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 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” 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

Tales of kayaking and canoeing

My husband, Steve, loves to write tall tales of his racing adventures here in northern Indiana.  There are at least 7 races in the United States Canoe Association circuit here:  more if the rivers aren’t too low from a draught, too fast from flooding, or too rough from the winds on Lake Michigan!  The paddlers are marathon racers who love to go fast over 9 or more miles in a sea kayak, surf ski, 1-4 person racing canoe, outrigger canoe, downriver kayak, or “unlimited” boat.  Things can get dicey at times on and off the water as each sizes up the competition and conditions on race day . . . but they always go home as friends, ready for a re-match on another day.

Here’s a link to the Race Reports at River Bear Racing.  Going fast can be a lot of fun for spectators like me too.

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My River Bear leads the charge around the buoy turn in our OC-1

Goooooooo Steeeeeve!

 

https://riverbearracing.com/paddling-tales/

River Bear Racing is here!

Good news:  River Bear Racing officially launched this week and I am quite proud of my beloved Steve aka “River Bear.”

Well known to the racers of the United States Canoe Association, Steve has accepted an invitation to represent Stellar Kayaks in the Midwest.  Since 2009, Stellar has been delivering innovative kayaks, surf skis, paddles, and accessories across North America.  Steve always liked the cockpit and foot plate design of Stellar Kayaks as he advanced from a recreational kayaker when I met him in 2007 to the reigning State Champion in the Men’s K-1 Open Class in Indiana.  We have been on many adventures together since then, usually with me cheering him on from the side of a river somewhere, “gooooooooo Steve!!!!”  And I have loved every minute of it too.

So I invite you, Gentle Reader, to check out and FOLLOW my husband’s new website:  River Bear Racing.  Steve is an amazing storyteller so expect to be treated to much adventure and humor as he navigates the rivers east of the Mississippi in carbon fiber boats narrow enough that the rest of the world would call them a man-sized tongue depressor!  These racers are amazing, fast, fit, and  . . . well I better stop here lest I get into some wifey-poo trouble!  I am grateful to have learned so much from Steve and his love for the sport of sea kayak and surf ski racing.  And I even have Steve to thank for my really neat paddling gear (that exceeds my abilities) as well.

Lord willing, I am looking forward to getting back to our water adventures really soon.  Maybe I’ll just have to try out that S18S to see if it’s as cool as my old Stellar SR?  Hmmm, guess I’ve become a bit of a paddling geek to, eh?  JJ

Steve in his Stellar SE

Steve in his Stellar SE

 

The 5 1/2 hour window of time

Ready to head home with the 24-foot outrigger and ama on the roof!

Ready to head home with the 24-foot outrigger and ama (float) on the roof!

So grateful to be out with my River Bear!

So grateful to be out with my River Bear!

 

We came to a clearing in things and went for it!

These pictures were taken after a wonderful evening paddling our tandem outrigger canoe (OC-2) on Sylvan Lake here in Indiana.  How wonderful to be out on the water for a second outing with Steve this year.  I am so very grateful!

Sadly the evening ended worse than the earlier part of this day.  Tic attacks had started in the car on the 45-minute ride home.  Within an hour after getting home and unpacking the car I was feeling sickly.  We ate some quick salads before I scampered off for bed, still in my paddling clothes.  Low grade seizure attacks ramped up over the next hour, escalating into one of the worse episodes I have had in a long time.  Screams of terror filled our home.  The best that I could do was hold on and focus on continuing to breathe . . .

Eventually I was able to call Steve for help getting off the damp clothing and showering.  In my stupor and neurological collapse (requiring complete assistance to transport myself to the bathroom) I figured out that I must have gotten exposed to the blue green algae we encountered in the narrower sections of the lake.  I had taken numerous precautions to limit exposure to the water.  However, some simply cannot be avoided when splashing about, paddling from an open cockpit of an OC-2.  And perhaps the slimy green pond near the port-a-potties in the parking lot were releasing aerosols that were not to my liking as well?  I didn’t touch any food or the mouth of my water bottle since we did not have hand sanitizer with us.  I guess it wasn’t enough:  I am too sensitive to any form of biotoxin to get anywhere near them in any form until things change.

Thankfully after about three hours I regained motor control of my body.  I was better able to communicate and we processed what had occurred this evening.  Steve agreed that we probably need to limit paddling together to waters treated for algae, such as the private lake of a friend’s home.  This means not being able to join the local kayaking group outings on Tuesday night for the third year in a row!  That’s a major bite in the shorts!  To get strong enough to go out with them for two years was a major accomplishment for me and lasted until I got sick October 11, 2011.  Just getting into a kayak (and now an outrigger canoe, solo and tandem) simply had never happened before I married Steve.  We have so many great memories being a part of the group in addition to his kayaking competitions.  (Goooooo Steeeeeeve!)  Sigh.  And I was really enjoying the switch from a kayak to an outrigger, sporting my carbon-fiber bent shaft paddle too.  So awesome.

Last night I watched most of the video story again of Justin and Christa Vanderham.  Christa suffered from chronic Lyme disease and mold exposure for years before finding proper treatment with antibiotics, supplements, and nutrition.  A fellow sojourner in recovery and reader of this blog graciously reminded me recently that Christa’s illness looked a lot like the videos that I have posted here and on You Tube.  Yes, both our symptoms of distress appear wretched:  intractable pain for Christa and relentless seizure attacks for me.  We both scream at times due to our agony.  In chronic Lyme and biotoxin illness it’s not the exact matrix of symptoms that is so significant as it is making sure you have the right diagnoses and treatment protocols to get well.  We don’t say that we have different illnesses because our symptoms are a little different.  We do say that we both might benefit from similar aggressive treatment protocols if reasonable test data and clinical presentation indicate Lyme or biotoxin illness.  Unfortunately for me, EVERY SINGLE TREATMENT INTERVENTION exacerbates daily seizure attack episodes that average 3-4 hours per day!  I simply cannot survive the treatment protocols of which I am aware to date.  The multiple chemical sensitivities (aka Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) already leaves me largely homebound to try and prevent noxious symptoms.  Lately they are on the rise again (up to 8 hours!) regardless of where I am or what I am doing.  When I take a 5 1/2 hour window of time when the symptoms subside and test the waters, so to speak, I usually pay dreadfully for doing so.  This gal just can’t get a real break I guess.  I keep trying the wrong things.  On the surface, you could say that I am out of options . . .

Regardless, this I know:  my Jesus goes before me and knows the desires of my heart.  He knows that my heart is breaking right now to realize that I can no longer be with my dear husband 2 to 3 days per week when he pursues his sport on the water.  I learned to kayak to be with my River Bear and was delighted to discover that I enjoyed it too (at a slower pace of course!).  My Lord knows how isolated I am when I am home alone because of this illness.  He has provided the safety and security of a lovely dwelling with plenty of time with my Heavenly Husband.  He was my best buddy before I met Steve; He saw me through life changes equally as traumatic all the way to the restoration process in due time.  I’ll be hanging tough and trusting Him with this door closing on open water activities, no matter how I may feel about it.  The fact is that my Lord and Savior loves me more than I can ever know.  He wants what is best for me.  I will wait with great expectation at His throne of grace for His plan for me, whether or not a new door or window opens in due time.  If I don’t lay down my will for His will then I will denounce all that He has shown me of His love for me in the past.  I don’t want to waste all that I have learned.  During those trials is when my faith grew to be what it is today.  That is when the Holy Spirit became real to me, guiding me and comforting me always.  Nothing can take that away from me.  Nothing will.

Gentle Reader, do you know faith in God like this through His son, Jesus Christ?  Please share with me your experiences if you do.  I know it will encourage me to hear from you in addition to other Readers.  Oh and if you could say a prayer for my Stevers that would be great.  He hasn’t been getting much sleep lately.  Thanks a bunch.

Better finish that mulching project in the gardens soon.  Love to you,  Just Julie

Like a River Glorious

In his first solo CD, Huntley Brown clinked the keys of a grand piano with such magnificent flow that it sounded like  the rushing waters of a mighty river.  Check it out yourself on You Tube at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up1ygB0ZYes  I first heard this amazing piece when he was first performing in churches across the United States about 20 years ago.  This native born Jamaican had surely witnessed the glory of majestic waters crashing upon the sandy beaches of his homeland.  Yes!  I can picture it.  How about you?

The imagery of a river is meaningful to me.  When I was a child I fell into a river when helping groom a trail along the Clinton River in Michigan.  It was part of a day camp experience and I was scared then upset because I had to stay in my muddy, wet clothes for the rest of the day!  Oh the trials of childhood!

Trials indeed.  When I would break down into tears as a young girl my brother, Mike, would taunt me mercilessly.  He stood in front of me with the palms of his hands facing upwards and sneered, “cry me a river!!!”  I burned with anger.  He had no idea the pain underneath those tears that finally spilled down onto my face after holding so much hurt inside:  hurt with no safe place to go.  I had endured two of three sexual abusers by this age:  the damage was done.  No river could contain my tears, or at least that is how it felt, should the “dam ever break open.”

Flash forward 40 years.  The abusers are now deceased and forgiven; my heavenly Father has filled the hurt with His amazing grace and love.  I married my intended beloved and he introduced me to kayaking on the rivers of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  We began on the water together in a Hobie Oasis (i.e. a pedal-driven kayak) until I progressed to a solo Think Fit Sea Kayak.  By October of 2011, I was in the best physical shape of my life despite an underlying chronic pain condition and had upgraded to a beginner surf ski kayak:  the Stellar SR.  For almost three years my husband and I had enjoyed  kayaking with a local recreational group on Tuesday nights all summer through the early Fall.  The wonder of the rivers and waterways we explored together eventually changed my perception of them; after all I had grown up by the polluted Detroit River, downriver from the steel mills!  Rivers?  Yuck!  Boating on the water back then for me meant exploring the Five Great Lakes and clear blue inland lakes of Michigan by speedboat not human-powered slo-mo vessels!

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Me in my Stellar SR

Well who knew that Indiana was so beautiful?  We witnessed young deer up close, sneaking to the edge of the water for a drink and Great Blue Herons feeding their young in the tops of trees.  Paddling with a gaggle of 20 or more colorful kayaks with double-bladed paddles gently sliding through the water was a really cool sight to see.  For the first time in my life I felt “cool!”  The evening excursions were sweetened by the chocolate chip and peanut butter monster cookies from a fellow kayaker as the sun was setting over the boat launch at the end of the day.  The sunset is simply glorious on the waters of a river winding through the woodland . . .

It sure is a curious thing that the most significant episode of illness in my life would begin after kayaking in a local reservoir and river.  The complicated course of events that followed prevented me from all but limited excursions on the water for the next two and one-half years.  I’ve now sold both kayaks mentioned here and we have replaced them with  solo and tandem outrigger canoes.  My balance skills have suffered of late so the Hawaiian-style outrigger provides stability with maximum performance.   After all, Steve is a competitive kayak racer so we are grateful to have fast and great gear along with really cool looking boats!  Lord willing, I look forward to getting on the water again sometime this year.

And so I was praying, crying out to the Lord recently when the most difficult parts of this illness had led to feelings of despair.  Perhaps you read the previous blog entitled, “Psalm 71?”  Yeah, I hit rock bottom a couple of nights ago.  Within a day the Lord led me through His Holy Spirit to an understanding of where I am and where all of this might be going.  This did not come with exacting answers of time or place initially.  I came to understand that the process of searching a new treatment option was like that of waters moving from one place to the next.  The Lord placed me in the middle of the stream of new research and methodically led me through the steps of discovery to a new treatment modality.  I will write more about what it is another time.  What I will say here is that I am in awe that there were no barriers along the way just an open current, if you will, of information even when I could not see where the research was leading me.  When I finally landed at a decision, like putting-in or taking-out at a boat launch that both sends you on an adventure or returns you home, He showed me the symbolism of a river, glorious.  The image of a river made sense to me.  The residual pain from my brother’s comments so many years ago finally faded.  The Lord gathered my cries for help like a gentle stream at the mouth of a river leading to His heart.  I believe there will be a significant measure of healing this time.

Psalm 98:7-8 

Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;

Song of Songs 8:7

Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
    all the wealth of one’s house for love,
    it would be utterly scorned.

Isaiah 43:2

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

Lamentations 2:18

The hearts of the people cry out to the Lord. You walls of Daughter Zion, let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief, your eyes no rest.

Amos 5:24

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

John 7:38

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

Revelation 22

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Tonight I rest along the banks of my Heavenly Father’s river of life.

Thank you, Lord, for carrying me downstream as far and as long as was needed to bring me to this new place of hope. Oh my Lord, forgive me for my desperation, for not trusting You.  Help me to trust you, to continue to abide in your streams of righteousness, wisdom and grace. Renew my faith, strengthen my sea legs if You will, until it’s time for me to come home.  I love you.  Julie

river at sunrise