The date was 8/7/2011. I found a Groupon for a local indoor rock climbing place, and asked Stella if she wanted to try it. She was game and we went with another family we know from her school. When we walked in I was sure this would be another day of frustration for both of us.

You see, up until her diagnosis, my daughter took after me. She was a quitter. As soon as something got hard, she would quit. Learning to ride a bike. The next level on a video game. Math. and that was something she got directly from me. I too was a quitter. I used to blame it on a lack of patience, but in reality, I would quit as soon as something got difficult. My life changed with Stella’s diagnosis, with the running, the new found strength that I didn’t even know I had. And I guess I was seeing those changes in Stella, but maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention. And then we walked into Arcadia Rock Climbing and I saw this sign:

192955_2293264688753_3061519_oIt was hanging on a bulletin board. And It rocked me. The one small poster had a huge impact on me, and the events that were about to unfold that day let me know that my baby was going to be okay.

We got geared up and had a lesson on the proper way to belay and then we were on our way. They had lots of climbing walls there, and at the very top of a few of them they had a cowbell to ring. Every once in a while you’d hear the cowbell. Stella REALLY wanted to ring one.

She started climbing, kinda figuring things out, feeling her way around. She would go up a little, get scared, lose her path, and come down. This happened over and over. I have never been known for my patience, and my frustration was mounting, but I managed to keep it cool. I was taking that sign to heart. I had to keep explaining to Stella that I was holding the rope. I wasn’t going to let her fall. She had nothing to be scared of. She had support. Someone to watch out for her. Someone to catch her.


And it continued. Half way up. Stop. Come down. We took a small break to have some lunch. Ding ding ding! The cowbells kept sounding off. I could tell by looking at her, she wanted nothing more than to ring that bell. I tried to explain some strategy. There were paths going up the wall. There were red rocks and blue rocks you could follow to the top. But she wasn’t believing me. She wasn’t understanding. Normally I would let her figure things out, and she would either get them or quit. But I never pushed. Today, next time up, I knew I needed to push. She needed me to push.

289347_2293258928609_7429122_oHer next time up, she got half way and stopped again. I told her to let go. She thought I was crazy, and let me know so. again, I said “let go!”. She paused. I assured her I wasn’t going to let her fall. “Come on sweetheart, just let go”. This went on for a painful amount of time. I was waiting for Child Protective Services to come. There may have been some yelling. There was a few tears. But I wasn’t going to let her down. Literally.

And just like that, she let go. She swung away from the wall and had her eyes shut tight. And she didn’t fall. She stayed right there, suspended in the air. And then she smiled. And then she laughed. She laughed hard. Hell, she was flying! And with that, she swung back over to the wall and climbed down.

Ding! Another cowbell. We sat on the floor looking up. I showed her the line I thought was easiest. She looked at the harder blue line. We started again. Ding! She got to the half way point and stopped again. I admit, I got a little disheartened. But she didn’t come down. She paused. She looked up. She was figuring out where to go next.

287925_2293262488698_434540_oShe started climbing again. On the blue line. She learned that she didn’t have to tackle it all at once. She could break it off into more manageable pieces. One step at a time. Little by little. And she kept climbing. I started to cry, I was so excited, happy, proud. And she hadn’t even made it to the top! Ding! She looked down at me, and for the first time I saw it. The look. It said “Dad, I got this”


DING! It was the ding heard around the world. My heart exploded. Her whole attitude changed with that one little gesture. now I couldn’t keep her off the wall. She rang every single cowbell in the place. More than once. And I realized that day that diabetes won’t ever beat her. She has more determination, more drive, more gumption, and yes, more balls than most other kids her age. Since that day everything has changed for her. She instantly improved at horseback riding, and is now jumping. We were stagnant at the same level for years. She does great in school. She doesn’t give up at a hard level in a video game. She did her first triathlon, the list is long as to the changes I’ve noticed.

287540_2293261168665_6363519_o 287053_2293261848682_2784243_oThat day affected me so profoundly that I now draw a cowbell on my arm in sharpee before every race I run. It is my reminder to never give up. To never lose sight of the prize. To always keep moving forward. To know that if Stella can face her fears, I can face mine too. I learned much more that day than she did, I’m sure of it. But I was one proud Papa that day. That day she earned the name “diabadass”.

287752_2293264128739_2579421_oAfterwards, when we were talking about it, she couldn’t understand why I was making such a big deal of it. Again, I got the same “I got this” look from her. And this face:

286776_2293264328744_6970698_oMy sister in law gave me a cowbell for my birthday that year that sits proudly on my desk. It means a lot to me personally.

They say when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. That day, I was ready to learn. Thank you for showing me the way Stella.

This inspiration for this post came up as I was reading this post here: http://thetraininggrounds.org/life-lesson-with-a-12lb-fitness-ball/

More cowbell has a whole new meaning in my house 🙂

Team Blackdogsrule




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1 Comment

  1. Johanna DeGidio Reynolds

    This have me chills! Since the first day I met Stella (and her daddy) I knew she was awesome; strong and confident. It’s wonderful to read about when that strength blossomed and her inner “diabadass” took over. You BOTH inspire me!!
    May your cow bells ring daily!