Mothers and Others

“Moooommm!”

When the call goes up from Missy, it’s an all-hands-on-deck summons. “Mom” can be Heather. “Mom” can be me. “Mom” could probably be Chewbacca if he lived in the house, took care of Missy and made her tea at least five times a week.  

For her, it’s a job description. And ever since Heather and I became her guardians and caregivers, it means us – no matter what the dictionary and Mother’s Day cards may say.

And as we pass through the “family” holidays again, it’s a potent reminder that family is what you make it.

Mind you, that’s been a longstanding lesson at Chez Rochat, where the word is so flexible it practically does backflips. On my side of the aisle, my family is nuclear enough to qualify for a supporting role in “Oppenheimer” – growing up, we had Mom, Dad, three kids, the family dog. All we needed to become the next great American sitcom was a wacky neighbor and a guest appearance by a C-list celebrity.

Heather, on the other hand, has a family that’s more blended than a Dairy Queen Blizzard, full of “steps” and “halfs” and very long Christmas lists.  It makes for some really fun get-togethers … as long as you’ve got a nice big living room available.

And of course, we’ve had our share of friends whose family is one of choice, not blood – folks who have found more acceptance among close friends than they ever did at home.

Each is a different facet of the same thing, all of them shining when held to the light. But it’s easy to forget that, especially during the card-and-flower holidays that tend to hold up one image of mothers, or fathers, or families to admire as the standard.

So this year, in the time between Mother’s and Father’s Day, here’s to all of us.

Here’s to the ones who never knew their parents – or wish they hadn’t – and have tried to be the best Mom or Dad they can without an example to work from.

Here’s to the ones who can’t have kids, but have adopted or fostered or otherwise made their own family in their own way.

Here’s to the ones who are happy without kids and have found their own paths to sharing love and guidance: as a mentor, as a volunteer, as a caregiver of any kind.

Here’s to all the families in all their combinations with all the connections they forge. A crazy-quilt of love and trust that could never be imagined, only demonstrated.

All of us, together, have made something bigger than ourselves. And when it’s solid, it can be the foundation for something bigger still – a neighborhood, a community, a world.

And that says more than any Hallmark card ever could.

So whether the calendar takes us to Mother’s Day, Siblings Day, or just one more Monday with too much to do, I hope you make the most of all of them. And that your version of a family is one you’ll always be proud to share.

I know I am. Just as soon as I finish making this pot of tea, anyway.

After all, a “Moooom’s” work is never done.

A New-Found Force

A brand new Star Wars fan is about to have a “grand” experience.

You see, a short time ago on an internet not so far, far away, a website called FinanceBuzz put out an offer. They wanted to recruit someone who had never seen any of the nine “Skywalker” Star Wars films and pay them $1,000 to watch them all in release order, from the original 1977 film through 2019’s Rise of Skywalker.

“We’ll use our Wookie Rookie’s analysis for an upcoming story on the franchise,” FinanceBuzz wrote, according to UPI. Naturally, the hiring period closed on – wait for it – May the 4th, the unofficial Star Wars holiday.

Now, if you’ve read this column for any length of time, you know that I am utterly ineligible for this. Star Wars has been part of my life since at least age 7. I watched the films, played with the action figures, even worked out a George Lucas-style “Christmas Carol” with one of my classmates that starred Han Solo as Scrooge. And yes, my wife Heather and I stood in line 25 years ago for the midnight opening of The Phantom Menace (which I still do not regret, despite some jarring moments … or rather, some Jar-Jarring ones).

In short, my chances of cashing in on an offer like this are considerably worse than the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field. (Approximately 3,720 to 1, for the record.) But the pitch still makes me smile.

With or without the money, it means someone’s encountering the stories for the first time. And that’s always an exciting thought.

I’m not just saying this to revel in geekdom. It’s wider than that. Helping someone open the door to something new can be absolutely magical – especially when it’s something you’ve loved for years and get to see the joy reborn.

I introduced my brother-in-law to a post-apocalyptic book series I enjoyed. He became so passionate about it that he read ahead of me.

I introduced my young nephews to Dungeons & Dragons. Saturday night gaming quickly became a “must” for them – and a chance for me to regularly see the awesome people they’re becoming.

And of course, Heather and I accidentally (I swear) got our Missy hooked on Star Wars one fine afternoon – especially the parts involving Darth Vader and Chewbacca.

Each time, a light in the eyes ignites. An enthusiasm rushes out. And you remember why you fell in love with it in the first place.

I wish I could say this was universal. Some people are more than ready to mock others for only just now discovering what “everybody knows.” But as the webcomic “xkcd” once pointed out, every day, there are literally 10,000 people in this country who discover an “everyone knows” fact for the first time – even something as basic as the Coke-Mentos reaction. Why wouldn’t you want to be part of that moment of personal discovery?

It’s a choice we can make every day, to ignite an interest or smother it. And each time we choose to encourage it, we bind all of us together a little more tightly. Almost like … I don’t know, some kind of mystic energy field or something.

And if you didn’t get that last joke, don’t worry. There’s some great movies out there that’ll get you right up to speed. (Or even to light speed, for that matter.) I can’t offer a thousand bucks, but I’d still love to hear what you think of them.

After all, there may be a new discovery ahead. And by George, that would be grand indeed.

Found in Space

You could call it the ultimate tech-support ticket.

For those of you who don’t keep up on space news – I get it, the NBA playoffs are on – NASA just came to the rescue of Voyager. No, not the old Star Trek sci-fi series, the even older space probe that was launched in the 1970s, left the solar system entirely in the 2010s and is still sending back information today.

Well … at least it was until November, when the most distant man-made object ever stopped sending signals.

Mind you, Voyager was still functional. But it couldn’t “speak” clearly – its signals were garbage. And so, armed with paper documentation and a two-day time lag in sending or receiving information, NASA went to work.

Five months of troubleshooting ultimately found that one chip had gone bad, corrupting a tiny piece of Voyager’s code. Uploading a fix meant working with a 47-year-old computer from 15 billion miles away. (Now THAT’S an overseas call center.)

And finally, on April 23, the news came out: Voyager was back on the line.

That lifts me up in so many ways. And not just because I’m a serious space geek. That’s part of it, mind you, but not all.

It also shows how much we can value what’s gone before. And how much we’ll do to save it.

That might sound a little strange. After all, nostalgia has deep roots in us and they get deeper every day. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, we were looking back with rose-colored glasses on the ‘50s and ‘60s. Today, it’s the ‘80s and so much more. In fact, thanks to the internet, we now get to sample and romanticize almost any era – or a mixture of them – as the “good old days.”

But that’s a surface appreciation and often a nearsighted one, choosing to ignore the worst of an earlier time or the best of today. “Back to the past” movements can even do tremendous damage, bulldozing today’s people and needs in the name of restoring a half-imagined golden age. Ultimately, we can’t live in a memory.

That said, we also tend to swing too hard the other way. Nostalgia trivializes, and if something isn’t lit by the current “Ooh, that’s cool and weird” spotlight, it tends to be rejected as old junk that’s no longer relevant. Tools, ideas, even people get set aside and forgotten in favor of newer and better.

But once in a while, we get a reminder that nothing is totally forgotten, or that the lessons of the past still have value now. And whether it’s programmers blowing the dust off of forgotten code to make a repair or long-ago veterans and refugees sharing their experience with a classroom, we stop for a moment, remember and learn.

Forgotten things can still have value. Forgotten people can still have value.

And when we pull off the impossible to help the forgotten, we remind ourselves what we’re capable of. After all, if we can spend five months to help one scientific instrument 15 billion miles away, how much more can we do to acknowledge and help the person next door?

So I’m happy for Voyager. And I’m even happier for us.

That’s the kind of support and determination that can make space for us all.

Snow in April

When I look out the window and see white on the trees, I smile. After all, there couldn’t be better weather for this time of year.

OK, now that you think I’m nuts, let me explain.

Snow in April is one of those things that can boggle a Front Range newcomer. One minute, the sun is shining and the leaves are budding … and then, just like that, your neighbor gets to explain why you never plant flowers before Memorial Day.

Even when you know it’s inevitable, an April snow shower always has the power to catch you by surprise. And it changes everything when it comes. So for our family, there couldn’t be a better setting for this time of year.

After all, April is also when we became “Missy parents.”

For those who haven’t met her yet, Missy is my wife Heather’s developmentally disabled aunt, a woman who’s my age chronologically but often greets the world from a much younger place. Sometime after her parents passed away, Heather and I moved in to take care of her … 13 years ago in April, as it happens.

Needless to say, all three of us found ourselves with a lot to learn.

We entered a world where the morning must always start with tea, and where the best end to the day is always a bedtime story.

We learned a certain amount of translation (Heather had a massive head start here) to understand Missy’s needs. “Book” could be an actual book or purse, “Up” was usually a request for help and “Mom” could be any parent figure, male or female. But in moments of high excitement, new words or even complete sentences could enter the fray. (The most astonishing remains the “Hallelujah” she picked up one December.)

We discovered just how intense even simple things can become when life is lived without filters. A piece of peanut butter pie. (“Wow!”) The much-awaited climax of a favorite book. (“Yeah!”) The sudden appearance of a much-loved movie character. (“Look-look-look!”)

She demonstrated for us how much a purse can hold, how loudly a stereo can be cranked, and how many different ways the same jigsaw puzzle can be put together if you apply enough force. And that there could never be “enough” when it came to Christmas music, cutting up magazines for artwork, or cute dogs on the street. (“Hi, you!”)

And as we loved and exasperated each other, we re-learned every day that “family” isn’t a one-size-fits-all term. And that we had a pretty darned good one.

The world changed – and we couldn’t see how much until we were in the middle of it. Like snow in April. Powder on fresh grass.

I suspect many of us have a moment like that. The ones where you take a step forward and everything changes. Where you thought you knew what was coming, only to realize how different everything looks from the inside.

It can be humbling. Frightening, even. But it’s also those moments where we truly learn. Where we’re forced out of the comfortable and the familiar, and have to see the world with new eyes.

After all, spring is the season of rebirth. And when your perspective gets reborn with it, anything can happen.

It’s something not to be missed.

But it just might be Missy’d.

On the Roll Again

Missy beamed a 500-watt smile as we strolled through a warm Colorado afternoon. Every neighbor got a wave. Every dog earned an eagerly pointing finger. And every block, the rolling of her wheelchair made its soft song against the pavement.

Rumble, rumble, rumble.

Heather and I don’t break the chair out often. Even with the challenges that our ward Missy has – a developmental disability and cerebral palsy, for the record – she usually gets around pretty well as long as she has someone or something to balance on. But when she’s got a long way to go, then it’s time for us to get rolling. And since Missy just got a brand new chair with great new tires, she’s been more eager than ever to hit the road.

Rumble, rumble, rumble.

Yes, it doesn’t get better than … what was that?

Rumble, rumble, rumble … plink.

I turned around.

A shiny screw looked back at me from the sidewalk.

Now, friends and family have often accused me of having a screw loose. But it’s usually not this literal.  Which meant … 

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” 

Sure enough. The brand new wheelchair had shed a brand new part, a small fastening in the right wheel. An easy fix, and a quick check found everything else still secure. But as we continued the journey, I mentally kicked myself for half a block. 

You see, I thought I had noticed the slightest wobble in that wheel a day or two before. But the major fastenings had all looked good when I tested them, so it seemed like a worry over nothing.

Instead, it became a reminder of the two-part lesson we all get again and again: 

1) Little things matter, and can easily become bigger things. 

2) Trust your intuition – or at least give it a hearing. 

The first part is something that every homeowner learns sooner or later as the First Law of Maintenance. But the second is a little trickier. After all, we live in a world that shouts for our attention constantly, most of the time adding more anxiety than information. To survive, we have to filter – and we don’t always do a great job of it, often picking the stuff that fits the easy answers we’ve already reached. 

But somewhere in the rush we have to pause. To think. And to listen for the things we may have noticed in the background. After all, that’s what good intuition is – unconsciously putting together facts you didn’t know you had to reach a conscious conclusion. 

Is the gut always right? Of course not. Sometimes a worry is just a worry. But we have to step back to be sure. To trust the “wait a moment,” dial down the pressure and take the time to see things clearly.

It’s not easy. But it’s essential. 

And when you get everything screwed down tight, it’s amazing how easily you can get rolling again. 

Just ask Missy. We should be rumbling by any minute now.

Remember to wave.

Stuck on the Rox

Opening Day has always been a little special to me. A new baseball season. A fresh start. All the possibilities waiting ….

Wait a second.

How many runs?

Oh, dear.

For those of you who missed the disaster Thursday, you have my envy. An unnamed genius scheduled the Arizona Diamondbacks – holders of the National League pennant – to start the season against our Colorado Rockies, holders of national embarrassment after their first-ever 100-loss season. The results should have been predictable.

They weren’t. If only because no one could have predicted the third inning of our first game.

Fourteen runs. Fourteen runs. For the curious, that’s the highest one-inning total that has been recorded in an Opening Day game since 1900. It’s a baseball Titanic … except the Titanic at least had a chance of avoiding the iceberg.

The season has barely started and we’re already a team of legend.

Now, we’re not the first franchise to ever have an extended stay in the baseball doldrums. Back in junior high school days, I can still remember shaking my head in sympathy for a teacher who was a fan of the Chicago Cubs AND the Boston Red Sox at the same time. Both have since returned to respectability and even to glory within recent memory.

I can already hear the sighs of my fellow fans. Yes, our team still has to take step one: actually trying to get out of the basement. And even that’s not a fair statement. Everyone on the team –  as in, the folks in the gloves and ball caps – probably is doing the best they can with what they’ve got. The trouble starts higher up and we all know it, with an ownership that says it’s tired of losing but has taken few if any steps to address it.

But as our Rox muddle through their Rocky Mountain Low, we can at least take an example and a lesson. Because a lot of us are in the position of the Men in Purple: having to keep going day after day in a tiring situation that seems to have no end.

We all spend some time there. Some practically have long-term leases. And it’s not always clear how to get out.

Time and again, the same answer floats to the surface: not alone.

I keep a music playlist on hand for harder days. One song that keeps leading the pack is “The Mary Ellen Carter” by Stan Rogers, about a ship sunk by a drunken captain, abandoned by an apathetic owner … and raised by a determined crew. One of the final verses is one that I’ve quoted to myself and others many times:

“And you to whom adversity has dealt the final blow,

With smiling b******s lying to you everywhere you go,

Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain,

And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again!”

The thing is, the Mary Ellen Carter couldn’t spontaneously rise by itself. It needed the help of the crew who loved it, the ones who had been saved by the ship so many times and who repaid it with their work and dedication.

That’s us.

Asking anyone to haul themselves off the rocks is a cruelty. We need to be there for each other, ready to lift and haul and repair. That’s how we rise again: through community and mutual strength.

None of us are in a position to raise up a baseball team with anything more than cheers (alas). But we can raise up those around us. We can be the love that helps them rise again and accept that love from others.

Set the example. Help it spread. Others will notice.

And if some of those others are in a position to move mountains – or at least Rockies – maybe the next Opening Day will be worth the wait at last.

Hero

Jack Mandelbaum always managed to surprise me.

Every time I told Jack’s story, I would check online to see if we’d lost him. Every time, he’d still be there. Into his 80s, into his 90s, a living memory and a living victory.

Last week, I checked again. Not this time. A few months ago, he had quietly left at the age of 96. An accomplishment for anyone. A statement for him.

You see, Jack was 15 when he went into a Nazi concentration camp.

I met him in 2004 when a book based on his life, “Surviving Hitler,” won the William Allen White Children’s Book Award in Kansas. He appeared in front of the schoolchildren as he’d appeared in front of so many, talking about the “game” he’d played as a teenager – one where the object was to outlast his captors. Each new day claimed another victory.

He won. Again and again. In the camp and beyond it, keeping the memory alive so that the reality would stay dead.

And again and again, the victory cost him.

Every time he spoke, he told me, he would have nightmares afterward. The memories came back to life in his dreams, bringing the horror with them. But he kept on, talking to children, to adults, to anyone who would hear. He had to. Even decades later, he still would not let the evil win.

In short, he was a hero. One with no weapons but the truth, no armor but his own stubbornness. But a hero nonetheless.

Hollywood has given us some pretty wild ideas of what being a hero means – usually punctuated with fiery explosions and a billion-dollar special effects budget – but every so often, a little bit of the truth shines through. Superhero fans like me like to point to a moment in “The Avengers” where the villainous Loki demands that a German crowd kneel to him … and one elderly man refuses.

“No. Not to men like you.”

“There are no men like me,” Loki responds with a smirk.

“There are always men like you.”

No superpowers. No dazzling gadgets. And every Marvel fan will agree that he was the biggest hero in the film.

That’s the kind of hero Jack was.

That’s the kind of hero any of us can be if we’re willing to see evil clearly. Stand firm in the face of it. And keep empowering others to do the same, whatever the cost to ourselves.

No one should have to endure what Jack did. But you don’t have to survive his experience to learn his lessons. That’s why he kept teaching them.

He’s still teaching them now.

And as we in turn teach and heal and strengthen and stand, we help win yet another round of Jack’s game.  

Did I say Jack left? I should know better. The great survivor is still surviving. This time in a way that no camp can touch. The difference he made lives on.

And frankly, that’s not surprising at all.

Rush of Achievement

There’s weird. There’s wonderful. And then there’s David Rush. The man is in a class by himself.

Several classes by himself, actually.

You see, Rush is an Idaho man who’s trying to become the Record Holder of Record Holders – the man who holds more Guinness world records at once than any other person. It’s a quest that has led to some extremely bizarre accomplishments.

Such as being the fastest person to sort M&M’s by color.

Or popping 200 balloons in less than 12 seconds.

Or, just last Thursday, hitting a target with a pump-powered rocket 37 times in a row.

Right now, according to UPI, this gold-level master of strangeness holds 163 simultaneous records, 20 short of his goal. He’s actually achieved 250 different records but – inevitably with a goal this long-term – some of them then got broken by others while he continued his journey. They had to move fast, though: at one point, Rush broke 52 records in 52 weeks.

Why do it? As he’s mentioned to Guinness and many others, he’s a promoter of STEM education (science, technology, engineering, math) who simply wanted to show what focus on a goal could achieve.

“Too many students try, fail, and give up with a fixed mindset,” he says on his website, where he encourages a “growth mindset” instead – the idea that abilities aren’t simply innate, but can be developed through time, effort and help from others. “I can only do a very small part, but I’d like to do that part as well as I can.”

I suspect that hits home for a lot of us. It’s a message of hope, which I’ve described here before as “optimism plus sweat”: the willingness to commit to something better and then see it through.

And it remains powerful even when we’re aware that it’s not always that simple.

We’re all aware of boundaries in our lives. Some are more pliable than others. Some may be physical limitations, whether they’re as everyday as nearsightedness or as profound as severe childhood brain damage. Some have been set by society – we’ve all seen (or even experienced) stories of the additional challenges and barriers set due to poverty, race, gender, or an array of other qualities that can become a dividing line.

Can sufficient work, time and help overcome those? In many cases, sure – but the definition of “sufficient” is going to vary widely between individuals. For one person, a particular achievement may be as easy as a walk in the park. For another, it may be the equivalent of designing an entire space program from scratch.

Does that mean we should all give up? Heck, no. But it does mean  we all have a few additional lessons to remember.

First, be kind. Don’t assume that someone else is lazy just because they haven’t achieved what you think they should. You don’t know their burdens, their battles, or what they may have going on where no one else can see.

Second, try to see. Be aware of those around you. Understand as you would like to be understood, care about them as you would about yourself.

Finally, be the “help from others.” Encourage, teach, stand alongside. Find the boundaries that shouldn’t be there and help bring them down. Even when the limits are severe, work to grow what you can, like a garden behind a stone wall. Create opportunities – not all of them will be fulfilled, but you may be surprised at the ones that flourish.

Together, we can help each other grow. And help ourselves in the process. That’s an exciting feeling.

You might even say it’s quite a Rush.

Clocking In

Twice in a year.

Once with winter staring us in the face and once on the edge of spring.

An event that shakes things up and marks a changing time.

Yes, of course I’m talking about the Denver Nuggets going 2-0 against the league-leading Boston Celtics. What did you think I meant?

OK, to be fair, I have written about the clock changes associated with going to and from Daylight Saving Time until I’m blue in the fingertips. I’ve argued for “locking the clock” on health grounds, safety grounds, common sense grounds, and probably even the number of coffee grounds that could be saved each year by just letting people keep their sleep patterns intact. We’ve seen the movement have its moment … and then come and go with our bi-annual temporal insanity left intact.

At this point, I’m throwing up my hands. Basketball makes more sense than the twice-a-year time change ever will.

Even when it’s something as wild and wacky as this.

We used to be pretty sure what would happen when the Nuggets and Celtics shared a court. Sure enough to bet money, anyway. Go back through the previous 10 years and Boston has a 14-8 record. And three of those Denver wins were grabbed in a row about five years ago, so there’s been a lot of barren country before and after that.

Until now.

Two and oh.

Not without effort. Not without a bit of luck here and there. (Is any win in sports ever claimed without at least a little luck?) But enough to create a consistent Wearin’ Out O’ The Green … and maybe some much-needed reassurance as the playoffs loom ever closer.

Last season, in retrospect, was practically a coronation. We dominated the West from December on and still managed to surprise everyone in the playoffs, especially the army of sportscasters who were convinced that any brilliance from the Rocky Mountain way had to be a fluke. The only moment we didn’t get was a championship series against Boston when the Miami Heat – who really did pull off something of a fluke – snuck into the Eastern Conference championship instead.

This year has been harder. We know it. The West has been a tussle with the Timberwolves and the Thunder for the top seed with a bevy of others close at our heels waiting for the first mistake. There have been injuries and should-haves and moments of doubt.

But the same tools that took us to the title are still there. Tight teamwork. A strong bench. A jaw-dropping star in the Joker, whose many talents include making everyone around him better, and a teammate in Jamal Murray whose rapport with him is darned-near telepathic.

And just like last year, they’re a heck of an example for those of us in the larger world. The one where we don’t get millions for our aim with a basketball.

We succeed when *we* succeed – working together, interlocking our strengths, compensating for our weaknesses. That’s true whether we’re talking about a team … or a company … or a community … or a nation.

It’s never all about the leader. It can’t be. Sure, having a Jokić  or a Jordan on the team makes a huge difference – but if the rest of the team isn’t there, it’s just a lost opportunity.

Hard work. A common aim. Being ready to take advantage of the breaks that come your way. And most of all, a mutual earned trust.

It’s not easy. But it’s how you build something that lasts.

Best wishes to the Nuggets. And to all of us.

May we all do the most with our moment in time – wherever we finally set it.

Picture the Time

Heather returned from the yard, her phone held in triumph.

“I did it!” she proclaimed. “Fifty-two weeks!”

“Oh? … OH!”

A smile spread across my face to match my wife’s. At long last, the photo forest was complete.

Perhaps I should explain. My wife Heather enjoys photography, especially shots that involve patterns and repetition. She’s also felt a little disconnected from the world since COVID arrived in 2020. With her various autoimmune conditions, she has to be careful about how and where she goes out, even in virus conditions that others might shrug at.

So to grab a sense of time, she started visiting the apple tree in the back yard for a brief photo session. One shot per week, always at the same time of day, always from the same angle and range. The goal: one year’s worth of pictures.

It started slow. After all, there’s not much difference between a barren tree branch in late February and a barren tree branch in mid-March. (Especially with the “second winter” that the Front Range can often get.) But over time, across 52 weeks, the changes became subtle and then profound: first budding, then flourishing, then thinning once more.

At times, it became a panic task. (“Scott! I almost forgot! I’ve got to do the tree!”) Time had started to mean something again among the sameness of home life, even if it mostly meant a date with a silent, leafy companion.

And as the leaves grew, so did her confidence.

She had set a goal. A long-term one. And she was following through.

When you spend a lot of time with chronic illness, that’s not a small thing. Plans often have to change on a dime; schedules and expectations become necessarily fluid. Friends, family, even doctors all become familiar with the phone call that starts “I’m sorry but I can’t today …”

A lot of things get torn away. And any time you can grab something back, it’s a triumph. A moment to plant your feet and say “No. I get to do this and you can’t stop me.”

And so, over time, the photos became a battle record. A simple spectrum of determination.

Fifty-two weeks. Fifty-two moments that added up to so much more.

Everything starts with a moment. It’s easy to forget that, easier still to get overwhelmed by what life asks of us. It all seems so big and our abilities so small, like sculpting with a toothpick.

But taking just a moment, claiming it, repeating it- that’s powerful. Even scattered moments built from brief flashes of opportunity add up. Georges Seurat spent two years painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”  J.R.R. Tolkien spent 17 years on “The Lord of the Rings.” Both created masterworks – but in a way, that’s beside the point.

It’s not about whether the goal resounds through the ages. It’s about what it means to you. And even what you build in yourself as you achieve it.

Heather built something lasting. She reclaimed a piece of her life. And regardless of the pictures themselves, that’s something no one can take away.

It’s amazing what can happen when you just take a shot.

Or even 52 of them.