Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Cause for Celebration

I was going to celebrate when I reached 365 posts, and I’m only at 302.


I have news.

“Our Third Thirds” has received a First Place Award from the National Federation of Press Women. And because I won that, I get to put this on my website.

Now I just have to figure out where it should go and how to get it in there.

A Third Third technological challenge. Stay tuned.

And because good news comes in batches, I have more. My one children’s story – Hanukkah in Alaskathe story that lives a charmed life and provides me with continuing good news out of the blue – has done it again: PJ Library has picked it up AGAIN for distribution to children as their November book-of-the-month!
For a whopping 31,300 copies for both the U.S. and the U.K.!

This came with an interesting request: I had to make some changes to include the U.K. audience. For some little cross-cultural tidbits, here they are:
  • shoveled driveways and paths,” had to be changed to “cleared driveways and paths.” A friend said that’s because in England, they use spades, not shovels.

  • The little girl’s “thick, baggy pants and a sweatshirt” had to become her “thick, baggy sweatpants and a sweatshirt.” That one stumped me until another friend said that “pants” in England are “underpants.”

  • “Mom” became “my mother” because English mothers are “Mums.”

  • And, of course, “color” wouldn’t work in a “colourful” world, so it’s just gone.
But you can still color me pleased!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Truly Scary Story

You can be in your Third Third and stupid at the same time. All the accumulated wisdom of age is no protection against the occasional lapse in judgment. Then you have to re-learn something by lessons, by research, by observation, even by osmosis. But sometimes, you need a 2x4 to the head to get the message.

My 2x4 to the head came in the form of logs.
This is how I go kayaking in Prince William Sound: I examine my maps. I talk to people who’ve gone out there. I talk to the charter boat captain. I pack my supplies in a dry bag. The important supplies go in what we call the sealed Immediately Accessible Bag. We bring repair tools, a first aid kit. We check the weather. I don’t do anything foolish because Nature is serious business and vigilance is required.

But when the sun is shining in Anchorage for an amazingly long time and temperatures are at 70 degrees – in September! – and Tim suggests a little 2-hour canoe ride, well, then, my brain takes a vacation.

Mentally, I think I was imagining riding across a lake, reclining with a parasol over my head. I think I was in a Victorian romance for a sunny 2-hour cruise.

Yes, I know what happened to Gilligan.

So this is how I prepare: I put my camera in a Ziploc bag. I stick some extra clothes in the car. I put on my rubber boots and life jacket. And that’s it.

So, off we go. Right off, we encounter the shallow start. Later, I find out it’s called a “boulder garden.” This is how a 2-person canoe works: the person in front sees the obstacles. The person in back steers away from the obstacles. The person in front must communicate effectively to the person in back, and the person in back must receive those messages and act on them.

Even if they’re married.

“I said left, your OTHER left.” “Go around the rock counter-clockwise, COUNTER-clockwise!” “When you say 1:00, do you mean the boulder is at 1:00 or I should steer to 1:00???” F***! F***! “Paddle HARD!” F***! “Right or left? Which way?” F***! F***! “It’s better to the right.” “I think there’s more water over there.” F***! F***!

Years back, Tim and I were in a raft. He said, “You might want to paddle.” We hit a sweeper (tree over the river) and got tossed about.

“Why didn’t you warn me?!?!?”

“I did.”

A marriage is made of Midwesterners who quietly suggest things and New Yorkers who understand warnings shouted with great urgency.

Back to our boulder garden. We make it through and the current picks up. Things are starting to get delightful. I should have packed a lunch for a picnic. We round a corner … and face a right angle turn. Slammed into a logjam, the canoe turns over, pinning me against the logs. I can’t move. I try to climb over the logs, but the branches just keep breaking off, and besides, I’m pinned.

This is the terror moment. This is every story you’ve ever heard of people who die on a river because they can’t get out. This is visceral thoughts of that horrible movie, Deliverance. This is you with cold water rushing around you, relentless rushing water. And you’re stuck.

Tim shifts, moves, and the canoe frees me. He tells me I have to get out of the water. I know I have to swim, but I feel so constricted, so restrained. My whole body isn’t moving the way I want it to. I wonder if I should kick off my boots. But I take off and make it to a gravel bar. I am very, very cold and my hands don’t grip anymore.

Tim is on another gravel bar, and the canoe is idly resting by a third. That is an astonishing sight. Tim retrieves the canoe and then comes for me. He says we have to cross the river to get to the canoe. The river I’ve just come out of. This is my low point. I have not yet realized that the reason I feel constricted is because I’m wearing my life jacket, that I will not drown. Tim’s calm Midwestern hand holds my frazzled New York one, and I can do this (while I blather corny motivational messages as step-by-step updates).

We make it to the canoe, and I shout, “We’re home free!”

Tim says, “We have no paddles.”

Hmmm… That’s a stumper.

He points to the dense, impassable, thick forest of alders in front of us. On the other side is the road. Somewhere.

A mouse couldn’t fit through that forest. Tim calls it “alder bashing,” and I think about bears. We fight our way through … to another braid in the river we must cross. More alders. Another braid. Finally, at the very last braid in the river, we can see the guardrail and the road on the far side. This is the main channel; this is fast and deep. Chest-high.

But by now, the sun has warmed me. I realize I’m wearing my life jacket. I realize if I miss the shore, I will catch the next gravel bar. I will not die.

We didn’t die. Tim and Bob bashed more alders two days later to retrieve the canoe with new paddles. I have a truly amazing batch of bruises up and down my leg, I spent one sleepless night with continuing terror flashbacks, and my camera is failing to dry out in a bowl of rice.
This is not another amazing Alaska adventure story. This is a cautionary tale of stupidity, of complacency in the face of sunshine, of weird romantic fantasies replacing experienced reality. I re-learned something valuable in my Third Third. I won’t forget it.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Sister Reunion

I’ve shared all my Thirds with two sisters. One I shared a bedroom with; one I’ve shared regular road trips with. We’ve shared parents, homes, life stages, reunions, vacations, special events. We’ve shared secrets, memories, resentments, helpless laughter, sadness, and tears.

And now, we were going to share a car for ten days on the road.

During one family reunion in which – how does this happen?!? – all of us seemed to assume our old, tired, family roles; my sister Allison remarked, “We haven’t really grown up; we’ve just moved away.”

And now, we were going to share a car for ten days on the road.

I was a little anxious.

At one point, Allison said, “Elizabeth will drive, I’ll navigate, and Barbara will tell us what to do.”

Uh, oh. Uh, oh.

We met in Seattle. Elizabeth used her phone to navigate the rental car to the hotel to meet Allison and me. The phone lady told her to take Aloha Street. “Ollo hah,” not “ah-loh-hah.” We found this hilarious. What was even more hilarious was how many other words could be mispronounced like that. We mispronounced our way around Washington.

Until we got to a gift shop in Port Townsend. I think the item on the table had the word kahuna in it. “Kah-hoo-nah.” Doubled over in out of control hilarity, I raced to the restroom.

Because there is no one else in the world who leaves me helpless with pee-your-pants laughter like my sisters. No matter where we are, something eventually puts us totally over the top and we HURT with side-aching, bladder-weakening laughter.

And because we all grew up at suppers with my father, who quizzed us on the presidents and state capitals on the milk bottle caps, we got to spend a hilarious ride trying to come up with the four states whose capitals were named for presidents. (We did it!)

Many years ago, when Allison and I would drive cross-country to college, she insisted we had to stop for meals three times a day. I said, “We’re just sitting in a car. How do you get hungry just sitting?” But she said she could feel brain damage setting in if she didn’t eat regularly. That’s become a replaying family joke.

I eat breakfast – very happy if the hotel has make-your-own waffles – and then food doesn’t really occur to me until dinner. My sisters require “snacks.” For Allison, “snacks” is an art form: it includes supplies of chocolates, fruit, cheese, crackers, candies, beverages. She carries little plastic containers to hold all her snacks and a bag to hold all her containers. At one point, Elizabeth and I turned around to see Allison carrying her bag of snacks as if she was terrified we might deny her food when she needed it.

Another pee-your-pants laughter interlude.

My sisters have compact, convenient wheelie luggage. I have a duffel bag, which they didn’t like. They thought it was unwieldy, they told me I could at least get a duffel with wheels. I thought its shapelessness meant it could fit in places, but at our last stop, I decided I’d put it on the hotel luggage cart when we went to our room. I put it crossways on the cart, which had a stiff wheel, and tried to negotiate it into the elevator. I managed that, but getting out of the elevator proved problematic. The wheels of the cart only turned in the direction the duffel couldn’t fit. Trapped!

Another pee-your-pants laughter interlude. With consequences.

I don’t take any issue with their stopping for snacks because they let me stop at restrooms whenever I need to.

We hiked many beautiful trails in Olympic National Park, browsed a craft fair in Port Townsend, rode ferries and a monorail, went to the Kitsap County Fair, examined amazing quilts up close, saw an outdoor play. We also had our tiffs over snoring, interrupting, planning, expectations, and paying attention. We had tears, irritation, and resentments.

But what I remember – what I hold dear and mentally revisit over and over again – is all that helpless laughter. The universe was kind enough to give me sisters.

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