Sunday, June 23, 2013

Epic Camping Trip in the BWCA

My spouse has been dreaming of re-visiting one of his childhood summer vacation places he enjoyed each and every summer.  Due to me not being a fan of bugs, he opted to go the first half of June.  The above are the temperatures we were looking at camping in.  Yes, this was going to be an adventure!
The canoes are loaded and we are ready to get paddling.
June 2, we headed into the wilderness of the boundary waters north of Ely, MN via canoe and packing everything to live on for the next eleven days. Good times to be had by all canoeing, camping, portaging...

The water looks beautiful but it's freezing!

George on a portage
My spouse carrying a canoe across a portage



Taroth Rock


George, James and me

John and a couple of Walleye

James brought solar panels.  They worked nicely.


We had island camps.  This was one of my favorites. 

On Monday June 10th, we had begun the journey back out. Around 5pm, we pulled into the only available campsite which also happened to be a not so nice campsite being on a rocky slope with little level space.

We weren't there long when I had a mis-step on a mossy wet rock. My foot slipped plunging me down the slope as I heard a series of CRUNCH CRUNCH which was my tib/fib shattering.

I was now in serious trouble as we were still a day away from civilization and cell phone connections with five more portages to do. There was no way I would be able to get out on my own.

BWCA map I marked to show where we were when I got injured
What to do? We had no Satellite phone...

So our friend John, who was traveling with us, set out by canoe to see if anyone else camping had a SAT phone. One person gave him a basic spot but they activated it in their camp then put it in his canoe so the receiving agency thought it was an accidentally set off call as it turns out the spots are to stay stationary. [live and learn]

Another camper gave him a Sam splint that might be of use.

Another said they'd be going past a Ranger station in about six hours and would leave word of the emergency.

As the above was going on, my Firefighter:EMT spouse James was assessing my situation and trying to keep me from going into shock.
Even the slightest move caused me agonizing pain. I did go into a bit of shock from it so James got me off the ground by slipping the life vests under me and bundling me in an emergency blanket.  He then built a shelter over me while my son kept me calm and breathing to help prevent further shock and control the pain. 

James and George were amazing!  As James went into Emergency Rescuer mode,  George followed his lead and kept me calm as he sat by my head and sang to me when the spasms were so bad I forgot to breathe and read to me till late into the night. George monitored me so James could do other things to better prepare for all of our needs.  James would come by frequently to check my vitals as he worked to prepare a better shelter against the coming storm.

Even had we been able to call for help ASAP, it was going to take awhile to get help in.

What to do?

James came up with the idea of writing out a short text message with our situation and location, then hitting send, then taping his phone on to his DJI phantom quad copter and then he flew it straight up about 1000 feet and held it there for 30 seconds as he hoped the text would go.

James and his DJI Phanton Quad Copter
James's DJI Phantom Quad Copter
We had no way of knowing if the message was received and a storm was coming
My spouse set up a tent on the edge of the lake, on a flat rock inches above the water and a few feet down from where I was. He was able to cut my boot into a splint and  he helped me slide into the tent just before the storm arrived.

It was a long cold painful night as I prayed someone received the call for help. My spouse was finally able to rest after securing the canoes between us and the lake. Think of them as a form of early alarm system should the waves come our way as we were inches above the water level.

Sunrise in the boundary waters is about 5 am. As I saw the first lights appear, I prayed someone would come as the pain was extreme.

 4:48am we heard the voices of the rescue team!! Four volunteers had gathered at 9pm to prepare for my rescue. They headed into the river at 1:30am, in the dark, in the pouring rain, in a thunderstorm. In just two canoes with their equipment. One even missed one of the portages and had to navigate the rapids in the dark, in the pouring rain and thunderstorm! What brave men!
The rescuers who paddled in and the tent I was in waiting to be rescued.
When the rescuers got there, they were amazed at the great job my spouse had done preparing me for the journey. They splinted my leg all the way to my hip and with a few Tylenol on board, I finally fell asleep while we waited for the seaplane.

Medic splinting my leg
By 7am, the seaplane was making an epic landing on Lake Agnes in the boundary waters.

They carefully navigated the rocks as I watched the wing pass over the tent on the rock, on the edge of the lake, that sheltered me.


I was placed on a backboard then placed in the seaplane for transport back to civilization.

The Seaplane made a nice water landing then docked at a floating dock in Ely, MN.. Many good people had gathered to help unload me and the ambulance was waiting. They quickly transferred me into the ambulance and transported me to the Ely Hospital. (I'll have to find it's real name later)

The Doctor was waiting. They gave me pain medicine and I recall hearing her giving the x-ray techs permission to take pictures as needed. Look as they go and snap as they see fit. Those techs were awesome! My bed was spun and things moved but they never caused me a moment more of pain by manipulating my leg. The look on their face was scary. The more pictures they took, the more concerned they appeared. Once they were done, I suggested they help me move my leg and they both threw their hands up and said, "NO!"

That's when I realized that my leg was in really bad shape, worse then I thought.

The doctor came to see me right away and advised me that she needed to send me to Duluth for surgery as it was that bad. They arranged transport and wrapped my leg like a priceless vase. More pain medicine were administered to make the trip as pain free as possible. (There's some really bumpy roads up there.)

I'm not sure how long the trip actually took as it felt like we were traveling as fast as possible on some precarious roads. The average trip takes two hours.

Anyway, they got me safely to the Duluth Hospital (Need to find correct name here, too) and I was taken immediately to see the surgeon. He talked to me, advised what had to be done, got my permission to do it, and initialed my foot.

Off I went to surgery.

I woke up in a hospital room with my leg in my Stormtroopers cast. My nickname for it. The staff took excellent care of me while we waited for my family to paddle and portage out of the Boundary Waters with one less person to help. They arrived the following evening to pick me up and head to Minneapolis so we could fly home the following day.

I'm home now, being cared for by my wonderful husband and son.  

This is an X-Ray of my new ankle hardware.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's already Fall? Where does the time go?

This 'school year' finds us with our youngest still at home of an age to be considered ninth grade should he decide to go to high school. Every year I toss him that option as one of his choices and just like all the years before, he turns me down. He is quite content to continue on as an unschooler. He has grown so much! Just think. His next birthday will mean taking his Driver's Test for his Learners Permit! I'm not worried about him learning to drive though as life on a farm has already taught him those skills. He's growing up and soon will be a full fledged man off to college. I'm so proud him and my girls, too. This year has seen my oldest daughter celebrating her first year of home ownership and my second daughter just now moving into her own first home. They are starting out their adult lives nicely. It's a good feeling to know they are doing well and have a decent start. So where have I been you ask? This summer, we went camping. We traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee, Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky,
Cumberland Caverns in Tennessee,
then continued on to the National Whitewater Center near Charlotte, North Caroline.
We tent camped along the way and spent our days hiking, exploring,
ziplining, mountain biking, and kayaking.
It was awesome!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Boys & Home Ec

Many moons ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, I was sent to middle earth, ehm.. school, somewhere near the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. Or somewhere east of there...

Back in those early days of civilization, me being of the gentle persuasion, I was tasked to learn the gentle arts of tending a home; Shearing sheep, carding the wool, spinning the wool into thread, weaving it into material to be made into clothing, curtains and carpets... Along with the art of learning to clothe my future family, I was tasked with learning how to properly feed them; Growing vegetables, tending chickens, plucking chickens, making fire, and how to set a table. Those were the days.... (All due respect Mrs. Lynn! I loved your class and your Early American Club!)

My girls have grown and now are tending homes of their own which finds me now in a home with two men. The oldest (my spouse) has realized that he wasn't taught these skills back when he was a youth on the farm. Back then, the woman (his mother) tended all these needs. The younger male has also been reliant on his mother for years, too! This is a situation we are working to rectify. As mom, I'm also learning new cooking skills to do away with the ancient practices taught to me that have now been shown to not be oh so healthy, too.

If you have been following our life saga and unschooling journey, you know my son has been diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. At first we were a bit freaked out and then we came to acceptance and now we have moved into learning coping skills which include learning how to eat, proper nutrition, and exercise.

This journey has included reading many books and trying to find the doable, sane, common ground, ways to eat clean and healthy. The other day while following a clean recipe for beef stew, my oldest daughter pointed out that one of the ingredients for the stew is a known gas producer so it should be left out of the recipe. And this is where one comes to realize that food preparation is truly a science not to be neglected.

I'm not going to list out any links nor books as I can't truly recommend any particular one at this point. There are many excellent resources and there are many that will steer you off the right track. We are still working our way through weaning items off our grocery list and finding doable alternatives.

Currently, after a hard workout, protein shakes have been a Godsend for my son. They are something that his system can tolerate and take the edge off. He has been learning to cook so he, hopefully, will never have to rely on fast food when he is grown. We will be working on learning all we can so all of us can live a long and healthy life.

George after earning his first belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Eight Year Olds and Unschooling

This is a response to a worried mom of an eight year old.

I'm coming into the discussion a wee bit late and have skimmed the majority of responses and have just a few points to add:

Jane McGonical was on TED Talks. You can view here.

The original poster states a few concerns I'd like to address:

"but I miss my cheerful son who in younger years would happily be up for all kinds of adventures."

"if we do go out, a hour or 2 later he's ready to go home."

"I hate to make an arbitrary ban/regulation of this, but it seems like it might be helpful."

We started 'homeschooling when my son was 7yo and moved into full blown radical unschooling by the time he was 8yo. He is now 14 so I've run the gambit of much of what you address in your questions and this is what I have learned.

1) You haven't really 'lost' your cheerful son. He has grown and his interests have grown with him. Ask him what sorts of adventures he'd like.

When my son was 8, I pulled up the Dwarf Fortress website and let him read it to see if he would like that sort of game. (Got the link off the homeschooling Mensa site so I had no clue how my son would take to it.) He liked what he read and is still actively involved with the game/forum/linked branches/etc ever since. To this day if you looked at what he is reading on his iPod, it's usually something linked from this original site.

Do I worry? Not at all! What I have done is stay connected and in tune with what has him so intrigued. I take the time to listen and get engaged with him and his interests. This also gives him someone close that he can talk to about all his discoveries. It has allowed him to ask crazy questions like, 'Can a carp really kill a man?' which lead to us researching everything about carps and how big they grow, the probability of 'man killing carps' and a game designers right to be as silly as they so choose to be.

Along with Dwarf Fortress, I, who was NOT a gamer in any sense of the word, learned to play Runescape, World of Warcraft, and tons of other 'addicting' games. But my learning wasn't limited to just learning games! No! By bringing my boy home from school, I was now his number one person to whom he spent the most time with. I'm the one he talked to about EVERYTHING. This meant I got to enter his world and I considered it my place to know his interests and feed them. I read all the books he read (and he reads a lot!) so he always had someone to discuss the stories and plot lines with.

When his interests expanded beyond my time constraints/desires/and or tolerance, (I got motion sickness from some of the xbox games) my spouse jumped in. The two of them watched every Star Trek, played Halo, and discussed all types of weighty subjects even doing the math to see if the directors got it right. This lead to them getting into Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawkings to name a few.

My point being is your 'happy son' is still there. You might just need to get to know him again as a slightly older child with slightly grown interests.

2) My son also grew to hating to leave the house. To the point at one point, I feared he would become a shut in. He balked at having to even accompany us to the store. Well, turns out it was just a phase. The store bored him and being a typical boy, he really hated shopping ~ unless it was like a gaming store ~ but even then, he could look online at home and skip the actual store shopping. He had grown out of play dates and playgrounds. He hated roller skating and the likes. He always carried reading material and getting his nose out of a book was near impossible.

Sure, we could intrigue him out to things he was interested in like one year for his birthday we spent the day going to the parks that had the big cats (The Big Cat Rescue & Busch Gardens)but that would be cost prohibitive to do often. My spouse took him to see the Space Shuttle launch close up a few times, but even things like this didn't happen often enough to make it a weekly adventure.

The good news is age does in fact change this. When my son turned 13, he began to take an interest in people again. Now at age 14, he is actively involved in taken martial arts classes with adults and teens alike making many friends. Turns out that he really wasn't 'anti-social'. He was simply 'anti-interested'.

3) Arbitrary rules do not work. They never worked for my parents. They've never truly worked for anyone. Sure, you can make all sorts of miserable consequences but does it truly work? You might get compliance but you won't get growth.

Teaching the 'why' behind the reason makes more sense to me. My son knows that if he stays up late on a day he needs to be up early the following day, he will be too tired and grumpy. If he goes to bed too early in the evening, he is going to wake up extra early the next day, etc, etc.... I once had some lady give me crap that if I didn't force my child to sleep 8pm to 7am the next day, he would never be able to function as an adult and I was doing a disservice to society as a whole. Considering all the crazy shifts I've had to work in my life, I can tell you that her concept is totally off! The whole world is not asleep between 8p and 7a. Nor should it be.

So as far as 'arbitrary rules' go, what has worked better for us, is talking about the cause and effect of choices and learning to make wise choices. Yes, kids as young as eight can handle these sorts of discussions.

Well that's my $.25 for what it's worth.

May your New Year be blessed with laughter and joy!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Shaolin & Brazilian Ju Jitsu

In 1986 I earned my black belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate. What a day! I still remember it as if it was just yesterday abet my body isn't nearly so tired nor sore, lol. I still remember the first day I walked into the dojo to see about signing up. I wasn't looking for a black belt then. I just didn't want to become another statistic and end like my big sister. Back then, I referred to my first gi as 'my three hundred dollar pair of pajamas'. (Bet the Sensei wouldn't have liked to know that!) Fond memories.

2011, after over fifteen years of none training nor keeping myself healthy, I have once again joined a dojo. This time my youngest child has joined me. I'm enjoying watching him learn the techniques as he progresses. Already in only a few months, there's been great changes in his form, strength, and attitude. It's a beautiful thing to watch my quiet introverted son start growing into a strong young man. It warms my heart to have this chance to share my love of the martial arts with him.

After the first weeks of training, my son felt he wanted more time in the gym. We were already attending all the scheduled classes and he was working out at home everyday. We asked the Sensei for privates so we could feed this hunger but he felt my son was still too new.

Maybe it's just a side effect of unschooling but I tend to think it's just my way. I had a teenager with a craving to learn so I wished to feed that craving while it was still there. I researched where all the other martial arts schools were in our area and when they held classes. I found a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) school otherwise known as Brazilian Ju Jitsu (BJJ) that had classes that wouldn't conflict with the first dojo's class times. (Or at least not too much.) It looked promising so I asked my spouse to take my son over and check it out.

HA! They were gone a very long time! Turns out that my spouse and the instructor had much in common. Both my spouse and son decided to give the place a try. It's now been over a month and we have officially joined the world of BJJ! Yes, I, too, have joined BJJ along with my spouse and son. My son and I are doing both Shaolin and BJJ. My son is getting faster and stronger everyday. I'm praying to get faster and stronger everyday.

LOLZ ~ Never too late to take up a new sport!
Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Red Eagle Racers: 2 Months in 3 Minutes

George had the unique experience of assisting the Red Eagle Racers prepare for the Tampa 2011 RedBull Flugtag!

George sitting in the pilot's seat. No, he wasn't the actual pilot. John is at the tail of the racer checking things over.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Zen of Unschooling

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

Zen: such an interesting concept. Much like Unschooling in many ways. Trying to explain unschooling to one like the above mentioned professor garners about the same results. One has to be open to receive.

One of the great, persistent myths of education in our culture is that children become reluctant learners as they grow older. In fact, what they become reluctant about it going to school, where they’re bullied, regimented, bored silly, and very effectively prevented from learning…We know what works for children up to the age where we ship them off to school: Let them be around you, pay attention to them, talk to them, give them access to as much as you can, let them try things, and that’s it. They take care of the rest. You don’t have to strap small children down and teach them to speak, all you have to do is talk to them. You don’t have to give them crawling lessons or walking lessons or running lessons. You don’t have to spend an hour a day showing them how to bang two pots together; they’ll figure that out all by themselves–if you give them access to the pots. Nothing magical happens at the age of five to render this process obsolete or invalid.
Daniel Quinn

Monday, August 15, 2011

Enjoying Life

Many years ago, as I was learning about unschooling, a woman in the group I was conversing with wrote a tearful story about her daughter. Someone had been asking about rules and such which had started the conversation towards ambiguous thoughts in the mainstream on the ways children grow and learn. This story has stayed with me through the years as it truly made me consider just what is really important. Having lost my older sister when she was barely twenty and I was only fifteen, has lead my thoughts down this road before and left me to ponder just what does really matter in this life.

I guess I should tell you the gist of this mother's story. This mother had a beautiful daughter whom she unschooled. They spent wonderful days together exploring, and learning, and being as joyful as they could. One day, the daughter died leaving behind a heartbroken mother. She was able to share with us that had she the chance to do it all again, she would still love and spend her days with her daughter the same way. She was so glad their days were not filled with fighting over homework, chores, and other ambiguous things that would have tainted the joy of the every day.

Recently, I rushed my son to the emergency room for extreme abdominal pain. On the way, he told me he couldn't feel his arms nor even his heartbeat. He began to panic. So did I. I called 911. They dispatched an ambulance as the dispatcher, too, began to panic with us. The fire truck met us. (Here Firefighters are first responders trained in emergency medical skills.) They advised me there was nothing to be done accept to get my son to the Emergency Room, and considering where we live, it would be quicker for me to continue the drive myself. So I did.

In the ER we learned that my son was fighting an infection and that part of his bowel was inflamed. It was bad enough that they put him into the hospital and called in a Specialist. Anyway, he has now had further testing that revealed he has ulcers in his colon and severe swelling of his small intestine. The doctor started him on three different meds and has ordered more testing. So far all we know is the first biopsies weren't found to be cancerous but they were very infected. It's looking like he is suffering from Crohns but the doctor hasn't made that a confirmed diagnoses yet. She is still waiting on more tests results.

Last week, during the follow up doctor's appointment, when we learned of the biopsy results, the doctor mentioned that school would be starting soon and that my son would need to learn coping methods for stress as stress is thought to make the attacks worse. My son told her that wasn't a concern as he is unschooled. She started to debate 'school' then quickly altered it to asking him if he planned to go to college. He told her yes, he was. She then went on to explain that school and youth come with immense stress. >.< This is where getting into a debate about the concepts of learning with someone who obviously has devoted much of their life to learning, isn't worth it. Obviously, the GI Specialist enjoys learning as one would require this ability to truly enjoy their work, but chances are, they were also traditionally raised, plodding through school the way most people do.

So later, when my spouse and I were alone, we talked at length about our son's future and whether or not college was really a necessity. If it was a choice between serious stress that would cut our son's life short, or not going to college, we were all for skipping the killer stress. There are many ways to live one's life without throwing a mountain of stress on one's shoulders. College is possible without carrying a mountain of stress, but to do that, is really up to the person involved.

So me being me, I got talking to my son about this and he told me that he wanted to go to college so it wouldn't be stressful to him. Recently, before his trip to the ER, he had read an article about the person he most admires: Tarn Adams, the creator of Dwarf Fortress. This lead to a discussion about how Mr. Adams has chosen to live his life and the point that seems to come across the loudest, is he is happy!

How many people can truly say that they get to be happy in that which they do? It's a wonderful place to have one's life. This is the charm of unschooling. Unschoolers get to be happy about life and learning! So many people hear 'unschooling' as 'un-educated' and that is so far from the truth! The GI Specialist after spending a short amount of time with my son, told her staff she was impressed with the intellectual young man. Yes, over hearing that, did in fact make me smile.

Through the freedom of unschooling, my son gets to learn at his own pace, things of interest to him. He tends to enjoy the weightier subjects of math, physics and computer languages. He has been putting forth effort to write well, as he has become active on a forum where other intellectual types converse. He has found his intellectual peers. I do not need to force him to study. Recently, I came across another online free resource for learning Python called 'Snake Wrangling for Kids'. I had printed it out and left it on his desk for him to peruse should he want to. (He has already learned some Python via other means so I wasn't sure if this manual would be helpful or not.) Last night, I found him working his way through this new manual and he showed me his beginning progress on a simple program he had just written. Recently, there's been other times, I've found him working his way through Kahn's Academy which is another terrific free resource. He is enjoying learning. He does in fact, plan on going to college and therefore, he is making sure he will be ready.