Dear 16-year-old me…

I got a message from my mother this morning with a link to this video. Just five minutes and three seconds, it was a short investment to make me think about this issue from a completely different perspective.

Malignant Melanoma is far more deadly– and far more common– than I thought. This short video was created by a company called evidently for the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund and contains people, all of whom who have either suffered from skin cancer or lost someone to it, sending a message to their former selves. They don’t intend to reach them, of course. They hope to reach you. And me. And everyone that any of us care about.

Spend five minutes watching, maybe read up a little to know more about melanoma, and then, for God’s sake, get to know your own skin.

Thanks, Mom.

Lily Donates to Locks of Love

Lily donates to Locks of LoveOver the past couple of years, several close friends have been diagnosed with some form of cancer, including a young friend of Lily’s. All of us feel a little helpless at times like this, naturally feeling that there’s little we can do outside of delivering some meals, helping care for little ones, and praying.

It’s also natural that kids would feel just as helpless, so you can imagine the excitement that Lily felt when she found out about Locks of Love from one of her friends. Locks of Love is a non-profit group that takes in donations of hair in lengths of ten inches or more and handcrafts hairpieces for children suffering from long term or permanent hair loss. The way they make these is pretty cool, in that they don’t require glue or tape to stay on, but instead create a vacuum seal against the scalp that only the child can break. This eliminates the worry about other kids pulling them off or losing them during sports.

So late last year, Lily decided that she was going to grow her hair long enough to donate. On Tuesday, having realized that it was finally long enough, Char packed everyone up and headed down to Bambu for the cut.

It’s been an interesting journey, one which has captivated Lily at every step of the way: She was thrilled to be growing her hair, thrilled that it was long enough to cut, thrilled to be able to make the donation, and thrilled with her new do.

This brief video captures the event:

Lily Donates to Locks of Love from Jim Cota on Vimeo.

Lily’s Creek


After hiking through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Thursday, we stopped on the way back out of the park and walked down to a clear (and very cold) mountain stream. The kids had changed out of their boots and into their Crocs and were walking around on the rocks in the creek. Fearful that they might slip and fall in, I told them all to take off their shoes and walk around barefoot. I have some priceless video of this… the water was probably 50 degrees.

Well, it was only a matter of time before it happened: Lily, while standing fairly close to me, slipped and fell. She got up, slipped again, and I grabbed her on the way down. She slipped again while we were trying to get/keep our footing but I still had ahold of her, so she was okay at this point. (I should also note that the water was moving pretty fast and was probably 3 feet deep right next to where she slipped. Oh, I was also holding the video camera through all of this… tense moments!)

She was crying, not because she was hurt, but because she was terrified. After a few minutes, she got herself under control and we walked up to the car to change out of her wet clothes. I mentioned while we were walking how proud I was of her because she dealt with it and got over it very quickly. It was impressive.

Later that night, we were sitting in a restaurant and Char asked the kids to turn over their placemats and draw a picture of their favorite thing from the day. Of course, Jack drew picture of Lily falling in the creek and crying. (He’s such a putz!)

When we asked them to share their pictures, Lily got pretty bashful and started crossing things off and hiding it. It was clear she didn’t want us to see it, so (of course!) we forced it out of her. To my surprise, she had also drawn a picture of her falling into the creek. Except in her picture, though she was dripping wet, she was smiling. She had also included me in her picture holding on to her. She wrote, “The best part of my day was falling into the creek because Dad was there to catch me.”

Here’s a picture of what will always be known as “Lily’s Creek.”

“I want my kids to know you…”

On Saturday, we were driving through Great Smoky Mountains National Park on one of the ‘motor tours’ and stopped at one of the old Ogle farmsteads. Beautiful place, unbelievable setting. We walked around a bit, shooting video, taking pictures. At one point, Jack said to Char:

“Mom, can I take a picture of just you by yourself? That way, when I’m your grandkid, I’ll remember what you were like.”

Char said, laughing, “Sure Jack, but you’re never going to be my grandchild. You’ll always be my son, but your kids will be my grandkids.”

“Well, I still want to do it,” he said. “That way, I’ll be able to show them the picture so they’ll know you weren’t always old.”