He Ain’t Got Drowned, Thank the Lord!

Warning:  Read this until the end!

He left before I woke up and long after I was up in the middle of the night baking him cookies for the race.  Another strange night it was.  I had crashed early in the evening, many hours before my bed time . . . not that there is a usual bed time, that is.  I am still up very late about 2 nights per week yet that is a huuuuge improvement from my years as a night owl.  But my tummy hurt and I just couldn’t stay asleep.  All I could think about was those cookies that I wasn’t able to bake as promised and the risk of my beloved River Bear collapsing in the river the next day.  So I got up and started mixing up the ingredients sometime after 2:00 a.m.  The story was unveiling vividly in my mind as the scent of baking chocolate chips and Irish butter filled the air . . .

My beloved would be paddling a new-to-him Wenonah J203 carbon-fiber marathon canoe, probably putting him at the back of the more accomplished river rats on Saturday.  They all would be pushing their limits in the cold and rainy weather, trying to get back into shape for the upcoming race season.  RB would be no different.  The only difference is that he would be competing with a sinus infection on top of some chronic breathing issues.  The  realization of the risks was just enough to drive the mind wild of a kayaking-turned-canoeing “widow.”  Yeah, I don’t see him much during the Spring-Summer-Fall racing season so temporary paddling “widow” I become!

Today was especially of concern.  If he got a coughing spell when on a remote part of the river, spread out for miles over the course with the other dozen-or-so racers, there’s a good chance that only a real bear in the woods would have heard him struggling.  His  brown, furry cousin probably would not have minded my beloved’s residual garlic breath as he munched on his serendipitous, soggy lunch feast.  But that was not the worst of my worries.  More likely another racer in an equally tippy performance kayak would see my beloved slumping forward, splash into the water to save him, and be unable to do much of anything about it.  I foresaw in my mind’s eye that probably would be LB, of course.

She in her 4-foot 10-inch frame would jump out of her boat, neither one wearing a life jacket despite the cooler water conditions, and wrestle with RB’s muscular/lifeless body as it flopped into the current of the Tippicanoe River:  he almost 70 pounds her senior and her struggling to keep both of them afloat.  The river would win and down he would go.  She would be traumatized and exhausted from the fight against the swirling water, the soaked mass of a man, the expensive boats and paddles flowing downstream, the desperate feeling of not being able to save him no matter how hard she tried.  I could see it all in my mind’s eye, of course, in an instant.  I had been in a similar situation myself just 8 years ago during my first encounter with a performance sea kayak on the Allegheny River.  I feared for my life!

Back at the boat launch or maybe when she could signal for help, LB would desperately reach out.  The fellow racers would leap into action, scouring the shoreline for signs of the man who teased them hours earlier with a craft beer for any seasoned canoeist who could beat him on his maiden voyage that day.  They may or may not find him or his gear.  The rescue boat would eventually arrive, find and take his body to a local hospital for the fateful pronouncement.  The paddlers would stand in a circle at the take-out speechless, none volunteering to call the wife over 100 miles away who had sent along home-baked cookies for the annual meeting afterwards.  No one would be brave enough to call her or maybe the Fire Department would at least leave a message?

Do they ever really tell you all of the news anyways that you need to know when you get a dire phone call at a time like this?  I would then be in my own racing seat as I made the 2-hour drive to the Lafayette area, wondering if I had the right name of the facility where my RB was being held under refrigeration.  Perhaps I would drive from facility to facility searching for my loved one?  And what would they tell me when I found him?  Would anyone be there to tell me the story of what happened?  Would the racers have taken a luscious cookie but gone on home anyways, themselves suffering from the trauma of the friendly competition gone wrong?

And what would I do next?  What about the pup at home, the phone calls that needed to be made?  I would probably have to stay over a few nights to release my hubby’s body to return to our home town on Monday morning and begin preparations for the worst event of my life:  a funeral!  I have done this in the past a few times and it is exceedingly and painfully difficult.  Oh dear, what would become of my elderly family member out of state for whom I have become a measure of a caregiver?  Where would my beloved’s children stay, what would I say when they arrived grieved beyond belief from all over the country and 2 foreign countries?  Holy cow.  Maybe I would just sink and die myself right then and there rather than deal with it all.

Or maybe not.

*************

Twelve hours and 2 naps later, I heard the side door open.  My River Bear was home!!!  I was in shock.  Where did I just go in my mind and my heart for way too many hours?  In what or where have I placed my trust?  And why the heck am I so very needy, so weak, such a worry-wart when the Lord has been faithful to lead me through horrible tragedy dozens of times before.  Is this mental exercise really helpful at any level?  The answer:  NOOOOOOOOOO!!!

I have come to realize that there are a couple of coping mechanisms that come with enduring serious illness for many years that don’t work very well at all in a fit brain.  One of them is living each day with a sense of impending doom.  When virtually every night and every morning for the past 6 years was met with violent convulsive episodes, I lived every day with a sense that bad things were always going to happen.  It was just a matter of time before they did.  Well guess what?  The convulsive episodes don’t happen every night or every morning anymore!  I have got to let go of this “stinking thinking” as we used to say in my 12-step group days.  Husbands virtually  always come home.  And if they don’t right way, they usually have an amazing story to tell that makes you fall in love with them even more!

Another coping mechanism that got exercised in writing this story was that of always needing a contingency plan.  More recently, every time I would plan to do an activity at home or elsewhere I set up alternatives in my mind of what I would do in case I got sick.  I told RB my plans for the day, I had every “rescue remedy” I could think of in a lunch bag with me, and kept running errands until I was exhausted — just in case I was too sick the next few days to leave the house.  As you can see from the bit of paddling fiction above, I listed a few of the questions running through my mind but in my head, many more options and scenarios were playing out in my mental tool box.  What a colossal waste of physical and emotional energy!   While a “scarcity” mindset may work in times of famine or flood, I really don’t need it with me anymore.  Me and the Lord will figure out whatever may come my way.  Geez!

Of course an obvious failed coping mechanism is last on my list today:  a false sense of control.  I cannot predict anything that will happen, good or bad, and neither can you.  If I truly trusted the Lord with my life in times of tragedy and triumph then I would not need these fantasy games to cope with the fact that I have a REAL MAN who LOVES ADVENTURE no matter if he is sick or well.  That makes him who he is!  And his passion for life makes him the man in whom I fell in love over 10 years ago.  No wimpy dude over here!  He pushes the limits to the admiration of his peers and sweat of his competitors because that is just how he is wired.  I guess I am still understanding how different we are, how different the Lord wired each of us.  It is a beautiful thing really.  And, Lord willing, my beloved will always be home at night in pretty darn good shape too, I will add!  :J

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

So the next time my man goes out to do that which he is called to do, I will pray for him and for me both!  I will not respond with fear but anticipation of some great stories in which I may one day join in, Lord willing, as I get stronger each day.  The day is coming soon when I will want to venture myself out into newer, uncharted waters, so-to-speak knowing that my Lord and King is already there, cheering for both me and my River Bear.  This could really be a fun summer after all.  I often cheer, “Goooooo Steeeeeve” from the side of various rivers when my beloved’s paddle hits the water at the sound of the starting gun.  Maybe it’s time for a little, “Gooooooo Julie” too?

Stay tuned.  There’s always another story waiting to be told around here for you Gentle Reader.  The water awaits!  JJ

Stellar, SR, paddling, woman, kayak, kayaking, wing paddle, carbon fiber

Me in my Stellar SR surf ski in 2011

Scorpius, outrigger canoe, OC1, Hawaiian, boat, man, paddling, life jacket, racing, buoy, turn, marathon, River Bear

My River Bear leading the pack at the bouy turn on the St Joe River, Fort Wayne, Indiana in July of 2015

The best in paddling

As the wife of a kayak, now canoe racer, I have been spoiled with the best paddling gear a gal could love.  Or want.  And it makes her look more “abled” than she could be.  Actually, having carbon fiber Epic kayak and outrigger paddles with boats made of kevlar have made it easier for my non-athletic frame to pull those beauties through the water.  The overall effect has been to be cool at last!

Want to see them?  My River Bear is having a Happy New Year Sale at his company:  River Bear Racing.  Check it out and drool a bit or contact me for a test drive when you are here in the Midwest.  There’s even some paddling life jackets to complete your ensemble!

Dunes Harbor, Sleeping Bear Dunes, lighthouse, just julie writes, Julie Horney

The Stellar S16S surf ski paddles like a breeze on the clear waters of Lake Michigan. Get your own at: River Bear Racing

So you want to go camping do ya?

Camping is not for the faint of heart, even in the “posh” conditions of a travel trailer! Having a trusty companion or two and the right tools can make the difference between success and failure.  For me that would be the guard dog, handy husband, jugs of water, and very long extension cord.  Gotter done!

Camplite, husband, kayak, Scorpius, rack, roof, outrigger, canoe, man, towing, camper, travel, trailer, home, Nissan, Frontier, camping

I am grateful for our Camplite (aka Tin Can Ranch) that allows me to go places with my hubby and stay in a mobile “clean room,” away from the hazards of hotels and limited choices of restaurant menus.  Preparing for these trips is an incredible amount of work all by itself:  just about the same amount of tasks need to be completed for a week-long vacation as an over-nighter.  I have a sense that we won’t be doing the latter again anytime soon!  Regardless, I rallied the strength and off we went with great expectations to the Illinois Beach State Park north of Chicago, Illinois.  I was to attend the day-long Designs for Health:  A Prescription for Wellness seminar at the beautiful Chicago Botanical Gardens and Steve was to tackle the surf along Lake Michigan.  Later we planned to meet up with some friends for dinner on the north side of the city before heading south around the city and back to NE Indiana into the wee hours of the morning.  Whilst the latter plans were complicated by severe rain and traffic issues for all parties, it turned out to be an “easier” part of our itinerary!

Our wacky adventures began soon after we pulled into the campground along the shores of Lake Michigan.  Up first:  hooking up the electrical.  Not!  For the next several hours we battled a worn breaker system that kept tripping no matter what we did to avert the issue.  Was it the breakers in the trailer that were overloaded?  The eroded contacts in the refrigerator switch plate that requires a few minutes of babysitting to turn on? Figuring this out required much problem-solving with wifey-poo dressed in early Spring/Winter garb, very weary from travelling and following orders from the friendly but not-so-helpful front office staff.  To sort this out, we ran our extension cord to a few adjacent sites to no avail.  Very likely it was the campsite breakers that were worn and not our camper since everything had worked fine at home the day before.  Too bad the real on-site expert had the day off!

Finally my husband figured out two work-a-rounds:  1)  hooking up our battery charger to the battery to run the water pump and 2) running our 100-foot extension cord to a 3rd campsite and through the kitchen area window to run the electric heater.  In the morning I disconnected the heater and attached it to my blow dryer to make some order of the bed head that came with the morning.  What about just taking a shower you ask? Well don’t!  That didn’t happen . . . for me anyways.  The campground did not have water or sewer hook-ups so we had filled our modest, 30-gallon water tank at home thinking it would be enough for bathroom needs with quick “Navy-style” showers.  We were wrong. Steve did get a shower . . . then a paddle in Lake Michigan . . . then another shower in the only open bathroom facilities in the campground.  I made the most of things and had a quick cooooold sponge bath before heading out to the seminar!  Oh well.  I was definitely AWAKE for the day of lectures to follow!

A few other tidbits further enhanced our experience such as Steve gashing his lip on the rusted breaker box in the midst of trying to figure out things!  So glad for our first aid supplies!  Then there was the brand new hot water pot that I had plugged in through the cord dangling in kitchen window to make some hot tea ended up not working; I used an electric frying pan instead!  Additionally I took every remedy that I had with me to ward off noxious symptoms from ongoing illness and to consume before-and-during the seminar (with copious amounts of food-n-bacon, of course).  And guess what?  The seminar was incredible!  Steve had a great time paddling our outrigger canoe 7 miles along the lake shore and the pup got in a few long walks at the beach.  Cool beans.

woman, seminar, Chicago Botanical Gardens, flowers, planter, Designs for Healing, sitting

Forrest Gump logic applies very well to almost all of our camping experiences these past 3 years:  you never know what you are going to get!  This trip was no different.  We are now home and pooped.  Massive loads of laundry and cleaning are now underway to decontaminate everything for our next adventure having something to do with trailer demolishen derby races or something.  With our luck, let’s just hope we don’t end up on the figure-8 track.  Should be fun.  Or maybe not.  I’ll be sure to letcha know.  Eeeeek!

JJ

The Life of a Kayaking Widow

No, he didn’t die.  He just goes away for large swaths of time as soon as the forsythias start their yellow bloom season up north here until the crimson leaves begin to fall into the local waterways.  Then he “comes back to life” again when I need him to keep me warm when the snow flies, that’s all.  Such is the life of a kayaking widow!

For those of you who have taken a break from reading your cereal box and picked up your beloved’s issue of Canoe News* instead, this one’s for you!  You may or may not be a paddler and that is o.k.  If you are not a RACER, however, and HE IS then you are invited to join me in this paper support group!  We are not alone!  (He does eventually come home to sleep and eat, right?)  I mean, I understand girlfriend.

So we must stick together, you and me, and figure out alternatives to dreamy picnics in the park with our men.  It probably won’t happen.  Our guys are either out fulfilling the requirements of their United States Canoe Association (USCA) membership or too tired and sore from the workout the day before to take a walk on the local Prairie Path on a Sunday afternoon.   “Would you massage my back?” is more likely heard than, “the moonlight sure is lovely reflected in your hair tonight.”  But I digress.  Just focus on the other scenic benefits of being married to an athlete if ya know what I mean?  J

And try these tips to get past the USCA Nationals in August at least!

  • Go shopping.  Spend wisely and no more than the amount he has invested in paddling gear.
  • Try a recreational race if you can paddle some; offer to take pictures of the event or help out if you prefer not.  Kids can come too if desired.  He will love you for taking an interest in his sport.
  • Leave a note of encouragement in plain view for your man to find as he makes his way out the door on race day before the rooster crows.  Add food.  Lots of food.
  • Plan regular events of your own either alone or with like-minded “widows.”  There a lot of us out there, left behind from various endeavors requiring testosterone.  Pick ones that require lots of estrogen to enjoy.
  • Eat chocolate and don’t share with anyone.
  • Look busy when he comes home yet be sure to greet him from upwind.

Surely there are a virtual bevvy of strategies for us land-lovers as I am only getting started here.  Actually I was a fan of boating under power when I met my River Bear.  What happened?  Who knows but her name might be “Stella(r)” or something like that!  I would love to hear from you ladies (and possibly widowers?) with your best tips on making the most of the paddling season.

Until then, gardening anyone?  JJ

*Published in the Summer 2017 issue of Canoe News

Fort Wayne, canoe, wife, husband, paddling, high knee, marriage, partners

This wifey-poo gets it right at an Indiana race on the St. Joe River in 2012!

Blueberries take a stroll . . .

blueberry, buckle, compote, crumble, bake, Valentines Day, special occasion, humor, funny, baking, loveI wasn’t exactly thinking of baking a blueberry dessert when the little rascals from my Big Box Store shopping extravaganza were scrambling all over our driveway the other day!  Oh dear.  My beloved will probably be reading this.  I washed them off Steve, truly I did!

Such is the caper of the rogue blueberries:  I opened the passenger side door of my truck to a splash of little purple berries spilling out onto the concrete beneath my feet.  I ended up stepping on one or two as I stepped back to figure out what had happened.  Squish!  They had rolled underneath the truck, in front of the door, all around my feet, down the driveway, and even past the sidewalk 20 feet away.  Geez oh man!  Good thing for cracks in the sidewalk or the courtyard would be a “hazy shade of Winter” too!  Maybe they wanted the freedom from their cramped clam shell cave into the cloud-covered, 30+ degree air?  I dunno.  I was getting cold so I set myself to rescue all that I could quickly without crushing them . . . two by three.  Blueberries on the loose are not easy catch you know!

Two days later I had figured out that the day AFTER Valentines Day would be a perfect occasion for putting my little treasures to good use.  I didn’t even use a recipe and yet I was able to concoct a gluten-free wonder made with a stick of butter, chopped pecans, and slightly sweetened coconut cream topping that would seem to get along well together.  Yes!  It was yummy!

So let this be a lesson for bakers everywhere.  If you want a great homemade treat for a special holiday and exceedingly wonderful someone, rough up the ingredients on the pavement first.  The beating will soften them and you just enough to get your creative juices flowing.  The delectable dessert prize surely will soothe your taste buds long enough to make you forget about your sore knees and the blue stains under your fingernails!

Your sweetie will like it too.  ;JJ