Friday, September 20, 2013

Speaking in Evansville and Mount Vernon


So, blogging has been a bit hard.  First for the obvious: Im exhausted at the end of the day! 

Second: the moments I could be blogging, I've had the opportunity to connect with some amazing people.

Why blog when you can live?


(My cousin came to spend time with me on the river!!)

Well... There's a time and place for both *wink*

So, if you are in the Evansville area on Sunday there will be 3 times we can say hello offline:

9:00 am, we will be at St. Lucas United Church of Christ at 33 W. Virginia Street in Evansville and will say a few words during worship services.

2:30 pm, we will be at the Evansville Central Library in the Browning Room A where I will give my full presentation.

7:00 pm, at Trinity United Church of Christ in Mt. Vernon, Indiana. Also where I will give my full presentation.

Ok.

Back to the subject of writing/blogging (and ps- I'm writing this on my phone so I'm sorry if the format is off!)....

I plan to hit the road and re-trace my trip right after I finish on the water. Allowing me to write about the physical trip itself, but also the folks who have become part of my journey too. The veterans, families, civilians, contractors, communities that have shared their stories of how mental health, suicide, war and life has molded who they are.

I find I meet someone who changed/inspired/drove me forward, and then the schedule takes over.  I want to know what happens after the moment passes.  I want to keep the discussion going and follow up with the sorrow, triumph, longing, passion and beauty I've seen and heard these past 2 months.

In truth, I'm still waiting for my benefits. In fact, the plan is to start the trip in DC to see my lawyer and get my 'fight' fueled up. I'm tired. I want to sit still and focus on getting well. But not while the stories of others who are fighting for help are also swirling in my head, and not if it means going home and waiting for help again.

I won't go back to that helplessness again.

Just about 7 days left on the river, but I truly feel its just the beginning of this journey... 


(Henry watching a cat from the tent in Rockport)


(Taken by Tre Turchie Barron at Newburgh Lock)


(Chris and Sam of the Ingram Barge, James Paul Ayers)


(A welcoming committee of Hoosier Hospitality out of Tell City)

 
(Karen Gayer, Cody Baker's mother... Celebrating Cody and his twin sister's birthday... 3 weeks after Cody took his life... Still humbles me)


(I want to know the story behind this boat... Seriously... Is that a pop-up trailer on the roof?!)


(Mayor John Tucker of Mt. Vernon, Indiana who shared his friend's story after he came home from Vietnam)

 
(My cousin Anne joining me for 4 days!)


(Colin wading out to film for a documentary about contractors and the challenges they face coming home... He and Uri flew in from Israel the night before) 

As always, please go to the Purple Star link and sign the petition!!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Cody Lee Baker

It's been a busy week and I need to sit and catch up... But before I tell any stories of my good moments, I need to share a real heart ache for another.

Cody Lee Baker took his life just 3 weeks ago...


This handsome, well loved man is gone.

It was unexpected.

It is tragic.

It's stories like his that I'm on the river.

22 Veterans take their lives.... 

DAILY

Serving & working in war zones has consequences at home.

What can YOU do today?

Cody's family is fighting so Cody's beautiful life will not be forgotten... please go to the link and sign the White House Petition (which is different than the Purple Star Family Petition that many of your have graciously already signed).

Tomorrow is his birthday... and the birthday of his beautiful twin sister.  Please let his family know they do not stand alone.

Cody- Love surrounds your family   I am honored to know them, and honored to know of your life.  You live in our hearts and drive us to prevent others from leaving us.

I know you have found peace.

Much love and tremendous thanks for your service....


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Speaking this weekend in Jeffersonville:

• Saturday, 5 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Jeffersonville, 222 Walnut Street. (A short presentation during worship, followed by an informal gathering and longer conversation at Cheezy’s Pizza, 801 Market Street, Jeffersonville) 


• Sunday, 10 a.m. Worship at St. Luke’s United Church of Christ, 329 Walnut Street, Jeffersonville, with a longer presentation to follow at 11:30 a.m. at St. Luke’s. 


• Wednesday, 6 p.m. at Corydon Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 216 N. Mulberry St., Corydon. 
Guests are welcome at all services.


Thank you Mark Vanderhoff for the interview this morning:

http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20130907/NEWS01/309070065/Kayaker-traveling-Ohio-River-raise-awareness-about-PTSD-among-military-veterans-contractors


Sunday, September 1, 2013

Huntington, WV

Terry came to the Red Roof Inn (where we had snuck in the night before) and took us back to her house… and to Pastor Tim’s across the street.

We were then shuttled off to a pool party… and BAMM… Huntington UCC became part of my life…


(My new little sister, Mariana... 17 going on super star)


(For those who know my 'glitches'...this pic of standing with a bunch of 'strangers' but still smiling is amazing)

This group.  This amazing group.  Dynamic.  Loving.  Generous.  Open & Affirming.  Beautiful.  TESTED.  Growing…  What other words can I tag to them?  This amazing group…

Pastor Tim’s sermon on Sunday was soul feasting.  Right before key points, he’d clap his hands and kindly shout, “NOW, LISTEN!” and we would.  Everyone would… and not because he told us to, but because he was speaking truth.  It was the sort of reflection that leaves you wondering if he wrote it for you… but you know everyone felt that way.

Marietta introduced me to fried bologna… Huntington introduced me to fried potatoes and brown beans.  I thought I was going to lose weight on this trip… yeah…. Nope!

They gave me the opportunity to share my message.  I got to hear the stories of others who are dealing with mental health issues.  I was honored to hear war stories and victories of veterans.  The post message discussion made me feel a bit more whole.


(Listening after speaking... the best part)



(Love the folks attached to these smiles)

That afternoon I sat on Terry’s couch and caught up on blogging stuff, had veggie soup with Pastor Tim, his Robbie and Punkin (Henry thanked them by having an accident on a beautiful hand painted sign for the church… yup).  I got to hear more about HUCC’s mission for the homeless and hungry, their social justice involvement and ideas for future.  Made me what to stay.


(Robbie puppy wrangling!)

We took off early Monday morning to get me back to the boat (we had left it up river) and do a long, almost 40 mile day… 


(Could your heart break, too?!  It's hard, hard, hard leaving him in the morning)

but the long day was ok, because it ended back in Huntington and with a happy welcome at the marina.


(Henry giving me loves after a long day)


(Hello my cheerleaders!!)


(Selfie with my Sweet One!)

Again Terry hosted me.  The women I’ve had the pleasure to stay with have been enlightened, experienced, beautiful and the perfect dose of instant friend…. Terry continued the standard set by Judy in Marietta.

And then I left that Tuesday morning… and admittedly, it felt like leaving my long time friends behind.


But like with other towns, they have kept in touch… with an awesome vengeance… and through facebook and text messages and motivational videos (you boys…) & posters (Mariana, I adore your face!) they, like all friends I’ve met along the way are right there with me.


(Pastor Tim.  This man... this man... thank you for leading a group of amazing human beings)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Marietta. The Storm. Marietta.

I have a bunch of writing I haven’t done!  So instead of catching up on the days (which has stopped me from writing at all), I want to focus on some of the towns that have been, well, extraordinary… starting with Marietta, Ohio.

Reverend Linda was the first to return my call (with the help from the church secretary, Diane).

I’d been starting to worry the churches wouldn't respond to my emails and phone calls, and now I know why… I needed the RIGHT church to be my first experience on the river.

The 1st Congregational Church of Marietta Ohio.  What can I say that will do my experience justice?


To start:  I walked in completely stressed and tired. That ended immediately when Linda walked up, gave me a huge hug, and with awesome sincerity whispered, “Welcome Home.”

It was just that simple. 

After came an ‘Extravagant Welcome’ of singing, incredible piano/organ playing, a perfect sermon and then blessings.  Blessing to Marita and Bernie, to me and to my Henry.  They even got him treats and set out a water bowl… a small gesture, but to have strangers recognize his importance in my life was beautiful.


After the service I did my presentation.  It felt good.  In that painful, heart wrenching sorta way that comes with speaking your truth.

Then we went to a bar (Yup, these are my sorta church people), where I got to experience my first fried bologna sandwich at the Harmar Tavern.  Holy Hannah Batman… my bologna has a first name and it’s spelled M-A-R-I-E-T-T-A.  (Post service ‘Lunch Bunch’ folks, you are too awesome)


I went back to the hotel that Sunday overwhelmed- in the good way.

Then some headaches hit.  Credit card fraud and some other stresses took over and stole the peace of the day and the excitement of sleeping in a bed. I was left wanting to crawl back a few hours to my 1st Congregational folks and hide… yeah…


(Henry enjoying the bed while I spent hours trying to figure out my credit card disaster)
BUT

The next morning we headed back to my boat (we had left it at the beautiful Sistersville, West Virginia, public dock) and I was off again.


(Sistersville Ferry)

This time ending at a little, clean, amazing RV/Campsite on the chute of an island in St. Mary’s, West Virginia.  Richard and his wife made sure we had electric and a code to the showers… Marita, Henry and I went for a swim.  Henry rolled in the mud.  It was hot and muggy, but a beautiful, quiet spot.


Then it POURED & STORMED & BOOMED.

I was a little worried about Henry, but he didn’t mind one bit, and slept right through.  Wow, dog. 

The next morning I found out Richard had been up all night monitoring the river, and with good reason… the river was high and fast (and my tent was filled with water... 4 inches of rain in a few hours was too much for my lightweight backpacking tent).


(that little dot is Henry watching stuff float by)

So we sat and stared at TREES, chairs, basketballs, tables and other rubbish fly past us. 

I was hesitant to go.  I called the lock right below us.  I called Jim the lock master at a previous lock to get his advice.  I sat and stared at another tree go by. 

I decided not to go…

Then I decided to go…

Then I decided not to go…

Then I remembered Lovely Judy from church that Sunday.  She had offered to have Henry and I stay the night when we got back to Marietta (we had stopped short before and drove in for church).

That got me to go.

A flood was not going to stop me from sleeping in a bed and doing laundry. Nope.

It ended up being a thrilling day of crazy sailing (a strong head wind mixed with the crazy current) and a boost in confidence handling poor weather on the river (for future river folks, my ‘kayak’ has 2 outriggers, a dagger board and designed for ocean conditions… I would not have taken out a regular canoe or kayak… in truth, I should have waited).



(Coming out of the island chute to The Ohio and the gunk at the lock)

I came to the end of my ‘Flood Day’ giddy I survived, mentally and physically trashed, and welcomed with open arms (again) by beautiful Marietta, Ohio.

The Mayor had come out (a Marine Veteran).  The Congressman’s staff came out.  My church came out.  The local news station did a story... 


... and after the welcome, my new friend Judy took me away to her beautiful home.


(Look at my happy boy!)



(My dog is sucker for a good bed)

That crazy day was rewarded with Manhattans, cheese and crackers, chicken salad, my laundry getting done, Henry getting to watch birds from a perfect porch and a beautiful new friendship… 

… Not just from my generous hostess, but from an entire town.


Just awesome.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Note on the River

My knees.

So I'm tall.  Maybe because of that I have the luck of being pretty athletic, but also the luck of The Clumsies. Which means I fall a lot... And my ankles tend to have a serious sprain or break a few times a year... However, my knees. My strong under appreciated stabilizers, have been   sheltered by my tumbles.  Now, these girls have the task of getting me down river.  With a boat+me+gear that's about 250 pounds... 

My ankles celebrate my seated position.
..

But my knees...

they ache...

they rash...

They swell...

And they are amazing.

I'm not the in-shape lady I was (I'll get back there- hell, I'm on that journey now), but I am looking at my knees, feeling them burn (almost like they're not connected to me), had a moment of 'I wish you looked prettier', then it hit me: you two are awesome. 

There, I'm feeding my knees positive vibes so they don't quit on me. 

We can do it, you dear Super Stars...



Sunday, August 18, 2013

Day 5, 6 & 7

It’s been awhile!  Finding the river is harder for blogging than expected… more the lack of brain power at the end of the day.  Facebook has truly been a lifeline for me… seriously, if you’d like to follow the trip closer, follow me there!

I’m sitting at my friend’s home, Terry, in Huntington West Virginia, after a long, beautiful, hard week.  I had to take a quick moment and get down a few days…

Random notes:

·         My knees hurt *sigh*
·         I was completely ignorant on the significant history along the Ohio River!  I’m more an English/Scott history buff… and while I know the events, I didn’t put two-and-two together that it happened HERE.  Pretty cool.
·         Everyone had me freaked out on barges… um, stay out of their way y’all… seriously one of the easier river obstacles!  I found having a marine radio to hear their chatter and keeping a large rainbow umbrella open (boom, they can see me) when they come around a blind corner keeps us both safe.  For something to do, I’ve been keeping a log of how many I pass a day (me:nerd).
·         Henry isn’t liking the boat as much as I’d have hoped.  Mind you, it gets HOT on the river- and this with a cold spell- but I was hoping, needing him to be with me more.  I’m lucky to have M&B have the ability to take him, but it sortalotta sucks (and he’s not listening to me without our training and non-stop time together *deepsigh*)
·         Being on the river is easier than stopping.  I keep being asked if I get bored…. Haven’t yet.  Not a moment. 
·         I keep hoping I’ll be suddenly ‘healed’- it still hasn’t happened.  I find it frustrating.
·         I get heat/sun rashes that would make you blush… no bikini warrior princess for me!  If you see me on the river, I’m covered head to toe!
·         I got the names of the mayor and river angels!!  Heidi is the mayor in the town that let us camp in the city park.  Gerry was the name of the owner of the first marina we stayed at….and, drum roll… my river angels found me!!!  BOB & LISA (HURRAY!!)

Day 5

·         New Cumberland Lock
·         24 miles
·         Headwind. 
·         Beautiful, hot camping right on the river
·         Ended at mile 81.5- home of Rayland Marina


Hello Mayor of Ohioville!



Henry has the self control of a rockstar...wait! No! Not a rockstar...a, monk!



Hot, hot, hot...and a spoiled dog


Rayland Marina, end of day 5

Day 6

·         Breakfast at Pike Island Lock!
·         21 miles
·         Ended at mile 102 (I broke 100 miles!) in Moundsville, WV
·         Channel 7 News came out to do an interview
·         Tom the Lock Master and his amazing crew… can’t say enough… found friends and fellow contractors, veterans and dog lovers- Taught me it’s a good idea to stop now and again!
·         Saw the American Queen paddleboat in Wheeling West Virginia!  They had a loud jazz festival going on too- if I wasn’t so dang quirky, I’d a stopped for the day…waved to a bunch of kiddos
·         Wind cooperated, but that’s because she brought a rain storm!  Found I loved being on the water in the rain- no sun and cooler – call it my Scottish blood
·         Fell HARD while trying to get off the boat in the downpour… the men in the above bar later told me they all saw the spill (ugh, bruise, much?)
·         Had chicken wings for dinner and saw myself on the news...after falling on the deck, it was extra embarrassing
·         High Point of the day:  Tom and his guys at the Lock
·         Low Point:  The marina owner asking I leave through the back door so her guests wouldn't see Henry… I was too tired to take the opportunity to educated her on the law & service dogs


Lock view of my beauty!


Full Pike Island Lock


Lock Men!



Lowered water height at Pike Island



Now that's art...



Coming to Wheeling, WV




The American Queen



Henry stealing my bed



Watching the news at the marina

Day 7

·         Hannibal Lock
·         36 mile day!
·         Ended at mile 138 in Sisterville, WV and left the boat for 2 nights at the BEAUTIFUL new public dock next to the ferry
·         Drove to Marietta for church and a stay at the Comfort Inn
·         Unbelievably excited to sleep in a bed… so was Henry… he took the other bed all to himself
·         There was a parrot convention at the hotel!

To be continued…. Marietta deserves a post all her own (Linda, Diana, Judy…andandand…wow, you guys!)