Adventure: Run-of-the-mill Edition (Part 1)

Maybe i’m addicted. Who knows?  i certainly look forward to adventure – pushing the envelope of my experiences, tackling new activities, and going to places i’ve never been. There are probably a few ways to define it, but i like that feeling of risk – facing the unknown and an uncertain outcome.

Recently, i’ve been reminded that adventure is not just embodied in exotic SCUBA diving excursions, solo wanderings in unexplored cities, or hopping on a horse or motorcycle and testing my skills. A few recent happenings have reminded me that it doesn’t have to cost me a dime, either.

We’ll start with one example. This will be at least a two part series… assuming i get some downtime over the next couple of weeks to finish writing it up.

Exhibit A: When the anti-refugee sentiment was at a frenzy in the U.S. last autumn, i vented my spleen in a tirade on Facebook*. After getting trolled by an oxygen thief, who stopped by uninvited and took a shit in my virtual living room, i realized that social media is pretty useless when it comes to making an actual god damned difference in the world.

You can post witty and clever statuses, counting the “likes” received for affirmation that you are witty and clever. You can preach to the self-selected choir among your friends. You can even get into sniping contests with strangers, effectively taking a shit in another persons virtual living room.

Or you can get off your ass and do something useful.

Finding the agency responsible for refugee resettlement in town, i laid myself at the feet of the housing coordinator and said “Take me. Use me. Put me to work.” And she has. They arrive with nothing – in one recent case, just the clothes on their backs… i’ve spent hours cleaning homes, assembling bunk beds, moving furniture. Collecting household items to assist in start-up.

Emily, the coordinator, identified a need to match up refugees with bicycles, and had noted my involvement with regional bike advocacy efforts. “Ping!” There’s your opportunity! Working with the local bike co-op, a volunteer shop that refurbishes used bicycles, i had a job… One family at a time, my responsibility is to get recently resettled families hooked up with wheels.

The first gig? A father and older son from central Africa. Both spoke a little English, but i had nothing but a name, an address, and my volunteer badge to get started. Emily said they’d be expecting me on a particular Sunday afternoon. I had my orders. Showtime.

Driving to their home, i had butterflies in my gut… butterflies wearing combat boots, and doing a tango. “What if i screw this up? What if i do something culturally offensive? What if i can’t communicate well enough with them? What if there aren’t bikes available today that fit them? What if…?”

There were moments of confusion, and some careful clarifications required, but it all came together. As we drove from their home to the shop, they had questions. And i had answers… Driving through a suburb, looking at houses sitting on half-acre lawns.

Father: “Are these farms?”

daisyfae: “Some have gardens where they grow food, but these are homes with large lawns. They have to mow the lawn.”

Father: “It might be smart to grow food instead!”

daisyfae: “That would make more sense…”

Successful first outing, and more to come. i was terrified that i would make a horrible mistake. There was risk, but the reward was worth it! They were delighted when we returned to their home with two gently used bicycles. i brought them a tire pump the following weekend.

Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump…

learn to fly

Image found here

* That rant is resting comfortably in my Trailer Park drafts folder. i have a bunch of those… So much material, so little time…

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Knee-dful things…

Considering he had both legs sawed in half, Studley is doing great! After suffering with bone-on-bone pain for the last several years, he had bilateral knee replacement last week.

He was in for surgery at noon, sawed apart, given bionic metal parts, and released from the hospital about 26 hours later. Getting him in the car, and driving 20 minutes, reminded me of the sheer terror i felt when my ex-husband and i were driving home from the hospital with our first newborn kidlet.  “i have no idea what the fuck i’m doing, but here we go!”

no licking

The physical therapy regimen is challenging, but if followed to the letter, the results will be worth it. Rest, ice, compression and elevation – 24 hours a day for the first two weeks! Unless he is doing physical therapy, or using the toilet, he is to be on his back, toes-above-nose, wearing compression gear, and ice packs.

misery

Following the advice of the physical therapist, i froze several dozen bottles of water, and have been keeping them in rotation. They keep the coolers chilled for about 3-4 hours at a time. The schedule? Every four hours, round the clock, i swap the ice – including a visit at 2:45am. i live 10 minutes from Studley, and have gotten into a rhythm…

But sleep deprivation happens… i looked at my sleep tracker on my FitBit after a few days, and realized i needed help. Our friends came to the rescue – with one couple providing dinner so i could hit my fitness class, and another friend doing the 10:30pm stop, allowing me one night with six hours of glorious sleep!

sleepless

Studley has a high threshold of pain, but this is some hurtful stuff. Especially during and after PT, he is really wrung out. He’s staying on top of it with a pharmaceutical arsenal. Hallucinations? A few… He noted that i seemed to be ‘phase shifting’ one day. As he was dozing, he yelled out “Save the Bocce Balls!”  My favorite so far?

Studley: The cat is in the bed.

daisyfae: Ummm… You don’t have a cat.

Studley: That’s why I thought I should mention it…

Because he was tripping, and i’ve had to come and go due to the pesky day job and caring for my pets, i was a little worried about him sleep walking. He’s got beautiful, plush carpet, so i could easily spot tracks left by his walker when he got up while i was gone. If he wandered to the kitchen, i could tell.

i let him know i was tracking his movements – for his safety! As he regains mobility, he likes to get up and go to the kitchen occasionally, or to adjust the thermostat. i was a bit surprised one night to see the walker tracks go from his bedroom to the liquor cabinet. Sticking my head in his bedroom, i found him grinning… Last night? i found ‘crop circles’ in the dining room.

Friends and family have been supportive, with the best gift arriving yesterday from my niece, DQ! “Hope this is helpful! It was out of print, so I had to get a used one. Hope the pages aren’t stuck together!”

sexy time

daisyfae: That’s funny!  [flipping through pages] Hey, this is a real book!

Studley: Why yes… yes it is!

Many years ago, when Studley and i first met, we agreed on something very important – we NEVER wanted to burden our adult children. Unfortunately, being single and over 50 means you need someone to drive you to get a damn colonoscopy! So we made a pact – no matter what happened with ‘us’, we would remain “Colonoscopy Buddies”, assisting each other with routine, and not so routine, medical support.

We’ve done that…and done our best to keep it light and fluffy! He has been so appreciative of what i’m doing to help out with this one…

Studley: I can’t even begin to thank you…

daisyfae: You’ll have your chance. We just don’t know what it will be, or when it will happen… But you’ll do the same for me one of these days.

i’ve known he was pretty amazing from the first day i met him, but seeing him maintain humor through pain… Watching him push himself harder with each PT set… Seeing the frustration because he wants to do more…. His determination to succeed…

i’m looking forward to dancing, and hiking, and diving, and living hard with my bionic buddy for many years to come… He’s earned a new middle name*: Studley Bionic McRocklegs! Long may you run, baby!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Had to dig through the archives to find the origins of his blog callsign. Somewhere about here it happened…

Projectionist

We signed up for a Mediterranean cruise last November, at the urging of my friend, Dee. Single, 40-something, with a great sense of fun and adventure, she asked us to join up with a larger group of friends. “You and Studley need to go on this cruise! I really want to get back to SCUBA diving, and I’m terrified of going it alone!”

So we did.

The cruise organizer is a former colleague, Ted. Ten years ago, he beat the odds against aggressive brain cancer. Every year, he arranges a cruise holiday with friends and family to celebrate another year of remission. Yet another great reason to sign up…

Studley and i decided to hit Rome early and spend a few days there before boarding the ship. We weren’t sure we could get off the ship and to the airport in time for a same-day departure, so we also booked a night at an airport hotel before our return flight. It was pricey, so i used some of my banked hotel points for a free room.

Dee was making her own arrangements. She pinged along the way, finally telling Studley that she was too scared to go it alone, and asked if she could connect up with us for the days in Rome. He shared our hotel info, and flight arrangements with her. She decided to also spend the extra night in Rome on the return, but found out our hotel was way out of her price range – and didn’t have points to burn. Since she knew many others on the trip, she emphasized that she didn’t expect to tag along with us for the entire trip, and said she’d figure something out.

We got to Rome and hopped the train to Termini station. Dee has not traveled much, and we made sure to share the process with her – coaching along the way*. Tracking train schedules, buying tickets, map navigation, avoiding touts and pickpockets. We had booked a sweet little place in Rome, and had a blast farting around for a couple of days. At breakfast, on the morning of our departure for the cruise terminal…

1Rome a

daisyfae: Have you figured out where you’re going to stay on that last night in Rome?

Dee: Not yet. I need to get on that…

daisyfae: This hotel is terrific – maybe ask to see if they’ve got a room available?

Dee: I don’t know if I can get back to the train station by myself…

daisyfae: You’ve done it six times since we’ve been here! You’re a ninja! You got this!

Dee: I don’t know…

The cruise was fun – we are not particularly fond of big cruise ships, but it is nice to unpack once and then wake up every day in a different port… Sometimes a different country. Florence, Cannes, Mallorca, Barcelona, Naples… It was a grand trip!

Periodically, i’d ask Dee if she’d figured out what she would be doing for that last night… Suggested talking to the Guest Services staff on board, stopping in the internet café to get online and do some checking. She continued to procrastinate. It was frustrating for Studley and me – we are not over-planners, but having a place to stay is one of those things you really need to take care of when traveling! Trying to help her learn to travel independently, i got a little agitated that the student wasn’t taking initiative!

Studley had arranged a few adventures on shore for the two of us. We rented Vespas in Cannes – managing to get lost a few times, but still finding some gorgeous spots on the French Riviera! He also arranged our dive trip near Naples – Roman ruins, dating back to Emperor Claudius! Not the “warm water, pretty reefs and colored fishies” dives that we’re used to, but absolutely fascinating!

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The last night on board, Dee still hadn’t made her hotel arrangements. i insisted that she go to the guest services desk.

daisyfae (to Studley): It’s like she’s not even trying! She is fully capable of taking care of this! i just don’t get it!

Studley: You know, not everyone aspires to be an independent traveler. I think she just wants someone else to deal with it…

daisyfae : …

Studley: Some people want to be taken care of… and there’s nothing wrong with that!

daisyfae [lightbulb over head]: You’re absolutely right. Holy shit! i’ve been projecting MY need to be independent onto her. That’s not what she wants…

In the end it was Eddie, the internet café manager, who hooked her up with lodgings. The hotel was a short taxi ride from the train station. When we got to our hotel near the airport, i sent Dee a text…Checking to see if she’d gotten to her hotel…

daisyfae: We made it! Are you settled? Best option for a train from Termini is the Leonardo Express – look for the separate ticket kiosk at the station.

Dee: Made it ok! I’m just going to take a taxi to the airport tomorrow.

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*”Adventure shared is adventure squared!” Encouraging others to “Get off the sofa” is absolute joy!

No Regrets – First Quarter Update

In January i identified a few things i’d like to focus on this year – things that will help me get to the finish line with no regrets. Not ‘resolutions’, but an attempt to be more mindful about things that matter. Last year, the quarterly blog updates proved to be a useful accountability tool. While these are certainly not the most riveting words, it helps, and i appreciate your tolerance of my introspection and intellectual monkey-spankage.

To better position myself for a ‘clean house’ at the end of my life, i picked three general categories:

Bridges – repairing relationships that have mattered to me.

Ducks – getting things in shape to assure the least hassle to my children after i die.

Vessel – assuring that my body can carry me through the adventures i desire.

Here’s how i’ve done in the first three months of the year.

Bridges: Got off to a quick and easy start here because an old friend finally replied to an e-mail i’d sent him last year!  Yoda re-appeared, after a post-retirement hiatus. He had been a friend and mentor, and we had an intense and occasionally tumultuous friendship until he retired a few years ago. Through a series of e-mails, we caught up a bit, reflected on our relationship, and considered prospects to meet up again.

One close friend was set adrift about four years ago. In a moment of anger, i slammed the door on a decade of friendship, with no explanation. He politely responded to my unexpected birthday greeting in January, and through an exchange of e-mail, we shared updates on the current contents of our garages. Not all that weird considering we’d spent a lot of time together in automotive pursuits. Need to keep working this one… at least i started a conversation.

Ducks: Building on my efforts last year, i have continued to work on reducing my physical footprint by shedding unnecessary ‘stuff’. A good start here, with three Jeep-loads of possessions taken to thrift shops. Also did a few ‘facebook flea market’ weekends, where i gave away items to friends. Re-homed many former necessities, and cleared a good bit of space in my storage room.

Six months after her death, i continue to bash through my mother’s estate. i have learned just how unprepared i am to die. Not much progress here, but i did manage to visit two different financial establishments today, the last day of the quarter! Making two major bank accounts payable on death to my children will reduce the complexities if i drop dead tomorrow.

Vessel: Started the year with a three week “cleanse”. Mostly as a means to jolt my brain into a healthier eating mode, it was also a chance to let my digestive system re-boot. Studley joined me, and we set about eliminating alcohol, dairy, wheat/grains, caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners and most fruits from our diets. Instead we ate a shit-ton of vegetables and lean protein. It was a good thing. i re-learned to make soups, and cook. Packed my lunch and saved a lot of money by not eating meals out. Saved money on booze, too.

Biggest surprises? i didn’t miss alcohol, sugar or caffeine all that much. What i missed? Cheese. Oh, lord, i do love a blast of bleu cheese or goat cheese on a salad! A nice hunk of smoked gouda makes a great snack! But we made it. We were eating well, shitting like cows, and very focused on whole foods. Many of these habits have stayed with me, and i feel pretty good.

Exercise has picked up, too. i added a ‘high intensity interval training’ workout on Saturday mornings, with modified workouts at home a couple of nights per week. Typical week has 4-5 workouts, plus bonus bike rides now that the weather has improved. I’m down twelve pounds in three months. A lot more to go, but a good start.

no regretsMuch more to do in all three areas of my life, but i’m content with the progress so far. The quarter ahead offers some challenges – major home remodeling project, several business trips, two significant vacations, three heavy-duty volunteer gigs and maintenance of an active social life, while working full time and finishing up Mom’s estate.

i can sleep when i’m dead. And if i do this right, it’ll be with no regrets…

Road hard

Three weeks of nearly continuous business travel. Given the run of frigid weather in February, i did gain some time in sunny, relatively warm California. Sure, i got to enjoy it a bit, walking to and from the rental car, and a few days spent dining al fresco for conference luncheons… but mostly, i was in meetings from 7am until 7pm or later.

Jacked up flights, due to weather.  i missed a connection at O’Hare by fivefuckingminutes, which led to a complete re-route to an airport near my destination, requiring a rental car and about six extra hours of travel time.  Missed a half day of work as a result, but made it. And didn’t get particularly stressed out.

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Similar jackage the next trip. i was halfway through a cardio workout in a hotel fitness center, when my phone lit up – 800 number.  i knew immediately that it was from the airline, likely delivering shitty news regarding my scheduled flight home the next afternoon. Rather than take the call, i finished my workout, then hauled my sweaty arse back to my room to deal with it.

As expected, my Wednesday afternoon flight was bagged, due to ice in Dallas, but they had conveniently re-booked me on the same flight for Thursday. “Well, that’s not gonna work!” A rookie traveler might have lost her shit at this point.

i dialed up my travel agent on one phone, and dialed the airline on my business mobile, while peeling off my sweaty gear. “Due to inclement weather, we are experiencing delays in customer service…” on both lines. Plugged in the phones, set both to speaker, and proceeded to call room service to order dinner…

i knew i’d have to bag the morning meetings and hook an early flight toward the east coast.  i set up my laptop, finished up the work that was required for the next morning. Room service arrived, bringing me a marginally edible flat bread pizza and a glass of wine.

As i emptied the wine glass, my travel office came back on line. Agent was able to wade through a pile of options and get me re-booked for a 6am flight. i finished the pizza. Once confirmed, it was about 9pm local time, meaning i had about 6 hours before my 3am wake up call.

Packed my clothes, sent my work off into the ether, set three alarms and was in bed within fifteen minutes. Was on the road to an airport an hour away by 4am, on a plane at half past five, and headed east around 6am.

Looking out the window. Thinking back on all the years i’ve been doing this. There was a  time when i loved it! Exciting, glamorous and chubb-inducing business action – i was a cog in my small corner of the technology world, and i enjoyed mixing it up with others in the field.

Now? It’s nice to bank all those airline miles and hotel points, but it’s just a longer commute. i try to be good at what i’m doing, but it is no longer my passion. Looking out the window of a plane, i just wanted to get home to my own bed, and my manimals.

And looking forward to the day – not that far away – when i will travel for only for recreation! Retirement lurks, and those airline miles are going to fuel a lot of roadtrips. Dive trips. Backpacking trips abroad – open ended, with no return flights booked.

Studley and i are in the midst of planning three trips between now and September. Uncharted territory – emotionally, mentally and geographically. i will continue to hop planes as a commuter, but i can assure you when i board those planes for uncharted territory, i am going to be one delighted adventurer…

i genuinely believe that a key element to happiness is having things to look forward to… i may be exhausted, but i am incredibly happy at this moment in life!

Bubbles

In 9th grade, i won the “Klutz of the Year” award at the High School Band Awards dinner.  i tripped over a music stand on my way to receive the trophy.

i have never been graceful.

In 2006 i got my SCUBA certification.  The same year i got divorced, became an empty-nester, and got cancer.  It wasn’t until 2009, when Studley became a certified diver, that i had a chance to put more than my toe in the water.

And it was life-changing…  We had quite an adventure in Cozumel!  Weighing myself down with far too much lead, unable to find neutral buoyancy, and being terrified during a night dive with a five mile per hour current did not dampen my enthusiasm for diving.

i wanted needed more. i’ve gotten it.

Not a cheap hobby by any stretch, so dive trips to sunny, warm-water locales with pretty colored fish have been a bit of a luxury.  Even so, we’ve managed some extraordinary excursions over the past five years.

The most recent adventure last week to The Cayman Islands is now tucked under my weight belt.  On this trip?  i hit the milestone “100th Dive”.  Celebrated with the dive boat crew, and my fellow divers.  It was a good thing that i was still dripping with sea water, or they might have noticed that i was crying…

How did i get here?

100

It wasn’t just the milestone dive that triggered tears.  That was just a number.  It was more than that…

No longer struggling to manage my air, i was returning to the boat with almost a third of my tank untouched after an hour underwater.  Buoyancy isn’t such an issue.  i can get in a very Zen-like trance floating alongside a coral wall at 100’… a wall that has no bottom for another 6,000 feet.  The gear doesn’t confuse me – i can easily rig my own stuff, and get in and out of the water without assistance — even perfecting the James Bond Backroll from the side of the boat!

It’s not really all of that.

Moving effortlessly underwater with a school of fish.  Face to face with a friendly grouper.  While most divers use a standard kick, or frog kick, to move along, i’ve adopted the double fin kick…

In the water, i move like a motherfucking mermaid.  For the first time in my life?  i am graceful. It feels good.

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That’s me, doing the inverted photo-bomb as Studley and i explore a wrecked Russian frigate.  For once in my life, i am not clumsy.

It feels wonderful…

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

As The Girl boarded a bus in San Diego, headed for Mexico, it washed over me like a cold shower – “The next time i see her, she will be changed.”  A day later, she started her Semester at Sea, sailing around the world on a ship with 700 undergraduate students.  Six weeks later, i watched her disembark from that ship as it docked in Saigon Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  We spent a week knocking around Vietnam and Cambodia together – and seeing her confidence, i realized that i had been right.

We spent our last night there drinking beer in a cowboy bar, listening to a Vietnamese country and western band knock out respectable covers, including a memorable version of “Stand By Your Man”.  Her adventures continued the next day, and i began my journey home.  At 20 years old, she was well on her way to becoming an engaged, contributing citizen of Planet Earth.

She was changed.  She was broader, and deeper, and stronger, and smarter…

Six weeks ago, i watched as The Boy boarded a plane for basic training.  The exact same feeling – “The next time i see him, he will be changed.”  He’d signed an eight year commitment.  All in.  A very challenging, and unknown path ahead of him.  Much like the Semester at Sea, i also knew that he would have very limited opportunities to communicate – adding to the parental anxiety.

Yesterday, i stood at the airport awaiting his arrival.  Two weeks of leave for Christmas break.  Happy holiday travelers filled the exit chute.  i hopped around in the coffee shop, nervously scanning the crowd, looking for military uniforms.  A few soldiers came by, but not mine…

“Oh, I just want to hug them all, don’t you?” said the sweet woman standing next to me.  She told me she was waiting for her mother to arrive for the holidays, but she just loved seeing the young soldiers in uniform.  i agreed, and continued to bop around nervously, waiting for the next pack to walk down the hallway.

i saw him.  Not breaking his bearing, he spotted me and cracked a tiny smile.  i bounced around the coffee bar and gave him a hug. “How did you get taller?  And what did they do with the rest of your hair?”  

“It’s the boots”.

As we turned to head for the exit, i spotted my coffee bar companion.

“And by the way, this lovely lady wants to hug you, too!”

We headed for the car, where i had secured his ‘welcome basket’ – a good India Pale Ale and a pack of smokes.  Non-stop conversation on the drive home.  Tales of bureaucracy, head games, physical challenges and “Shit My Drill Sergeant Said”.  Sick Bay and Hand Grenades.  Running his first seven minute mile (he was at nine minutes just a few weeks back).  And leaning forward into what lies ahead.

He is changed.  He is broader, and deeper, and stronger, and smarter…

Coming Home

Vignettes

Steam rolled my way through the month of October.  As the dust settles, i am somewhat surprised to find myself in mid-November.  Beyond the obvious plot twist launching my son on a new path, there have been a metric ton of other things happening… A brief update seems in order until i can catch my breath and organize my thoughts.  This isn’t a full list – far from it.  Just pixels and snippets and nuggets and slices… a reminder that i remain a very lucky woman.

– Since returning from the trip to Florida to visit my sister, a ‘sprained’ finger has failed to heal quickly.  Aggravating as hell, the sprain wouldn’t quit hurting, stop swelling and get better.  That’s because it isn’t a sprain, it’s broken.  Had to put on a splint, which gets in the way of… well… everything.  It also draws a bit of attention, and has started a few conversations with strangers.  “What happened?”  “Well, the short version is ‘i broke it’.  The long version is a tale that must be told over a pint or two…”  A tale that ends with me proving my machismo and winning a bet…

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– After two weeks, i got a call from The Boy Sunday night.  Ninety entire seconds of talk time, with the sound of a barking drill instructor in the background.  Now that he is settled in ‘downrange’, he can get letters.  Wrote up two pages last night.  Not typed.  Hand written.  This is not trivial, given the broken finger on my right hand.  It felt weird.  It felt good.  When was the last time i wrote a letter?  Can’t remember.  Once i started writing – it came back to me.  Downright enjoyable…

– Had some strange weather recently.  Powerful thunderstorms, with almost a hundred tornadoes, rumbled across the midwest on Sunday.  Bad things happened across the region.  Looking for storm damage the next morning, i was greeted with this catastrophe on my front porch!  The horror!  The carnage!  One friend summed it up nicely – “If your Christmas Tree falls over and smashes your Pink Flamingo…You might be a redneck.”

redneck

– Studley and i continue our horseback riding lessons – with an added element of adventure.  Our instructor has introduced a new game to our weekly lessons – Hoofball.  The object is to work in teams of two, getting the horses to move a large ball toward a goal line.  Horses are not particularly smart animals, so they have to be slowly socialized to the ball.  Over the course of the past few weeks, we’ve been part of that training process.  Last night?  We played our first hoofball match!  Very fun, and very scary – turns out, it takes a long time for a horse to get used to having a giant ball rolling around the arena!  They’re getting better, though.  And we’re getting better at staying on spooked horses!

hoofball

image found here

– A year ago, i got involved with an ad hoc group of nutjobs artists and musicians to bring the first “Dia de los Muertos” event to our lovely city.  This year?  Bigger and better.  They needed a parade vehicle – something that could tow a flatbed trailer carrying a dozen musicians.  My Jeep was the perfect solution.  Rather than just tow the parade float, i got it in my head that i was going to have one of the giant skeleton puppets that were created last year “drive”…

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There were some unexpected challenges, but we pulled it off!  Not content to have the skelly just ride along, i also decided that he needed to wave to the crowd.  In the detailed photo below, you can see that Studley had duct taped the left arm of the puppet to my arm… which could explain why i’ve had a rather severe bout with tendonitis in my left shoulder and elbow for the past few weeks… We’re already planning for next year – i will have a fully animated skeleton, shooting fire from his nostrils!

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– Another entry in the “What the fuck was i thinking?” binder…  Last March, i started a project to modify an upright piano into… something else.  Taking most of the summer off for travel, i’ve recently re-tackled the project.  The past two weekends have found me up to my arse in sawdust and power tools… but it’s coming along nicely.  This will get a full post when it’s done – which should be by Christmas.  Unless i perform an accidental amputation…

sawzall motherfucker

– What’s up in The Trailer Park?  Lots.  Good news and bad news, and “are you fucking kidding me?” news.  There may be an end in sight – and Mom may get to move back into her own home after four years of endless promises and threats.  A little afraid to say anything because i don’t want to jinx it….

Sea Leveled

Dive Leader Caroline swam up to us in the dark. She did a roll call to make sure all five missing divers were within range.  We’d gotten caught in a current during the safety stop on a night dive, and were surprised to find ourselves at least a quarter of a mile from the boat when we surfaced.

Once she was assured that we were all there, she said: “Everyone ok?  Do you need assistance?  That’s what I’m here for, so let me know if you need anything!”

A few feet away in the dark, there was a laugh, followed by “How about a couple of legs?”

His were blown off in December, 2011.  An Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) specialist for the Marines, Dusty ran to assist a fellow soldier who had just stepped on an improvised explosive device, and tripped a secondary device – bombs designed to kill those aiding victims of the primary bomb.

About the last thing i expected on my trip last week was a double amputee diver in our group.  When you have a dozen divers living in very close quarters for a week on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean, connections happen with lightning speed.  i quickly learned that there was more to him than his disability. 

The sun came up Saturday morning, and we put our dive gear out for collection by the crew by 0730.  Dusty brought out his “sea legs” – designed for use in salt water – and put them with the flippers and vests alongside the hotel.

gear

Saba is a tiny island – only five square miles of volcanic rock.  The airport hosts the world’s shortest commercial runway.  The harbor isn’t much bigger.  Getting on the damn boat, as it rocked and rolled against the dock, presented a challenge.  i was a bit tentative as i grabbed the boat rail, timed my step to match the pitch of the boat and held onto a member of the crew for stability.  Dusty passed his gear to the crew, and stepped on board.  Crew and divers looked on quietly.  No one complained about the difficult entry.

Getting on the boat

He was nervous about the diving because it had been about two years since his last dive – not because of the prosthetics.  One leg was a bit heavy, so he rigged a ‘water wing’ to see if it would help with buoyancy.  It was worth a try, but didn’t really help.

water wings

The final day of the trip was spent farting around on the island.  We hosted a ‘happy hour’ by the hotel pool, and invited our dive boat crew to join us.  Reuben, one of our crew, told me how amazed he was by Dusty.  “We noticed that NO ONE on the boat, crew or divers, complained about anything all week long!  And it was because of THAT guy!”

Dusty diving

We did the night dive on Tuesday.  As the sun set, ten of us dropped into the water.  i’m not overly fond of night dives – one friend describes them as “underwater drug raids” as you see floodlights carried by your dive mates sweep wildly through the dark waters. i decided to go along since the reefs of Saba are loaded with amazing coral and a metric shit-ton of fish.

The dive went as briefed – down to about 40-50’, standard night signals at ‘half tank’, watch for the strobes on the boat, keep dive time to about 45 minutes.  We chased one octopus around for five minutes, found a gargantuan lobster and then went off to look for other critters.

When it was time to ascend, Studley and i caught up with three others – Dusty, his father-in-law Ron, and Rick (our dive instructor).  Even at the relatively shallow depth for the dive, a three minute ‘safety stop’ at 15-18 feet is required.  The current had picked up a bit, so we stayed in a close group as we hovered in the dark water.

Studley and i had lost the boat while concentrating on our depth gauges, but figured one of the others knew the location.  When we bobbed to the surface, we realized that none of us had any damn idea where the boat was. We saw some lights a good distance away.  If not our boat, a boat.  Good enough.

Low on air, we filled our buoyancy control devices (BCDs) and prepared for a long surface swim – roll on your back and start kicking.  Maintain verbal contact with your buddies.  Periodic roll call and heading check.  After about five minutes, i turned to look for the boat.  Didn’t seem to have made much progress, but we could now see two sets of lights – our boat and another.

Good enough.  Roll and kick.  Repeat every few minutes.

Eventually, we heard Caroline’s voice from the dark.  Relieved that we’d been located, we continued to kick toward the boat.  Another heading check?  The current was too strong, even when we tried cutting directly toward shore.

Caroline suggested we circle up, and wait for the boat to come to us.  Within a few minutes, we could see the boat turn and move toward us.  Snagging the current line behind as it came alongside, we all waited to climb up the ladder.

Relaxing a bit, i felt my thighs screaming from 30 minutes of surface swim against an unyielding current.  i watched Dusty leave the water first – climbing the dive ladder, his prosthetic sea legs outlined sharply by the floodlights on the boat.

Once we’d shed our gear, and the boat was headed back to the dock, we did post-dive forensics to sort out what went wrong – and how the situation could have been avoided.  No finger-pointing, just an ‘after-action report’. The subject soon changed to the barbecue and chilled keg of beer awaiting us at the hotel.

No one complained.  Everything we did?  Dusty had done without his fucking legs.

nice kicks

This young man – without saying a single word – collected my license to bitch.  i may let him keep it…

Please Stand By

Please Stand By

Having successfully completed the “Shit My Daughter Needs” scavenger hunt, and the subsequent game of “Suitcase Tetris”, i’ve reached the phase of travel preparation where i touch my passport a thousand times, and make sure i’ve got a credit card.

Summer roadtrip, part deux.

Once again reminded that i am a very lucky woman… A woman who continues to wonder how she got here…  Best not to waste too much time on that, however, because i’m circling the drain at an ever-increasing speed.

It’s only for now…