Tupper's 2 Cents

Feet on the path and eyes wide open...

Tag: Family Time

Family Ski Day at Crystal Mountain

Crystal Mountain Ski Resort

Location:  39 miles past Enumclaw, 47 miles from Mt. Ranier, “105 driving minutes” from Seattle, 4 hours from Bellingham.

Skiable terrain: 4.06 miles;  Ski runs, 57;  Elevation at top: 3912 feet

Growing up at Crystal Mountain

Mom and Dad skiing at Crystal back in the day

I grew up skiing at Crystal.  My family had a room in a 40-family lodge (Skier’s Inc.) from the time I was two until my mid-30’s, when my parents finally sold their rights to the room.  I remember vividly Mom and Dad hauling my three siblings and me up to Crystal for weekends or occasional weeks of skiing all winter long.

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Celebration Run!

My beloved Dad died six years ago (12/27/11).

For the first two anniversaries, my siblings, their families, my kids, and I gathered at the Lake Goodwin summer home to commemorate. We built a fire in the wood stove (Dad was premier fire builder), and sat awkwardly on the small, carved “butt chairs” he’d made to go around the magnificent coffee table, also hand-crafted by Dad from one giant slab of a madrona tree. We watched the slide show from his memorial, told stories about his passion for projects at the lake, and marveled at the flood of tears that still came. Later, we ate dinner at the 12-person dining room table he also built, seated on chairs that he made as well, missing him terribly but fully embraced by his legacy.  Lake Goodwin was so steeped in “Dad’ims”, that it was hard for my siblings and me to even go to the lake for the first couple of years after he passed, other than to celebrate his death.

Fire building on the beach at Lake Goodwin…Brad, Dad, Kathie, Kari. Chris not pictured.

But time heals grief, and the subsequent four years have seen major improvements and upgrades to the home and property. Several all-out cleaning endeavors removed 50+ years of accumulated STUFF, making room for the present to co-exist with the past.

Family work project at the lake…

The lake is once again heavily used in the summertime, just like Dad always loved. His presence there remains strong, but less painful with the passage of years.

This past 12/27 was the fourth anniversary that my siblings and I did not gather at the lake, but instead exchanged remembrances via email or text, and each did our own thing to honor Dad.

This year, my thing was to go on a run.

My relationship with running is as complex as my relationship with my Dad. I loved both with fierce passion, never got enough time with either, and both were taken away from me in (of course, different levels of ) heartbreaking fashion. Dad too early and unexpectedly, even at age 83; running by repeated injuries and surgeries over the last 19 years.

Death brings finality.  Dad is with me in memory and spirit everyday, but I know I can’t bring him back. While I miss him tremendously, his passion for life inspires me daily, and I am strong from aspects of him that live in me.

With running, I never felt ready to accept the finality of the relationship, even after things came to a crashing halt in 1999. That was the year I trained for the fourth and last marathon that I never ran…each time, injury occurred, preventing me from making it to the starting line.

In 1999, it was a herniated disc in my back from overtraining that led to a surgery that didn’t go well.  I never regained the same ability to run again. I gave up on marathons, and fits and starts characterized any attempts to return to running. My ambitions were further diminished by subsequent foot, ankle and knee surgeries. I struggled to accept that my relationship with running might be dead too.

Then last June, reeling from my Mom’s death on June 1, 2016, I got inspired to try running again. Something about the stress and sadness of losing another parent drew me back to the quickest way I know to bring on endorphins, settle things in my head, and get through extremely difficult times of transition. Resuming running was slow and cumbersome, but I kept at it.

Each time I ran, I took along the memory of my Dad.

Running with Dad

No one in the family can remember exactly when or why  Dad started running. My sisters Chris and Kari remember running with him in the mid-1970’s – mid 1980’s, and similarly, I remember running with him in High School (I graduated 1982) and some in young adulthood.

Early photo of Dad running Kari and me on a waterski rope.

It’s possible Dad ran before he discovered “running  with his daughters”. But Chris, Kari and I all remember runs with him, occasionally as a family on Thanksgiving (maybe my brother Brad came, too, I don’t remember), but mostly, each of us alone with Dad. Those running dates with Dad were special times, an opportunity to solve the problems of the world (or at least take a stab at our own) as the miles flew slowly but steadily by.

It was hard to get alone time with Dad, as he worked long hours as an orthopedic surgeon, and had incredible devotion to my Mom. His non-working hours were spent mostly with her, and we all yearned for Dad time. Dad’s workout times, whether running or lifting weights on his patched together home gym, were HIS time. My sisters and I felt honored to grab solo time with him for a run.

And Dad loved it too. He raved about his “daughter runs”. In retrospect, I wish I’d known how important they were to him, and how short in duration his running days would be. I would have run with him more and stressed less about all my own adolescent and young adult problems that kept me, at times, too self-absorbed to care about running with Dad.  I assumed he’d run with us forever, the invincible father we all thought him to be.

Sadly, that was not the case.  By the time Dad retired (at age 59, in 1987), he was arthritic beyond repair in both ankle joints. He had to give up running, and by age 60, he  was fused in both ankles. Post-fusions, he had no ability to flex or extend his ankles, and eventually wore rocker shoes to regain some mobility. My sister Chris remembers one walk with Dad shortly after he got his first rockers, and his excitement about being able to still get out and about for some distance on foot. What I remember is trying to take Dad rock climbing in Joshua Tree in 1989, and the sad realization on both of our parts that he did not have the ankle flexibility to do even an easy climb.

Dad never ran a race, but he DID walk the Daughter’s and Dad’s Dash with me in 2001, a big smile accompanying us on the 5K event I’d organized. A great memory!

Dad and me at Daughter’s and Dad’s Dash…the only organized “running” event he ever did. We walked.

Celebrating Dad on the Anniversary Run

With only a couple dozen runs ever done with Dad, why is he always with me when I run? Five things came to mind on my sixth-year anniversary run.

His Passion for the Runner’s High

Dad understood the “Runner’s High”, the feel-good endorphins that are released during intensive exercise. He often referred to a 10-mile run he did in Kobe, Japan, once while on business there. “I felt like I could have run forever!” He’d say, excitedly, in contrast to his normally practical self. “I get why people run, why running is so important to you, Katho, as that runner’s high takes over everything else.” In my struggles to recover from surgery and get back into running, Dad offered me words of caution and understanding.  “There are other things you can do that aren’t so hard on the joints,” he’d say, “but I also get why you want to run and I won’t tell you not to.”

His Love of a Body in Motion

In church, I can remember my Dad always jiggling his feet, shifting positions, doing something to keep the body moving. Maybe that’s why he started running, for the steady, rhythmic, predictable action of repetitive movement.  In some capacity, Dad always moved.

I am certain that is where my similar love of movement came from. Like Dad, I also move, stretch, wiggle, keep the body in motion. Especially at this time of year, I love that the movement of my body can generate heat against cold conditions, another thing Dad taught me and my siblings about movement. As kids on the ski hill, Dad would have us clapping our hands fiercely to stay warm on the chairlift,  jumping up and down waiting in lift lines,  and waving our arms in big circles to keep blood flowing.

Now, running in winter (which I have not done in countless years before this), I remember those tactics, and smile when the effort exerted from running causes my core to warm up and my hands to even sweat! And, later, as I watch my feet jiggle while writing this post, I know Dad taught me well the importance of movement.

Celebrating what the Human Body CAN do

Dad loved to see what the body was capable of. I remember once when I was a child, and Dad ran around Lake Goodwin (6.5 miles). That was before we ran, we were just kids, and Kari and I met him at the turn off (where he’d have just 1/2 mile to go) with wild blackberries we’d picked while waiting. He was so spent, he could not eat them, thanking us but saying they might make him sick. I felt sad, even hurt, at the time, that he would reject our kind offer at the (near) end of his run.

But as I grew older, I grasped the reality of going all-out in a workout. Sometimes it feels good to exert to the point of exhaustion, or at least so far as to reject wild blackberries!  I remember other times, when Dad did the famed Bellingham Ski to Sea race,  the canoeing leg. He’d push SO HARD that he’d nearly throw up, and his legs would be utter jelly trying to help drag the canoe up from the shores of the river. I loved that about him — that he was willing to go that far, see what he was capable of, and his gung-ho attitude inspired me to no end.

After riding my bike 60 miles to the lake last summer…that great feeling of exhaustion and satisfaction after a work-out.

Even after he could no longer run, Dad ALWAYS found a way to do something.  He walked, biked, or swam, and continued to ski into his mid 70’s. When those things became too challenging, he increased his work-outs on his home gym. That was something he did his whole life, at least as long as I can remember. He performed an elaborate stretching and exercise routine each and every morning, the extensive nature of which became a family joke, especially after his retirement. An overnight stay at the home of origin always found Dad or Grandpa doing his exercises first thing every morning, like his very life depended on it. Maybe it did.

Running, or any Form of Exercise, to Clear the Head

If I had to summarize one thing I know from Dad and about running, it’s that exercise is key to mental health. At least mine. And his.

No matter how busy he was, Dad found a way to work out. Since he was fortunate to retire early, he had a good number of years to explore his passions for activity, even while his body simultaneously was limiting what he could do.  He’d exercise early and with urgency, needing the endorphin fix and calming effects that it brought him.

Early work project at the lake, with Kari and me.

The workouts, outdoor activities, and work projects were his go-to places. There he found the necessary boost to care for my Mom for most of her life. And to be the glue that held the family together. While that wasn’t all on his shoulders, he did bear the primary responsibility for making sure all four kids turned out at least relatively well-adjusted…and all with a strong inclination toward exercise as the ticket to mental health.

 Exercise to “Normalize” Life

I can speak for myself about running as a “normalizing” activity, and for Dad, exercise in general as such.

When Mom died, I needed to turn somewhere. My relationship with my Mom was much more emotionally complicated than that with my Dad, and almost on par in the grieving department. I felt depths of unexpected sadness  I didn’t know I contained when she died, and I struggled with feeling a loss of control and lack of footing in my life.

Jim and Sylvia Tupper

I started running again after years of lay-off with the intention of re-grounding. I wanted comfort and familiarity in my doubly altered, parentless world. Running, I knew, had a history of making me feel better. Quickly and predictably.  I needed that, and the activity itself brought me unexpectedly back around to my Dad.

With Dad, we all watched him struggle to regain normalcy after an unexpectedly extensive 5-way heart bypass surgery in October 2011. His recovery was ragged at best, in and out of nursing homes and the hospital numerous times with post-surgical complications.

I remember him struggling to lift weights and trying to walk even a half-mile on the treadmill, certain that if he could do that, he would recover.  He linked his very survival to being able to get back into motion, something that became nearly impossible when he had to go on oxygen. He hated that he could not breath on his own, and fought that hard and directly. He had us all convinced he would win the battle, as none of us kids or his grandkids thought he would ever die. At least not then. He wasn’t ready and neither were we.

But that’s not what happened. His heart and lungs continued to fail, and by Christmas Day of 2011, he was back in the hospital. After two miserable nights, he took himself off breathing apparatus, a choice we all knew would end his life. He spent his last day on earth surrounded by loved ones.

As I ran this anniversary day, I got that running to celebrate Dad was also a celebration of my life. I knew he would approve of my activity choice, despite all the challenges, and I rose to meet them, step after step, just as he did for his whole life.  Thanks for a great run, Dad!

Pardon the scandalous photo of Dad…but it so captures him. This was after a swim in the pool at home, Kari and I dressed up to go somewhere. What a guy!






Mother’s Day Bike Ride…and other Memorable Events

Happy Mother’s Day!

To all of you Mom’s out there…I hope your day was special!  

Somehow, this Mother’s Day was especially sweet for me. All the events contained within had special significance — from spending time with family at the Family Summer Home, to a spectacular bike ride in Snohomish County, to my daughter’s bridal dress fitting, and finally, culminating with a visit to see my 90-year old mother this evening, with two of my three siblings.

The time at Lake Goodwin

My family has had a home at Lake Goodwin, an hour south of Bellingham and north of Seattle, since  my mom was 11! The sprawl is contained on three waterfront lots that my mom’s parents purchased back when you could still do that. The humble beginnings were mere land, and now, 79 years later, a large house resides there. The initial one-room cabin has been remodeled and added on to dozens of times, and the house now sports a huge bunk room, sleeps 20 easily, and contains a large workroom and a 3-car garage. There’s nothing cabin-like about this place.

The dock…half of which fell apart last winter in the ice and snow…yet another project!

Lake Goodwin!

The entire time they were married, my parents kept Lake Goodwin, aka “The Lake” going with gardens, sport courts, water activities, and more projects than you could shake a tree at! My dad lived and breathed projects at the lake, and spent countless hours in short cut-off jean shorts, a tool belt, work boots, and not much else.  He worked unceasingly to keep the place functional. My mom spent countless hours in the beautiful gardens that he helped her create, and the place was a showplace for my entire growing up time. People would drive by slowly and look at the gardens, that’s how beautiful everything was.

Then, 5.5 years ago, my dad left this world, and something of the lake died with him. It took us awhile to all wander back with much enthusiasm. We started working on refurbishing and sprucing things up a couple of years ago. It’s been a huge and never-ending project.

This weekend, we had a full-on work party up there. While the number of participants was relatively small — my brother, my sister, her son, daughter and daughter’s boyfriend, my daughter and fiance, and myself — we really cranked things out! Let’s face it, my parents were packrats, and the sheer amount of space for storage is immense. Between the eight of us, we went through the garage and workroom, including spaces above both that no one had hardly ever been in. The piles of gardening supplies, chemicals from the 70’s and earlier, painted lumbar, ancient building materials, tools, and so much else filled a huge dump truck — twice! We took 3.5 TONS of stuff to the dump in two days! And loaded the entire back of my brother Brad’s pick-up with hazardous waste materials to be disposed of this week.

One of two dump trucks full of garbage.

The back of Brad’s truck, completely filled with hazardous waste!

The work party started yesterday and ended today. We had such a great time, wearing gas masks to keep from dying ourselves from all the fumes, and setting up relay systems from the upper reaches of the garage to carry things out to the truck. The sorting of the garden tools was an especially memorable experience! How can so many tools be accumulated over time?

Left to Right — Mark, Anna, James (behind), Shannon, Kevin — and all the large gardening tools that came out of the garage!

Last night’s Mother’s Day dinner

My daughter and niece planned and cooked dinner for all of us last night, as an early Mother’s Day dinner. We sat around after the work day, eating at the huge table that my wood-working father extraordinaire made out of a tree he himself cut down,  in the chairs that he also made. All the while overlooking a spectacular sunset over the lake. Dinner and the company was great, reminding us of the hundreds of times we’ve sat there before, with both parents also at the table. It was a fitting way to remember my dad and to also celebrate my mom, who is far too feeble to go up there anymore. And my sister Kari and I didn’t have to lift a finger with dinner prep or dishes — a real bonus. THANKS SHANNON AND ANNA FOR A GREAT DINNER!  And James, Mark, and Kevin for cleaning up!

The Mother’s Day Bike Ride!

This tradition started when my son Kyle and I lived alone together after Shannon had gone off to college. It was about eight years ago, and Kyle graciously asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day. “A bike ride!” I said. So Kyle, who is a phenomenal athlete but not a road biker, faithfully accompanied me on a 40-mile bike ride on his dad’s bike, which did not fit him well. He suffered, especially in the area of the bike seat, but maintained a positive attitude and patience until close to the end when he finally said “Mom! Is this ride EVER going to end?”

I have not talked Kyle into going on a long ride with me since. And he attends Physical Therapy School in Atlanta, so this year he was definitely off the hook! But I have tried to get out and ride each Mother’s Day if at all possible. I took my bike to the lake this time, hoping for a break in the cold, wind, and rain to ride this morning. It was raining when I woke up, but by 8:00, it looked to be mostly stopped. I decided to go for it!

I left the house by 8:30. The ride combined roads I know and some I don’t. I have lived at the lake for a couple of time periods, and spent a decent amount of time riding the roads, all in Snohomish county. But today, I wanted to do something different. After riding past the Fish Creek U-Cut farm, where we used to get our Christmas Tree the day after Thanksgiving for my growing up years, and down into Sylvana, with the Meat Market and a few other small businesses, I asked a couple that looked local if they knew the roads. I wanted a slightly different loop, and they directed me to a road that would eventually lead me back to Marine Drive, when I would then know where I was.

Snohomish County roads…

Threatening skies…

The roads were lovely, country, farmland. Rain spat at me periodically, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I had dressed warmly, and I was, for once, not struggling with cold hands (even though temps said 48 degrees when I left!). When I got to Marine Drive, I turned the wrong way, and ended up in Stanwood. Not exactly what I planned, and I backtracked several miles. Then I was looking for the road to wind my way back up to the Lake Goodwin Road, and somehow got on a road that was washed out. I had to carry my bike up and over road blocks and navigate a huge “water over roadway” segment. Then that road was not the one I thought it was, and I had to work my way back and around a neighboring lake before getting back to the LG road.

All told, my ride took just over 2.5 hours. It was fantastic in all ways, especially in that it was one of the first rides I’ve done this year that I actually felt power in my legs and energetically strong. I absolutely loved the ride, and even the bits of rain that continued to fall periodically did not dampen my spirits.

I returned just in time to put in a final hour of work before showering and heading back north to meet Shannon at the bridal shop.

The Bridal Dress Fitting

Shannon’s wedding date is September 3, and I have had the motherly privilege of being involved in her dress fitting. What a great mother/daughter activity today, and always fun to learn how to bustle up a hem. I’d post a photo, but of course I am under specific instructions never to do so until the wedding day…

I also got to talk on the phone with Kyle on the way to the bridal fitting, and it’s always wonderful to catch up with him and his long-time girlfriend Lauren, also at Emory.

Feeling warm and fuzzy with both kid interactions complete,  it was time to drive to Seattle to visit my mom.

The visit with Mom — a great way to end the day!

L to R — Mom, Kari, Brad, Kathie

My mom is in a home in Seattle. She has been on Hospice since July, but is still going strong. She never leaves the care home she is in, and has significant trouble with her memory, as well as a number of other health problems. But she is also of 100% Norwegian blood, and seems to be ticking right along!

Since I’d had to leave early for the bridal fitting, I didn’t know if my visit to Mom would coincide with that of Kari and my brother Brad’s. But sure enough, I text Kari five minutes away from Mom, and they had just arrived! So the three of us got to visit with my mom all at once. I have visited with Kari quite a lot, but it was really fun to have the three of us there. The only one missing was my sister Chris, who is in Disneyland with her grandkids. We had a really nice time, with Mom mostly watching and listening to the three of us, but also inserting a question or comment periodically. We were able to tell her all about our weekend at Lake Goodwin, and what we got done. We all know she won’t remember any of it after our visit, as that is just how it is. But it really was a grand way to end Mother’s Day, and I know it made her happy to see us all.

This Mother’s Day, I am so grateful…

To be a mother, a daughter, a sister, for time with family, for the memories and current realities of Lake Goodwin, for good health and the ability to ride my bike, and for all the blessings that exist in my life. What a highly memorable Mother’s Day!




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