We had decided to pack four gallons of water just in case something went awry during our second cold weather camping trip this season. The related online blogs recommended this among other tips such as purchasing a heated hose and waiting to un-winterize the travel trailer until we had traveled enough south to avoid freezing temperatures overnight. And so we prepared accordingly reviewing our long “To Do” list of stuff over and over again before heading out the door. Check!
Just before our departure, arctic temperatures plagued the entire country east of the Mississippi River from Michigan to northern Florida! Who knew that after driving nearly 800 miles due south we would still be facing weather more characteristic of Indiana than our first destination in the deep south of Fort Rucker, Alabama? We had run the propane heater in the Camp Lite a few times back home to minimize the out-gassing of the relatively new-used mini furnace. We intended to fire up both heaters (propane and electric) soon after hooking up everything upon arrival so we could sleep comfortably. Check! After all it would be about 5:00 in the morning when we got to stop number one.
For God is not the author of confusion but of peace . . . (1 Cor 14:33)
We did not count on the entire camper freezing over along the way! I grabbed the hair dryer and extension cord from the cab of the truck and proceeded to thaw out both door locks. Once inside I discovered that the four “emergency” one-gallon jugs of water were frozen solid as was the entire water system “winterized” with special RV antifreeze! We had our two sport-sized bottles of water 1/2 filled with us in the car and that was it. Closer investigation found some frigid water sloshing around in one of the gallon jugs so we gave it to our pup figuring she would not mind the temp. (Sure would hate to have to choose between man and beast on such a night!) Steve used a, er, warm water stream to punch a hole in the toilet ice seal to make it operational for the night. Check!
Hooking up the water and electric did not go well either. The water spicket had frozen beneath the towel that our southern/Aussie host (formerly from Indiana) had prepared before our arrival. Hmmmmm. When the crochety 30 amp electrical hook-up proved to be broken, Steve plugged us into the standard outlet to get us through the night, thus preventing draining our battery overnight. Oh well, we could live without hot drinks in the microwave: we had the warmth of each other after all . . .
But our bedding felt like it had just come off the train from Siberia! Steve bundled up head-to-toe in Smart Wool and collapsed into bed. I tried to join him but the nighttime unpleasantries I often face reared their ugly head first. Eventually the buzzed feeling I had from the late night excitement, convulsions and checking of Facebook yielded enough fatigue to turn everything off in my head for a few hours. Even the sound of street noise 50 feet from our pillows drifted into the distance. We had made it to see my hubby’s darling youngest son and his wife the next day and I was glad. Check!
Many are the plans in a person’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)
Who knows why our lives are so difficult these days. The last two times this past year we gratefully were able to camp with the conveniences of a travel trailer in colder weather we certainly prepared as best we could. It’s not like we did not know what we were doing! I perused and posted questions on multiple camping forums to learn from more seasoned travelers. We purchased some special gadgets and kept snow pants, hats and gloves nearby; Steve donned his biking/paddling headlamp upon arrival like a pro to keep his hands free during the late night procedures. I had enough food prepared in individual and meal-sized portions to keep me compliant with my special diet and the skilled driver nourished for most of our first few days away from home. We did the best we could to avoid disaster and this is just how it goes sometimes!
The next day was a blur for me. Yes, we said hello to Daniel and Elizabeth when they stopped by in their Honda Fit (everything is so cute about these two!) midday. I had not eaten breakfast yet and needed some more recovery/rest time so Steve took off with them while I headed back to the tin can ranch. What happened next can only be called a near-death experience! That one deserved its own blog story so I won’t go into it here.
What is clear is that my writing block of late is definitely broken with some new experiences ordained by my Jesus albeit AFGE if you will (aka “another fun growth experience”)! As in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy turns to her dog Toto after the great tornado, I’ll say it here, “Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore” and that is good. My social and geographical isolation enduring illness at home is now broken for a time. What matters now is faith in the Lord and obedience for His will and I know that His goodness shall prevail. Yeah God!
. . . keeping the commandments of God is what matters. Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. (1 Corinthians 7:19b-20)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:18; 28)
Be encouraged Gentle Reader. The two partial bottles of water were all we needed that night anyways. It was enough and in our hearts we knew it all along. JJ
Our theme for 2014 has to be, “moving from darkness into the light.” While the year was filled with many of our usual travels and activities, the frustration of worsening illness for me had tested everything I believed about love, faith in the Lord, and hope. Persistence paid off, standing firm in my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ despite incredible suffering, and we are now encouraged beyond measure. I AM GOING TO GET WELL!!! And how about my beloved Steve? Well he is wonderful, as always. Here’s our 2014 briefing:
Competitive kayaking within the United States Canoe Association and related delegate activities filled the warmer months of my beloved’s calendar and provided opportunities to travel within our home state of Indiana as well as the South. We took an annual trip for the January USCA meeting and got to see family and friends along the way; Steve travelled and camped alone for the National competition in August, bringing home a respectable finish in his surf ski and outrigger canoe despite an extra swim or two during the surf ski race! Steve also became one of the primary firearms safety instructors this past year for classes held at our church (yes church!). His work has been rewarding with lots of interesting projects and the promise of continued work well into next year, gratefully. And during the lunch hour if it’s snowy, he’s leading the Exelis cross country ski pack of adventurist engineers around the grounds. If the pavement is dry no matter the temp, he’s trading the lead in challenging cycling workouts at top speeds uphill or down . . . On land and sea: Go Steeeeeeve!
Quick Update on Steve’s Kids:Christina is thriving in her work assignments in Thailand despite enduring a train wreck, adventures with her motorbike and truck (as in shifting left-handed whilst driving on the left side of the road!), and learning two new languages: one for daily communication and another for translation work. She is amazing! Patrick and Kate welcomed baby Warren James Horney into the world in September and we are looking forward to meeting him this Christmas. Two year old big brother Jackson Rees is simply adorable: talking up a storm and even driving his own motorized vehicle around their home in North Carolina. Yes, the car bug is definitely in the Horney genes! (See this video for details!) Rebekah continues her Masters studies in international education and recently got engaged to Pancho/Daniel/Francisco Anaya Diaz (don’t ya love the Spanish culture?). She is exceedingly excited for their Chicago wedding in May of 2015; we are happy for both of them and look forward to getting to know Pancho too. Daniel and Elizabeth are finally living in the same locale since getting married in June of this year! Daniel successfully completed his tenure in the Marines (North Carolina) and Elizabeth graduated from West Point (New York). They are together now in Fort Rutger, Alabama as she begins helicopter training in the Army while Daniel begins college for Physical Therapy Assistant in January. As you can see, our hearts are full with all the goodness shared here . . . now just come and see us a bit more ya hear? J
While much of my year focused on doctoring, testing, new treatments, and complications therein, in September my astute chiropractor from a small town practice encouraged me to get tested for mercury toxicity. The results came back as very high. Whoa. We were stunned. Additional testing has confirmed these results and helped my family doctor chart a course of treatment that should relieve most of the symptoms that have been so challenging each day of these past 3 years. PRAISE THE LORD!!! And just when the isolation of staying home much of the time to mitigate symptoms was taking its toll, two lovely ladies and I have joined together in a weekly Skype Bible Prayer Group. We laugh as much as we pray, oh yeah! I am also grateful to have continued some gardening activities in our own landscape and in the Everlasting Garden at the Allen County Cooperative Extension Office. Keeping dirt under my fingernails from March to October is the best therapy of all sometimes!
So as we prepare to celebrate with loved ones the birth of our Lord and Savior, we are humbled and grateful for so many blessings this past year. Even the serious stroke that my brother had in April has renewed our personal relationship as well as his walk with the Lord. Every part of our story is ending this year with a brightness that simply was not there last year. How fitting this is and symbolic of the Light of the World Who entered our midst two millennia ago to redeem us, to bring us into fellowship with Him for all time.
We hope you are encouraged by our Christmas Letter 2014. We hope that you too will celebrate all the possibilities of the most important relationship in which we are invited to partake. The love of Jesus Christ can transcend all things and bring everlasting joy to each one of us. Oh yes!
As I described in my post on May 28th, becoming a kayaker mid-life can be a daring adventure. When your intended beloved becomes a United States Canoe Association racer (State and now Nationally-ranked) you have a couple of decisions to make. The first one was whether or not I would also learn to kayak. Would I become a “kayaking widow” a couple of nights per week as my River Bear practices then races throughout the State of Indiana? The second one is if I did paddle, what kind of kayaker would I become? Recreational? Racer? Eeeeek, no!
Steve dons his dry suit here in the Midwest by about April or as soon as there is open water in our local rivers after the long Winter. Initially he would borrow my Think Fit (sea kayak) to start his season as it was more stable and forgiving when wearing this neck-to-toe zoot suit. As the weather warmed up he transitioned to either his Thunderbolt (open cockpit racing kayak) or surf ski (sit-on-top ocean vessel) as I reclaimed the Think Fit to join him with our Tuesday night Fort Wayne Kayaking Group. As I described in my previous post, one of the fears a paddler must overcome is that of falling into the water and drowning. To help guard against this outcome you can wear a paddling life vest, choose a more stable boat, or upgrade to a surf ski. When you topple out of a surf ski you will have a much easier time re-entering the boat, especially in deeper water. The kayak won’t fill up with water since the hull is a closed system. This provides you an excellent flotation device to hang onto should you topple over, until you can either re-mount the boat or swim with it to safety. This surf ski design began to look appealing to me in my second season of paddling. So did having a kayak that was even lighter and narrower making it easier to paddle.
You could say that I was the first in the Midwest to bring home a Think Fit and then a Stellar SR. In time the introduction of the Stellar line would open up opportunities for my River Bear, Steve, to become a representative for both Stellar and Epic kayaks here in Indiana. Cool beans. Wifey-poo done good! I had so many offers to purchase the Think Fit that it wasn’t hard to sell it when a suitable Stellar SR became available. Our friend Allan took to it easily and made waves, literally, that I could have never accomplished as a recreational paddler. My baby found a good home and served her new racer well. He even won a medal at his first Nationals in his age class: his first year competing and finishing in a torrential thunderstorm! Ah, the things that become normal when racing enters your life. Yes of course we were cheering him on equally drenched at the finish!
At first I doubted my decision to upgrade to a beginner surf ski. Sure there would be a learning curve but when my maiden voyage in a friend’s private ski lake yielded a nearly effortless glide with my winged carbon-fiber paddle, I thought I “knew” that I had made the right decision. Or did I? I can recall nearly panicking as I paddled between lakes in a local chain-o-lakes: my legs outstretched and straddling either side of the boat for stability. What had I done? The cross-winds were fierce in open water! Forget the great secondary stability it’s the initial stability that I was sorely missing! Once in the channel I could calm down a bit. Whew. “This is going to take some practice,” I muttered to myself. But was that what I wanted as a recreational paddler? Not really. I like to stop and grab a drink of water or bite of a snack bar along the way in addition to taking advantage of navigating a more streamlined, lighter vessel. Learning the sport from my racer husband had landed me in unfamiliar territory for sure! Now that Allan had already bonded with the Think Fit there was no use looking back to my first love (the kayak, that is!). Back to the calmer lake we went for more practice before the next outing . . .
The Fort Wayne Kayaking Group was headed to the Cedarville Reservoir in Leo, Indiana early in October. The boat launch just over the bridge provides access to the St. Joe River to the north and to the reservoir to the south. Later Steve would remind me that my first paddle when we were dating was in that reservoir. Sweet. Now it was three years later in the Fall: October 11, 2011 to be exact. I did pretty well that beautiful night for my third outing in the Stellar SR, continuing to wear a life vest for added security. Unfortunately I made 4 costly mistakes that evening. First, I let the mouth of my water bottle make contact with the greenish water. Second, I ate a snack that I had saved in the zippered pouch of my life vest even though it had become a little mushy, perhaps melted. I was hungry and it hit the spot! Third, a winged paddle tends to throw a lot of water into the air, particularly for beginners just learning the more efficient racing stroke for which it is designed, which also sent blue green algae aerosols into the air. And fourth, I doubt that I washed my hands after we loaded up the boats and sampled one of the member’s luscious peanut butter cookies she often brought to top off the Tuesday night paddles. Within 24 hours I was deathly ill and it was not from the cookie!
Within 36 hours I thought I was going to die. Seriously. Have you ever been in so much pain that all you can do is moan, holler, and moan in agony some more? After the second trip to the doctor’s office that week, he sent me to the emergency room for IV fluids mixed with anti-nausea medication. We figured by then that it was from something in the water but what could it be? The weekend was hell on earth. In between vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and unbelievable abdominal pain eventually my brain started to put the pieces together in what was left of my mind. Early the next week some blind internet searching found a report documenting the testing of Indiana rivers and lakes. In a chart written in 2005 describing various cyanobacteria populating stagnant waters in the Spring and Fall I found it: cylinderospermopsis. I matched all of the symptoms listed for exposure. The treatment? “Supportive measures” as needed. I already had that. What else? I didn’t need the other recommendation thankfully: intubation or life support. My liver enzymes were elevated but that didn’t indicate any additional treatment at the time. These days I wish that I had been administered activated charcoal back then. Oh well. It’s amazing what 2 1/2 more years of research yields that could have been helpful at the beginning of this exceedingly difficult journey.
I never paddled the Stellar SR again. Here’s a picture of me in the one that has now gotten away. We never fully bonded. I never fully mastered her. ‘Tis bittersweet you might say for the wife of a kayak racer. I had learned so much and come so far since my maiden voyage in that plastic Sirocco in the summer of 2007 only to stop as they say, “dead in the water.”
The next 2 1/2 years was a wretched process trying to figure out why I wasn’t getting well. Was it Chronic Lyme disease? Biotoxin illness such as cyanobacteria and mold? Non-epileptic seizures? For more on finding hope during the medical part of this story just scroll through this blog a bit for the good/bad/ugly of overcoming a serious illness. As for kayaking and while the battle continues today, there have been enough recent improvements that I am able to get back into the water for limited outings. I am exceedingly grateful for the improvements. The Lord appears to be restoring the years the “locusts” (as in pesky little cyano-bugs) have eaten (Joel 2:25), slowly but surely. He has sustained me through this hellish journey and many nights home alone while I supported Steve in his continuing to progress as a USCA racer. He has done well and I am proud of him. That’s the benefit for me of having a Heavenly Husband at home with me in my heart while my earthly husband is away. It works that way for us gals whether we are married or single. It’s all good: whether or not you are with your paddling buddy or not you are never really alone when you have Jesus in your heart.
My watercraft of choice has now changed. When I did try to sit in the cockpit of the Stellar SR, I realized that my balance skills were now altered. How in the world would I ever enjoy paddling a tippier kayak with an altered center of gravity? It was just too much for me. But I also did not want to go backwards into a heavier, wider, shorter sea kayak either. I had tasted the sweetness of performance race boats and longed to be with Steve back out on the water. The lighter kayaks and paddles made this all possible in the first place, minimizing the stress of my underlying fibromyalgia. I would have never been able to paddle in the past due to chronic pain. My Stevers had helped me find a way. Now could we find a way to get me back on the water again?
By this time we were grateful to have acquired a tandem outrigger canoe. The first time out in the OC-2 after the onset of the recent illness were meaningful minutes and happened at the end of last summer. We went out again on our friend’s ski lake earlier this year and even took it to the smaller Oliver chain-o-lakes last month. Yes, my first outing in 3 summers happened a couple of weeks ago! Having a River Bear at the helm made it all possible as I could rest in the front seat when needed. THAT was an emotional day for sure: tears of joy to be out again and tears of sorrow for all of the lost time.
The question remained as to what would I paddle solo? Could I even paddle solo? The answer came with our one-man outrigger canoe. She is beautiful. In carbon fiber she weighs in at 22 pounds despite her 21 foot overall length. And she looks so very cool too. Oh how I love Steve! I get to do so many cool things because of him! Anyways, here’s a picture of the boat I will be paddling, Lord willing, as I get stronger. These days I still have seizure attacks every day, including in the evening after paddling for awhile. I’m not sure yet how to modulate this other than making sure my body temperature doesn’t fluctuate, stay hydrated and nourished, and avoid contact with nefarious waters underfoot! Oh well. The answer to the unknowns lie in the Lord’s hands. I’ll just go slow and remain grateful to be paddling a bit once again.
See there? Who says you can’t paddle an ocean-faring outrigger canoe in the Midwest? Just like the Think Fit then the Stellar SR, sometimes you get to start a crazy trend that works for you and others follow along too. Good ideas breed good company. Thank you Lord. Guess it was meant to be. God is so good. All the time. God is good!