I called the police the day of the assault (from the friend’s house we were staying at, not from the resort, as I had been threatened not to call police to the resort). I reached an answering service for the Placer County Sheriff and left a message about what happened. The next day was when I was able to speak with an actual officer who wrote up the police report.
Northstar will not release the man’s name. Without it I can’t press criminal charges. I filed a police report. My attacker did not.
I’ve been asked to publicly post a description of the man who assaulted me. Many have messaged me or commented that they would like to find the man and harm him as he harmed me. While I appreciate that people want to help me, I will not publicly post a description of the man. I don’t want him physically harmed.
What did I say before the man threatened and assaulted me?
“Hey! You almost knocked my son off the pipe! You have to be careful… he’s only 9 and you could’ve hurt him really bad. You can’t ride like that.”
The man’s violent response both shocked and terrified me. He didn’t want anyone telling him anything. After he assaulted, threatened and grabbed me, I absolutely was yelling at him — to get off me and leave me alone! He wouldn’t.
I was assaulted on a Thursday afternoon on a very warm day… 57 degrees in South Lake Tahoe… the lift line was not crowded… there were very few people going through the maze, possibly 2 other people getting on the lift when the assault started and those people were already well past us… people were going through the maze intermittently, but it was overall pretty empty. The lift operator I speak of in my post was the lift operator in charge of the maze, not the one standing next to the chair to load people. It’s extremely telling that the only person who witnessed the entire thing from start to finish — a 9 year-old — who was saying over and over, “That guy screamed at me, almost ran into me, got on my mom, screamed at her and then punched her” was told by the security team that he cannot give a statement because he’s a minor.
There are several posts on Reddit about what happened. A group of users speaking extremely negatively of me… all of their user accounts were created that day. They’re fake accounts being used only to trash me on the internet. People have also messaged me saying they were banned from local groups after trying to advocate for me, and that Northstar and Vail Resorts are deleting every comment on their Fb pages about the assault. Some of the same profiles who are posting to Facebook are submitting the exact same comments repeatedly to my blog under different names.
We were not on a fancy vacation. We were staying with friends (for free) to film and photograph Wes in demo jackets for one of his sponsors. I drove 26 hours from Iowa — much of it while Wes slept in the car — to get to Lake Tahoe.
This is not a publicity stunt. I’ve written this blog for a few years now… extended family and close friends read it to see what our family is up to. If you’ll notice, there’s not a single advertisement on my blog. I receive nothing for post clicks.
My son has been privileged with being a brand ambassador since he was 3 years old. His snowboarding has gotten him plenty of attention. Wes gains nothing from me speaking out about being assaulted. I tried for 3 and a half weeks to speak with Northstar and Vail about a resolution to all of this. I’m sharing what happened to us as a last resort. I’m standing up for myself and my son and saying it’s not right what happened.
I’m receiving communication now from friends of people supposedly involved and being threatened to stay out of the Tahoe area. This perfectly illustrates the violence and intimidation that this group of people believes is okay. This is what I’m standing up to. This is why I’m sharing what happened.
I’ve also received many supportive messages and for those I am very thankful.
On February 25th an adult male snowboarder violently attacked me at Northstar in California — a Vail Resorts property.
The same snowboarder had ridden full speed straight at my 9 year-old son, screamed at him to get out of his way, and almost knocked him off the deck of the superpipe.
In the lift line, when I asked him to ride under control, the 6 foot man yelled at, threatened and grabbed me (I’m 5 foot 2 and was carrying a big filming camera and wearing a large backpack). He was inches from my face, with his body pressed against me, and had grabbed my shoulders.
“What are you gonna do bitch, fucking cry about it? You can’t even fucking ride, bitch. You know who you’re fucking with?! I’ll have you kicked out! You don’t know who you’ve fucked with now! You’re fucking dead! Are you gonna cry, little girl? Go fucking cry cause you’re fucking dead!”
I called to the lift operator for help. He said something in his radio, but made no move to help me.
The man continued his assault. “What’s your name, bitch? You’re dead. You’re fucking dead! Give me your name. What’s your name?! Awww, are you gonna fucking cry?!”
I told him 3 times to get away from me and stop touching me. I even told him I had pepper spray in my pocket and I would use it on him if he didn’t get off me. (I don’t snowboard around with pepper spray in my pocket, but was terrified and hoped the man would get off me).
He continued assaulting me. While holding my big filming camera in the crook of my right arm, I slapped at him with my left gloved hand to try to get him off me.
“You’re fucking dead!” He screamed again as he came at me and hit me in my left eye with his bare fist. I was stunned from the punch and started to cry.
A man in the lift line who was going past us, stopped and said, “Dude, you just hit a girl.”
“So?! Who cares?!” the man who had hit me replied.
“DUDE. You hit a GIRL,” the man in the lift line repeated.
“She deserved it,” he said and turned back to me. He continued verbally and physically assaulting me as he kneeled down and grabbed my left upper thigh — he held my thigh still as I struggled to get out of his grasp. The lift operator, who had finally walked over near us made no effort to stop the man from grabbing my thigh.
“Danelle. That’s your name, bitch? Danelle. You’re gonna burn, Danelle. I can’t believe you touched me, bitch. You’re so dead.” He had read my name off the pass attached to my thigh.
“Leave me alone!” I cried.
The lift operator asked me to step out of the lift line to wait for security. As I stepped out of the line, then stood silently, the man who hit me had also stepped outside the liftline; he stood 10 feet away from me, continuing to taunt and verbally assault me. “You’re a fucking bitch, Danelle. I’m gonna get you kicked out of here. I WILL have you kicked out. I’ll have your pass taken away. Keep crying little bitch. Go ahead and fucking cry…” As his friends came down the mountain he would point at me and loudly tell them I was a fucking crazy bitch and that he was going to have me kicked out and have my pass taken away. My 9 year-old was standing there listening to all of it. He had witnessed the entire assault. The lift operator stood near us and neither said nor did anything to stop the ongoing verbal assault and threats. My goggles had been off because I needed to see the camera screen when I was filming my son on the jumps, but now I pulled the goggles down over my eyes so no one would see the tears streaming from them.
Thinking about it after the fact, I suspect the lift operator (a local) knew the man who assaulted me (another local).
When security arrived, the man who assaulted me told security that I was a crazy bitch. The lift operator — unbelievably — seemed to back up the man who assaulted me. I wasn’t taken seriously, I wasn’t allowed to speak, I was cut off and told I was a liar. My nine year-old spoke up and told security “that guy grabbed my mom and screamed in her face and punched her”, but they told my son they wouldn’t take a statement from him because he’s a minor.
The worst experience wasn’t being assaulted, but that my son and I thought we would be safe once security arrived… instead I was bullied, told that I was emotional, and treated like I got what I deserved. I was told the assault was my fault for asking the snowboarder to ride under control. Then I was told it was my fault he punched me.
I continued being told that I shouldn’t have talked to the man, and what did I expect? (Not to be punched in the face seems like a reasonable expectation.) The way the male employees seemed to rally around this man who had violently attacked a much smaller woman was disturbing.
I don’t know if I ever want to snowboard at any Vail Resorts property ever again after how my son and I were treated, but I do know that I for sure would never want to contact their security personnel for any reason. The security team at Northstar seemed more concerned about exercising their power, rather than prioritizing people’s safety…
Northstar security told me that if I called police to the resort to report being assaulted, they would take my Vail Resorts Epic pass away permanently and that the police would be angry with me for bothering them. The next day, Northstar took my pass away anyway.
(When I filed a police report, the police officer told me he was extremely upset that Northstar would scare me into not calling the police, and that the resort tries to govern itself by not reporting assaults. The officer also said that he is called to Northstar resort ALL the time — that Northstar Resort keeps him in business — and that there is a group of men in their terrain park that he deals with constantly. There are obviously some major safety issues going on at Northstar, which explains why they don’t want more police at the resort. Because these issues were ongoing long before I was assaulted in their park, Northstar absolutely knew about the dangerous environment they were harboring. When I mentioned this to customer service on the phone, the customer service employee admitted Northstar has many problems with safety in their park, but said these things take time to fix.)
I’ve been my son Wesley’s snowboarding chaperone since he was a toddler.
He’s only 9. All he could do is watch as his mother was attacked. We were supposed to be on a 2 week trip to Lake Tahoe for Wes to be photographed and filmed there.
People say Wesley is fearless on a snowboard…
…but Wes told me he’s never been so afraid.
The stress of watching that guy beat up his mom and how Northstar’s all male security team responded made Wesley get sick. He threw up for an entire night and couldn’t eat. He curled up in a giant bean bag and watched YouTube snowboarding and skating videos for two days. He will remember how scared and helpless he felt, and that nobody protected us, for the rest of his life.
His practice and filming schedule will have trouble going on without his mom to take him on the mountains. Wesley is being indirectly punished as a result of Northstar’s decision to punish me.
Vail Resorts knows how Northstar handled this incident, and has done nothing to intervene. Vail Resorts is directly condoning violence against women and victim blaming.
Wesley doesn’t understand how his mom can get beat up and the people at Vail Resorts say it’s her fault.
To Wesley and me, Vail Resorts is saying that it’s OK to hit a woman; to beat up a woman… Northstar originally told us the man who attacked me was banned along with me. Yesterday we found out that he received minor disciplinary action and is still snowboarding around Northstar.
Let that sink in.
I’ve been told I’m banned from all Vail Resorts properties in the entire world. Northstar blamed me for “causing” an adult man’s violent behavior. They even said, “Well, you know how those snowboarder guys are.”
My sons and many of my friends are snowboarder guys. They would NEVER endanger a child. They would NEVER assault a woman.
I often travel alone with Wesley for snowboarding. For the first time in 7 seasons of snowboarding, I don’t feel safe traveling alone with him. Yeah, it was scary being assaulted, and it hurt being punched in the face… but how would you feel if the people who were supposed to show up to protect you put you through hell when all you and your child wanted was to feel safe again? That’s the part my brain can’t process and I’ve experienced a ton of anxiety due to how Northstar treated me — and the fact that Vail Resorts knows what happened and condones the whole thing.
We aren’t an independently wealthy family. We live in the Midwest with our four children, but save and plan year round to afford for Wesley to train on mountains and for me to accompany him. As I sit here writing this, I’m with Wesley in Colorado. We planned and paid for a month long trip here using Wesley’s sponsorship dollars and our own money. I can’t take Wesley snowboarding. I have no pass. I’m left bumming my child off on friends, or — when friends aren’t around — letting him lap the terrain park as I stand at the bottom praying he doesn’t get hurt while he’s alone spinning and flipping off huge jumps. I explained this to Beth Howard, the C.O.O. of Northstar, and begged her to please reinstate my pass because my 9 year-old son is not safe snowboarding alone. “Sorry for the inconvenience to your family,” was her reply.
Northstar customer service finally told me that the pass I paid for would not be reinstated, but I could buy day passes at the ticket window if I needed to chaperone Wes (at a cost of $170 per day at Breckenridge… totaling $5,100 for the month we’re here). I have no money for that. Our money was budgeted toward a season pass I was supposed to be able to use.
I’m in shock that Vail Resorts could think any of this is okay. I’m in shock that Beth Howard, C.O.O. of Northstar, could think any of this is okay.
Vail Resorts will continue to treat people — their paying customers — like this unless it hurts their bottom dollar. If families start refusing to vacation at Vail Resorts Properties because things like mothers getting beat up in front of their child then thrown out of the resort happen, maybe Vail will start to care how they treat people. Right now they don’t.
A few days after I was assaulted, Wesley and I went by ourselves to Alpine Meadows at Lake Tahoe so he could practice, but I couldn’t get in the lift line. I sat down on a bench and started to cry. Wesley asked me what’s wrong.
I said I was sorry but that I was afraid. My brain was telling me DANGER when I saw male snowboarders and employees I didn’t know, and I was afraid to stand near them in the lift line (a lift line is where I was assaulted).
But I needed to take Wesley up that lift, so I took a few deep breaths, wiped my eyes, stood, and skated into the lift line with him.
I asked Wesley for his input when I was writing this. One of the things I asked him is how he would describe his mom. Words like “scared”, “helpless”, and “weak” were coming to my mind as I waited for his response.
“Brave,” he said. “My mom is brave.”
I once carried 4 year-old Wesley on my back up part of the East Cliff Wall at Arapahoe Basin. Now he’s 9 and he’s carrying me.
End note: Two days after the assault (February 27th), I sent the email below to Vail Resorts’ corporate. I received a response 10 days later saying that my email had been forwarded to Northstar. On March 15th, I emailed the Executive Board of Directors at Vail and have received no response at this time. On March 16th, the C.O.O. of Northstar called me and told me that Northstar stands behind how they handled the incident.
As I was telling the C.O.O. (on the phone) how the lift operator and security team treated me, she asked me if all her employees treated me badly. No, they did not. There’s a man named Howard who works in customer service who acted with respect and concern for my son and me. I spoke with him many times on the phone. He tried everything he could to help Northstar see they had made a mistake in how their security team handled the incident and in how they had treated me. Howard, thank you so much for caring about what happened to my son and me. You will never know how much it means to us.
(A copy of my email follows)
Hi Kelly [Ladyga],
I’m a mother of four from Iowa who snowboards with my kids (I blog about it here www.shredmom.com).
I’m very concerned with how NorthStar resort handled a violence issue. I was assaulted, threatened and punched in the face by an adult male snowboarder in front of my child on Thursday at Northstar.
Staff at Northstar discouraged me from calling the police to report the assault by saying that the police would be angry at me for bothering them and that Northstar would take my pass away if I called the police.
On Friday, I called the resort and was told that my pass has been revoked for the rest of the season and I am banned from all Vail Resorts. When the violent attack I underwent in front of my 9 year-old son was mentioned, your staff said, “Well… you know how those snowboarder guys are.”
Overall, I feel that this incident was handled very poorly and the ramifications of that are unfair.
I’ve been snowboarding with my kids in terrain parks for years, and have never come across ANY environment such as the one we encountered at NorthStar. I had to ride through and inhale a cloud of marijauna smoke with my child each time we exited the lift and entered the top of the park. The snowboarders were out of control, dangerous, and belligerent… my 9 year-old son was screamed at while trying to use the park features. He was clearly unwelcome there because of his age, despite being a talented up and coming rider (he’s previously filmed a segment for The Today Show at your Breckenridge resort). He was cut off by multiple reckless snowboarders while spinning off large jumps, causing him to crash badly. He was cut off trying to use the halfpipe — the adult snowboarders wouldn’t let him take his turn. Finally, my son was nearly knocked off the deck of the halfpipe by an adult male snowboarder who purposely rode full speed at my son, screamed, “WATCH OUT, KID!” and almost knocked my son off the deck to the ground 20 feet below. When I went to ask this snowboarder to ride under control is when he assaulted, threatened and punched me.
The fact that I was banned along with the adult male who attacked me is outrageous. [We have since learned the man who attacked me was not banned from Northstar.] Snowboarding at NorthStar has ruined our entire trip to Tahoe. We haven’t been able to snowboard because of my pass being pulled (my son cannot go on a mountain alone at age 9). We aren’t concerned with being able to return to Northstar, however, we are really upset with how this will affect the rest of our season. We have a month-long trip to Colorado planned so that Wesley can train and practice and film the footage his sponsors need for their websites and social media. We were planing to spend three of those weeks at other Vail resorts and even have a condo already booked and paid for. Our family saves year round so our son can train, and he sacrifices by being home schooled for a portion of the year because he loves this sport. There is no way he can continue his training/filming schedule for the spring without my presence.
I would appreciate it if Vail Resorts would treat this attack with the seriousness it deserves and take action to resolve this situation, as well as to make the park at Northstar a safe environment where snowboarders of all ages are welcome.
I HATE the cheerleader song. Absolutely loathe and HATE IT. If you haven’t heard this song on the radio, here’s a sample of the lyrics:
“Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader
She is always right there when I need her
Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader
She is always right there when I need her
She walks like a model
She grants my wishes
Like a genie in a bottle
‘Cause I’m the wizard of love
And I got the magic wand
All these other girls are tempting
But I’m empty when you’re gone”
It’s an entire song about an entitled, self serving man being so happy he found a woman who will cater to his needs. GAHHHHHHHHHH!
After everything women have fought for in the past hundred years — after struggling against stereotypes, gender roles, and the idea that women were put on Earth solely to serve men; after fighting for the right to work and for equal pay; after fighting sexual harassment and domestic violence — someone writes a song like this. SMH.
I guess there will always be those who tell women, “Get back in your place!”
Um, wait. What are you talking about?! You yourself are a stay at home wife and mother!
Why, yes — I am. And I thank all the women who fought for equality, so I may choose the path I feel best serves my own family at this time, instead of being forced into whatever place I’m told to serve in; later, I may choose a different calling. Freedom is so nice!
Anyway, back to the song. I’ve been going on sort of a rampage about this song. It began to play on the radio in the car one day, and my nine year-old started singing along, then announced, “I love this song!” (Normally, I switch the station if that song comes on — swear words and everything else on the radio be damned, but when a song encouraging young women to be cheerleaders so they please men comes on, the station is getting changed — but I must have been distracted and not noticed what song was playing.)
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Now we needed to have a conversation. “Wesley,” I said patiently. “Would you like to sit on the sidelines and never do or play anything yourself and just cheer someone else on? Would that be fun?”
“No. That would suck,” he replied.
“Okay. Then please do not ever expect any girl or woman to just sit around and cheer you on and never do anything herself.”
“I wouldn’t, Mom. It’s just a catchy beat.”
Phew. I’m raising conscientious young men after all. I’m good… I’m good now… I can breathe.
You see, my problem isn’t with the idea of servitude or encouraging your partner. Men and women are called to mutual servitude in relationships, and without mutual service and sacrifice, most relationships and families are probably going nowhere good. My problem is when it’s 100% put on the woman to serve and sacrifice all, to make the man happy — as he serves himself, too. Ergo, my dislike for the song. The singer talks about being tempted to cheat on the woman, but he decides not to because his woman serves him so well. What a gallant fellow. And what a horrible message for women! Do we really want women who’ve been cheated on to think that if they were just better wives or girlfriends who served their man more diligently, he wouldn’t have cheated on them??? Why can’t a guy sing a song about a woman who is really smart or who snowboards really well? I could get behind that song!
The idea that women should live to make men happy irregardless of how those men treat them is a troubling theme in our culture. Not to mention that what defines true manhood is the sacrificial assumption of responsibility. I don’t know where the idea that manhood means picking up, using, and tossing aside as many women as possible came from (Hugh Hefner maybe? Great role model!), for there is nothing of manhood to be found in walking that path.
I was at it again during dinner the other Friday night, explaining — to my older boys and their friends — everything that is wrong with the cheerleader song and why I really really hate it. I’m fairly confident — but not completely certain — their friends left the dinner table without thinking Devin and Wesley’s mom has some cuckoo conversations at her house. But maybe they did think that. I don’t know. I do know I haven’t scared any of their friends away yet, because they all seem to love coming back — and I’m happy to feed them so long as I can tell them which pop music songs are really messed up (and I grew up with Britney and Eminem for pop role models, so if I’m saying a song is messed up, considering what I grew up with– it’s messed up! That song about, “I don’t have money to pay my rent, but I’m gonna get up in this club and have a good time before my time is up…” No! You’re not! Because that’s totally irresponsible! So get your butt outta da’ club and go figure out how to pay your rent!!! Or tomorrow, when you wake up from your hangover, you’re gonna have even bigger problems. I may have told my kids’ and their friends my opinion of that song, too.)
This morning, a terrible thing happened. I may have failed as a mother. My daughter, as she ate her chocolate chip muffin for breakfast, informed me, “Mommy, I’m going to be a cheerleader!”
?????!!!!!! When HELL. FREEZES. OVER. But I didn’t say that to her, of course. “Honey, you don’t want to be a cheerleader. That’s no fun. You want to play sports and do math competitions.”
“Yep. I’m gonna be a cheerleader. And my brother Tristan’s gonna be one. And my daddy’s gonna be one. We’re all gonna be cheerleaders!” She grinned.
Okay. My daughter has not been indoctrinated into the culture of madness yet. She doesn’t know that boys generally aren’t cheerleaders, or even what a cheerleader is. She’s just been hearing the word cheerleader discussed too much at dinner, and so she thinks her and her dad are going to be ones.
Have you seen the movie Little Giants? It was popular when I was growing up. Becky “The Icebox” was an amazing football player, who had a crush on the quarterback. When the quarterback liked Debbie the ditz, Becky questioned whether or not she should change who she was for a boy. In the end, she decided to be herself, and led her football team to victory.
That’s MY daughter. Becky “The Icebox”. She will know to be true to herself. And her brothers will know that they should never expect a woman to be any less. (If my dinnertime pop song rantings have anything to do with it, anyway.) And yes, you can wear cute boots while you play football — she wouldn’t be like her mommy if she didn’t 😉
I have needed to make this apology for half of my life.
I’ve tried to find the person I needed to apologize to on Facebook, but finding someone named “Abby Anderson” on Facebook is harder than finding Waldo. I couldn’t ever find the right person.
Mrs. Anderson was my high school choir teacher. We met my freshman year. And I acted like a brat. I’m not sure why, because I’m not normally a mean person. I’m sure I was as self-absorbed as many teenagers are. If I had to figure out exactly why I behaved the way I did, I couldn’t even say. I’m sure I’m not the first former student to owe a teacher an apology and I won’t be the last. But I owe it, nonetheless.
Mrs. Anderson had a way of pulling shy, awkward, or picked on kids out of their shells through music. She fussed over them and made them feel special. I wasn’t a shy or awkward kid. I wasn’t picked on. I was pretty (though I didn’t feel particularly pretty) and athletic. I did well in school. I had a pretty singing voice. Outwardly, I looked like a popular, successful student. Inwardly, my self esteem suffered terribly. I wished I was one of the students that Mrs. Anderson fussed over.
But how could anyone have known I needed to be pulled out of my shell? I made sure the appearance of my shell was perfect, though I struggled with things no one could see. Of course they couldn’t see them. I would never let anyone see that I wasn’t perfect, and the pressure I put on myself wore on me. We all have our different ways of coping with things. Some use drugs or alcohol, food or lack of food, cut themselves, etc… and some of us become obsessed with being perfect. In my opinion, this can be just as much an unhealthy behavior as any other method of “self medication”, but we tend to accept obsessive perfectionism as just the way someone is. I don’t know about other perfectionists, but the more outwardly perfect I appeared, the more inwardly down on myself I was.
I’m not sure how many other people have this habit, but I’ve come across it in my marriage, too. I appear happy and fine to my husband, meanwhile, I’m inwardly struggling with X and Y, and he hasn’t a clue — but I expect him to know exactly how I’m feeling and exactly what to do. It doesn’t count if I tell him. Did you hear that, Chris? You’re supposed to know! Maybe this is a trait of being too proud to admit anything is wrong, or maybe it’s a female trait. I don’t know.
I think I was jealous of the attention some of my peers received. The longer I live, the more I notice that when people are very mean, jealousy is often the cause. Not that jealousy in any way excuses the way I behaved. There’s no excuse really. And apologizing, especially publicly, is so. freaking. hard. to do. Does anyone like apologizing? Apologizing requires humility. It requires the death of the ego… to admit we were wrong about things we would rather maybe forget. But I’m a Catholic, so I ought to be able to make a good confession here, right?
At the end of my freshman year, Mrs. Anderson asked for anonymous critiques about her class and how the year had gone. Mine was not nice. It was downright mean. To say anymore would be too awfully embarrassing. I can’t believe I could ever be so hurtful. Mrs. Anderson figured out it was me who wrote it, which made me want to cry. I wished I hadn’t wrote it, at the same time as not even understanding why I wrote it.
Fortunately, Mrs. Anderson gave me the benefit of the doubt and I remained her student. She didn’t treat me any differently after. She selected me to be on the Madrigals head table for the following year, and encouraged me to do solo and ensemble. I continued to love singing in choir, and remained in chorus throughout high school.
My junior year, I again found reasons to be unhappy and mean to Mrs. Anderson. She was adopting a baby from a foreign country that year, and during class, we would sometimes talk about the adoption. One day during class we had a baby shower for her, and one day we watched the video of her welcoming her new daughter home. Having never been a mother, I didn’t get it. I complained to my peers about spending class time on baby stuff. I started writing down all the things that made me unhappy during choir. I don’t even want to admit it, but I said I wished she would get fired. (What the heck was wrong with me?!) Mrs. Anderson heard about it, and her feelings were terribly hurt. Who wouldn’t be hurt? I should have been happy for Mrs. Anderson, but all I could do was complain and be difficult.
[I should say here that I was the last person I ever would have imagined as a mother. I was going to sing in a band or play sports in college or be a chemical engineer. I didn’t get the whole mother thing AT ALL. I wasn’t even a good babysitter. I would NOT have hired my high school self to babysit my children! I didn’t understand kids and I didn’t want them. I didn’t want to talk about them in choir. Still not an excuse.]
Mrs. Anderson spoke to me about my most recent conduct, which could have been straight out of the movie Mean Girls. I think I cried. I think she cried. We were okay after that. Mrs. A. still didn’t kick me out of her class or treat me differently. She chose me to sing a solo at the Christmas concert and again chose me for the head Madrigal table. She still loved me, despite my completely atrocious actions. When I think of the patience that some teachers have, and the terrible way that students treat them… and yet they don’t give up on those students, it brings tears to my eyes.
I don’t think anyone who knows me now or sees me on a regular basis… anyone who sees me parent my kids, or volunteer somewhere, or coach baseball, or teach snowboard lessons, could ever imagine that I acted like such a brat to my high school choir teacher. I did. It’s humiliating to admit. But my humiliation really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I want her to know how sorry I am. I have wanted to say sorry for so many years.
The spring of my junior year I became pregnant with my first child. I was scared and felt very alone. Everyone around me was telling me that I couldn’t be a good mom. That I wasn’t ready. Nurses and a doctor pressured me to have an abortion. Others told me I needed to give my baby up for adoption. The number of people who told me my future was ruined thanks to my pregnancy was depressing. And though I never wanted to be a mother and had never imagined myself as one, all I wanted was to mother the little person growing inside me.
But it was hard. I was tired. People were whispering about me and staring at my belly, though no pregnancy belly existed yet. I was having problems with dizziness and fainting in my first trimester, so I went in Mrs. Anderson’s office one day to explain that I was pregnant and ask her if I could sit in a chair during choir instead of stand. I expected another mean comment, like the ones I’d received from others — though I should have known better. Maybe I thought I deserved a mean comment.
But no mean comment was forthcoming. Mrs. Anderson — a new mother herself — smiled at me, and whatever emotion she meant to convey, I got the impression that she was happy for me. Not happy for me to go through being a pregnant teen. But happy for me to be a mother. I have to tell you that in the ocean of disappointed looks, dismay, and predictions of the ruination of my life, I welcomed her happy and supportive reaction. She told me congratulations. I felt she was looking out for me.
I have long been an advocate for better treatment of pregnant women, and though I didn’t plan for my apology to include this, I feel like I need to say it. Our culture should be ashamed of the lack of support we give pregnant women. The way we blame them. The way we view them as burdens. The way we take them to a clinic and pressure them to make a choice, as if that choice will never again affect them. The way we shame them and act like they climbed on top of themselves and got themselves pregnant. Perhaps, if we changed the way we treat pregnant teens and young women, they wouldn’t feel alone and desperate at a time when they already feel vulnerable from pregnancy.
If Mrs. Anderson — who didn’t owe me anything, who I’d probably nearly driven crazy — could see the light in my pregnancy in the sea of people who could see only darkness, I could begin to see the light, too. From that moment on, I was so strong that no comments could affect me, no stares could kill my happiness. I was going to be a mother, and I was going to be a good one.
I don’t think I deserved to be treated so kindly by Mrs. Anderson after what a pain in the ass I was. But if I think about it, none of us really “deserve” anything, yet time and again, we are lifted up by the kindness of people like Abby Anderson. (God’s work. Our hands.) I’m so glad she didn’t give up on me. I hope I am on my way to becoming a person who lifts others up.
The other day, one of my former classmates tagged me on Facebook in some high school Madrigal pictures. I looked closer at the pictures. Abby Anderson had posted them. Oh my gosh! It was Mrs. Anderson! She probably wished my classmate hadn’t tagged me. I knew I was a terrible memory in her time spent teaching at Sycamore High School. Maybe she forgot who I was and what I did. I could only hope. Then Mrs. Anderson friended me, and a short while later, I knew it was time to apologize. Her daughter, Sophie, is just a little older than my oldest child (I’ve gone on to become a mother of four. Mothering has healed my heart from adolescent pain like I never knew it could. And I can actually say that I think I’m a fantastic — not perfect — mother, despite always knowing growing up that I would make a terrible one!)
So that was a long way of getting to it, but here is my apology: Mrs. Anderson, I am truly sorry for how I acted in your class, and truly grateful that you always showed love and acceptance in return. I hope you can forgive me, but I sort of feel like you forgave me long before I apologized. You made a very real and huge difference in the way I viewed my teenage pregnant self. I guess I WAS one of the students you fussed over in the end.
I don’t think you ever got to meet him, but this is Devin: my first child — the child you were happy for me about when I didn’t know I was allowed to be. He would love to be in your class. He’s in his football uniform here, but music is his first love… he plays piano, trombone, drums, and a little bit of guitar; recently he played the part of the Beast in his school musical (Beauty and the Beast). He competes in history bees, loves writing computer code, he’s taller than me now, he’s a wonderful big brother, he was a groomsman in my wedding, I’m proud to say he has more manners than his mom did in high school… and of course, he sings in choir.
I understand now the joy of being a mother, and I know you must be as proud of Sophie as I am of Devin.
Groomsman Devin escorting my bridesmaid, Nicky, down the aisle at our wedding.
I haven’t owned a bicycle since I was 11 years old. I always wanted to inline skate instead of bike, and kept up with my biking family just fine on my rollerblades. When my kids started biking, I chose to run beside them rather than ride a bike of my own. I wanted the strenuous cardio workout and the runner’s high that went with it. I still want the strenuous cardio workout… however, someone hit my car during my last pregnancy and it’s left me in chronic pain… so — 20 years after owning my last bicycle, I’m putting away my inline skates and running shoes (temporarily, I hope) and trusting that biking will be a less painful way to exercise while I continue trying to heal.
Naturally, the first step in this new plan was a trip to the bike shop. My husband, who also didn’t own a bike for many years, recently got a mountain bike and baby trailer to pull our two youngest children around in. Our eventual goal is to live in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado (though we’re in relatively flat Iowa at the moment) so I wanted a mountain bike as well.
I had picked out two mountain bikes that were really comfortable, and — as a bonus — they each had some type of blue (my favorite color) on them. The bicycle salesmen had a different idea about what kind of bike I should purchase, though. He led me away from the mountain bikes and over to the road bikes and hybrids. Then he told me that I would want something more efficient and easier to pedal than a mountain bike.
Huh? The whole point of this bike would be to get a workout. Why would I want an easier to pedal bike? Another minute of conversation revealed he had decided that, because of the size difference between my husband and I…
…I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him… as he biked while pulling a trailer carrying two children in it.
Telling the salesman that I would be fine on a mountain bike, I turned away from the road bike he held out to me. He responded by telling me that my husband would have to repeatedly slow down to wait for me and biking just wouldn’t be as much fun for him… he again steered me toward what he called the “more efficient” bikes. I did not want a road or hybrid bike. I wanted a mountain bike. The salesman continued to tell me that I wouldn’t keep up with my husband if I got a mountain bike (and yes, the salesman knew my husband was pulling a trailer with two kids in it).
“I can kick my husband’s butt in snowboarding, distance running, and rollerblading, so I’m pretty sure I can keep up with him as he bikes pulling two toddlers in a trailer,” I blurted out. Oops. That didn’t sound the nicest. But geez! If I wanted a mountain bike, I wanted a mountain bike!
I know the salesman thought he was helping and that my petite frame could never keep up with my 6’4″ husband (he was wrong). It’s not that my husband isn’t athletic. He’s very athletic. But I’m very athletic, too. Defending my athleticism in order to be deemed worthy to purchase a mountain bike was trying my patience!
(My husband was on the other side of the store chasing our toddler daughter while this was going on, so he didn’t hear my ‘I can kick my husband’s butt’ remark. I think he gets an email every time I post something on my blog, though. Sorry, honey! I had to defend my athletic honor. I admit you can kick my butt at football and basketball!)
No Doubt started playing in my head…
‘Cause I’m just a girl, little ‘ol me
Don’t let me out of your sight
I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights
Oh…I’ve had it up to here!
I ignored the salesman’s recommendation and got the bike I wanted. I’m really happy with it. Except I’ve got to slow down to wait for my husband all the time, which makes biking just not as fun of an experience for me — just kidding!!! We ride side by side on the bike path with him pulling the trailer. (Although, the first day, I did indignantly peddle as furiously as I could and got way ahead. Had to show that bicycle salesman who was not there! This time Rihanna’s Shut Up and Drive was playing in my head. I was very tired afterward, and most people would wonder why I needed to show a person who was not there that I could do it. It makes sense in my head.)
It’s been a week since we were at the bike shop, and we’ve been taking a bike ride together with our kids every afternoon. I miss running and skating, but I have to admit, biking is a really nice way to exercise and spend time with your significant other!
My small children escaped yesterday and, for 5 minutes, I held the title of “World’s Worst Mom”. (After 5 minutes, a drunk mother somewhere forgot to feed her children dinner and then locked them in a closet so the title was all hers.)
My older 2 boys were off school and all 4 kids were in the family room watching a cartoon. We were planning to go to the recreation area and walk on some trails — my older boys said they were going to swim in the lake, too (nevermind it’s March in the Midwest and the lake is still covered with ice). As soon as they said that, almost 3 year-old Lainey refused to leave the house without her swimsuit as well. “I’m going to the beach! I need a swimsuit!” was the endless chorus.
I sighed and went upstairs to grab her swimsuit and a change of clothes for her and her little brother, Tristan (one and a half years). I didn’t realize it, but after I walked upstairs and into Lainey’s room, Devin (13) and Wesley (8) ran to their rooms (one upstairs and one in the basement) to put their swim trunks on. — they had high hopes of swimming in the ice lake. As I returned to the main level of our home, I noticed that 50% of my children were missing. You would think the 13 and 8 year old might have noticed this, but all they were noticing was cartoons…
“Where are Tristan and Lainey?” I was getting nervous. “Lainey!? Tristan?!” I began running around the downstairs calling for them.
“Oh… the front door was open when I came upstairs from the basement so I just closed it,” Devin revealed.
Oh no!!! Lainey had let her little brother out the front door! The three of us (me, Devin and Wesley) ran outside. There were no toddlers to be seen. How are they that fast?! I ran down the street, Devin ran up the street, and Wesley ran into the backyard, as we all called their names. Our next door neighbor has a pool, which is surrounded by a 6 foot locking fence, and I began to panic that somehow my toddlers found their way in, despite the fact that I could not find a way in.
Then life seemed to happen in slow motion. My sweet babies were running around the neighborhood. I couldn’t find them. Kidnappers had probably grabbed them by now. I had one arm on the gate and was getting ready to climb the neighbor’s 6 foot fence in my bare feet, when Wesley yelled that he heard Lainey’s voice and she was calling for help. I don’t know if that made me feel better or worse 🙁 I ran into the next backyard, and saw my baby Tristan sitting at the top of a backyard playground set, looking like he didn’t know what world he was in. Then I saw Lainey two more yards down looking through a fence at a little dog. Tears of relief streamed down my face.
Looking at Tristan and his confusion, I knew just what had happened… he followed Lainey out the door, as he always follows her. He followed her across backyards and climbed up the playset after her. But Lainey went down the slide before Tristan got to the top, and once Lainey disappeared, he looked around and knew he wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Ergo, the totally confused twilight zone look on his face when I lifted him off the play set.
Miss instigator was in no such state. Her calls for help had been because she wanted help getting to that little dog. She was delighted with herself and her big adventure, but NOT so delighted with the timeout in her room she received. (“But I’m sorry, Mommy. I will never run away again!”)
I should be used to moments like this… the ones where you can’t breathe because your heart is walking around in four bodies outside of you, and you don’t know if some of those bodies are okay. But I’m not used to these moments… these moments will always take my breath away. Tears are coming to my eyes again just writing about the fear I felt before I knew they were okay. I guess this is part of being a mother. I will worry about my children, their well being, and their safety, for the rest of my life.
Of course, the sort of children I have doesn’t help either (mine are of the “curiosity killed the cat” variety)… as we arrived at the recreation area and drove by the lake, Wesley announced that he didn’t care if the lake was full of ice, he was going to swim in it anyway. “Me, too! Me, too! I’m swimming in the ice, too!” Lainey echoed. Fortunately, the beach was closed, and we found a playground… Devin and Wesley jumped out of the car and started whacking each other with their pool noodles (yes, they were so convinced that an ice lake swim in March was happening that they brought their pool noodles). Lainey and Tristan played on the slide. They were all safe for the time being. Phew. Now if only I could follow them all through life protecting them every moment…
Today, I’m going to the home improvement store to buy a chain lock for the front door… maybe a motion detector, alarm, and stun laser system, too…
… When Wesley and his brother, Devin, read it [they signed themselves up for my email subscription list and always read my blog — I think they like reading about themselves and their siblings 😉 ] they looked at me, and 13 year-old Devin said, “Mom… You’re smart and tough and take good care of your kids. I want to be like you when I grow up!” (Then 8 year-old Wesley chimed in that it might be awesome if he could stay home with his kids one day.)
The reason it nearly brought me to tears, is not because I needed some compliments, but because we live in a world where telling a boy he does something “like a girl” is considered extremely insulting. Yet, somehow, these boys not only recognize that a female can do things really well, but look to their mother as one of their role models, and proudly admit that they would be happy to grow up to be like their mom. I’m speechless. And happy.
PS. I don’t think either of them will become a stay-at-home parent… they’re not fans of excessive amounts of cleaning 😉 I do believe they will be wonderful at whatever they choose to pursue!
PPS. Dear fellow parents… let’s raise our kids to recognize the inherent value in all of them — both male and female!
The Ellen Show called my son, Wesley, last week. Um, yes… The Ellen Show. I have no idea if it will go anywhere beyond that, but it was pretty cool to just get the phone call. As Wesley was interviewed on the phone about his love of snowboarding, I heard them ask him if he was ever afraid. “No,” was his immediate response.
“What do you tell yourself to not be afraid?” the producer then asked him.
“Nothing. I’m just not afraid.”
Wesley’s answer might be a little baffling to some, but not to his mother… I know exactly what he feels — or doesn’t feel.
I should probably explain that Wesley got a phone call from The Ellen Show because his 6 year-old snowboarding edit was played on television a short time ago. (He is 8 presently… having two more babies in the last couple years delayed me in mixing his edits together — I’m trying to get his 7 year-old footage from last spring mixed now.) I’ve been taking Wesley and his older brother out snowboarding since Wesley was 3 (we all learned to snowboard during the same winter, but I learned two months after my boys). Normally, the media, people on the slopes, and pretty much everyone who doesn’t know Wesley personally, assumes that Wesley must have some pro-snowboarder dad that pushed him into learning tricks very early. The truth is far from that… Wesley led the charge into the world of snowboarding. I had never snowboarded when he started (though I picked it up quickly and became a snowboard instructor the following winter). When Wesley’s 6 year-old edit was played on television, and the question of his supposed “pro-snowboarder dad” came up, they actually mentioned that it is Wesley’s mom who takes him out snowboarding all the time.
Yay!!! Thank you! Moms can be athletes, too, and they can pass their athleticism onto their daughters or sons…
I felt like it was a victory for athlete moms everywhere. Things are changing — and certainly aren’t like they used to be — but I’ve still experienced a great deal of being treated “like a girl” when I’ve tried to coach or help out at my sons’ athletic events. Not to mention some of the stares and comments I’ve gotten when I’ve showed up to referee a boys’ or men’s soccer match. I’ve been the head coach of my son’s baseball team, and had to fight to stay in that position as some of the team dads decided they had better take over for the little woman. After I taught all their sons to bat like champs, they backed off — but the initial assumption was that I didn’t know how to play baseball. I had to prove myself first. In fact, I’ve seen parents show more support for a male coach who has never played the sport he’s coaching, and knows nothing about it, over a female coach who played the sport her entire life. Another time, I showed up at my boys’ sporting event, where the two male coaches asked for parents to stay and help at practice. I was the only parent who stayed, but I was first ignored… then told they actually didn’t need any parents to help. I got the message. They didn’t need any women to help. And especially not miss five foot two long blond ponytail. Go away little girl. It was fun trying to explain to my boys why I wasn’t welcome at their practice.
[I want to mention here that the majority of men I’ve met in the sporting world fully accept and encourage women in sports, coaching and officiating. Thank you to all of you. You set an amazing example! Hopefully the naysayers will follow!]
I’ve been an intense, extremely competitive athlete my entire life. Though I admit to being a baby about some things — I cannot watch horror movies — physical pain never bothered me much; muscle fatigue and exhaustion only motivated me to push myself harder. I am of tiny stature compared to the majority of athletes, but regularly bested people twice my size in strength and endurance. Must have been my chi. I remember once getting called for a flagrant foul for boxing out too hard. I knocked a girl flying across the gym on her behind. I hadn’t meant to do that at all. I just knew she was not getting that rebound so I needed to back her out of the lane. Another time I was playing in a 3 on 3 basketball tournament. I sprained my ankle so badly I couldn’t walk — at all. I taped it as tight as I could, ignored the pain, and finished the tournament. We took 1st place. I turned down a full scholarship to play soccer in college, but played on a men’s adult league team throughout my twenties. My size, combined with playing against men, meant that I got the crap knocked out of me a lot. I always got up. After one game, my team’s opponents started joking that the men on my team were faster than me, but that I was tougher than them. My teammates laughed. They knew it was true, and they regularly got a kick out of our opponents expecting to run right by me, only to have me steal the ball and score a goal on them.
Which brings us full circle back to snowboarding… I learned to snowboard when I was 26, because Wesley loved it; I wanted to understand the sport, and be able to help him as best I could. I learned how to go off jumps, ride rails, butter, shred powder, moguls… I asked every question I could think of to everyone who would talk to me. I wanted to know about technique, board control, how to protect from injury — anything anyone would divulge. Then I became an instructor. I had heard that you never truly know how to do something until you can teach it to someone else. It’s true. Teaching lessons made me a better rider — I had to ride around with only one foot strapped into my bindings while I taught. Soon, 4 year-old Wesley was riding around with only one foot strapped into his bindings because he wanted to be like his mom.
Wesley started hitting jumps and riding rails at age 3 — almost as soon as he could balance on his board. In my second month of snowboarding, I began the same. Over the next couple years, I crashed and smashed my way through learning snowboard tricks. I displaced my kneecap on a corrugated pipe. I bruised my shoulder sliding out on the landing of a big air jump. It was painful, it was exhausting, and it motivated me to try harder. I was proud of myself the day I gapped a large handrail… jumping, then landing in the middle of the four inch wide metal rail, and riding the rest of it down. I did it twice, perfectly. I landed some of the big air jumps in Colorado. Sometimes I fell. Many times Wesley did much better than I, and, after kicking butt in sports for years, I had to accept that my preschooler was kicking mine….
Probably the most brave (or stupid) thing I did on my snowboard was when I started — at the age of 27 — learning to spin off jumps. I had 180s down, and was determined to land a full rotation. All summer, I had practiced it while jumping on the trampoline with my kids. I was done teaching lessons for the evening, and my kids weren’t at the snowhill with me… it was the perfect time to practice. On my second try, I crashed hard. It was my darn shoulder again, and it was bad. Holy heck, had I broken my collar bone? I could get up and walk so probably not, but my shoulder was throbbing incessantly. I also had almost landed my 360, but caught my edge at the last second. I knew I could land it, but my shoulder was screaming. This trick was important to me. I had worked hard, and could NOT give up when I was almost there.
As a serious athlete, I’m hyper aware of what I put into my body. It’s not that I’m entirely against junk food, or caffeine, or alcohol, but I don’t normally consume a lot of junk food, or any kind of drug. My health affects the performance of my athlete’s body, so I’m pretty disciplined about what I choose to put into that body.
My shoulder throbbed worse as I rode up the chairlift and dragged myself into the lodge. I walked up to the bar and ordered a shot of vodka. The bar tender was shocked. I’m normally a hot chocolate or water kind of girl. But I knew the alcohol would numb the pain. Still, I stared at the shot for ten minutes. I hate the taste of hard liquor. I also hate what I know it does to my insides. How badly did I want to land my 360 before I went home to take care of my wrecked shoulder? I closed my eyes and swallowed it down as quickly as possible. The throbbing in my shoulder lessened. I went outside and threw down the best and last 360 I’ve ever done. (It was the last because I needed the personal satisfaction of knowing I could do it, but did not need another shoulder injury. It was also around the time I met my husband, who said he liked my collar bones the way they were.)
Last week, on the way to snowboard practice, I told Wesley he shouldn’t put drugs or alcohol in his body when he’s older, because it will affect his decisions, health and athletic performance negatively, and he certainly should never drink while he’s snowboarding, because it will impair his judgment and he could be seriously hurt. (Does a non-drinker taking a shot to dull excruciating pain count as drinking while snowboarding? Maybe I’m a hypocrite…)
I have pushed through physical pain and exhaustion my entire life. I don’t know another way. I had a childhood full of playing hard.
Now my second child is fearless on his snowboard. The time he broke his arm — at age 4 — comes to mind. As the paramedics wheeled him into the ER on a stretcher, I was horrified. I was with him in the terrain park when he crashed, and the whole debacle had caused me to panic and burst into tears (though I can handle my own physical pain, the pain of my children is another story). I felt like the world’s worst mom for letting him participate in such a sport, as well as helpless at not being able to do anything for him. Wesley lay on his stretcher, and turned his head toward me. “Mom?”
“Yes, honey?” I stroked his hair.
“Next time I’m going to land that jump!”
Six weeks later, 4 year-old Wesley was back on his snowboard — cast on his arm and all — and qualified to compete in Nationals that year.
I guess I understand Wesley like nobody does. I could try to protect him as much as I want, but could never protect him from his own determination. It’s in his heart, and it’s in his blood. And it’s my fault, because it’s in my blood, too. Wesley is just not afraid.
He gets it from his mother… and that’s okay.
— Chi is the vital energy that is held to animate the body internally and is of central importance in some Eastern systems of medical treatment (as acupuncture) and of exercise or self-defense (as tai chi).
My boys and I just returned from a weekend of riding and competing at Tyrol Basin near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin. Well, I wasn’t the one competing, but I did freeze my toes off watching — it counts!
My toes were the only thing that froze, though (new snowboard boots are on my grocery list, but I’ll probably have to venture further than the grocery store to pick them up). This is not my complete review of Boulder Gear, and why I love their outerwear, just a quick post before I go to bed (it was a looooong weekend, and a loooooonger drive home). It arrived just in time for our weekend trip, and I credit the new gear with keeping the rest of me toasty warm, despite my cold boots problem. Also, it’s amazingly pretty. Like, just beautiful. I love the colors and the unique pattern. No one on the slope had anything like it. (Please pardon my messy hair; the wind was blowing in it all day. Also, I just realized my neck gaiter is way too ugly to go with this outerwear. If it wasn’t so cold, my vanity would have prevailed and I would have removed the gaiter.)
Our entire family has been wearing Boulder Gear outerwear for the past 3 years, (ever since we discovered it). They have a line for little ones called Snow Dragons, too, that’s just adorable. Besides for looking amazing and being really warm — their prices are awesome. And when you’re buying outwear for an entire family (ours is a family of six), price is always a consideration. More on this outerwear later (if I don’t get some sleep, I might fall over on my keyboard, and then all you’d be reading is asdfndkvndfbk;ldfhi;argjrgbrjbnfdbfibjrignmdfhri and hopefully my husband would find me and tell me to stop sleeping on my keyboard — or even better, carry me up to my bed as I snored).
While I’m mentioning things I love, I should probably thank my husband for sponsoring my fun, too. So thank you, Boulder Gear, for the oh-so-pretty, warm, and affordable outerwear, and thank you dear husband for sponsoring our shred life, the shred lives of our kids, and only occasionally telling me that “the fun committee [me] needs to check in with the budget committee [him]”. I love you.
Here are 8 year-old Wesley and me (no age need be mentioned) in our Boulder Gear after his Slopestyle competition on Saturday; and Wesley (in blue this time) grabbing, spinning, and stomping his backside 360s on Sunday after Tyrol Basin Freestyle Team practice. Recently turned 13 year-old Devin was also wearing new outerwear from Boulder Gear, but was writing computer code inside the lodge and could not tear himself away from his Ipad. Teenagers. (It’s okay, I don’t complain when he’s fixing my PC for me.) I’ll sneak a picture of him soon… 😉
Kids have been learning to ski since they started walking for a long time. It was once thought that small children weren’t strong enough to snowboard, but that theory has been proven wrong. Check out one and a half year old Lainey learning to snowboard last winter. She had a blast and so did I!