It can be a mixed bag for the wife of a racer: Part 1

I remember the day Steve first took me out kayaking.  He was careful to put me in the more stable of his two kayaks:  the white one with the yellow deck (Epic Endurance).  Or was it the yellow plastic one (Sirocco)?  Perhaps I was too nervous to recall the color!  All I remember was trying to trust my new boyfriend while fearing toppling into the water.  Becoming a drowned rat was not my intention during one of our early dates together!  Besides, he was an aspiring kayak racer and I had already shared with him my many other types of canoeing/boating experiences thoughout my lifetime.  Yes I can swim.  Oh the mixture of thoughts that ran through my head as I got in that tippy little thing . . .

With an unwelcomed nudge (shove?) on the stern from my teacher I was able to paddle out some from the park launching site he had so carefully selected, turn around then return to the shore a few times.  When it was time to go he carefully straddled the boat to stabilize it and instructed me on in the finer points of a gracious dismount.  That action requires straddling your legs wide apart to either side of the wide cockpit of an elongated diamond-shaped seafarer.  Ladies:  that’s not the view I had hoped to offer my intended beloved at this stage of our relationship if you know what I mean?  And my feet got wet and muddy to boot since this would be a couple of years before acquiring my own proper pair of water shoes from our local mega-grocery store.  (That was another rite of passage that came later!)  Steve expertly cleaned off the boats and attached them to the roof racks of his truck.  Oh, so that’s how those beastly black metal frames filling the bed of his periwinkle-striped truck work!  (I remember seeing them on our first date in the west suburbs of Chicago.  A rare sight in suburbia for sure!  Who is this guy?)

Steve rapidly progressed that summer as he shifted from a recreational to a competitive United States Canoe Association (USCA) racer.  I watched closely as he increasingly dedicated himself to all things paddling:  studying the equipment, kayak dimensions, paddling technique videos, and outings with both Indiana racers and the Fort Wayne kayaking group.  Hmmm.  I had an important decision to make.  Either I would master this paddling thing or spend lots of afternoons home alone as he perfected his craft away from home without me.  To insist that he stay home with me would get in the way of the paddling athlete he was becoming.  After all, I did enjoy the fruits of all that cycling and marathon racing.  🙂

Steve aka River Bear
Steve aka River Bear

Our first USCA Nationals was an amazing experience.  Cars, campers, trucks, wagons, and anything to which you could strap a boat (can you say Amish buggy?) were crammed along the shore of the St. Joe River in South Bend, Indiana.  There were young and middle aged men in either spandex or neoprene everywhere!  My training as an occupational therapist has often helped me appreciate the beauty of God’s human form just long enough to remember that I must bounce my eyes to other lovely things lest my heart go to dishonoring places!  Sish.  You would think that everyone was a competitor given the hundreds of colorful vessels sprinkling the shoreline that day.  Excitement and anticipation were in the air.  Steve competed in the sea kayaking class and finished respectfully for his first Nationals.  A former Olympian named Matt smoked the pack by minutes:  a dramatic sight to see.  I’d never seen a racing canoe (C-1) or an Olympic-class ICF kayak before:  narrower, tippier, and lighter than 2 bowling balls side-by-side and pushed effortlessly against the current of any river with carbon fiber, bent or winged paddles, respectively.  I didn’t see any that looked appealing to me just yet!  My learning curve would surely keep me beyond reach of these river rats in vessels as wide as a hewn log floating downstream to a lumber yard.

Steve could give you more details on how he progressed to lighter and faster sea kayaks, trading up or buying-and-selling with guys throughout the Midwest.  For the two of us we had settled on a Hobie Oasis when the Lord provided the needed resources:  a tandem bright blue pedal-driven barge-by-comparison, complete with cup-holders and 100 pounds of stability.  We had fun taking the Hobie out on local lakes many Sundays that summer after Steve had raced all day somewhere in northern Indiana on most Saturdays.  We could use it as a swim platform or explore native shorelines and never fear the wakes of ski boats zooming by.  The only drawback was the slow peddling speed.  With both of us peddling we still maxed out at around 4 MPH.  Adding power from the wimpy plastic kayak paddles didn’t make much of a difference.  It takes a long time to get anywhere at that speed!  We were always struggling to keep up with the recreational paddlers of the FW Kayaking group and getting water lilies or seaweed caught in the drive system under the boat (think bicycle crank shaft above and swim fins below).  Sure we could trade up for the shorter fins.  Somehow I had a feeling that I was going to learn to paddle eventually.  Could I become strong enough to power my own vessel?  I started looking around at kayak designs when at races.  I looked over Steve’s shoulder many times as he was watching frightful ocean-going surf ski racing You Tube videos.  Good golly!  So where is the middle ground?

Julie and a friend's son Ty in a recreational race with the Hobie Oasis
Julie and a friend’s son Ty in a recreational race with the Hobie Oasis

In many sports you are only as good as your gear.  You can’t blame your gear for poor performance most of the time (or at least your spouse will remind you of the financial cost of trying to get it right!) but you can spend less energy where it doesn’t need to go when your equipment is lighter and your technique is streamlined to match.  This is where it is beneficial to be married to an athlete of the sport in which you are choosing to dabble!  With my own better gear I was about to start looking a bit more accomplished than my ability!  The next stage began in Warren, Pennsylvania.

I knew it when I saw it.  We were pulling into the parking lot of the beautiful park that would be the home base for the Warren USCA Nationals.  She was bright orange and gray, strapped to the roof of a racer from New Jersey, and wearing a big red-and-white “For Sale” sign.  The boat, not the guy!  My dad had just sent me an unexpected financial gift that happened to be idling in my checkbook.  I had seen the fiberglass lay up of the Think Fit on display at our first trip to Nationals the previous summer.  Something about it resonated with me:  a sea kayak that wasn’t too narrow, was significantly lighter than the plastic beasts like the Hobie that the recreational paddlers tended to favor, and yet was respectable even by the racing crowd.  Very few Think Fits were available in the Midwest.  It looked intimidating and skill-building all the same.  She was going home with me.  I was sure of it long before I said anything to Steve.

The bonding experience would change my view of kayaking forever.  Think about it:  what’s the worst fear a person might have when getting into a tiny vessel on unknown waters?  Drowning?  Even if you know how to swim there are variables on open water that can kill you.  A jet boat can run you over, a swirling eddy can entrap you under a log, the current can take you where you don’t want to go, and a spider can tether down from a tree branch from above and frightfully let you know that you are not paddling alone . . . It’s the stuff waking nightmares are made of.  You know, that twilight time just before you fall asleep?  I would have many recollections of my first time in the Think Fit after that maiden voyage.  It’s the stuff you tell stories about when out to dinner after a day of racing or touring.

Steve stabilized the Think Fit in the midst of the current of the Alleghany River to help me get a feel for it.  This is a bit misleading for many reasons including these top two:  1)  a boat (like a bicycle) is more stable as you move forward instead of sitting stationary and 2)  the rate of the current (or the overpowering wind on a bicycle) can challenge the skill level of all of us.  The Core of Army Engineers had released a bit too much water from the dam earlier that day to correct the water levels for the race competitors.  So instead of a gentle 2-3 MPH current, we’re talking 5-6 MPH!  The last time I stood in current like that was as a kid when helping groom a trail at day camp.  I had slid off the trail into the swirling waters of the Clinton River, feeling the rush pull me away from the shore as I struggled to get back onto dry land.  Where were the other kids?  Who knows.  All I knew is that I was scared and I had to spend the rest of the day in soggy shoes and shorts!  Bummer.  Or there were the times as a kid that we created a current walking around the periphery of our 24-foot backyard pool.   After about a dozen times pool-walking around the circle we had created an awesome current for crazy fun, sweeping us away unless we hung onto the sides!  The feel of rushing water returned few decades later when I felt the undertow when swimming in the ocean along the Gulf of Mexico . . .  Now there’s a real sense of danger right there.

Steve had me paddle towards him then drew me back along the shore for a repeat mini-paddle.  I could feel the rush of the water making the paddling easier.  No problem.  His presence boosted my confidence too.  Then I started venturing out a little more, requiring less help from him to turn around.  I barely had a handle on the rudder steering mechanism as I tried to make a turn before a large tree hanging over the river.  Before I knew it I was pushed into a horizontal branch and began rolling over in slow-motion.   I grabbed a branch within reach above me, nearly panicked, and somehow remembered to hang onto the very expensive boat that wasn’t mine.  Everything flashed before me in an instant:  I’m glad I am wearing a life jacket.  I can’t hold the boat and the paddle at the same time.  The boat isn’t paid for so I can’t let go.  I am horizontal and the current is stronger than I could ever imagine.  How long can I hold on?  If I let go will I be strewn down the river backwards for miles before anyone ever finds me?  I will be stranded somewhere with snakes, barbs or worse as it gets dark.  Why are the men watching right now and not doing anything?  I could die!  I don’t know what to do and I am panicking!

In a moment like that you must make a different decision:  will you become overwhelmed with fear and land in a worse outcome because of it or will you take a deep breath and try to figure something out.  Even Steve was standing knee-deep in water along the shore watching me, speechless!  Would he even be able to hear me over the roar of the rushing water anyways?  Yes, I have to try anyways.  First step, I yelled, “I need to be rescued.”  He quickly came out of shock, took off his glasses/watch/keys, and started towards me.  Second step, “I am letting go of the boat.”  That cued him to grab the boat, make an awesome deep water re-entry into it, grab the paddle and make his way towards me.  Third step and just as he got to me, I let go of the tree branch and my only security on earth in that moment.  I quickly drifted into the stern of the boat and grabbed hold.  He said something to me and I have no idea what it was.  I held on with whatever energy was left in my trembling body.  Did I mention that the waters were quite cool?

Even Steve was having trouble righting the boat to return to shore as I realized that I could help him do so.  I started kicking my legs as if I were hanging onto a kick board in a lap pool.  Yeah, more like a lap pool with a swim machine on steroids that is!  We readily got going in the right direction and Steve paddled us into shore.  When I could feel the sandy bottom of the shoreline I dragged myself out of the water.  Steve dismounted out of the boat, emptied it and laid it on the shore.  The two idiots that were watching the whole time and did nothing to help, said nothing, checked their phones, and walked over the hill back into the parking lot beyond.  In that park were hundreds of experienced canoe and kayak racers who had no idea of the crisis occurring for me at the take-out where all of them had ended their respective races within the previous hour.  I collapsed into Steve’s arms in horror, fear, grief, terror, and relief that I had not drowned.  It was my worst fear you know.  The second was drifting aimlessly backwards down the river forever.  Both landed me in a bucket full of tears that seemed like they would never end.

These days I understand that you can swim in waters with a stout current.  These days I know some navigational and survival skills should I ever be faced with that scenario again.  These days I know that I could have drifted downriver with the boat as a float and with the protection of my life vest to keep my head above water in most circumstances.  These days I know that Steve would have signaled for help and did whatever it would take to find me should I have become stranded along the river down from the take out.  And these days I know that I could have turned myself around almost instantly if I would have been swept away with the current.  I have learned a lot since that day five years ago.

When I got my wits about me I looked at that orange and gray Think Fit kayak and knew I had another decision to make.  We would be leaving town the next day and the boat that I thought would be right for me would also be leaving to make a cross-country trip in the opposite direction from where we live in Indiana.  This was the boat I had landed upon after investigating the options and it was about to go away.  The crisis that I experienced was a rite of passage in many ways.  Sure, it’s unlikely to find such perilous conditions in the waterways of Indiana so why worry about it ever happening again.  But that wasn’t the point.  The point was that I had faced my worst fear of what could go wrong in a human-powered craft.  I had faced it and survived.  I had faced it and gained some new skills.  And in the process I had bonded with my new Think Fit kayak.  I bought it and took her home with me.  It was the only possible outcome that I could imagine.  I became a kayaker that day!

Julie in her Think Fit sea kayak
Julie in her Think Fit sea kayak

There’s more.  See Part 2 for a little more of my paddling story.  Then get into your own boat somewhere on some friendly waters this summer and get going eh?  Oh the adventures that await you!  Did I tell you the one about the nest of great blue herons in the remote pond at the end of the Golden Lake chain o’ lakes?  :J

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!

DSCF8629
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

Me thinks the lady dost protest too much

According to Wikipedia (and who can argue with the Big W?)  The quotation “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, act III, scene II, where it is spoken by Queen Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother. In Shakespeare’s time, “protest” meant “vow” or “declare solemnly”.  It also means that she is promising too much.  Well I don’t know about the Queen but this lady is going to take it literally:  I think my posting about illness is getting to be too much!

So I must digress for a moment into another topic altogether.  You see, the failing of dealing with chronic illness (defined as that which lasts more than 6 months) is when the diagnosis becomes you.  When I start to use words like, “my Lyme disease” or “my mold illness” then I am beginning to affix a permanent label to myself:  a new identity as a sick person.  Sure, I am a person with a serious illness.  Yet if I am not careful, I will develop such a strong identification with the role of “sick person” that it will be difficult to embody or identify with other roles and activities in my life.  It could be difficult to identify with healing when it comes; that would be bad!  The tendency when wearing the “hat” of a disease too well is to talk about symptoms or treatment all of the time.  I could constantly be complaining about the daily headaches and pain, difficulty concentrating, or pre-tic phenomena, etc.  And if I do that, I simply won’t be much fun to be around.  I will find myself alone more of the time and I’m already alone a lot!

So I must make a conscious effort, beginning with those closest to me, to focus on him or her and other things no matter how benign the topic.  Gotta start somewhere!  I can always find something to say about our cute pupster, the mail that came that day, or something for which I am grateful.  I can always lavish in the goodness of the Lord, Jesus Christ and how he has given me a warm, pretty home in which to reside.  I can always be grateful for the healthy food that is available to me in our smallish town from both local farmers and chain grocery stores.  (For example, have you seen the great prices on organic, free range chicken thighs in the Family Pack at Wal-Mart?)  And when in doubt, I can even brag about making it to Level 102 in the Facebook game Pengle.  Hey, what else am I supposed to do when spacey at 2:00 a.m.?  The game is not that easy and it’s kinda fun too!

One of my favorite topics is my husband Steve.  He is an amazing man.  Steve begins his day with an extended time of prayer before taking care of our dog and getting ready for work.  I am often sleeping or returning to sleep as he is leaving for work; we chat by phone sometime later in the afternoon.  By that time he has designed a cool aspect of a weather satellite or test instrument in his role as a mechanical engineer for a world-wide firm.  At lunch he cycles.  Yeah that’s right.  Most of us take bike rides.  Not my Stevers.  He is a competitive athlete to the core even during his lunch “rides” where the guys crank out 20 or more miles, averaging 19 or so miles per hour most days of the week.  Then on Tuesday nights during the warmer weather and most weekends until the St. Joseph River freezes over, you’ll find my River Bear in his kayak-on-steroids.  Steve races in the United States Canoe Association circuit  (K-1 Unlimited class) here in northern Indiana and at Nationals every year.  His two little ditties are 21-foot carbon fiber surf skiis that weigh in at around 23 pounds each!  The Epic V12 looks like a Tomahawk missile on top of his stealth fighter Dodge Magnum low rider transport vehicle.  Then there’s the multitude of service activities to our church including worship, Bible study, and fellowship.  It’s amazing that there’s any energy left when the dude returns home.  Yes, there is energy left for me, with hugs and tenderness too.  Even at midnight when I’m not doing so well on a work night.

USCA Nationals 2013:  Steve racing the Mohican
USCA Nationals 2013: Steve racing the Mohican

I love Steve with all my heart.  It’s a privilege to be his wife, a blessing from the Lord.  I have never felt so loved, so cherished, so respected, and held in so high of esteem by anyone at any other time in my life.  His sense of humor, common sense, and Godly wisdom enrich me immeasurably.  He is often my “Jesus with skin on.”  Thank you, Jesus for blessing me with an amazing man of God.

Ladies, amazing men do exist!  Can you see one important reason why I strive with what little strength I have these days to be the best woman I can be?  Sometimes all I can do is make my man his lunch . . . at 3:00 a.m. in the morning before I finally make it to bed.  So I make it the best lunch I can possibly muster with my Heavenly Husband holding me together until it’s completed.  Then the dog gets a scratch behind the ears and it’s time to collapse into whatever the darkness may bring.  At least I know as I close my eyes each night that this lady has “professed” her best culinary care and it is not “too much.”  I’m hoping it’s just right!

Oh my Heavenly Father, thank you for my beloved who cares for me and my heart in this life until we both can be in Your presence forevermore.  And if it is your will Lord, I ask to be able to be with Steve a little more as husband and wife, sharing the joys of life and being together.  Thank you for helping us to find some sweetness despite this season of illness in my life.  Thank you for Your provision and helping me, helping us to endure this difficult journey.  You have sustained us, carried us over and over again through much uncertainty, false hopes, unexpected setbacks, and complications.   While all this is true, You have also allowed others to see You here and there when we somehow got it right.  Oh Lord, I pray that we continue to be a worthy steward of all that You allow in our lives for Your glory alone.  Thank you for a better afternoon and evening today.  I love you too.  In Christ’s name, Amen.

Counting on Muscle Memory!

press1eighteenxtimes

Completing 30 minutes of the Metabolic Effects hybrid workout DVD with repetitively lifting 5 pound weights, reflected the highest level of fitness I had achieved in my life.  The increased upper body strength provided a great foundation for hitting the kayaking season with my River Bear husband just 2 months later.  We would go out with the local, recreational kayaking group virtually every Tuesday night from summer through the Fall.  I even sampled one member’s cookies after a night of paddling:  a sweet treat, in a peanut butter version for health reasons of course!

While everything was not perfect at that time, I mean I still had chronic pain and needed a couple of days to recover afterwards, life was as good as it had gotten.  I was working part time, enjoying gardening in a real home (not a condo or townhouse), and blessed beyond measure with a loving husband and church family.  My father had died earlier in 2011; that was bittersweet.  My dad died  2 months after I got to see him in person for the first time in 30 years!  So while  I was grateful for the reunion, the healing, and the new relationship with him, I was also very grieved for his passing.  And near the end of that year I had begun the Master Gardener classes at our local County Extension Office.   To become a Master Gardener was a new goal borne out of my mother’s love for gardening passed onto me.  All in all, it was a good and important year in my life.

What I did not count on was contracting viral hepatitis after kayaking in a local reservoir October 11, 2011.  I was deathly sick.  I never fully recovered.  After the holidays, my doctor when looking for other reasons for my illness and backed into a clinical diagnosis of Lyme Disease.  Within a year mold illness would also be discovered and a need to completely remediate our home.  The year and one-half of stress, illness, extraordinary expense, inability to work, and social isolation would take their toll.  My body became severely deconditioned as physical activity generally exacerbated most noxious symptoms.  To complete my basic self care, prepare my special diet, and to keep the house clean became my focus in addition to all of the activities related to managing my healthcare:  16 to 18 hours per day!  The remaining hours were crochity at best.  Dialing a phone and pressing 18,000 times the “1” key is not too far from the truth when you have to call so many health care providers, insurance companies and so on!

Today I am counting on muscle memory.  You’ve heard of that before, right?  Wikipedia defines it as follows:

Muscle memory has been used synonymously with motor learning, which is a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort. This process decreases the need for attention and creates maximum efficiency within the motor and memory systems.

I am hoping that when I am able to work out consistently, the memory pathways will still be there to get me stronger a little more quickly than if I was starting from scratch.  Certainly I have experienced this, for example, when getting back into my kayak 2 weeks ago, for the first time in a year.  I do remember how to hold the carbon fiber winged racing paddle after all!  And I didn’t fall out of my 19 foot Kevlar Stellar SR surf ski.  Wow.  There sure are sweet benefits to being married to a kayak racer, by the way!  My equipment is very cool and exceeds my abilities for sure.  (With the chronic pain, the lighter, more efficient equipment helped me to participate in a demanding sport.)  Thank you Lord for this cool history and the hope I have in You.  It’s all good.  🙂

One week before this journey began

The trip of faith that made a difference

DSCF7473You will find a tale of two contrasts in the top photo:   Aunt Lori and I in our outrigger canoe paddling in a bayou, Tarpon Springs, FL; and photo below:  wearing a respirator mask in my home.

Here is evidence of the victory over illness that began when we traveled last week from our home in Indiana.  I was able to paddle a decent length for the first time in over a year!  And paddling in our OC-2 was particularly sweet as my husband had just finished repairing the hull.  (It was damaged at the USCA Nationals in 2011.  The risk of racing, I understand!)

The escape of faith started with a lovely visit with my husband’s cousin, Christine Oswald and her family in Atlanta, Georgia.  Their four girls are adorable!  From there we travelled to Florida so my husband could participate as the Indiana delegate to the United States Canoe Association.  Meanwhile I gratefully enjoyed having lunch at Hellas on the Sponge Docks:  authentic Greek food that matched my narrow dietary regime.  Amazing.  From DSCF7517Tarpon Springs we made our way to remote Patrick, South Carolina (near Florence) to the hideaway log cabin of Ed & Kinsey and little Gunnar Artfich.   We really enjoyed some meaningful fellowship and are pretty sure we now have the answers to Obamacare, gun control, and preparing for the End Times.  Thanks guys.

Preparing for the trip was a nightmare as I had a neurological collapse earlier that day, two medical appointments, was recommended not to drive, drove anyways to the grocery store, and cooked my special foods for hours with the windows open.  The latter was to attempt to minimize the exposure to mold enough that I could prepare the special anti-seizure diet and pack as needed to get away for a few days.  I was sooo sick!  The Lord gave me a supernatural dose of adrenaline to start the process then finish the next morning despite a “hammer headache” and seizure attacks.  This gal was getting out of town if it killed me!

The trip did not kill me.  The trip began to restore me.  Within 48 hours, all of my symptoms had either diminished or temporarily reversed.  The antibiotic and fungal medications started to work (thanks to a run to CVS pharmacy at 2:30 a.m.!  Too bad the credit card got cancelled because we were out of State.  Sometimes I wish computers didn’t think so much!)  I had mini flare ups here and there.  HOWEVER, THE PATTERN OF DAILY 3-4 HOUR SEIZURE ATTACKS AND COLLAPSES WAS NOW BROKEN!!!  This is the miracle for which we desperately prayed in the doctor’s office on January 8th.  We praised the Lord and had a great time.  I finally started to sleep a little more too.  Amazing.

We are now in the reality of returning home.  My last post reflects the crying and feeling of being overwhelmed that has characterized these last three days.  I arranged to stay in a hotel-with-a-kitchenette for two nights beginning at 4:30 a.m. when I got there.  Steve went home as he was getting a sinus infection and needed to take care of things at our home then return to work the next day.  Turns out that I would not see him again for almost 2 days, too long.  While traveling, we were without internet access for the first half of out trip then was finally able to share a prayer request of our need for a place for me to stay.  We are one accord that I cannot live in the house that is killing me!  We had begun the process of filing a claim with out homeowner’s insurance since the mold causing the severity of this illness was from an incomplete clean-up of water damage by a restoration company in January of 2009.  The immediacy of the housing need and time of arrival back in Indiana necessitated a hotel expense.

After much prayer and consideration in my “lost” state of mind, I selected the home of one of two friends that appeared to meet my needs:  no water damage, no chemical fragrances, kitchen access, and distance from the internet router (an issue for some folks like me with Lyme Disease).  I unpacked, made a late dinner, and went to bed around midnight.  At 4:22 a.m. I was awakened by severe seizure attacks that would not subside!  Oh no!  Fear gripped my heart.  I don’t want to go back there!  What shall I do?  What is causing it?  I stayed up for 2 hours then went back to bed, hoping to catch my host couple in the morning.  The seizure attacks returned and sleep alluded me.  The old “hammer headache,” ringing in my ears, stomach ache and more began to escalate.  We really never figured out what caused this surprising setback:  was it the iron bacteria in the water or some residual from a basement flood 9 years ago?  With sadness, I had to pack up and head back to the hotel.  There I was able to sleep peacefully once again, albeit a short time until the next appointment this afternoon.

Our “ace-in-the hole” to meet a housing need for the estimated 2-months needed for the mold restoration project was the newly renovated home of another couple we know.  Sounded like it would be ready within 2 weeks and sitting empty until it would be sold in the Spring.   We toured the sweet, older home by a lovely wooded park; everything inside was to be new.  Unfortunately we found an area of drywall in the basement that had been cut away due to mold damage.  All it took was our friend tapping on the tattered insulation in the basement-smelling basement and I was in crises.  I went outside for some fresh air, stepped back inside by the screen door, then hurried back out before the major collapse ensued.  Gratefully I was able to yell for Steve.  By the time he reached me in the side yard, my gait was stumbling, I was crying, and the seizure attacks were ramping up.  All I could do was blurt out, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” and yield with horror to the loss of control of my body.  Steve assisted me to the car and transferred me back into the passenger seat.  Decision made:  can’t live here!

Sometimes a burger at Five Guys Burgers is just the ticket.  By the time we got there, I was slowly regaining motor control and my speech rate was returning to normal.  The headache was subsiding and the embarrassment, well, still there.  Thank the Lord that beef is o.k. on my diet once per week!  Five Guys Burgers are organic beef you know!  Even sipped my husbands cherry coke twice.  I needed comfort big time!

It’s now evening and I’m sitting at my home computer with my new respirator mask digging into my face.  This is the only way for now that I can do anything in my home of the past five years.  I gathered a few more things to take back to the hotel room and am grateful that Steve will be joining me tonight.  Oh how I miss him when he is away!  Thankfully my Heavenly Husband was my companion when I needed him to make most of these moves with all my provisions and luggage, up a flight of stairs.  Thankfully I own a truck which makes it all a lot easier.

This continues to be a wild ride.  And yet, the miraculous answer to prayer is here.  With great expectation and no clue as to the next chapter in this saga, I will leave my home again tonight.  Sure miss being with Steve each day and even my dog, Elle.  I do know this, that the Lord knows the desires of my heart and has granted them in marvelous ways in the past.  Exceedingly.  He has not changed and never will.  Thank you for joining me in prayer and faith.   (Reference:  Proverbs 3:5-6, Jeremiah 29:11)