Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Day I Could Have Drowned

It was a day just like this. This picture is of the
Stillwater River in Darke County.

It was the summer of 1973. As I recall, maybe the weekend after my 20th birthday, late July.

My sorority had planned a canoe trip on the Stillwater River and it was a beautiful day. There were quite a few of us who attended. I was in the canoe with one of my sisters, Cyndi and her boyfriend Mark, who eventually became her husband. I had one of those "safe" dates, Fred, who I really did like, but he was practically engaged, so it was a friendship situation.

What was about to happen, though, took all of our relationships to a deeper level.

I was not wearing a life jacket; it's a darn good thing or I would not be writing this blog. We were floating down the river, serene as it could be for a Sunday afternoon, until there was an island in the middle of the river and we had to choose "the fork in the road." We made the wrong choice.

We could see it coming, a big log stretched out over the river and we knew we were going to hit it. Fred told me later that he and Mark “planned” the trajectory of how to hit it, so this or that would happen. Huh? He’s an engineer or something. All I cared about was there goes my camera! Oh well.....

I came up, but I didn't come up. While my head was out of the water, I was facing the log (backwards) and the "rapids" were coming over the log into my face. I could not breathe. The canoe was lodged in my back and I could not move. I remember working my feet really hard so I could get my head higher, but I was not accomplishing anything.

The guys were diving under desperately trying to dislodge the canoe. I was aware of what they were doing, and I was plenty scared. What I didn't know at the time was they were plenty scared too! Within a short period of time Cyndi got up on the log and sat right in front of my face to keep the water out, buying us time. It wasn't the greatest view, but under the circumstances, I was NOT picky. She sat there diverting the water, and cupped my terrified face in her hands, lifting my head up.

The guys kept at it. I was aware of it; and I was not losing consciousness. It seemed to take forever. I worked very hard to free myself. Self-preservation is a much stronger instinct than any other! What I learned many years later was that Fred feared dislodging me, but then not "catching" me and I would head down the river......

He did catch me. I remember sitting on the log and him holding me while I cried. He may have been crying too, I don't remember. What I do remember was feeling that as long as I lived, this guy had a place in my heart that no one would ever replace. That goes for Cyndi and Mark too!

After a period of time, we got back in the canoe--I had no OTHER choice--and headed down the river. I think I shook the whole way. It was a sunny day and we were all warm enough, but I was shaking. Sometime, and I don't remember when, I noticed the cuts and bruises on Fred's back and I cried. The sacrifice he willingly made to save my life. 

When I got home, I could see where my pelvic bones were all bruised too, where I was held by the canoe. However, I was most impacted by the bruises on his body. We hung out at home for awhile and after he left, I told my parents.

Four years later, I married "nature boy" Jerry, and I told him IF he ever took my children canoeing, I was not to know about it. He did, and I learned about it after the fact.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Founding a College Sorority

It was the middle of the night. I got up, and decided to check my email. I know I shouldn't do this, but I do it anyway. I got a friend request from a name I didn't recognize.....but I did! Oh my gosh, it was from one of my sorority sisters that I thought was long lost forever. I am friends with some other sorority sisters, and other folks from my college years, and not to imply that they are not all special, but this particular friend and I were involved in founding the Kappa Iota Chapter of Delta Zeta Sorority at Wright State University.

Wright State is a commuter campus. You really have to build your own social life there, in different ways from going away to school and living in a dorm. I wasn't planning to join a sorority, much less START one from scratch! The woman I babysat for (I practically raised her children!) had a friend who was a DZ alumni and was involved in starting this group. She called me and invited me to an informational meeting which was held at the Dayton Sheraton on a Sunday evening.

By the end of the evening, I had pledged. Honestly, it is one of the most impulsive things I have done in my life. There were five of us. Now what happens in a situation such as this is that the local alumnae chapters support this endeavor until it's off the ground. My pledge night was memorable. We were in the same suite that Elvis Presley had slept in the night before. We threw ourselves on the beds and pretended that we were on the same bed(s) he had used--we later found out that a "king" sized bed brought in for him had already been removed.

This was in April, 1972 and I was initiated in early July, 1972. Talk about a "rush" job, I barely had time to learn the Greek alphabet. (There is an ABC song to sing and I sing it to this day when thinking about the Greek alphabet!) But the idea was to get enough of us initiated to be able to participate in Fall Rush, where we would really build our sorority. 

The process of "rush" is very orderly. I am not giving away any deep dark secrets when I tell you that they bring the rushee into the room, and she is taken to groups of three or four persons in a very orderly fashion so that everyone can meet her. To this day I admit that the idea of "voting" on people did not set well with me. Then or now.

I enjoyed being part of something larger than me. I met some interesting people in the Greek system and through them, their friends. It gave me purpose in terms of doing for others (philanthropy) which was not part of my thinking as a college student; and it also gave me social things to DO! Yes, there was alcohol involved, but I never considered myself a heavy partier. Many parties I did not attend at all. But I had "people" to sit with at basketball games if I didn't have a date, which was often. There was always a card game going on in the Student Union if I didn't feel like studying or driving home. I was a far heavier card-player than drinker any day!

We had activities with other groups. I have home movies of raft “races” in the mote in front of Allyn Hall and chariot races around the quad. I have permission to write about the canoe trip where I almost drowned. Two guys (from different fraternities) and my sister saved my life. It's a story in and of itself. Stay tuned.

1974 Fall Rush "Formal" Party
I graduated in August of 1974. I had attended for 13 straight quarters. I then moved to Columbus for a job; but I came back for Fall Rush, which is illustrated with this blog. I kept in touch for a time; in the year 1977 I think we had a sorority wedding every month from February until mine in November! But then, things change. Christmas cards are sent, but that activity slows down eventually. There is no central hub to keep track of everyone. Even the national records are not always up to date.

I am delighted to find my sister Becky on Facebook and I hope that with our "networks" we can find others. It was a special time, and it was good for me!

Tomorrow: Life and Death

Friday, December 16, 2011

Childhood Christmases

What is it about childhood Christmases that inspire so much nostalgia? As adults, we always tend to think about the “good old days,” and I ask myself “What made them good?”

The first answer I come up with is simply, “Because I didn’t have any responsibilities!” 

I think of my parents, who got Christmas morning ready for us kids, complete with some assembly required at 3:00 AM, kids up at 7:00, Grandma and Grandpa Kline knocking on the door to witness the chaos; then Grandma going back to their house to finish up a noon meal for all of us, opening gifts there; then going to Grandma and Grandpa Netts’ house for an evening meal and opening gifts there— I simply can’t imagine how much work this was for my mother and my father! Of course, they had their first child at 21 and 22, not 30 and 37.

Grandma Kline did it all, and she only had one “family” to do for—she had three sons, their wives and when I was very young, four grandchildren (Loren is 10 years younger than I am). So that’s twelve people to cook for, not terrible if that’s all you have to do. At Grandma Netts’ there were three daughters, two sons-in-law and five grandchildren; and the married daughters brought food also. That would be my mother. When did she have time to prepare this, I ask myself? I think she brought jello every year!

Toting two young children to all of that every year had to be exhausting! In addition to this, and I have home movies, we visited our neighbors, probably in late morning, to see what their haul was, and stopped at another family between grandparents, perhaps late afternoon. Although I am pretty sure Benny and I slept REALLY well on Christmas night, it all seemed perfectly normal to me!

I lost my Christmas virginity at nine years of age. Oh, I knew that Santa did not exist the year I had already turned 6 (first grade) and that kinda stunk, but I got over it, because the number of gifts did not decrease. In 1962 though, we buried my Grandpa Netts on Christmas Eve, at the age of 61. That certainly doesn’t seem old now! Christmas went on pretty much as scheduled, as far as we kids were concerned. The adults were train wrecks. The following year, my Grandma Netts’ brother died ON Christmas Day. Uncle Frank lived with Grandma and Grandpa. He was given six months to live, and he lived six years. My grandmother had been caring for her bed-ridden brother in the extra upstairs bedroom and her husband in a hospital bed in the dining room. She was 57.

We got to Grandma’s and she said to my uncle, “I think he’s dead!”  We kids were shuffled to the kitchen as the body was removed. Christmas went on as scheduled. I have home movies of the funeral director leaving after talking with my grandmother in the dining room, while we were opening gifts in the living room. He waved to the camera. I don’t make this stuff up!

After that year, I moved into adolescence, Loren was born (1963) and we moved to Fairborn. Christmas in general just changed. I was expected to help do some of the work associated with Christmas and we began shifting Christmas on mother’s side of the family between the married daughters, which by 1964 totaled three. Christmas lost some of the magic, but we had fun with Loren as a young child. We still had Santa for a few more years. (He faked it a few years too)

Teen years were social years, for me as well as everyone else. Grandpa Kline died when I was 16, but up until his death Christmases at G/G Kline’s were stable. After that, we started shifting the homes each year too. Grandma Kline died in June of my freshman year of college.

When my paternal grandparents died, our patterns changed on that side of the family. We didn’t always get together at Christmas. On my mother’s side of the family, we got together after Grandma died in 1987, for three more years until after the death of my oldest aunt. By then each family was expanding to the point that it was difficult to all get into one place.

My husband’s family kept traditions going until 2001, the year before his parents were placed in a nursing home. The same things were happening; the individual families were getting too large. We now get together at Thanksgiving in the social room of my nephew’s church. We call at Christmas.

I whined about traveling 120 miles with little kids  (it was -10 degrees the year Jessica was an infant) and did put my foot down about Christmas Eve. We would be home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Eventually, I wanted to take my children to Christmas Eve services. I didn’t go to church on Christmas Eve until I was a young teen. I ticked my father-in-law off when I said we would not be participating in a ritual that was 50 years old in his family. I was the bad guy, but secretly, I think everyone was relieved. We began meeting on the weekend before or after Christmas.

Now it was my turn to do the work of Christmas. I never had to cook as much, but Jerry and I had the shopping, wrapping, hiding and assembling work… well as everything else that went on with traveling. We had many great memories as the children grew up and for the most part, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was the four of us. We went to church on Christmas Eve.

Although my mother is still living, I am now the “Grandma” and we will have Christmas at our house. It doesn’t have to be on Christmas Eve or Day; in fact Jerry and I support the children being in their own homes for Christmas Day. We are at the place where we have two other families to work around and we are blessed that our children are marrying into families with no immediate divorce and have to deal with even more Christmases!

So, as I think back to the old days, we might reminisce about silver Christmas trees with color wheels, or outdoor lights that were BIG and colored, but the reality is that Christmas was simple to a kid. It was just that darn wait……

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Derges' Digest: 2011 Edition

In February 2011 I began this blog. It’s one of those things that took me places I didn’t expect. I began with a few ideas in the anticipation of my 40th class reunion. I had specific thoughts, but conversations with classmates (and others of my era) kept inspiring me. I got enough positive feedback to keep going.  I recognize not all entries are equal, and will not have the same level of interest to everyone. Nevertheless, most of those reading this already know what I am going to say in a Christmas letter. I am reaching most folks electronically. There are a handful of people I will send cards to; but with social media these days: it’s not really NEWS!

That said; here’s “Derges’ Digest.”

Kyah at six months!
Ready for Santa!
I do believe that 2011 is the most eventful year of our lives thus far. We entered the year happily anticipating of the birth of our first grandchild. Joel was in his second phase of student teaching in the Trotwood-Madison schools. Jerry was subbing and I was working.

My mother decided to move back to Ohio. I went to Florida in early March and helped her decide what to keep and what to get rid of. I spent five days there and it was wonderful weather. I spent a day at the beach and another day visiting a friend; so three days of hard labor was enough.

Spring quarter Joel began his final student teaching in the Beavercreek schools, and we were headlong into the anticipation of the baby. From mid-May until Kyah’s birth on June 10th, the calendar was cleared and we actually sat around and looked at each other. It was weird. Joel decided not to walk in Wright State’s commencement, and maybe that worked out because it was the day after Kyah’s birth.

Kyah arrived Friday morning at 9:06 AM on June 10, 2011. She weighed 7 lbs. 13 oz. and was 20.5 inches long. We made it to the hospital with ½ hour to spare and were able to see her very soon after her birth. What a little angel! We will never be the same.

Joel and Lindsey
The following Thursday Joel proposed to Lindsey, and they have set a date of December 31, 2012 for their wedding. Within days, my Mom moved to Ohio. She lives in Columbus with my aunt and uncle. It was a busy month.

Jessica was on maternity leave through June and July and returned to work in Human Resources at Nationwide the first part of August. Brent changed actuarial departments in Nationwide from high-risk auto to property insurance. Jessica got a “salary adjustment” in August also; basically I think she got that to equal the job she was actually doing. Jess and Brent are adjusting like all new parents and I think they are doing very well.

It was also my 40th high school reunion year. That work officially began in 2010, but it cranked up this year. This time it was mid-August so most of the summer was consumed with it. It was fun, people had a good time, and I think it was a successful event.

Joel interviewed for several jobs, but did not get a permanent teaching position. He began graduate school in Special Education at Wright State in September. He is still living at home while attending school. He coached Greenon football for the 4th year and has been substitute teaching regularly. He also umpired many more baseball games this year and plans to do more of that next summer. He now is coaching women’s freshman basketball at Greenon. Lindsey will graduate in June 2012, take her state boards and be an RN. She works now for Miami Valley Hospital as a PCT (patient care technician).

All of us together. This was taken in August.
We had a wonderful family time of celebrating my Mom’s 80th birthday actually ON her birthday September 18th. Nearly all her side of the family was able to attend and we had a great time at a nice restaurant in Columbus. What a blessing to be able to celebrate her life!

In early October, Beth Milling and I drove to Watertown, Wisconsin to see our friend Brenda Crank. We all went on the cruise together in 2010 and deep friendships were forged on that trip. We had a wonderful time and met a NEW friend, Suzanne Derge whom I met on Facebook, at Derge Park, which was less than an hour from Watertown. We had lots to share about our (husbands’) families, who are not related.

During the following month Brent’s father’s cancer progressed and he went home to be with his Lord. We were involved in child care as Jessica juggled their lives. It was a difficult time, but he died peacefully Saturday morning November 12th, with family all around him.

We spent Thanksgiving with Jerry’s family at our nephew’s church in Kenton, and the next week we went to the Smokies for our 34th anniversary. We went to a bed and breakfast, and it was a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to go back.

As we wind up the year, I sang in my church Christmas musical and had a party in our home for high school classmates. Our family Christmas will actually be on the 26th.

A time to remember the Savior’s Birth! Blessed Christmas!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Everyone Needs to Get Away Once in Awhile!

Several months ago I started buying Groupon and Living Social Deals. These have been a good idea. Jerry and I got to take a great tour of the (Cincinnati Reds) Great American Ball Park; I have had my nails done, and I have bought some restaurant deals. There have been several “vacation” deals; but I didn’t seriously think about it until one came up for the Smoky Mountains.

Thirty-four years ago, in 1977, we went on our honeymoon to Gatlinburg, and that began a series of trips to the Smoky Mountain area. I can think of eleven, this trip being our twelfth, and I certainly could have forgotten one or two. We have stayed in motels, tent camped, stayed in cabins; but this was the first time we had ever thought about a Bed and Breakfast Inn, mostly because of the expense. The Groupon made it half-price, so we could talk….

Well, I am spoiled now!

We are standing on the ground floor veranda
with the mountains behind us.
We went to a place called Christopher Place Resort; and I can enthusiastically recommend this place to anyone interested.  The Inn was built in 1974 as a B & B and although it looks “old,” it isn’t.  An almost 40-year-old building still has issues, but it is well-designed and functional for any situation. I always look for the “handicap accessibility” aspect and a wheelchair would have to be lifted up two steps, but other than that I think would be able to do anything in this building.

It has 10 suites and we were on the second floor. The first floor was one suite, the kitchen, “breakfast” room and more formal dining room, a library-pub, and a bathroom. There was a big spiral staircase, but also an elevator. We didn’t experience great weather, so the beautiful veranda was not something that was going to be used.

Our suite had two rooms, a sitting room and bedroom. The bedroom had a bathtub in it! The adjoining bathroom was spotless.  We were welcomed with fruit, homemade cookies, and chocolate, as well as a bottle of wine which my husband chose.

So I had to explore the place a little. I let the cat in and I guess we weren’t supposed to do that, but he wanted to be MINE! It’s been awhile since a cat has been so friendly to me; my own grandcats ignore me. I picked out a couple of DVDs in the library-pub—the husband was NOT going to watch basketball all the time! I enjoyed the art and history in the place. The present owner’s grandparents worked in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and there is plenty of memorabilia. Most of it was up on the third floor, where there was a common recreation space and small kitchen; along with two more suites. It was a great area for a family to spend the weekend—but I passed on the pool table.

The staff was minimal, we purposely chose a slow time and that was great! We got to have some good conversations about what they do to make this type of business succeed. The owner was onsite each day. There were also two more “outdoor” suites; one above the workout room and one on the second floor of a storage building which mirrored the workout building. There was also an outdoor pool and tennis court.

We planned our drive into Gatlinburg the next day, did some shopping, went to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park for a little while and also had lunch at Bubba Gump’s.  We found a better route back to the Inn so we took that.

When we returned, the staff was decorating some more so I sort of helped there and talked with them. This is where I felt that the B & B experience is so unique. Since we had a big lunch, we had told them not to fix us dinner. I guess that gave them more time to do other things, like decorate. We knew that this was a lull between the Thanksgiving weekend and the big parade in Gatlinburg that kicks off “Christmas” on Dec. 2nd, so the staff was working ahead for the coming three weeks, where they would be booked solid.

Personally, I liked the lull and would choose it again.

The most interesting part of this whole experience was that the second night we were alone in the house. I mean ALONE. Staff all went home and the owner lived in a log home just over the hill. To me, it was amazing that anyone would trust people to that extent. Before the staff left, I made sure I knew where the landline phones and fire extinguishers were, in case of emergency.  We did hear funny noises, and Jerry went down to the kitchen to find that the freezer made funny noises.

In a perfect world we would have stayed another day; but we had breakfast and headed out the third day.  The cook was going to show me some of the suites that were locked and I would have loved to have seen them, but Jerry was ready to go.

We needed to get away and this was a great place to do that. I sincerely hope we can return.