Category Archives: Kayaking

Team River Runner: Our Mission

Brief video describing, in the stories told by the veterans themselves, what Team River Runner does. This program will begin at Shepherd University in Spring 2013, in cooperation with the VA Hospital facility in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

This has been a labor of love that began over a year ago, during Thanksgiving 2011.  My office had just gotten word that we would take on the responsibility of certifying enrollment for veteran-students at the university, and we were looking for ways to connect with this group of students.  With my love of kayaking and active enjoyment of our two beautiful national rivers, a gorgeous new Wellness Center pool, and the proximity of the VA Hospital, this program seemed a natural progression.

My heart is so full of gratitude:

  • for the colleagues in every division of the university who have encouraged and supported me from my tentative early conversations with them about this program;
  • for the students who have already begun coming forward, offering help in any way to serve their fellow veterans;
  • for the therapy staff at the VA Hospital who have embraced this program as supporting their clients’ therapy goals in multiple ways;
  • for the university leadership, for saying “Yes!”;
  • for the community groups who are learning about this program for the first time, and responding with great enthusiasm;
  • for the generosity, wisdom and warm welcome I’ve enjoyed for over a year from the TRR staff and leadership–before we were even official!

So.  All the preliminaries are over.  Now the work commences in earnest.  Yet another thing on the Crazyplate, but oh, what a beautiful and important addition!





1 Comment

February 22, 2013 · 8:27 am

Stand Up!

So I had a day off.

This is a relatively rare occurence, not because I am a workaholic (well, OK, I am), but because I know that the work stacking up for me while I’m gone will make my return to work a miserable slog–which stresses me out no end just anticipating it. Which negates the good of a day off! So I generally just keep my head down and shoulder to the wheel, you know? Easier that way.

[Insert long sad story about Plan A, then Plan B, then Plan C for my semi-historic day off being cancelled . . . Sigh. This is the story of my Crazyplate life.]

I could’ve just taken the cancellations as a sign from the universe to pack it in and go to work already, but you know what?  I was *determined* to have a real day off, daddurnit!

To the rescue! Comes this tweet from River Riders, a local outfitter and adventure company:

@riverriders: This weekend is perfect for a water adventure! Visit our website or Call 800-326-7238 to book…

So’s I did.

For the past couple of years kayaking on our rivers, we had been seeing more and more folks on stand-up paddleboards. Every time I’d see one, I’d suck in my breath, ooooooooh, and declare that I’d have to try this one day!  And then, just this summer, River Riders announced that they were adding stand-up paddleboarding to their activities, including a lesson!  I knew the day was getting closer.

That day, as it turned out, was Friday, August 3, 2012. Which JUST SO HAPPENED to coincide with my one single, stubborn Day Off That Refused To Die.  So let me tell you about my great experience with this company. Local WV and DC-area folks, you need to know about River Riders!

First of all, I love that River Riders makes such great use of social media.  And why wouldn’t they? They hire some of the best and brightest young adults in the area, who are all tech-savvy and no doubt keep the online interaction with locals and clients (or potential clients) immediate, current, and responsive.

So when I jumped over to their Facebook page to find the parallel posting (also good social media practice) and to get some additional info, I was pleased but not all surprised when I got a response right back. Yes, they had openings for stand-up paddleboarding (and then they gave me more information than I had initially asked for–prices and times, anticipating my inevitable next questions).

Then, when I called and found out that not only were there openings for stand-up paddleboarding, but that my son and I would be the only two to sign up all day long–they did not cancel or waffle or charge us more.  We would have a lesson and a river guide all to ourselves for three entire hours! There was an additional transportation fee they generally charge when shuttling such a small group, since fuel prices are so high, but Amanda (the helpful person behind the phone, and a Shepherd alum!) readily waived it, since SUP was a new activity and not well-known yet. (She just asked that I write a review up–which I’m doing!)

The reservation and payment was all handled by phone, pretty straightforward, and then Isaac and I loaded up and headed out. We needed to be there an hour ahead of time for legal paperwork (waivers for participating in dangerous activities–we won’t sue them, in other words), and the required water safety video briefing (wear shoes, don’t drink alcohol, don’t be stupid–I might be paraphrasing).

The place was packed, and while I was happy that a local business was doing so well,  the one concern I had (job-related eyeballs on operations wherever I go) was that it was unclear to us whether there was a line to get into, or a specific place along the counter for folks with reservations to report to. So people milled about, and I totally missed a spontaneous line formation, and ended up behind people who had come in *after* we had arrived.  I was not going to waste my day off being upset, but I could see how, say, a mom with five kids to manage might get pretty exercised about that. Just a thought from an office management perspective . . . Maybe some signage to help direct people, or separate areas of the counter for different kinds of customers (Got Reservations? Check In Here). That sort of thing.

Once we got through all of that, and the shuttle was loaded (another couple was being transported to the same place for a different activity, so it had full usage), and we were on our way.

We put in at the River Riders campground, one of their several new offerings–great work, folks!–on a wide, deep stretch of the Potomac.  It looked like a lake instead of a river! The sun was out, the sky was clear, and it wasn’t too awfully hot–a perfect day to be on the water with my boy.

Our personal guide, John, gave us some verbal instructions about the paddleboards, then waded with us into the river to demonstrate and teach us the “onloading” procedures.  We waded through a couple of feet of pretty deep river muck, but THIS IS WHY YOU WEAR SHOES (and preferably water shoes that will not be sucked off your feet by swift currents or deep goo, both realities of river life).  A belly-flop onto the board, a kneel, pivot, a squat, and a careful straightening (hey, kettlebell training coming in handy already! This is part of a Turkish get-up!) and I was standing on the water. Isaac did fine, too–neither of us ended up face-first on the board (or in the water).  Paddling strokes and turns came next while we were in shallower water–and then we were off.

We headed upstream, away (thankfully) from the noisier crowds in tubes.  The river got very quiet, disturbed only by the happy shrieks of people on the zip line canopy tour, yet another part of River Rider’s expansion of adventures this summer.

And the jet skis.  Sigh.  I suspect I might end up alienating a good portion of fellow water-lovers whose enjoyment of the outdoors involves revving up gas-powered engines at high volumes and speeds, scaring (if not injuring) the wildlife, and ruining the peace and quiet for everyone else.  But it’s a risk I’m willing to take.  I also suspect they’re not busy reading blogs like these.

Despite the jet skis–who have a perfect right, probably guaranteed in the Constitution somewhere, to be as obnoxious as they wanna be–it was beautiful.  I loved the view I had into the water from the standing position, seeing to the bottom, seeing the limestone ridges that form the spine of both river and mountain.  I loved the view of the Blue Ridge against the sky. I loved that my son was with me. I was happy, and quiet, and happy to be quiet.

[I didn’t love that I had forgotten the sunscreen, or water to drink.  I think those were in the safety video, which clearly I should have watched *before* we left the house. Duh.  That sun was pretty strong, despite the breeze and cooler temps. I was schvitzin’, lemme tell you. And both of us were pretty crispy the next day.]

We paddled for about an hour and a half, trying the different positions on the board that John suggested, and demonstrated, for when our legs felt fatigued–and they did, believe me! Every muscle, big and small, from my feet up to my core, was working hard to find stability on an inherently unstable surface:  the ever-moving surface of a river. Great workout, but I needed to take breaks–so I learned to kneel-down paddle just fine, and Isaac enjoyed sit-down paddling and even bellyboarding for a time!

The turnaround trip, going back downstream to the campground, was much faster with the current assisting us, although the wind kicked up a bit and supplied some chop just to keep things interesting. We were ready for lunch, and cold water, and naps, but couldn’t help feeling a little twinge of regret when we saw the campground come into view.

The whole time, John treated us with great professionalism and good humor. I was surprised to learn that this was his very first summer with the outfit! This speaks highly of the caliber of employee the company hires, and the training it provides.

Will I stand-up paddle again? I’d like to, so that I can move beyond my first-timer tentativeness, start to build confidence in finding my balance (there’s that word again, so important to this blog!). I do think in the end that I’ll prefer kayaking for a couple of reasons: you can stow stuff in a kayak, and you can go fast!  I like some wind in my hair, and I just seem to be at the wrong angle to generate leverage or speed on the SUP.  And though I like the view from higher up (just like when we bought my first SUV), I like the stability provided by the lower center of gravity of a kayak. It’s all a trade-off in the end.

So, another adventure, another toy, another good thing on the Crazyplate that is my life–and many thanks to the good people of River Riders for making it happen on such short notice!  We’ll be back!

Leave a comment

Filed under Kayaking, Life in the Balance

I Believe in Rivers

(Another lovely slice from my crazyplate, about kayaking on our rivers:  from an essay submitted for NPR’s This I Believe project, and for our university’s 2011 Common Reading of the same.)

I have always lived near rivers:  as a child, standing ankle-deep and cool in Lampasas River moss outside Killeen, Texas; as a teenager running wild with my even wilder brothers down Brown’s Creek to the Spring River in Arkansas.  In my college and early married years, I got busy, got employed, got babies—but always the rivers,  more distant perhaps but ever-present:  the White River in Arkansas, the James River in Williamsburg, the Main River in Aschaffenburg, Germany.  Rivers have been for me beautiful backdrop and boundary.

It wasn’t until we moved to West Virginia—living on the banks of the Shenandoah, working on the banks of the Potomac—that I became aware of a kind of internal itch, a growing discontent with living with these rivers as mere scenery.  Something compelled me to risk, one day in May some years back, committing my middle-aged insomniac desk-bound mess to the tender fiberglass embrace of a fire-engine red kayak, a Mother’s Day gift from my husband.

I told him he was crazy—made him take the maiden voyage out to prove I wouldn’t be swept downstream—but then I gathered my courage, took a deep breath, and stepped in.

Setting out, stretching long-unused muscles and breathing in the slightly froggy air, I remembered the wildness of those children, sensed the muttering monkeymind—the constant soundtrack of my busy days—begin to fade into the hushed ripple and drip of river and paddle.  For the first time in—years?—I was needed nowhere, needed to be nowhere, needed nothing and no one but the paddle in my hand and the river flowing beneath me.  I had found that rarity, for me:  a perfect and sufficient moment.

Positive psychology offers the idea of flowwhen the activity of the present moment fully absorbs and engages one’s attention, fully and perfectly utilizes all one’s skills.  It delights me—but does not surprise me–that psychologists would use a river metaphor to describe what the river brought to me that day—what our rivers bring to me every time I set out in my kayak.

Fully engaged, fully sufficient for the moment, I can trust them to flow exactly where I need to be carried:  into necessary and welcome solitude some days—other days into growing and beloved community.  They show me in one breathtaking moment the variety, beauty, and resilience of the wild and wonderful state we live in; they reveal her wounds and fragile bones the very next.  They have reminded this middle-aged insomniac desk-bound mess that outside and underneath my workaday life—which I had lived for years almost entirely from the desk up—I am muscle, sinew and sweat as well, a physical being surrounded by rich and simple gifts:  smell of wood smoke, strains of bluegrass, the rose petal of a child’s face, poetry and sex and moon-shine and a bit of mud between my toes.

And a river that in the winter sun runs the color of my husband’s eyes.

When I kayak our rivers, there is a blessed silence that settles in my mind; and often, a lovely line from a C S Lewis novel rises as a meditative, rhythmic refrain:  “All is gift.”  On the river, surrounded by, upheld within, overflowing with gifts—I can only be grateful.  So when I offer the invitation to paddle, when I can teach my tired or tentative colleagues; see them gather their courage, take a deep breath, and step in; see them return, transformed themselves, overflowing with confidence and joy for the experience–I see the gifts I have received “cast upon the waters and return a hundredfold”–and I can only be grateful.

All is gift—these rivers of ours–this I believe.

Leave a comment

Filed under Kayaking, Life in the Balance, Writing

A Plate Full Of Crazy

First, props to fellow blogger and Twitter friend @PoznaiSebia for offering me the inspiration for the name of this blog in a recent blog post of hers.   Though young enough to be my daughter, she’s as insanely busy as I am, and understands well the pressures on women–of all ages–to try to balance all of it well.

Second, gratitude and mucho macho props to my husband of twenty-five years (bless him!) for his patient tending of my plate, which often spills over onto him . . . He dutifully laughs each time I trot out the well-worn justification for each NEW wonderful thing I propose to add to the plate: “Hey, it’s cheap therapy!”  I am blessed with a job that is more than just a job–registrar of a small public liberal arts university–and in the manner of such work, it tends to eat me alive if I’m not careful. It’s all too easy to get completely bogged down in the unending cycles of semesters and students, to get lost and stay lost.

(As, frankly, I did for years.  But that’s a topic for another day, perhaps.)

Each new venture, as much as it makes my family and friends shake their heads and ask, Is she crazy?, balances my life against that equally maddening pull down into the eternal slog that a demanding career, even when satisfying and meaningful, can easily becomeKayaking, drumming, singing, kettlebells, labyrinths, poetry, retreat ministry . . . each new joy adds another circle of friends, energizes another part of my heart or mind or spirit or body in a new way . . . reminds me that, as I said in a recent interview recorded at work for a podcast on students, spirituality, and wellness:  I am, we are, you are not just your job, not just your paycheck or a GPA or a line on a resume.  We can be–were created to become–so much more.

Me? I’m a whole plate full of crazy, and on the uphill sprint to 50, honey, it’s just starting to get good.  Join me?


Filed under Kayaking, Kettlebells, strength training, Life in the Balance, Music, Spirituality, Writing