.
He awoke with a start. One of the people at the facility was standing in front of his cage with a man who had a beard the same color as his own fur. The man’s eyes were blue and kind. Rusty couldn’t help himself as his tail began to sway back and forth, slowly at first, but then faster and faster as he realized that this man might actually take him home with him. He forgot to contain his thoughts and began having images of running in the grass with children again, having a cozy bed to sleep in. Getting to sleep through the night without others making noises. His heart pounded. He looked into the man’s eyes and pleaded as best he could to take him home.
The man spoke. Rusty wasn’t sure if he was speaking to him or to the person who took care of him at the facility, but he liked his voice. It was comforting. The man didn’t take his eyes off of Rusty and seemed to be talking directly to him. Then, both men turned and walked away. So forlorn was Rusty that he began to cry. His cry sounded like a howl; it came from deep within him. Based on his previous experience with having his hopes crushed, Rusty knew he would not be able to calm down for quite some time. He went back to his corner and wallowed in his misery. He would not be able to eat or drink today. He would not be able to do much of anything.
Unexpectedly, and therefore startling Rusty, he heard a soft-spoken voice. So laden with sadness he hadn’t noticed that the blue-eyed man had returned. Rusty saw a leash in the man’s hand. He knew what that meant! He was leaving here! He was going to have a new home! There would be grass and clean air and children to run and play with! As quickly as he had been devastated, he now was thrilled to a point that he might pop. He jumped up with his two front paws, swishing his tail back and forth and licking the chain links that had bound him for so long.
On the way to his new home, Rusty breathed in deeply as he hung his head out of the window. He knew his lips and ears were flying as the air hit his face, but he didn’t care at all. He could ride in a car all day. The man’s car began slowing down and then stopped in front of a house. Rusty’s joy turned to apprehension as he realized that there might be others to meet, and they may not like him. He was nervous and resolved to be on his best behavior.
The man scooped Rusty up into his arms and carried him inside the house. As he opened the door, Rusty could hear the sounds of feet running toward them. His heart pounded. In seconds he and the man were surrounded by three children. Their voices were loud and excited, nervous, he tried to nestle in closer to the man’s chest. But the man talked and Rusty felt better hearing his voice. The man gently placed Rusty into the arms of a boy. Rusty remained very still, not sure what to do or how the others would respond. He was slowly handed from one child to another. He was carried to the kitchen where, for the first time, he was placed on the floor. In front of him was a bowl filled with something that smelled really good. He looked up not sure if it was OK for him to eat it. Everyone was sitting at the table and smiling at him. He looked back at his bowl and took a bite. It was the very best meat he had ever tasted! It was a Portillo’s hot dog! He licked the bowl until there was not a morsel left. When everyone was finished, they went into a room that had a big tree with lots of lights around it and a big star on top. Underneath the tree were more wrapped packages than Rusty had ever seen. He looked around for the first time. It was a nice house. And it had a door that let him go outside whenever he wanted, without asking! While he was exploring the boy placed a package in front of him and began opening it. To Rusty’s delight, it was a new bed for him. He stepped in, circled twice and then laid down. It was soft and fuzzy. He loved it. He loved his new family too. It was the merriest of Christmases for Rusty.
It took over a year and a half, but I finally got COVID. It’s a relief, actually. In case you just want the highlights, it’s like having the flu, except I was never nauseous and never vomited. You sleep for most of it. The loss of taste and smell is so weird. After it’s over, you feel invincible and maybe a little sassy.
I did have a few folks ask me about the experience, so I decided to write it in the log format below. The first question most ask is if I had been vaccinated. The answer is yes. I was vaccinated in April 2021. One doctor said that if I hadn’t been vaccinated it would have been worse. Not sure I buy that, but what do I know.
Saturday, November 6, 2021 - Exposed to COVID
Sunday, November 7, 2021 – Ran a half marathon with no problems, actually my personal best time.
Tuesday, November 9, 2021 – The symptoms began to arrive this afternoon. It started with a headache, sore throat, and chills. I couldn’t get warm, yet had a fever. I became very tired and slept on-and-off that afternoon and evening.
Wednesday, November 10, 2121 – In addition to the symptoms from yesterday, my body began to be achy. I stayed on the couch unless to use the restroom all day and night. My body felt like lead. I didn’t want to sit up, I just wanted to lay flat. I knew I had to cancel everything I had planned to do but it was an effort to gather the strength to make the calls. Robert went to Walgreen’s to purchase COVID test kits. Two come in a kit. The store would only sell him one kit. He explained that there were four of us. He was told to purchase one in the store and then go to the drive-through to get the other. I was positive along with our two boys. Robert’s test was negative. I checked for COVID remedies online. The medical article I read gave specific over-the-counter medicines for each symptom. At the end of the article, it said if you can avoid all medicines and just let your body fight the virus, that is the best strategy. Consequently, I didn’t take anything. I decided to go off Keto and add more carbs to my diet but couldn’t eat very much. Food seemed disgusting and I only had a few bites the entire day. I’m having trouble with eye-hand-coordination.
Thursday, November 11, 2021 – Fever, achy, headache, slight cough. Slept most of the day and night. Occasionally opened my eyes, but only for short periods of time. Just ate small amounts of food. My fever reached its highest at 101.8. Still feeling cold.
Friday, November 12, 2021 – Woke up at 5:30 am. No more headache or fever. I felt weak but better. My nose is running constantly. Went through a box of Kleenex today. My first sip of coffee revealed that I had no sense of taste or smell. The warmth of the coffee felt good on my throat, but it might as well have been hot water. I was able to do small tasks in between series binging.
Saturday, November 13, 2021 – Body isn’t achy, and I have more energy. Still can’t taste or smell and my nose is still runny. It’s odd to eat something that you usually like without being able to taste or smell it.
Sunday, November 14, 2021 – Pretty much a mirror of Saturday.
Monday, November 15, 2021 – Caught a whiff of coffee smell. Realized that if I placed items right up to my nose and inhaled deeply, I could get a slight smell of the item. Still no taste. My nose has stopped running but I can feel congestion in the back of my nasal passage, maybe in my sinus cavity. I had a conversation with my doctor via telephone. He said that with my vaccination and actually having COVID that I was at the very top of being immune at this point. He said I didn’t need to get the booster, although if I wanted to, it won’t hurt. I was able to work and attend meetings via phone.
Tuesday, November 16, 2121 – Energy at near-normal levels. Walked 10,000 steps, did 45 minutes of weights and exercise. I had to remember to avoid people on the walk since I’m in isolation. I actually had someone ask why I crossed the street when I saw him. Surprised that I’m up 4 pounds on the scale. Assuming it’s because I added carbs to my diet over the past few days. I decided to reduce the amount to Keto levels. I noticed that I could smell onion powder and Clorox wipes. Cleaned the kitchen and cooked for the family. Up until now we were surviving on take-out (thank you Robert). My nose ran slightly in the morning. The mucus was thin but bright yellow. After blowing, it didn’t appear again.
Wednesday, November 17, 2021 – Was able to add a four-mile run to my workout with no problems. Still no taste. Smell is very sketchy.
Thursday, November 18, 2021 – My ten-day self-isolation ends today. I’ve got a long list of errands I’ll be doing tomorrow. Looking forward to getting back to normal.
I never had breathing problems. We don’t know why Robert didn’t catch it, perhaps his vaccine worked better than mine. Although the boys were not vaccinated, they didn’t have the symptoms as much as I did. Today is December 4, 2021. I still don’t have full taste or smell. Losing 40% of your senses is definitely the strangest part of the experience. Looking up how long I’ll be deprived, it said on average it’s four weeks. Hoping that’s true.
My doctor suggested that the three of us get our antibodies tested. He thinks at some point proof that you have natural antibodies may suffice instead of a vaccine. Also hoping that’s true.
When you dine at a buffet-style restaurant, there are so many choices that you typically can’t fit all of your selections on one plate. It’s the perfect analogy for investing in the metaverse. NFT’s, gaming, coins, back-end support, front-end support, wallets, etc. provide so many ways to get into this emerging technology that it’s difficult to keep up, let alone invest in these companies. Your investment plate is most likely too small to fill with all of the choices in the buffet. How do you sift through the options, let alone select some of them?
Here's my method and examples of how I found and chose two of my investments:
Join podcasts, YouTube channels, meetups, crypto educational groups and networking. Find one that seems to be right for your ability to grasp what they’re talking about. I started with one, and when I felt I’d learned everything I could, I found another. I’m currently on my fourth or fifth information source. I can only contribute a few hours per week to this, so I listen to just one source at any given time. I am picky about what they can teach me. These sources talk about the current and emerging investment opportunities.
In this article, I will attempt to avoid esoteric language. The metaverse has its own locutions and until you pick-up what they mean, it’ll sound like gibberish.
Examples of the investments I made are in The Sandbox and with TacoCat Tokens.
I heard about The Sandbox on a podcast I subscribe to. The podcaster was impressed with the company’s marketing strategy and its popular Minecraft look.
A TacoCat founder is in an investment group I belong to. While he was talking to the group about his startup, I went to the website and looked at his experience. It was impressive enough for me to explore the company in more detail.
Find what you can on the company within a 15-minute time budget. In that time, you’ll have enough information to know if you want to delve deeper or not.
A brief look at The Sandbox showed that they had proof of concept, already had sold many parcels in The Sandbox, and doling out sales events in spurts to create more buzz and demand. The land prices were in my budget and I could see how I could monetize my investment.
TacoCat’s ecosystem is intriguing. In their Wildcard project they have a play-to-earn format which is becoming popular in the metaverse. The digital card game allows for deckbuilding, collectability and competitive gameplay which are similar elements of a company that I own.
Who is involved and what is their background and expertise?
The Sandbox team consisted of members with combined experience of at least 50 years. Their advisors have significant experience in blockchain gaming.
The depth and breadth of the TacoCat team and advisory board is impressive. With their vision and experience this investment seemed likely to produce results.
What need does it fill or improve? Reviewing their white paper, or even their lite paper, you get the flavor of the company’s personality, vision and strategy. In this part of the process ask yourself ‘What do they bring to the metaverse and what does the metaverse bring to them?’
The Sandbox plans on ‘building a unique virtual world where players can build, own and monetize their gaming experience using SAND, the main utility token of the platform.’ When reviewing their strategy and roadmap, look for the section(s) that indicate their competitive advantages over others. With The Sandbox, more control is given to the end-user in a decentralized manner. I could see the potential for popularity and growth.
TacoCat’s lite paper talked about ‘Crypto for the Mainstream.’ I know from experience how difficult it is for many to plunge into cryptocurrencies. It’s the wild west in this space with an entirely unique language. There are an infinite number of ways to lose your investment. If TacoCat can make the process easier, then the entire industry will explode in popularity.
Who are they currently partnering with and who might be a good partner in the future?
What really won me over with The Sandbox was that they were already partnering with Atari, Walking Dead and Snoop Dog.
I had also invested in TacoCat and could see how that might be a great partnership with The Sandbox. Both entities had strong teams and a unique selling proposition in their respective ecosystems. We shall see if that comes to fruition, but from my prospective, it would be a win-win.
By now, you should have enough information to make an investment decision. The last step, and perhaps the most important, is your intuition. If there were little things that bothered you in the research, you should probably walk away. Often your inner voice is right.
Oh, one more thing to remember…..DYOR. It means Do Your Own Research. It’s a common phrase which means in this case, that this article is not financial or investment advice.
On last year’s Halloween, my husband and I were very busy. He stopped the project we were working on and began constructing something. He pulled out tools, two ladders, a vacuum, sheets, etc. He’s an engineer so I wasn’t surprised at this assembly of odd items. I was, however, annoyed that he was doing this on a day that was busy for us. He worked and worked, I seethed and seethed. He pulled our two boys in as testers and for advice. Once I got involved, I felt terrible that I had been so annoyed. It was a COVID-proof candy dispenser for the trick-or-treaters. The candy would be placed in a shoot that began above the inside of the front door from atop of a ladder. It would slide to the outside welcome mat. The shoot was covered outside with a black sheet and two skeletal hands from a previous costume. We had a Ring doorbell so we could tell when kids were coming. The first was a neighbor boy and he was alone. He tentatively walked up our somewhat dark walkway and rang the doorbell. We slid a couple of candy bars down the shoot and onto the mat. He squealed with delight. My husband was beaming, and I was proud of his device.
One very young princess started to walk up but then stopped and said she was scared. Through the Ring I was able to say, ‘We’re nice.’ With the encouragement of her dad, she tentatively walked up to the mat and out came a candy bar, followed by another and another. She bent down and tried to look up into the shoot. Smart girl forgot that she was a princess and wanted to figure out how it worked. Identifying the mechanics apparently was more interesting to her than the actual candy. She was so enthralled that her father had to practically drag her away.
As the evening wore on, more kids came and then left and came back with parents and friends to show them the clever device. Unfortunately, we had the fewest number of trick-or-treaters since we began counting coming in at a paltry 30. Even the 9-11-01 count was higher at 35. Over the years, we average 150. Lucky for those who ventured out on October 31, 2020, because once we realized that we had over-bought candy, those brave souls coming to our door made out like bandits, or superheroes, or witches.
Mount Whitney is the highest point in the continental United States with a summit altitude of 14,505 feet. My pseudo cousin and I made the trek in 2014. We started at the Whitney Portal west of the town of Lone Pine on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. From there, the trek is 20 miles round trip. The hike itself takes between 12-16 hours. The plan was to get to the trailhead, set up camp and make the hike the following morning.
We left the Central Valley of California the first morning on our four-hour drive to the Whitney Portal. Only 45 miles out of town, I had a flat tire. My husband left work and came to the rescue, trading cars and sending us on our way while he dealt with the tire. The delay meant that we wouldn’t arrive to one of the campgrounds near the trailhead until dusk. We went as far as we could until it was difficult to see. The campsites were all filled. We ended up in this odd little area right next to the trail. We set up our tent, climbed in, ate a few bites of trail mix, and slept. Well before sun-up we heard many, many footsteps walking right next to our tent on the trail. Most hikers start between 2 am and 4 am. It was impossible to sleep so we got up and prepared to join them. We left the tent and other unnecessary belongings at our site and began the ascent with our headlamps.
Thankfully, the sun was fully up when we reached the switchbacks. There are so many and they’re relatively short so there is this lulling back-and-forth sensation you get similar to the rocking on a boat. The only difference being that you’re exerting energy for the hike instead of just being rocked with no effort by yourself. I don’t really remember much about the switchbacks. My theory is that it’s the hardest part of the hike and you’re just concentrating on moving one foot in front of the other with no room in your brain for anything else.
There are an estimated 101 switchbacks which are difficult in and of themselves. Considering the elevation and lack of air, it was difficult on steroids.
We went in June so that we wouldn’t need climbing equipment to summit. In spring or fall, you might need crampons or axes on the switchbacks to get through the ice. There were some icy areas, but not to the point where we needed equipment to get through it.
As the sun rose so did the temperature. It was hot and getting hotter, we had to hydrate often which we had planned for. We grazed on trail mix, jerky, granola bars and other easy to access food as we went along. Once we completed the switchbacks, there is still hiking to do. You must continue the ascent but in a more linear way. You are now on the Trail Crest which junctions with the John Muir Trail. The trailhead and the switchbacks are south of the summit, near the top. There is a saddle with a somewhat narrow passage to continue north and up. As we passed people coming down, they would encourage us by saying ‘You’re almost there,’ ‘Keep going, it’s worth it,’ and such. We were slower than many of the others and most of these nice folks had passed us on their way up.
By the time we reached the summit we were exhausted. We hadn’t slept or eaten well, and the sun had felt very hot. At the top, the temperature changed dramatically, and the cold air was welcoming. There is a small cabin which is now abandoned but has a guest book inside for summiteers to sign, which we did. Most pictures of Mt. Whitney climbers will include them with the little house in the background. There were hardly any people up there with us since we were lagging from the herd. It began to snow. The light jacket that had been around my waist was now on and fully zipped. A man came up while we were resting. He took off every stitch of his clothing and asked if we would take his picture. We agreed. He posed on a rock laying on his stomach with his legs bent up and crossed, smiling at the camera, similar to poses babies and female centerfolds use. Once the shots were approved, he got dressed and left. Later, my husband asked if we were upset or shocked. I explained that we were half dead, and it had no effect on us one way or the other. He could have been a knife welding mass murderer for all we cared.
When we had sufficiently rested, we began our descent. I took a bite of jerky as we walked and within seconds, and without any warning whatsoever, threw it back up. I had no time to find an appropriate place to hide the content of my indiscretion at all. I’m guessing that it was the altitude although I never did feel nauseous.
Once we were down a bit, the weather turned hot again, and I had to tie my jacket once again around my waist. The descent is hard because of the strain on your joints. Most of the trail is rock and you’re more likely to slip coming down than going up so we needed to be somewhat careful of our speed and balance.
We got back to our campsite and packed up. There was a debate between us. I wanted to stay the night, relax, have a nice meal, a campfire perhaps. We could go to one of the campsites and visit with others since we were early enough to still snag a site for our tent. She was insistent on heading to the car and sleeping at a hotel in Lone Pine. Our permit did not allow for a second night and she didn’t want to get penalized for camping without a permit. I argued that no one would penalize two older women who were too tired to hike out. She was adamant and the tent was hers, so we hiked all the way back to my car and drove to town. We could only find one motel with an available room, the historic Dow Villa, which was famous for hosting celebrities like John Wayne, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. We called home to report that we had summitted and were now safely tucked in for the night.
I had read bloggers talk about the altitude sickness. My research showed that you could get Acetazolamide to elevate the ailment. I had been in Breckenridge, CO a few years earlier and had been nauseous for the first days. Reading a Whitney blogger enlightened me to what must have happened in Colorado, and, now I would be able to prevent it on this adventure. The doctor said I was wise to come to him. His son had attempted Whitney and was so sick from the altitude that they had to air lift him out. Thankfully, the medication worked.
Many hikers train for Whitney. We did not. I work out with weights and/or running and as a result I was fit. My body did not complain on the hike whatsoever. I wasn’t sore the next day. The one and only challenge was oxygen. People do train for the altitude, but we had not. I knew of people who had attempted to summit Whitney but had to turn around because of the altitude.
I noticed that a vast majority of hikers were twenty-something males. There were very few women, or older people. Given that my cousin and I were both female and older made me feel like we had bragging rights. I read that only an estimated 1/3 of the people who attempt Whitney actually summit. I attribute our success to the determination that we were going to summit no matter what. I think mental tenacity is the best training. Fatigue and the inability to properly inhale oxygen were not allowed into our psyches and as a result, we beat the odds.
According to Wikipedia, “Half Dome is a granite dome at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, California. It is a well-known rock formation in the park, named for its distinct shape. One side is a sheer face while the other three sides are smooth and round, making it appear like a dome cut in half. The granite crest rises more than 4,737 ft above the valley floor.”
I don’t recall why I decided to climb Half Dome. After all, at that time I wasn’t the least bit interested in hiking. Somehow the notion grabbed me, and I was intent on successfully summiting the iconic formation.
My son, who was 13 at the time, and I met with an expert on hiking in the area. He gave us gear to borrow and tips on what to bring in our backpacks. In the summer of 2009, we spent the night in Curry Village which was the closest campground to the trailhead. We got up early the next morning and were prepared to leave when we noticed a mother bear and her cubs outside of our cabin. We waited impatiently at the window until they were far enough away to safely leave.
From the trailhead you cross over a bridge which has a breathtaking view of Vernal Fall. As you ascend from the Yosemite Valley floor you reach a split in the trail. If you choose the John Muir Trail it will be physically easier but longer with several switchbacks. The Mist Trail is shorter and steeper. Depending on the seasonal weather it can also be more slippery in places. I’ve hiked/climbed Half Dome four times. Each time I’ve chosen a different ascent and descent trail. I find the best for me is to ascend Mist Trail and descend John Muir Trail. The reason is because it’s easier to ascend slippery steps and paths than it is descending them. Also, as you’re descending it’s hotter in the day and John Muir has more shade.
The hike can easily be done in one day if you leave before dawn. I’ve found it easier to stay at Curry Village the night before and then enter the trailhead at around 5 am with a head lamp. You can also leave from Fresno if you start out at about 3:30 am, but that makes for a very long day. Another option is to hike to Little Yosemite Valley which is roughly halfway to the Half Dome cables. The upside is that you have an easier hike each day and you reach the cables before the trailhead hikers arrive leaving it less congested. The downside is that you have to pack in and pack out camping gear to spend the night.
My preference is to spend the night in Curry Village pre-hike and drive home the day you descend.
The cables. In 2009, the first year I went, the cables kicked my butt. I was in good physical shape but didn’t realize how much the final ascent depended on upper body strength. It was literally the most difficult physical activity I have ever done. It was shear willpower that got me to the summit. My son, however, scampered up the cables with the greatest of ease. He was annoyed at all of the people slowly pulling themselves up the cables and decided to go outside the safety of holding onto both cables and just used one cable outside of the rudimentary stairs. Later, I learned that people had died losing their balance this way which to this day makes me shudder.
Over the next year I routinely did push-ups. In 2010 my son and I went up for the second time and the cables were a breeze. On this hike we took my nephew. He was a collegiate football player who had purposely gained weight for his position. While he was in perfect shape for football, he was in terrible shape for a 16+ mile hike with a 4,800 foot elevation gain. He needed lots of breaks and had difficulty catching his breath. He called the trail a ‘hell hole.’
Each year we went up, there was an increasing number of hikers. The cables became so crowded that you could be stuck on them, semi-vertically holding on, for over an hour before summitting. They finally instituted a permitting process to control the amount of people. I’m opposed to permits as a general rule, however, in this case it makes sense. Summiting with less than half of the hikers on the cables as in years past, made it so much easier and faster. The very best part of the entire hike is repelling down the cables. To me it’s my reward for the journey. With less people to avoid, the repel is even more delightful.
Reaching the top of Half Dome was exciting the first time. We sat up there eating lunch and looking out over Yosemite Valley. We had cell service at the top (no service during the hike) and let our family know we had made it. We snapped pictures and returned home. The subsequent times the summit was less impactful. By then, once we reached the top we would take a picture and then head down, not even stopping for lunch. It was just a notch in the process at that point.
The Merced River is usually close to the trail. On the way out it’s nice to stop at the river, take your shoes and socks off and cool your feet in the ice water. It’s also a nice place to have lunch. Some people will take a swim but when there has been a heavy rainy season the water is swift and I find it too dangerous to chance. The river feeds the Nevada and Vernal Falls. If you’re swept away you will end up in bits and pieces and it will be virtually impossible to have much of your body left to recover from the river.
Packing is a strategy in and of itself. Water is the most important thing. You can get water from the Merced River but you should filter it before drinking. I found it easier to bring 16 oz plastic bottles of water. The bottles are light weight when empty so your load is much lighter as you drink water. You’ll need more water ascending than you will descending. There are no garbage cans on the hike so everything must be packed out. Keep that in mind when bringing hard boiled eggs, oranges, bananas, etc. The more peeling and prepping you can do before hand, the better. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are great because they don’t need refrigeration, they are filling and provide nutrients to fuel your day. The first year I over packed. By the fourth time my load was much lighter and more efficient. There are hundreds of blogs regarding what to take. I suggest picking a few to read and then pick out what makes sense to you.
The Falls are beautiful and the pool at the base of Nevada Fall looks so peaceful and inviting. It’s neither. It’s the feeder to the second waterfall, Vernal and you will die. Pay attention to the signs and warnings. They’re legitimate.
The cables are no joke. Respect them and you’ll have no problems. Bring gloves for a better grip. There is also a pile of used gloves at the base of the cables if you forget yours. I buy the cheap garden gloves. They are trashed by the time I’ve descended from the cables and I just throw them away later.
The permitting lottery starts early in each calendar year and sells out the first day. The process changes frequently, especially because of the pandemic, so keep checking the website. Decide if you’re going to stay at Little Yosemite Valley and/or Curry Village before the lottery opens up. You’ll need a permit to camp at Little Yosemite Valley. You’ll need a reservation to stay at Curry Village. Permit and reservation availability fills up quickly. Depending on weather, the cables, and therefore permits, are available from Memorial Day through September. If at any time there is lightening the cables are closed and you’re simply out of luck. Permit requests can be made at www.yosemite.org/wildtrails/permit
Decide carefully who you want to bring along with you. You’ll be with them for 10-12 hours with no respite. If they’re annoying normally, it will be amplified under these conditions. Trust me.
If you’re on the fence, think about how pleased you’ll be with yourself the next day. Temporary difficulty, rather it be mental or physical, is temporary. The memory of a successful adventure will last a lifetime.
Thoughts that are alien to any of my other projects can be found here.