The Dobermans

As part of the census training, we learned about the greatest threats to us as census employees.

The greatest threat of harm was actually slipping and falling. It is very easy to get distracted especially when you are finishing up cases on your census phone while walking. Whoops! Guilty. Thankfully I didn’t fall but I did almost get into someone else’s car. I’ve also been on enough rickety staircases to last me a lifetime.

The third greatest risk of injury was due to car accidents. I could easily understand how that could happen especially when you have to find an address that is poorly marked at dusk.

Today I want to talk about the second greatest threat of injury, animals. I was more likely to be attacked by an animal than a person. I did worry at times of being assaulted or murdered although the percentage of injuries or deaths were rather small from those threats.

My supervisor told me about an employee who was swarmed by bees after knocking on an unused front door. I did come across nests rather frequently but lucked out in that regard.

I was more wary of dogs. I carried treats in my car. It was always a judgment call. How threatening does this dog appear? How old is the dog? How big is the dog? Are there signs that a dog lives there? Did the beware of dog sign hold any merit?

One day I had to make a house call in the middle of nowhere. The front door appeared to be a sliding door. When I knocked on it two Dobermans answered. They hurled their massive bodies against the sliding door and snarled at me. Next to the sliding door was an open window. It wouldn’t have taken much for the dogs to crash through the screen and maul me to death.

It shook me up a little. What if the dogs were outside when I got there and we didn’t notice each other right away?

I was wary of scary looking dogs. Thankfully most of the time the big scary looking dogs had owners nearby.

Bashed

I thought that I would finally be able to get some sleep last night…

It was 10 PM and my son wasn’t home. It didn’t seem right given the circumstances. My husband said that I worry too much and went off to bed.

Earlier in the evening, we bought our son a car. My husband made a bet with our kids when they were very little. If you beat me at chess, I’ll buy you a car. My son ate and breathed chess, even joined the chess club just to beat his dad. Paul is great at chess and I’ve never once since we were together saw anyone beat him in real life…until the day my son did. Immediately I went out and bought him a match box car and put a little bow on it.

That’s when the arguments started. My son wanted a souped up sports car and my husband wanted something practical for him. Finally they were able to find something they could agree on, a 2001 Audi with a stick shift and turbo boost. It is a beautiful car with a sporty look.

After we bought the car, he wanted to drive it over to his friends to show them. We really didn’t have a problem with this. But several hours passed and he still wasn’t home which seemed odd to me for swinging by and showing his friends.

I texted my son and he said he got into a bit of a mess with the car. WTH!!?! CALL ME!!

Alex said he picked up his friends and was driving through the old neighborhood. He was showing off his turbo boost and squealed the tires near several older guys that were outside partying. They were drunk and this pissed them off. (Yes, apparently some people get drunk and crazy on a Monday night in Wisconsin).

One guy got on his 4-wheeler and chased Alex down. He cut Alex off on the road. Alex slammed on his breaks and hit the guy smashing up the 4-wheeler and the front end of his car. The guy climbed off the 4-wheeler onto the hood of the car and tried to smash the windshield with his arm. The whole time the guy was screaming that he was going to kill Alex and his friends.

To put things in perspective, there were around 4 very intoxicated middle aged men chasing 3 teenage boys that squealed their tires near where they were partying. What??!? Who does that?

Meanwhile, a couple other guys got into a pick up truck with a lead pipe. Alex and his friends got away from the 4-wheeler only to be followed to his friend’s house by the guys in a truck that were a part of this group.

One of the men in the truck hit Alex’s car with the lead pipe. He also threatened to kill the boys and chased them into his friend Jay’s house. Thankfully, Jay’s dad was home. He pushed the guy with the lead pipe out of his house while the other guy got in. Jay’s dad threatened to call the cops. The man in Jay’s house said that if he called the cops, Alex would get in trouble for hitting the 4-wheeler.

Jay’s dad called the police and the men fled. Thankfully, Alex knew where the guys lived. Apparently the guy with the lead pipe was a convicted felon. They are facing criminal charges. My son ended up with almost as much damage to his new car as what we paid for it.

Seriously, we just got him the car and in less than a few hours it is bashed in already!!!!! Thankfully, no one got hurt with the exception of the guy that tried to smash the windshield with his arm.

Needless to say, we didn’t end up going to bed until after midnight.

 

Epic sail (epic fail)

It started out calm the way troublesome days sometimes do without a hint or foreboding of danger in the air.

It was a clear, sunny day. It was warm, but not breezy.

We had to motor for the first hour before it was even windy enough to put up our sails.

Our destination: A beautiful resort in Door County.

We had passengers with us. Our pastor surprised his wife with an overnight stay at the resort for their anniversary. Romance. A nice quiet sail there and back, or so we thought.

We were all in for a surprise.

A storm popped up on the bay. We had the foresight to take down our sails before it hit. It wasn’t a strong storm, but it produced 10 minutes of heavy rain. It was our first storm. We huddled below as Paul steered the boat. He barely had enough time to throw on his raincoat. I discovered that I forgot mine.

It wasn’t the storm that created the most difficulties. It was the aftermath. The temperature dropped 20 degrees. The winds picked up to 20 mph. Then we had to fight against 6 foot waves.

At first it was kind of fun like being in a giant wave pool. Every tenth wave was gigantic and would crash against the bow soaking us. We laughed, listened to music, and jokingly talked about dying.

After the first hour, things weren’t fun anymore.

The coast guard came on the emergency radio warning boaters of a 22 ft sinking boat partially submerged in water near but not in our path. We were worried about getting off course. It was starting to get late in the afternoon. We used up a lot of gas motoring against the waves.

If we didn’t make the harbor, we might hit the sinking boat.

Things did get rough when we had to hit the waves sideways. Everything that wasn’t tied down flew everywhere. People bounced around like there wasn’t gravity. Even the carpet didn’t stay. The pastor dry heaved into the garbage while I was knocked to the ground.

Paul was hollering from the deck that his waterproof case on his phone gave out. We no longer had our navigation once his phone died. But Paul knew the rest of the way. We were almost there..

I laid on the floor thinking that I was going to die. It felt hopeless really. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t snap out of the panic. I made it my mission to find all of the life jackets. I had to keep my mind from shutting down.

We never have been in waters like that before although Paul calmly told the pastor’s wife that we do this kind of thing all of the time.

Three hours of rough waters and Paul got us to shore safely. I am so proud of him. It wasn’t easy.

Once we got close to shore and things settled down I noticed that Paul and the pastor’s wife were completely soaked and shivering. Almost everything was wet. I found whatever I could find that was dry to keep them warm. The pastor’s wife huddled in the spider ridden sail cover.

We were all freezing cold in July. We were all feeling sick. We weren’t able to get the bumpers out. I was able to tie a line and had to jump on the dock quickly as the motor died out when we found the nearest empty slip.

The pastor’s wife started throwing up once we got to shore. She was so sick that she wasn’t able to join us for supper.

After 3 hours of intense waves, I felt panicky like I do with turbulence on an airplane. It was an awful feeling. I also felt sad. I thought about death, how things could’ve gone terribly wrong and we could’ve died. I thought a lot about my grandma. It stirred up strange unexpected raw emotions of grief and anxiety within me that I find hard to explain. I felt empty, hollow, alone, and frightened…

For the last two weekends I battled death in the grueling waters of Door County. First under the dangerous swimming conditions for the Half Ironman. Then this weekend, 3 hours of sailing in very rough waters. I want to think that I won’t have to face this again. I didn’t enjoy my brush with death very much. But I already committed to sailing for a whole week next week with Paul and some other sailors to the tip of Door County through Death’s Door.

To be continued…

 

The accidental overnight sail

I originally posted this when I first started blogging two years ago…the mishap we had this week sailing was partially due to our adventures a few years back when we originally weakened the pin to the rudder…Enjoy! We sure did…many years later.

Last summer my husband and I bought an old 25 foot sailboat. After about a month of ownership, we decided to take three of our friends out for a 3 hour tour. The day before I bought brand new water shoes for the trip. But we had one small problem the evening of the cruise, not enough wind.

It was a warm July evening. I wore my capris and a t-shirt. After supper, the wind picked up out of nowhere. We were ready for the quick sunset cruise out to the lighthouse and back five miles from shore. Once we made it to the lighthouse, the wind was really whipping and there were three foot waves. We thought it would be a really great idea to see how fast the boat could go. We did get the boat to go fast, faster than we have seen it go since. The problem was that the boat went fast in the wrong direction. When we got done testing the speed, we were 15 miles north of where we were supposed to be and it was getting dark.

In the meantime, my friend and I needed to use the bathroom. We had a toilet on board, but we didn’t know how to use it. After using the facilities, we were supposed to pull a lever to empty the contents into a lower compartment. We didn’t do that. As a gracious host, I had my friend use the bathroom first. When it was my turn, I opened the lid as we hit a wave and spilled the contents down my legs onto my new water shoes.

Great, now I am soaked in my friend’s urine. No problem, I had extra clothes on board, right?! Well, no.

Now it was dusk and we were lost.

The depth finder was not working, the GPS coordinates did not take into account that there was land between point A and point B, we had no maps, and our cell phones all died.

To make matters worse, we were almost out of gas. We were in deep water! Every time we tried getting close to shore we would ground out, using what little gas we had left to get ourselves out.

When we went out to deep water we hit some big waves spraying us with water. I was freezing after being soaked with urine and water not to mention the drop in temperature after dark. I used the spider filled sail cover to stay warm.

One of our thrill seeker friends thought it would be a good idea to dance around on the wet bow much to his wife’s dismay. They ended up falling asleep at midnight.

My husband spent the night steering the boat while his other buddy and I worked the jib sheet. Our minds started playing tricks on us and we were afraid of hitting dark objects in the water. At 5 AM I couldn’t take it anymore and had to go to sleep. Geez, all that and I missed the sunrise!!

In daylight we were able to get back to shore. We almost made it to the harbor when we ran out of gas. My husband jumped into the water and had to swim the boat to shore.

We made it home at 7 AM the day after our three hour cruise. My body was swaying back and forth for the next couple of days. The day after we got back I decided to go for a 6 mile run even though I was still swaying and felt like crap. It was the hardest run ever because I ended up coming down with pneumonia that day.

What did we learn from our (in)experience? I am now toilet trained, we carry extra gas, extra water, food, and bought an additional battery charger. I have extra blankets, sweaters, sleeping bags, shorts, pants, coat, robe, and rain gear that stays on the boat just in case we are foolish enough to have another accidental, overnight sail.

We probably should’ve just thrown out an anchor for the night. But what fun would there be in that??

Running with razor blades – 911, poison control, and other parenting mishaps

A long time ago, back when both of my grandparents were still alive, Paul and I took our little girl Angel out for a visit. My grandparents lived in a house where all of the main rooms downstairs were connected in a circular pattern. Think indoor running track. Well, that is exactly what my kids used it for anyway. It wasn’t bothersome, they wore off some extra energy, and you always knew their whereabouts.

On that day, Angel ran quite a few laps. After awhile we tuned out the constant tread of her little feet. That is until we heard the noise that no parent ever wants to hear…

Absolute silence.

I went to check on her.

What I saw next made me shriek in terror. I sqawked louder than a mother bird protecting her nest from predators.

Angel was holding a handful of straight edge razor blades. Her bloody little fingers were bringing them towards her mouth in slow motion. I screamed! She dropped her find and cried in response to my fear. I freaked out as Paul calmly inspected her bloody hands.

My grandma felt horrible. My grandparents kept everything. Although their house did not reflect hoarding or clutter, they kept many useless objects. They tucked those objects into hidden nooks and crannies like they were treasure. The razor blades from another era were hidden in the back of a bottom lower cupboard. In those brief seconds of silence, Angel found them and attempted to eat them.

Thankfully, she didn’t get seriously hurt. She didn’t need stitches. She just had a few cuts on her hands. Sometimes I shudder to think about what could have happened if I didn’t get there when I did.

It was on that day that I learned a lesson as a relatively new parent.

I learned that sometimes my kids are going to do things that hurt them. As a parent, it is very difficult to watch. If they would only listen to me, then maybe they could save themselves the pain of learning things the hard way.

Unfortunately that is not the way life works.

Sometimes I wonder if that is how God feels about us.

 

Hard to tame

Once, a very long time ago, I lived in wild and rugged terrain. I had an important job. I kept vigilance. I watched all day and sometimes at night too. Every little sound would wake me and cause me to take guard. I noticed every little detail in my environment for any change that could signify a problem. I noticed patterns.

I was a protector. My vigilance never stopped bad things from happening, but it may have forewarned others of danger or prevented them from being hurt. I wasn’t allowed the distraction of feelings, sensitivity, caring, or warmth to distract me from my post. A lot of other people had that job, but not me.

Then for a short period of time, I was removed from my post. I found myself alone. I thought that maybe I could finally be like everyone else. I wanted to be trusting like everyone else. But I couldn’t.

Then I found myself in an entirely different terrain. I was like a wild prairie dog trapped within the safe confinement of a zoo. I resumed my old post although I was no longer needed. No hawks circled. Few dangers threatened nearby day or night. But I found myself vigilant at my post. I was told that I wasn’t needed anymore, that I should take it easy or relax.

But any attempt to relax my guard caused me more anxiety. So I ran marathons around the inside edges of the wall. I paced back and forth so often that my path was beaten down. Even though I was no longer standing guard, I still felt like I was watching.

Then something else happened. I no longer wanted to be like everyone else. I found that being vigilant had purpose and meaning. My distrust protected me and those I care about.

Even in times of peace, a few people are needed to keep guard. Someone still needs to have a discerning eye to protect others from danger. I am that person.

Some animals are hard to tame.

Cabin chaos, part 3


After 50 years, the cabin became run down, bat ridden, and somewhat dilapidated. The roof leaked. The floor sagged under cracked worn flooring. Using the outhouse became outmoded as a commode. I really didn’t want to go up there anymore.

It was at this point that Aunt Grace decided to finance a major remodeling project. My brother Mark was the perfect guy for the job. He was good with his hands and was a very hard worker. When Mark was in middle school, he drew up a design for a water bed. He constructed the bed out of wood and spent the next 25 years sleeping in it.

Being the middle brother of my younger 3 brothers, Mark was almost invisible. Matt and Luke demanded almost all of the attention. Mark received attention and approval by working hard. He is the hardest worker that I have ever known. By the end of his teen years, he had already wrecked his knees and back from hard physical labor. Last summer I think he felt threatened when I told everyone that I was running a marathon. He told me that he bet he could run faster than me. He holds the title of family brawn.

Mark started to remodel the cabin in a process that took about 6 years. He managed the project and did a majority of the work despite living several hours away. He gutted out the cabin then put on new siding, new windows, redid the fireplace, and added an indoor bathroom. Once the old flooring was removed, we discovered hardwood floors underneath. Mark restored the hardwood flooring, put on a new roof, and put up dry wall. He also worked on the trim with precision and accuracy.

The most difficult thing he had to do was face his fears to get the job done. He braved claustrophobia, spiders, and rodents to squeeze in through a small opening to a crawl space. He needed to go underneath the cabin in a dark, musty, moldy dirt hole to reinforce the foundation. Plus, it was dangerous. If something went wrong, it could have collapsed and crushed him.

Everyone worked together as a team to complete the project, but almost all of the credit goes to Mark.

When Mark finished the remodeling project the cabin was magnificent.

 

The travel diaries, The Grand Canyon

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A few years ago, Paul and I had a conference in Phoenix. I’ll be honest with you, the little lunch break by the pool ended up turning into missing the next seminar. Didn’t we hear about that topic the year before anyway? We never get hot summer days in the fall in WI. Sometimes we don’t get hot summer days in the summer. So really could you blame us for giving in to temptation?

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After the conference we rented a car and drove to Flagstaff. On the way we stopped in a little town called Jerome. We were told that was where the hippies live. We did see a couple in a VW van that could pass as hippies but that was about it. I wasn’t able to add to my collection of boho clothes or jewelry, but we did have a nice lunch. Then we stopped at the Red Rock park and hiked there for awhile.

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Flagstaff was a nice high altitude city. We took a short hike and I was very winded. We met a lot of people, most of them tourists like us. We met a man that followed us to a costume shop to see if he could buy a Bacchus costume to celebrate the fall solstice. He was going to ride around town on his motorcycle while wearing it. OOKKaaayyy. Interesting. Hmm. We met another couple, the woman’s dad lives near us and we know him. Small world.

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The highlight of our trip however was seeing The Grand Canyon. We decided to take the 6 mile hike around the south rim. If you remember from earlier, I am afraid of heights. I can’t even explain in words how overwhelming and immensely grandeur this location is. When we got off the bus to start our hike, I was so terrified that I wanted to turn around and head back. I practically glued my body as far as I could away from the massive drop. In most places, the trails were right next to the side of the cliff without guard rails. There were narrow paths that caused me to cringe when I had to pass someone. After awhile I got used to the dizzying heights.

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When we got back to the hotel we looked online to see how many lives were claimed by this monsterous canyon. There were some interesting stories, like the man who pretended he was falling then actually did. Or the husband who had his wife keep moving back just a little more for the picture.

While I stood at the edge looking down, the still voice inside my head said jump! Jump! Paul said he had the same temptation. It was so strange. I had a lot of anxiety seeing families with small children. Or crazy people that would balance on the ledge. I was always afraid they would fall. 

It is a horrifyingly beautiful location. I was awe struck and overwhelmed at the same time. I cannot express the feelings that this miracle of creation elicited within me. I felt like a tiny little ant. You will just have to take a visit yourself!

The flight home was the scariest flight I have ever taken. We had turbulence the whole 3 hours because we were flying over a storm. They couldn’t even serve food or drinks. I faced a lot of fears on this trip and it was positively exhilarating. This is a great location for the adventurous, but leave the little ones at home. I think it would be fun to take a week to hike down into the canyon. Or go rafting on the tiny little river. Okay, it just looks tiny when you are standing at the top of the world. One day just wasn’t enough to see this beauty. 

Good thing I didn’t kick the bucket while checking this one off my bucket list! 

Christmas (pet) lover

Many, many ages ago when I first met Paul, he performed a quick thinking pet rescue. Christmas time can offer new dangers for pets.

Paul has always been a dog lover. When I met him he had a dog. I have always been a cat lover. When I met him I had two cats. If I didn’t marry him, I may have been destined to be the crazy old cat lady. So we struck up a compromise after marriage, he has one dog and I have one cat. It is a good arrangement and with 3 kids we do not have any more openings for pets or people.

During the Christmas of 1995, Paul and I were in his apartment when across the hall we heard cries for help. There was a desperate pounding on the door of his apartment followed by hysterical screams from the neighbor lady. She was crying and shaking as she grabbed us into her apartment. Her little dog was wrapped in the Christmas tree lights. He was trying to free himself but was becoming more and more tangled in the process. The cord wrapped tightly around his neck.

Everything was happening so fast that I too began to panic. Paul, however, ran back to his apartment to grab his scissors. He held the struggling dog down while he cut the cord that was wrapped around his neck. Time and time again, Paul has acted in situations where most people freeze. This makes me feel safe because I know I can’t seem to control my inaction during those times.

On that winter day, my Christmas lover became a hero in my eyes. Paul the Pet Rescuer. I knew that I had to keep this guy.

 

If running doesn’t kill me, it will make me stronger!

On my way home from work this past week, I followed a drunk driver. He was weaving all over the road, in and out of the ditch almost taking out some signs, just missing mailboxes and garbage bins. I felt anger towards the man in the truck as I thought of the school bus returning the little neighborhood kids meer minutes ago. Then it hit me. I wasn’t safe either. Neither were the other bikers or runners. 

At my last doctors appointment, I was told that I was in great shape. My already low cholesterol levels dropped 50 points. My blood pressure was low. I am the epitome of health (something I always remind the doctors of when I am sick). My weight was perfect. Absolutely everything was wonderful. I attributed this to all of my running. I thought the doctor would prescribe me cigarettes, liquor, and a sedentary lifestyle. Seriously, how else is she going to make money off of me?? Injury, well yes, I suppose there could be that. 

There is no doubt that running has made me stronger and healthier. But my anxious mind also thought about how it could kill me. Here are my 50 ways to kill a runner:

1. Getting mauled by a bear, wolf, or dog. 

2. Getting struck by lightening. 

3. Getting overheated. Warm running days don’t happen that often in WI, but when they do we are not prepared for it. 

4. Freezing to death. 

5. Sweating to death. 

6. Tripping over my own feet and hitting my head on the control panel of my treadmill. 

7. Getting struck in the head by flying debris. This could happen when a truck carrying rocks goes over a bump or when someone tosses a beer bottle out the window. This happens, I see all of the crap that you throw out your window. 

8. Dehydration. 

9. Drunk drivers. I try to run in the mornings to avoid this problem.  

10. Dark trails in the woods that happen to be next to a gun range. What? That is a homicide waiting to happen. 

11. Getting hit by a stray bullet. 

12. Getting attacked by a swarm of angry birds or bees. You never know about the birds and the bees. 

13. Delivery drivers, they are always in a hurry. 

14. Now that I think about it, maybe my mail carrier. She never smiles or waves. 

15. Getting caught in white out conditions from snow and getting lost or hit by a car. 

16. Getting hit by a car. 

17. Getting hit by a car!!

18. Getting hit by a car!!!  At least you have a chance of outrunning the rapist. 

19. Getting swept away by a tornado. 

20. Did I mention flash floods?

21. Slipping on ice and bumping my head. 

22. Those service truck guys who ask for directions. 

23. Electrocution from downed power lines. 

24. Running so fast that people don’t seem to see you. 

25. Items that fall from overhanging trees. 

26. Trying to save a cat from getting hit by a car and getting hit by a car. 

27. New drivers. 

28. Old drivers. 

29. Getting hit by a train. 

30. Getting an infection from all of the chaffing. 

31. Getting West Nile, malaria, or Lyme’s Disease from bugs attracted to a sweaty stinky body. 

32. A deadly sunburn. 

33. Being scared to death by a runner that sneaks up behind you. 

34. Choking on rehydration products. 

35. The smell of stinky sweaty running clothes is enough to kill someone alone. 

36. Getting hit by a school bus due to kids distracting the driver. 

37. Training for a marathon. 

38. Infected bloody toenails 

39. Getting pneumonia from running in the rain. 

40. Running in the dark. 

41. Running barefoot and stepping on dirty needles. 

42. Idiot drivers that are texting. 

43. Women who are doing their hair or makeup while driving because they are late for work again. 

44. New parents distracted by a crying baby or the kid who snuck out of his car seat again. 

45. Is there really nothing good on the radio people who veer the direction they are changing their radio station in. 

46. Did I tell you about the wooded trails?

47. Creepy guys in white unmarked vans. 

48. People so in love they can’t keep their eyes on the road. 

49. Falling over in exhaustion. 

50. Seriously, do you know hard it was coming up with 50 ways to kill a runner???

I used to think that running would prolong my life, but now I am not so sure.