Not-So-Happy Trails

Anytime & Anyplace
For over a year, Peg Watson has asked me to write about some of our Not-So-Happy adventures. I always try to be positive. She has strong feelings that some readers may want to hear "the darker side". So, this one's for Peg and her friend who sent me the message that this was a needed topic.

First, I must say that these two old sayings are actually true:

1) Trust your gut instinct, and

2) If life gives you lemons, try really hard to make lemonade.

The first Not-So-Happy Trails that comes to my mind is when our seven-seat vehicle blew up - way out in the middle of nowhere, on the top of a mountain, on a hot, hot day (with the dog in the car). First, I have to qualify this with the fact that I loved that old car. Never having seven seats before, I appreciated being able to offer extra kids some inclusion on our adventures. Referring to the first saying, I failed to trust my gut instinct when I saw my mechanically challenged husband reaching to open the radiator cap, and knowing that was not a good idea. After having been overruled, I should have aggressively thrown my body across the entire engine area. I strongly suspected that the smoke and boiling sound from under the hood meant something bad. Fortunately, my husband (who remains my husband in spite of this incident) was wearing glasses when the volcanic eruption drenched him with radiator fluid. We lost four bottled waters rinsing him off. The rest of the case of water went into the radiator. We did get out of the mountains and back to camp before we blew the head gasket as well.

Now the second saying comes to mind. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. The same camping trip, the day after saying good-bye to a dear 1984 Dodge Colt Vista, our 1986 Toyota gave out on the rescue mission…we even had the bird along on this trip. You have to be flexible to turn that one into lemonade or you could lose it on a permanent basis.

Another Not-So-Happy Trails was when my then 18 month old broke his leg at the VA Discovery Museum. The first wail I heard, my gut instinct KNEW he was hurt. It was in listening to the other adults (who had witnessed the fall) that created this motherly guilt. Everyone insisted it was too short of a distance to have broken his leg. The wailing continued. Even taking him outside into fresh air (which had always relieved him before) did not work. Fortunately, after too much of a delay, I finally listened to myself and my medically inclined husband got him to a doctor who diagnosed the leg as broken in not one but two locations.

Or what about enjoying a serious bike ride all over Assateaque Island? During migration, when the birds were daughter had an asthma attack at the farthest point on the island and her inhaler was back at the hotel.

Let's try this one. I have a really good friend. She invited us to the beach for a week (meaning she can afford a huge mansion, oceanfront, with dogs and cats allowed). She was going anyway so I didn't have to pay for anything but gas, food, and sunscreen. This luxurious place had four levels, eight bedrooms, and two living rooms with their own TVs. I learned for the first time that we had totally different television rules and I was not going to let my kids watch THAT! The finale was when her cat's eye popped out and while she spent all the time at the vet, I had six 6 – 9 year olds and two dogs to supervise on the roaring beach.

Then there was the time last summer when we got to the beach and had to be evacuated for Hurricane Bonnie. We were stopped for at least five hours. Like, really stopped. Traffic was snagged at the bridge. It was a hot day in August. It was great...we made great lemonade that day. People had to get out of their cars. A guy started playing his guitar and kids started dancing - then a soccer ball appeared, then the board games, and then the coolers. We were lucky; no alcohol appeared. I later heard stories that where there was alcohol, there were fights. It could have easily gotten tense. The people I talked to were surrendering their one-week-a-year vacation, as well as their payment for the beach house (unless they had purchased hurricane insurance). At one point, this desperate mother couldn't find her 9-year-old. He was 15 cars up sharing a sandwich with a new friend. The paper said 500,000 people left within four hours. No wonder the bridge was backed up.

Bad things will happen. Good research, careful planning, realistic expectations, a sense of humor, and some confidence can go a long way. You also need to be able to trust your judgment of when to bail out, take your losses, and move on. We will continue to make mistakes, but at least we can learn something from them.

Mary Wilson...

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