Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Seasons - Part I


The dying leaf swirls on the breeze
It is most beautiful in the days before
It takes this journey
To the pile of broken and shattered dreams
Autumn is outside my window
And sadness washes over me

Friday, August 5, 2011

Terror on the Tippecanoe

As I embark on a new adventure on the Tippecanoe, I think back to another excursion...

I had bruises in places that I did not know existed. Among the circles of black and blue on my legs were scratches of various lengths, their color rivaling that of the sunburn on my upper body. I do not know which was worse the damage the sun had done or the beating my lower body had received. I was too exhausted both physically and mentally to care.

It was a picture perfect summer day, seventy-eight degrees, a slight breeze, and not a cloud in the sky. The kind of day you hope for when starting out on an adventure. My family and I were camping at our favorite campground in rural Indiana. As the smell of camp smoke and bacon permeated the air, we gathered at our dilapidated picnic table to make our plans for the day. My husband, Dennis, had been trying to get me to agree to take the kids tubing for years and the day was so nice that I relented. Dennis is of average height with a beer belly even though he hates beer. What hair he has left is thin and dark brown and he has brown eyes and wears glasses.

We chose the company we would hire to transport us to the drop site and loaded up the car with our picnic lunch and three kids, Lauren age 11, Lindsey age 9, and Logan age 8. Oh yes, and not to be forgotten the family dog, Daisy who is a 60 lb. black lab basset hound mix who thinks she’s a lap dog. She is all black except for a white belly and white paws. Little did we know that she was afraid of water.

We arrived at the transport site and rented two inner-tubes and a canoe. We boarded an old school bus that had seen better days. I was nervous but trying not to show it. My oldest, Lauren, has an anxious personality and I was putting up a brave front for her. Lauren has long blondish brown hair, blue eyes, and wears glasses. She tends to think of the worst possible outcome for any situation. If we take a ride in the car and it makes an unexpected noise, she immediate thinks we are all going to die. The idea of being on the river for an hour with three kids and a dog was kind of terrifying to me, but I tried hard not allow her to see that. I mean you cannot change your mind once you start. Once you begin, you are pretty much committed.

The driver took us to the location where we would start our trip downstream on the Tippecanoe River. He told us it would take about an hour to reach the exit point. We were to look for a flag with the company name on it and that was where we would end our journey. It was about 10 am as we eagerly situated everyone for our departure. After applying sunscreen, my husband and I each took an inner-tube and loaded all three kids and the dog into the canoe with our lunch, camera, and cell phone in plastic bags. Some other folks were just putting their kayak in the water and we all agreed that it was a beautiful day for a float down the river. The kayakers sped away and we walked our entourage out into the middle of the river. The water level seemed to be a little low here. We figured that was what made this spot ideal for entry. The canoe floated along nicely, but we had to squat down in the water to get the inner-tubes to float. We assumed it would get deeper downstream.

We floated this way, alongside the canoe, for a few minutes until we came to a bend in the river. As we rounded the bend, we were awed by the beauty of nature. Both sides of this majestic river were full of trees for as far as we could see. We listened to the sounds of birds and bugs and tried to guess what they were. We splashed and laughed and enjoyed this low-tech adventure we had begun. That lasted about 5 minutes. We soon realized that the low water depth made it impossible to miss all the tree branches on the bottom of the river. We tried to turn back but found that to be an impossible task as the current kept pushing us forward. Our only choice was to grin and bear it, so we continued downstream.

About half an hour into the float, we banked on a sandy spot on the side of the river for lunch. The kids collected some small shells along the beach area and Daisy swatted at some tiny fish in the shallow water near the shore. After letting the kids stretch their legs for about 15 minutes, we loaded up and started back down the river.

Shortly thereafter, our daughter Lindsey wanted to float in the inner-tube for a while so I tried to get in the canoe. Lindsey is our adventurous child. She has Apraxia, which is a speech problem where her brain does not tell her mouth how to form words correctly so she has to memorize how to say each word. We are so proud of Lindsey because she never gets upset when we do not understand her. She just improvises and tries to help us. With all of the obstacles that Apraxia has given her, I am amazed that she is so self-confident.

My getting into the canoe was a disaster that should not have been attempted. I am a large woman who apparently weighs more than 2 kids and a dog. The canoe promptly tipped over dumping the contents into the shallow water. The bag containing our cell phone and camera popped open drowning them both in river water; however, we managed to salvage the remaining food supplies. My husband decided to walk the canoe downstream while Lindsey used his inner tube. We told Lindsey to hold on to the canoe so that she would not float away. Lindsey was drinking from a bottle of water and dropped the cap into the river. Instinctively she let go of the canoe to grab the cap and the current swiftly took her away. Logan started screaming for her and crying that we were going to lose her. He and Lindsey are very close, almost like twins. They are 13 months apart in age. Logan has blondish brown hair and brown eyes and Lindsey has dark brown hair and brown eyes. Lindsey’s face is rounder than Logan’s, almost pixie like, and her hair is cut to land just under her chin. They are exactly the same height and build.

I immediately took off after Lindsey and took a tree limb, which was hiding below the surface, to the gut, knocking the wind out of me. Lauren started to become upset and Dennis tried to calm both her and Logan. I finally reached Lindsey and after helping to calm everyone we continued down river, instructing the children to start watching for the exit flag.

After 30 minutes, at least we thought it was about 30 minutes as we no longer had a working cell phone with which to tell the time, the flag still had not materialized. I was surprised that the kids were not whining about whether or not we were there yet. All we could do was keep walking in our squatted positions. At one point I attempted to float on top of the inner-tube but after almost being given an enema by a tree branch I quickly went back to squatting.

We started trying to tell time by the sun. Around what we assumed to be noon we came across a man fly fishing with his dog. His black lab swam and played in the water almost joyfully unlike Daisy who would not even look over the edge of the canoe in fear of getting wet. He asked us what company had dropped us off and then told us that we were about halfway to the exit point. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach. If we were right about the time, we had been on the river for two hours! I was already scratched up and bruised, my back hurt from having to walk in an awkward position, and I did not think I could take much more.

My anger at the man who had dropped us off kept me walking. I had a few choice words to express to him. How could he have led us into this horror? Did he not know about the water level and the dangers of traversing the river in this state? He should have warned us.

We came to a place in the river where you could see the sandy bottom. It was too shallow to float, so Dennis had to drag the canoe along. I sat down in the middle of the Tippecanoe and cried. The water did not even rise up above my legs. I bawled for a good 5 minutes - loudly. The kids just watched from their canoe prison. Logan said, “Mommy, are you okay?” I said that I would be fine in just a minute. I had to get it together. My kids needed me to be strong and rescue them from this ordeal. I could not just sit here in the river for the rest of my life. After my sobs subsided, we resumed looking for the elusive white flag.

We had given up trying to tell time and just walked. I think the kids napped at some point. Our only goal was to make it to the end without any major trauma, at least without any major physical trauma because I think the emotional trauma will be something I will never forget. We rounded another bend that at first looked like many that we had seen before, but this one was different. There were houses along the banks and people were in the river. It was deeper here and children were laughing and playing on a tire swing. They were swinging out over the river and jumping into the deep water. “How dare they!” entered my mind. I could not comprehend how someone could enjoy this horrible river.

We kept moving and rounded another bend. Lindsey spotted the white flag on the river bank to the left of us. We emerged from the river and dragged the canoe up the steep bank. I could not wait to confront the man from the rental company. Our car was the only vehicle in the parking lot. There was a large rock at the edge of the lot with a smaller stone on top weighing down a note. The note read “Had to leave at 3:30, please leave canoe and inner-tubes by river”. I was in shock that the man had the nerve to not be there when we arrived.

Exhausted, we stumbled to our car which was a welcome sight after our ordeal. Once we were all inside, we checked the time. It was 5:30 pm; we had been on the river for 7 ½ hours! I started laughing and crying at the same time. Dennis thought that I had either lost my mind or was suffering from sunstroke. Lauren asked me what was so funny. I said “We beat it! We beat the river! We survived!” I did not want them to remember all the horror that I had experienced that day. I tried to use this as a learning experience to show them that there was nothing that we could not accomplish if we tried. I think Lauren became a little less anxious about things after that and as for Lindsey and Logan, while they do not remember much of that trip, I remember the way that they got along and took care of each other during the emotional ordeal. I found out that I could do previously unthinkable things in order to protect my children. Even though there are times that I would like to wring their necks, I would never have abandoned them in order to save myself, no matter what the cost.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dream a Little Dream...Or not!

It was one of those amazing dreams...the kind you have once in a blue moon. Somewhere between fully asleep and awake, when you're conscious of the fact that it's a dream but it's too good to wake up all the way. I had one of those dreams last night...or rather early this morning. It had been an uneventful evening; I watched a cheesy eighty's movie "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" then played Zoo tycoon for 6 hours straight, finally passing out about 6 a.m. That's when the dream started. In the early morning twilight hours.

It wasn't an "ooh, I remember when Dillon from 90210 was cute" kinda dream, or a "you know Harrison Ford is kinda hot for an old guy" kinda dream, it was a creative kind of dream. I wrote my first children's fictional story. I know as awesome as that sounds, you probably are unable to grasp the full scope of my dream. I not only wrote a children's book, but it was fully illustrated and it was interactive! It had teacher learning objectives in the front and state and national standards listed in the back! It was awesome and I would love to tell you the story, but I cannot remember the first word of it!

You see in my dream, I was telling the story to people over and over again. I had the pages blown up onto huge poster boards and they were displayed around a small room. I was taking people through the room one at a time, memorizing the story as I retold it so that my conscience mind might remember it. When suddenly, in the distance, I heard a dull bickering that increasingly grew louder and louder. My mind was being dragged from the fabulous story I was telling to the intrusive fight that was brewing just inches from my slumbering soul. Suddenly and quite rudely, I was shoved awake by my teenage daughter who was screaming that her brother had done something so horrible that it had to be dealt with right now, even though her father was in the background yelling, "I told you not to wake her up!"

Just as quickly as my eyes flew open, the book vanished. Not a word or a picture remains,and try as I might to conjure up the dream - I can only see the pen name, Selena Snodgrass.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Blood Soaked Snow

I could hear the scraping of the metal blade along the asphalt. Snow had been forecast overnight and I could feel the excitement building as I anticipated the fun my brother and I would have playing in it. I heard the snowplow coming again and the thuwump that it made as it shoved even more snow into our yard. Our home was on a curve in a mobile home community. Since the snowplow driver could not get up enough speed, he could not push the snow around the curve, so every pass he made he pushed more and more snow into our front yard.

I jumped from my bed and ran to the kitchen window, which looked out onto the front yard. My brother, Johnny, was close on my heels. Johnny, who was almost six, was about one year younger than me and most of the time he was a pain in the butt, but all of that was forgotten today. Our jaws dropped open as we both looked out the window and saw the biggest mound of snow we had ever seen. Normally, we could look out the window and see the street, but our view was completely obstructed by the huge pile of snow. Eager to check it out first hand, we ran back to our rooms to get dressed for the day. Shirt, pants, socks, boots, winter coat, hat, gloves, it all went on layer by layer. We raced back to the kitchen to tell Mom we were headed outside to play.

“What about breakfast?” Mom asked. “You can go outside after you have eaten something.”

“Aww…” we both answered in unison. We took off our outerwear and sat down begrudgingly at the kitchen table while Mom made us breakfast. I really tried to eat, but I was so excited to play in the snow that I could not sit still. Johnny was practically bouncing up and down in his chair.

Mom sighed as she finally relented and said, “Go. Go on and go play.”
We raced back to the front door putting our coats, gloves, and hats back on. Once outside we ran to the front yard to check out the hill of snow. The snow pile was exceedingly high and steep - perfect for sledding, we thought. Johnny went to get the sled out of the shed as I began my awkward climb to the top. This hill was not the smooth snow covered hills you might see in a park. Our yard was normally flat, so this hill was completely made of snow. Layer upon layer, piled up by the plow. It was not the pristine white of freshly fallen snow, but a combination of snow and dirt and sometimes grass, depending on what was in the path of the plow as it circled around the community. We could have cared less as we reached the top of our mountain and looked out over the yard.

We slid down the side of the hill that emptied into the gravel fire lane that ran along our lot. Up and down the hill we went, laughing and enjoying the sunny winter day. Johnny, who was always competitive and liked to one up me, said, “I bet I can do a better trick than you.” He then jumped on the sled and slide down the hill backwards. “Top that,” he said as he climbed back up the hill.

Not one to be outdone by my tow headed little brother, I looked around and thought about how I could indeed top that. I decided to slide down the steeper side of the hill that faced our trailer home. I jumped on my sled and slid effortlessly down the smooth snowy surface picking up speed as I went. To this day, Johnny swears he screamed for me to stop, but I never heard him as I crashed into the aluminum under skirting that surrounded the bottom of our home.

The world slowed down and I just laid there. The lower half of my body was underneath the home. Dazed, I crawled part way back up the hill and knelt on the pristine, white mountain which quickly turned a bright crimson. It was like when they added the cherry flavoring to the shaved ice at the fair. I just stared at it, watching the red circle grow bigger, and wondered why the snow was changing color.
Johnny must have gone for help, I am not really sure; I just remember slowly pulling up my blood soaked, polyester pant leg to see where the blood was coming from. Where my shin had once been, I only saw a sea of red. It was almost ocean like with banks of jagged skin all around. Skin which the under skirting had ripped through as easy as the iceberg ripped through the Titanic. Circular globs of creamy ivory floated in the bloody pool. I thought that they looked like canned cinnamon rolls before they go into the oven, all swirly like.

Things kind of went blank after that and the next thing I can remember is that I was laying on the living room floor, hearing my mom, Charlotte, crying in the kitchen. I remember lying on the orange shag carpeting, looking around at our wood paneled living room, and wondering how I had gotten there. A paramedic was kneeling next to me and asking me questions. He got up and talked to my Dad, Bill. I overheard him say the other paramedics were outside searching our winter play land for my knee cap. The wound was open so wide that they thought I had lost it somewhere in the snow.

Having not found anything outside, they finally loaded me into the ambulance and off to the hospital we went. I don’t remember the ambulance ride, but I remember that sometime during the search for my kneecap my Aunt Becky had shown up and she went to the hospital with Dad and I. Aunt Becky only lived a mile or so away and Mom was too emotional to be able to handle going with us to the hospital. Once we arrived at the emergency room, I was transferred from the ambulance gurney to a hospital table and was soon surrounded by nurses. My Dad, at the head of the table, held my hand. The nurses said they had to clean the wound. Icy cold liquid was squirted into the wound and it felt like they were washing the inside of my leg with a sponge, like you would wash the inside of a bowl. I don’t recall it hurting only feeling kind of creepy, like an area was being touched that had never been touched before.

The doctor came and told me he was going to have to numb the area. He proceeded to give me shots both inside the jagged opening and all around it. I lost count of how many times he stuck me with that needle. It was the first pain that I had felt, since I had left the top of that snowy mound. I squeezed my Dad’s hand as hard as I could, but I never screamed or cried.

After exploring the wound, it was determined that I did not lose my kneecap. I only had a really deep and wide cut on my leg that would require both interior and exterior stitches to hold the massive gash closed. Thanks to the doctor having numbed the area, I felt no pain when he began sewing me up. I did, however, feel each time the small curved needle went in and out of my bloody, pulpy leg. After completing the stitches inside my leg, the nurses again squirted something cold in there and then patted me dry. Someone held the jagged edges of my skin together, as the doctor stitched my leg closed. Combining both internal and external stitches, I had received over forty of them.

Aunt Becky said I was very brave and gave me a stuffed dog that she had purchased in the hospital gift shop. It was brown with white paws and white floppy ears. The front of his body had a zipper that unzipped his fur, which could be removed. If you removed his fur, his body was orange and white plaid. It looked and felt like paper towel. Over thirty years later, I still have that dog though I cannot for the life of me remember what I named him. He is well worn and has huge holes in his ears thanks to a dog I had when I was ten named Lucky.

Anyway, the stuffed dog is constant reminder of what happened that day, that and the five inch scar on the front of my leg. The skin there is different than the rest of my skin. It is smoother and slightly puckered. For the longest time, you could actually count the number of stitches that I had on the outside by counting the dots that ran up and down both sides of the scar. The dots have finally faded but the scar remains.

I think what I find most amazing about the whole experience is how the body reacts to a traumatic injury. Up until the doctor poked me with that needle to numb my leg, I felt no pain. You’re probably thinking that was a long time ago and that I probably just don’t remember the pain. Surely, having sliced your leg open on a piece of sharp aluminum siding would hurt. But no, I clearly remember no pain. I remember being amazed as I looked at the inside of my leg. I remember listening to the people around me, wondering what the big deal was because it didn’t hurt. And I remember being mad at the doctor for giving me all those shots to numb my leg because it did not hurt until then. As an adult I know that I was probably in shock and that my body and blocked the pain messages to my brain, but I still think it was cool.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Where's the Eggs?

As Easter is approaching, I am left planning an egg hunt for my kids. I haven't held an egg hunt at my house in years. My mom has done the egg hunt since my oldest daughter Lauren was little. The last egg hunt I held was an adult only egg hunt. I had eggs hidden in interesting places. One egg was hidden beneath the gravel in the aquarium with just a bit peeking out. Another egg was hidden in the yard, buried underneath a paving block that lead up to the front porch. Over the years my mom has held both an easy egg hunt for the kids and a more difficult egg hunt for the adults. She has had some interesting hiding places as well. One year she cut an apple in half, scooped out the middle, and hid the egg inside. She put the apple back into the fruit bowl where it looked unaltered. Another year she opened a can of soup, drained it, placed an egg inside, and put the lid back on. She placed the can back in the pantry. Some years the hunt has been inside with eggs hidden in medicine bottles, groceries, furniture, and other household items, and other years it has been outside with eggs hidden in garden gnomes, vehicles, sheds, and other locations. Whether the hunt is inside or out, it is always interesting. This year I am having the hunt at my house just for the kids. They are all in middle or high school now so an easy hunt is out of the question. Where will I hide the eggs? Our yard is not very big so I think outside is out of the question and it could rain. Inside would offer more spaces to hide them, but it would also be risky. They may come across the eggs before I am ready for them to. This is harder than I thought it would be. Maybe I'll call mom for some ideas.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Early Memories

In English today we were supposed to write out our earliest memory. This may not be my earliest memory but it is one that stands out...

The glassy, dead eyes seemed to stare right through me. Suspended, upside down from a make-shift clothesline, strung between two towering maple trees hung Bambi. At least that is what my five year old brain recognized the deer as. The family who lived down the street from me were hunters and thought nothing of stringing a deer up in the front yard to drain it of it's life's blood. For days, the metallic, sweet smell of the blood was nauseating as the wind carried it down to where my brother Johnny and I played in our front yard. We had seen the deer from the car on the way home from the grocery store and Johnny was eager to walk down and get a closer look. I being the responsible one, even at five, reminded him of our mom's warning to stay in the yard.

The next time we passed their house, I remember the deer being gone and the neighbor was outside hosing off the picnic table that had been moved to the driveway. I recall the foaming pink suds running down the drive and into the street towards the storm drain and I wondered where the deer had gone.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Milk Bomb Explodes!!

Screams awoke me from a deep sleep. A high shrieking sound began that got louder and louder, almost a wailing sound, which was followed by a fit of coughing. Was the house on fire? Was someone seriously injured? OMG, did I need to call an ambulance or the fire department? Suddenly my daughter, who is sixteen, appeared bedside coughing and drenched in milk. It seemed that a milk bomb had gone off in the kitchen. Milk was everywhere. On the floor. On the table. On the chair cushions that I had recently purchased, and worst of all...on her new choir sweatshirt and her...CELL PHONE!! What caused this milk bomb to explode? Who had lit the fuse that started the chain reaction that eventually covered her in milk? This we may never know. Only the dog knows for sure. My son, who is 11, had merely asked for a brownie. Upon approval of the item for breakfast (I know, who eats brownies for breakfast??), my son proceeded to the kitchen to get the desired sweet. From what I gather, there was a scuffle over who would get the coveted center brownie in the pan. (Apparently, they have not realized that the outer pieces are more desirable with their crunchy edges.)My son thought it should be his since he had asked first. My daughter thought it rightfully hers because she got to the pan first. Bullying ensued and somehow, of which I have a pretty good idea,my daughter as well as my kitchen became covered in the contents of her cereal bowl. The aforementioned brownie was found squished on the table like a loaf of Wonder bread misplaced in a bag of groceries. Of course this is all my fault (according to my daughter)and now it is time for the school bus to come, so I am left to clean up the mess and ponder on what the consequences of their actions will be. Good morning Friday!