On Chocolate Cake, Cars + Chairlifts

The cake kinda looked like this, but no shavings on top. This is definitely more gourmet than my City Market purchase.


Last Tuesday afternoon, I went for my first run in weeks.

The nervey ball of nerves that won't unwind in my right hamstring and glute was less angry, so I was smiling. In fact, the whole situation felt positively luxurious: running around 4 pm, not 5 am; maintaining the perfect temperature thanks to the right clothing choices combined with the Colorado sun; listening to Sun in an Empty Room, by the Weakerthans; launching from and landing in a quiet house. (My family was already in the mountains at my mom's house, where I'd join them Wednesday.)

This is really my Christmas present, I thought to myself.

About 35 minutes into the run, I stopped at a traffic light to cross a six-lane road, not insigificant in size or traffic. I waited for the little white man to illuminate to show me I was safe to cross, so I stepped into the street; I was running with traffic, not against it, because the other side of the street didn't have a sidewalk.

A black car whose driver evidently didn't see my 6'4" body in the crosswalk gunned a right turn directly behind me.

My quad felt like it was millimeters from the front bumper. My hand grazed his rearview window. I felt a draft from the car's momentum. The wheels didn't squeal in real life, but in my memory, they did. I felt like I saw the driver and his passenger laugh or act otherwise unremorseful, but I may be making that up. He definitely didn't do one of those "I'm really sorry" waves one does when you make a bad driving decision.

What I'm not making up: I stood in the middle of a six-lane road, and yelled "REALLY?" I wanted somebody to get out of their car and be outraged with me. It didn't happen.

SoI shuffled along, and within 15 seconds, I felt more scared than I can ever remember feeling as an adult. I saw myself on the pavement, completely splayed out. I saw random people calling 911. I saw myself in the hospital, in a wheelchair, in a coma, in other scenarios I don't want to type. I saw my family living without me.

I came home, tweeted about it because my house was empty and I needed human connection. I didn't have much of an appetite. Later, I half-watched, half-drooled through The West Wing at 2 a.m. because sleep was not happening.

Although I've had close calls running and riding my bike, this one felt too reckless and too real.

Fast foward to Thursday morning. The small ski resort near my mom's house has an awful accident. A 40-year-old mom is on a chairlift with her 9- and 12-year-old daughters. I don't know exactly what happened—the investigation is ongoing—but they all fell 20 feet from the lift. The mom died. One child is fine, and one child is still in the hospital. As a skiing mom of skiing 10- and 13-year-olds who has ridden that lift countless times, I just...ugh.

The one-two car-charilift punch echoed like a true fist to my gut, break in my heart. Rationally, I know tragedy and death happens every second, but there's a difference between hearing a news story about Syria or reading about a friend of a friend on Facebook and intimately feeling mortal.

I'd like to say I was able to maturely process my emotions amidst the Christmas hangover, family dynamics, minimal exercise, maximal sugar and wine, but I couldn't. I was teary, snappy, and not very merry. I wanted to know the details of the chairlift accident, but I really didn't. I kept feeling my pinky graze the rearview mirror. I couldn't focus for longer than one game of Exploding Kittens, the surprise hit of Christmas.

Thursday afternoon, I dragged my 13-year-old to the grocery store with me. "Come on," I said, "I just want to hang out with you." She rolled her eyes and put on her Chuck Taylors. The seven-minute drive there was silent, and once we entered the store, I sent her off to find pasta. We reconnected, and I said, "Let's find something good for dessert," turning the cart for the bakery section, where the scent of sugar just hangs in the air. The whole house had tired of Christmas cookies decorated with red hots that may or may not have been touched by nose-picking toddlers.

Even though, on the 29th of December, the last thing anybody physically needs is a dessert from the bakery of City Market, a brick of cake—three layers of frosting, three of cake—is exactly what I needed. I just didn't know it until I saw a row of them sitting in a case.

I tried to buy carrot cake first, but my daughter did not condone that flavor. We settled on chocolate, the variety you'd find in an office break room and not decline. Not home-baked with love, but definitely good enough to justify the eating the whole piece.

"Muti (her grandma/my mom) will not approve," my daughter said, picking it up and cracking a smile in I don't know how long. "I know," I said, laughing, "Which is why it is perfect." I carried it like a beautiful silver serving platter over to the DIY checkout.

It rang up onsale—$3 off!—which further affirmed the righteousness of the purchase. Back at home, it sat proudly on the kitchen counter, prompting questions, laughs, family memories of other slices of chocolate cake too boring to go into here.

We all had a slice with vanilla ice cream after a dinner of leftover tamales and salad. Muti, who had been out at a neighbor's party during dinner, came home and cut herself a piece. "I saw the dessert table, and didn't want it. I knew this was waiting for me," she explained, taking another forkful. We all watched the end of Project Runway Jr. together, excited about the palm-tree dress that won this week.

Of course, a $9.99 slab of sugar can't magically rewind the chairlift accident or make me not feel spooked on one of my favorite running routes. Life—moments good, awful, scary, shitty, awesome, mortal, life-affirming, boring, whatever—is going to continue to happen in 2017.

But cake—and family, laughter, love, appreciation, presence, connection—will also continue to happen in 2017. Phew.

28 responses to “On Chocolate Cake, Cars + Chairlifts

  1. That you for your post. I think we all feel pressure to keep exercising and have a “perfect” holiday for our family, but the news from the real world can be too much. Thank you for your honesty.

  2. I’m glad to hear you are ok – and maybe chocolate cake is what I needed last weekend. There were 8 of us runners crossing a road when a car didn’t even slow down to make a left hand turn – if she had kept going, we would have all been thrown in the air like a bunch of bowling pins. Needless to say, we all walked for a few minutes after that close call. Bad things happen – and so do good things. It’s what we call life…

  3. Dimity- glad you are ok, and found a way to find some positives.
    Desiree- so very sorry to hear about your loss. I had to step up and take over when my boss died unexpectedly, so I know what that is like, but you lost a good friend as well. Sending thoughts and prayers your way.

  4. It’s amazing how children and sweets have a way of lifting our spirits. As a single mom of two I had more of those moments and I loved to cuddle up to my youngest and ask her what was the secret of her happy and cheerful nature. I guess tragedies will happen. We will lose beautiful things and people but as they say “the sun will rise tomorrow!” Here’s to a Happy 2O17!

  5. Sorry to hear about the near accident and the ski-lift tragedy. The week before Christmas, I was riding my bike and had another 200 metres to go before I finished the ride. A big, black car drove so close to me (to harass me, i am guessing), literally shoved me and the bike to the side of the road which was sandy. (I live on the coast in India). bike tires skid and I had a fall which left my inner lip bruised from the impact. The driver just sped off. No help. No apologies. Nothing.

  6. I’m grateful that you did not get hit and give God glory because He protects us so many times when we don’t even know it. I’m also thankful for the new memory you made with your daughter. These are so important as they seem to come fewer and fewer until that child turns 25 and then appreciates you again

  7. Wow, so sorry you had to go through all that an der glad you’re ok. The Skilift accident hit me hard as well, as I was skiing with my two kids that same week when I heard about it! Scary. My BRFs recently had a near-miss running as well, as we crossed a street, a (texting) driver turned without looking and almost mowed down one of my friends. And then yelled out the window “Why can’t you just stay on sidewalks?.” Smh.

  8. Thank you for sharing this, Dimity. Sometimes it’s all just too much and it’s hard to find peace when there’s so much we can’t control. I’m happy you found some sweet relief with family.

  9. Totally can relate to the mini-PTSD episode; I share your outrage. I had a very similar near-miss in a crosswalk on a recent run. Rather than give the obligatory “Sorry” wave, the woman behind the wheel pointed toward the rear of her minivan and mouthed, “I have kids in the car.” REALLY?! Like that excuses your lousy driving?! I’m a single mom and MY KID is expecting me to COME HOME from my run. INTACT. GRRRRR

  10. Desiree: I am so so sorry for your loss. I was there that day. I am from Louisiana, but my family has gone there the past 3 years for our ski vacation. I saw the ski patrol doing chest compressions on her as they sped down the hill. Then I saw her 2 daughters on stretchers with each one’s leg in a splint of some sort. I have been and will continue to pray for the girls and their family. After learning that she was only a few years older than me, with 2 kids who are close in age to 2 of mine, and from the south on vacation with her family, the tragedy of it all hit me hard. Thank you for sharing about her and what a what an amazing woman she was.

  11. So, so , soooooo glad you are ok. Sometimes life just needs to get our attention. Very happy this was a miss and that you are processing it in a reaffirming way. I have a had a few things like this happen , and they all still give me the bottom-dropping out feeling in my stomach if I even just THINK about them. You are always excellent at remembering to be grateful and speak about that gratitude. Thank you. I will remember to look doubly now at all crossings.

  12. Dimity, I too have had a near hit experience by a car. It was so close to me that I touched the car and felt the heat. It was dusk, but not dark. However, I had on a reflective vest, a head lamp and knuckle lights. I was visible. The driver was just not paying attention. Last spring, I witnessed a mother runner get hit by a car. She flew through the air, her body like a rag doll and landed limp on the pavement. It was the scariest thing to witness ever. She did nothing wrong. She was at a stoplight during the day (totally visible) and waited until she had the signal to cross. A car made a right hand turn and plowed into her. I have no idea how he did not see her. I too cross at this intersection weekly. Just to give some perspective, I live in a very small town. This is our only stop light. People are constantly crossing here because there are crossing signals. In fact, I tell my kids to only cross at the light on their bikes, even if it means going out of their way. I always thought that it was safer. But I have come to realize you are never really safe. Drivers are constantly distracted and always in a hurry. People can’t see what is so obvious in front of them or they don’t care. Not sure which. Sad, but true. This experience stopped me from running for awhile. I just couldn’t imagine if that was me laying on the pavement. I could not get the image out of my head. But then I got angry and decided that I wasn’t going to let stupid people prevent me from doing what makes me happy. I just try to be hyper aware all the time which makes running not very relaxing at times. That mother runner came out of the accident with only a broken hip. I know that sounds aweful, but it could have been so much worse. I am not sure if she will run again or not. I hope she does. I just wanted to let you know that I think many of us can relate to your experience. You are not alone…..we are not alone!
    Also, we played Exploding Kittens over Christmas too. It was fun…..lots of laughter from the kids and adults which I like to hear! God Bless!

  13. ugh, that’s too many close calls, near misses, tragic accidents. They don’t make sense, none of that ever does to me. The randomness, which leaves you (me) feeling vulnerable, it’s so hard to process. Chocolate cake, tv on the couch with the family, it’s a good place to start. Hugs.

  14. Oh, such a tragedy. I am so sad to hear about the chairlift accident. Very glad you are okay after your brush with the car, Dimity. It never ceases to amaze me how distracted drivers are these days, and how many close calls happen all too often. We can light ourselves up and ring a cowbell as we run, but a driver not paying attention can still fail to notice. It is humbling and hard to remember that every day is a gift and not a given. Prayers for the family and friends of the mother runner who just wanted to have a fun day on the slopes with her babies. I’m going to give my boys a hug right now.

  15. So many (sadly) tangible examples of how life can change in an instant. Reminders of how important it is to live in the present as tough as that is. Those close calls are so hard to process sometimes, but are good reminders or how important the seemingly insignificant things (like an awesome piece of chocolate cake) and the moments they create can be. I am so sorry for your loss Desiree and so glad you are unscathed Dimity.

  16. I’m so glad you are OK, Dimity. So sad to hear the chairlift fatality was a mother runner and friend of AMR. People falling off lifts is one of the reasons I don’t ski patrol anymore. Lots of love to all the BAMRs and their families.

  17. Dimity – I sit here at 5:30am EST on this Tuesday morning, my first day back in the office since Christmas, trying to steel myself for the day ahead of me. You see, the woman who died in the ski lift accident in Granby was my co-worker of 10 years and my boss for the past three of those years. She was a mother of two beautiful girls, engaged to be married, a dog owner, a swim coach and, yes, a mother runner. We bonded over our running experiences… being more tortoise than hare, we knew that slow and steady wins the race and so we plodded on. She was a stronger swimmer and cyclist, so I lived vicariously through her triathlon adventures. She was an ideal manager… a woman with intelligence, strength and pluck who spoke truth to power, proudly heralded the accomplishments of her team and was equally comfortable speaking at a high level to top executives as she was wading through the mire of the minutiae which was also a part of her job. So, I sit here preparing myself for a day which was scheduled to begin with a meeting with this terrific woman and now will be spent navigating without her. Since getting the news on December 29th, I have felt vulnerable and supremely mortal. Reading your January 2nd blog post, it is a comfort to know that I am not alone in these feelings and I am grateful for the reminder that life must go on for the living. Many thanks for your continued honesty and vulnerability… peace to you and the entire mother runner tribe in 2017.

    1. I am so sorry, Desiree. Thank you for sharing such kind and thoughtful words about your boss; she seems like an amazing woman, co-worker, parent, friend, #motherrunner. Sending you and your team at work so much love as you navigate a new normal. xoxo Dimity

  18. Lisa I am so sorry! I had several family and state (CT) incidents that left me with probable PTSD. It’s hard and scary, and while my husband tells me these were freak incidents, maybe because I’m a woman I worry that if it can happen once?????
    Dimity- thank goodness you are ok, I swear drivers do not look at all for people. I really appreciate this today, work isn’t stable right now, and the 2017 climate is frightening.
    It is something we all need to remember: there is always chocolate cake!

  19. Yeah–that chairlift accident got me too. We were headed up to the resort for our first day of skiing on Friday. (We only started skiing in February 2016: the whole family took lessons at Granby Ranch, and then our second day of skiing ever was at Loveland later that month.) We were really excited to be heading up there, and then I saw the news when I was searching the internet to remember how much the lockers were up there. My oldest is 12 and she was the one I was planning to head up the mountain with. (My younger daughter is 6 and still hasn’t mastered turning, so she was signed up for another day of lessons and never moved beyond the pony lift).

    We talked about it later, after I eventually explained the reason the lift remained closed on Friday and why it was a first-world problem (or rather, why it was a first-world problem to hike up the bunny hill and ski down after we got tired of the super-long line to ride the lift up the bunny hill, which was all we were good enough to handle with the main lift closed). What was harder to explain, especially to my six-year-old, was how rare that kind of accident is, and how the mundane things we do every day–like driving in our cars–is much more dangerous. I didn’t say the bit about cars though, because she and my husband were in a really serious car accident three months ago. A teen ran a red line and hit them nearly head on as they were turning left on a green arrow. The six-year-old needed emergency surgery for internal bleeding; she also had a broken wrist. Ironically, my running would come in handy. I was just two blocks away at the elementary school, where I’d already dropped off our older daughter for a before-school rehearsal. They were late enough that I thought there had been an accident and the fact that my husband wasn’t answering his phone suggested they were in it. Once they got word to me I literally ran there and arrived in time to ride in the ambulance with my little one. They left within a minute of my arrival, and I think I would have missed them had I not run (sprinted? I have no idea, other than I don’t remember being out of breath or that it must have been awkward to run with my purse). The husband had seven broken ribs and continues to have post-concussion symptoms on a daily basis.

    I hate how life can change in an instant, though I remain grateful that my loved ones are still here with me. I’m glad you escaped the crazy driver unscathed. I hope running gives us all a chance to find peace and strength and hope as we meet whatever challenges face us in 2017.

    1. Lisa: So sorry to hear all this–and so glad your family is relatively unscathed. I hope the healing continues and full health is restored for your husband. Yes, I hate how life can change in an instant as well. Thanks for your perspective; may we all have fewer bunny hills (and mountains) to climb in 2017, but as we hit them, may we climb with grace and strength. xo–Dimity

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