The adventure of the improbable boat

the adventure of the improbable boat“Dad!” Our eldest son called out one morning from the direction of the garage. “Dad!” He called again.

“What,” his father yelled back from the den where we both sat still in our pajamas, nursing far too little coffee to match Kiddo’s level of activity.

“If it wasn’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsover.”  – David Letterman

“We need your help,” Kiddo called out. “For the boat project! Don’t you remember?”

I glanced at my husband. “Boat project?” It was one of those times I had to debate with myself whether or not I really want to know.

Kiddo and one of his best friend’s recently came across a waterfall only a few short yards from our backyard. I’ve lived in this house for years, but only learned of its existence when Kiddo returned one afternoon drenched from knee to toe. I can only assume that prior to their discovery it only existed in one of those secret magical places that only children are equipped to find.

Like any proud discoverers, both boys had immediately claimed the waterfall and the surrounding creek bed as their own. Now, it would seem, they had decided that it was time to take their exploration to the next level by building a boat.

My husband helped the boys pull down a few supplies, but left them to their work as Kiddo does love to work on his inventions. Occasionally, one would pop in to raid the pantry for a snack. As I cleaned up the kitchen, I heard the distinctive sound of a power screwdriver. Unable to contain my misgivings curiosity any longer, I gave in and peeked at the work in progress. Their eyes lit up at my appearance. “Can you help?” the boys asked holding out a piece of particle board and a pair of mismatched screws from the various piles now littered across the garage floor.

“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.” – Phyllis Diller

I eyeballed their creation. To my eye, its resemblance to a boat ended at – it’s made of wood. “Um, I am not sure how well that will float.” I mean it wasn’t impossible to think it might keep water out by the time they were done, but it appeared highly improbable.

“That’s why we need your help attaching the sides,” Kiddo’s friend replied showing me just how the pieces of mismatched wood were supposed to fit together.

Oh, is that all you need.

I made my exit shortly afterward, no more confident in their boat’s design than I was minutes earlier. I saw a flash of color run past a window. Perhaps, I thought the boys had given up or grown bored and gone to play another game. I saw another flash of color. Both kids reappeared in the garage, their arms now full of bright yellow pull ties and something I could only guess was the rubber shell of a bicycle tire ‘borrowed’ from the other house. Or, perhaps not.

the improbable boat

something tells me Kiddo isn’t going to be invited to work the shipyard anytime soon

By the end of the morning, their creation was no more boat-shaped than it was when they started (it looked more like a ramp), but it was theirs. Undeterred and full of smiles, the pair picked it up and took off toward the woods and the newest adventure, but within minutes they were once again in the garage.

“Didn’t work out like you thought?” I said, my heart full of sympathy. “That’s okay, at least you gave it a try.”

“Yeah,” Kiddo said with a grin. “We just need to build a dock.”

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.” – Mark Twain

I found the boys in the woods later that day with another board, their ‘dock,’ laying on one side of the creek bed and their ‘boat’ drifting downstream, just out of arm’s reach. Obviously, their great plan to set sail across the seven seas to continents unknown hadn’t exactly worked out as they’d anticipated, but just as clearly it hadn’t stopped them from having an adventure all the same. And rather than focusing on the loss of one morning’s effort, they were already planning their next foray.

I am trying to be more like my children. It is the reason I tell these stories. It is the reason I keep coming back week after week even when I sometimes feel like quitting. I remind myself, I wouldn’t have known the creek existed had the children not risked exploring. I wouldn’t have thought there was a need for a boat (or a dock), as the water was only knee-deep on a child. But these children of mine, they never seem bothered by the reasons I might come up off the top of my head as to why not to do something or why something won’t work. They simply try and enjoy the experience.

Not everything is going to go to plan. Not every idea will float. I have to remind myself that is okay. Because while I may lose a few screws along the way, in the end, I know, regardless of the results, the mere attempt can often prove to be an adventure worth having.

*Quotes courtesy of Photography is my own.

A bump in the night and why not to be afraid

A bump in the night and why not to be afraid -

background image courtesy of

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

My eyes snapped open. The room was dark, except for the clock’s display which showed it was only a few minutes past three in the morning.

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

My heart raced. However, my husband’s rhythmic breathing to my side was a clear indicator that the sound from the downstairs hadn’t yet penetrated through his dreams as it had mine. It wasn’t the first time I cursed the sensitivity of my ‘mom’ ears.

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

I sat up as I tried to imagine what could be causing the sound. We’d had unseasonably warm weather recently, enjoying a weekend of open doors and windows. Could an animal have gotten inside? It wouldn’t be the first time. I still recall the time several years ago when a neighbor’s cat managed to sneak through a pet door only to become confused and disoriented inside. But, I reminded myself, the pet doors were now sealed.

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

My imagination expanded in the darkness. While the sound was quiet enough to be caused by an animal, it seemed unnaturally controlled and repetitive to be caused by something wild, but still not out of the realm of possibilities. I turned to my sleeping husband. Someone was going to have to risk the unknown. Someone had to go investigate. Someone needed to wake up.

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

It seemed my preferred someone had developed an immunity to my glares over our years of marriage. I debated shaking him awake. Reminding myself that I am a strong woman capable of fighting my own battles (or at least screaming loud enough to alert the neighbors), I decided against it. It wasn’t as if I was going back to sleep without knowing the cause of the sound. While telling myself the sound could be a mouse, our dog or maybe even one of our children, as I’d caught Kiddo sleepwalking once before, I left the bed and slowly opened the bedroom door.

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

Swallowing my fear, I crept toward the staircase and peered over the banister.

Bump. Muffle. Jingle. Thump.

Movement caught my eye.

Bump. Muffle. Thump.

The sound was coming from . . . I squinted in the darkness . . .

Bump. Muffle. Thump.

. . . the robotic sweeper vacuum I’d received for Christmas, a device we’d programmed to clean while we slept. An array of blue LEDs appeared in the darkness as the white disk-shaped robot attempted to maneuver its way out from under our dining room table. Bump. Hitting one of the chair legs, it rotated a fraction of an inch and tried again.

Bump. Whirl.

The robot turned once more, disappearing once again under the table only to return a moment later for another attempt at escape.

Adrenaline fled my system, as my body reminded me exactly how early it was. Now that I understood where the sound was coming from, there was no more reason to fear. Instead, it became no more than white noise and something I could ignore. I returned to bed as the robot continued its chore.

It seems that we are being bombarded by new things to fear. Things to lose sleep over. I am reminded often of the words of Franklin Roosevelt who said during his first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

But there is even more to the speech than this one memorable quote. He went on to call this fear of fear a “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

He called upon the American people to recognize that it was fear, above all, that was the nation’s enemy and introduced the policy of the good neighbor – “the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others.”

History has a way of repeating itself and I find the words of this particular speech as true now as they were during the time they were first spoken. It is only the size of the stage that has changed.

We are in danger of losing our ability to respect the views of others – those that live differently, speak differently, pray differently or in cases, vote differently and in doing so jeopardize respect for ourselves. We are in danger of losing the battle with fear. And so I implore you, no matter where you call home, or side of an issue’s spectrum you take, to never lay awake in fear at the sound of a bump in the night. Instead, get out of your comfort zone. Investigate its source so that you might better understand it from all angles.

That bump in the night may prove to be something terrible, to be fought, but it might just as easily be something or someone trying to help you as best they can. You’ll only know for sure how best to react if you first break the paralysis of fear, step forward and risk a look.