Archive for October, 2014

Life’s Ups and Downs

Ups and DownsGosh, it seems like my biking friends and I are making good progress getting, but I feel an emptiness. I don’t know if it’s because I was outvoted about not staying in Hurricane and Apple Valley, Utah, or if I’m just feeling road fatigue. My mind thinks back when it was just me. I went as far as I felt like going, stopping where my heart felt content.

Now, I have these great people helping me achieve my goal, but as with anything when more than one is involved you have a difference of opinion. I didn’t feel like I’d expressed my discontent with traveling the forty-three miles to Colorado City, Arizona, but they all seem to be leaving me alone. And as with any bad day one has, I’ve put them in a lose/lose situation. If they rode close to me and tried to have a conversation, I’d probably tell them I needed my space. But they’ve already figured that out and have given me my space. I don’t like it.

Could I grow up some and simply ride up with them and start a conversation? Yes. Will I do that? Probably not today. I need the time to get in touch with myself, with God, and with all that surrounds me. I need to make sure I know how lucky I am to have these fine people watching over me, giving me a place to sleep, never asking for money for room and board, but just being good-hearted people. I need to look at the beauty that surrounds me and thank God for all He’s given me. And I need to give myself a quick kick in the behind and tell myself to get out of my funk. Life is too good to waste on such petty occurrences.

As we approach Colorado City, Arizona, my heart lightens. Carol slows up enough to say, “Hey, I know you were wanting to stay at those towns. I’m sorry we didn’t, but I’m glad to have those miles behind us.”

“I’m OK, Carol. I’m glad to be here in Arizona. I’ve spent way too much time on this trip already. It’s time to get some serious mileage behind me.”

“Well, we’ve decided that you get to pick the next town we’ll be staying in.”

I laugh, knowing Tuba City, Arizona is the next town, and that was 190 miles from here with not much in between. It was then I realized how important it was for me to be with my blessed friends. At least we’d have the fifth-wheel to stay in even if it were on some country road in the middle of nowhere. My heart lightened, and I gave Carol a hug and said, “We are a team. I choose to do what’s best for the team.”

That evening, after thanking my friends for taking such good care of me, I crawled into bed and thanked my Lord for ALL He has given me.

And in my real world, my ups and down came yesterday when I had to have my fifteen-year old sheltie euthanized. It wasn’t a hard decision for me, for I knew he was sick beyond repair. And that became evident when the first shot that simply relaxes them almost took him out. He was not only sick, but he was tired and old. His life had come to an end.

I mourned my dear friend, but awoke this morning knowing his misery was gone. He’s probably going around heaven right now telling all the other dogs that there are rules to rules to be followed. His cousin, Zu, is probably creating the rules as any good German shepherd does, but Sparky is ensuring that all the other dogs are obeying those rules.

And I know I’ll now have the time to focus on my needy Irish setter, Vanna. She loved her “mommy time” last night. She’ll be having her ups and downs, too, as she morphs into being the one and only, but once she figures out she is the queen bee, she’ll have a perfect life.

So when you are facing the ups and downs of everyday life, know that you aren’t the lonesome stranger. We have to have those down times to appreciate the good things we have that we’ve ignored. And I find it’s best to give someone you love a big hug. They’ll help you through those down times.

Peace to all of you and let’s keep going the distance.

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What Kind of Tea is This?

teaI am still soaring from my recent jump out of a plane. Never did I ever think I’d be brave enough to do something like that. But when Mac reminded me that I was brave enough to start this trip ALONE, I knew jumping out of that plane was a whole lot safer.

Now, as my biking friends and I pedal our way to St. George, Utah, I think about other things I’ve been afraid to try. I know instantly what my next adventure will be.

I ride up alongside Martha and say, “Will you and Bart be playing golf in St. George?”

“Why yes we will. We golf wherever there’s a course and whenever we can. Will you join us this time?”

“I think I will.”

“Good. Like I said, I think you’ll be great at it.”

I think to myself, “I wouldn’t count on that, but I at least want to give it a try.”

We get into St. George around 1:00 p.m. With all of us helping to get our camp site setup, we head to the grocery store to buy tonight’s meal. I buy the ingredients for a mock crab pasta salad, a nice accompaniment for burgers.

While I make my salad in the fifth-wheel, Carol offers me an iced tea. I’m ready to tell her I’m not much of a tea drinker, but decide this might be another thing I could learn to enjoy. I accept her offer and take a sip. It is unbelievably good, no bitter taste yet not overly sweet.

“OK Carol, what’s your secret. I don’t usually like tea, but this is really good,” I say.

She smiles and says, “I infuse fresh citrus while I’m steeping it. It adds the sugar and somehow cuts the bitterness. It’s an old family tradition.”

“Well,” I say, “it’s a keeper.”

My salad is a hit that night, but my mind continues to wonder how well I’ll do on the links tomorrow. I doze off, dreaming about that hole in one.

The next day, all of us head to the golf course. Bart gets me setup with clubs that fit my height. Then he gives me a quick lesson on what clubs to use and why.

I think, “This isn’t so hard. Why did I fear playing golf so much?”

I tee up my first shot. Using the information Bart gave me, I pick a 5 wood and set my stance for my first swing. I raise my club behind me with the confidence of Tiger Woods. My arm comes down, my eyes look towards where I want the ball to go and BAM! A big chunk of sod goes flying leaving my lonely ball sitting on the tee.

Bart says, “You do know what you did wrong?”

I think back to what he had told me earlier. I chose the right wood, I stood with my feet apart, I swung the club back behind my head bringing it back around at the same arc and…

“Um, I took my eyes off the ball.”

Smiling, Bart says, “Correct. Now let’s try it again so we can finish this game and get back to camp for more of Carol’s fine tea.”

I wonder if he truly means iced tea or if he’s referring to the iced tea we used to drink on vacations years ago. That tea was a little more adult-beverage than Carol’s tea.

I set my feet again, swing the club back, and bring it back around while keeping my eye on the ball. WHACK! The ball goes soaring. I lose track of it, but Bart doesn’t.

“Good golly, woman. I think you’re going to get a hole in one!”

He was right. There was my ball landing on the green just past the hole. It started rolling back towards the hole as we stood there watching it roll ever so slowly. PLUMP! I’d done it. My first hole in one. Of course, it was my last hole in one and the rest of the round was pretty sorrowful. I ended up scoring a 110. Bart tried to tell me that was a good beginner’s score. I knew differently, but I didn’t care. I had tried another thing that I had avoided for years.

Much to Martha’s surprise, I didn’t enjoy golfing as much as she did. “I like walking the course with you guys, but I just don’t think gold is my forte.”

That evening, Bart answered my silent question about what sort of tea he was referring to. His drink of choice that night was Long Island Ice Tea. I went to bed knowing that God had given me these fine friends to help me come out of my shell even more than I already had.

And in my real life, like skydiving, golf has intrigued me, but I doubt I’d ever get that hole in one. And to end with a score of 110 would seem fabulous to me. I’m quite sure golfers behind us would be wishing I’d just leave the course. So I don’t see myself taking up golf any time soon.

I do remember my mom learning to golf with my dad. They went to the local golf course and my mom did get a hole in one on her first swing. They enjoyed the time together, got to know some of the other golfers, but eventually the golf green fees became too much on Dad’s meager salary. They found other hobbies to do together, like fishing, that not only was cheaper but could provide food for their family.

More importantly, my parents realized the importance of doing things as a couple. I’ve known a lot of married women over the years who complain about their husbands being football junkies. Many a Monday morning at work was filled with complaints from these women that their husbands sat in front of the TV all weekend watching football. I asked one of them why that angered her so much. Her comment was, “Because he wasted the whole weekend when he should have been with me.”

“Did he not allow you to be in the room with him?” I asked.

“No, he actually did ask me to sit with him, but I hate football.”

“So did he force you to sit with him then?”

“No, I went in my sewing room and made curtains for the house.”

“So you were doing what you wanted and he did what he wanted, correct?”

“Yes, but that’s not the point.”

“So what is the point, that he needs to do everything your way?”

She had no answer for me. I do realize that guys can sometimes spend a little too much time watching their favorite sport on TV, but if a woman would realize this is their chance to be with their guy for hours, she’d be rewarded in ways she probably couldn’t even imagine.

I’ve learned to love baseball, a sport I despised for most of my life. Now I can’t wait for baseball season to start. It’s no longer a dreaded season that lasts way too long. Now it’s not long enough for me.

How you look at something determines whether you’re going to enjoy it. If you look at being with your guy all weekend watching sports and eating good food a waste of your time, then it will be. But don’t condemn him for doing what comes natural to a man. Go off and do what you want to do like my co-worker sewing those curtains. Granted, she was mad at her husband, but when I pointed out that he allowed her to do exactly what she wanted to do while he watched football, she softened. She lives in Texas now. I can’t imagine her not being a Cowboy fan.

So try looking at all the different ways one can view a situation. You can see a glass of tea as something bitter, you can see it as something refreshing, or you can see it as that drink that could put you under the table if you drink too many of them. Life is what you want to make it. The choice is yours. God bless, and let’s keep going the distance.

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Soaring With the Birds

eagleWith eighty-six miles ahead of us, I say a quick prayer that we have good weather and good roads. God, being the loving person He is, answers my prayers in ways I could never imagine. The sky is cloudless and a perfect sky-blue. Of course it’s perfect, it’s from God.

I see an eagle flying to places unknown. I imagine what it would be like to soar with the birds. The beauty of those outstretched wings that look like they could be four to five feet across from tip to tip, mesmerizes me so much that I almost run into Carol’s bike.

“Hey, where exactly have you been?” Carol says with a smile.

“Um, I guess I was thinking about what it would be like to soar with that eagle. Then I wondered where it was flying to.”

“Well, you may get that wish. Mac and I were just saying we’d like to go skydiving when we get to Mesquite. Do you want to go with us?”

Panic overtakes me. My mouth drops open as I say, “Are you nuts? Jumping out of a plane and hoping the chute opens is not something I care to do.”

Mac laughs heartily and says, “C’mon Wonder Woman. You set out of a trip like this ALONE, but doing a little tandem jump out of a plane scares you?”

“Wonder Woman?” I ask.

Carol laughs and says, “That’s what Mac’s been calling you for the last one hundred miles.”

Mac says, “What do you say, Wonder Woman. Are you going to let a little jump get the better of you?”

Mac seems to know just how to get me over my fears. I succumb to his enthusiasm and agree to at least go with them. My thought was, “If it sounds too iffy, I can back out then.”

It takes us two days of biking to get to Mesquite. Bart, Martha, Pete, and Faith all want to do some golfing. Bart is a huge golfing fanatic. Martha shares she used to be a golf-widow.

“Then I decided to quit complaining and join my husband. I immediately fell in love with the game. You should try it, Betsy. I think you’d be good at it.”

Shaking my head, I say, “Ah, but Carol and Mac have other plans for me today.”

“Oh?” Martha asks quizzically.

Proudly, I say, “Yes, we’re going skydiving.”

“WHAT!” they all chime in.

“Yes,” Carol says, “Mac and I have always wanted to try it. At one of our stops, Betsy talked about what it would be like to soar with the birds, and now the three of us will see what that’s like.”

Bart says, “I doubt it will be anything like soaring with the birds. Birds don’t drop like rocks from the sky.”

Martha rolls her eyes and grabs her clubs from the garage of the fifth-wheel. “C’mon Tiger, let’s get moving.”

The golfers gather their gear and head off to the various golf courses in the area. Carol, Mac and I walk Dolly before heading to Skydive Mesquite. Mac had pre-paid for Carol and him. I was ready to say I couldn’t afford it when I see Mac paying for me. I knew it was time I face this fear of heights.

We are given jumpsuits to get into. Then we are hooked up with the tandem gear needed for the jump. After an informative instructional brief by a tandem master, we head to the plane. My tandem master assures me that everything will be fine.

My breathing becomes labored. I fear I’ll faint, or worse, puke. I think, “If I puke, won’t it fly up before it falls?”

My tandem master must read minds fore he says, “Don’t worry, I’ve only been puked on once.”

We are at 13,000 feet. It’s time for the jump. Mac and his tandem master go first. I’m amazed that he has such courage to jump without fear. Carol is next. I can tell she’s a little nervous for she hesitates briefly until her tandem master says, “It’s now or never.”

Carol gives him a thumbs up and out the plane they go. I look at my tandem master who gives me the warmest smile.

“Hey, if you really don’t want to do this, no prob. You wouldn’t be my first to back out at this height. But I have to say, you’ll experience nothing like it the rest of your life.”

I think about that eagle again and decide I want to see the world from his perspective. We hook up and before I can change my mind we are free-falling. I don’t remember much about the free-fall. It all went so fast. I couldn’t see anything because it was all just a blur. And then the chute opens up. We are initially pulled up as the wind catches the chute.

I think, “Dear God, please don’t let these straps break.”

And then we begin our descent back to earth. My tandem master points out various things. I’m in awe of the beauty surrounding me. I, again, think of that eagle and smile knowing that God has allowed me to have a quick glimpse of what our winged creatures see every day.

Our landing is a bit rough, but I’m still in one piece. My tandem master unhooks us and asks, “So how was it for you?”

I give him a big hug and say, “Thank you so much. I felt like an eagle soaring through the sky.”

He smiles then begins to gather the chute. A jeep picks us up and takes us back to the building. Mac talks non-stop how he’d like to do a solo jump.

Carol informs him that will NOT be happening ending the conversation with, “We did it. It was fun, but we must get back to our middle-age life.”

That night, we all share tales of what we did in Mesquite. I knew Mesquite would now hold a special place in my life, for it was here where I soared with the birds.

And in my real life, I must admit skydiving has never been something I ever thought about doing. I don’t think there is a soul on earth who could convince me to try it. I’ve heard it’s exhilarating and freeing, but I’m not about to find out. I’ll simply take your word and will continue believing that if God wanted me to jump out of a plane, He would have given me wings.
To all of you out there who have been brave enough to try skydiving, I applaud you. You’re a braver person then I’ll ever be. I can’t even be as brave as my alter ego by taking a state-by-state bike trip. I prefer to ride my miles in the comfort of my home. Thank you very much.

So as we go through life soaring like an eagle or sitting on a stationary bike, let’s continue to go the distance. God bless you all.

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