Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Natural bad.

I am writing later today than what is usual for me. Rather than pounding out my thoughts on this keyboard, I was outside working in the beautiful day God provided.

I drug boxes of clothes onto the cement drive and went through everything piece by piece in preparation for a garage sale I'm having on Saturday. I love garage sales. I love them so much, even if I were Oprah rich, I'd still be a garage sale chick. There is something redeeming about taking an item I paid ninety-five dollars for and selling it for a quarter. It's sort of my good deed for the year.

I also spent some time planting the beautiful flowers my thoughtful daughter gave me for my birthday. It was so nice to be out there in the sun, digging in the dirt, flipping worms around like I was Gardner-Zilla and they were tiny, screaming, Japanese worms.

Please do not suffer under the delusion that I am in anyway an outdoorsey kind of woman. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If anything, I am anti-natural in every respect. In fact, if something in the grocery store reads, "All Natural" on the package, I leave it where it sits. I like my food to be pickled, fried, rolled in sugar or with some sort of pork bi-product added. It's my belief that the more preservatives I consume over my life time, the better preserved I'll be when I'm really old. Like forty-five.

I was flipping worms today, but only because I had on my little bio-hazard gardening gloves my daughter gave me. She knows me. She knows better than to expect me to touch dirt without proper protection in place.
She's been on camping trips with me.

Completely against my better judgment, I did actually attend a camping trip in one of my previous lives. I was newly married to Hubby #2 and it was tradition that his family and friends all took a huge trip each year where they slept in tents and paddled canoes down rivers. He couldn't wait to show my daughter and I how much fun it was. I was praying for some sort of infection which would require me to stay indoors and away from tents.

Little did I know that as the woman of the house, I was supposed to spend days preparing for the big event. I had no clue what to do. I was without clue. I was truly clueless.

I figured we'd need tents. That was a pretty good guess. Hubby had tents, but when he pulled them out, I noticed a not-so-fresh smell that caused me to throw them in the barn. Buy new tents was at the top of my list.

I called his sister. She was the queen of camping and I knew I'd benefit from her expertise.

"Just make sure you pack everything in plastic baggies so that when we go on our float trip, they won't get ruined when the canoe flips," she said.

I think I must have blacked out. Did she say "when the canoe flips"??? Could it be that "flip" was some sort of camping word that really meant "floats completely without incident" down the river?

"Also make sure you bring your own toilet paper because the bath houses never have any."

"Dear Lord," I prayed. "I've never asked you for much. Okay. I have asked you for much, but this is different. I cannot sleep in a tent and go to the bathroom in a place which requires me to bring my own toilet paper. If you've ever thought about smiting me, this would be a most opportune time."

God laughed. How do I know he laughed? Because he didn't smite me and I have done lots of things to deserve a good smiting.

I did the only thing I knew to do. I went to Sam's and I bought everything that even remotely looked like it might belong on a camping trip. I bought tents, and sleeping bags and the jumbo Sam's pack of Charmin. I bought Ziploc baggies by the gross and enough food to go underground and survive a Nuclear attack. My family was going to be the envy of the entire campground what with all our fried chicken and toilet paper enclosed in plastic.

The awful day finally arrived and it was time to load my supplies in the Explorer. That proved to be just a smidge difficult. I realized I may have overestimated our needs when Hubby hooked up a trailer to the back of our Ford to haul the overflow.

We were all packed up and armed with my trusty video camera... which at that time was the size of a Volkswagen... I made sure I got lots of footage on the trip there of my kid's nostrils and my Hubby's ear. I even started to feel a little more relaxed about it once all our friends and family formed a little convoy on the way.

When we arrived at the campground, I was shocked. It was just a big empty, grassy place with trees by a river. Who knew? Even worse, the bathrooms were far, far away from the area where you were supposed to pitch the tents. That was a bit distressing as I make it a habit to pee every 13.5 minutes.

As everyone arrived, they all started painstakingly pitching their tents. "How silly they are," I said to Hubby. "They are wasting all that time hammering stakes through their tents into the ground. Don't they know that the weight of their bodies will keep the tent on the ground???"

Hubby attempted to explain to me that we too needed to hammer stakes in the ground, but I wouldn't hear of it. Our tents would be pitched first because we were the bestest and most admired campers there! We will not waste time with stakes!

So tents get pitched, food gets cooked on a BBQ and we all sit around a campfire laughing and joking until the wee hours. It was just like in the movies. And about the time I had to go potty in the middle of the night, I was terrified maybe the movie was Friday the 13th.

I grabbed my handy, dandy Sam's flashlight that was big enough to light a small city and after reminding my husband how much I hated him for taking me on this God forsaken adventure, I headed for the bath house. I crept up the hill, making sure I checked behind me every few steps just to let Jason know I was on to him. Finally inside and attending to my pressing business, I felt something wet hopping all over my feet.

Frogs!!!!! Tiny, slimy, devil possessed frogs were everywhere! Let's just take a minute and imagine what I did. If you guessed scream and hop around on one foot, you would be right. I screamed and hopped all the way back to the tent, where just in case he had forgotten, I reminded my husband yet again that I hated him terrible.

We awoke early in the morning to get ready for canoeing. Well, I got ready. Everyone else just put on their swimming suits and grabbed their coolers. I had to shower, put on make-up and fix my hair. If I was going to be killed in a freak canoe flipping incident, I wanted to look good.

The canoe owning people herded all of us into a rickety used-to-be school bus and took us on a very long and bumpy ride up the river only to drop us off once we got there and tell us to get in canoes and float back down. I still don't get the point. I was already down. Why take me up and tell me to go back again? Why not just leave me down in the first place and eliminate the middle man?

My Hubby and I were going to share a canoe and after securing the kids in life vests and putting them in another canoe with an older relative, we strapped in all my Ziploc protected food with the rubber tie-downs I had bought at Sam's. It occurred to me that maybe I should strap the kids in with rubber tie downs, but Hubby was against it.

I put my folding lawn chair in the front of the canoe and handed my paddles to the Man. We had already discussed my lack of paddle experience and decided it best that I just sit in the front like a canoe ornament, look pretty and dispense food. If there was any paddling to be done, he was going to have to do it.

Off we went, floating down the river. It had been about 13.2 minutes, when I noticed something disturbing. There were no bathrooms on the sides of the river.

When I pointed out the lack of restroom facilities to Hubby, he told me not to worry. People who floated down rivers just relieved themselves in the water. All the best canoe-ers did it. It had been awhile since I had told him exactly how I felt about him and his entire lineage, so I filled him in.

I Sherri, woman wearing hairspray and lipstick in a nasty canoe floating on top of an icky river, was not about to pee in the water. Especially not when everyone I knew in our town was never more than a canoe's length away. Not gon'na do it, Mister. No way. No how. I'll just hold it.

And so I did. I held it. And I held it. And I held it until at least 17 entire minutes had gone by. Something had to be done.

"Pull over," I demanded. "I'm going over there in those trees."

I was scared to death to go far enough in those creepy river woods so that other canoe riding people couldn't see me go potty, but my bladder was about to explode and I had to do something. It was either the water, or the trees. Modesty called trees.

I hauled out of the canoe and practically ran for the trees. It felt so good to finally potty that for just a second, I forgot about the plot I had devised to throw my husband overboard and leave him for dead.

And then it happened. The one thing worse than a knife wielding murderer in a slasher movie. A snake!

He looked at me, I looked at him and I did what all reasonable women do when faced with a serpent from Hell. I screamed and ran as fast as I could on my tiptoes, being sure to hike my knees as high as they could go. Snakes hate that. It gets them all confused. They don't know whether to chase you or applaud your Rockettes dance. I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

"You are never supposed to run when you see a snake," said the man I now remembered I wanted to knock in the head with a river rock. "They are more afraid of you than you are of them."

I am certain that is not true. And how would you know, anyway? Are you some kind of snake whisperer?

After hours of floating, eating and peeing in the river, we arrived safely back at camp. I'm happy to report that not one Snickers bar or chicken leg was drowned in the canoe trip. My baggies had kept them all nice and dry. I should have wrapped the kids in baggies however, because they did flip. Turns out strapping them in might not have been such a stupid idea after all.

Just as we were lying down exhausted in our Sam's sleeping bags, inside our Sam's tents about ready to fall fast asleep, a gentle rain started to fall. It was a gentle rain for a good minute before it became the Perfect Storm.

"Whatever you do," said my soon to be dearly departed husband, "do not touch the inside of the tent. It will leak wherever you touch it."

I tried not to do it. I really did. It was torture. I fought the urge as long as I could until I could stand it no more. I reached my tired, sun-burned finger toward the roof of the tent directly over my sleeping bag.

Touch equaled flood.

We made a mad dash for the Explorer, while I yelled for the kids to follow us. The sky was bright with lightening and the thunder was louder than I had ever heard it before. We got our rain-soaked selves inside the vehicle just in time to see our tents blow across the camp ground.

"You are one I told you so away from going to be with Jesus," I said calmly.

He's still alive today, but only because he never made me get in another canoe.

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