Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Because you asked (Warning: Freakin' LONG Post)

**(Edited to add pics at the bottom)

A lot of you commented on my Friday's Feast about my true statement of "literally living in the mountains for 8 weeks." I don't mind telling you about my time at in the wilderness, but I'm not really comfortable with talking about why I was sent there. I went in June of 1991 right after my 15th birthday. I wasn't on drugs or anything. I was just... well, stupid. I had a boyfriend that I would do anything for- even when he didn't ask me to. I was getting into trouble before that- skipping school occasionally and giving my teachers hell, but when I met him I just completed my dive off the deep end because I just wanted to be with him. I was really hateful to my family. Anyway, I did A.LOT of stupid, selfish, hateful things and after a few stints in juvie my parents sent me to a wilderness survival placement.

Ok, when I got there I thought "You have got to be kidding me! I hate camping!!" But the 59 days I spent out there were awesome. It wasn't a "break you down then build you up" wilderness camp. They built me up from the beginning. I guess technically I met with a counselor once a week, but I only talked to him like 30 minutes. I don't remember anything really profound with him. I just remember talking to the other kids there & thinking "Y'all are freakin' stupid!" Oh- duh. So, was I. I loved it out there. We all became so tight knit. We played games. I remember we played this one game, "Murder," where everyone held hands in a circle. All the girls would rush to hold hands with Derek or Nathan- 2 leaders we thought were HOT! I can't remember if they actually were hot. When you're 15, hormonal and out in the wilderness, everyone looks hot. :) Anyway...

We hiked 5 days a week. Some hikes were shorter- about 5 miles. Some were about 12 miles. We hiked Tuesday thru Saturday. On Sunday we rested- and it was BOR.ING. Monday our "shadow" (counselor) came to us and we had our sessions. Food packs also arrived. That was our food for the week- a grocery sack with carefully measured portions. There was one kid who stole food from other people. His name was Buddy. He didn't care if he got caught either. The 1st week or 2 I remember being so hungry and eating every little thing in my pack, licking the ziplocs... By the end of my stay I was giving food away. I couldn't finish it.

I look at their website now and they list what foods are in your weekly foodpack- man, the kids there now have it easy!! They have SO many more foods than we did!! Every Monday we were given a grocery bag with: 1 apple, 1 onion, 1 potato, and baggies of rice with 4 bouillon cubes, macaroni noodles, lentils, tang powder, flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, raisins, salt, oatmeal, powedred milk with weight gain and powdered cheese. The baggies were not full except for the macaroni, flour and cornmeal. We came up with so many creations. I used to eat my macaroni uncooked. I still do. So does Isabel. I dipped my apple in my tang. Still do. So does Isabel. Ashcakes rocked. It's just flour and water mixed together so it's not sticky. Flattened out into a pancake, then you throw it in the hot ashes of the campfire. When it was cooked nice and hot I'd roll raisins and brown sugar in it. I called it a "fruit roll up." I can't remember all of the things we made up. I remember eating my lentils raw and eating the bag of powdered milk. I wouldn't recommend that. It gave some people the runs. Not me though- because my bowels are tough like that. :)

We made our "backpacks" out of long sleeve shirts or whatever. I think I had like 4 pair of underwear, some socks, sweatshirt and sweatpants, hiking boots that totally tore up and eventually had to send for some tennis shoes, a pair of shorts, a pair of jeans, 2 t shirts and a long sleeve flannel. We also had a knife, a tin cup, a toothbrush- but no toothpaste-, a canteen, a pancho, a blanket and a sleeping bag cover- not a sleeping bag. I washed my hair with shampoo once in 59 days. It was actually kinda cool. I think I may have had a hairbrush, but I'm not sure. I know we didn't have a razor. Luckily my leg hair is lite and my shirt covered my armpits. ;) We also had to carve our own "utensils." I still have a pair of my shorts and my white tshirt. The shorts have total holes across my butt (I had to cut my jeans into new shorts) and my shirt is SO not white!!

One nite there was a rattlesnake in our camp. A boy was walking over towards me and we heard it rattle. It was getting dark so we couldn't see where it was. He just stopped and I yelled for a leader. 2 men came and they were scared. They didn't act scared, but I could tell they were. They were probably thinking "I don't get paid enough to die trying to save one of these buttheads!" But they saved us nonetheless. They pinned the snake's head down and chopped it off. They buried it and awarded ME the headless snake. I skinned it and threw the skinned body in the fire. It slithered around- way weird. We ate the meat with a little salt. It was rubbery. I stuck the skin on a huge stick made out of yucca and carved the word "Daddy" into it. I made it into a walking stick and gave it to my dad. He still has it hanging in his office. :) That was a few days before I went home. I also received an Indian name from one of the co-founders who is a Native American. My name is Flying White Cloud.

The 3 days before I went home I was on "solo." This meant I camped alone, without help and without a leader. I know a leader was within 100 yards of my camp, but I never found his camp. I had to get my own coal to build a fire. To get a coal I used a bow drill and a fire board. This was not easy and I didn't get my fire the 1st nite. So, I slept in the total darkness. Here I am in the mountains of Arizona with mountain lions and whatnot and all I could think was "What if a lonely mountain man attacks me???" The next day the leader came by and helped me get a coal. He and I both used the bow drill together. I attempted to explain how to use a bow drill, but I erased it because I can't really explain it. I'd have to show you. I'm sure if you google "bow drill" or something, you'll find more info. Anyway, he helped me get a fire going and you know what? That nite was freakin' scary because when you have a fire you can't see outside the ring of the fire. I didn't sleep very well that nite. My parents arrived the next day and all I really remember is: Seeing a big snake right before they got there; Hearing my dad's laugh which made me cry; my mom and dad saying how many rocks were under their blankets and me laughing because their area was the "clear" area; my mom thinking she saw "animal eyes" but it was only lightening bugs and my mom making a big deal about me running across rocks barefoot. My feet were really tough from walking around camp barefoot all the time. :)

I could keep writing and keep writing, going on and on because it really was so cool. The kids there loved my accent. They called me "Texas." I was one of the "popular' ones in my group- meaning I got along with everyone and caused very little drama. I'm just cool like that. ;) I do remember this one girl from Vegas who wouldn't do crap in the camp. She wouldn't help with anything. My best friend "on the trail", Kewelina from Hawaii, and I were talking to a leader about this girl and another girl. I basically said they were lazy. Well, the 2 girls heard me and they came over to "confront" us. I don't remember what I said but one of the girls said "Kathryn, she's gettin' an attitude with you. I wouldn't put up with that." It was just so funny to me because I was thinking "We're out in the middle of no where. Could this be more surreal??" So, I started laughing. And so did the leader and all the other kids. So these 2 girls were standing there just lookin' stupid. It was classic. I eventually became close to these 2 girls and they started pulling their own weight. I learned so much out there. I learned how to build the perfect latrine (6 inches wide, 12-18 inches deep) I learned how to make a gourmet meal out of 2 ingredients. I learned which plants had leaves that could kinda be used as soap. I also learned how strong I am- mentally, emotionally, physically. Those hikes weren't easy. There were times I would just picture my little brother (he was like 4, turned 5, at the time) and I would hike to him.

When I went to this place there was not a set time you go home. That's what made it kinda scary. There were stories of people being there for 120 days, 200 days, etc... I think the average was 52 days. Since I am so not average I stayed 59. :) When I finally went home my 1st food off the trail was a Pepsi and a Reeses PB cup. I saved the can and wrapper. :) It's funny because I craved peanut butter the entire time I was out there. My parents and I stayed at a hotel that nite. Then headed home the next day.

My only complaint about the whole experience would be at the time there was no aftercare. You just get thrown back into real life and I wasn't ready for it. I wasn't. I mean, I knew I had changed but my "friends" (even the ones that weren't so bad) didn't understand that. And I didn't know how to handle that. Honestly, my 2nd nite back I spent the nite at a friend's house and we snuck out that nite, among other things. I was just stupid. I had/have this rebellious streak and it's hard even now for me to keep it tamed. My main thing after getting back was not to do the same hateful things I had done before- but I still did stupid teenage stuff like almost immediately. And eventually I was completely stupid again and that's how I ended up married to a loser. :( That's like 15 other posts in itself. Anyway- that's what I talk to Sei about when kids go home from his group home. How are we gonna help them now that they are back in the real world??? His program has a 45 day aftercare program and I think that helps. I think it would have helped me if there had been some type of aftercare so I didn't feel like I had this experience that no one (not even my family) could understand and then was thrown out to the wolves.

Anyway- so there you have it. That's my 8+ weeks in the wilderness. I know there's a ton I'm leaving out and whatnot, but that's it in a nutshell. I still regret all the stupid things I did, but I'm sure all my experiences helped mold me into the person I am today. The parent I am today. Just like my divorce made me the rad wife I am now. :) Sometimes I wish I had my older sister's personality. As a teenager she'd say stuff that made me think, "Uh, ok Mom?!?" She had no problem not being stupid. I guess that's why I got all the extra teen genes. :) Anyway- that's all. Please don't be afraid to leave your kids with me. I won't buy them beer. (I might take them to get a piercing though...;)

**Edited to add these pics:

Me and my dad on "solo"

Me and my mom on "solo"

Me demonstrating the bow drill


utmommy said...

WOW! I can't even imagine being out there for that long, and I even love camping. But, I guess I love camping where I have food, a sleeping bag, fire, a toilet, etc. You are one tough girl.

Toni said...

I am so shocked! Our little Tori was a heathen! Glad you shaped up!

Dana said...

That's rough, but at least you shaped up! It is great that you were able to learn from your past experiences.

Mel said...

I love it, especially the part of how you imagined your little brother standing there and you would hike to him. It brought tears to me eyes but I'm weepy like that:)

What an awesome experience. The way you tell it makes me wish I had been there too! Look how resourceful you can be. I'll remember to contact you when our family is living off our years supply of food storage someday. Who knew that flour, water, brown sugar and raisins could be a fruit roll up. You are so cool!

Suzanne said...

Thanks for sharing your story! I read every bit! It's interesting how much our past experiences shape who we are today. How fun that you remember so much about it! :)

Amanda said...

See you are not a butthead! Thanks for sharing your experience with us. That is such an amazing experience. I don't think I could have survived.

Annie said...

I never would have guessed that you went to "Brat Camp".

You look like a spokeswoman for Dove now. So clean and shiney and glowy.

swampbaby said...

I love you, Sister!

s--max said...

I hope I'm not one of the "friends" that you referred to after you got back. I'm so proud that we made it through everything we did & are still together. YOU ROCK! I love you!

Kayelyn said...

I share your attitude. It is hard to keep it under control sometimes, but I have learned how.

Tori- you are brave to share your story. It is so powerful to me. I see so many kids that adults are willing to throw away. I want for each one of them to have a story where they can learn about their strengths.

Kudos to you for helping Sei plan his aftercare. It is crucial to success. I am taking time off through May and taking my licensing exam. Then maybe I'll convince Sei to let me run some groups for him.

I love working with teens and so far they respond well. Cause I'm cool like you.

wendy said...

Tori - What an amazing story. I've seen your Brady Bunch sticker around and I've probably even visited before, but I can't remember. You are incredible.

Being a teenager is crazy. I'm impressed with your parents, too, for taking a big step and sending you away for help.

Stepherz said...

You trouble maker you! You turned out great though, so I guess we can forgive you. :-)

Weren't most of us careless and stupid? Ughh, I sure was. I'm pretty sure that stupid mistakes and bad choices just build character. Probably explains why we both have personality overflowing! ;-)

tara said...

Thanks for sharing your story Tori (that rhymed!) It's hard to do sometimes, but it's so worth it to help other people! My cousin was a 'rebel' and then she worked at one of those places. I forget what it's called. The greatest thing about this life is that we're all given the opportunity to change!

DID THEY GIVE YOU DEODORANT? I hope so! I get so stinky esp. when it's been like 3 days since I shaved, I can't imagine just letting it all grow out!

I don't know why blogger will sometimes let you click the images to see them bigger and sometimes not. This happens to be a sometimes not!

Lauren said...

WoW! You are my hero. I honestly would have died....I'm not kidding. I am SO not an outdoors girl. I would cry every minute and they would beg me to leave the camp. haha..seriously. You are amazing. I am so glad you had this experience. I laughed so hard when you said that girl tried to confront you. Amazing post Tori. Oh, I sent the letter to your brother yesterday....hopefully he doesnt think I am a weirdo.

Liam's Mom - Gina said...

I loved reading this. I am amazed at how much you remember too! What an experience. It surely was a growing experience that you enjoyed to the fullest.

Congratulations on turning out so beautifully! You deserve all the happiness in the world!

txmommy said...

wow! Look how well you turned out:)
Sometimes parents have to take drastic measures to "save" their kiddos, I'm glad theirs worked! and thank you for sharing. It's really hard to have to take a tough love stance with your kids and you feel alone in doing it so I am happy to raed this and see what a lovely person you turned out to be. My oldest DD, who I adore, had a rough period during which we ended up moving her out of state for a new start. It worked out great but was really hard at the time, so I can relate and appriciate that. ALso when I was a dumb kid I wish someone had stepped in to intervene for me.....but that's anotehr story:)

AzĂșcar said...

I loved this post, thanks for writing it all up. The best part about having been rebellious in your youth is that you know all the signs with your own kids and can head them off at the pass. Course I wouldn't know about that since I was the perfect teenager.

No Cool Story said...

Ok, first of all: how did I ever missed this post?
Thank you for writing that, it was awesome! When I get back from camping I'm going to re-read it.
What great parents you have.
WOW! Truly inspiring, even if you did still do dumb things afterwards, you are really awesome. As you know, I think the world of you and this just makes it even more so. We are SO twins Tori :)

"I don't get paid enough to die trying to save one of these buttheads!" So true :D And still they saved you.

Anonymous said...

hi tori,
this week amanda sent me this link to this post of yours. she sent this to me because of the difficulties we have had with our teen daughters. thank you for sharing this. i was especially touched by how you hiked to your little brother (that made me tear up, too). it was great to hear how you grew through this experience. i hope my daughter will, too.

this was inspiring to read.


David said...

Well, I knew you were too cool to have been a boring teenager. Me, I was a boring teenager. But, Terry's family more than makes up for me. So does some of my family. Well, I'm glad you shaped up!