Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Was I Thinking?

In 1996 I was a runner up for Arizona Teacher of the Year. (In 1989 I was a runner up for Miss Wheelchair Arizona - always a bridesmaid) As a runner up I spent a lot of time traveling throughout the state giving motivational speeches to teachers. One such occasion was at the Littleton School District, and right before it was time for me to go on the assistant superintendent walked up to me and said, "I can't wait to hear your wise words of wisdom."

"Wise words of wisdom? Wisdom?" I thought. "Mmmmmmm, what would be my wisest words of wisdom?" At that moment, I quickly reformulated my speech in my mind and decided to start with my wisest words of wisdom, if I could only think of what they were!

In order to kill some time, I told the group the conversation I had with the assistant superintendent and how befuddled I was to think of my wisest words of wisdom. "After spending some frantic moments over there thinking about it, I know what those words are. Get ready, here they come, my wisest words of wisdom: 'How tight your pants are affects your mood for the rest of the day!'" They laughed hysterically and I proceeded to tell them why. It turned out to be a great opener for all my future speeches.

Thinking of this reminded me of another tight pants adventure. This was a pre-accident adventure. I measure my life pre and post accident. In 1998 I was in a severe car versus pole accident where I broke all my bones from the waist down except my right ankle. Prior to that accident I had not really experienced pain, so even though I was in a wheelchair I was quite a daredevil and would try anything. I was not acquainted with pain. Post accident, I met Pain and as Junie B. Jones would say, "I not liking that guy!" There has never been a day that has gone by that I am not in pain. But, I digress.

I was at a conference and I met someone that owned a river rafting company that rafted the Salt River. I was talking to her about her company and she invited me to participate in a rafting adventure. I organized a group of friends and colleagues to raft the Salt River. This was going to be an all day adventure which meant that I was going to have to go at least fourteen hours without going to the bathroom because there are no Cathy handicapped accessible bathrooms in the world, except those at home. Going fourteen hours without going to the bathroom around all that water was an adventure in itself, just one of many that day.

When going on a rafting trip one needs to stay dry. That dryness is accomplished with a wet suit. If you have tried to put pantyhose on a crippled kid, you would say absolutely not to a wet suit. It would be like putting stockings on a noodle. My friends that were attending the trip insisted that I had to stay dry someway. The P.E. teacher at my school had a rubber jogging suit that she used for racing in the rain, and she loaned it to me.

I am a big girl. I have always been a big girl. Even post accident when I lost a tremendous amount of weight and I was at my skinniest, in my mind, I was still a big girl. The person I borrowed the rubber jogging suit was NOT. What was I thinking? Let me tell you what I was thinking . . . . jogging suit, probably over sized, rubber stretches, it will be okay if it is two sizes too small. Let me repeat myself, what was I thinking?!

With the help of my caretaker, we stuffed this noodle in that itty, bitty, teeny, tiny, nonstretching, rubber suit. My friend, Don, who happens to be a huge bodybuilder came by to pick me up, literally, I asked him to come so he could tote me everywhere. He looked at the pained expression on my face and said, "You don't look well. Are you okay?"

"I am okay," I snapped, "let's just go."

It is a long drive to the bottom of the Salt River Canyon. As I sat quietly in the truck with a look of constipation on my face with a fake smile, these words were going through my head, "What was I thinking?" Unlike other people who could admit their stupidity and say, "Don, pull into this Wal-Mart. I gotta get something more comfortable to wear." I couldn't do that. Well, I could admit my stupidity, I do that quite often, but I couldn't change my clothes on my own. I was stuck or a better yet, STUFFED.

So I continued to put on a fictitious happy face as I greeted my friends. I tried not to be grumpy, but it is hard when your pants are so tight. Prior to getting in the raft there is a meeting where a river rat lists the Don'ts, Watch outs, And Whatever You Do Don'ts! At that time I started to have some second thoughts, "What was I thinking?"

I looked my dear friend, Don, directly in the eye and I confessed, "Okay, listen up, Big Guy! I am going to fall out of the raft, and you are going to jump in and save me. You WILL jump in and save me. You will pull my body ashore, and it will appear that I have stopped breathing, and you will think I have drown. Before you pull the blanket over my head and pronounce me dead, cut these damn pants off of me. They are way too tight and they will be the reason I am unable to breathe!"

Don reared his head back like a stallion and laughed, "I knew there was a reason you were grumpy." He kissed me on the cheek and continued to say, " I am NOT going to let you fall out of the raft." I didn't fall out of the raft, but a couple of my friends fell out of their raft. Don and I made it to the end of the trip without much incident. Much to my surprise, the true adventure was just about to begin.

When one is done with a rafting trip, one has to get back to their vehicle. This company used old school buses. The bus that carried people was overstuffed and there wasn't enough room for Don and me. I was already stuffed in those pants I didn't really want to be stuffed in the bus. We "got to" ride in the bus that was converted to carry all the rafts back to the beginning of the trip.

The bus driver was the river rat, Wiley (Coyote), the bus was built by the Acme Corporation. There were only two seats, and that was counting the bus driver's seat. The rest of the seats were removed to make room for the rafts as was the roof of the bus. The road traveled was a bumpy, winding, narrow, dirt road flanked by a mountain on one side and a deep canyon on the other. When two cars met on this road, the car on the mountain side had to drive up on the mountain a bit in order for the other car to pass. As Wiley was driving down the bumpy, winding, narrow dirt road he howled, "Man, I hope we don't meet any cars on the way back cuz the brakes on this bus aren't very good."

I was bouncing around the seat of an old converted school bus with poor brakes driving a narrow dirt road on the canyon side with a bus driver named Wiley Coyote. What was I thinking? And then I heard Wiley say, "Ah, shit."

My eyes had been closed the entire time, Don was holding on to me keeping me from bouncing off the seat and out the bus. I squealed, "What is wrong?"

Don replied with some hesitancy in his voice, "Uhhh, there is a car coming."

My eyes shot open and were as wide as an owl searching for its prey. I saw Wiley with his foot on the brake all the way to the floor, and he was pulling back on the steering wheel like he was "whoa"ing a horse. I looked Don straight in the eye while Wiley was frantically blowing the bus horn and said, "Listen up, Big Guy. When we crash and I am thrown from this bus into that canyon. You will come and rescue me. Come Hell or high water you WILL come and rescue me. When you drag my body out of that canyon and pull it up onto this road, before you pull the blanket over my head cut these damn pants off of me. I don't want to die in a pair of pants that are two sizes too small."

The driver of the on coming car drove up the side of the mountain as far as was possible. We squeaked by the car without scraping metal. The Coyote with an adrenalin flushed face looked back at us, sneered and said, "Wow, that was close!" What was I thinking?

Fourteen hours after we left my home we returned. As Don was putting me in my wheelchair, I looked him straight in the eye and said, "Listen up, Big Guy!"

He interrupted, "I know, I know, cut the damn pants off."

"No, I wanted to say thanks. Now, that it is all over and we are alive, I wanted you to know that was the best adventure ever! And I gotta go! I mean that literally!"

Don always believed that I could do anything. He was always willing to be the muscle I needed to participate in amazing adventures. Post accident, Don decided he didn't want to spend time with me anymore, and stubborn me decided NOT to try to find out why he felt that way. As I replay the many adventures I had with Don only one thought comes to mind, "What was I thinking?"

Paco's Perspective

What was I tinking? Letting you bring another mutt into the mix. The leetle one is always asking me questions, and I have to share my bed, toys, food and snacks. I refuse to let the leetle one share my ice cream! What were you tinking?

The Flip Side

I am knew at this. Adventure? You want adventure? Try being lost, scared, hungry and dodging those big machines on wheels! That older dog with the accent is very bossy.


  1. that you are safe and sound AWAY from the river and out of those pants, I hope it's okay to have a little chuckle at the visual you just painted about it :)

  2. OMG! I love you Cathy. Your experiences and the way you tell them are wonderful! I feel so truely and extremely blessed to know you! You are wonderful. I hope you write a book for us someday! God bless you!