Archive for October, 2012

A Ride Well Worth Taking

Image   Hello from Lincoln City, Oregon, a tourist and retirement community located on the Pacific coastline.  I finally made it to the west coast, and the views in this town are breathtaking and have made the miles I rode well worth it.  I can see why it’s a tourist attraction and why people choose to retire here.  And I must admit after taking more than 3 years to get here I thought about putting down some roots and just staying here, but once again the uncharted road is calling out to me.  So my stay here in Lincoln City will be brief.

After getting my tent set-up at the Devils Lake RV Park, I biked on over to the Pacific Ocean.  Yes, I know I was camped right by this lake, but I wanted to dip my toes into that awesome ocean.  It was an inspirational feeling.  At that very moment in my life had I not already believed in God, I would have to believe in Him now for there is nothing greater than feeling this mighty ocean crash against your legs bathing them in its cool refreshing water.  The salt smell in the air was euphoric.  No way could I say this mighty ocean was not a creation of God.

I sat on the beach for several hours thinking about my life, my journey, and my family.  I felt peace where peace hadn’t been for a while.  I knew that the fatigue of riding these past 2,190 miles had taken its toll on me, but now sitting here seeing the Pacific Ocean made all that fatigue melt away.  I had accomplished something I never had been able to do before.  So many diets I’d been on, so many attempts to make exercise a part of my life and yet each time I found that my lazy side would win.  But here I am, sitting on this beach knowing that I had just made it the first leg of this trip I started over 3 years ago, a trip that was supposed to help me lose the weight that doctor of mine had said made me a candidate for weight reduction surgery.

Okay, so I’m already delving into my real life as I talk about my doctor recommending me for lap band surgery.  I’m sure he meant well with his sage advice, but I know that most of those drastic weight surgeries give one a quick fix, but doesn’t allow the brain to recognize that the body has lost a bunch of weight.  At my age my mind is confused enough I didn’t need to add in quick weight loss to add to the confusion.  Besides I have still managed to shed over 30 pounds.

And I know that this ride has not only helped me lose weight, it’s helped me through a lot of other life issues.  I no longer argue with my mother about the number of beers she’d like to have each day, but rather I simply tell her “this is how many you get.”  It irritates her that I won’t raise my voice giving her the opportunity to argue back and blame me for starting a fight.  When one remains calm with someone who is angry, it’s hard for the angry person to stay angry.

I guess that’s why so many counselors are so calm when they are counseling someone, much like our wonderful Life Connections counselors at Catholic Charities.  These women are such calming forces not only with the clients they see, but with day to day work issues.  I’m blessed to know and be a part of each of their lives.

I’ve had people recently tell me how proud they are of me for staying dedicated to this ride, for caring for my mother, for taking on the whole process of writing a book about this journey I’m on all the while I’m working a full-time job.  And I thank them all for their compliments, but really, isn’t this all just a part of life?  Isn’t this what God wants us to be doing, to not take life for granted, to utilize the talents He’s given us, to be selfless with the way we live our lives?  I don’t see anything I’ve done now or in the past as being any greater or lesser than anyone else on this fine earth.  We all are just one big family of God and if my little blog stories help someone through a difficult time or if it can impart a smile on someone’s face then I feel I’ve accomplished a task given to me by God.  Thank you all so much for following me on my journey as it has all been well worth the effort and as always, let’s keep going the distance.


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UFO Fest – Unidentified Familiar Objects

ImageAs I make my way towards the west coast with my goal of getting to Lincoln City before Halloween, I decide to take a break from my travels and got myself a room at the Best Western Vineyard Inn in McMinnville, Oregon.  It was a nice hotel and my stay there wasn’t anything to write home to mother about, but the town itself was fun to be in as this town is a place where UFO sightings have occurred.  It has the second largest UFO festival in the nation, second only to Roswell, New Mexico.

As I made my way through this fine town I discover it’s rich in restaurants, so much so that Bon Appetit magazine rated it one of the nation’s foodiest towns.  I find the Bon Appetit article in a store and read up on the restaurants they highlighted.  Thistles is one of them so I head there hoping they had a menu posted in their window.  I was in luck, there it was in bold print, but what I noticed was it was a lot of foo foo foods and I was hungry for something a little more familiar to me.  I pressed on hoping that I’d come across something that piqued my interest.

I stumbled upon a street full of various restaurants.  Ah, just the thing I was looking for.  So many restaurants to choose from, but again I was looking for familiar foods that were recognizable.  I didn’t need something smothered in wine sauce, or some sort of sea urchin that looks like some space alien.  And then there it was, Nick’s Italian Café.  As I perused the menu I saw so many familiar items from pizza, to lasagna, to soups.  MMM, my mouth was watering, but it was only 10:00 a.m. so I still had time to kill before they opened for lunch.

My wanderings take me to a familiar place, a quilt store, Verna’s Sewing Center to be exact.  Of course, being the quilter I am, I needed to go in and see what fine things this store had to offer.  The first thing I see is a sign with huge letters on it – U F O – and in smaller print it says Un-Finished Opportunities.  It was a sign talking about a quilt day to bring in unfinished quilts and other handmade items and be given the venue to get them completed.  I had to laugh that this town embraced this whole UFO thing, but thinking about all those U F O items I had stored away in my parent’s crawl space made me realize that a venue like this could be beneficial to all we crafters out there.

As I strolled around the store I saw many familiar looking fabrics, but did find a few that I had never seen before.  Thankfully I was able to resist buying any, left the store thanking the store owner for her hospitality then headed back towards Nick’s Italian Café.

On my way there I started thinking about all those familiar things in life that keeps me grounded.  I so love fall with the colors in the trees, smell of the fallen leaves, briskness in the air.  My mind soars off into high school football games, sitting on cold bleachers sipping hot chocolate and rooting for the home team.  I discover that so many of my familiar thoughts revolve around family.  I’m grateful to have been raised in such a wonderful family, but a part of me knows that I’ve probably missed a whole bunch of unidentified familiar objects because my own life issues placed blinders on my eyes preventing me from seeing those familiar things.

I get to Nick’s and am warmed by the brick ovens used to bake the homemade pizzas.  And even though I’m there right as they open, the place is already packed with families and friends.  As I’m seated in a corner, something I was happy about as it kept me out of the main flow of things yet allowed me ample room to view all those around me, I look around and realize that even though I don’t know a soul there it all looks so familiar.

These are people like any other people from any other town eating lunch with co-workers, with their BFFs, with their aging parents, and with their kids.  It’s a warming sight one that will live with me forever and ever.

When my food is delivered to my table I bow my head and thank God for the wonderful food before me, for the people around me, and for all those friends and family who are miles away.  I’m overwhelmed with the power of God right then and there as I realize that although this is one giant earth we all live on, it’s small in God’s eyes.  We are all His children and we should all be familiar to each other.  And although I find tears welling up in my eyes as I think about how glorious our Savior is, I find myself happy to be a part of this great world we live in.

I know that God is beside me always and will continue to watch over me as I make my way to the west coast.  The very thought of finally seeing the Pacific Ocean is exhilarating and gives me the drive to push on.

And in my real life I think about how UFO’s played a huge part in my sister’s life.  Kathy graduated from high school in 1970.  At the time she was asked by our guidance counselor what she wanted to become.  Her desire back then was to work for our space program investigating UFO sightings.  The counselor, an elderly nun, had no idea what my sister was talking about and steered her towards teaching.

My sister went on to college getting her master’s degree in teaching and taught in 3 different states for over 30 years.  She was a good teacher, a diligent teacher, a teacher who managed to change a few students’ lives, but she never had the passion of those teachers who live and breathe their profession.

She retired from teaching a few years ago and is now sort of mentoring our niece, Emily, who is in her last year of college to become a teacher.  Emily has the passion needed to be a great teacher.  She asked Kathy recently if she loved teaching.  Kathy had to admit to Emily that teaching had never been her passion, that what she really had wanted to do all her life was to investigate UFO’s.  Kathy shared this with me recently and I thought “Gosh, for 40 years this familiar sister of mine was doing a job she liked, but wasn’t passionate about.  How sad.”  Then I realized I had done the same thing.

After graduating from high school I went directly into the business world and excelled at being an administrative assistant for several companies.  I loved the work and was happy when something I had worked on actually helped whatever company progress forward.

But then one day, at the job I’m currently at, my boss came to me and said “Do you realize that a God-given talent of yours is going to waste?”  I was shocked wondering what it was he was talking about.  He told me that he’d been reading all my blogs since I started this virtual bike trip and said that my writing style is one of a true author.  He said by not writing a book I was taking that God-given talent and tossing it back in God’s face.  I pondered his words for several weeks, thought about what my sister had told me about her desire to this day of wanting to investigate UFO’s, and I thought about family members of mine who had also taken that familiar path in life and didn’t seem all that fulfilled.  I prayed on this and was amazed when I felt the strong message that said the familiar path in life isn’t always the path God wants us to take.  Sometimes it’s that Unidentified Familiar Object – in my case writing – that is truly the path that God sees me taking.

So a couple of months ago I took the plunge into the world of writing and have started writing a fictional book about this crazy bike trip I’m on.  The main character is much like me, but she has a reporter who tags along for a story for the newspaper he works for.  They run into real life issues, they have to make tough decisions, and they have to face their demons that have haunted them for years.  I find the whole process of writing freeing and invigorating.  I find myself drawn to write even on nights where my administrative job has exhausted me.  I feel the passion, it’s a wonderful feeling.

I wished that I could wave a magic wand and give my sister that chance of investigating UFO’s as I was given the chance to write.  And I wish that magic wand could also help those people that Catholic Charities serves find their true path in life, to find their passion, but I know that there are times God wants us to go through hard times so that we recognize what is truly important in our life.

I’m grateful to my parents and siblings for being there for me, I’m thankful for all the places I’ve worked and people I’ve worked with, I’m thankful for my boss at recognizing and motivating me to take that leap of faith, and I’m most grateful to God knowing He is there beside me, you, and everyone else on this fine earth.  May we all find the passion in our lives, may we find those unidentified familiar objects, and may we all keep going the distance.  God bless.

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No Whining Allowed

ImageAs I continue my trek to the west coast I find myself thinking that ending this trip in Dundee Oregon might just be the right thing to do as it’s taken me 3 times as long to get to this point, but then I tell myself to stop whining.  I know that road fatigue is my reason for even having such a thought and then I notice that there is a designated protected bike lane on this highway I’m on and I figure “Hey, this area deserves a good look see.”

As I ride down this highway I see vineyard after vineyard and wished that I was more of a wine drinker.  Then I think “why not at least take some wine tours and sample a little.”  My caution light goes off in my head knowing that I am a recovering alcoholic so I opt to avoid the wine tours.  In my head I chastise myself for not having more control over alcohol as now I’m going to be missing out on what could have been a fun tour.  Again I tell myself to stop whining.  If I really wanted to see how wine was made then I could take a tour and just not sample any if I thought it would send me on a binge.

As I ride farther into Dundee I see tons of restaurants and decide that maybe my safest bet is to sample the foods of this area as opposed to the wine.  I check in at the Dundee Manor Bed and Breakfast, a fabulous bed and breakfast indeed.  I am immediately told about several wine tours that I can take and I wonder “Is God testing me?”  As I get myself cleaned up after my ride that day, I keep thinking about those tours and if I would be able to actually take a sip of wine without the alcoholic repercussions.  I decide to do some praying on the issue and am pleased to feel a stronger urge to simply snoop around town and take in some of the local food fare.

I decide to eat lunch at the La Sierra Mexican Grill where I was able to dine for less than $10.00.  I was asked if I’d like to try any of their wine and chose to simply get a glass of lemonade, but again found myself having a pity party that I was unable to go on a wine tour.  Why did I have to have inherited that addiction gene from my parents?  Once again, my whining about my addiction was more than I could handle.

I inquired about what other sites I might want to partake in that would not cost me a great deal of money.  My waitress told me about the beautiful parks this town has and all were free as long as I enjoyed a good walk.  That was exactly what my whining mind needed so I tipped my waitress, paid my bill and headed towards Crabtree Park which I was told was quite picturesque.

As I neared the park I started seeing signs for Erath Vineyards and how they had daily wine tours.  My mind was ready to explode.  How could one town have so many wineries?  Well, my whining head just couldn’t take it anymore and I decided to tempt fate and take one of those tours.  I walked through Crabtree Park which truly was spectacular and on to Erath Vineyards where I was greeted by a delightful person who took me on a guided tour.  As we headed towards their tasting room I explained that I’d be unable to taste any wine, but was thrilled to see exactly how this one winery created their award winning flavors.

I went back to the bed and breakfast, had a wonderful meal that night at another local favorite then knew it was time to get some rest as that Pacific Ocean was calling to me.  I went to sleep that night knowing that I had conquered my whining, had faced my addiction and won, and was now graced with this lovely room that would provide my mind with the rest it needed to avoid any future whining spells.

And in my real world I think about the number of times I find myself whining about various things.  Sometimes I have reason to whine, but so often I must tell myself to stop and get on with life as there are people out there with a lot worse problems then I face on any given day.

Catholic Charities’ staff sees many of these people each day who have issues so much greater than the ones I face.  We get e-mails from loved ones hoping we’ve seen a family member who maybe went off their meds and has gone missing.  We have families who find their lives turned upside down and inside out when a layoff or medical crisis stretches their livelihood to the breaking point.  Some are familiar with this lifestyle, but others are new to it and are somewhat embarrassed to even be here asking for help.  It is these people who I say have every right to whine yet many of them don’t, they sit back patiently waiting for Catholic Charities to point them in the right direction and give them that hand up.

We all need a hand up every now and then so when you hear someone whining a little don’t think to yourself “Oh stop your whining!”  Instead tell yourself to listen to their whining and see if maybe you could possibly give them a hand up which simply could be suggesting where they could go to get some financial help.

And as I head home tonight whining that I still have 25 miles to ride before I’m actually at the Pacific Ocean, I’ll think about those people who maybe no longer have the ability to ride a bike and will thank God that He’s given me the drive to continue on this virtual trip I’m on.  And even though it’s taken me over 3 years to get to the west coast, I’m ecstatic that I’ve actually kept at this trip of mine.  It’s through you faithful readers that spurs me on and keeps me going the distance.  God bless you all and know that it is okay to whine every once in a while as long as you can get over it and move on in life.

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