Posts tagged Family

Good Food, Good Friends, Good Fun

familyWe have a long trip ahead of us to get to Tuba City, Arizona. I find myself thinking about how blessed I am to have come across my riding partners. They are all so generous of the various talents they have.

Bart and Martha supply all the comforts of home with their upscale fifth-wheel RV. And each night, before he retires to bed, Bart makes sure I have enough blankets, he puts the remote on the end table nearest me, and asks if I need anything else. I always respond by saying, “You are so kind, and yes, I have everything I need.” Yet every night, Bart will head to the refrigerator and grab a cold bottle of water for me. He hands it to me with a smile, saying, “You might need this tonight.”

Martha always makes sure I get my bathroom time uninterrupted. What a gentle soul she is. So kind, so giving, so much like I remember my paternal grandmother. She even has Nana’s Irish smiling eyes.

Bart and Martha are definitely the parent-figures in this group. And even though I’m sure I’m older than Martha, not by much, she seems to be my “mother” figure.

Carol and Mac are my free-spirits. They keep me young and eager to try new things. I quickly think back to my skydiving excursion. WOW! I still can’t believe I did it. They are just fun, fun people to be around. They love to tease, something I’m accustomed to doing myself. And they don’t mind being teased. I’ve developed a close bond with them. They are my “cohorts in crime”, my friends, my bosom buddies.

And then there’s Pete and Faith. How can I not like Pete and Faith? Faith is the dog whisperer. She has a stronger passion for animals than I could ever hope to have. And Pete has a passion for Faith that goes beyond respect, beyond love, beyond commitment. It’s almost as if Pete can read Faith’s every thought. Maybe he can.

By late afternoon, Bart manages to earn the trust of a farmer who allows us to park the fifth wheel near the barn. That night, as we get ready for dinner, I’m asked to say the blessing.
“Dear Lord,” I start, “Thank You for this good food, thank You for good friends, and thank You for the fun we are having. Amen.”

I see Martha wipe an errant tear from her cheek. She grabs my hand, giving it a squeeze and says, “We are blessed to have you with us.”
We all chime in, “Amen.”

And in my real world, I’ve recovered almost from the loss of my dog, but I’m now facing a new family crisis. A dear aunt of mine has been told she has cancer. We don’t know how long she’ll be with us since her form of cancer is an aggressive one, but we will always have the memories of the good food we’d have at her house, the good friends we met through her, and all the fun we’d have when all the relatives converged on Aunt Pat and Uncle Tom’s house. Fond, fond memories. I’m blessed to have such a great family.

So take a moment to think about those people who you associate with good food, good friends, and good fun. If you haven’t talked to one of them in a while, pick up the phone and say “hi.” You don’t want to wait until you get that call that this person has passed away. And as always, let’s keep going the distance.

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Who’s Driving the Bus?

busAs my new biking partners and I leave the rv park, my mind is full of thoughts of family. I knew these six new friends would never take the place of my family, but I felt close to them anyway. They had welcomed me into their lives. It was my turn to return the favor, and welcome them into mine.

We’d spent last night sharing tales of growing up, childhood goals and how many of those goals we actually achieved as adults, and where we saw our lives going. I guess that’s why I’m thinking so much of my family now.

I no longer had the chore, or maybe I should say privilege of caring for my parents. Both were now with their Maker, but their love still inspires me. And my siblings were busy with their own lives, yet I could feel their presence as I pushed my way up the highway. They are near me through the places I’ve been and things I’ve seen on this journey. My sister and her husband would love many of the places I’ve been, but their lives were pulled in a different direction unlike my new riding partners.

They all decided to steer their lives in alignment with mine. It does make me wonder who’s driving their bus in life. I used to drive my life’s bus, but found too many times that I had no idea where I was going. One day, I decided to stop driving and allowed God to drive. I’ve been a lot happier since then. Sometimes I find myself wondering where God is taking me, but I know, without a doubt, that it will be some place fabulous and fun.

My crew and I ride into Carson City, Nevada, and find the Comstock Country RV Resort. Carol and Mac have graciously invited me to stay in their rig with them. Mac’s comment was, “Why would anyone choose to sleep on the ground when there’s a nice comfortable bed in our rig?” I knew then, God had steered them into my life. How blessed I felt.

Bart drove us all to a grocery store where we bought that night’s supper. I tried to pay for my share of the groceries, but none of them would hear of it. My, how God’s plan certainly works out in our lives when we let go and let God.

On the way back, I spy a railroad museum. Faith, Peter’s wife, notices me looking and suggests we go there before heading to the casinos. All were in favor, so after unloading groceries, we truck off to the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Inside, I relive my grandfather’s life rich in railroad history. Dada, the name bestowed on my grandfather by his first grandchild, always spoke highly of the railroad. He worked hard all of his life to provide a decent life for his family. His job afforded him and my grandmother the opportunity to take in other family members who had lost their way in life. Too bad those people hadn’t let God drive that bus, but then maybe God had driven it straight to my grandparent’s front door. They were truly giving people, and they passed this along to their children. How blessed I am to come from such fine people.

On the way back to the truck, Martha sees a fabric store. She and I had fun looking through all the materials. I was able to buy another fat quarter to represent my time spent in Nevada. Oh what fun it will be to make this memory quilt when this trip is over.

Back at the campground, we women get supper started while the men decide which casinos to go to. I’m thinking about bowing out and staying back to do some reading, but Carol will hear none of my reasons for not going with them.

She says, “Betsy, no one says you have to gamble. I don’t, but I like to go and people watch. Please come and people watch with me.”

I can almost feel God’s gentle hand coaxing me to go. How can I say no? I don’t, and I end up having a blast. I decide to try my hand at one of the slot machines that cost a whole quarter. Lo and behold, I won $50.00. My trip to the casino was well worth my time. Thank you God, for prodding me to go.

That night, as I lay on the comfortable sofa sleeper, I thank God for all my wonderful blessings and I tell Him I still want Him driving my bus, or should I say bike.

And in my real world, I’m busy with the rest of the Catholic Charities of Central Colorado staff preparing for our big St. Patrick’s Day Gala. God definitely drives the bus each year for this event. He gives each of us the energy, help, and thought process to make this event a huge success. Many of our clients will be able to receive help from us, because of this one event.
I’m also busy trying to get my books published. It’s looking like maybe I’ll need to go self-published, but once again, God is directing me on what to do and when. I worry very little about those days when I don’t accomplish everything I thought I needed to tend to. I know that God is right there guiding me. How can one worry when the King of kings is in charge? And why would anyone want to still be driving their life’s bus when God does it so much better?

And as we all learn to let go and let God, let’s all keep going the distance. God bless.

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Family Ties

family tiesMy adrenaline heightened as I approached Novato, California. It had been years since I had been here, but I have such fond memories from that last visit.

It was twelve years ago when my sister and her husband and I drove here from Colorado Springs. Both my parents were still alive along with my uncle who lived in San Rafael, California. My heart grows heavy as I miss both my dad and my uncle. Dad passed away in 2004, but the pain of losing my uncle is still fresh. He moved on to be with God in March of this year, but both left their mark on this earth.

My father was a story-teller and family man. His love of people was his strongest attribute. And he was loved by all, in return. Dad instilled in each of his kids to be leaders, to reach for the sky, and to take those chances. Mom softened us, keeping us centered, but there have been times where I felt held back by my mom’s inhibitions. She’s often told me how stupid she thinks this ride, that I’m on, is. Luckily, I’ve chosen to focus more on my dad’s teachings, choosing to ignore Mom’s the-glass-is-half-empty outlook on life.

If Dad were alive today, he’d be cheering me on. In fact, he would have figured out a way to tag along. He so loved traveling, something Mom hates. It’s amazing they got along like they did. Those two had a love that was never-ending. Their marriage wasn’t without disagreements, but their love carried them through. It provided my siblings and me the best foundation in life.

And then there was my uncle. He was a world traveler, seeing almost every country that was safe to travel to. As a child, I found it difficult to connect with him. I found him to be a wee bit too persnickety, but as I matured, I grew to appreciate him. He taught me, indirectly, how to buy quality and take care of it so it would last a lifetime. He also showed me how to entertain. This man could cook, and he knew how to make food look good.

That year my sister, brother-in-law, and I came out here, my uncle showed us what northern California has to offer. We went to Muir Woods, took a trip up towards Bodega Bay and saw a cool lighthouse. There was wine country, Monterey Bay, and Carmel. We took the ferry across the bay and toured San Francisco, taking a cable car ride and eating lunch on Fisherman’s Warf. So many memories my uncle gave us that year.
And now both my dad and my uncle have left us to be with our Maker. They are missed by many, but we all know they are happy to be with our Lord. They will continue to influence me on my trip across the country.

As I pull into the RV park we stayed at twelve years ago, I say a quick prayer of thanks for having such a great dad and uncle. They taught me the importance of family ties. I would not be who I am today, had it not been for both of them.

My stay here will be short, though. When I started this journey, my uncle was still alive, and I had hoped to spend some quality time with him. Now I’ll simply rest up so I can start heading east into Nevada. Next big stop, Sacramento, California.

And in my real world, my father and uncle were important entities in my life. I would not be here blogging had they not inspired me to be the very best I can be. The things I wrote above are all true, although some of the timing is altered.

And although I’m only on this ride in the virtual sense, my mother still finds it silly along with me being a blogger and author of a series of books about this virtual ride I’m on. I don’t think ill of her, though, she was raised to always take the sure thing and not think you could be something more than a simple person. Like I said above, I think her attitude and my father’s shoot-for-the-stars attitude complimented each other. It’s what rounded out each of their four kids.

None of my siblings is exactly like the other. We all have different dreams and aspirations, but we are all passionate about life. Family is most important to all four of us. We have rallied around our aging mother; ensuring she has the best of care to extend her life, hopefully well into her 90s. We have helped each other out in hard times. We defend and protect as needed.

Our family ties have created a bond that is unbreakable. And we, in turn, are passing on these great qualities to our children who are passing them along to their children. It truly is the circle of life. I’m forever blessed to be a part of this great family. It’s what keeps me moving forward not only on my virtual trip, but with my pursuit of getting my books published.

It’s also what keeps me focused on the works Catholic Charities of Central Colorado does. Our goal is to help each family keep their family ties together. I know Catholic Charities isn’t able to help each and every client build a life like I have, but we do as much for each family as our funding allows. And as long as we continue to have great donors and a faith that’s unwavering, we’ll all be able to continue to go the distance. God bless.

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Priorities

PrioritiesI can’t be sure why I’m poking along, taking my time getting to McKinleyville, California. It was only 22 miles from Trinidad, but I just couldn’t seem to ride very far each day. I found my mind wandering a lot, and about nothing special.

The views of the ocean were spectacular. I could hear the ebb and flow of the waves as they rhythmically move, almost like some sort of dance. At one point, there was a parking area off the side of the road with access to the beach.

I decided to take time out from this ride and do some reflecting. Water always helped me feel close to God, and God was who I was missing right then.

As I sat on the beach, allowing the ocean to tickle my toes, I thought back as to why I seemed to feel depressed. The weather had been picture perfect, so I knew that wasn’t it. My money was holding out, and I wasn’t yearning for any nourishment.

I decided to think back as to when this depressed feeling started. I had been unsuccessful finding any type of volunteer work in Trinidad, but that hadn’t bothered me. I took advantage of my time there and did a lot of sightseeing.

Then it hit me, while I was out snooping around, I came across an old man who was kneeling before some sort of memorial that had been erected in his backyard. I quietly watched this man as he prayed; at least I think he was praying. When he finished, I saw him touch a photo that had been imbedded into the stone memorial. I could make out that the photo was of a woman.
I allowed myself to assume this woman was the man’s wife. I figured he recently lost his wife, and was still mourning the loss. Judging by his frailty and white hair, I figured the man to be in his late 80’s or maybe early 90’s. Assuming he and his wife married young, I figured they had been married over 60 years. How hard that would be to love someone that long and be the one left behind.

Later that day, as I sat at the diner counter eating my lunch, I inquired about the old man. My waitress, a middle-aged woman, knew exactly who I was talking about, but some of my assumptions were wrong. The man was 92, but the photo was a picture of his daughter who had passed away over 60 years ago.

The man had been a salesman which took him away much of the week. His daughter would often beg him to come to one of her baseball games, but Jim, the old man, always explained that work came first. His daughter grew to accept the fact that her father’s job took him away, and unlike her friends’ parents, was unable to be a bigger part in her life. Her mom would show up occasionally, but most game days, the mother needed to be home with their other children.

On one sunny day, the girl headed off to practice and was struck by a speeding car. She was killed instantly. Her father was away and couldn’t be reached by phone since there weren’t any cell phones back then. His wife had to wait until he phoned her to give him the tragic news.

My heart grew heavy thinking about how this father must have felt hearing that horrible news long distance. I began to realize just how good things like cell phones, internet, and other modern devices are to communicating with others. I had often condemned the popularity of texting stating that it takes away the closeness between people, but this story made me rethink my position on this.

As I continued to listen, my waitress grew solemn while she swallowed hard before finishing her story. She said, “That man was my father. He was never the same after my sister was killed.”
I made my condolences, quietly finished my lunch, and got on my way. I had been thinking how tragic it had been that the man had never seen his daughter play baseball, probably missed birthdays, first attempts at anything, and wasn’t there the day the accident happened.

I soon realized that my depression was based off of the number of times I had ignored a loved one, claiming to be too busy for them. Subconsciously, I had been thinking how selfish my ride seemed to be, but then I realized that I was still doing God’s work. I thought back to all the wonderful people I had met and who had helped me along my way.

As I sat watching the waves dance, I decided that the best thing I could do to remedy my situation was to call family and friends more often. I even thought that some of my nieces and nephews may like to join me on some of this ride. How great would that be to have that kind of quality time with a loved one.

I got up, brushed the sand off of me, and headed back to my bike. I grabbed my phone, called each of my siblings, and told them how much I love them and miss them. Then I called a few friends and my nieces and nephews. Surprisingly, my middle niece said she’d love to ride with me. Her job is with a local ministry, and they decided she could do some ministering along the way.
I’ll be meeting up with Sarah in Eureka, California. I have new found energy since Eureka is only about 25 miles from where I stood. I felt like I had my priorities straight again. Never would I ever take any loved one for granted for we just don’t know when God calls them home.

And in my real world, I just experienced losing my uncle. He lived in California for years. I remember when I was growing up, looking forward to seeing Uncle Hal because he had traveled the world, seen so much, and had such delightful stories to share.

My sister, brother-in-law, and I took a trip out to see him about ten years ago. We had a blast and Hal had shown us so many wonderful sights around the San Francisco area. Then we helped him cull through some personal items that he was thinking about parting with. Most of the items were household items. He gave me this fabulous set of Royal Dalton china that I display proudly in my hutch.

About five years ago, my uncle’s health started going downhill. My sister and I must have said at least a dozen times in the past two years that we needed to get back out to see Hal since he was not able to come see us anymore.

We kept saying, “Maybe next year we can plan a trip out there.” Now it’s too late. Hal has been called home to be with God, and we are left to mourn like the fictitious man at the beginning of my blog.

As my sister and I drove back to Nebraska, where Hal was laid to rest, we spoke about how we had not been good about prioritizing our lives to accommodate the aging relatives we still have. We were grateful that we were able to see some of those relatives at Hal’s funeral, and we are now busy trying to make plans for some sort of family reunion somewhere halfway between the places we live.

Life is too short to spend most of your time working. As important as our jobs are to our livelihood and the people we touch on with any jobs we have, we have to know when to say, “I’m going home to be with my family. That piece of work can wait until tomorrow.”

You see, the work will always be there, and if you aren’t there to do it, someone else will get it done. But you may not have another opportunity to see that school play, a first date, or a special birthday. And for those of you who still have parents who are living, take the time to do things with them even if it’s a little inconvenient for you.

Also, recognize when others, who value family time a little more than you might, need more personal time than maybe you do. Just because you are focused on work projects, doesn’t mean they need to be just like you. God made us alike in a lot of ways, but He also made each of us individually.

I’m going to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to my boss and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado for giving me the personal time off to attend my uncle’s funeral. As my family and I mourn our loss, I can be thankful that I work for a great bunch of people who do recognize that we all need to prioritize the work we do into our personal lives.

So before you race off to another meeting, or head to the gym before going home, take some time to at least call someone and say, “Hey, have I told you lately just how much I love you?” And as always, let’s keep going the distance. God bless you all, and I love you.

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